Telling it to the Church, Part 2

In the discussion following my last article, a reader who goes by the name “vmi” asked a good question.

I just want to ask Joe if you have tried the second step enough.

Have you confronted this issue with two or three more people? especially with witnesses?

I know you have already brought this before the church.

But if you haven’t done the second step, you may follow Jesus’ instruction, which is to go as a group rather than only you.

megaphoneIn Matthew 18:15-17, it appears that Jesus was instructing his disciples on how to deal with interpersonal conflicts. It doesn’t give us a step-by-step guide for how to handle systemic problems in the church. Yet I believe we can generalize Jesus’ teaching to community-wide situations. For dealing with corporal sins, a reasonable implementation would be:

  • Step 1. Bring up the matters as privately and gently as possible with community leaders who are in a position to do something about them. If they do not listen, then proceed to…
  • Step 2. Involve some more people (witnesses) who can back up your claims and testify that what you are saying is credible. Give the leaders hard evidence. Offer to work with them toward reasonable solutions. Do so patiently and persistently. If after repeated attempts they still do not listen, after you have exhausted all the reasonable alternatives, then proceed to…
  • Step 3. Tell it to the church.

In an organization like UBF, it’s very difficult even to begin Step 1. Opportunities for candid communication with leaders have been nonexistent. I’ve seen this countless times. If you bring up a serious concern about UBF with a leader, you are going to be told to stop worrying, be positive, be humble, devote yourself to Bible study and serving sheep, and so on. Questions about UBF culture and practices are considered off limits. There have never been any safe zones in UBF where you could talk about ministry-wide problems without getting shut down and labeled as a troublemaker. At best, you might find a leader who seems willing to listen to you with a sympathetic ear. But that person won’t ever do anything about the issues you have raised. Sooner or later, you discover that their “listening” is nothing more than a strategy to manage a person whom they believe has become difficult and needs to be cured of a spiritual disease.

So before even trying Step 1, I needed to work on

  • Step 0. Create space where UBF members and leaders could raise awareness of community problems without being dismissed and without retribution.

About four years ago, I starting to work with like-minded people  to create opportunities to talk honestly about the state of the ministry. We had some limited success is the fall of 2009 when the General Director reluctantly agreed to have a no-agenda retreat where elders and senior staff could voice their concerns. That no-agenda discussion lasted for one day. It was helpful, but it was only a start. I felt that we had barely scratched the surface, and in the months following that retreat I tried to create more opportunities for open discussion. I assumed that the elders and senior staff were okay with this because, at the end of the retreat, everyone had agreed that “open communication” was a top priority. But my requests for open communication were not well received; the responses that I got were silence, indifference, condescension and, on a few occasions, rebuke.

During the summer of 2010, we created UBFriends, hoping that it would bring a spirit of glasnost. Prior to launching the website, I reached out to as many UBF members as I could, explaining what the website was about and inviting them to participate in the discussions. I repeatedly contacted the senior leaders and asked them to participate. Several promised that they would, and two senior staff members even told me that they would write articles. That never happened. (Except for the contributions of James Kim, who wrote an article last month. )

And that lack of participation wasn’t because this website was full of anti-UBF material. You can go into the archives and see for yourself the articles and comments that appeared in those early days. All of the discussions were extremely mild and very kind to the organization. This website was very pro-UBF. We thought the articles were relevant and thought-provoking.

But from the beginning, UBF leaders made no effort to participate in this website.

Why they chose to avoid UBFriends is still a mystery to me. Did they feel threatened by it? Did they think that it would make them look undignified? Were they afraid to speak in an environment that was not completely under their control? Were they unwilling to express personal opinions or take positions on issues without first getting someone’s approval? Did they even allow themselves to have their own personal thoughts and opinions? Did they think the articles and comments were rubbish? Did they simply not care?

Perhaps someday they will give me a truthful answer to why they have stayed away from UBFriends from the beginning. But I won’t hold my breath waiting. I’ve learned that UBF leaders operate within a very small comfort zone. If you try to bring them out of that zone, they will stubbornly refuse to go there. If you ask them a simple and direct question that makes them uncomfortable, they will dodge the question or lecture you about “keeping the spiritual order.”  And in most cases, they will simply remain silent.

Let me now return to the question that prompted this article. Have I brought my concerns to UBF leaders in the presence of witnesses?

Witnesses play a crucial role. Without witnesses, the leaders are going to say, “Well, ahem, I see you are concerned about something. But I don’t hear anyone else talking about this. These are your personal opinions. Everyone else here seems to think that UBF is working pretty well.”

Without presenting evidence through testimony of witnesses, my concerns about UBF were being ignored and dismissed.

But in the UBF cultural environment, gathering evidence and witnesses must be done very cautiously. It can backfire in so many ways. For example, if you bring your concerns to UBF leaders with a group of like-minded people, the leaders will say that you are starting another R-group to split UBF. They will say that you are manipulating people and tricking them into following you so that you can gain power. (Yes, I have been accused of this. People have said, “Joe Schafer is like Absalom.”)

And if you bring the testimony of a witness to the leaders, the first thing they will ask is, “Who has been saying that?” As soon as they find out who the person is, they begin the process of isolating, discrediting and dissecting. They concoct all kinds of reasons why the witness is disgruntled and should not be taken seriously. SL was very, very good at weaving elaborate tales about people, diagnosing their alleged spiritual problems, creating intricate theories about why they were unhappy that had nothing to do with the actual matter. UBF leaders have learned how to do this from SL’s example and have become very adept at it. Anyone who sticks his neck out to become a witness against UBF practices is going to be the subject of character defamation, rumor mongering and shunning. He will be deserted by many of his “friends.” For these reasons, many potential witnesses in UBF will not come forward, because they know what would happen to them. They know the price they will have to pay, and feel the price is too steep.

So the gathering of witnesses needs to be done carefully.

After the fall 2009 retreat, a whole year passed without any opportunities for dialogue. I repeatedly contacted leaders to discuss important issues. My appeals were ignored. I was told that discussions should not happen by email and must happen only in face-to-face meetings. But those hypothetical meetings weren’t happening. Meanwhile, I sensed that the environment in UBF was getting worse. People were growing more and more dispirited and sullen. Meetings and conferences were permeated with an overwhelming sense of malaise. In fact, it seemed that many the people showing up at UBF events were ashamed of the ministry and its leaders.

But the leaders of UBF seemed not to notice this. They were acting as though everything was fine. They seemed to be living in a bubble, surrounded by like-minded people who told them only what they wanted to hear.

In November of 2010, I urgently felt that I needed to do something to wake up the leaders to the seriousness of the situation. I contacted approximately fifty UBF members whom I trusted to give me honest feedback about their perceptions of the ministry and its leadership. I asked them to respond to these five questions.

Question 1: What are the messages – the vision, direction, prayer topics, values, attitudes, etc. – that are actually being presented to you by UBF senior leaders? What are they trying to get you to do?

Question 2: How do you feel about these messages? Do they inspire you?

Question 3: What kind of message coming from senior leaders would truly inspire you, making you enthusiastic, happy, and truly wanting to remain in UBF for the foreseeable future?

Question 4: What would it take to make UBF a place that you are proud of, a place to which you could enthusiastically invite Christian and non-Christian friends to come and see without hesitation, reservation or apology?

Question 5: If there were a message that you could communicate to UBF’s General Director and the leaders of North American UBF (or European UBF, or wherever you are), what would it be?

About half of the people I contacted gave me written responses that were very thoughtful and very thorough. I read everyone’s comments very carefully and searched for common themes. Then I synthesized everything into a lengthy report that I sent to the North American senior leaders in November, 2010. Much of the report consisted of direct quotes from the respondents, with identifying information removed to keep them anonymous. My findings were:

1. UBF messages do not inspire the members.

2. The gospel is being assumed more than it is being proclaimed.

3. UBF is self-absorbed and inwardly focused, lifting itself up while ignoring the greater message of God’s kingdom and unity with the larger Body of Christ.

4. Leaders place a heavy focus on increasing UBF numbers and participating in certain outward activities as the primary measure of fruitfulness and spiritual growth.

5. Obedience to human leaders in UBF is still expected and demanded, and discussion of problematic aspects of UBF is still not tolerated.

6. In many ways, UBF still operates as a Korean church, maintaining a cultural climate that makes Americans uncomfortable.

7. UBF leaders continue to expect members to press on with fishing, one-to-one Bible study, and campus ministry, ignoring the demographic realities of who the members actually are, and ignoring other important ways of serving God.

8. The older generation is now telling the younger generation what their spiritual heritage and vision are without consulting them and without seeking renewal from the Holy Spirit.

The situation was bad, much worse than I had thought. Morale among members was so low that I predicted an exodus within the coming year. I wrote:

It is impossible to predict how many people are going leave UBF, or when they are going to leave. My best guess is that, if members perceive little change when the next General Director is announced next year, an exodus will begin. When valued members leave us, there is real or perceived betrayal. Significant relationships are broken, producing a great deal of pain and conflict; morale drops further, which may lead to even more departures.

If you are interested in seeing the whole report, you can read the full text of the document here.

By now, you are probably wondering how the leaders responded to my efforts. Well, my friends, that’s a fascinating story. You will have to stay tuned…




  1. joshua

    Joe, I wasn’t among the ones you polled in preparing the report you describe, but as I read it, I could find my sentiments and thoughts exactly. The inability to be able to honestly articulate these thoughts with leaders coupled with the abusive authority and control over me and my family were the reasons that we left the ministry. I’m looking forward to your second part. Please don’t keep us in suspense too long :).

  2. joshua

    I should rephrase myself: “The inability to be able to honestly articulate these thoughts with leaders…” Change that to lack of opportunity, lack of openness, hostility, and rebuke. My wife can attest that following almost every daily bread meeting and 1:1 Bible study, I ranted and raved at home for 1-2 hours about how frustrated I was that I couldn’t speak to my pastor and have him listen to me uncritically. I was late to work so many days because of this! It totally sucked the life out of me and made the last 1-2 years of being in UBF utterly deadening, so frustrating, and so joyless.

  3. David Bychkov

    Joe, thanks for your efforts and for sharing the document. It is very interesting. May those who need to see it – see it.

    • Joe Schafer

      David, I sent the report to all the senior leaders in North America: the GD, past GD, the elders and the North American senior staff. They all saw it. I sent it just before we met for a “retreat” in November 2010. In my next article, I will describe their reactions.

    • David Bychkov

      Thanks, Joe. That would be interesting to read.

  4. Thanks for the summary. It’s good to see people who really care for the ministry like you.

    You mentioned your disappointment about the fact that leaders did not write articles as promised.

    My experience is that UBF leaders avoid making any written statements. The reason for this is that if they only communicate orally, nobody can later proof what they said, and they can conveniently change their opinion as they like and say one day this and another day that or even deny they ever said something. They avoid committing themselves as much as possible. If you read the testimony of James Kim who was displaced from Toledo to Houston by Samuel Lee, you’ll find a passage where James told how he demanded a written and signed document about something Samuel Lee promised him. This request looks strange at first, but James new very well that an oral promise had no value in UBF. (By the way, even that signed document did not help; Samuel Lee did not fulfill his promise anyway). UBF leaders never write anything down about their real teachings like “marriage by faith”. That way, nobody can really tackle such wrong teachings because people have to always proof first that such teachings even exist, which is very difficult if they are only communicated orally and informally by behavior and between the lines, and if various chapters apply them to various degrees. To me it almost seems that they learned from Niccolo Machiavelli who wrote 500 years ago: “I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the ‘Yes’ of one man is worth as much as the ‘No’ of another. And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting… You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.“ That’s why UBF leaders like to invite us to personal talks to appease us. But they avoid engaging in serious communication via mail, or Internet Formus, or discussing serious things in larger groups or panel discussions with many witnesses present.

    You may defend the leaders by saying they are not used to write much. What? What about all the messages and reports written by leaders? And what about their pushing every member to write many pages of “sogams” every week? I cannot accept that excuse. We can and should expect written “sogams” from the leaders of UBF concerning the issues we are all discussing here.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, you are correct to say that ubf leaders write a lot. They write Sunday messages and daily bread testimonies and reports. But those tend to follow a very predictable pattern, and if that is all you ever write year after year, your range of expression becomes very limited.

    • So maybe asking them to write things down will help them unblock their mental barriers and move off their beaten tracks. Actually, it’s only when you start writing all those “unspoken rules” down, you recognize who silly and ridiculous they are. Also, the reason why many of us are writing so much about the past is that it helps us process and understand what happened more deeply. It may be a bit slow and bumpy in the beginning like when you are accustomed to write with the right hand and suddenly need to write with the left hand, but it will surely help. So far, I have seen several thoughtful and moving testimonies, essays and articles written by Korean reformers, but no such statements and responses by mainstream leaders. I only find the usual documents that follow the predicatble patterns you mentioned.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, I think an even simpler step would be to get them to talk. To take off their ubf masks and just speak honestly and say what they think and reveal who they are, without calculating about the possible consequences. I’ve been trying to do that for years, and it’s very hard. Most of them just keep their mouths shut in my presence. Most of them won’t talk to me, except to make small talk or to lecture me. (But they will talk to one another about me.)

    • forestsfailyou

      If you are like me you just have saved text messages and quotes from sermons.

    • Forests, in the first part of our ubf stint, people didn’t use TXT messaging or email. The internet didn’t exist, and when it started gaining momentum in the 90’s, we viewed the internet as unspiritual and a waste of time. And now that TXTing is common, ubf leaders wouldn’t dare TXT us former members.

      I do however have over 300 MB of Word documents, PowerPoints, email messages and PDF screen captures of internet material :)

  5. Joe, I have no words. I am in near uncontrollable tears reading this. This song expresses what this post invokes in my heart:

  6. This was a good read. I can relate to many of the points and comments in the written articles. I will add something about messages and inspiration.

    To be honest after the adjustment period for into UBF was over I found the messages boring and uninspired. It seemed almost that the director blew dust of the previous message took out a couple points added a couple points all to make it seem relevant for today and proceeded to remind us that the key to our life in UBF was to go fishing, double numbers, attend meetings etc….

    I found that even if you traveled from time to time and happened to attend a different chapter it was the same. Of course it had the appearance of being different because the people were different, but overall the standard message style remained the same.

    For maturing families there is no real meaning in it. For young students it is unrelatable. The messages should evolve with congregation and also reveal what is happening inside the church. But frankly, all UBF messages lack that personal touch. Wich may lead me into another topic altogether.

    Depending on your Bible teacher, yes they sacrificed and made time for the student – I am not denying that. But in many a case the primary focus and motive is the Bible study. Where is the fellowship. I have already spent hours trying to get to know this website and have some reason to contribute (because others can say things better than me). Although, this community is virtual – actually, I’ll guess that most of us already know each other in person. We are sharing deep and personally with sincerity.

    What I am getting at is UBF relationships are often geared solely for the increase in number. I will ask a question, “Where is the love in the serving?” A Bible study is arranged and all of a sudden you are committing yourself to attend everything asked of you. If you don’t attend you are either nagged to the point of never answering another email, text message or phone call or bullied into doing things because you have been made to feel guilty by your Bible teacher. Tell me, how is that love? For the Bible teacher it is an obligatory activity to pursue such students because you will also be bullied in way of rebukes for not playing your role as a shepherd.

    Meanwhile, we all ask ourselves once in a while, “When will XYZ missionary share a public testimony or at least tell me their personal prayer topics? Because all I ever hear from XYZ is their ministry prayer topics?” If I wanted to know about the business and how well it was doing I would ask, but often we really want to know about the spiritual condition of the person. Sadly, we never hear about it, because it is none of our business.

    Back to message comment: The body of UBF needs to find a way to maintain messages that can speak to everyone universally. It should also do so in a way that convicts or rebukes us strictly through the word of God alone. Often times when a messanger wants to address someone who sinned they are shamed as an example or illustration in the message. Instead the message should be deeper and allow for understanding and interpretation of such sin without actually calling a person out. My comment has nothing to do with concerning about someone’s feelings. Rather, I am getting at the fact that the UBF message style rebuke is yet another tool used to bully the congregation. Personally, when I am weak I read the Bible to be strengthened – even if it means I must be strengthened through my own repentance. However, if a servant of God self righteously bullies and accuses me I am backed into a corner. Why can I come to God in prayer but my fellow brothers corner me like dogs? This is not the love of Christ.

    The messages lack the needs that a congregation should be getting. Frankly, we are diligently trained to be Bible teachers in UBF – some of us messengers. When the message no longer tells us anything new it becomes our responsibility to dig through the passage without the aid of a UBF manuscript. This completely reveals the inadequacy of the routine and uninspired message style that every young and growing leader gets whipped into doing. As one example from Joe’s article read – “let each messenger have their own voice or style” (again paraphrased)

  7. Mark Mederich

    spiritual order: “I am great, you are not”;
    Absalom: “I am King, you are rebel”

    • Mark Mederich

      order: clever method to elevate self above others;
      sadly Jesus was too humble

  8. Phil 2 Five

    Hello Joe, thank you for this article! I have shared the link on my FB.

    I’m compelled to write this…

    I started coming to UBF in 2003 and attended the west Los Angeles chapter in southern california. I had been there for 11 years up until my departure on Feb 2013. I had developed personal relationships with everyone in the church. Coming in for the first few times, I was welcomed and appreciated. Now, mind you that I had never been any other church prior to joining UBF. I had very limited knowledge of the Bible. I called UBF my second home! I defended it against any ‘accusation’, which now have become clear that some of those ‘accusations’ against UBF were actually true and legitimate! From 2003 to 2010 I was struggling to ‘feed sheep’ to please God and earn the respect of the seniors in our ministry. When I didn’t, I was shamed and humiliated through the SWS messages. When I didn’t, I was rebuked that I didn’t beat my body! When I didn’t, I was given ‘silent training’! When I didn’t, I was looked down upon.

    Starting in 2010, I started to notice a few things about the ministry that I hadn’t before! Here are some examples…

    1. Message Training (I was given message training and through the message training I was almost always TOLD what I needed to accept)
    2. Bad Theology (Namely the mis-interpreting passages; taking them out of context; using verses to manipulate or coerce)
    3. Authoritarian style of leadership/control (almost whatever I wanted to do had to be approved by the chapter director; this however wasn’t the case when I first came. Their control over my life began to get worse a few years into the ministry up until I left the ministry)
    4. Numbers (It seemed that almost every conference ended with one question: “How many sheep are you going to feed?” And of course, this question was often answered for you! Another issue that bothered me was the fact that all the names of the bible teachers and students were displayed for the public to see!)
    5. Relationship/Marriage (I would rather not elaborate on this!)
    6. People or Pawn? (I felt people in the ministry were like pawns under control and every move was dictated! People were not them selves. They were often clone of the director. However the director talked, he/she talked! However the director ate, he/she ate, etc… Point being, people were not themselves! They were trying to be somebody else. And this was often done to gain the favor of the director or to be noticed by the director. And when noticed, they were rewarded and praised!)
    7. Members leaving (One big question for me was, “why do people who seem so eager to learn God’s word and follow him, leave after sometime?” This seem not to bother anybody! The first question that I ask myself when a person leaves the ministry is, “DID I DO, SAY, OR ACTED IN ANY WAY THAT MIGHT HAVE CAUSED THIS PERSON TO LEAVE?” I think that’s only logical! Unless I don’t care!)
    8. Gifts of the Spirit (It seemed like the goal in UBF is for ALL, yes ALL, the members to become Bible teachers. Is everyone called to be a Bible teacher!?? How about the gifts of the Spirit??)

    Obviously the list can go on and on…I do want to acknowledge that yes, I was served food and taken care of, etc…, which I’m grateful for! 11 years of my life was invested into a ministry that I DID CARE about and STILL DO CARE! However, I believe that God brought me out in order to experience his peace, grace, and to serve him with joy and willingness, not to meet # of quotas or out of obligation!

    Since I’ve left the ministry, God has been with me and has been making His presence known to me. I was literally CHOKING IN UBF. I was suffocating! However, now I’m leaving in God’s grace, in His mercy, that He poured out through His Son Jesus!

    I do NOT hate UBF! I do believe that almost everybody that comments or reads UBFriends cares as well! I was often given “tough love” training! Sometimes you have to leave to make a point, since your point is not taken through a civilized conversation!

  9. Thanks for sharing Phil 2:5. Sorry to say what you are describing is sadly applicable in other UBF chapters as well.

    You say, “I was literally CHOKING IN UBF.”

    Joshua says, “(UBF) totally sucked the life out of me.”

    I too have expressed that the Chicago UBF headquarters was oppressive, heavy, judgmental, unfriendly, predictable, unaccountable, untouchable, impersonal, condescending, clandestine, sanctimonious, and authoritarian. (So so sorry for piling on the adjectives!!! I started out with only 3 and just kept adding to the list.) Despite saying all this, I still love you!

    Will UBF leadership hear, listen and respond to this?

    ** I just want to clearly state that I have nothing against anyone personally in Chicago UBF where I still regard many as my friends. I simply can no longer agree with such a controlling system, where I can find no biblical basis to support it. Like Joe, I have already shared this privately and frequently with many UBF leaders (often to deaf ears). So, I am not saying anything that I have not already said privately before over the past half a dozen years.

    • Mark Mederich




    • You say, “I was literally CHOKING IN UBF.”

      Joshua says, “(UBF) totally sucked the life out of me.”

      I say “ubf was a crushing asphyxiation machine ripping me to shreds, tearing apart the body of Christ ligament by ligament.”

      Someone posted this on facebook: What happens when you take the fun out of fundamentalism? You are left with da mental.

    • Phil 2 Five

      Thank you Ben :)

  10. Sharon
    Andy Crouch on power. Really good.

  11. I think we must be such a crazy messed up bunch of folks! One moment some of us are serious. The next moment some are joking. Most of the time I can’t keep track between the two: Am I supposed to be serious, or just kid around? I think I am too old to be able to flip flop back and forth. Nonetheless, this is fun!

    • Mark Mederich

      (pardon my humor, i am actually very serious but trying to point out the “ridiculosity” of anyone being “untouchable” as opposed to humble in Christ)

    • I do love your very serious humor, Mark.

  12. Joe. Thank you for your writings.
    I believe what you are writing is the most significant writing in ubf history.
    People is reading your article. People will read your article. Your article will impact the future of ubf. I want to say, you are not just one member of ubf. You are the famous one in ubf. People will be more interested in your story. People will know how the ubf ‘leaders’ reacted to one of the american ubf staffs members.

    Please send out your all articles (including next ones) to all leaders in ubf. You are an official ubf staff member. I want to see how ubf deal this officially/(or unofficially). This process will be recorded and judged.

    • “Please send out your all articles (including next ones) to all leaders in ubf.”

      Well…don’t use email or there will be a threat of a harassment lawsuit. Or at minimum “God bless you. I never want to receive email from you again.” (like I received) And it is rather amazing that they have not sued me yet for this website and my own blog like someone did to Chris.

  13. No one in UBF will dare sue anyone today, as was done to Chris. Why? Hello Internet! They cannot get away with their bulling as they did in the past without being exposed and shamed themselves for doing so!

    Other than James and Wesley, the missionaries will not dare to make statements online, even though they challenge their sheep to “be strong and courageous!” Sometimes they think themselves to be powerful by shaming, humiliating, lording over and exercising their authority over innocent unknowing sheep in clear violation of what Jesus taught (Mt 20:25-26; Mk 10:42-43; Lk 22:25-26).

    Not that Chris is waiting for the day or expecting it, but I am still waiting for the day when UBF will do the right thing and publicly and officially apologize for suing Chris. I know that you have already told your story many times before, but maybe you want to tell this story as a lead article.

    By suing you for 100,000 Euros, everyone in UBF needs to know that UBF clearly violated Scripture, dishonored God and bullied and threatened you to comply with what they demanded.

    How can anyone with a godly conscience in UBF not be upset by this??? Or do we no longer have a soul and a conscience?

  14. OMG! Did ubf sue Chris? For what charges?
    I haven’t really followed ubfriends. Frankly, I am not surprised.
    Many good people left ubf quietly without even raising a voice.
    They just forgave ubf and thanked for ubf’ good sides.

    • vmi, to say “ubf sued Chris” is a generalization, but the short answer is yes. Chris ran a website that had some strong words about ubf. [But note that ubfriends has surpassed a lot of what Chris wrote on his website already.]

      So when I resigned as director of Detroit UBF in protest after giving 24 years of my life to ubf and began publicly criticizing ubf, I prepared for legal action against me. I have a plan in place if it happens.

      Ben is correct though, it is unlikely ubf will sue any of us. It is possible though that individual ubf directors could sue for a “harassment campaign” against them. If such a thing happens to me, I am ready to take this to the national news media. There are several high-profile lawyers in Detroit who have taken civil rights issues to a national level. And I’ve already had experience in courts in regard to non-ubf matters.

    • And btw, I had breakfast with JJ once about the same time the legal action was taken toward Chris. He smiled big and told me that all the anti-ubf websites have been “taken care of”. We won’t have to deal with them anymore. And he thanked me for my role in defending ubf at the time by my action of taking down 2 anti-ubf websites and forcing the Wikipedia article to be entirely positive. I was told by many ubf directors at the time (abut 2006 or so) that I was “most precious” for my internet voice…. :)

    • Since this issue of suing me came up, I need to clarify.

      It was not the UBF top leadership who did that, but Peter Chang in Bonn. The website contained several shocking articles about him, since Bonn UBF was (and still is) the most extreme UBF chapter in Germany (and maybe in the world). He had even been in the media several times and was investigated by the federal prosecutor in Bonn. Unfortunately, the investigation did not find enough jurisdictionally relevant and provable crimes that were not yet time-barred. For instance, if people were beaten “voluntarily” (as several members testified), this was their own fault according to the law. So he was never officially convicted, and as you know, it is difficult to report critically about a person until this has happened. Peter Chang’s attorneys found a list of things regarding the website that could be formally sued, like not having a complete imprint, using the “trademarked” name UBF as part of the domain name, reproducing material like sermons that was “copyright” by UBF, but also “violating personal rights” of people mentioned in the testimonies and slandering his “good reputation”. They did not sue me, but sent a so-called “dissuasion,” threatening to sue me with a jurisdictional amount of 100,000 Euros if I do not close the website and sign a statement that I would never publish anything about UBF and Peter Chang any more. The German laws are very strict. You really need to make a website water-proof if you don’t want to get sued. For Peter Chang, it would have been easy to pay the court costs in case he lost – he already paid expensive lawyers to write that dissuasion. He has a lot of money and loyal followers who would testify anything. But I am only a private person, cannot pay expensive lawyers, and have to feed a family that would be ruined from paying 100,000 Euro. Chang and his attorneys knew this very well. There was a small chance that they would win a lawsuit, so I had to close the website for the time being. I was dissatisfied with it anyway; I always wanted to do it “right”, rearrange and update the content, but never had enough time to properly maintain it and make it lawyer-proof. The only sad thing is that a lot of relevant material, particularly testimonies of ex-members, is currently unavailable on the Internet. People may think the few examples that were posted on this website are the only examples of abuse. But there are so many examples in the testimonies which have been published in the past, by dozens of dropouts. And even those are only the tip of an iceberg of unwritten stories.

    • Actually, most of the material on the website was written by others, not by me. It was more like a material collection from dozens of sources. But you’re right, UBF always made it appear like it was only the writing and opinion of me, a single, evil, unspiritual dropout, who was filled with bitterness.

    • Even though they published on your website which has closed down, what do you think about sharing some of them here? Were they mainly Germans?

      Chris, I remember once reading a website about UBF that was both in German and translated into English. Was that your website? Was that the website that was shut down?

    • I used to loathe seeing the green color on this website…but it is rather good to look back now. Note to ubfers: You CANNOT control the internet. Chris’ site lives on!

      Internet time machine: ubf info

    • And too bad Frank’s website was taken down, I think by him perhaps:

      ubf survivor

    • This glossary needs some cleaning up but is spot-on:

      Glossary of terms used by ubfers

    • Yes, all pages on the website were available in German and English, and some even in Russian. I think the language barrier is a problem that hinders us taking part in discussions and learning the amount of the problems in UBF. Maybe this has improved a bit because the Internet and globalization forces people to learn English. But the language barrier also keeps us from reading documents published in Korean. And sometimes I felt like Korean was used as a secret language for insiders.

      I have already discussed with some people in which form we can re-publish some of the important material of the former website in a proper way. It is really a difficult issue, because most of the testimonies are private in nature, and the Internet is a public thing. Much of it has been written by people with whom I lost contact. Actually, I think anybody who has eyes to see and ears to hear can know enough to understand the nature and seriousness of the issues of UBF. Everybody else may not be convinced by reading the umpteenth testimony telling the same stories. Like the 5 brothers of the rich man in Lk 16, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.” Jesus condemned authoritarianism and seeking honor clearly enough in Mt 23. If they don’t listen to Jesus, while claiming to study the Bible so deeply, even “digging out the word of God”, who can help them?

    • No, the Internet “time machine” is not a solution. It captured only very few of the many pages, and the translations don’t work.

  15. @vmi: “Many good people left ubf quietly without even raising a voice. They just forgave ubf and thanked for ubf’ good sides.” That’s what UBF wishes UBFriends to do.

    Yes I forgive UBF. Yes I am thankful for UBF. Honestly, I even love UBF. But to “leave quietly without raising a voice” is something my conscience would not allow me to do.

    • I think they left ubf without a voice “because they know what would happen to them. They know the price they will have to pay, and feel the price is too steep”. Maybe, they were sooo deeply wounded, had no power to even raise a voice. They don’t even want to think about it. Maybe they didn’t know how to do it because they had never learned to speak up for the truth and justice. I believe Joe, Ben and some others are speaking up for them. Thanks again for doing this for them.

      I believe Joe and Ben had been a better position than others. You guys were known as exemplary american shepherd as ubf’s proud fruit. It might be more difficult to treat you as harsh as ‘leaders’ treat nameless, powerless missionaries, shepherds, and sheep. Also, you guys are seen by many others. Others are watching how leaders are treating you and saying about you guys. I am not saying it’s been be easier. Surely it’s gonna be difficult.

      “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed” (Proverbs 31:8)

    • joshua

      Hi vmi, good points. Also, many who leave don’t want to speak up because they shared personal things with the UBF leaders and don’t want those things to be used against them.

      After I wrote the “Forgiving Myself” article (, I was emailed with a veiled threat that if I keep on “slandering UBF” and “slandering [my pastor]”, the private sins that I had shared in confidence while in UBF would be posted publicly for all to see. I guess the other purpose behind weekly testimony sharing is to accumulate ammunition to use as insurance against former members.

    • Interesting, Joshua: ” I was emailed with a veiled threat..”

      I have a voicemail that I’ve digitally recorded and also a Christmas card digitally scanned as evidence of similar veiled threats, indicating that I was getting into the hot-water of harassment of a ubf director. The “threats” I received are admittedly mild in nature. But they are severe in tone and timing. I think we may need to band together at some point because I’m not going to stop my vocal criticism, and the veiled threats in the past sometimes turned into real threats, as Chris and others have found out.

  16. @Chris. Peter Chang may have done what was right in the sight of the law of Germany. My question is did he do what was right as a Christian leader of UBF in light of the Bible?

    What credibility will UBF have when they will not answer and address such issues?

    Does UBF condone, approve of and not speak up about “beating a junior UBF person” for any reason?

    How long is UBF leadership going to remain silent?

  17. @Chris. Whatever the time machine is?? I am impressed. I thought the English translation didn’t work but it does! The top right English link does not work, but the top left English link works.

    Chris, Did you yourself translate into English what was originally written in German?

    • @Ben, the German articles were translated to English and the English articles to German. I translated a lot, but several other ex members also helped translating or proofreading (there are still many mistakes, I know). Some articles were also taken from the reform UBF websites (there were several of them, the German reformers had their own website).

  18. @Joshua, @Brian. So sorry to hear of threats to “expose your past private sins.” It reminds me of Scientology who supposedly has tons of secrets regarding Hollywood stars so much so that these actors are “in bondage” to the church of Scientology.

    I am so so sorry that my church of UBF is employing such downright dirty disgusting tactics of the devil to continue to try to control you even after you have moved on.

    My personal advice: DARE THEM TO DO SO! DOUBLE DARE THEM!! TRIPLE DARE THEM!!! Then they will either show themselves either to be:

    * The cowards and bullies that they are by refusing to do so. OR

    * They will show themselves to be slime balls like the devil if they do so.

    Sorry for my Dirty Harry advice! Even though I wouldn’t say this of Christ, yet he pushed the devilish religious leaders until they either repented or they killed him.

    • Mark Mederich

      Jesus said don’t weep for me, weep for yourselves (for he knew the destruction of Jerusalem was coming): if errant leaders don’t want to alter their ways, let em stew in their own juices, the Lord is coming soon..& let superiors who fail to guide them become accomplices (Catholic bishops didn’t want to deal with priest abuse but eventually had no choice)

  19. @ Chris, whatever the number of archived testimonies I can only see the measure of invaluable resources. Why? Because some of us are hoping for change within UBF and have not given up. We must remember that our audience is technically inexhaustible on the internet. For senior shepherds or members etc…there is not a great deal of need for such testimonies because we have seen a lot and also have experienced a great deal. We have also had to be the support for our closest friends in the ministry while they may have been for us.

    But our audience may also be a younger, new generation ranging from 17-26 years or so. It is very important to give relevancy for young members. My heart is set on the young members because they will most likely go through exactly what we are testifying about and hope to impact in way of change. (Sorry Ben for my earlier comment that implied no hope, but I am still concerned about the hearts intent of some leaders out there.) I maintain that it may be a lonely existence if a freshman is going through many of the listed matters. Some strong personalities can see through everything, but their might be someone out there who needs to see what we have to offer so that they all know they are not alone in this struggle.

    @ Joshua, You are doing the right thing and do not be shaken – ever by veiled threats. It just demonstrates the weakened spiritual condition of said pastor. It is the work of the devil that wants to prevent healing and restoration.

  20. @ vmi: Thanks. “I believe Joe and Ben had been a better position than others. You guys were known as exemplary american shepherd as ubf’s proud fruit. It might be more difficult to treat you as harsh as ‘leaders’ treat nameless, powerless missionaries, shepherds, and sheep.”

    Speaking for myself, I guess this is true as long as you take out all the ad hominem arguments said about some of us mainly in the backrooms!

  21. Vitaly

    I’d like to share a little bit from a yesterday talk to a pastor. I told him that we regulaly study the Bible at home with some coming people. His reaction was: “That’s so great! I just love when people study the Bible themselves. I’d like to come to you and participate. And I know that I could bring about 100 more people from your district who would be happy to study the Bible along with you”.

    My wife said, “We also wanted to participate in your Bible study group and learn, may be we study in different ways”.

    He answered, “I have never seen a word in the Bible where Jesus would tell us how and with what methods we must/should study the Bible. Jesus said only about what we must/should believe”.

    In the church there are no particular “holy” methods or system of doing things, no heritage at all. And of course there are no “days of the founders” (who would provide the heritage)) neither even some “special” pastors/leaders. There are no “numbers” in prayers, even in talks, AT ALL. There are no “absolute” meetings. This church operates through attracting people with the gospel not through pushing its members to “work hard” in fishing. And though there are no “campus focus” in the church, the “number” of university students and young people is such as ubf can’t dream of.

    • joshua

      Hi Vitaly,

      Your points are very good. My new church is also amazingly vibrant in its Bible study and outreach to students. The number of students and the quality of their faith and love for Jesus is like nothing I ever saw in UBF. I am thankful that God is doing His work in my campus and there are healthy ministries that lead the students to real and complete freedom in Jesus.

      Curiously, even though UBF operated on my campus for almost 20 years, not one minister in any of the churches I’ve spoke to has heard of it. The staff member of the local InterVarsity has heard about it, but didn’t know it operated on my campus, and few of the students that I’ve spoken to in my current church have heard about it. It seems that far from being on the front lines, our efforts were largely unnoticed and not particularly relevant.

  22. Just tagging this post and the ensuing comments with a +1 MILLION.

    If anyone in any country says “Just be patient with ubf leaders, follow Matt. 18 and mind your own business.”, then share this article and remember what has transpired already.

    And remember there have been 4 crisis situations of mass exodus or excommunication of long time leaders (both Korean and non-Korean) in 1976, 1989, 2001 and 2011.

    If the trend holds, crisis #5 will occur around 2019. And Lord willing, I’ll be here for those who need help coping.

  23. It continues to amaze me… how the ubf leaders can spin up any tale they want. For example,

    “For the past few years the theme of our staff conferences has been “Christian maturity and community.” This year we’re excited to continue exploring this theme by having the chance to deeply study Paul’s entire letter to the Galatians. The first step in our study is for everyone to do a personal factual study of this epistle.”

    Does anybody still believe this stuff? Maturity and community has been the focus? Really?

  24. Joe Schafer

    Here’s a short, fantastic article about how church leaders take advantage of Matthew 18 to shut down criticism and cover up abuse.

    • “Public claims and public actions should always be confronted publicly. Otherwise, the only voice speaking will be that of the oppressor, the abuser, and the false teacher.”

    • +1. Joe, might you be sharing Part III: “By now, you are probably wondering how the leaders responded to my efforts. Well, my friends, that’s a fascinating story. You will have to stay tuned…” – See more at:

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, my motivation to write about these things is at an all time low. It is emotionally draining and distracting from more important things where I need to focus my time and energy. I can manage a quick comment here and there, but for the most part I can’t afford to do it. If people haven’t responded to the things I have written thus far, would another article make a difference? Probably not.

  25. Mark Mederich

    perhaps human insecurities lead to power mentality and huddle/groupthink; Halloween is a good time to think about masks were intended to scare away evil spirits in prep for all saints & all souls days, not to hide behind/langer in inferior ways

  26. Joe Schafer

    Hey boys and girls, it’s time for a contest!!!

    After a nearly two year hiatus, I may be willing to post the next chapter of this exciting saga.

    But before I do, can anyone guess what happens next?

    In just a few words, tell us what you think happens in Part 3.

    This will also help me to gauge if it is worthwhile to actually write more about this subject. Sometime the silence of our silent readers becomes unbearable. If you want me to post another installment, please say so. If you prefer that I keep quiet or just write happy stuff, please tell me now.

    • I would love to hear part 3.

      This conference report from 2010 needs to be enshrined somewhere. This is an amazing read and I enjoyed going over it again now, nearly 5 years later.

      Although I don’t know the details, I know that the ubf leaders never go past “Step 0” in your part 2 article above. They failed to make a safe place. If they did, we would not have had a flood of ubfriends and people contacting me the last few years.

      I suppose the ubf echelon kicked you out of the Well, and marginalized you in various ways…but I will let you tell the story :)

    • Joe Schafer

      A fine guess. Anyone else?

    • Can’t wait for Part 3. My short guess is that you were called aside, basically reprimanded, told to “keep you place,” “mind your own business,” and basically asked, “who the heck do you think you are?” Well, probably not in those exact words.

    • A missionary I’ve known for quite some time finally leveled with me about how he feels when I engage him in discussions about the ministry. Mind you, I’m not and abrasive or confrontational person. He said that he immediately goes into defense mode because he feels as though he has to protect his identity as a ubf missionary. Furthermore he stated that issues of past abuse as well as current efforts to understand one another’s perspectives are not his concern; his main concern is preaching the gospel and equipping the body to do the same. To his credit, he said that ubf needs people to raise questions, though he will suffice with carrying out his mission as usual. While I appreciated his honesty and the fact that he ceased patronizing me, this was probably one of the saddest moments of my life. Joe, I take it that the response you received was a mixture of this. Some privately told you that ubf needs people like you and that they would never rock the boat like you because doing so is not their calling. Others bluntly told you that improving the social dynamics of the ministry is not nearly as important (not even in the same stratosphere of concerns) as carrying out campus ministry. I’m sure that some key leaders demonized you; they’ve probably said some things to you that you shouldn’t repeat in public. The overall net effect has mostly likely been a deafening silence. I’ve stopped attending ubf functions since September. Can you guess how many people have contacted me as to my whereabouts since then? Please continue to share your story, Joe. I’m listening.

    • Joe Schafer

      Two more outstanding guesses! Keep ’em coming. Winners will be announced within one ethics-committee month or when Jesus comes again, whichever comes first. And remember: “A thousand years in our sight is like a day in theirs.”

    • Joe Schafer

      David, that story is indeed sad. What this missionary effectively said to you was, “Go ahead and raise questions, and I will give you no answers.”

      The moment someone says this, it becomes essentially impossible to have anything like a real human relationship with that person, and certainly not a friendship in Christ.

      Ben, a week or so ago, you posted a good quote on FB about intimacy and openness/honesty. Perhaps it was by Richard Rohr. Do you have that quote?

    • Is it the quote by Pope Francis? “…we succumb to attitudes that do not permit us to dialogue: domination, not knowing how to listen, annoyance in our speech, preconceived judgments and so many others. Dialogue is born from a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It supposes that we can make room in our heart for their point of view, their opinion and their proposals. Dialogue entails a warm reception and not a preemptive condemnation. To dialogue, one must know how to lower the defenses, to open the doors of one’s home, and to offer warmth.” – See more at:

    • Joe Schafer

      No, I believe it was you who posted something a few days before that. A quote that contained the word intimacy.

    • Golly I don’t remember. Maybe James Kim posted/quoted it. I have this quote by Henri Nouwen that I had previously saved: “Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. When we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with Christ, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft and true witnesses without being manipulative.”

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      I would also love to hear the next part of the story. I had heard some of the background noise after you submitted that report. All dismissive. So I thought there wouldn’t be a part 3 coming. :)

    • “The moment someone says this, it becomes essentially impossible to have anything like a real human relationship with that person, and certainly not a friendship in Christ.” – See more at:

      When he told me this, I was thankful that he was finally honest with me, so I felt as though we could start a new relationship based on this kind of honesty. When the meaning of his words sank in though, I was so deeply troubled that I felt as though many of my friendships in the ministry were basically a sham and I wanted to get as far away from him and the ministry as I could. However, something tells me that I should hang in there and try to understand his perspective and perhaps have hope for both he and I to grow in our understanding of what friendship is. Although by and large, I know that I need to be plugged into a more relationally healthy community, which I’m currently trying to find.

    • Joe Schafer

      David, that’s such a vivid description of what happened to Sharon and me on many occasions with quite a few people.

      In private, they open up a little and reveal how they really think. At first it seems so refreshing, because honesty and frankness have been so rare. You feel as though for the first time you might have found (something like) a friend.

      But then the *content* of what they said begins to sink in. That tiny window that you were allowed to peek through reveals a world of strange theology, cognitive dissonance, messed up relationships, weird coping mechanisms, and in many cases deep sorrow and apathy and (for lack of a better word) fatalism. Then the magnitude of the problem hits you hard: This community is really messed up.

  27. “he said that ubf needs people to raise questions, though he will suffice with carrying out his mission as usual.” – See more at:

    That means this “missionary” has no idea about the gospel of the Messiah and is far from the kingdom of God. Such a person desperately needs to be shown what love is.

    • As with the Korean Air Lines crash, no “junior” missionary will EVER seriously speak up to question (or challenge) a senior, even if they know with absolute certainty that their senior or leader is wrong, abusive, arrogant, condescending, foolish, making bad horrible decisions, behaving in unloving and unChristlike ways, asking others to have an abortion, threatening to cancel someone’s wedding or marriage, guilt-tripping, etc.

    • Yes, their idea of the kingdom of one that is far off, after life rather something here and now. They hold the idea that working on understanding one another is not that important because in the kingdom we will perfectly understand each other and be all on one accord. This is a very typical view of the kingdom which is used to justify avoiding the hard work of relationship building. I wouldn’t say that this person doesn’t know what love, but that their view of love is severely truncated in some ways.

  28. Just for the sake of our silent readers, I am working on a massive project that has been ongoing for a couple years to pull together documents from former members and the 4 reform/crisis movements. The plan is to publish a book and provide an e-book that can be downloaded. ubf failed to include us in their history, so we will tell our own history. Look for a new website sometime in the future with all the details.

    • Your 2010 report is a great document to add to the e-book, if you are willing to contribute it Joe.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, you may republish at will anything that I ever written that appears on this website. There will be more material coming. And I will be naming names.