One Reason People Leave UBF

ByeIn a recent comment, Joshua sums up his (decade plus) experience in UBF here. He says that his wife and he were told specifically how we ought to obey God’s commands, with very little opportunity to exercise our personal freedom as individual Christians. The result is that our lives became very much under the authority and control of our pastor in areas where we should have been given freedom to follow our conscience before God.”

Why do people leave UBF, some after many decades? As I have listened to many people over the years as to why they leave UBF, I have been trying to articulate a common thread and reason as to why they leave, often after becoming a Christian in UBF, and some even after 10 to 30 years of being in UBF. I expressed the primary underlying reason as authoritarian leadership, where it is basically either the leader’s way or the highway. It is spiritual bullying. “New sheep” may embrace such authoritarian leadership as love, care and concern when they first come to UBF. They accept it as their “new norm” in a new Christian community driven by mission. But after a variable period of years, it begins to become more and more unpalatable, even oppressive and stifling, until the person feels that they have to leave UBF in order to just begin to breathe and live again.

Are people shamed when they leave UBF? A sad result of authoritarian leadership is that some people leave angry, wounded, hurt, feeling betrayed and not trusted. Often, after they leave, they are “shamed” in their former UBF chapter by being caricatured in various ways. This culture of shame has been a sad recurring story in UBF that has been repeated over and over again since the 1970s even untill 2012.

Have people felt their freedom restricted in UBF? Perhaps Joshua’s articulation is a better alternative expression as to why people leave: They were told specifically how they ought to obey God, which restricted their freedom in Christ.

Why might this be important? Until we express the problem and the underlying reason, things do not change. Unless one clearly acknowledges and states, “I am an alcoholic,” they cannot even begin to stop being an alcoholic. (The movie Flight dramatically expresses this.) Unless UBF expresses our problem(s) clearly, the problem(s) will continue and people will continue to leave UBF even after decades of being in UBF.

Is there a common underlying theme and reason as to why people leave UBF even after many years?


  1. The questions UBF directors need to ask themselves are these:

    Why do Christians keep leaving UBF after 5 to 10 years?

    Why do good, creative people need psychological counselling after leaving UBF?

    Why does the classic UBF heritage fall apart and need to be re-started every few years?

    • Phil 2 Five

      Brian, very important questions that need to be discussed!

      “Why do Christians keep leaving UBF after 5-10 years?”

      > (This is generally how a director or senior would respond). They ‘ran away from the faith’. They are ‘immature’! They didn’t want to ‘suffer for the faith’! They were ‘immoral’! The list goes on and on!
      > They ‘run away’ because they are lost, confused, bullied, spiritually abused, ignored, looked down upon, etc… There’s no way to justify such ungodly behavior! Although some do try to justify such behaviors as ‘tough love’! It’s no surprise that when you keep banging on someone’s head with a baseball bat, pushed them around, ignore whatever they say, regard their decisions as ungodly (however they come to that conclusion, I’m not sure), regard their thoughts, opinions, concerns and suggestions as illegitimate and ungodly, the members feel that they have no choice but to leave and go somewhere where they would be respected and their concerns would be taken seriously! It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out! People leave the ministry because certain directors/leader/shepherds wont get off their back. Allow the Holy Spirit to intervene in their lives instead of constantly shutting them up and controlling every aspect of their lives!

  2. Phil 2 Five

    Ben, in reference to your statement:

    ““New sheep” may embrace such authoritarian leadership as love, care and concern when they first come to UBF. They accept it as their “new norm” in a new Christian community driven by mission.”

    > This is exactly one of the ways leaders/shepherds/directors justify their behavior. If any concern is brought up by an ‘older’ leader, suddenly it is seen as a complaint, and they use the “new sheep” as their justification, “How come he/she isn’t complaining about it. See you are not mature! The problem is you!” Like you mentioned, unless someone admits they are alcoholics, they cannot take any initiative to change!

    • as a person who has been called, ‘shepherd’ and ‘msn’ in UBF for 11 yrs, I stopped having a traditional ubf meeting for almost 1 yr. Currently my wife and I attend a local church instead of going to loca ubf chapter (no offence to them because I do not have any negative feeling toward them).

      I’m completely on the same boat. Last yr, I thought of leaving this church because I was sick and tired of ‘authoritarian leadership’ and ‘people’s mindset about mission’ (although a number of my UBF friends already are assuming that I ‘ran away’…), but I do value the relationship with people that I developed in this church. That’s why I still officially consider myself a member of UBF.

      Personally, I think it would be more fruitful, for people who feel like they should leave ubf due to the above mentioned problems, to stay in a church and challenge people in such a way that people’s mindset could gradually change. I do not see this is going to happen any time soon, but 10 yrs from now on…I see that will happen for sure.

    • Welcome James! I am encouraged that you think for yourself and made decisions based on your conscience. We need more of that. I think you make a good point: it is valuable to stay in UBF and work for change. Perhaps we need to answer both questions, why people leave UBF? and why should people stay in UBF? Either way, we must allow people’s conscience and faith to work with God to find their path.

      The unfortunate thing is that once you “marry by faith” you are making the ultimate, lifelong commitment to do UBF activity. If you want to leave at some point, you then have to convince your spouse. In some cases, the only option to leave is divorce. So “marriage by faith” almost always is seen as “marriage to UBF”, even if the couple doesn’t believe that– the UBF directors do.

      To stay and challenge such enslaving ideas is difficult and draining. Some did challenge things for many years, but after no change what do you do? Others challenged too strongly and were driven out of UBF. What do they do?

  3. Although most don’t believe me or understand my reasons, my leaving UBF was for 1) unity and 2) reconciliation.

    I had to make it clear why I was leaving UBF.

    Dictatorship in UBF produced uniformity. But where there is dictatorship, such power must be broken to find unity. Being outside of UBF now, I find much common ground with former members. I’ve met many people in person from Toledo, for example. All of us have our own paths now, but we agree on so much. Such unity was not possible under the directorship of UBF where we were demanded to conform every day.

    A flawed understanding of the gospel of Jesus by many of us in UBF produced isolation. But where there is no gospel of Jesus, the gospel must be preached in order to build a community of believers. Yes we individually were Christians. And yes we had a certain “chi” calmness from time to time in our UBF group, we never experienced the joy and hope and peace that comes from reconciliation. The primary gospel ministry is the ministry of reconciliation–both to God and to each other. In UBF, I only communicated one-way with certain people based on our meeting structures and authority ranking. Only by leaving UBF did people start talking to each other, forming real friendships and experiencing the wonderful reconciliation from the gospel messages of grace, peace, kingdom, glory and salvation.

    I’m not saying everyone should leave. Some must stay to fight for change. But those are the reasons I left UBF. I left to break the status-quo and to bring the gospel of Jesus into the Confucian fabric. I left to tear down the authority structure and facilitate worldwide, honest, group communication.

    My three reasons I gave in 2011 for leaving UBF were:

    Reason #1: The first reason is because staying a member of UBF in my situation means supporting single-family church-planting (called pioneering in UBF terms). My leaving is a rejection of the lone housechurch pioneering idea.

    Reason #2: The second reason is because staying a member of UBF in my situation means supporting a director-style leadership model. My leaving is a rejection of the benevolent dictator leadership model.

    Reason #3: The third reason is because staying a member of UBF in my situation means supporting the idea that the Holy Spirit is an energy source as well as further grieving of the Holy Spirit. My leaving is a submission to the Holy Spirit, who is the Third Person of the Triune God and an act of repentance for resisting and grieving Him.

    • I think it is important to point out that I didn’t want to leave initially. I officially left in July 2011. But in April 2011, I simply sent an honest conference report, sharing how I really felt about the conference and about my interaction with Toledo UBF. I had no intention of leaving at that time. Over the next several months, all the criticism about dictatorship/authoritarianism levied against UBF materialized as true for me. I had hoped for a Christian response to my conference report, but because I received a sinister, evil response in the following months, I resigned in protest, giving the reasons above.

  4. Bruce Hollinger gave me permission on Facebook to post his responses:

    “It’s the idea that if you miss a meeting there is something spiritually wrong with you! Get this, my pastor is giving his whole staff the weekend off, so there is no worship services this weekend. He does this to give his staff a break to spend time with their families because they work hard all year. Imagine what that would look like in UBF! You would be called “family centered” and not God centered! I left UBF because of all the shocking things I read and heard. When I read these things I could not deny these things were happening even in my own chapter but in more quiet and subtle ways and I had always been part of it all! It was an eye opening revelation and quite shocking!!”

    “I will have more to say in the near future. I think it is about time. I struggle sometimes with bitterness and anger about it but I am trying to see that God had a purpose for me in that environment and is using this as an opportunity for me to draw nearer to Him!”

    “I was fired from UBF by Samuel Lee because I did not want to go to Paraguay as a missionary. According to him I “refused” Chicago training. About a year or two before that, one junior missionary from our chapter was sent to Chicago to receive training and didn’t return for over a year, even though he had very young children. I didn’t like that idea of hearing that you go to Chicago and don’t know when or if you would return. I was very nervous about it because I had very young children and my wife was having trouble at work. I felt I couldn’t leave her alone but I was too scared to mention anything thinking that I would be viewed as rebellious and disobedient to “God’s servant” and that God’s judgment was on me. However, when I was asked to go to Paraguay on the phone, all of a sudden, to teach English, I felt I couldn’t do it and I just hung up. Then a day or two later I was fired or let go of my full time shepherd position, the one I had for 9 years!! Then I was told to look for a job!”

    “I don’t consider anyone at UBF my enemies, just to make things clear. I still pray for them by name but it is just sad and shocking about all that spiritual abuse and mis-use of authority and in very subtle ways.”

  5. Our family left UBF for two main reasons: First, our children were being neglected by our involvement to UBF. While we worshiped on campus, they were left at home with the babysitter. While they were babies, this was fine. But when our oldest child turned five, my husband and I decided they needed to go to church and worship God in a community of their own. Our local chapter consisted of only two families (ours being one of them) so it could not support their needs. It was brought up to us to just have them go to the main chapter UBF for CBF but that idea didn’t sound reasonable. It was important for us that our children develop roots in a local church and not one in a different state just to keep them in UBF.

    Second, our relationship with the missionary family in our chapter was extremely difficult. It was so much more than a cultural or generational divide: there was a lack of respect and genuine willingness to work together as a ministry. I was basically told by the female missionary that it was not my place to talk to her husband about my ideas for the ministry and that he was the leader, not me. Also, it bothered me that our main “goals” were to establish an Abraham or Sarah of faith just so that we can “prove” to others that our ministry was special. Any student who came to our worship service were made to feel as if they had a calling to our ministry. I rejected that idea completely.

    • Hi Jen, thanks for your comments. The two reasons you give really resonate with my family’s situation, and–in my estimation–the majority of the families who choose to leave small chapters. It seems that the difficulties/issues that a church struggles with are all-the-more amplified in a small congregation. Nonetheless, I trust that God decreed your time in the ministry and is using it for His purposes, as He is for mine. I hope that your family have been able to find a strong Christian community in your new church.

      God bless!

    • Phil 2 Five

      Hi Jen! I wanted to add to your following two statements:

      1st, “Any student who came to our worship service were made to feel as if they had a calling to our ministry. I rejected that idea completely.”

      >> I, in the same way, agree with your idea! Majority of UBF leaders have this idea. They believe that when people, ‘sheep’, come to UBF they are destined to remain in UBF. That is not the case! Also, there are many subtle ways that the ‘leader’ or the ‘shepherd’ tries to keep people in UBF, such as giving them a ‘leadership’ position. If someone were to come and say that he/she believes that God has called them elsewhere, it would generally be seen as ‘running away’ from the ministry.

      2nd, “I was basically told by the female missionary that it was not my place to talk to her husband about my ideas for the ministry and that he was the leader, not me.”

      >> This is ridiculous! The intention of such statement is irrelevant! This authoritarian type of leadership is what causes so many to depart from UBF and go to other ministries where their opinion and ideas would at least be listened to and considered seriously! Shutting people up like that is not what a Christian ought to do! If people feel unwanted, if people feel disrespected, if people feel that they are ignored, whatever the ‘leaders’ intention, they will eventually go somewhere, where they would be respected, listened to, and welcomed! UBF is gotta learn that not all their leaders know everything and they have it all figured out! I personally don’t know everything and I’m willing to learn! The problem is not the sheep or the people, it’s the leadership!! Perhaps if the leaders allow God the Holy Spirit lead, there wont be so much of a mess to try and clean up!

  6. Throughout 2012 I received several emails from people who left UBF telling me their stories. I won’t share any details, but I want to share a couple themes I picked up on.

    1. Neglect of family. It is one thing to hear UBF parents come to the realization that they have neglected their children, turning over parental responsibilities to UBF shepherds. But it is entirely heartbreaking to hear the stories of UBF children, many of whom are now grown up. Shepherds are NOT parents. Shepherds have NO parental authority. People tend to leave UBF these days for the sake of their family.

    2. Misunderstanding of the gospel of Jesus. Almost all UBF people reveal through words and actions that they believe the gospel to be some combination of obedience, loyalty and submission. UBF people tend to have an upside down gospel, believing they have to conform to the uniformity of their leaders and peers. Their testimonies end up being conformance based and their repentance becomes necessarily performance based. The gospel words of grace, peace, kingdom, salvation and glory are almost completely misunderstood. People tend to leave UBF these days in search of the gospel of Jesus.

    3. Abuse of authority. UBF people have developed a lording-over sense of authority. They tend to look to their shepherd to make a decision, checking their actions against the backdrop of the UBF heritage. They feel that those in authority don’t listen to their concerns or questions. They are usually dismissed entirely if they raise any serious question. They feel that their talents and gifts from God are being wasted or worse their gifts are cut off by someone in UBF authority who ranks higher than they do. People tend to leave UBF these days because those in authority won’t talk honestly with them.

  7. Thanks, Brian, Phil 2:5, James Yoo, Bruce, Jen and Joshua for sharing!

    People who have left UBF almost invariably have varying degrees of a broken relationship, especially with some person of authority in their respective UBF chapter, partly because the person who left is often “blamed” while the leader is given a “free pass.” This results in a major problematic issue with reconciliation, which is a key biblical teaching.

    The responsible UBF leaders who are not genuinely and actively seeking reconciliation is a VERY SERIOUS issue, for a major recurrent theme of the entire Bible is about reconciliation, healing and unity through the gospel.

    Reconciliation has to start with the senior older person with the “higher” authority taking the initiative to restore any broken relationship, just as God Himself took the initiative. If this does not happen, then brokenness, woundedness and a bad taste persists, which is not pleasing to God.

    My hope is to continue blogging about practical real life issues as my prayer that the Spirit works in the hearts of some to begin this healing process of reconciliation.

    Biblically, reconciliation is “more important” than “keep on fishing, increase 1:1 Bible studies and worship service attendants, and raise an Abraham and Sarah of faith, etc.” It is like trying to love your next door neighbor while ignoring your own bloody wounded family inflicted by you yourself.

    • No Ben, the VERY SERIOUS issue, as I was told a few days ago, is people sending emails about these topics :)

      So then, this is a basic problem of communication we have. People like you and I, Ben, see the very serious issues as reconciliation, unity and healing through the gospel.

      But UBF leaders “on high” still see the very serious issues being this website, people talking to each other, and email communication.

  8. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking over the questions Ben has been asking. My conclusion is that nearly ALL the problems that exist within UBF and other similar ministries occur because of one idea: the unspoken and yet very present idea that individuals exist for the perpetuation of the ministry, and therefore their lives must be externally controlled in a manner that is conducive to the continuation of the objectives of the ministry. This sentence encapsulates, in my view, the foundational flaw that undergirds all the problems that UBF has been facing over the past 40-50 years. I feel that when this idea is exposed, renounced, repented of, and actively moved away from, great things can be done by UBF people, who are truly the most sincere and devout people I’ve ever met.

    • Joe Schafer

      Joshua, it’s good to hear from you. I need to respond to your email and catch up. I’m sorry that I haven’t done so yet. I have a hard time answering emails in a short and succinct way; I want to say too much, and then it becomes overly daunting. You have been in my thoughts and prayers. Best wishes to you and your family.

      On one level, I agree with your assessment. But perhaps I can add a small caveat. Rather than calling it a fatal flaw that undergirds the whole history of UBF, which means that the organization needs to turn around 180 degrees and head in the opposite direction (which is very hard for many to swallow), perhaps we can think of the present state as a primitive stage of community, and we need to forge ahead with the process of building a more mature community that better understands and values the individuals within it.

      If an anthropologist were to look at UBF right now, he/she might see it as a pseudo-community ready to break out into the next stage. Here is a quote from a Wikipedia article on four stages of community development.

      1.Pseudocommunity: The beginning stage when people first come together. This is the stage where people try to be nice, and present what they feel are their most personable and friendly characteristics.
      2.Chaos: When people move beyond the inauthenticity of pseudo-community and feel safe enough to present their “shadow” selves…
      3.Emptiness: This stage moves beyond the attempts to fix, heal and convert of the chaos stage, when all people become capable of acknowledging their own woundedness and brokenness, common to us all as human beings. Out of this emptiness comes
      4.True community: the process of deep respect and true listening for the needs of the other people in this community.

    • Based on the 3 people who left UBF recently and reached out to me in December 2012, I would say this is a rather good direction actually: “…which means that the organization needs to turn around 180 degrees and head in the opposite direction…”

      I know people can’t “swallow” this, but in many cases that is what should happen.

      Why should a 2nd gen cry out in agony night after night, writing agonizing poem after agonizing poem just to deal with the fact that her father is not around? Why should a young woman in the prime of her life need psychological counselling? Why should a young family with tremendous intellect, heart, humility and Christian conviction have to leave the ministry just to find grace and joy?

      The people’s stories sent to me in December indicate to me that several chapters (who are often honored in UBF) do indeed need to do a 180 turnaround.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks, Brian. Yes, in some places, drastic turnaround is needed.

    • David Bychkov

      Hi Joe. Thank for the quote from Wikipedia above. It is very interesting. And it could be something exciting if UBF would be able to make such a breakthrough. One thing I am thinking in last time is this – staying in the unhealthy church can be much better then in healthy, which does not need a reformation. But in the case the first one realizes it’s need of the doctor. In this case being in unhealthy community can be some realy exciting experience.
      So that hope made me wish to stay in UBF and to envy a bit those who are still staying.

    • David Bychkov

      I would suggest staying in UBF to people who are ok with UBF main ideas and practices. Those people surely don’t need my suggestion, they would stay anyways, and I think it’s ok.
      I would also suggest staying people who realize the sickness of the ministry, but only in case they still love the ministry and are trying to do whatever they can to serve God in this community.
      I would not suggest staying people who realize sickness of the ministry, but out of frustration, fear, comfort, habit or anything they do not really serve God within this community whatever this means.

  9. I would say not only in some places, but also generally in some teachings and practices or ways of thinking a 180 degree turn is needed. As James wrote, he considers UBFers to be sincere and devout, and I understand what he means with that, and agree to some extend. We do not want to see people become the opposite of sincere and devout. However, to be sincere and devout means also to be honest, open, candid, impartial, to strive for truth and justice. In that regard, may experience is that some UBFers have been the opposite of sincere and devout in their attempt to protect and keep their world view and the image they have of UBF.

    Recognizing and preserving the good things is a good idea. But many UBFers think the good things outweigh the bad things. The problem is that in reality it’s the other way round, the bad things spoil and taint the good things and make them worthless at best. Turning 180 degree must not mean to throw everything away, it may suffice to just throw away the little yeast that spoils the whole batch of dough. But identifying and getting rid of that yeast must be done very carefully and resolutely, not half-heartedly and hesistantly.

  10. Joe Schafer

    Chris, I don’t disagree with you. In certain ways, the whole community needs to visibly turn and head in a different direction. You and I have some sense of what needs to change. But seeing what needs to change, and understanding the process by which an organization can actually turn the community around, are not the same thing. The second issue is a very tricky one, and I have not yet heard a realistic plan to make it happen.

    For example, suppose that a General Director was ready to issue a statement to admit certain wrongdoings and ask for forgiveness. But if the statement reflected the view of only a small minority of members, it would have very little meaning or impact. Others within the organization would undermine it.

    Many problems in the community are related to hierarchical, authoritarian leadership. Can leaders issue a set of rules and policies to quickly wipe those things out? I wish it were possible. But a solution to authoritarian leadership cannot be imposed in an authoritarian manner. Leaders can encourage it to happen, but they cannot make it happen.

    Does anyone have any concrete suggestions for a process that would encourage it to happen?

    • I think we had this already. The solution is communication. The problem currently is that there are too many taboos, issues that UBF leaders would not even allow to talk about. Like things that heppened in the past starting with the 1976 open letter. Both sides have to move, leaders have to allow discussion about these issues, have to respond in some way or another to the criticism (such a personal response and reaction concerning an issue is called “sogam” in Korean, so UBFers should understand what I mean). On the other hand, UBF members do not dare to ask questions, particularly tough questions and talk about taboo themes. They should become more courage and push and demand discussion about these issues. If discussion on websites like this one is not welcome, UBF leaders and members should start to actively find other ways to start a discussion.

    • Power concedes nothing without a demand.

      I gave many suggestions, such as:

      1. Leave no family alone in the mission field and send coworkers to every lone house church in America.

      2. Create a plan for 561 American campus shepherds to plant 561 UBF chapters so that each chapter is fully supported by a regional chapter.

      3. Request a succession plan from every Korean director to establish American leadership as ordained pastors by the central chapter

      4. Draft a collaborative UBF Constitution, UBF Core Value Statement and UBF Mission Statement.

      Of course UBF must start with one thing: communication. That has not happened yet and as Chris points out correctly, that is the starting point.

      In 2012, UBF leaders had hundreds of golden opportunities to really change and be transformed into a healthy community. It is not so hard.

      UBF directors proved to me in 2011 and 2012 that they are fine with the way things are, and have no intention on even talking about the heritage.

      Anyway, this is my last comment here for a long while. I won’t be discussing these things on this blog anymore. I’ve said my peace and I won’t engage in useless monologues that fall on deaf ears. UBF’s only option at this point is to follow the steps you take on your computer: Start>Shutdown.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris and Brian, thank you for your friendship, concern and suggestions. I fully agree with you that communication is key. I guess my question to you reveals my personal discouragement and frustsration over the fact that hasn’t really happened yet. We started this website three years ago in the hope that it would open channels of communication. It became a gathering place for us, and I think we have been learning a lot from one another. But with few exceptions the leaders haven’t participated and they won’t participate. The most common objection that I heard was, “These discussions need to happen in private.” Well, fyi, I’ve been trying that as well. I’ve tried and tried. In my own sinful and flawed way, I’ve done just about everything I could to open up the interior conversations with senior leaders that need to happen for the ministry to move forward. Further pushes from me apparently won’t help now. At this point, others need to step up and do it.

      Brian, I will be very sad if you stop participating in this forum. Time permitting, I will try to post articles in the future on interesting and relevant topics. Please continue reading and commenting as God leads.

    • Joe, perhaps if there are articles that don’t mention UBF, I would consider joining the discussion. But I’m done discussing UBF. I will be available for people who leave and want to share their story, and I will be devoting my time to a book about former UBF members’ experiences and a website to capture our stories permanently.

      I just read the General Directors’ new year message. Yes he has a better understanding of the Bible, but no he indicates no desire to communicate honestly or face the facts about UBF. That’s really it, isn’t it? UBF people just want to understand the Bible better without caring about knowing people or understanding how to have a relationship. UBF leaders just keep pilfering former members for better Christian words and never taking the initiative to build relationships honestly or openly.

      In fact, the General Director promotes the default UBF stance they’ve had for 50 years, the strong and not-so-subtle implication that former members are just proud and rebellious and that UBF leaders have to suffer so much to bear such proud and rebellious people:

      “The most difficult thing for us is to bear those who are proud and rebellious. The characteristic of the proud people is that they are groundlessly proud. They give deep hurts by their words and actions. This is what all mankind has done to God. How much is the holy God hurt by the evils and rebellion of people who reject their Creator?”

      Here is the link if anyone wants to read the new year lecture:

      And in case people didn’t notice, from a mental health perspective, this website is “cycling” just like UBF people do all the time. We started out with an article about communication. 3 years later we are now talking about communication once again. That is the mental health issue with UBF people. I used to do it all the time. The cycle keeps repeating because there is absolutely no communication or relationship, just a means to know the Bible better with some magical power.

      One good difference with however, is that the cycle took several years, as opposed to a few weeks or months. The reason for that, I think, is because there is no UBF director here to thought-stop our conversations, no UBF leader to stop the discussion and say “Let’s pray”. That is exactly how the discussions about reform stopped at the Great Lake’s Region staff meeting last year. Until this mentally unstable issue is resolved, no progress will be made in the UBF communities.

    • Of course the link above has changed…maybe it will disappear like the links to the 50th anniversary mission statement. Here is the new link to the New Year lecture:

  11. Thanks, Brian. The quote lacks just ONE thing: UBF leaders often fail to see that the proud and rebellious include themselves.

    If UBF leaders truly genuinely know and realize from their heart that they are just as proud and rebellious before God as the people they are bearing, their communication would come across with brokenness, helplessness and vulnerability, rather than with an air of elitism and superiority and sanctimony.

    This to me is a major major major problem in the way the gospel is not well communicated.

    • Pride is a major issue in all of what we’re discussing. Much of the UBF ministry is based on pride, rooted in UBF from the very beginnings, where they wanted to conquer the world with the gospel, as a special elite troop who are better and more devoted than all other Christians. The new year’s message is full of the same self-praise how diligent they are and how good they serve. And yet at the same time, the message contains the sentence “May we lay down our pride and self-reliance and humbly submit ourselves to God.” How hypocritical is that? If they would just do these things instead of preaching it! The only stumbling block that hinders UBF leadership from admitting the sins of the past and starting a discussion here or elsewhere is pride. I really wished they would just lay down their pride, starting with Mr. Abraham Kim.

    • Maybe some will find the last comments of me, Brian or Vitaly offensive and wonder why we use such harsh words. Obviously this outbreak of ranting was caused by us reading Mr. Abraham Kim’s new year message. Maybe you take offense in our words, but we take offense in such messages which only make us angry. If UBF wants to see real meaningful discussion and reconciliation, they must start to speak honestly, particularly after all what happened in the last year, instead of dishing the same BS as Brian called it (not a good word, but I agree it’s the only appropriate word for such messages). It really feels like he is mucking us long time UBFers about. I hope you can understand.

  12. Hello Ben, Brian and Joe,

    As I read your responses, I agree with most of your points. The truth is, this whole UBF issue is very frustrating.

    I have been struggling with the idea of leaving or staying in UBF. Why do i struggle so much? If serving God in this ministry is so unhealthy, why do we struggle to leave? Its very clear that we want to leave because of all the unhealthy practices that have taken place and are still taking place. How could anyone want to stay? Its frustrating to speak with leaders and realize that “wow, they just dont get it”.Why am i still here?

    Toledo UBF is going through changes, but in my opinion, we have a long ways to go before we are unified in Spirit. Some people “get it” and some people simply dont. I dont want any more changes to happen in the ministry that are born of men. Everyone has an opinion and can back it up in scripture. But instead, I want changes that are from the Holy Spirit.
    These days, I am strongly encouraged by our students who simply love God and want more of Him! In Toledo there is a new student led ministry called “upper room”, it is through this ministry that I reencountered God.The interesting thing is, God seems to be using students in UBF to bring revival and change in our old and dried up ministry. Students are open, honest, and willing to listen to the Spirits voice. May God have mercy on us, and may each person in UBF experience a real breakthrough this Year!!

    We stay in UBF for two reasons:

    1. God wants us to stay at this time of transition( we are open to leave if he calls us to)

    2. I see God working in our midst, I see the Spirit moving among us, I have hope that He will bring Revival among us!

  13. David Bychkov

    It is pretty difficult to articulate my reasons, but I think the main reason why did I left was that it seemed to be only way to tell the community – it was sick, something should be done. I’m not sure if I succeed by the way. But thing was that as long as I was in UBF – anyone seemed to be more or less satisfied. As long as I stayed most of our community around me just were looked thinking or really thought – everything is ok, or probably just some my interpersonal conflicts or I am in the bad mood. I think most of people around me where sad to let my family go – but they hardly did anything about it. They just hoped that things themselves will be improved somehow or let it be. And this is a killing strategy. So at the end I think we had just two options. or maybe three. 1 – to agree that I was just in a bad mood,and everything is ok 2 – to continue this silent game, 3 – resolve it by leaving. 1st was not the option. 2nd could kill us, and I think some people must have been really ready to go the very end in this mode gladly. So we were to choose 3-rd option.

  14. James Kim

    Brian, thank you for your prayer for UBF ministry. You once mentioned that you saw some positive signs in UBF like Well conference and West Loop ministry and something else. I also agree with Martha who saw some positive signs through upper room meeting in Toledo by young people. When I attended Well conference this year, I could see the mighty work of the Holy Spirit. Almost 400 people gathered and prayed,repented and praised God. I thank God for that. Many young people responded to alter call. (Thank you Ben who started YDC ministry almost 10 years ago.) This year this conference was solely prepared by young people without any missionaries’ help. I see this is very positive sign for the future.

    Brian, I do not represent Abraham Kim, but I remember that you once wrote in your personal blog and said, Abraham Kim was a liar. Probably you meant to say that you had a different opinion from him. In America I learned the phrase,”I respectfully disagree with you”. When we have different opinion with others, still we can respect others opinion for better communication/dialogue.

    • James, far be it from me to say such a thing. I would never say that Abraham Kim is a liar. I don’t think he is, and I never wrote such words. Perhaps you could explain where I say that on my personal blog?

      Perhaps you are referring to a comment I made here on this blog recently:

      “These are all tough questions when other UBF people are telling you what to do, and telling you to stop wasting time asking questions. It is also really tough given the fact that the UBF director says things like this in Africa: “God’s work continues through the disciples, not through the crowd. No disciple, no future.” (source) This is an outright lie. God works through both the disciples and the crowd. And there is a great future without making disciples. If it wasn’t for the crowd of people around UBF being friends to UBF, it would slip away as just another fringe cult. God works through the crowds.”

      That sentence in the lecture is indeed a false statement.

    • Liar or not, but when you read Abraham Kim’s new year’s message, you see immediately how full of lies and contradiction it is unless you are part of the system and accustomed to that kind of message. This is not against Abraham Kim personally, but against a mindset that is penetrating the whole leadership. They are probably not even aware of how false these messages are.

      For instance, he compares UBF with the “marines” (inside the church which he thinks of as the “military”). This contains two messages to the audience: First, we are the elite. Second, we have particularly harsh and brutal training methods, but this is normal, because we are the marines.

      When confronting UBFers with being elitist, they will usually deny it. Also, when inviting students to Bible study, they never mention that they are inviting people to an elitist organization with harsh training methods. The difference is that recruits who join the marines know that upfront. But in UBF, it’s deception from the beginning. Only when you have been born again through Bible study, then you are slowly told the full truth that now you are part of an elitist group, and now you have to serve there until you die.

      Second, he says “The major cause of conflict between members is seeing the weak side of others rather than seeing their strong side and becoming judgmental or demanding.” Well, the conflict is not so much between members, but between leaders and members and yes, it is because the leaders are exactly that: judgmental and demanding. And why are they so? Because they believe they are marine training supervisors who have to be judgmental and demanding. UBF training consists in first pointing out a weakness and then giving a training that is supposed to cure the weakness and demanding that the member follows the training. So UBF is judgmental and demanding by the very nature of their “disciple training” which is at the heart of their “spiritual heritage”. Samuel Lee himself was the greatest and first in inventing humiliating and demanding trainings. So Abraham Kim should have given him as a negative example in that regard, not as a positive one as he does. Can you imagine a Samuel Lee who is not judgmental and demanding? The real message here is that there are some members, namely the leaders, who are allowed to be judgmental or demanding, but the ordinary members should silently accept their training and not judge their training methods or demand any change or apology for their past sins.

      Where Abraham Kim speaks about Korean and native leaders, he compares them with “Apostle Paul and his disciples”. The hidden message here is that the Koreans are Apostle Paul, and the natives are his disciples. The rank order is clear. By the way, since when did Paul have disciples (1Cor 3:4)? Christians should become Jesus’ disciples, not be disciple of other Christians.

      Also interesting how he, when he talks about “equally precious”, immediately follows this by emphasizing the work of Samuel Lee and Sarah Barry. In that regard, UBF always reminds me of George Orwell, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

      My question to Abraham Kim is: When mutual love and respect is so important, why have the reformers of 1976, 1984 and 2001 not be heard and have been expelled and defamed instead? In my opinion, this whole message is a hypocrisy and deception, kind of a scam or “smoke bomb” to confuse and lull the audience. UBFers have become accustomed to send and receive such ambiguous messages. But if communication from the pulpit is not honest and truthful, how can communication among members be honest? Such oblique messages only teach people to be dishonest and use nice political and diplomatic language to beat around the bush instead of speaking the plain truth.

    • I overlooked one interesting sentence in the message: “We diligently go to campuses to invite students, nourish them with the words of God, and send most of them to local churches, though we don’t like the last part.” Wow! Since when does UBF send people to local churches? In my time in UBF, I never met a person who has been sent to a local church. There had been some who were kicked out because they didn’t seem promising or obedient enough, but they were rather kind of cursed and not sent to a local church with a blessing. There had been many, many others who left UBF on their own because they were hurt and abused and commanded, but these had not been “sent” to a local church either. So since when does UBF actually send people to local churches? More interestingly, which people are sent and which not? I also think the language is revealing. UBF still does not allow people to make their own decision whether they want to stay or go to a local church, they are “sent”.

  15. James Kim

    “This is an outright lie” Yes, this was the one I was referring to. I understand your point. Thank you for explaining your point at the end.

  16. Another passage that shows the typical “jumping to conclusions” is this one: “In the church, each member has its unique role and position within the whole as God assigned. What is our role as an organization in God’s church?”

    So, the premise is that in the church each member (individual believer) has its unique role and position which is kind of true except that the Bible speaks about gifts and offices, not about “roles and positions” which is the Confucian/UBF thinking. But then, from that premise, he immediately jumps to the conclusion “What is our role as an organization in God’s church?” Eh? Who said there should be “sub organizations” in God’s church with special positions and roles? The premise talks about members, not organizations. Isn’t is so that if you create such sub organizations then all people in that sub organization who are considered to be “specialists” in one area, must have the same or similar gifts to be able to work in that organization? Doesn’t this actually defeat the idea of having diversity in the church which was the original premise?

  17. Thanks, Chris, for your insightful comments. Much of what you say perhaps comes from our misunderstanding about God as the Trinity.

    UBF tends to think of the Trinity as a “spiritual order” of 1) God, 2) Son, 3) Spirit. As a result, UBF has little “real feeling” that God is equal to the Son and equal to the Spirit.

    That may perhaps be a fundamental reason why we have such an “elitist,” superioristic, sanctimonious, and hierarchical perspective of life, where “somebody” has to be “above” somebody else.

    I think that until and unless this begins to be addressed and changed, then such militaristic “spiritual order” mentality will continue to be perpetuated.

    That said, I think that right now we might be the farthest along in that we are just beginning to address such uncomfortable topics, which makes some UBF leaders “at the top” feel as though they are being “stripped of their power and authority” and “toppled down,” which is really NOT the case at all.

    • Ben, we are addressing these issues here, that is true, but Abraham Kim is not addressing them at all in his message. The problem is that he does not even have the guts to really stand to his “hierarchical perspective of life.” I really despise the way how he and other leaders are deceptive about this, claiming that everybody is “equally precious”, that there should be mutual respect, that people should lay down their pride, that nobody should be demanding and judgmental, and yet they really believe in a completely different system that they try to hide behind the smoke screen of such nice words and that is based on pride and hierarchy and judging and training other people and taking credit for that. I feel they know very well that this perspective is wrong and not in line with the Bible, that’s why they are using such tactics and do not openly and clearly promote their hierarchical perspective of life, but dish us such confusing messages which are neither fish nor fowl or try to be both at the same time.

  18. To tell you the truth I wrote several letters to the general director but I didn’t send them. Why? Because I don’t believe he has ears to hear. My former coshepherds sent him a letter and he answered. Through his answer I understood one simple truth – that the director is a typical ubf hypocrite and, yes, a liar. I also understood that no change is ever possible in ubf. Now there is also a new year message by the gen director. It is really funny. I liked the way he speaks about many people leaving ubf. He writes, “We diligently go to campuses to invite students, nourish them with the words of God, and send most of them to local churches, though we don’t like the last part”. And, “When Bible students leave, shepherds are sorrowful. But there are cheers of the angels in heaven on behalf of our shepherds. The Lord will say, “Well done, my faithful servants. You added many members to the family of God.” When we enter the kingdom of God, we will be surprised at so many people coming to us to say “Thank you! Thank you!” Who will they be? They are those who met Christ through UBF Bible studies and all of those who were saved through their ministries”. I’d like to add to his surprise one thing that it may so happen that he and other ubf directors will never enter the kingdom of God! I can’t believe and imagine that the Lord will let such people enter His kingdom. Not to mention that nobody will say them, “Thank you”. Students leave ubf, they are never “sent” to local churches by ubf directors! The directors only call them “Satan”, “unthankful, worldly, etc”. And people leave ubf because of God’s work in them. God is working hard to take his people out of ubf, and his work is amazing! He has led out of ubf ALL the rest local people in my former chapter by the end of 2012.

  19. The 2012 year was the best and the happiest year of my life because it was with Jesus outside ubf. The general director said that many people would be thankful to ubf directors in the kingdom of God. No! I am thankful and will thank the Lord that he saved me from sin and from ubf! Oh, I am really and sincerely so thankful to God that he made me free from ubf! The Lord had a hard time to work in my life while I was in ubf for 16 years, to break through all the ubf directorship barriers. I am sure he rejoiced and so did many angels when a year ago I left ubf. What will I pray about this new year? I will pray that no ubf shadow may be left here in my home city. There is time for everything. There was time I painfully “obeyed” my ubf director. There was time I kept silent and didn’t touch the ubf “missionaries”. This year with God’s help I pray to see the “missionaries” have gone so that the time for building may come. “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near!”. Last year there was a ubf conference, so the “missionaries” left the city for 3 days. What a fresh air we breathed even in our industrial city!

    • AMEN Vitaly! Yes the angels are rejoicing over what happened in Russia last year! And they are weeping as well, over the self-proclaimed “religious marines” who continue to seek out new targets, hunting them with the weapons of ideology, heritage, guilt and the bible.

  20. Ok I said was taking a break from commenting here… but something odd is going on. I thought you were reading a different message than I was, Chris and Vitaly. When the link changed, it seems the new year lecture changed too. Or else I just missed these things when I read the first link?

    How can the General Director say such bullshit after ALL THAT JUST HAPPENED?

    “If we compare the whole church to a military, we are the marines that engage in the battle at the frontlines. We diligently go to campuses to invite students, nourish them with the words of God, and send most of them to local churches, though we don’t like the last part. If we see our ministries from an investment-profit concept, we are not doing a good business. But if we see our ministries from God’s point of view, we are doing a beautiful ministry.”

    UBF sends NOBOBDY to local churches! UBF directors get furious at people wanting to go to local churches. BUT when they realize the people are leaving UBF, THEN then suddenly become nice and polite and arrogantly proclaim “See how good we are! We sent you to a local church!”

    It is true that so many young students end up leaving UBF and going to a local church, but they are never SENT– they can’t stand the manipulation!

    And what about native leaders in UBF? What about those families who gave so much because they believed they were serving God in UBF only to find that their director cares nothing about them when they raise even a simply question about the ministry reality? Are they “sent out” too?

    Well I am happy with one thing. UBF has committed themselves to being a cult. That makes it so much easier to deal with going forward. This is not what I hoped for, but it is what I expected. After all that happened in 2011 and 2012, UBF is back on course to continue on with such a “beautiful ministry” that God is so happy to bless…

    • My God the crap continues!

      “Think about how God is pleased and comforted when he sees us diligently inviting students and teaching them the gospel. Our one-to-one Bible study is a very powerful tool of evangelism. Therefore most of those who studied in UBF become Christians. When Bible students leave, shepherds are sorrowful. But there are cheers of the angels in heaven on behalf of our shepherds. The Lord will say, “Well done, my faithful servants. You added many members to the family of God.” When we enter the kingdom of God, we will be surprised at so many people coming to us to say “Thank you! Thank you!” Who will they be? They are those who met Christ through UBF Bible studies and all of those who were saved through their ministries.”

      If God is SO happy with UBF why would a young girl cut the words “perfect” into her arm with a knife, only to wish it hurt more? If God is SO pleased with UBF why would a young woman spend countless nights in deep depression over her time in UBF? If God has made UBF such a tool to “make Christians”, why are Christians all over the world LEAVING the ministry once they realized what Christian life is all about?

    • “Think about how God is pleased and comforted when he sees us…” OMG. I hadn’t noticed that sentence either.

      And then in the same message “Let’s lay down our pride…”. How contradictory is that?

      This speaks volumes about the state of UBF in 2013. Nothing has changed. Still the same routine of annuary self-praise paired with self-acclaimed humbleness without addressing any real issue.

      Mr. Abraham Kim, have you ever wondered whether God could be actually displeased when seeing you continuing the same wrong teachings and practices and denying and ignoring the abuse of the past? Whether he really wants you to lay down your pride?

      Jesus was so humble to come down to earth and speak with sinners of all kinds, like drunkards or prostitutes. Could you imagine to just be so humble to speak with us long time UBFers in this lowly blog?

      Sorry for being so pessimistic. I’d like to think that UBF changed in 2012, and that it’s only the top leadership that never changes. Please, dear UBFers, stop waiting and waiting for change. Hold your leadership accountable. Don’t allow them to continue to dish you such messages. Demand change. Demand serious and honest discussion.

  21. Yes, God has been trying to say many good things to ubf people, even through this site. But all of you, authors and commentators, agree that nothing has been heard and nothing has changed in ubf. Ubf has shown its organizational failure for so many “good Christians” have left and are leaving. But isn’t it a sign for YOU from God to also leave?! Or do you have a calling to serve these unhealthy and stubborn ubf directors with unquenched hope for some change? I am sure that all people who left ubf are showing (at least to me) that nothing else can be done. They are saying by their example, “just leave, for Christ is waiting for you outside the gate”. Let these ubf leaders keep saying that they are “sending” you to local churches, let them lie to themselves, let them comfort themselves with their own imaginations. They are the kind of people about whom Jesus said, “anyone who kills you will think that he is offering a service to God” (Jn.16:2).

  22. I wanted to ask a question, “Do you, who are still in ubf, really need all this hierarchy, all these ubf directors and ubf leaders, all these strange unbiblical ubf heritage messages and daily bread books and ubf standard sogam writing and hypocritical “prayer” meetings and conferences to live with Jesus Christ?” Many things have been said and suggested for ubf leaders to do. But is there any need you have for them to do?! I mean, the ubf directors are not actual “leaders” even for ubf members, they are just positional directors. And who made them the directors? You? Somebody? God? Who made them “the servants of God”? Who gave them the right to tell you what to do? Was it God? Do you believe that they are really some special prophetic people who can understand the Bible better than others, especially better than you, better than the Holy Spirit inside you? Do you believe that they have right to teach you and to make you absolutely obey them in every aspect of your life even if your conscience is against what they tell you to do? Do you like e.g. the new year message by the general director and the like? Is he really your “leader” and your “God’s servant”, a “Moses” of yours? Or maybe your “Mother” is in ubf? Do the directors speak and act the same way Jesus would speak and act? Do you really need a ubf director or ubf as an organization to live with Jesus? Do you even really need the director’s repentance and change? Are you ready to wait for some more decades to find ubf in the same condition?

  23. I know that many ubf people don’t see real “leaders” in ubf directors. Many people leave when they understand that the directors will never understand some things. But there are still some people in ubf who think that ubf can become a healthy organization, a healthy church, a healthy community with the help of their prayers. They are responsible, they feel sorry that they have lost so many good people, they are afraid that ubf (not ubf itself but their personal close friends and the community they know) may be completely lost. Will the reform ideas lead ubf to ruin and to the situation when all ubf members will be “sent” to different local churches )) ? But such ubf people should know that there is more unity in Christ outside ubf than inside it. Ubf members shouldn’t necessarily be in one organization and try to keep ubf at any cost. They can be truly united to the whole church and be even closer between themselves in Christ when they are outside ubf. Is ubf as an organization that precious before God, before people, before you? Ubf leaders took a calling for themselves to train you to do “campus mission” and the same way they took a calling for themselves to destroy Jesus’ kingdom in the souls of the people they “serve”. They will remain faithful to such callings and will find ways to comfort themselves even after many more leave. It is very difficult in ubf to accept Christ, to know what the kingdom of God is, what the church should look like and very difficult and maybe even impossible to be truly united with Christ and with each other in Christ. I don’t think that ubf will be completely destroyed. The ubf directors will stay there forever. Local members will leave one day or another and are leaving. Ubf has always been hostile to people outside Korea. The reform attempts show that ubf has been hostile even to Christian Koreans. You will never change the hard line ubf directors and you don’t have to. There is no need to have a ubf director between you and Christ. (To compare: you can write a letter to the North Korea general director and try to explain to him that his country is not a normal country, is not “The Country of National Happiness”, is not a typical country that just have its own problems. You can try to explain to him that democracy is something different from what he has in his country. But will he listen to you? Can you expect any changes? He won’t listen to you and he will do everything to prevent the people under his authority have the information you can provide. He will try to close your site. And it is really hard for people inside North Korea borders to believe that there is a better world and a better life there outside the gate).

  24. By the way, I think that such people as Joe and Chris are real leaders for many people inside and outside ubf. And what attracts me in such people most is honesty (and wisdom and humbleness – Christlikeness). I think that if such people speak up and say, “OK, let’s stop waiting for the directors to repent or change or listen to us. Who wants to be together as a community and a church without the ubf heritage and the directors? Let’s have our own healthy and Christian church!”; quite many people would respond. Maybe it could be the only possible way to keep most of the ubf people together and have a healthy church here on earth. I mean there are true leaders inside and outside ubf. They are the people I will come up to in the kingdom of God and sincerely say, “Thank you! Thank you, brothers!”.

    • Joe Schafer

      Vitaly, tnank you for your kind words. I have no interest in starting another church. Breaking off and forming another rival community is not an option for me. I am committed to working toward visible unity in the Body of Christ that is rooted in the gospel. Not the kind of unity that says, “You may have fellowship with me if you repent of certain sins and wrong attitudes and then get on board with my vision and agenda.” Rather, a kind of unity that says, “Let us put aside the notion that you or I or anyone has the winning doctrines or right formulas for doing church. Let us journey together as fellow sinners to learn Christ and explore the riches of his gospel, being committed to one another in love, and then wait and see what God starts to do.”

      There does come a time when staying in a community becomes so difficult and unhealthy that the only real option for some people is to leave. But God does not break fellowship with Chistians merely because they have sinful attitudes and actions. The gospel compels me to work toward reconciliation, even when it is difficult and painful.

    • I know, Joe, that you are a ubf director yourself. So maybe it is not so easy to understand the ubf reality from a member’s position. I don’t think you could or would bear a life under a Korean ubf director, in an ordinary ubf chapter. I mean, e.g. I could have some options like: to forgive with God’s help or not to forgive. But there is no options for me and for many people like me: to stay with the director or not to stay. It is absolutely impossible to stay with him and with them. It doesn’t depend on whether they repent or not, change or not. It is just impossible, it is unbearable to be with them, to live with them. Why? Because they can’t even understand the problem. To journey together with them as “fellow sinners” would be a crazy dream that can never become true, especially the “fellow” part. I heard that some of the missionaries said that she “repented”. (That’s exactly what she said, “I repented!”). But even in such “repentance” there is so much hypocrisy, politics, desire to keep “the fruit of their whole mission life” and unfortunately no understanding that the problem is in their very nature, their life style, that they have gone too far from Christ and from Christianity. If people have seen normal Christian churches and they are welcomed there why would they desire to stay in an unhealthy ubf chapter?! I don’t know how to explain, but I don’t have a desire for example to be in a Russian prison, I don’t want to live in so called “communal apartments” with unbelievers, drunkards and criminals, I wouldn’t desire to live with Nero, I don’t want to be killed or to commit a suicide, or to live in hell… I think it is natural and reasonable)) And the ubf director is (if I have right to say so) worse than any of these (except hell, I suppose)), he is not like a Christian at all, and with that he wants to direct, to command, to control, to be above…forever… He doesn’t give any sign that he is going to come to Jesus one day. He is not going to hear others. And if some people stay in his chapter he thinks that everything is ok. There was time when my pregnant wife and I lived in a communal apartment together with very wild people. They shouted at us every day, they conflicted, they threatened. At that time we learnt that every family should live in its own apartment, apart- from others )). I am sure that Christians are able to live like Jesus’ disciples, to be together like “fellow sinners”, even to live together even in a communal apartment. But it is possible with the foundation in Christ, it is not possible outside Christ. Somehow it is very easy for us to find common language with everyone in our former chapter (but the director’s family) and with any former ubfer and with anyone in the local churches. To stay in ubf for me and for others like me could mean only to submit and to keep silently obeying the director. And as I have said it is not an option. I don’t know what would I do if I were a ubf director before Jesus opened my eyes. I think I would do the same Brian did, even if I felt comfortable as a director and even if I was suggested with more comfort as a director)).

    • Joe Schafer

      Vitaly, you are so correct. My present position in ubf and my relationship with the ministry is very different from yours. I do not and will not second-guess your choices.

      Nor will I say that I completely understand you, that I totally get where you are coming from, etc. because I don’t. Which is why I want to listen to you very carefully. The stories that you are telling about your experiences do sadden me very much. And I know that many others have experienced such things, because they have told me so.

      I learned a cool new word last week: Interpathy. This is a necessary quality for being a good listener. It is not telling someone “I understand you” because you think you have experienced something similar. A good listener doesn’t need to have a lot of sympathy, especially if it’s not genuine. Rather, he needs interpathy, which is explained in the book I’m reading by Mary Clark Moscella (p 36):

      Interpathy requires the listener to notice differences between one’s own and [the storyteller’s] cultural experience, rather than trying to collapse them into a false bond based on the idea that “We are really all the same.” Human beings do have some commonalities, but real relationships also attend to the differences, the particularities of each other’s lives. Learning to recognize and honor difference, rather than either ignoring differences or trying to rule them out, is an important dimension of becoming a genuine community.

    • Joe Schafer

      Vitaly, I’m glad that you said that remaining with your former director was not as bad as being in hell. That gives us some hope. :)

      It is sobering to remember that some people left ubf because I refused to listen to them and they could no longer bear to stay with me as their director. Sharon and I just had lunch with one of them today. It was very good.

  25. As most of you know every ubf conference program is loaded with some of the ubf heritage. Usually a conference is supposed to help members to renew their decision and “power” to keep “fishing” students to bring them to ubf. For some time ubf conference programs often include something about “unity”. It is caused, I think, by the continuous leaving of ubf members. I see that at a recent new year conference SB read a message on the Jesus’ prayer with the title “Be one” or something like that (the only meaning of such titles I suppose is “Stop Leaving ubf!”). I studied this Bible passage in ubf many times. But only after I left ubf and studied the Bible without ubf question sheets and read some commentaries I learnt that Jesus spoke mostly about our unity with Him and with the Church. In ubf the passage was usually used to make the members keep unity within ubf and to think that to leave ubf is a really bad thing even to think of, and that those who left are really bad and satanic. Ubf messages never teach about even unity with other Christians, with local churches. Usually a ubf message about unity teaches that for the sake of unity it is good to “cover up” and to keep numb and mute and that to be hypocritical is the best thing you can do. Usually such messages are not for the directors’ ears but for the ordinary members. Because the directors are untouchable but the ordinary members need to learn obedience and this way to avoid conflicts and keep “unity” with the directors. The “unity” messages are supposed to “help” members be even more devoted to ubf and become farther even from the unity with the families and society and with your own head. And as you well know any ubf “unity” comes to its end when some ordinary members just start asking simple reasonable questions to a ubf director.

    • Joe Schafer

      Vitaly, I have no doubt that this comment reflects your experience and the ubf conferences that you have attended. Last week, however, some of us (including James Kim and my family) attended The Well. The conference program, which was formulated by young people and approved by the General Director, had no mention of ubf principles, heritage, or methods. It was all about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And it ended with a beautiful Sunday worship service whose focus was on unity within the Body of Christ — not unity-by-obedience or unity-by-submission but unity-in-Christ. This was not a typical ubf conference for sure. But if you could have been there, I think you would have enjoyed it.

  26. The ubf general director at least once a year prepares a message and then goes here and there to share this message with the lower directors and members. The general director is an absolutely necessary part of many ubf conferences in many countries. This ubf reality shows that the director is the most spiritual person in the organization. The ordinary members have no the Holy Spirit and so they are never able to understand the word of God, to study it themselves, to prepare a message without tough control and checking by his director and without rewriting a message for 4-5 times (to come to the ubf heritage “right” variant). Before writing his sogam an ordinary ubf member must carefully read and study the director’s message to avoid “mistakes” and to write his sogam in “the right way”. Otherwise an ordinary member can write something wrong and really antichristian and unspiritual )). So for example the new year message by the general director of ubf is supposed to be a spiritual masterpiece, the best and supreme and incomparable to any other message. It is supposed to be a bible of our days and even higher than the Bible. And as you know ubf is an elite organization, the best one in the Christian world. That’s why the message is supposed to be the best Christian message possible.

  27. I’d like to disagree. I think that even at surface reading the message it becomes clear that it is very weak, quite often illogical, sometimes very loaded with trying to describe the ubf situation as a normal situation before God and the Bible. Some weeks ago I visited a Baptist church where I listened to several messages by very young ordinary brothers. The pastor was present but he only named the messengers. I know that nobody “trained” the messengers, nobody chose a passage for them. They didn’t even “read” their messages, they simply spoke without a written copy in their hands. There was trust and that trust was for the work of the Holy Spirit. And those messages were better and more spiritual and right than any ubf message I had heard. The messages were really “heart-moving”. I asked some people in my former chapter, what message in ubf they liked most. And the usual answer was, “I don’t know. My main task during the director’s reading his message was to keep my eyes open and not to sleep”. When new “sheep” came, they couldn’t even understand the speech because of the accent of the director. (The director used to say that sheep were sleepy and didn’t understand him because they were not spiritual, not born again yet)). I want to say that how good it is when a church follows the simple Christian truth that the Holy Spirit speaks through EVERY Christian and when this EVERY Christian has the free platform to speak God’s word in the church! And what a pitiful result there is when ubf shuts up the Holy Spirit here and there and then teaches simple unbiblical heresies through its directors’ messages. What a Christian would “leave”? Where would a Christian come? To the “greener pastures” of the Holy Spirit.

  28. Hi Vitaly,

    What you raise about giving sermons is true. Natives listen far better to natives than they would a foreign missionary. This is not a disrespect to a “more mature, spiritual” missionary, but a simple plain fact. So, though it may be hard for some missionaries to let go of their position, the plan and direction of UBF is to move toward native leadership.

    If and when this happens, then hopefully, the former missionary leader will not still act as though he is the ultimate one in charge. That will defeat the true empowering and establishment of indigenous leadership.

  29. Hi Vitaly,

    Sorry for being so slow to read and respond to many of your good comments.

    What you say is true, but you know that it is very very very difficult for many in UBF who only know UBF as the way a church operates.

    Especially, some UBF people take great personal offense when you critique something a leader writes, such as his New Year message. UBF people’s feelings is that when you critique his message, you are criticizing him as a person, and criticizing the entire church of UBF.

    I hope that we in UBF will learn to separate critiquing a problem or issue, from the person, so that we can address the problem, rather than taking things personally, and feel as though everyone and everything in UBF is horrible.

    Maybe I am wrong, but I think it comes from a wrong understanding of the biblical phrase “Do not touch the Lord’s anointed.” So, based on a wrong application, some UBF people think it means that you cannot critique the leader’s message, his direction, his orders, his commands, his statements, etc, because by “disrespecting” him, who is the Lord’s anointed, you are dishonoring God and dishonoring God’s church under him.

  30. Thanks, Vitaly, for your good comments about UBF’s understanding about unity. Yes, UBF primarily feels that unity must be with UBF people and not with other churches and Christian ministries. (But my optimistic sentiment is that this will gradually change.)

    Thus, leaving UBF is not a good option, and the one who leaves is often “slammed” in some way. These days, some who comment about UBF are also regarded and viewed negatively, because they are “wasting time and not doing the most important work of evangelism.”

    I would like to add that to truly practice unity, reconciliation is crucial, if not mandatory, even with those who have left UBF. Ignoring and not listening to those who left UBF is not in keeping with Jesus’ crucial teaching of unity.

  31. Hi Vitaly,

    Regarding hardline older traditional UBF leaders who are determined to keep UBF tradition no matter what the cost, then so be it. As you said, the North Korean leader is not ever going to respond to (that’s a good one)! But Christ is the head of the church.

    Samuel Lee did say often that UBF is nothing. Maybe some of his disciples might begin to say so and believe it as well.

  32. Hi Vitaly,

    You ask many great questions about UBF leaders and directors and their function. I know many of them. I truly believe that they are sincere Christians and good God fearing people. I will even entrust the lives of my children to their hands.

    But that does not negate that some UBF leadership practices are unhealthy, abusive, and border on being cult-like. Some of it can be explained in terms of culture, hierarchy and authoritarianism. All of them is explained in terms of leaders also being sinners who sin in real ways as leaders, which sometimes can be more damaging to more people, and be more hurtful, wounding and traumatic.

    “God’s servants” are sinners just like you, who need the grace of Jesus just as much as you and I do, regardless of whether or not they are aware of, or able to publicly and clearly articulate what their own real sins are.

  33. Hi Chris,

    Perhaps, you might reconsider using the phrase “full of lies and contradiction.” Even if this might be true, perhaps there is a less offensive way of making your point. I say this not because I disagree with you, but because the primary objective should be to promote reconciliation, rather than promote offense and accusation by the way things are being stated.

    Perhaps a reason to say things in a less accusatory manner is that people do have blind spots, which I think we all acknowledge.

    I have had many hours of discussion on many occasions with the general director. He is a genuine man and a gentle Christian. I do love, respect and admire him. I actually even like him as a person, even if there are things that I do not agree with, just as he also does not agree with certain things about me.

  34. Hi Chris, Brian,

    I understand if some might find the phrase “God is pleased with (UBF people doing UBF things)” offensive.

    Are we not all more or less agreed that many UBF people–including those who come across as being authoritarian or offensive or culturally insensitive–are sincere Christians who do want to please God?

    My opinion is that many UBF people do want to please God by “fishing, carrying out 1:1 Bible studies, writing testimonies, inviting people to church and UBF conferences,” etc. Even if there may be traditional UBF elements in the way things are done, is that not their genuine desire to please God?

    If so, would not God be pleased, because they do want to please God from their hearts and with their lives? I am not discounting that it may be done in ways that some ex-UBFers may not like or approve of. But does God not welcome the purity and sincerity of his children’s hearts?

    • Ben, I already retracted from the discussion because I felt the discussion was going in a wrong direction and I wanted to give other people and blog topics a chance to come forward instead.

      That does not mean that I think what was said about this New Years message was wrong. Concerning offense, I hope you are aware that offense is going on on both sides. Personally, I find this New Years messsage, as it is, an incredible offense to all victims of UBF spiritual abuse, and an offense to the intellect of current UBF members, for the reasons state in my comments. I know we should not pay back offense with offense. And I have not wrote my comment for that reason. I wrote because there are things that simply must be said. What the child in “the emperor’s new clothes” shouted was surely offensive for the king, but it had to be said. I remember one time when my chapter director asked a member how he like the New Year’s message of the German director. That member answered that he disliked the pronounciation and grammar and couldn’t understand much. Wow, was the boy crapped on for giving an honest answer! He was called unspiritual, disrespectful etc. I think UBF directors need to get accustomed that people tell them the truth.

      I know, there are two ways of dealign with dissension, either speaking unapologetic plain text, or having patience, speaking politically correct, being unoffensive, diplomatic, sugaring the pill, etc. We have discussed this at length already, and whether this or that approach is more Biblical or more appropriate in our situation, and we are now back to that old discussion again.

      I really don’t want that we go in circles, so I think let’s leave it with that. I have written what I have written, but I won’t write anything more in that direction.

      Concerning your second point, it’s a different whether the UBF general director says that God is please with UBF, and whether a simple UBF member naively (and because he was indoctrinated to think so) believes doing UBF things is the best way to please God. You ask “does God not welcome the purity and sincerity of his children’s hearts?” I answer, yes, if there is really purity and sicerity. But if people do things because they have been told so, if they cover up and deny evil things, if they are not impartial, if they fear their leaders more than God, if they don’t mind if their fellow Christians are hurt and spiritually abused, then this is not so pure and sincere any more. Not everything that looks like devotion is really devotion. Sometimes even God gets fed up with this.

      Amos 5:21-24

      ““I can’t stand your religious meetings.
      I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
      I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
      your pretentious slogans and goals.
      I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
      your public relations and image making.
      I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
      When was the last time you sang to me?
      Do you know what I want?
      I want justice—oceans of it.
      I want fairness—rivers of it.
      That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

  35. Just as Joe has stated that people who comment on UBFriends are not “fire breathing monsters,” surely current UBF leaders are also not “fire breathing monsters,” right?

    Perhaps, some UBF leaders might regard those who critique UBF as “fire breathing monsters.” But regardless of how others might perceive friends of UBFriends, perhaps our language and rhetoric should not come across as us perceiving any leader in UBF as a “fire breathing monster” either, right?

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, I agree. I don’t want to publish unnecessarily offensive words that would give people reasons to dismiss the material on this website. At the same time, I want to avoid censorship on UBFriends, because I don’t want to place myself (or anyone else) in the awkward position of having to decide whether someone else’s comments are beyond the pale. I think that each person ought to decide for himself or herself what words are appropriate. And no one ought to be afraid of pushing back against any comments or opinions that they find offensive.

  36. Yeah, Joe, particularities about people are wide and varied. For myself, I think I listen well am am perceptive toward others. But my wife laughs at me for thinking so of myself! That’s why I love her.

    Regarding offensiveness, different people find different topics offensive. For instance, many UBF traditionalists (if I may be so bold as to use such a label) find any critique of UBF, no matter how well intentioned, highly offensive, undesirable, unnecessary and not worthy of any response or consideration.

    At the other end, many who openly address and critique the issues and problems of UBF, find the silence and unwillingness to respond or to have an open dialogue by some UBF leaders, highly repulsive and offensive.

    So, Jesus’ imperative and non-negotiable repeated command to love others (Jn 13:34; 15:12,17) might perhaps be our best guiding principle as to what we say, and how we say it.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, as long as love is well understood. As I mentioned in my recent article, I believe that listening is the primal act of love. I’ve heard plenty of messages titled “To Love is to Serve.” But I have yet to hear a message titled “To Love is to Listen.”

  37. I guess love is communicated differently in different cultural contexts.

    For instance, in Asian cultures, if you disagree with or critique your elder or not do what he wishes, it is regarded as sheer disrespect, and will not be perceived as love or being loving.

    Perhaps, in American cultures, if you do not allow others to freely express their freedom, they will not perceive what is done for them–however well intentioned–as loving.

    Yes, we absolutely need to listen. Our collective universal sin is to want–no demand–to be heard. But until one truly listens to others, all of our human relationships, including in church, will weaken and eventually be extinguished.

    Yes, UBF people absolutely need to listen to their elders and leaders. But the converse must also absolutely be equally ture and non-negotiable, which is that UBF elders and leaders absolutely need to listen to their juniors (and to UBFriends, even!).

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, cultural differences can lead to misunderstandings which make listening difficult. Yet I think that listening is a universal expression of love that transcends culture.

      I’ve watched leaders refuse to listen and become deeply offended when a younger disciple speaks up and expresses a different opinion. Often it leads to the disciple being laughed at, hurt, and marginalized to the extent that they have to leave (euphemistically they are “sent to other churches”). And yet, when the leaders’ children say the same thing, it’s a completely different story; they are taken seriously. It’s just human nature, I suppose. It’s easier to love your own children than to love someone else’s children. But the double standards are definitely there.

    • Yes, Joe. So many times already, I have heard this exact comment about missionaries listening to their own kids (with fear and trembling, I might add) but not to their sheep.

  38. David Bychkov

    Hi all. I also want to clear formulate that I respect many of UBF people I know as good, God fearing, sincere Christians. And I respect those UBF churches which I used to be in touch as true Bible believing Christian churches or communities which have some pretty positive and strong points.
    If someone would ask if I admit the wrong doings, wrong ideas, blind spotes and cult-like practices which have been taking place in UBF, I will answer – yes, I do admit.
    And I have no problem in freely recognizing both this sides of UBF. And I pretty sure that UBF, people in UBF, good labor of UBF are worthy to be respected, recognized and appreciated. And in the same time I believe they have to be called for being accountable as any other sinners or organization of sinful men.

  39. Thanks, David. Yes accountability in UBF has to continually be promoted. Accountability must also go both ways.

    As you know UBF accountability has primarily been from the member to the leader, from the junior to the senior, from the native to the missionary, from the sheep to the shepherd.

    By God’s grace, such accountability may also happen more and more in the other direction as well. When this is accepted as the norm, then UBF leaders will not become angry or take offense when they are asked questions as to why they make certain decisions, or why they write what they do in their sermons or reports.

  40. I found these series of articles on leadership and accountability to be pretty insightful:

    Happy new year, UBFriends!

  41. Hi John, that’s pretty helpful material. Though written with a culture in mind that is opposite to UBF, it’s essentially talking about similar problems: People not daring to hold others accountable. I like the example of “Restaurant: Impossible”. We have similar series in Germany. When the coaches visit these restaurants, they clearly point out what is wrong, in plain language, often even using “offensive” words. And this often works very well. However, this only works when the restaurant owners are open to listen to criticism. Most of them are, because they recognized and admitted that something is wrong with their restaurant, that’s why they called the coaches.

  42. It occurred to me that most people who leave UBF have been people who married in UBF and left some years later.

    Now it seems that single people are also beginning to voice their displeasure at our UBF leadership structure, which I might state plainly is that it is either “the leader’s way or the highway.”

    The biggest complaint is that the UBF leader wants to “control” the single person’s marriage in some way. Mainly it is “no dating” until the leader says so. Or “no introduction” until the leader thinks you are “ready.”

    In my opinion, this is a position that is not going to work well, even for the children of staunch UBF missionary parents.

    • In response….
      I feel like we need a deeper awareness of what a person is and the journey God takes us on into deeper wholeness… I feel like maybe in UBF, it used to be.. once you are saved, mature and a “leader” or Bible teacher, then you are ready to marry.
      But really, from a few of the UBF marriages I know of most intimately, that criteria isn’t what is important. I mean yes saved is a good thing :) but we are all emotional people on a journey of healing and working through things… and there isn’t a point in life when this stops and then we are ready for marriage. So, perhaps what’s most important is when a person is aware that they need God to continue to bring them into greater depths of healing and love and if married, will be with someone else who needs it just as much.

      I pray that somehow what’s in my mind makes sense to others :) I tried…

    • Lovely, Mere! Thanks for sharing. Welcome to UBFriends. Happy Lenten season. Perhaps, you might consider being on the singles/marriage committee of your chapter.

    • Hi Mere and welcome to this perfect, I mean messy, blog!

      “I feel like we need a deeper awareness of what a person is and the journey God takes us on into deeper wholeness”

      > Yes! Awareness of our humanity. Seeking wholeness more deeply on our journey. Two things I need desperately. Sounds like you read Nouwen?

      “we are all emotional people on a journey of healing and working through things… and there isn’t a point in life when this stops and then we are ready for marriage.”

      > Yes again! As my wife and I wrote our personal narratives this year at our new church, we learned the value of seeing our lives holistically. Life testimony training taught us to have a black and white attitude toward our lives: In the past I was bad, but now I’m good. As we got older, it became harder and harder to keep that line between bad and good intact. The line blurred. Instead of diving our lives into neat, graduated compartments marked with bible verses, we now are awakening to see our lives as God’s creation, made new continually, transforming as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly.

      > This all makes sense to me :) and welcome again. We need more deep people to comment here; people who can see beyond the superficial us v. them attitude; and especially people who can correct and challenge hereticman…

  43. Without disclosing who they are and where they are from, singles in UBF, both native leaders and 2nd gens, are agonizing about whether or not they should remain in UBF.

    Why? They can’t talk to their leader/shepherd/missionary.

    Why not? The leader/shepherd/missionary DOES NOT LISTEN, and mainly/only wants to tell them what to do.

    O my gosh, as I was typing this, it reminded me of someone I know all too well!!!

  44. Several single UBF people have asked me privately what they should do because their leader is “impossible” to talk to. In no particular order, I have told them that they have basically 3 choices/options:

    1) Stay in UBF and “submit.”

    2) Stay in UBF and challenge/fight.

    3) Leave UBF.

    * If you stay and submit out of fear of a human being, you are sinning against God (Prov 29:25), because you think that your future is in the hands of the man, rather than God.

    * If you stay and fight rudely and disrespectfully you are dishonoring God. Of course, this is the hardest option, because people in your chapter or in UBF will regard you as “no good,” since you are “breaking spiritual order.”

    * If you leave because you can’t take it anymore, it is quite understandable.

    • Yea Ben these are the thought processes I went through for 24 years. That is something ubf directors maybe don’t realize: most of your members are biding their time, looking for reasons to stay or where they could go to instead.

      Me and all my friends (the entire chapter it seems) were always on the verge of leaving. We would exhort each other though to do option #1. We felt this was God’s only option. But as my friends left one by one (over 100 people counting children), I realized there was a pattern: After marriage by faith, my friends became despondent; there seemed to be nothing for them after that.

      I would say there is an option #4 (or maybe a #3b option). When you leave ubf, you have two options:

      3a. Leave ubf in polite silence.

      3b. Leave ubf and become vocal.

      We are seeing some “new territory” being explored now because many more are taking option 3b.

      As I stated before, I think all of these options have the potential to be viable. The most important factor is to make your own decision.

      The teaching “You are not your own man” is a lie. You are your own man. You are your own woman.

      Think for yourself. Make your own decision. I don’t see that God will care about other people’s decisions. Each person will be judged for their own work. It is tough to accept, but the reality is no matter how much someone is abused or mistreated, we are still responsible for our own actions and our own words.

  45. This is very hard and painful to say, and it is the reason why people who leave UBF ARE ANGRY, which UBF insiders/leaders/missionaries cannot seem to understand.

    If you “allowed” your shepherd to “control” your life, you are ultimately responsible for “letting” them do it to you.

    I know that many shepherds/missionaries “controlled” your life, because they felt it was good and right before God. Because of their “good intentions,” some are unable to apologize or repent of their “abusive shepherding,” and so they are hurt, angry and unapologetic by their sheep leaving.

    I hope I am keeping the spirit of Lenten! If not, Lord, have mercy!

    • Yes Ben, I think you are correct. Indeed, anger is part of the process. Like Dr.Cloud mentioned in the quote from formershep, anger is one emotion that tells us our invisible boundary of “self” has been breached. When we realize that, the anger subsides and we can begin to make sense of our world.

      We need to keep in mind that all such things are part of the healing process. Yes, most who leave ubf do need a time of recovery.

      A young (single) woman contacted me over the holiday break, sharing her struggles and need for counseling after leaving ubf. Rarely is leaving without trauma. This woman had jumped right into another bible training program. But she decided to quit partly because she realized she wanted to “prove to ubf” that she was still a Christian, and even a better Christian than while in ubf.

      Such things need not be proven. Just be your self. Follow Christ and let the Spirit lead, heal and motivate.

    • So I’m finding the healing process on the ex-ubf side involves coming to terms with “letting them do it to you”. In no way does this mean that you are to blame. It means that you are your own man or own woman. How liberating it is to realize that I can now make new choices!

      I think on the ubf side (yes I was on the ubf side most of my life), they have to deal with admitting reality. This was most difficult for me as “Tom Cruise” and “Bagdad Brian”. I had to admit I was wrong. I was wrong about people and about my KOPHN worldview. The biggest obstacle to healing/removing anger (in my opinion) for ubf people after their sheep or friends leave is to stop “starting over” with “new sheep”. Stop. Pause and listen to what the people who left are saying. You don’t need to agree 100% with them. But just listen to their heart, let yourself feel emotion, even anger, and open your soul to God in a new way. It was so liberating for me to acknowledge the reality check of my friends’ leaving!

  46. Perhaps, I inadvertently communicated that “you are to blame if you were abused by your shepherd.”

    Yes, you are “not responsible” for allowing it to happen, because you were perhaps led to believe that you should “absolutely obey” your shepherd.

    Yet, you know that you had the freedom to not let that happen.

    So, then I think that what formershep said is surely true, that it is a process.

    It is also true that the “abusers” should “absolutely” listen, which is a fundamental sin of most people, and perhaps more so for leaders.

    It is a lot “easier” to spread horizontally with “new sheep” than to go deeper by listening.

    So to keep focusing on new sheep is going to create a shallow ministry without the depth of loving people deeply by listening to them.

    • You “nailed it” Ben.

      ubf lectures are shallow. ubf is a group that lacks depth. Why? Because any “deep” person is driven away over time.

      That shallowness was one of the first comments two different Christian pastors made in their own observance of ubf when I discussed things with them. (and that was before hearing all my mocking, bitter, wounded, heretical stories :)

    • Ben, I think what that formershep meant regarding responsibility is that in order for spiritual abuse to occur, there needs to an abuser and a abusee. In my case, spiritual abuse was not like physical abuse or sexual abuse; it wasn’t violently forced on me. Instead, I was made to think that what the abuser was doing was okay, and allowing such boundary violations is pleasing to God. The abuser is responsible for influencing me to think so wrongly, but I am responsible for allowing myself for being so wrongly taught. For healing to occur, I needed to (1) stop allowing my (and my family’s) boundaries from being violated, (2) acknowledge that I was wrong to allow such violations, (3) come to Jesus in repentance and receive his forgiveness, and finally (4) forgive myself.

      The hardest part about leaving spiritual abuse is forgiving myself for letting it happen. Forgiving myself for letting my wife to be trampled on and treated little more than just a “sheep’s wife”. Forgiving myself for allowing leaders attack her and malign her while I said nothing. Forgiving myself for allowing my children to be cast aside with babysitters even 6x per week, even before my newborn was even weaned. Forgiving myself that I allowed my identity, thoughts, and conscience to be systematically rewired through thought-readjustment strategies (“testimony writing”). Forgiving myself that I treated my parents and sisters like dirt when their desires weren’t compatible with the activities of the ministry. And most of all, forgiving myself that I allowed my personal relationship with Jesus Christ to be dominated by and completely defined by a group of people and a bunch of activities. This struggle to face the facts of what I allowed and am (at least partially) responsible for is the struggle that formershep is referring to, I think.

    • Forgive myself. I find this P!nk song to be most helpful to help me forgive myself. Am I perfect? Not at all. But one of the gospel messages is that God loves me, heresy and all. Surrendering to that grace is profoundly impactful. The world needs more deep people who can say “you are perfect to me”.

  47. “Perhaps, I inadvertently communicated…”

    No Ben, you didn’t communicate this. It is just what we ex-members hear. Your explanation is spot-on. I know that you know this, but I’m not sure our readers know it :)

  48. Thanks for sharing, Joshua. I am in near tears as I read your comments. I would like to introduce it as a new blog.