How Well Are You Discipling Others?

This is based on a fascinating 9 min video by Father Robert Barron about how he would teach his seminary students as the new President of Mundalein Seminary, which is one of the largest seminaries in the U.S. How would he communicate to his seminarians the principles of evangelizing our culture today? His 5 points below of excitement, knowledge, audience, culture, and TGIF certainly fully apply to all UBF leaders, preachers and Bible teachers who want to reach and touch others for Christ effectively in this generation.

Excitement. In his treatise on rhetoric Aristotle commented that audiences really listen only to an “excited speaker.” To win anyone to anything including winning them to Christ, we need ardor, zeal, passion, enthusiasm and joy. For a Christian leader, there is no greater sin than being boring or predictable. All our biblical heroes from Noah, Moses, Elijah in the OT to Jesus, Paul, Peter, John in the NT were “excited” men. How excited are you about Jesus (compared to say watching The Dark Knight Rises, which opens next week)?

Knowledge. Sadly, some Christians may be quite zealous and excited, but they do not have much to say. Knowledge must be deeply rooted in the Bible and the great theological tradition. Some have said that studying theology is divisive. I would say that ignorance is more divisive. Others say, “Just study the Bible.” This is good. But anyone can very easily “just study the Bible” with a narrow, skewed, rigid, unbalanced, inflexible, tribal and sectarian way that is quite offensive to other Christians with different traditions, cultures and experience. For example, it is not generally regarded as offensive for an American to disagree with their leader. But in Korean culture, it is invariably perceived very negatively as being rude, disrespectful and an anathema.

Audience. In UBF jargon, it would be “know your sheep.” Aristotle said, “Whatever is received is received according to the mode of the recipient (not the teacher).” A good Bible teacher must know the prejudices, expectations, mood and attitude of the one to whom he wishes to communicate. It helps to know which movies, songs, TV shows, and books average people like. If you don’t know the contemporary culture well, you may be correct, but not heard. This is always a hurdle of cross generational and cross cultural evangelism.

Culture. Be attentive to the patterns and events in the world that correspond to patterns and events in the scriptural revelation. That way, you will discover what the church fathers called the logoi spermatikoi, the seeds of the Word, that can see the good, the true and the beautiful in any culture. Karl Barth, the greatest Protestant theologian of the last century, proposed an image for prospective preachers that is just as valid for prospective evangelists: they should carry the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.

TGIF. Today’s evangelists, Bible teachers, shepherds should be thoroughly conversant with the new media: Twitter, Google, Internet/Instant messaging/iPad, Facebook (TGIF), along with podcasting, and the myriad other means of communication available through the Internet.  These new media give the evangelist the opportunity to get his message out 24/7, all over the world at relatively little cost. Some old style, old school Christians are uncomfortable with this. But not interacting could lead to increasing irrelevance. This is here to stay and will only continue to explode.

We have to face the fact that the vast majority of eyes today are not glued to books or to newspapers, but to the computer screen.  Many years ago, a very successful writer said, “The first rule of the writer is to read.” Good advice. To follow it today, we have to get the message into the world where the most “readers” are found.

This is a very exciting time for Christians, in many ways as exciting as the middle years of the 1st century when the message about Jesus was brand new, or as the beginning of the 16th century when the printing press first emerged. Now is a kairos, a privileged moment, to declare the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Viva el Cristo rey! (Long live Christ the King).

Do you embrace Fr. Barron’s 5 points with a sense of excitement and challenge? Can you think of any other points to add? (Here is Fr. Barron’s full transcript of his video: The new evangelization and seminaries.)


  1. Joe Schafer

    Ben, thanks for this post. I don’t want to disparage anything in these 5 points. They should definitely be heeded. However, I can think of examples where evangelists appear to have sufficient zeal and knowledge, trying to keep abreast of social and political issues and applying biblical principles to them, etc. and yet are ineffective at communicating the gospel message (as they understand it) to the next generation. There seem to b ineffable “yuck” factors embedded in some evangelists’ presentations that, as soon as young people detect them, causes them to turn away in disgust. It has a great deal to do with modern/postmodern generational differences, unspoken but deeply felt divergence in values, etc. One of these yuck factors is an air of certainty by the evangelist. An attitude that “I have the message of truth that is truly truly true which I am now graciously bestowing on you, so please accept it, thank you.” Gospeling is not at all the same thing as transfering positions and doctrines from a more knowledgable party to a less knowledgable one. The younger generation knows this, but the older one does not. As long as evangelists have that attitude, then none of this 5 points will matter very much, in my opinion; improvements in these areas will be like putting lipstick on a pig.

  2. Joe Schafer

    I didn’t mean to suggest that Fr. Barron is ineffective. He does seems to conect with people. But his ability to connect with people might not be fully explainable by these 5 points, but by something else that is harder to pinpoint. Tim Keller is another example of an evangelist wo connects with the current generation, and his ability isn’t fully explained by these 5 points. That’s what I’m sayin.

  3. Thanks, Joe. Great point. It is surely true that a unidirectional impartation of the gospel/Word/Bible/knowledge from teacher (who knows more) to student (who knows little/less) is quite a flawed faulty model of learning, though it is very often implicitly assumed.

    Perhaps, we could add a 6th point of HUMILITY to this list by considering others, including the student, to be better than the teacher (Phil 2:3), while the teacher regard themselves with sober judgment and not think too highly of themselves (Rom 12:3).

    Perhaps, this might be covered under Barron’s 3rd point of AUDIENCE, where the teacher can learn countless things from the student, if the teacher has the attitude of Paul in 1 Cor 2:3-4.

  4. James Kim

    Ben, thanks for the post. What a challenging time we are living in this 21st century! It is a challenge as well as privilege. New Evangelism definitely needs new paradigm shift. We need Bible in one hand, a newspaper in another hand. Lifelong learning with excitement and humble learning mind is Must.

  5. Ben,

    As far as the 5 points, I would say Amen to each of them. I think such things are highly important. Yet we ought to remember that not many are to be teachers and not everyone is called to be an evangelist.

    To answer your question: “How Well Are You Discipling Others?” My answer is: I’m not. Nor will I. This question is the public-facing version of the internal UBF question: “How well are you shepherding others?” Which always has to have a performance-based number in the answer.

    I know that you, Ben, understand these things, but many reading this post from UBF likely do not.

    I am so free now that I understand that “making disciples” is not my individual responsibility. I am finding my role in a local extension of the body of Christ and together our community is facilitating the Spirit’s work of drawing sinners to Jesus.

    I will obey God’s voice to serve as called, share my living hope in the gospel of the grace of forgiveness of sins and live my life helping the needs of as many as possible in my life. I will blog a plethora of words about my journey of faith as a Christ follower.

    But I will never be so arrogant (as I once was) to assume that Jesus’ “disciple-making” effort depends on my work or performance. I will never again think of “discipling” anyone into a church or calling them to “follow me” or imitate my life. Such things are the Spirit’s work. We are merely facilitators and spectators.

    Case in point: The “prince of preachers”, Spurgeon, was converted to Christian faith when the normal preacher was out. It is only by the Spirit that anyone can believe Jesus’ grace and be transformed.

    At one point, I was so desperate and so anxious to “make disciples” that I gave in to the direction to “disciple” stuffed animals… I’m done with that kind of mockery of the Spirit.

  6. Thanks, Brian, I agree that UBF’s historical overemphasis on and obsession with “numbers” makes people feel as though they are justified by faith plus by their numbers, which really takes away from the eternal truth that God values us only because of Jesus, even if our number is ZERO.

    That is why I have personally decided to no longer evaluate myself or communicate with others based on my numbers, or their numbers.

    When we truly enjoy the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), the grace of Jesus (Tit 2:11), and the mercy of God (Tit 3:5), our Christian life is elevated by God to higher ground, regardless of our numbers.

    After “bashing” numbers, let me just say that I am personally very happy if the numbers are up, simply because I get to see and meet new people to see and witness the miracle of how God is supernaturally working in their hearts.

  7. Joseph R

    Brian, most likely you are a more mature Christian than I am. Hopefully you do not mind if I ask just a few questions. First, are we not called to take care of God’s sheep in John 21:17? I am coming from a teacher’s perspective. I plan to become a teacher in the future. Yet, even a nurses teaches also lawyers, parents, plumbers, nose pickers, etc. You do not have to be a teacher to teach, though it would be nice if you were a professional teacher. To me this is the same with disciple making. You do not have to have a ‘gift of discipleship’ to be a person who disciples others. Jesus himself said to feed and take care of His sheep. Feeding sheep does not mean that you need to go out and find a hungry soul. Most likely, you are living or already very close to someone that is very hungry. It could be your parents, siblings, cousins, or the monkeys around you (I refer to the annoying little munchkins around you).

    Can you refer to biblical verses when you comment? You have very good insights in some of your thoughts. It would be nice if you can share your train of thoughts with biblical verses. Psalm 1:2 has really encouraged me to be mindful of God’s words day and night, not necessarily afternoons too.

    What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Evangelist’? It has this shallow meaning in English. I have a shallow understanding myself. Hopefully, you can help me dig using sources like

    In Greek the word ‘evangelist’ is ‘euaggelistēs’ which means two things:
    1) a bringer of good tidings, an evangelist
    2) the name given to the NT heralds of salvation through Christ who are not apostles

    In this sense, everyone who is saved through Christ is called an ‘euaggelistēs’. Let’s look at 2 Timothy 4:5. All Christians are called to:
    a. keep your head in all situations
    b. endure hardship
    c. do the work of an evangelist
    d. discharge of all duties, accordingly

    Again, I apologize if this comes out wrong, I wish I knew you more. A Christian can give tithe, go to church everyday, always be alert etc. But can he say ‘I do not need to endure hardship’? This is a resounding no, 2 Tim 4:7. Can he say ‘I do not need to be an evangelist’? Again, this is a resounding no, 2 Timothy 1:8. Can he say ‘I do not need to do all my duties’? (Matthew 25:15). Surely, we all fall short of the glory of god (Rom 3:23). But we must always fix our eyes on Christ (Hebrews 12:2). We must shoot for perfection and holiness because God is perfect and holy (Leviticus 11:44).

    Dr. Ben, here is a huge one, I’ll probably write this in another email. I believe that the Holy Spirit can work WITHOUT any of the five things: excitement, knowledge, audience, culture, and TGIF. This is coming from personal experiences. I have met and learned much from pastors without using one of more of the above. Sure, they are boring and monotonous, but how wonderful are their words (Catholic prayers for instance)!!!! I met students from Africa who grew up in a different culture and certainly do not know their audience, but Oh man, their actions speaks so much louder than their words. Rebuke me if you may, but here is what I think. You can ‘do and be’ the list above plus 95 other points, but without the Holy Spirit, you will not even open a crack in a person’s heart.

    These points are generalizing. Jesus is personal. We have to take these case by case. What I am saying is ‘God made the 10 commandments and we broke every single one of them. Father Robert Barron made 5 points… we shall see’ (Premier Georges Clemenceau).

    • Joseph, I think there is a big difference between an “evangelist” and a “discipler”. The word “evangelist” can be translated as a “messenger of good news”. The good news of course refer to the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, groups like UBF go much farer than that. First, they do not only tell about Jesus Christ, but also about their group and that people absolutely must be part in that. In that sense, they are more recruiters than evangelists. Second, they also have the idea that they need to “train” people, “raise up” disciples. The German UBF uses the word “Jünger-Erziehung”, for raising up (“Erziehung”) disciples (“Jünger”) – the word “Erziehung” is the exactly the same as the word we use to raise up children. Groups like UBF believe they have the right and the duty to raise up other people like little children and interfere into their lives in many ways. This is so far away from just being an evangelist!

      You ask for Bible verses. Let me ask the advocators of UBFism the same: Where are the Bible verses that speak about “Jüngererziehung”? Why did you invent such a word that doesn’t exist in the Bible? When I look for “Erziehung” I find only a few places, and all of them talk about the “Erziehung durch den Herrn”, i.e. the training by God. Nowhere I see that Christians should give “training” to other Christians.

    • Chris, good points. That is a key problem with the UBF definition of “shepherding”– it means “parenting.” I used to be so confused when my “shepherds” would get angry over something. But when I realized they wanted to be treated as “parents”, I learned how to not get them angry. Now I reject this concept.

      I have already published official teaching material from UBF that makes this claim: your UBF shepherd is supposed to be your new parent. Most Americans/Europeans/Westerners will reject this idea. However nearly all Koreans and a lot of their second gens, have bought into the idea that discipling=parenting.

    • JosephR,

      See my replies to a few of your comments and questions:

      “Brian, most likely you are a more mature Christian than I am”
      >>> No, I would not assume that! I am rather immature in some respects.

      “First, are we not called to take care of God’s sheep in John 21:17?”
      >>> Yes, we are to feed Jesus’ sheep. I used to combine all commands like this into the slogan of “world mission command”. But this approach ignores the nuances Jesus intended. The “world mission command” is not the greatest command. Love is the greatest command. I now see John 21 as Jesus’ personal direction for all Christians, to take care of His sheep. This means, to me, to literally give food to someone who is needy, to help others in need and to visit them in some way. All Christians are to love and care for our neighbor. But the “go into all the world” verses were not given in an individual context, but in a group context. I believe now that “go and make disciples” is a community command that happens when individual believers “feed Jesus’ sheep” and are built into a spiritual household. I wrote a blog article about this recently:

      “Can you refer to biblical verses when you comment?”
      >>> No. It is too easy to fall into prooftexting, springboarding and foolish arguments about words.

      “What comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘Evangelist’?”
      >>> The word is built from “evangel”. This is where we get the “good news” phrase. A Christian is one who has this good news, which is the grace of forgiveness of sins.

      “All Christians are called to…”
      >>> No, I don’t agree that 2 Timothy there is a charge for all Christians. That is Apostle Paul’s charge to Timothy, who specifically was called to a role in the church. An “evangelist” is a specific calling, even though there is some truth that all Christians will reveal the “evangel” (good news) to some extent. I do not believe the Bible teaches that all Christians will be called to be evangelists. I think we need to consider the individual Christain, a local gather of the Body, and the entire Body of Christ.

      “Again, I apologize if this comes out wrong, I wish I knew you more.”
      >>> I would suggest being careful about what you say in public, if you are indeed a UBF member. Saying that you want to “know Brian Karcher more” is a dangerous thing to say in UBF right now. You will likely get a talk from your shepherd or director. I know two UBF sheep who did get such a talk after reaching out to me. They were told not to interact with me.

      “We must shoot for perfection and holiness because God is perfect and holy (Leviticus 11:44).”
      >>> No, I don’t believe the Bible teaches us to “shoot for perfection”. That is a false gospel. The Bible teaches us to “be perfect”. We must be perfect, not just try. If you have even one molecule of sin in you, you won’t enter Heaven but will be in hell separated from God forever. Perfection is the only answer.

      “I believe that the Holy Spirit can work WITHOUT any of the five things: ”
      >>> Yes, I belive this too. The Spirit will work and does work in amazing ways. However, we ought to be good facilitators of His work, rather than resisting or grieving or hindering the work.

  8. Joseph R

    Chris: I pray that you are much patient than I am. I know I need to pray for patience. I do think you made a good point ‘evangelist’ does not equal ‘one who disciples’. I like the way Brian Karcher quoted what I say and then responded to it. If I implied congruency with the word ‘evangelist’ and ‘discipler’ please tell me where this was implied. With all due respect, I was referring to Brian Karcher’s ‘Yet we ought to remember that not many are to be teachers and not everyone is called to be an evangelist.’ I believe that everyone is to be a teacher and is to be an evangelist. As I said, you can be in any profession and still be a teacher. You can be in any path of the Christian life and still be an evangelist.

    ‘First, they do not only tell about Jesus Christ, but also about their group and that people absolutely must be part in that.’ I am sad to hear this. First, I am gonna go around asking God to give each one an spiritual spanking. Second, I pray that they focus more on Christ and less about ‘their group’. Third, I will do more spiritual spanking for good measure.

    I am not a German linguist nor scholar so what I say is of little accreditation. So I ask google translate. The word ‘Jünger’ is an adj. that refers to a young person, an underage person, a new person. It can also refer to a disciple, a follower, a devotee. The German word ‘Jüngere’ is a more specific variation of ‘Jüngere’. It is an adj. that refers only to a young person, an underage person, a new person. In many cases ‘Jünger’ and ‘Jüngere’ can be used interchangeably. We find this word in Gen 19:31, Dt 33:22, Judges 1:13, Mat 28:16 and over 300 more times in the German Bible, perhaps you can use Schlachter 2000 in
    Again, I asked google translate. The word ‘erziehung’ means ‘education’. You say that it ‘is the exactly the same as the word we use to raise up children’. Can you give some resources to this? Also, can you give resources that the word ‘erziehung’ only refers to ‘raise up children’. The word ‘erziehung’ when translated to Greek (the original language of the new testament) is ‘doctrine’. It is used over 20 times in the bible (Mat 15:9, Mark 7:7, Rom 12:7 etc). Never was it intended only ‘to raise up children’ as you claimed. The intention was for followers of Christ, none of whom were his child. Nevertheless, ‘erziehung’ was intended for all God’s children.

    Now for the big-bang. ‘Jüngererziehung’ is NOT in the German Bible as you said. I don’t like the word anyway, it seems hard to say. Let’s go back to the original languages of the bible (which are Hebrew and Greek… and some Aramaic for good measure). The words ‘junger’ and ‘erziehung’ are found in the bible. I believe that ‘Jüngererziehung’ is more of an explanation, rather than a word by word citation, from the bible. ‘Jüngererziehung’ is a word meaning to ‘make disciples’. We can use the word mathēteuō in Hebrew as a reference to ‘Jüngererziehung’. In Matthew 28, Jesus said ‘mathēteuō’ or ‘Jüngererziehung’ or ‘make disciples’. Though, the word ‘Jüngererziehung’ is NOT in the bible, it is biblical, in accord with God’s words. Many words are NOT in the bible but are biblical. The word ‘Bible’, ‘trinity’, ‘omniscient’, ‘omnipotent’, ‘omnipresent’ are not in the Bible but are completely biblical, in accord with God’s word.

    ‘Nowhere I see that Christians should give “training” to other Christians’ I do not understand where you are coming from. Jesus himself said to follow Him. He was known as the great teacher and trainer.

    ‘You ask for Bible verses. Let me ask the advocators of UBFism the same.’ Please do not be offended that I ask for Bible verses. I don’t mean to cause trouble, I just want to understand where you are coming from. I completely agree that many ‘UBFism’ need to have a deeper understanding of the Bible and be able to quote the Bible more. This applies especially to me and Dr. Ben. When I say ‘please refer to Bible verses’ I am mostly talking to myself saying ‘Joseph, you need to quote the bible more’. I believe this is a good start to be able to learn from one another. I also want to learn some really cool bible verses from you guys. Sharing our cool bible verses with one another will make us sharper (Prov 27:17).

    • Nice, Joseph, going back and forth from Google (translate) to German to Hebrew to Greek and back to Google! Probably, Chris will have some insightful comments about the nuances in the German language.

  9. Joseph, thanks for responding. You talked about persons who disciple others in the first passage, and then about evangelists in the next passage, so I though you equated these two things. Good to hear that you see there is a difference, so we do not need to discuss this. Let me explain why I talked about the use of the word “Jüngererziehung” by the German UBF and why I find it problematic and revealing.

    The German word “Jünger” is used where the English Bible says “disciple”. There is no problem here.

    The German word “Erziehung” can mean “education”, but different from the English word “education” it is not used for e.g. education in school, high school or university. That would be “Ausbildung”. “Erziehung” is rather the word for raising up children. Kindergarden teachers are called “Erzieher”, but elementary school teachers are called “Lehrer”, and other instructors and trainers are called “Ausbilder”. The word “Erziehung” is much more like “parenting” than “eduction”. Erziehung tries to improve the psychological and sociological behavior of people, while Ausbildung tries to improve the intellectual capabilities. I repeat, you would not use the word Erziehung for a major, only for children.

    The word “Erziehung” is also used in the Bible. It is either used when the Bible talks about actual parenting (like in Eph 6:4), or when God (who is considered to be our *father* is training his people, i.e. his children). But it is never used in the context of one Christian training another, and it is never used in the context with disciple making. It is only UBF who is making that connection, and amalgated the two words together to form the word “Jüngererziehung” = “disciple parenting”. In English they use the word “disciple training”, but “Jüngererziehung” goes even one step further, it assumes that disciples are “minors” who need to be “parented”. This is much different from the words used in teh Bible “making disciples”, “Jünger machen”. It is *not* an explanation of a Biblical concept, it creates a concept of its own that cannot be found in the Bible. St Paul wrote “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. If you start using terms like “Jüngererziehung” you definitely are going *beyond* what is written. Why does the German UBF not just stick to the expression “Jünger machen” instead of “Jünger erziehen”?

    You say “Jesus himself said to follow Him. He was known as the great teacher and trainer.” This is a wrong conclusion, and I already talked about that in my response to Joe-2005. If Jesus wanted us to be trainers, why did he never use that word “trainer”? If Jesus wanted his disciples to “parent” other believers, why did he explicitly forbid them to call themselves “father”, if he wanted them to be teachers, why did he explicitely forbid them to call themselves “Rabbi” (teacher)? Why did St Paul write “Are all teachers?” as a rhetorical question when you take for granted that “everyone should be a teacher”?

    Also, even if Jesus was a trainer, his “training” does not have similarity with the kind of training I received in UBF. I do not see him demanding Sogam writing or sharing or any other weekly activities like these. Anyway, Jesus was in a position where he could demand absolute obedience (because he was God) – but he didn’t. Human disciplers are in a position where they can’t do that – but they do. We need to bring people to Jesus as their trainer and teacher, but we should not try to be their trainers and teachers. We should not usurp the role of Jesus in the lives of His disciples (not *our* disciples).

    My point about Bible verses was not that we need *more* Bible verses to back up our views, but that we should also observe when there is a *lack* of Bible verses undermining a certain view. In this case, the idea that Christians should “parent” and “train” and “teach” other Christians. If “Jünger erziehen” is so important then why can these or similar terms nowhere found in the Bible? “Jünger” and “Erziehung” are both Biblical words. But then, why does the Bible not have them in combination? Why did Jesus never tell his followers to go “Jünger erziehen”, and why hasn’t it been written in any of the epistles? My answer is simple: Because Jesus never had in mind that Christians should “parent” or “train” other Christians or that this should be their main task.

    • Chris, your words here are perhaps the clearest explanation I’ve ever heard of why the “shepherding movement” is flawed and not Biblical. I am really glad to hear the German explanation of this. It explains the UBF teaching powerpoint I found on the internet. Mentoring, teaching and guiding other Christians based on the gifts of the Spirit could be called “shepherding” and would be in line with Biblical teaching. But I see so clearly now that “parenting” others is just an idea prooftexted loosely with Bible verses. “Parenting” sounds very much like a Confucian concept to me.

    • Joe Schafer

      In some cases, the Bible does use parenting as a metaphor related to discipling. But parenting practices vary greatly from one culture to another. This is the problem with proof-texting. Even if you could “prove” in some sense that biblical discipling equals parenting, that really wouldn’t settle very much, because the ideals of good parenting are so varied. It’s good to think about and discuss principles of sound discipleship. But at the end of the day, isn’t this really a discussion about the character of God?

  10. Concerning the greek word, matheteuo, it can be used in the sense of “to be(come) a disciple” or to “make a disciple”. In the latter form, it *can* encompass teaching or instructing people. But it *cannot* encompass training or parenting or punishing or domineering or patronizing people, so it cannot be translated with the German term “erziehen”. If UBF translates matheteuo as “Jünger erziehen” it is a very bad and misleading and dangerous translation. UBF leaders are using that word because they want to twist the meaning of disciple making, just as they use the word “coworker” instead of “wife” because they want to twist the meaning of marriage.

  11. Thanks, Chris. Your explanation is very clear, understandable, logical, and I believe biblical as well.

    Over the last few years, I have stated as often as I can to as many as I can that we Christians are not called to “train” others. Even Jesus loved others to the end (Jn 13:1); he did not train others to the end.

    Also, we train animals to do dog tricks, but we do not train humans. We love others (Jn 13:34), and if we really want to train someone, we train ourselves to be godly (1 Tim 4:7).

    Paul beat his own body (not others) so that after he preached to (not trained) others, he himself would not be excluded from eternal life (1 Cor 9:27).

    It’s great Chris, that we independently came to the same conclusion and the same realization in 2 different continents, 2 different cultures, and in 2 different languages because we are both reading and studying the same Bible!

    • Ben, in fact, you would use the German word “erziehen” for the training of dogs. You use it when you want to change the behavior of somebody who needs to submit to you. That’s why I find usage of the word by the German UBF so scary. And in fact, much what I experienced in the group (and what I saw in other Christian groups as well) resembled dog training. If you behave the way they like, you will get applause, appreciation, love; if you behave in other ways, you will get a bad look, withdrawal of affection, rebuke, are shunned or shamed, or you get some kind of “training” (that is actually thought as a punishment, not as a real training), or maybe they will not arrange a marriage for you or cancel your marriage. I have experienced all of this, and it worked very effectively. People are susceptible. They will respond if you just give them little bit of love and affection, or just a bad look. You make them dependent. And if you continue with punishment and sumission training, you just break their backs. That’s the end result of “Jüngererziehung”.

      Ben, yes, luckily, we came to the same conclusion. But why did it take so long for us? Why could we believe in wrong things for such a long time even *though* we seemed to study the Bible much more and much deeper than anybody else? These are questions that are still bothering me, and though I already understand many of the mechanisms, I’m still trying to find answers. One of the answers is that we took seemingly insignificant shifts in meaning and usage of words not seriously. But as Joe already said, they are very serious, as they shaped our minds and thoughts in wrong ways.

      We need to be very clear about words. Joseph mentioned that we used other words which are not in the Bible like “trinity” or “omnipotence”, but remember, the church needed three centuries of hard debate to establish and agree on the term “trinity”. They did not just easily invent this word, and the whole church agreed on this, not just a small group like UBF. By the way, the word omnipotence still evokes many difficult questions and difficulties like the “theodicy”. These words you mentioned are abstract concepts anyway. But whether we see our “sheep” as somebody who needs to be “trained”, or whether we see our spouse as a “coworker” only is not an abstract thing, it has very practical consequences on how we deal with each other.

  12. Joe Schafer

    To some people, the discussion above might sound petty. Why are these guys obsessing over the use and meaning of words?

    Language is a powerful thing. Words and phrases create the categories in which people think. If you can’t name something, then you can’t think it. And if you can’t think it, you won’t do it. Communities attach meanings to words that reflect shared commitments and values. So this discussion really isn’t about words; it’s about values that lead to actions.

  13. Chris, i know that my comment here is going to be provocative… i will say it anyways, though. :)
    I know that you have very allergic reactions against such terms as “training”. But it seems to me that you are throwing out the baby with the bath water here. Tim Keller once pointed out that many people in western civilization have gone so far with individualism that no one is ever allowed to interfere with any matters of their personal lives. He mentioned that the great exception in our culture are sport trainers. It is acceptable that their very job description is to make their trainees feel highly uncomfortable, and to even intrude into very personal aspects of lives, such as telling them what people are allowed to eat, when to get up and in some instances when not to have sex!

    As I follow Christ, obeying godly teachers, elders and pastors is part of what I should do (Hebrews 13:17 for instance). Elders i am submitted to have the right to ‘train’ me, that is, discipline me if i go wrong, instruct me, counsel me and ask for my obedience. They have the right to interfere with personal aspects of my life. The important condition is however that my submission to them came out of my own free will and that spiritual leadership is exercised in a biblical way (which includes that no spiritual leader can ever assume and abuse such a thing as ‘absolute authority’).
    We might understand different things when we use the term ‘training’ but i do not find anything inherently wrong or unbiblical if this term is used among others to illustrate at least a part of what discipleship involves. (And just so you know, i was never a fan of the word ‘Jüngererziehung’).

    Please, please, please understand that i am not in any form denying that in many instances UBF discipleship did lead to unhealthy forms of shepherd-sheep relationships, abuses, power plays etc. Rather, I am seeking to argue for a more nuanced and balanced view here. My point is that instead of dismissing whole biblical aspects of discipleship altogether, we should seek ways of how to change discipling (and yes, even ‘training’) others with the goal of creating and sustaining a context, in which people can grow closer to Christ.

    • Admin, i fully agree.

      And i was in no way suggesting that people discipling others are to function as sports trainers.

    • Henoch, I accidentally posted my comment as “admin” (since Ben, our admin, asked me to check on a technical issue this morning, and I forgot to log back in as myself.)

      Here is my comment repeated and expanded, “Henoch, I think one more nuance to consider is time. Sports trainers are normally only training for a short period of time. If UBF did “training” only for a few years as a para-church, then I might be able to accept it. I think UBF should stop trying to become a church/denomination and focus on its strengths as a short-term, Bible study group (with some corrections in doctrine).”

    • Thanks, Brian, for the clarification.

      I don’t know whether your idea of reverting UBF back to a para-church sounds realistic. Virtually everybody i know in UBF considers UBF as their church. In other words, UBF has functioned as a quasi-church for the past decades. Shouldn’t we rather think about how UBF can be transformed into a ‘complete’ church?

    • Well Henoch, I would say, no, we should not try to help UBF become a complete church. At some point, you simply have to admit failure and dismantle, with hope in redemption.

    • Henoch, thanks for responding. Your claim that I am “throwing out the baby with the bath water” reminds me of the reaction of the people in the ICoC who used these exact words when people wanted to reform the group and started questioning their leader Kip McKean and his idea and practice of “discipling”. But the problem we have is not with the term disciple and discipleship in itself, not even with the ideas of making disciples or teaching disciples, but the way how this should happen. Let me go into your arguments.

      First, your example of a sport trainer. Note that in German, even sport trainers would not be called “Erzieher”, but “Trainer” or “Ausbilder”. Second, sport trainers want to improve your physical capabilities, so for top-level athletes it makes sense that they “dictate” what you eat or when to have sex. But anyway, they would not demand that from a position of authority, but because the athlete has a certain goal. The athletes usually pay their trainers, and they can change their trainer, they are in no way dependent of their trainers.

      Second, you claim that spiritual training is ok if people accept it from their “free will”. Yes, I agree, that sounds reasonable. However, the problem is that abusive trainers have the ability to influence or take away what you perceive as your “free will” by manipulating what you believe and how you feel or by instilling in you a feeling of indebtedness to them. It goes so far that people allow themselves to be beaten (known from many cults, and even mentioned in the Bible in 2Cor 11:20). There are many people with weak personalities, or who are in a phase of weakness, and these “trainers” prey on such people. The “free will” is not an independent category in this discussion; it is exactly the thing that cults and abusive leaders, those who claim to be your “disciplers”, try to take away from people.

      Your argument may apply to a situation like a monastery where people know the exact rules upfront and where they are given a probation year until they decide they want to submit to a specific order. But the situation is different in groups like UBF where you do not know upfront which the rules are and how far the authority of your shepherd extends. There is a sneaky process of making you obey and feel comfortable with more and more of their rules and requirements. But even if we take the monastery as an example, I have never heard that friars are “parented” or “trained” by their abbots. I have never heard of “Mönchserziehung”. The general principle is that they train themselves and let God directly train them.

      Third, you quote Hebr 13:7 as a reference that we need to obey teachers. Your father as a chapter director also liked that verse very much and often silenced controversies by quoting that verse. Yes, I agree that teachers in a church have a certain authority. But that verse does not talk about what that authority is. This must be taken from other verses. The verse also does not talk about discipleship and personal 1:1 relationships of authority, but maybe about authority exerted by a group of elders who are trusted and elected by the church members.

      Also, you make it sound like there are many verses like Hebr 13:7, but in fact there aren’t. That does not mean that we don’t need to take the verse seriously, but it means that we must look at it carefully and try to conciliate it with the rest of the Bible, particularly what Jesus said about authority in Mt 23. Here are two good resources that helped me better understand the meaning of this specific verse:

      By the way, another requirement that I would add on top of your requirement that submission must come from a person’s free will is that submission to an authority requires that the authority is accountable. The problem with the shepherding/discipling movement is that they are characterized by an unaccountable leadership that dismisses any criticism or ideas for reform as “rebellion”. Interestingly, Hebr 13:7 particularly mentions that those who have authority “must give account”.

    • Joe Schafer

      At Penn State, we have been having this discussion for quite a while now. Are we a campus ministry? Or are we a church? We weren’t doing either one well. As I looked at the actual people and families that God had gathered together, I realized that they were expecting us to be the primary spiritual home where they would worship throughout their lives (or for as long as they lived in our town.) Whether we intended it or not, God has made us a church, so now we have to deal with it. We need to think about what constitutes a healthy spiritual community and work toward that goal. Part of the solution for us is to build meaningful relationships with other local churches and share resources with them, because we can’t do it alone.

    • Good points Joe, Henoch, Chris. I don’t have much to add. But can we throw out the “throwing out the baby with the bath water” phrase? No one is doing that here. We all love our babies :)

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris and Henoch, it’s rewarding to see you having this respectful dialogue. This is one of the things I always hoped would happen on UBFriends. When people on different sides in a larger conflict start to talk, it can look messy and complicated and uncomfortable. But I think it’s what Jesus wants us to do.

      It seems to me that you are not really talking about details of what good discipling and discipleship ought to be. That is going to vary by context. Rather, you are talking about the qualities of Christians’ relationships with one another, and their relationships with God. If those relationships are healthy, then right behaviors will follow.

    • Thanks, everyone for the comments. And thanks especially to Chris for his long answer (and i’m not sarcastic here).

      Chris, maybe i didn’t fully get it but somehow i don’t think that you contradicted anything i wrote. Thus, by and large, i agree with what you wrote.

    • Henoch, so after this discussion maybe we can agree on the following:

      “training”, “mentoring”: can be ok for a certain time, but must not be coupled with authority

      “authority”, “obedience: not wrong in itself, but must be properly limited

      “parenting”, “erziehung”: never ok (except if done by God, or by
      real parents)

      The way you seemed to connect the issues of training and obedience was the point that I believed needed a response.

      Generally, the way Christians should deal with each other must not be marked by hierarchies and authoritarianism, but rather by mutual respect, dialog and trying to make consentual decisions.

    • Amen, brother. I can live with that. :)

    • Henoch, it seems we’re both making some progress in our communication efforts :)

  14. Joe, yes, it’s about healthy relationships. But I want to emphasize that someone who buys into the idea of “Jüngererziehung” stlye parenting/training can hardly have healthy relationships because this idea is unhealthy *per se*. It can only work if the discipler is an omniscient and omnibenevolent being. I don’t know any man who would be able to train/parent Christians in a healthy way, and those who are the loudest in demanding such authority are those who are particularly inapt to deal with it and highly susceptible to abuse it.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks, Chris. I was thinking about it the other way. If someone likes the idea of that kind of parenting-training, it’s because they are making lots of incorrect assumptions about what constitutes a healthy relationship.

    • Incorrect assumptions, yes, and also improper motivations. On both sides. There are those who want to parent others because they like to rule and exert authority, and there are also those who want to be parented by others because they are too lazy or anxious to think and decide on their own. For both sides, it is not good to have a parenting relationship.

    • Joe Schafer

      I agree. Francis Schaeffer wrote about this near the end of his book True Spirituality. The ways that people interact with one another are influenced by roles: husband and wife, parent and child, teacher and student, employer and employee, servant and master (back in the old days), etc. When you become a Christian, these socially prescribed roles do not disappear. But we must always respect the sacred, God-given personhood of the other individual and never reduce them to a role. My daughter is my daughter, and I am her father. In the context of the parent-child relationship, I have some authority over her and responsibility for her. But before God, we are also equals. In one sense she is my daughter, but in another sense she is my sister in Christ. No matter the age difference, I need to respect her individuality and personhood. I should never use my God-given role as a father to unfairly dominate or crush or manipulate her. One of the issues that my church needs to think about is its tendency to reduce people to position and role. Paul’s letter to Philemon addresses this point.

      Even if a pastor or shepherd were omniscient and omnipotent like God, he still shouldn’t force people to conform to his will. God has granted his creatures real freedom, and we should not take it away.

  15. In addition to the two links I posted in my response to Henoch, I want to point to the helpful article on “a pastor’s authority” written by Ray Stedman ( It also mentions the verse Hebr 13:7 quoted by Henoch. Please take your time to read these articles, as they may be eye-openers.

  16. Chris, Henoch, Joe, Brian,

    Greetings from Incheon airport. I am in transit and enroute to Manila, where I will stay till early Sept. It is 5 pm Korea time, and 4 am Chgo time Thursday. I left Chgo 16 hours ago, and logged on to find 37 comments.

    I echo Joe’s sentiment that such discussions are indeed healthy, promotes friendship, trust, intimacy, love, and reconciliation (if needed).

    I am sorry whenever I hear some people say, suggest or comment that people are persecuting UBF, when we are simply having friendly discussions that help us to love Jesus, and to understand Scripture, differences in culture, nuance of words, etc.

    Interestingly, Heb 13:17 changed from the 1984 NIV, “Obey your leaders,” to the 2011 NIV, “Have confidence in your leaders.” From what I read, the word “obey” does not just place the weight on the “sheep” to obey, for the Greek word also has the weight placed on the “shepherd” to persuade, promote, love, serve, enlighten, convince, etc, so that the “sheep” does want to obey, and not forced/coerced/guilt tripped/manipulated to obey with no choice.

    • Hi Ben, have a good time in Manila.

      Good to hear that they tried to improve the translation of Hebr 13:17. The verse actually has two difficulties, first, who are the “leaders”, second, what means “obey”? The Luther translation has “teachers” instead of “leaders” and “follow” instead of “obey”. In any case, the whole verse is not unambiguous.

      “Leaders” certainly refers to very specific people (see also Hebr 13:7) who the author of the letter knew and trusted. It is not even clear to me that the author wants to make a general statement and does not just write for a specific situation, while in passages like Mt 23 it is very clear that Jesus makes general statements about authority and leadership.

      Here is another helpful commentary on this verse:

    • Chris and Ben, have to admit that i honestly didn’t know that Hebrews 13:7 had been abused by pastors to justify and enforce their authoritarian leadership/dictatorship. I agree with both of you that this is wrong on so many levels.

      Nonetheless, even in the 2011NIV, it says that we are to submit to the authority of leaders, which – i would assume – includes obedience. Chris, you also mentioned that there are no other passages in the bible, which so explicitly tell Christians to obey their leaders. Maybe so. But i think obedience towards leaders is at the very least implied in passages dealing with church. In my opinion, healthy and biblical submission and relationship towards elders is one of the areas that is neglected by many Christians today.

      As for the question who the leaders are, i agree with Chris, that it is not entirely clear. But maybe there is a hint here: Hebrews 13:7.

    • Sorry Chris, didn’t read your comment in detail. just saw that you already had mentioned Hebrews 13:7. It mentions that leaders are somehow involved in teaching activities.

    • Joe Schafer

      This discussion underscores how unhelpful it can be to talk about biblical principles and values in an abstract way, as if they can somehow stand alone as truth for all people at all times, apart from any specific context. In most cases, they cannot.

      For example, Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances…” Those words “always” and “all” sound absolute. It’s tempting to proclaim this as a timeless truth. But imagine a pastor preaching on this passage at a funeral. Yes, the message would be biblical. In other circumstances it would be healthy. But in that context, spoken to those people at that time, it would be horribly insensitive and wrong.

      It’s a safe bet that every church whose leaders have engaged in authoritarian practices has used Hebrews 13:17 to defend itself.

    • Joe Schafer

      This also underscores the importance of understanding whole books of the Bible, not just short passages.

      Hebrews 12-13 has lots of practical commands. But they need to understood in the context of the whole book.

      Hebrews is all about the centrality of Christ and the lordship of Christ and worship of Christ. All throughout the book, the author encourages and warns the reader not to lose sight of Jesus. The vision of the Christian life presented in Hebrews is a profoundly Christ-centered spirituality. To treat Hebrews 12 and 13 as a list of commands to be obeyed apart from the meta-message of Hebrews is, in my opinion, a misuse of Scripture.

    • Joe, i hope i didn’t leave the impression that i am doing what you just described (isolating bible verses from their context and turning them into universal truth claims).

      I am just saying that we can fall from the horse on both sides. Yes, false understanding of bible passages, which either explicitly or implicitly speak of obeying and submitting to human leaders can lead to abuse, authoritarian structures etc.
      But ignoring these passages isn’t a solution to the problem, either. This can create another set of problems. As you rightly pointed out some other time, slippery slopes tend to come in pairs.

    • Joe Schafer

      Henoch, I wasn’t reacting to you. I was subconsciously reacting to an event where someone gave a message that seemed inappropriate in that particular place and time. The messenger thought he was just giving the meaning of the passage, proclaiming timeless truth and principles directly from God. In the abstract sense, nothing that he said was patently false. But in that specific context, that message was troubling.

    • Henoch, I fully agree that there should be people in a church that should be followed and considered as persons of authority. I don’t advocate anarchism in the church. But care must be taken to bring all of this in line with the general principle that there should be no hierarchies, and believers should consider each other as brothers. This verse can simply not be taken as a proof that Christian life should be hierarchically structured and based on obedience and submission.

      As Joe already said, there are verses that sound absolute, but they aren’t. One practical non-UBF example: I met a woman who was abused by her husband in a Pentecostal church where it was taught that women must always absolutely submit under their husbands. So even if she complained to the elders, they completely ignored her complaints, telling her she should simply submit “in everything”, quoting Eph 5:24. It was horrible. You see, it’s very easy to abuse verses about obedience. There is a similar problem with Rom 13 which seems to categorically imply that we should obey the worldly authorities. It’s actually one of the Bible passages that are most difficult for me. All of these passages are abused to promote authoritarianism. By the way, note that all of these passages are taken from letters written to a specific audience in a specific situation. Why are they taken more seriously than Jesus’ words which were obviously meant as general, universal principles?

      We need to understand the *gist* of the Bible and of Jesus’ teachings. It is so obvious that it is opposed to hierarchical thinking and authority/obedience patterns.

  17. Joseph R

    Wow, I am quite slow. I am responding to replies ages ago. Forgive my slowness.

    Brian: I am sorry that UBF ‘shepherding’ has hurt you in the past. ‘That is a key problem with the UBF definition of “shepherding”– it means “parenting.”’ I think you are right, especially in westerners. This has indeed hurt many westerners including Asians and even to some American-Koreans I know. In other places, like Korea, ‘UBF shepherding’ has been a key growth for many Christ-centered Koreans.

    ‘…have bought into the idea that discipling=parenting’. Please don’t take this the wrong way. Parenting is very cultural in Koreans. When you say ‘bought into the idea’ it sounds like you are saying that Korean culture is bad. There are many cultural practices, like touching one’s foot, bowing to another, among many that may seem ‘offensive’ to Americans. In Korean culture, respecting your elders includes treating them as parents.
    It is sad that many Koreans see that practicing American culture (questioning teachers, rebuking an elder…etc) hinders people from following Christ.
    It is sad that many Americans see that practicing Korean culture (not questioning teachers, not rebuking an elder… etc) hinders people from following Christ.
    Like many Christian denominations, cultures have different practices. Whether one practices American or Korean culture, one can mature in Christ, as one can mature in any denominations.
    Veg-etarians, Meat-etarians and omni-tarians can eat freely however they wish and still give glory to God (1 Cor 10:31).

    You are mature in many ‘other’ respects. Asking questions and sharing your experiences with UBF without condemning every UBF individual is very mature, indeed. Thank you for your transparency.
    ‘Love is the greatest command’ – You made this clear, brother. The bible considered ‘love’ as an ‘energy’. According to Neville Johnson, ‘faith is energized empowered by LOVE’. He uses Galatians 5:6 that states ‘faith is worketh by love’. Rather, faith is energeo by love. I am wrong. I am sorry if I implied that ‘world mission command’ is the greatest command. You are right, love is the greatest command.
    Article: This was a well written article. Thank you for sharing it. ‘The old saying fits well then: “It takes a village to raise a child.” I contend that “It takes the body of Christ to raise a disciple.”’ That is very clear to me. No ‘discipler’ were intended to go ‘make disciples’ solo. Did Jesus commanded us to do anything solo?

    ‘to fall into prooftexting, springboarding and foolish arguments about words’.
    That is fine. I do thank you for referring to biblical verses (over five!) when you wrote the article. If it is ok to make a personal request, can you also refer to biblical verses here in ubfriends. Again, this is a personal request. I ask my cousin to help me move boxes at home. He said ‘no, thanks’. I cried but that is ok. I tried holding back tears when you said ‘No…’ to referring to biblical verses here. Yet, that is ok, I am a crier. No need to worry about me.

    ‘A Christian is one who has this good news…’
    Is it okay if I say ‘Oh yeah, Brian Karcher is an Evangelist’? Or would that be blasphemy? Of course, I’m a blasphemer but I will not refer to you as an evangelist if you do not consent.

    ‘I don’t agree that 2 Timothy there is a charge for all Christians.’
    I thought all God’s words were for all Christians. I shed a couple of tears there. You are right. This letter is from Paul specifically addressed to Timothy. I still do not understand why all Christians are not called to be evangelists. Nonetheless, I learned that we should consider the individual Christian, a local gather of the Body, and the entire Body of Christ.

    ‘being careful about what you say in public’
    This, my friend, has much truth in it. I was once talking about a friend’s negative attitude, not realizing that this friend was standing right behind me. This applies to all areas of my life including UBF or any other churches I walk into. I got a talk from my director about being a vegetarian, but that is ok. It is just a talk. Ultimately, I get a talk from God. He spanks me harder than any UBF or non-UBF elder. Though He never harmed me, His words pierced my heart. I do want to know Brian Karcher. In fact, I would like to know more about Mother Theresa, Adolf Hitler, Dr. Ben and a little bit of myself. Ultimately, I would like to know more about Jesus when I am not overcome with laziness and my sinful nature.

    ‘We must be perfect, not just try.’
    Again, you are right. We must not try to ‘shoot for perfection’. Rather, ‘we must be perfect’. I am going to shoot for ‘not shooting for perfection’.

    ‘we ought to be good facilitators of His work, rather than resisting or grieving or hindering the work’
    I am probably one of the worst evangelist I know. I am not a good facilitators of His work and in many cases I resist or grieve or hinder the work. One thing though, I am thankful that Jesus is cleaning up some of my acts and took the punishments/consequences I deserve. I may be sinful, but a drop of Jesus’ grace is bigger than all my sins combined.

    • JosephR, thanks for continuing the dialogue. I will reply with more thoughts soon. But I just want to respond in one way this morning: Korean culture is not bad, in my opinion. What is bad, is a Korean UBF missionary teaching and practicing that the “discipling=parenting” is the “the truth of God” and the “best ways to make disciples”. What is bad is demanding the shepherd/sheep relationship last forever.

      And I’d like to make sure everyone sees these links to official UBF teaching material (for second gens in UBF). Check out the “hardcore contents of 1:1”

      Here is my blog about it:

    • Check out slide 9 in the link above (for the teaching that shepherding=parenting).

      Check out slide 26 for a good laugh… or cry :(

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, this is too sad to be funny.

      If someone asked me to create a parody, a caricature, of ubf discipleship training using my irreverent sense of humor, I think it would have been less extreme than this.

      I thought that “hardcore” was your term. But it was actually in the title!

    • Brian Karcher

      I’m not making this stuff up folks :)

    • Joe Schafer

      I found slide #29 quite offensive. It explicitly states that those who do not engage in UBF-style 1:1 Bible study aren’t doing so because they don’t want to sacrifice themselves, are selfish, lazy, pragmatic, preoccupied with the world, wanting to be popular, etc. I guess there can be no valid objections whatsoever.

    • Joseph, you are basically saying that in Korean culture, parenting is ok, in Western culture it is not ok.

      If you mean with “parenting” only that elders get special honor, maybe people bowing more before them or whatever, I can somewhat understand that. But if you mean with “parenting” the thing I was talking about, namely authoritarian paternalism, the idea that shepherds and leaders should be considered as spiritual parents, I totally disagree.

      Jesus said that believers should think of each other as brothers, noone should be called “father”. They should not think in hierarchies, even if the world or culture around them did that as a natural thing. See, in Jesus time there was also a culture of lording over people. But Jesus said “Not so with you!” (Mt 20:26). If you are a Korean, you should still treat your fellow Christians like brothers, and not like superiors or subordinates. This is a general teaching of Jesus that is *above* culture. If Koreans treat brothers differently than Westerners do, then so be it. That’s ok. But it’s not ok if you say Jesus’ teachings do not apply to Koreans.

      Also, you sound as if all Koreans are embracing the UBF parenting leadership style and feel comfortable with it. That’s simply not true, and the 3 reform movements of the past which were all driven by Koreans as well as the hundreds (or even thousands?) of Koreans who were hurt and left UBF show that very clearly.

      All of this does not mean that we’re saying that Korean culture is bad. There are many good things in Korean culture. But when there are parts in the Korean culture that are a hindrance to Christian life or in opposition to Jesus’ teachings, then these parts of culture should be dismissed by Korean Christians. We’re also not saying that Western culture is all good. Maybe, because it has been influenced by Christian values over centuries, it is a bit better in line with the Bible. But fundamentally, the same applies: The measure stick is what Jesus taught us, not the Western culture. Where western culture opposes Jesus’ teachings, it is just as bad as other cultures.

      You say whether or not “parenting” style leadership is used, people can mature. I strongly disagree, and I can clearly see that the people who have been parented in UBF did not mature, or it took decades for them to even recognize very obvious problems.

    • I found slide 43 as the “best” of the kind. It says about “the way”, not a way. Jesus said, “I am the way”, but UBF says that 1:1 is the way and even “God’s way”. It is very funny… and sad.

    • Joe Schafer

      Don’t want to pile on too much. But slide 41 says that 1:1 Bible study leads to deep and lasting friendships. Based on many years of experience, I eventually had to conclude the opposite. The relationships formed through the shepherd-sheep 1:1 model are relationships with an agenda. That agenda is to keep the sheep progressing toward the goal of being a committed disciplemaker in the ubf mold. If that goal gets derailed, the relationship falls apart. Real friendship is based on a love which doesn’t impose those kinds of conditions and expectations.

    • We are digressing here, but I want to confirm Joe’s statement that 1:1 hierarchical discipling does not foster deep and lasting friendships, but does the opposite. Whenever somebody leaves UBF, any real frienship ends, as most of us ex members experienced. This actually shows that real friendship never existed while we were in UBF. This is not a problem of UBF people, but a direct cause from the UBF teaching and practice of relationships in the groups.

    • i don’t know whether it is fair to generalize here. Both statements if absolute are not in accordance with my observation, namely that 1:1 bible study fosters life-long friendships or that 1:! bible studies don’t. I know of very close, life-long friendships of people with their 1:1 bible teacher throughout the time they were studying the bible together and also when the student decided to move on to another church.

      Oh, and by the way: slide 36: “Gospel must be the central focus”. A glimpse of hope?

    • Joe Schafer

      Henoch, that entirely depends on what is meant by the gospel. In these slide presentations, some message called “gospel” is being assumed. I know these people fairly well, but you know them better than I. What do you think they mean when they say “gospel”?

    • Henoch: “Gospel must be central” or “Back to the Bible” sounds good, but as Joe already wrote, the problem is how they understand the gospel and the Bible. Even the expression “gospel faith” has a particular meaning in UBF which may be not the one the words seem to imply.

      Concerning 1:1 and frienship: When we said 1:1 Bible study hampers real friendship, we referred to the classical, hardcore UBF style of authoritarian, hierarchical, parenting 1:1 Bible study, not to all kinds of 1:1 Bible study. I know that not all UBF teachers follow this classic style strictly. For instance, I know you, and I’m pretty sure that if you make Bible study with a Bible student, you’ll be doing it in a healthy way. I myself have a deep friendship with one of my former “Bible students”; we are still meeting every year even though he moved far away. But I believe this is because I never considered him to be my sheep, and never gave him any kind of “divine discipline” or “discipleship training”. On the other hand, I don’t have contact any more with those who I treated more in the bad ways I learned in UBF (like forcing them to write sogams), nor with my former UBF Bible teachers who treated me that way.

    • JosephR:

      Here are my continued responses to your dialogue. I appreciate this type of communication very much.

      “Brian: I am sorry that UBF ‘shepherding’ has hurt you in the past.”
      >>> This is the kind of “I’m sorry” that is like putting salt on wounds.

      “In other places, like Korea, ‘UBF shepherding’ has been a key growth for many Christ-centered Koreans.”
      >>> I agree that growth, numerically, did happen because of the Korean ideas of parenting in UBF and outside UBF. But I have had discussions with a Korean-American who is living in Korea right now (he never even heard of UBF). But his bad experience matches what most of us have experienced in UBF. The remarkable “growth” in Korea however has been declining recently, as some of the churches built by these “Christ-centered” Koreans are falling apart. It is being revealed that many of them are really “law-centered”.

      “Parenting is very cultural in Koreans. When you say ‘bought into the idea’ it sounds like you are saying that Korean culture is bad. There are many cultural practices, like touching one’s foot, bowing to another, among many that may seem ‘offensive’ to Americans. In Korean culture, respecting your elders includes treating them as parents.”
      >>> Korean culture is part of the problem, just as American culture is part of the problem. But all these culture issues could be overcome if we would a) acknowledge that other people’s culture is not evil and b) allow the dividing walls of hostility we’ve rebuilt to be torn down by Jesus. I am not offended, personally, by Korean culture. I love kimchee and I respect the discipline. I am an engineer by trade, so Korean strictness is appealing to me. But what infuriates me is the claim by so many Korean Christians (in and out of UBF context) who claim some parts of their culture are “God’s truth”, when really the “shepherding=parenting” idea is nothing more than a Christianized Confucian concept of hsiao (parental piety).

      “It is sad that many Koreans see that practicing American culture (questioning teachers, rebuking an elder…etc) hinders people from following Christ.”
      >>> I would not say this is “sad”. This is good. We Americans need this. And Koreans need our American ideas about freedom.

      “You are mature in many ‘other’ respects. Asking questions and sharing your experiences with UBF without condemning every UBF individual is very mature, indeed. Thank you for your transparency.”
      >>> I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m an open book for the world :)

      Article: This was a well written article. Thank you for sharing it. ‘The old saying fits well then: “It takes a village to raise a child.” I contend that “It takes the body of Christ to raise a disciple.”’ That is very clear to me. No ‘discipler’ were intended to go ‘make disciples’ solo. Did Jesus commanded us to do anything solo?
      >>> Good points. I see some things that we are to do “solo”. Personal faith and piety should not be dismissed. Both community and individual faith are demanded by Jesus.

      “If it is ok to make a personal request, can you also refer to biblical verses here in ubfriends.”
      >>> Sure :)

      “Is it okay if I say ‘Oh yeah, Brian Karcher is an Evangelist’?”
      >>> call me whatever you want. Just try to avoid four-letter words :)

      “I thought all God’s words were for all Christians.”
      >>> Your thinking is correct: there is a sense in which all Christains are “evangelists” even though not everyone is specficially called to the “evangelist” role. If that is your understanding I can accept it as Biblical. I say we ought to be careful here though. We cannot simply open the Bible and immediately say “That verse applies to all Christians!”. The famous example is someone who happens to read that Judas committed suicide, but wihtout the context, the reader starts to think that it is God’s will to commit suicide. We must, must, must (to use UBFisms :) let the Bible interpret the Bible, and realize what the Bible says about itself, along with checking our thoughts against 2,000 years of Christian thought and practice.

      “He spanks me harder than any UBF or non-UBF elder.”
      >>> Why use such words like “spank”? This is rather troubling in a public context. We should be senstive to the fact that physical abuse used to be incorporated into UBF training in the 1960’s and 1970’s (maybe later in isolated cases).

      “Rather, ‘we must be perfect’. I am going to shoot for ‘not shooting for perfection’.”
      >>> Correct, we must be perfect. But I don’t understand your shooting for not shooting…that is confusing and doesn’t sound like the gospel.

      “I may be sinful, but a drop of Jesus’ grace is bigger than all my sins combined.”
      >>> Agreed. Why settle for a drop of grace?

  18. Joseph R

    Christ: Thanks for an explanation of ‘Jüngererziehung’. Perhaps, it is better not to use this word when I visit Germany… Unless I can make it clear that God is ultimately our Teacher and we are His disciples.

  19. Joe, I found all these slides offensive. When I read these, I first said WTF about a thousand times. Then I was happy that I finally found documentation of explicit UBF teachings. 1st gens are getting anxious because time is running out to pass on the UBF heritage. So they are allowing more and more explicit teaching and documentation.

    And you are correct. There is no need to critique the “hardcore contents of 1:1” because most of it is more ludicrous than anything I could make up.

    And if you that’s offensive, more slides can be found here:

    This will all become blessedly explicit in the forthcoming UBF Schools:

    My blog about UBF Schools:

  20. Joe Schafer

    Brian, I’d like to point out that there is no univocal entity called ubf that is running these things. The efforts that you mentioned (the leadership forum and planning for schools) are not spearheaded or coordinated by ubf headquarters in Korea or in Chicago. Each one is being promoted by an individual with a vision who is trying to garner support for it. What I’m trying to say is this: These efforts may be labeled by their supporters as ubf activities, but neither one has a broad network of support within ubf headquarters or among ubf members. It’s easy to imagine that ubf is a cohesive, well oiled and disciplined machine with a well defined plan. Perhaps it was like that when SL was alive and running things. But a lot has changed over the last decade. At present it’s far less organized and in flux.

    • Joe, these slides have been propagated by the European UBF headquarters and taught on the European UBF leadership forum. This is a very official thing, blessed by the European continental director, not something an individual in a fringe chapter of UBF has made up on his own. The American UBF may be less extreme nowadays, but these teachings are still tolerated by them – I think that forum where these slides were presented was even attended by Sarah Barry. And we don’t really know how extreme the Korean UBF is nowadays because we cannot read most of what they publish. The few things that have been translated to English are scary enough; Brian already blogged about these things.

    • I would agree on two things here Joe: 1) UBF used to be a well-oiled machine run by one man 2) UBF in 2012 is no longer one, single well-oiled entity, but is in flux.

      But I would argue for adding a third point: 3) UBF in 2012 is now multiple well-oiled and semi-oiled machines.

      I see 3 power centers in UBF now: Seoul, Chicago and Bonn. These three power centers are not on the same page at all, and each has their own agenda. I now see a 3-way split in the future for UBF if these 3 don’t agree soon.

      The UBF schools idea is not a loosely organized concept, but appears well under way from my research. Schools are mentioned in the 50th Anniversary Blue Book, and someone went to the trouble of purchasing a domain account to host Research has been done and teaching materials were tested out in the 2010 European celebrations/2nd gen training.

  21. Joseph R

    Brian: I appreciate the links. I am kinda confused by some of the slides. Maybe further explanation will help. Perhaps it is just me, but I noticed that many replies here are quick to condemn. I personally do not see much of ‘authoritarian paternalism’ as Chris mentioned. Like I said, I’m a big time sinner (I have many blind sides), and that is probably why I don’t see much of these.

    Chris: I hope that I did not imply that Jesus teachings applies to everyone else but Korean. Surely, Koreans would not need a Savior if that were so. Also, I am sorry if I sounded as if every single Koreans are ’embracing the UBF parenting leadership’. That is completely my fault. I have to be more clear next time.

    Chris: ‘I can clearly see that the people who have been parented in UBF did not mature, or it took decades for them to even recognize very obvious problems.’

    I don’t think that is fair to say. Unless you talked to every single person ‘who have been parented in UBF’ and see for yourself that in their hearts ‘they did not mature or it took decades for them to even recognize very obvious problems’ then can it be fair. I don’t mean to be rude, but are you not judging people’s hearts? I know a Christian friend who lives with her Atheists family. People judge her by the acts and beliefs of her family. Sure she is a sinner, but one should not judge her by what her family says/beliefs/do.

    UBF is filled with sinners and leaders who need to repent. I can testify to this. There is much more to say. I think it is fine to leave it at that for the moment.

    • Joseph: Honestly, I don’t see any condemnation in what I and others have written in this post. When we clearly say which behavior we consider unchristian or immature, does this mean we judge (condemn) such people? I don’t think so. When I was in UBF, I was just as immature.

      You gave the example of the Christian who lives in an Atheist family. I’m not sure what you want to say with that. That I should not judge you (the Christian) according to what your church (the Atheist family) believes? Well, I don’t. But I still find it immature if you or other members tolerate all the behavior and teachings of the top leadership since decades, and do not speak up against that openly.

      If you haven’t seen authoritarian paternialism in UBF, then either you are living in a very different UBF from mine (admittedly 10 years ago), or you’re deliberately closing your eyes. I have seen more than enough of it in my 10 years of UBF, and read about these things in many testimonies of former UBF members. I don’t want to repeat all the concrete examples I personally experienced. Be assured I know what I’m talking about.

      Anyway, even if UBF had these problems only in the past (and I’m not sure about that), they need to be discussed. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    • JosephR,

      I’d like to respond to this statement: “I noticed that many replies here are quick to condemn.”

      If you will bear with me for a moment, I’d like to make an arrogant boast…

      Chris, Joe, Ben, Henoch and I have decades of UBF experience. Ben and Joe’s numbers are higher than mine, but for example: I spent over 10,000 hours in UBF Bible study, attended all but 2 Sunday services for 24 years, visited dozens of UBF chapters in 7 countries, talked to hundreds of UBF people and up until recently attended 99% of UBF activities. I’ve read/heard thousands of UBF testimonies and messages over the past 25 years.

      None of us here are making quick judgments.

    • Joseph, i just want to clarify something: i love UBF. I love UBF because i see UBF as an expression of the body of Christ. There are two UBF chapters, which i consider my home church. And unless God’s spirit makes it clear to me in one way or the other to leave UBF, i will stay.

      It is for that very reason that i wish and pray for UBF to be a healthy organization and for UBF chapters to be wholesome, God-pleasing, Christ-centered communities and church gatherings.

      Just to keep things balanced here: there is much good in UBF. And one of my best friends used to cite these verses in referring to UBF: “test them all, hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” This verses refer to prophecies but i think are more than applicable to UBF.

    • Henoch, your statement that you love UBF or you see UBF as an expression of the body of Christ is somewhat confusing for me, because you are the one who always points out that UBF is very diverse and has so many facets, and you blame us (with some right) for lumping everything together. So I would expect you to make statements like you love this or that aspect of UBF or you see a certain chapter, or certain people or certain things happening in UBF as an expression of the body of Christ, but not the complete UBF with all of its facets as if it was an entity. It isn’t an entity. Particularly not in a spiritual sense.

  22. I read a practical quote recently that any church or ministry that does not critique itself honestly and continuously is headed for extinction or irrelevance. (This is a paraphrase.)

    Any church or leader, no matter how good, fruitful, sacrificial, or loving, needs continuous humble re-evaluation, critique, exhortation (Heb 3:13), because no matter how “good” we may be, we are still sinners who never do anything perfectly (Mt 5:48). Even if we have been growing for 50 years or 100 years, we still need to constantly and humbly critique ourselves, our sermons, our methods, our leaders, etc (2 Cor 13:5).

    But it is always painful to honestly and humbly self-critique oneself and one’s church and ministry. Nonetheless, it must be done.

    Since, UBF’s emphasis is “mission” and “shepherding,” thus more than any other topic or doctrine, these 2 need the most humble, honest self-critique, lest we drive ourselves, our ministry, and our “sheep” to the ground.

    • Ben: Yes, this constant self-critique is necessary. It actually should not be so painful for people who have a clear understanding that they are sinners and imperfect people who need to grow, and that they are saved and loved by God no matter of their sins and imperfections. Such people should embrace any kind of critique because it helps them grow. Luther made this the 1st of his 95 theses: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” You can only repent when you understand that you did something wrong. You can only understand that you do something wrong if you embrace critique.

      The problem with UBF’s top leadership is that they seem to not get this point. Instead of self-critique, there is only self-glorification. Every conference, mission report, anniversary, newsletter is considered as an opportunity for self-glorification, not for self-critique. And when there is critique from within the group, even by mertied leaders, it is silenced and called “rebellion”. The first thing that needs to happen if UBF wants to change, is to change this attitude, and to rehabilitate and apologize their critiques of the past, starting with those brave Koreans who spoke out in 1976.

    • Brian Karcher

      “The first thing that needs to happen if UBF wants to change, is to change this attitude, and to rehabilitate and apologize their critiques of the past, starting with those brave Koreans who spoke out in 1976.”

      Amen to that, Chris!

  23. I looked at these slides from Bonn UBF: I wonder why we use phrases like “The HARDCORE Contents of 1:1 Bible Study.” Is there a soft version of it?

    Slide 22 says, “1:1 has the potential to raise global leaders.” My first thought was that many of the “global leaders” we pray to raise have LEFT and gone for good!

    Slide 23 says, “Global leaders are made … through intensive 1:1 training!” (Exclamation Point!) There are too many things to say here, so I should exercise self-control, and deny myself, and not say a thing. UBF (and God) taught me very well.

    Then the next few slides is about “exponential growth” which has already been debunked and which has virtually and practically never ever happened through out human history.

    Slide 36 on Practical Application is actually very good if we actually do it: 1) Gospel must be the central focus. 2) Present the whole picture. 3) Emphasize the personal application of God’s word. The problem is that practically and functionally #3 takes prominence, which often negates and cancels #1 and #2.

    Slide 39 is also good, especially “Share your strengths AND your weaknesses.” This must be modeled by the oldest, senior, top leader at the church. If the leader does not model and practically share his own weaknesses, how else can anyone else do so?

    To say ONE thing. There is nothing wrong with 1:1 Bible study. I personally love it. The problem is when you try to institutionalize it, control it, market it, enforce it, and make the method/process/implementation of it the way of salvation. Ultimately, God is the only One who raises disciples (1 Cor 3:6), builds his church (Mt 16:18), and transforms people (2 Cor 3:18), not the shepherd or leader.

    I know that if I personally “just got myself the heck out of the way” (while being fully engaged), things run a whole lot better!!!

    • Ben, I would agree that 1:1 BS is not bad, it can in fact be very good. However, when UBFers speak about “1:1 BS”, they actually mean much more than simply studying the Bible with 2 people. The way UBF understands 1:1 BS has many deep issues. The biggest issue is the hierarchical setting of teacher/student (or rather shepherd/sheep) and the idea of “parenting” and “training” through 1:1 BS. We talked about that. Another issue I totally forgot is that in UBF’s understanding, weekly 1:1 BS is *mandatory*. In my time in UBF I just was not allowed to say “this week I’m very busy, let’s skip BS” or “this week I want to study on my own”. If you tried that only one time, they already believed your soul was in danger and you would get the biggest trouble and repercussions. Then there is the issue that 1:1 BS had to always be based on a UBF questionnaire. Another problem was that many UBF chapter directors and group leaders pressured 1:1 BS teachers to pass on private problems (“prayer topics”) of the sheep that had been shared during 1:1 BS. Confidentiality of the things discussed in 1:1 BS was not guaranteed. There are probably many other issues that I already forgot. Plus, let’s not forget 1:1 BS is only part of the “complete UBF package” that contains other elements like sogam sharing which reinforce each other in their negative effects.

  24. Thanks, Chris. Regarding your 1st point of hierarchical authoritarianism, that’s why I did not say anything about slide 23 which says, “Global leaders are made … through INTENSIVE 1:1 training!” (Exclamation Point!)

    Your 2nd of “You CANNOT MISS 1 week” has created all sorts of legalism, unnecessary burden, work righteousness and self-righteousness in the name of “soldier spirit” (2 Tim 2:2-3).

    Your 3rd point of “violating confidentiality” has decreased trust, intimacy and friendship among members, so that some UBF leaders become lonely and say, “I have no friends.” They are also very afraid to share honestly and openly, because very soon others know about it, and they will be “shamed” and “loose face.”

    Such unfortunate unbiblical things happen, because of our theology: practically, the gospel is not central (1 Cor 1:23, 2:2, 15:3-4), but “mission imperatives” are central (Gen 1:28, 2:15; Mt 28:19; Jn 21:15-17; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 15:58; etc). I love the latter verses! But they are NOT the gospel that gives rest (Mt 11:29) and freedom (Jn 8:31-32; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1) and peace (Jn 14:27; Php 4:8)!

  25. Joseph R

    Chris: I truly apologize if I asked questions a little harshly. As a sinner, I think I am capable of telling others not to judge people but am pretty judgmental myself.

    The years I have spent with UBF is little compare to many here. I have been a Christian for about 5 years and have been with UBF for about 3 of them. I have read little about UBF’s past and some of them were quite scary. However, I read through the Corinthians church and what Paul claimed it to be sounded very discomforting indeed. Yet, I did not find Paul claiming things like ‘leave Corinthian’ or ‘I pray you find another church’. Rather many of what he said implied unity in the Body of Christ (2 Corinthians 5) and growing in faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13). If anything, Paul was encouraging them to STAY in the Corinthian church (the church that did worship wrong, prophesied wrong, even participated for the wrong reasons) and to GROW in Christ. I will say that UBF is NOT the church for many people (i.e. 2 of Dr. Ben’s children), but for others it is a place to grow (ie 2 of Dr. Ben’s children).

    Again, I apologize for being quick to hear and slow to listen when it should be the other way around (James 1:19).

    • Joseph R: If you have been in UBF only for 3 years, and these in the post-SL era, then this explains a lot.

      Concernnig Corinthians, you’re right that Paul did not appeal to them to leave the church, but please observe that he appealed to them to expel the wicked teachings and people from the church (1Cor 5:1-13). The concrete case was about sexual immoraility, but I understand 1Cor 5,6-8 a general principle: Do not tolerate ungodly teachings or actions that spoil and poison the church. I also often heared that people in the church (particularly) should never be “judged”. But 1Cor 5:12-13 shows that this is a wrong idea.

      I agree that you can grow in UBF, but it depends on the chapter, leader and shepherd who takes care of you, and usually only for a limited amount of time. But UBF wants to bind you for your whole life. In my time, leaving UBF was no viable option and often a traumatic experience. The idea that somebody would visit UBF and then decide after one or two years on his own whether it was a good place for him to grow or not, was completely alien to the UBF missionaries in my time. The fact that you had been fished by a UBF recruiter was seen as a Godly sign that your place and calling is UBF forever, and that you need to be eternally thankful to UBF, and if you ever leave your calling, then that was the same as abandoning God and his call. I cannot say how it is now and how it is in your chapter, but in my chapter at my time it was like that, honestly.

    • For me this video is a funny allegory for the dialog between people who warn about UBF because of their experiences in the past and newbies who defend UBF:

    • Chris, that video is excellent. No words; just one simple truth that we should not ignore what our eyes and ears tell us, and that there are consequences for actions no matter how much we want to perceive something different from reality.

      I am noticing that as we examine our “discipling others” we always come back to defining the gospel. I notice that we often have an imaginary gospel. In the West especially, one part of the gospel has been over emphasized (in my observation), and that is: penal substitution. Western Christians have been taught that Jesus paid the price for our sins, taking away the consequences of sin.

      This is only part of the gospel, and if that is all we understand about what happened on the cross, I believe we end up with no gospel at all, and fall back to some sort of law-based idea. one day after we die and we stand before God, we who accept God’s grace in Jesus will indeed find that Jesus has become our Substitution. We must be perfect to enter Heaven and the only way to obtain such righteousness is to accept Jesus who is Perfect, through faith.

      However, sin will and does have consequences in this life, both for Christians and non-Christians. Penal substitution does not mean God spares Christians from the consequences of their actions in this life. If I break into someone’s house, I should expect to go to jail unless God chooses to intervene.

      Like a father, God has oceans of grace for His children but cannot spare us from the pain and consequences of our choices to sin. If we sin, we will eventually experience the pain of that sin. And we must not forget there are two Judgments when we stand before God after death.

      I believe the answer is grace. The grace of God is both a restraint for sin and a healing solution for sin. God has oceans of grace for us but does not spare us from consequences of sin. Like the wildebeest in the video, we can imagine the alligator is a log, but reality proves otherwise.

      If we are/want to disciple someone, I think we should understand the gospel first. So I think this discussion should be about the gospel first, then about making disciples.

    • Agreed, Brian. If a church/ministry emphasizes anything but the “gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24), or Jesus the Messiah (Jn 5:39), we will have an unbalanced Christianity, which will be sectarian, and/or unhealthy, and/or elitist, etc.

      UBF emphasizes “mission,” “discipleship training,” etc, which gives us our distinctive as well as unbalanced oddity, elitism, legalism, Phariseeism, defensiveness, etc, just like anyone who (over)emphasizes the doctrine of penal substitution, which btw is a doctrine I personally love, as much or even more than the doctrine of mission.

    • JosephR:

      You wrote: “However, I read through the Corinthians church and what Paul claimed it to be sounded very discomforting indeed. Yet, I did not find Paul claiming things like ‘leave Corinthian’ or ‘I pray you find another church’. Rather many of what he said implied unity in the Body of Christ (2 Corinthians 5) and growing in faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13).”

      Just want to point out a few things that have helped me in regard to approach to the Bible (which is at the heart of making disciples, so this is very relevant).

      1) Beware of “springboarding” when applying the Bible. You find some verses that describe bad things happening in a Christian church in Corinthians. Then you springboard into thinking that Corinth=UBF, and then another jump into suggesting that we should react to UBF by staying in UBF. Springboarding like this is harmful to anyone we are discipling. They will have a difficult time examining their environment for themselves and understanding the two valid points you make. Using your springboarding approach serves only to bind the two valid points to UBF. This binding is damaging pschologically.

      2) In spite of your springboarding application, you raise two very valid and essential points: a) we should seek unity in Christ and b) we should grow in faith, hope and love. Neither of these points implies that a person should stay in UBF or leave UBF. Each person needs to make their own decision in that regard. Your points are valid, and both those who stay and those who leave should indeed seek unity, faith, hope and love.

      3) We should remember that Apostle Paul was all about grace. He wove this all important gospel into holiness, righteousness, morality, repentance, discipline, obedience, faith, hope, love, justice and other truths about our human existance. For example, Apostle Paul advised people to stay in their situation when they hear the gospel. But he said to slaves, “although if you can gain your freedom, do so.” (1 Corinthians 7:21)

      4) We are disgressing in this discussion about making disciples into our previous discussion “To stay or not to stay?” I think we should discuss that topic on our previous post, as there are many of these same points already discussed there. In regard to those who left UBF, I tihnk we should remember that this video describes what many of us had to deal with. You don’t see this side of UBF leaders until you raise taboo questions. And I don’t see any of this in the Corinthian church:

  26. Thanks, guys. The missionaries that communicate that you must be eternally thankful to UBF and that you should never leave is obviously faulty, questionable, and unhealthy. I attribute it to a church culture or nationalistic culture of:

    * stressing faithfulness, loyalty and commitment to UBF as a sign and evidence of faithfulness to God.

    * shame/honor/saving face, where guilt tripping is almost the norm.

    * an elitism that communicates that UBF is better than other churches.

    * owning you, which gives the leader/shepherd the “authority of God” to dictate your life’s choices.

    I am personally opposed to all of the above, and want to prayerfully address them persistently as God allows me the opportunity to do so.

    • Ben, I think you understand the underlying “culture” or “spirit” very well, and I agree that this is the root thing that needs to be challenged and changed.

      For me, it was like absolute obedience to God was measured by your absolute obedience to UBF, which you needed to show by e.g. not missing a single Sunday service or 1:1 or sogam meeting. Not only absolute attitude to UBF was equated with an absolute attitude towards God, but the idea was also that you needed to *prove* that to God every weeek, otherwise he would not trust or love you any more, and you would immediately fall from the state of “saved” into a state of “unspiritual” and “salvation questionable”.

  27. Yeah, Chris, it is salvation by faith in Christ, which is expressed and communicated as salvation by works based on expectations of performance imposed on you.

    So, if you “fall in line” and comply you are “exemplary,” but if you don’t, you are a bad influence, or lazy, or proud, or worldly, or immature, or rebellious, or disobedient, or breaking spiritual order, or divisive, etc, etc, etc.

    Worst of all, you may then experience the leader saying or deciding or doing something that is clearly “targeting” you in the name of spiritual love and “training.” But because it is usually implicit without your name being mentioned, if they are asked, they deny it.

    How do I know this? I have seen it myself done to others. And I am ashamed to admit how many times I have done this myself.

  28. I’ve not read any of his books, but Fr. Barron is an excellent communicator, lecturer, teacher. Here is his recent lecture at Duke, which I think is well worth the hour investment:

    His lecture focuses entirely on Jesus in thoroughly engaging ways that encompass not only theology, but also history, philosophy, early church fathers, theologians, atheists, modernity, etc.

  29. Fr. Robert Barron has been appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Archdiocese of LA by Pope Francis: