Truths Learned In and Out of UBF

transparencyI joined UBF in September, 2002 when I was seventeen years old. After serving the Lord for nearly 10 years, God led me to say farewell in August, 2012. God has allowed me in the past six months to learn a lot about myself and the myriads of ways in which UBF was an instrument to bring both overflowing blessings and profound pain. I wanted to share a few of the truths that have been learned in and out of UBF. It goes without saying that this is an incomplete list.


It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Acts 20:35 says, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” This principle was beautifully illustrated by God’s people in UBF. I was the joyful recipient of many generous gifts: gifts of people diligently praying for me; gifts of my pastor personally taking time to teach me God’s word for hours each week; gifts of delicious meals; and also thoughtful—and frequently unexpected—presents (“Underwear? Oh, um, thanks!”)

When I was struggling and in the darkest days of shame and despair, my pastor gave his home for me to live with his family for several months. When I was struggling to support my young family as a student, he and others gave generous gifts to supply our need. Through each gift, prayer, Bible study, and encouragement, this message clearly resounded: giving is a blessing. The surpassing blessedness of giving became evident. I saw the blessedness of living a life of giving. Upon leaving UBF and watching other Christians in other churches, I began to appreciate this lesson as I saw that not all Christians have so joyfully learned this lesson. I’m thankful that through the giving hearts of the generous people in UBF, God helped to learn joy and blessedness of giving.

Being regimented is different than being disciplined

In UBF, I tried my best to faithfully attend devotions and prayer at 6 am. I did my best to faithfully reflect and write a testimony on each Sunday passage, evangelize on campus, prepare and teach the Bible to my Bible students, attend the required meetings, and attend and serve the Sunday service. It seemed that I was very disciplined and devoted in my spiritual life. However, after leaving UBF—after I was no longer required to attend meetings, serve students, write testimonies, and go fishing—I almost completely stopped reading my Bible or spending time in prayer. To my surprise, I wasn’t so disciplined after all!

I have come to realize that, in actual fact, I was regimented, not disciplined. I had responded well to externally-imposed regiments like devotions, testimony-writing, and Bible study, but I had not actually become disciplined in my inner person. Indeed, perhaps it was because I was so regimented that my true undisciplined self was able to remain hidden. Were the externally-imposed things such as daily bread and Bible study wrong or bad? By all means no, and truly they helped me a great deal. But while helping me, these things also hindered me from seeing the true condition of my personal relationship with Jesus. And most dangerously, they oh-so-subtly and implicitly planted the notion that by continuing to do these things—and lo, by doing them more and more—my inner person will somehow be changed.

What truths have you learned?



  1. Thanks for sharing, Joshua. As always, what you write and share is balanced, reasonable, logical, appealing and without any vitriol, which is something I will personally need God’s help to change.

    For myself, after 27 years of “writing testimony” every single week without fail, I finally said, “I’m done!” I decided to never write another testimony for the rest of my days!

    Two conflicting emotions arose: Guilt and Liberation. Am I sinning and grieving God if I do not write a testimony? Emotionally I felt I was. But logically and reasonably, I knew I was not. Then the explosion of liberation flooded my soul.

    Interestingly, after deciding to never write another testimony for as long as I live, I have been writing more than ever. With testimonies I write only once a week. But with blogging, commenting, emails, I am probably writing far more than I ever did during those 27 years of weekly testimony writing.

    Now at WL, the vast majority of us no longer write or share testimonies weekly either. But it does not mean that we no longer share. Boy, instead, we are now free to share or not share. Especially, the quality, depth and authenticity of our spontaneous and extemporaneous sharing has been real and refreshing, which in my opinion builds relationships and intimacy among ourselves in Christ more genuinely.

    For our gatherings, we no longer follow a predictable formula, but perhaps follow the pattern of 1 Cor 14:26-33, where I think you can interchange the words “prophets” and “prophecy” for “sharer” and “sharing,” without butchering the exegesis.

    • Nicely put: “Especially, the quality, depth and authenticity of our spontaneous and extemporaneous sharing has been real and refreshing, which in my opinion builds relationships and intimacy among ourselves in Christ more genuinely.”

      And THAT is why WL is #1 on my redeemed ubf list…which at the moment is a rather short list. Could this list become so long someday that I can’t keep track? I hope so!

  2. Thanks for sharing this joshua.

    “‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” This principle was beautifully illustrated by God’s people in UBF.”

    Indeed, that is what I experienced. Too bad such a teaching is coupled with “Be thankful and loyal to ubf while you submit to your shepherd until the day you die and then one day you bow down to your shepherd in heaven.”

    I love this articulation: “I had responded well to externally-imposed regiments like devotions, testimony-writing, and Bible study, but I had not actually become disciplined in my inner person.” A big DITTO for my experience as well.

    I can say I learned a handful of truths in ubf over 24 years. But I am currently learning bucketfuls of truth on a daily basis now that I’ve thrown off that which was entangling me.

    Like Ben, I wrote testimonies (or messages) every week ubf style for 24 years and missed only 3 Sunday services (I was called “Satan” for the first of those…I’m such a sinner…!) But I write SO much more and SO much more meaningful now! (at least to me :)

    • “Be thankful and loyal to ubf while you submit to your shepherd until the day you die and then one day you bow down to your shepherd in heaven.”

      Well put, Brian. In ubf I was taught that there is “no equality among the believers and no communism, the one who works harder is higher and greater, and missionaries work harder and they sacrificed a lot, left their own country and came here. So, of course, in heaven the missionaries will receive more reward and will be greater and higher that the shepherds. There is capitalism in heaven!”. There is no equality in ubf even in heaven.

      Out of ubf I learnt that there is the beautiful equality in Jesus among believers here on earth and of course in heaven.

    • One word:) in ubf I learnt eternal hierarchy, out of ubf I learnt brotherhood.

  3. Experiencing “overflowing blessing and profound pain” might perhaps be what many have felt in UBF. Perhaps, UBF leaders (over)emphasize the “overflowing blessing” and have ignored or even denied the “profound pain” that UBF has also caused.

    As many have already stated, a simple acknowledgment of the obvious facts that have already been expressed by countless people will go a long long way. Why might this be so hard to do?

    • “Why might this be so hard to do?”

      There is the complex, multi-layered answer dealing with cultural issues, theological issues, historical issues, personality issues, etc.

      Or there is a rather simple explanation: KOPHN. Outsiders have no idea what this means. But every ubfer certainly does. KOPHN explains all the phenomena reported here on this website and in all the 150+ public testimonies of former members. It is the starting point of dialogue in regard to each of the 3 reform movements in the past 50+ years, as well as the current ubf-labelled “crisis” of leaders leaving.

      KOPHN simply does not equate to the sound doctrine called the “priesthood of all believers”. KOPHN is a faulty explanation of a couple verses taken out of context.

      KOPHN is a fantasy, disconnected from reality and disconnected from the bible canon. KOPHN goes way beyond theology or ecclesiology or correct Christian mysticism and enters the realm of magical fantasy and cult-like control. KOPHN requires much manipulation, denial and perceived reality to be sustained.

      KOPHN is exposed with verses such as Hebrews 11:13-16. Christians do not look for a literal “holy nation” here on earth. Our citizenship is in Heaven. Our city is yet to come. All of Hebrews ought to be studied by ubf as a means of correcting this fatal flaw.

      “13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country–a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

    • And it’s no coincidence that one of our most-viewed, most-commented articles here is May God make America a KOPHN. Do we even know what this slogan means?

    • Maybe it isn’t used as much as before. I have not used it since WL began in 2008.

    • “Maybe it isn’t used as much as before?”

      LOL. When was the last time you went to a staff conf? Oh wait :)

      KOPHN is very much used. I heard it over and over and over at every conf/staff conf up until 2011. It’s in most “work of God reports”, in most prayer topics, and in many “messages”.

  4. David Bychkov

    Thanks for the article and the question, Joshua. Your observation “Being regimented is different than being disciplined” is very interesting, and my experience will echo it.
    However I will add that some UBF disciplines was really disciplines for me. For example writing. I think writing daily devotions, testimonies, sermons have helped me to be used with writing. For example, I think it is helping me now in my seminary studies, where I have read a lot and write a lot. I think the time spent in UBF with pen (well, keyboard) trying organize my thoughts during writing a testimony or a sermon now helping me to do the same with papers and many others. I’m not sure if it common for UBF people btw…
    OK. I think the best what I’ve got from UBF is the bible study. Not necessarily 1:1, but atittude toward the Bible. I’m glad I’ve read the Bible many times in UBF, I’m thankful for memorizing quite a few Bible chapters, for 1:1 with shepherd, sheep, leaders group. I’m very thankful for sermons I was able to write. Especcially sermons through Exodus and through John gospel. I’m thankful for the habit to depend on text and to look there for answers. I’m thankful for times of struggle which helped me to meditate in the word of God.
    OK. And yes it was limited b/c of UBF agenda, b/c of some level of skin-deepness, b/c of the lack of systematic theology, b/c of no intention to see whole bible picture, while always focusing just on the one picture.
    So when I begin to drift from UBF paradigma, first thing I stopped doing daily bread as I was taught and started studing Bible whole books in order to connect passage to passage and looking for central ideas. I’ve started write sermons in the same manner. I’ve started studing systematic theology and on and on.

    • Likely, all of my writing today is surely the fruit of endless testimony writing every single week for 27 years, which is ~ 1,400 testimonies, averaging 4 to 6 pages!