Issues UBF “Ignores” (are not ignored on UBFriends)

ignoreCommenting on the “Most Commented.” Scroll down the right side of this page. The last section is titled “Most Commented.” It is interesting to note what the top 10 most commented UBFriends articles are. I believe it corresponds with issues that UBF generally tends to ignore, avoid, or refuse to address on websites and often not even in person. Perhaps because of this, it gets addressed most often on UBFriends, since there may be nowhere in UBF where any current or former UBFer can truly address them with HOT (honesty, openness, and transparency).

The top topics/issues “never” found on official UBF websites are:

gandhi1. Exodus: People leaving UBF (#1 and #10), often in droves since the 1970s.

2. Cult: Authoritarianism causes infuriation (#2 and #3).

3. Marriage: Countless horrible complaints about “marriage by faith” (#4 and #9).

4. Honesty: Please be honest!!! (#5 and #8), with #5 still being commented on.

5. Dialogue: Please let’s talk! (#6), instead of having too many “Bible” meetings where people can’t “talk,” because the meeting is controlled and driven by the leader’s agenda and directives!

6. Gospel: What is the gospel (#7)? Is UBF so mission driven that we forget or assume the gospel?

Is this short list an accurate reflection of the top issues that UBF has generally ignored or avoided over the years? What might other important issues be that are missing from this short list?


  1. Joe Schafer

    “Is this short list an accurate reflection of the top issues that UBF has generally ignored or avoided?”


    In terms of importance, I think that “#6 Gospel” is actually #1. Our understanding of the gospel has become reductionistic and shallow. How can anyone possibly think that the gospel can be proclaimed and lived out in a community that lacks honesty, integrity, openness, dialogue, respect for individuals, equality and love? But many people actually think that. They think that the issues being raised on this website are a distraction from the all-important work of proclaiming the gospel and making disciples. It’s time for a reality check. How well do we understand the gospel? Not very.

  2. I often compared the behavior of UBF members towards the issues mentioned above with the three famous (“wise”) monkeys: “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

    It’s interesting how the perception of such behavior is different between eastern and western culture: In eastern culture, they are considered “wise”. To quote the Wikipedia: “In Japan the proverb is simply regarded as a Japanese Golden Rule.” On the other hand, “In the Western world both the proverb and the image are often used to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety, looking the other way or feigning ignorance.” and “It may also signify a code of silence in gangs, or organised crime.”

    Note that the “golden rule” of Christianity is very different. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If we experience abuse done to us in our fellowship, what do we expect other to do? Be silent about it?

    What did the prophets in the OT do when they saw evil? Did they close their eyes? Did they keep silent?

    1 Tim 5:20-21 says: “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.”

  3. I have expressed often–seemingly to deaf ears–that in UBF we often protect and defend the leader (elder, chapter director) and shame/punish/rebuke the “lesser” person. Isn’t this the opposite of what God did? Shouldn’t UBF leaders care for “the least of these,” instead of always siding with the one who has more power and authority?

    How long can some leaders (elders, seniors) in UBF keep using their positional authority and think that by their “wisdom” and “maneuvering” they can handle and control the situation to their advantage?

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, many leaders think that they are “the least of these.” They identify themselves and the whole ubf movement as the poor, humble, marginalized underdog that has been unfairly persecuted and wrongly labelled as a cult by those old, rich, glamorous and corrupt cultural Christians. So, while exerting oppressive amounts of control over the lives of their members, they imagine themselves as the victims of injustice.

    • Very interesting… I hope/dream that those concerned would either affirm or refute this. But logically, how can a leader who causes or expects his members to “fear him,” really think that he is the “least”?? That’s near pathological and irrational to me.

    • Joe Schafer

      Humans are capable of amazing feats of mental gymnastics. And compartmentalizing. And denial.

  4. Chris, don’t you think that eastern cultures, which includes Korea, are influenced by Buddhism and Confucionism, and thus adopts this “see no evil,” which is basically a “non-biblical” approach? On the other hand, isn’t western cultures, which is influenced more by Christianity, and thus has a more open and honest “biblical” approach?

    • Ben, this difference in sometimes also referred to as “shame-based” or “honour-based” vs. “guilt-based” culture (see for example). I believe the latter are more in line with Biblical and Christian thinking. May sound a bit arrogant if claimed by a Westerner, but it’s simply a fact that Western culture is historically based on Christianity for many centuries, while Eastern culture is not.

      Joe, when I asked a missionary in my chapter why nobody in UBF does anything against a certain abusive chapter director, he told me: “He has too much power.” I also heard the phrase “I am not in a position to…”. Not only from Wesley on this board, but coincidentally also from another Wesley in my chapter. My wife told me that in her former chapter, members literally feared the chapter director. The truth is: In UBF there are people with power and there are people without power. Those with power can rebuke those without, but never the other way around. The people in UBF are very well aware of the role of power, as my few examples showed. They think this is normal, but as Ben said, it is completely unbiblical. In our assessment of others we should be impartial. A good example for this is what Paul did in Gal 2:11. Peter was surely the man with the most “power”, but this did not hinder Paul to rebuke him. And by the way, it also didn’t destroy the friendship between Peter and Paul. Paul was not expelled because he broke “the spiritual order”. Peter didn’t care at all about such spiritual order. He considered himself a “fellow elder”, not a “top elder” or “general director”.

      The Bible shows how we can overcome shame-based culture. After all, the oriental culture of the first Christians was a shamed-based culture, too. This does not mean that we should not respect others. Shame and honor are important. Sure. But truth and justice is even more important. 1 Tim 5 says: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.” The UBF Korean version of this would be “Do not rebuke an older man. Ever.”

    • Chris, I am afraid that from Gal.2:11 ubf leaders learn that Paul was a man in “power”. And you know how much they say in ubf that they follow Paul’s example. I mentioned the passage about Joseph “training” his older brothers. A brother in my chapter decided to write in his sogam that he learnt from Joseph that he should train the older brothers including the director )) But he didn’t share it because of fear. I think it is rather difficult to say something to ubf leaders through Bible passages because they have their own understanding of each of them. I remember our Bible study on John 13. The director spoke about Jesus’ words “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet”. He said, “You can see who is greater: Jesus or his disciples. Jesus served but He was the Lord and the Teacher. I serve you all with Bible study like a servant but who is greater: you or me? Of course, I am greater and that is because I serve…”.

    • forestsfailyou

      Vitaly did you see my Galatians 6 testimony? That was publicly presented.

    • Yes, Forestfailyou, I read your testimony. You see, in our chapter every week we were rebuked (and shouted at) while sharing testimonies. You would be surely rebuked because your sogam is not detailed enough. It should have included direct obedience to the word of God. I mean that the brother in our chapter (the one who wanted to train the director) should have shared smth like this, “I repent that I didn’t rebuke our director missionary david lee though I saw that he needed training. From now on I am going to rebuke and train him as Joseph did to his elder brothers until he repents and become our good brother. I pray that God may make me a good trainer like Joseph”. That would be the “detailed” sogam with no “abstract discourse”. But to actually share this before “the korean tsar” of the chapter is like (or worse than) committing suicide. When I left ubf and changed my job I liked my new boss though many others didn’t like him. He is not a Christian, he speaks loudly (he has some problem with his ears) but I felt as if worked in paradise after 17 years in ubf. (We are still good friends with the boss). Well, I don’t think you would survive in our chapter. I don’t think you would be able to share your sogam in our chapter. You would become a mental patient or would be kicked out and named “satan” (at least). This is the “true” ubf, baby :) God bless you, Forests, in your sincerety. I think it is due to such men like Joe and Brian and Chris that you are in ubf and are able to speak and act like you do.

  5. I like the Gandy’s quotation. If ubf leaders are “fighting” against this site, then they are going to lose one day )).

  6. Thanks for sharing this insight, Ben. I find it wonderfully satisfying to take time to examine my self and face the facts of the world around me. So I’m glad you took some time to be “blog aware” of what has been going on here. (Perhaps I love this post because one of my top 2 strengths is “context” :)

    Your list of 6 topics is telling. I believe these topics reveal the mindset of a ubf person. Aren’t we all saturated in the ubf ideology? I personally am counteracting this with trying to be saturated in the gospel of Jesus.

    Here is what I mean.

    Exodus – the ubf mind most highly values being part of the “in” group

    Cult – the ubf mind is very concerned with authority: what is it? how can I get it? What do I do with it?

    Marriage – the ubf mind is fixated on marriage because before marriage you know, as a ubf member, that marriage is considered the ultimate test of your faith. You make every effort to pass that test.

    Honesty – the ubf mind instinctively knows that the ubf ideology is disconnected from reality. The KOPHN fantasy continually falls apart, so the ubf mindset continually desires honesty. The ubf mind also wavers back and forth between denial and acceptance, between lying to propogate KOPHN or facing the facts of reality.

    Dialogue – the ubf mind is starved for dialogue but can rarely find two-way conversation within ubf. The ubf mind is trapped in one-way dictation and conformance to being taught.

    Gospel – the ubf mind clings to the gospel. Why? Because the gospel is the one and only source of hope. The ubf mind clearly knows the futility of the ubf lifestyle and the poor public image that has existed for decades. Still, unfailingly, the ubf mind dwells on the gospel. Although the ubf mind refuses to dive deeper into the gospel, for fear of disturbing the community, the ubf mind really wants to do so.

    My contention is that all of these things are evidence that if ubf people allow the gospel of Jesus to pull them out of the ubf hamster wheel, we might just see one of the most extravagant and vibrant displays of gospel power ever witnessed. Either that or a catastrophic failure… I pray for the first :)

  7. The fact that UBF people don’t want to talk freely is many fold. They don’t want to publicly agree with what is being said. To respond and possibly agree, has implications with their peer relationships.

    Also,they may not want to promote any “negativity” in the conversation, trying to keep it positive. They may feel uncomfortable with the whole topic because it means discussing failing and mistakes they have made in the past.

    They may not want the conversation to spread among the rest of the congregation. They may not want to hurt the faith or the feelings of others and so they remain silent, not knowing what to say.

    Instead of talking publicly, or even among friends, they may just opt to try to do the right thing “from now on” hoping that everything be alright in the future.

    I believe that people want to talk openly but they feel they can not, even among friends. The tendency to not talk is very frustrating to some people. I think that this tendency to not talk is not unique to UBF. It is part of the group dynamic of any group with a clear mission. It is a response of human nature. That does not make it right however.

    • Thanks for sharing this Anon! You almost perfectly described the effects of the Korean cultural phenomena called han syndrome.

    • “It is part of the group dynamic of any group with a clear mission.”

      I would argue against this. I’ve been part of numerous groups with a “clear mission”. Such groups tend to talk.

    • Anon, let me add to your statement to make it more correct in my opinion:

      “It is part of the group dynamic of any group with a clear mission… where the mission is more important the people who are a part of it.”

  8. The gospel helps to overcome the tendency to not talk. Also open, public confession and repentance allows people to talk freely. It frees the heart. I remember seeing a former leader of Inter-varsity USA. He spoke to about 300 people and he spent the first 20 minutes of the talk confessing and repenting of his sins and the ministry sins. And then he went on and talked about the topic. I will never forget his talk. Open confession and repentance is the way to go.

  9. Anon, I think that the main difference between an ubfer and an ex-ubfer is that an ex-ubfer has repented. That’s why ex-ubfers confess and talk so freely. And they understand each other so well. I was not only a sheep but also a shepherd in ubf, an “Abraham”. The first thing I did after I left ubf was that I repented and contacted ALL my sheep I ever taught (and hurt and trained) and apologized and reconciled and befriended and talked.

  10. Here is something ubf is not ignoring: Money.

    The new 2013 numbers are posted on the ECFA website.

    The “other revenue” jumped significantly. Business mission kicking in?

    Offering went back up some and as expected, the total assets continue to increase as they build on the $13 million.

    • Just a comment based on the numbers: It does appear that ubf is coming out of the financial doldrums of 2012.

    • The question is why? Why and how actually. How did an organization that lost dozens of top leaders (and contributors of money) suddenly make almost $1 million dollars? That money is not offering, it is revenue.

      And more importantly why did the organization make so much money? What do they plan to do with it?

      From a former member perspective this looks rather bad: Focus on making a million dollars while neglecting the core tenets of Christian reconciliation.

    • Note that without the new profit of $998,530, the finances would be at 2009 or so levels. Offering is still down 14% from the 2008 level.

      Attempting to turn ubf into a money-making enterprise is not a good sign, when they don’t know if they are a church or para-church. And why is this still considered a non-profit organization?

      I’ve updated my statistics page.

    • I just have to say that the non-profit laws in America do not make me proud. It is a shame that my country allows millions to be made without paying taxes.

  11. Since April 2013 when I originally wrote this, other articles have made it into the top 10 most commented list (thus displacing a few others):

    #2 about the International Summer Bible Conference (May 2013) – 356 comments.

    #4 regarding Galatians and Legalism (May 2014) – 266 comments.

    #6 on UBF at the Crossroads (Aug 2013) – 209 comments.

    I think that’s it, which is interesting in that it is no longer easy to make the top 10 list.