Why Are UBF Missionaries Tired?

burned-outAt every major UBF conference one prayer topic is invariably to encourage tired, burdened, burnt out and discouraged missionaries. “This conference is for you–tired missionary. Come to the conference to be refreshed and renewed!” Fair enough. But perhaps a more fundamental question is why are UBF missionaries tired?

It is said, “Our UBF missionaries worked so hard for mission, and they suffered and sacrificed so much to serve God and feed selfish sheep.” PTL! But Mother Barry has said countless times with great beaming joy, “I have sacrificed nothing for Jesus.” I believe her. So are our UBF missionaries tired and burnt out because they suffered and sacrificed more than Mother Barry?

Anthony Bradley wrote a blog called The ‘new legalism’: How the push to be ‘radical’ and ‘missional’ discourages ordinary people in ordinary places from doing ordinary things to the glory of God. He observed that youth and young adults are stressed and burnt out from the regular shaming and feelings of inadequacy if they are not doing something “missional.” They are fed the message that if they don’t do something for mission they are wasting their life. The sad result is that many feel ashamed if they “settle” into ordinary jobs, get married, start families, live in small towns, and live a simple quiet industrious life (1 Thess 4:11). Their fear is being an ordinary Christian with nothing special to boast about. Why is this happening?

Bradley postulates why. Many churches are committed to being “missional”–a church where people see themselves as missionaries in local communities. As a result, living out one’s faith became narrowly celebratory only when done in a special radical “missional” way. Getting married, having children, getting a job, saving and investing, being a good citizen, loving one’s neighbor no longer qualify as virtuous. Bradley cites a couple who were so “missional” they decided to not procreate for the sake of taking care of orphans. He concludes that missional, radical Christianity is the “new legalism.” Thus, being a Christian in a shame-driven “missional,” “radical” church does not sound like rest for the weary.

Might a similar scenario in our UBF context be what is causing our UBF missionaries to be tired and burnt out? UBF’s stress and emphasis has always been MISSION. It is Bible Korea and World Mission. It is to be a shepherd nation, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. It is to be a 1:1 Bible teacher for world campus mission. It is to pledge to be a missionary to the ends of the earth. It is to always emphasize UBF’s “core values” as front and center. Your marriage MUST be for mission. After marriage, you better not be “family centered.” If you have kids, you “sacrifice them on the altar of UBF mission.” Even for our upcoming ISBC, UBF leaders want to make sure that the world mission command is pounded and expounded loudly and clearly–as though the theme of LOVE is not enough.

Doesn’t this teach and communicate that ONLY such a UBF Christian who conforms to UBF’s mission and core values is a “good and worthy” Christian?

Is UBF legalistic about mission? About her “core values”?

Might this be the reason why our UBF missionaries are tired, burdened and burnt out year after year, UBF conference after UBF conference?


  1. 2 Comments from Facebook:

    “In addition to the money for conferences, time off work for conferences, paying a sitter to watch the kids ect. The time in preparing for conferences, then there is no rest at the conferences, going from one bible study to the next. Their is no time to reflect, no time to fellowship, no time to meet others, or have some fun, and relax. The church I now go is a host site for the global leadership summit. They do a woman’s conference once a year, the one night the woman in the church get a little pampered and can recharge. Have time to draw close to God. This is why so many families have left UBF.”

    “I didn’t even have kids while in UBF and I always felt tired… I can’t imagine how much harder it is on young families when the expectations are the same as when you were a single college student.”

  2. I think this article is spot on. For us this kind of legalism is nothing ‘new’, though.

  3. joshua

    The points made in this article resonate with me. Another observation that I’ve made is that many missionaries and shepherds do not have an “off” button. There is not really much time when they are not doing their mission. Leisure is taboo, sabbaticals are for the “lazy westerners”, furloughs are for the weak, and vacations are sin. The result is a very unhealthy and unbalanced life. Even days of rest are extremely exhausting; I remember that Sunday was the busiest and most stressful day in the whole week because of all the responsibilities associated with the SWS. Is it any wonder why people are burned out when they do “full time mission, full time family, and full time school?”

    By and large, UBFers behave as if they deeply regret the fact that they are human beings: “Why oh why am I a human being? Why oh why can’t I be an angel? Angels don’t have families to think about. They don’t have messy personal relationships that get in the way. Angels don’t have to rest. Angels don’t have to worry about being good neighbors, good citizens, good parents, good spouses. Why can’t I just be an angel.” And so, rather than trying to be the human person that God made them to be, they work and work and work and work and work and work and pretend that they’re an angel who only serves God’s mission. When they get burned out, there’s a conference to recharge their fantasy. If anything tries to interrupt their fantasy, they can just ignore it and keep on working.

  4. I think some were told to be missionaries by UBF. Many thought that being a missionary is being a better Christian in ubf.

    ” We need to create an environment where people can ‘do’ without feeling threatened, restrained, or made to ‘jump through’ unnecessary ‘hoops’ in order to fulfill the dream God has put in their heart.” – fastest growing church leader –

  5. @Joshua. UBF has a theology of work, but sadly no theology of rest, which is regarded as sin, laziness or selfishness.

    @vmi. Great quote, thanks. UBF “threatens” people to jump through the unnecessary hoops of UBF methodology/core values. This not only makes people tired, but produces exclusivity and elitism, which has ZERO life giving power, and “sucks the life out of people.” (phrase borrowed from Joshua).

  6. Another comment from facebook (jf):

    “I don’t look at UBF as a scapegoat for my personal relationship with God. I have lost many friendships. I was constantly told just to sit there and do 1to1 bible study, then maybe one day I’d be worthy to serve or volunteer ect. I was told I wasn’t smart enough, good enough, worthy enough. Some try to rewrite my testimony. When I started going to another church, I was told I was going to hell, lost my religion, and had turned my back on God. I was treated this way at more than one UBF. I was told my new church was a cult. I left UBF because I couldn’t take the spiritual abuse any longer. We all have are experiences, each is different. It doesn’t mean the abuse didn’t take place. I was also expected to drive quite a distance. I have gone to many of the conferences. There is no time for true fellowship, they are exhausting. Bible studies should be measured by quality not quantity. The small UBF house churches don’t receive support from bigger chapters. I know I have seen it happen. I also know other churches who are close by several UBF chapters are growing by leaps and bounds by Gods grace. I’m speaking of hundreds. Who do I see in attendance is ex UBF members.”

  7. @Ben: “UBF has a theology of work, but sadly no theology of rest,”

    I agree and that means the gospel Jesus proclaimed is missing almost entirely. What hindered me for years from understanding the gospel more deeply is this twisting of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30.

    Jesus said this >>> 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    But ubf theology teaches this >>> “Come to ubf, all you who are weary and burdened, and we will give you meaningful work to do. Take the yoke of obedience and learn from your shepherd, for we are zealous and full of ambition in our hearts, and you will find a noble and pure dream for your souls. For only a yoke that is hard and heavy will train you to be a high-quality bible teacher.”

    Jesus’ yoke is grace. That is why it is easy and light.

    Rest is at the heart of the gospel message proclaimed from Genesis to Revelation.

  8. Vitaly

    In Russian the word “rest” has the root meaning “time to breathe freely”. Is there time to breethe freely in ubf?

    • отдыхать- Wow, I never realized that. That’s a concept Americans need to learn…Sometimes we need to take a vacation from a vacation..

  9. Vitaly

    Joshua, I agree that sunday is the busiest day in ubf. And honestly I felt tired the most after ubf conferences.

    I asked my fellow former ubfers about ubf messages. They couldn’t remember when they heard a ubf message that inspired them and gave rest to their souls(I couldn’t either).

  10. @Brian. Nice paraphrase of Mt 11:28-30. UBF never denies Christ and the gospel. UBF simply replaces Christ with mission and makes mission central rather than Christ. Christ gives rest. Mission makes people burdened and tired.

    @Vitaly. A reason UBF messages may be forgettable is because the point of EVERY message is the command to mission, rather than to simply hear and receive the gospel.

    Even this ISBC on the love of Jesus, UBF wants to make the point mission!

  11. @Ben: “Mission makes people burdened and tired.”

    Maybe, but I think it is more to it. ubf theology turns EVERY gift or promise or word from God into a COMMAND. Even in the “So loved” material online, you can see their language is filled with directives and command, dictating the ubf fantasy and faulty ubf theology:

    [Note that John 17 the heart of Jesus’ discourse is skipped over…how can we know the love Jesus taught by skipping such important teaching, which gives meaning to all the prior chapters and even the following chapters about the cross. Remove Jesus’ prayer in John 17 and you will distort the meaning of Jesus’ cross and totally mangle Jesus’ sending out directions.]

    “So Loved. So Love.

    “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 13:34b; 20:21b

    The world we live in is full of hatred, conflict and strife. What we all need is love, forgiveness and peace. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). John chapters 13-17 are Jesus’ last discourse with his disciples. He shared with them the foremost desire of his heart: It was love. Jesus loved his disciples and commanded them to love one another and to create a love community in the world (Jn 13:34). So he sent them into the world with his message of love (Jn 20:21). Since then, Jesus has been transforming the world with God’s love.

    Jesus invites you to have a love relationship with God, to be a part of his love community, and to serve the world with God’s love. Please join the 2013 International Bible Conference with brothers and sisters from over 90 nations in the worldwide community of love. Let’s receive God’s love newly and renew Jesus’ vision to transform the world. Let’s learn how to serve the world together with God’s love and vision.”

    The dictation-style command-speak is in my top 10 most infuriating things ubf directors do. Some cannot even ask “When can we meet?” They simply command you: “Tell me when you can meet.”

    • p.s. If I’m ever “loved” by ubf any more, I think I would just die. I remember singing “O Happy Day” with such misery, wishing someone would just shoot me!

    • And if I ever hear “All hail the power” again I think I will just spaz out and start making the Nazi salute…

  12. “Why are ubf missionaries tired?”

    That’s easy: Because most of them don’t submit to Jesus as their Lord. Actually, in reading John 17:1-4 again, I think I see why ubf is so reluctant to dwell on it:

    1 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.

    In Jesus’ prayer:
    – JESUS has ALL the authority (not ubf directors)
    – JESUS is THE source of eternal life (not ubf meetings)
    – JESUS did ALL the work already (what work is left to do?)
    – JESUS gets the glory and GOD gets the credit (not ubf directors)

    • namuehling

      Brian, I really like “Jesus did ALL the work already (what work is left to do?)” This was the most important lesson for me. Anything that I can do is really not that important! That is really freeing. I think it is then that work can be done with joy. Because we know that what we do doesn’t matter, but God lets us participate anyway. That shows the wonderful extent of his grace. Then work is similar to when a child does something with his Dad. It’s a joy. I feel like I need to discover work in this way and I have not really done that yet.

    • +1
      Thanks, Nick. I just love the fact that Jesus did ALL the work, and I am just tagging along for the free ride!

  13. @Brian. “I remember singing “O Happy Day” with such misery, wishing someone would just shoot me!” This is hilarious. I wonder if UBF has any sense of humor…

  14. “Why are UBF missionaries tired?” Very relevant question and excellent comments! In ubf the title “missionaries” applies to only certain type of individuals, although the question at hand is applicable to all Christians, especially those that engage in some kind of active life-long Christian service.

    In my view nobody gets tired or burnout because of too much of work/ mission or “sacrifices”. The reasons for the burnout are primarily theological. It comes from a wrong view of God, e.g. “God is an angry God and will punish me if I do not join early morning prayer/ do the daily bread/ go for fishing/ raise disciples/ do not obey the director, etc, etc.” God’s love does not increase or diminish even a little according to our performance.

    Burnout also comes from wrong priorities. UBF places such a high priority on mission while so less priority on worship. It is like “love your neighbor” is at the top of the list while “love the Lord your God” is much down the list.

    Though there is this false pride of being a Bible-centered and Bible-teaching ministry, burnouts are also because of studying the same few books/passages year after year with the same age old interpretations and applications handed down by the founders, as a result missing so much of the big picture of God and His plans and promises.

    But mostly I think burnout is because of neglecting fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and neglecting His gifts and His services, that includes our stubborn refusal get right with Him in the areas He keeps highlighting.

  15. “I remember that Sunday was the busiest and most stressful day”

    I can totally affirm that. In the last years, I was expected to do choires and attend meetings in the center from morning to evening on Sundays. Often you would not even see the sun if it was shining outside. You stayed all the day inside with all the other members in rooms without fresh air, and then when I said in the evening that I could not attend yet another meeting because I have headache (which I usually had on Sunday evenings), I was told I did not love my brothers because otherwise I would have more interest in listening to their testimonies.

    But I think the real reason why UBFers are not allowed to really rest is because without constant re-affirmation and indoctrination by leaders and shepherds and self-indoctrination, people would soon realize the problems. Therefore it is not allowed to step outside of the UBF hamster wheel even for a short while and look at it from some distance. You need to always be inside spinning until your head is so dizzy that you can’t even think of leaving the wheel.

  16. “In Russian the word “rest” has the root meaning ‘time to breathe freely’. Is there time to breethe freely in ubf?”

    Sounds so ironical in view of what I wrote above of not being able to get fresh air on Sundays.

  17. Another good article I read about training missionaries can be found here:

    “Sacred Cows that need to be turned into hamburger:
    1. Worship services ad nauseum
    2. Preaching without teaching/training
    3. Orthodoxy without orthopraxy
    4. Proliferation of church property dedicated to no one but those already Christians
    5. Education as sufficient preparation for ministry without character development and competence in disciple-making
    6. Understanding the “gospel” as primarily an issue of salvation.”

  18. Excellent comments, guys!

    Thanks, MJ, for the article that expresses cultural Christianity in the U.S. excellently. But UBF thinks that she is challenging this nominal Christianity by championing mission.

    UBF truly does not realize that the solution to cultural and nominal Christianity is not mission, but proclaiming Christ and the gospel (1 Cor 1:17, 23; 2:2; Ac 20:24).

    By emphasizing mission ad nauseum, UBF has turned mission into a sick idol, that only makes people tired, even after a conference. Sorry to keep quoting Joshua but UBF “sucks the life out of people” by squeezing people with mission and “UBF core values.”

  19. Excellent reasons, AbNial, for why UBF people are tired:

    * theological (wrong view of God/gospel);
    * wrong priorities (mission without worship);
    * false pride (elitism, exclusivism);
    * studying the SAME PASSAGES over and over for 50 years!;
    * missionaries direct others as though they are the Holy Spirit.

  20. Thank God Vitaly, Chris and MJ that you can now отдыхать!!! and breathe freely. In the U.S. you might say that those who get off the UBF hamster wheel can now “smell the roses.”

    When people ask how I am after starting West Loop, I actually say, “Now I feel as though I can finally отдыхать (breathe)!” Then they either look shocked or upset. I hope I am using the word отдыхать correctly.

  21. James Kim

    The quote below is from the article MJ mentioned. As a medical profession, I thought it was an interesting perspective. Maybe we need balance between grace and discipline. They are mutually exclusive.

    “For many Christians the word “training” connotes education. I would never want to have be operated on by a surgeon who had never been to medical school, but neither would I like to be the first person on which that a surgeon, fresh out of medical school, operated. The medical profession is a good example from which to draw. A person desiring to be a surgeon needs to jump through a fair number of educational hoops in order complete his or her undergraduate degree. Then, the grueling first year of medical school happens where the intention seems to be to either torture the student into withdrawing or hardening the survivor to the reality of his or her profession. After three years of medical school, the student must intern for a year during which he or she is discipled by a more experienced doctor. This is followed by three or more years serving as a resident. Medicine is one of the few professions where mentoring or discipleship is a common and indispensable practice. The pertinent question is why it is seen as normal and necessary to train and mentor doctors so meticulously and yet something as important and as complicated as communicating the gospel and living spiritual truth in a cross-cultural setting should be treated so cavalierly?”

  22. James Kim

    Mistake: They are not mutually exclusive.

  23. Hi James, Being a physician myself, I am a firm believer in grace and discipline. The problem with UBF is that UBF’s discipline has functionally replaced and displaced grace. When so-called “UBF training” and “spiritual order” and “UBF core values” is imposed and perceived rather than grace, this is what makes UBF missionaries tired conference after conference.

  24. Sharon

    “The pertinent question is why it is seen as normal and necessary to train and mentor doctors so meticulously and yet something as important and as complicated as communicating the gospel and living spiritual truth in a cross-cultural setting should be treated so cavalierly?”
    I think the majority of the discussion on this website is about a persistent cavalier treatment of discipleship in this ministry. The training that UBF people value highly has been found wanting and very few serious attempts to deal with its shortcomings have been made by the leadership. Would you agree?

  25. Sharon

    cavalier – marked by or given to offhand and often disdainful dismissal of important matters

  26. Sharon

    Joe on his message last sunday:

    “Two days ago, I spoke at SWS on John 20:19-23. This is the Apostle John’s quickie version of the Great Commission + Pentecost. He came to the disciples bearing peace (shalom — which signifies wholeness and restoration of the individual and relationships within the commnunity, society and with the whole created world — the reign of the Christ). Then he imparted the Holy Spirit. And the only “command” that he gave them was “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” I believe that this is a mandate to carry the gospel to the world. Not merely by making the declaration that God forgives our sins. But by living out the reality of forgiveness within the community. Jesus says a similar thing in Matthew 18:18: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Forgiveness is a cancellation of all claims and debts against others. It is a loosening of the cords of guilt, indebtedness and expectations that we hold against one another and use to bind one another. Unless and until we untie those cords, there can be no love between persons; there will only be bartering, trading, and tit-for-tat arguments. The gospel is all about the untying cords of debt. When Jesus died, he said “It is finished” — Greek tetelestai, meaning “paid in full.” Jesus cancelled our debt. He doesn’t expect us to pay him back. And he doesn’t want us to pay him back. He just wants us to receive his love and know that we are deeply loved. Attempts to pay Jesus back for what he did for us through service or mission are antithetical to the gospel. And when Christians serve God expecting a payback, or when they invest in people expecting a payback, that service is antithetical to the gospel. And it prevents the growth of love.”

    …..prevents the growth of love. No love, no nothing.

    • The gospel is all about the untying cords of debt… Attempts to pay Jesus back for what he did for us through service or mission are antithetical to the gospel. And when Christians serve God expecting a payback, or when they invest in people expecting a payback, that service is antithetical to the gospel. And it prevents the growth of love.

      Thanks Sharon for sharing Joe’s message. In one of his comment recently, Joshua shared how ubf’s purpose for conferences is to plant a sense of indebtedness in the participants so that they would work harder for the ministry. How opposing it is to the spirit of the gospel?
      The same applies when leaders tell you that since you have been born again and were blessed with job, marriages etc in ubf, therefore it must be God’s permanent will for that person to remain in ubf and be buried some day in ubf. The GD told me that since God’s calling and mission are irrevocable, my decision to leave ubf and start something else could not have been God’s will.
      I think if ubf learns to “release” people by blessings those whom God might be calling for some other work or ministry, she will be blessed much more and will be in less conflicts with God and His plans.

    • Vitaly

      “The GD told me that since God’s calling and mission are irrevocable, my decision to leave ubf and start something else could not have been God’s will”.

      I think that such words are very typical for cult leaders (only).

    • Here is a different leader’s attitude to his movement.

      “John had this ability to see what was coming in the days ahead. So he would often prepare or warn us what would be coming next. Concerning the Vineyard, John used to always say that an outpouring has about a twenty-year life span. Then hinges will get too much in cement and we’ll start building monuments to ourselves. He said, “I don’t expect us to be any different. But the Lord is faithful, and he’ll pour out his Spirit again and again. It may not be here, but let’s all be watching and listening, and as soon as that happens, let’s go where He is!”
      John had a great respect and regard for the whole Church and believed that the Lord’s hands are on the whole thing. He knew it was possible for a movement to be sustained for hundreds of years. Look at the Moravians. John didn’t have any huge concern that we had to protect anything. He really didn’t think it was that important. He figured our grandchildren would find where the Lord was pouring himself out if the presence of Jesus wasn’t here anymore. And that’s what we would want.”

    • vmi, I hear what you are saying. Thanks! I love and respect John Wimber and his works. I think, we both have lot similar thinking.

      I would prefer to be at the right place at the right time where the wind is blowing. Five hundred saw the Risen Jesus, but only 120 showed up at the prayer room on the day of Pentecost.

  27. I have been mulling over this topic for a while after reading Ben’s article with all of the discussion. When I first came to a UBF chapter it had been after a great cleansing or exodus (perspective) and I know that the chapter members struggled for several years to refresh.

    I would hazzard to say that there is a definate misunderstanding of the so-called protestant work ethic in UBF (ie. “the devil makes use of idle hands…”).

    It seems in a year the typical chapter gets excited about Easter (sometimes a conference), summer conference and the Christmas worship service. Planned throughout a school year are Bible academies. If you are a leader you may have a couple workshops to attend or senior meetings or even other conferences targeted at certain minorities in the ministry. But all of this is not enough to help us rest, instead it burdens us to do many tasks in way of message, dance, drama, presentation, name tags, registration, booking, payment, cars (rentals)……the list goes on and on for any needed supplies. I cannot forget (mandatory) prayer meetings in preparation of these events to ensure the numbers of attendees.

    The average daily activity consists of your job, taking care of the children, fishing and doing 1:1’s, daily bread and morning prayer etc….

    Personally, I know the capacity of some people and in most cases there should be no trouble to do most of the activities we do in UBF. BUT…….But, I fear there is a lack of love in doing these things from the majority of people. In fact, things often seem to be done out of obligation or tradition as has been quoted before. There must be something wrong with your faith if you cannot comply with the demands. What might you be doing in your personal time? Let that go and engage in UBF activities because they maintain a righteousness that personal interests cannot. We all need our personal time and interests to be ourselves. God’s word helps us to recharge, but so does the sports activity or music event or having fellowship with others or whatever pastime we might have.

    We work to support our family, but serving God should come naturally as our thanksgiving to God. Volunteering our time to serve God’s ministry should be more than a pleasure, but it turns out to be a chore in UBF. Even if we are physically able we are often emotionally unwilling because we are given tasks and cannot freely serve the way God intended for us. The UBF regiment is too prescribed and not adaptable enough to people who get excited in a different way for serving God.

    It is a funny……no ridiculous example, but I have even heard shepherds get told from a director that their cold or flu is the result of their (private) sin problem. No, I would say it is because that person is a husband/wife and parent and has many responsibilities that wear him/her down. Some people never get a chance to rest – I have heard some examples of people holding down two-three jobs to support their family, because they could not yet find something in their field.

    If we are tired it is because we are not machines, but the UBF hamster wheel expects us to be so. I am sorry to say, but we cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening in the ministry. I will use an outside ministry example, in Korea, there are school children less than 10 years of age who suffer from skin problems and/or tick disorders. This is because of the stress that they face with education etc…. I refuse to go further with cultural comments, but it must be said among all of us not just native shepherds. The live to work approach in UBF is not working. It is just making people irratated, frustrated and tired.

    I believe that UBF chapters can make a change of things but it may go against a lot of old generation members who are hardliners on tradition. So what….the appeal should be towards a younger dynamic generation anyway. We must keep on praying for change otherwise leave and contribute to the body of Christ in another way.

    • Mark Mederich

      to keep perspective: i don’t care about hardline traditions, i know that young people are dying (like the 3rd this school year at Northwestern); Nero fiddled while Rome burned; religious powers can pamper themselves into oblivion, i have no time for them

  28. It’s hard to keep track of comments from several articles. Both Maria Peace and aw state that they love UBF because it is God’s chosen instrument to lead them to Christ. It is also my sentiment of love and gratitude.

    By now critiquing shortcomings of UBF, I am in no way being unthankful, even if some keep on insisting that if you are thankful you should not complain. Personally I don’t buy that. Because I love my wife and kids, I will critique them in areas that I believe are unhealthy. I expect them to do the same for me, and thank God that they do!

  29. joshua

    @Ben, you’re right that God used UBF in a very precious and important way in my life as well. It goes without saying. We could write as many blogs and comments about the positive things we experienced in the ministry. But there’s already enough of those voices being heard. Your role (and this blog too, I guess) is to be the dissenting opinion, the somber second voice, the one who is checking to make sure the emperor is actually wearing any clothes.

    Prov 28:23 “Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue.”

  30. joshua

    The emperor’s new clothes reference reminded me of Rev 3:17-18: You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

  31. wesleyyjun

    In marriage relationship wife and husband usually drift away from each other not because they do too much together but because they don’t do anything together any more. They have lost common interests. One is not interested in what the other does. During honeymoon, they used to say with excitement, “What fun things can we do together today?” In a bad marriage they will say to each other, “Why do you make me do these boring things?” Once when we were young Christians whatever Jesus did looked interesting and exciting. We just wanted to do the same thing as Jesus did. We were like a young boy who insists on helping his dad when he does something in the garage. Whatever his dad does looks like real fun. Now why does what Jesus does look like duty to us? It’s not fun any more. It’s something we have to push ourselves to do or our “shepherd” has to push us to do.
    I don’t think grace and work are mutually exclusive. Chris Kelly once performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #5 in Chicago UBF. He had to practice it week after week. It was real drudgery. He had to come up with motto “No practice no concert” to push himself to practice. But once he came close to mastering the music, he really began to enjoy it. When he actually performed it his experience was ecstatic.
    As gospel workers, we are not tired because we work too much but because we don’t understand the work. Our work is Jesus’ work. It is greater than Beethoven’s piano concerto. It is sublime. It is divine. But we are only amateurish performers. We are only banging the keyboard. We are not really enjoying it. That’s why we are tired doing the work. As a gospel work, I must grow to be a pro like Horowitz was as a pianist. Once I am a pro, I will be ecstatic as I perform it and do what Jesus did. In the morning I will come to Jesus and ask him, “Lord, what fun things can we do together today?”

    • joshua

      Hi wesley, thanks for your input. I would have really enjoyed listened to Chris play the piano concerto.

      What I basically understand you’re saying is this: if we keep on doing the things that make us tired, keep on pushing ourselves and pushing ourselves and practicing them until we master them, then we won’t be tired in the end. I was told similar advice just as my family was contemplating following God’s leading out of UBF. I was told, “You’re having a hard time because he haven’t really tasted the deep personal relationship with Jesus yet. Stay and keep on studying the Bible really deeply and write really deep testimonies. Then you’ll meet Jesus personally and be ok.” I utterly rejected this advice. Doesn’t this imply that I can work my way into fellowship with Jesus?

    • Wesley, what do you suggest us to do in light of the problems we were sharing here? “Go back to gospel work”?

      The problem is that UBF leaders don’t even know what the task of a “gospel worker” is. They obviously believe that training people, humiliating people, disciplining people, arranging marriages, making people follow mandatory rules that are not in the Bible, controlling people, manipulating people, following a “spiritual heritage” created by an abusive leader, are all tasks of a “gospel worker”, maybe they even believe they are “fun things”. Likewise, many confused members believe that total subordination, unquestioning obedience, sitting on chairs for many hours a week listening to the same boring stuff for the sake of self-re-indoctrination are all tasks of a gospel worker. So this is the first question we must ask, you and ourselves: “What is the task of a gospel worker”? “What is the gospel?” We are trying to do this on this blog. UBF hasn’t given us the right answers, even answers that worked antipodal to the gospel after some time.

      The story about the piano practice is completely irrelevant in this context. I know that beautiful concert. But I also know the not so beautiful context under which Chris K was ordered to practice around the clock at that time.

    • @Wesley, here is a word that I hope we all can learn from: “hagiography“.

      “As gospel workers, we are not tired because we work too much but because we don’t understand the work.”

      > I don’t think understanding the work will help. I spent two decades trying to understand and be oriented. But like a boxer who only practiced and never got into a real fight, my life was a facade. I would contend that the reason we get tired has nothing to do with understanding or not working hard enough, but it is because we find new attempts at doing the work God already did ourselves. God says “Be still”. I only got rid of my tiredness when I began resting in the grace of God. Grace-driven works are not burdensome or tiring.

    • So Wesley, just to point out the obvious. When you mention that a ubf member “performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #5 in Chicago UBF. He had to practice it week after week.” And then go on to praise the event without regard to the real pain and abuse involved, you are spinning the abuse into a glory-story (hagiography). THAT is what infuriates us former members, and might explain some of Chris’ strong reaction.

      Maybe we could draw a truce: ubfers stop spinning people’s stories into glory-stories. And former members stop ______. What would ubfers want from former members in this truce?

    • “As a gospel work, I must grow to be a pro like Horowitz was as a pianist. Once I am a pro, I will be ecstatic as I perform it and do what Jesus did.”

      Wesley, if you ever become a professional Christian and do what Jesus did, I will bow down and worship you, because then you would be God. John Piper has much to say in this regard. Brothers, we are not professionals. Piper nails this one!

  32. wesleyyjun

    Joshua, I think coming to know the Lord deeply and personally is different from piano practice. Piano practice can be somewhat technical, though I am not completely sure since I am not a musician/pianist. Coming to know the Lord and his work may need physical practice as Jesus sent out the Twelve for practice mission trip. Other times you may not actually do anything. Sometime ago John Piper got excuse from his preaching work before he came back after about a year. Now he is completely retired from preaching and, I think, focuses on teaching in a seminary. I agree with those who posted here and cautioned the danger of too much emphasis on mission. Sometimes we really need to pause and think and pray to be guided to know what the Lord wants us to do. Even in the music pauses and quiet notes can be as important as dramatic parts of the piece.

    • joshua

      @Wesley, one thing that I’ve learned from being married, is that there is no way to practice love except by loving. Actually, piano is a bad illustration for relationship. Relationships are not perfected by practicing and practicing so that when the performance begins, I can perform perfectly. In relationships, the practice is the performance.

      My goal is not to practice and be disciplined and trained so that I become a pro in serving Jesus. I don’t want to become a Christian virtuoso. In fact, I don’t even want to bang on the keyboard anymore. I don’t need to stumble my way through serving God, getting frustrated over every missed note. Finally I can stop my own cacophonous flailing and freely listen to the majestic symphony of God through Christ, enjoying its intricacy, its beauty, its fullness, and its awesome power. From each brother and sister, I can hear harmonies of the melody of God’s grace that blend together into such sweetness that my soul is uplifted. UBFers are tired because they think they are the concertmaster, the maestro, the symphony members, and the composer. But actually, we’re just the audience.

    • “I don’t even want to bang on the keyboard anymore.”

      > If we are justing banging on the keyboard like an amateur, then I say we have not really submitted to Jesus as our Lord nor are we listening to the Spirit. It’s kinda like Jesus is not our co-pilot–he is our pilot.

      “Finally I can stop my own cacophonous flailing and freely listen to the majestic symphony of God through Christ, enjoying its intricacy, its beauty, its fullness, and its awesome power.”

      > Brilliant.

      “UBFers are tired because they think they are the concertmaster, the maestro, the symphony members, and the composer. But actually, we’re just the audience.”

      > Best answer yet to Ben’s question here!

  33. @ Wesley, I want to agree with you, I really do. I am still in UBF working with my wife as best we can and actually, we have it easier where we are then how things could be right now if our circumstances didn’t change our mission field. But some things need to be re-stated.

    First, I would not use the husband-wife analogy. Why? Because UBF ministry relationships often become like an abuser and abusee. That is an abused wife (the victimized member) who may be afraid, in denial, or determined that maybe they can change the situation. (etc…and so on). The abusive husband is the body of UBF (including one’s personal shepherd, chapter director etc…) Many platitudes are made that things will be different and the victim may go for years believing this until someone outside either steps in to help the abused member or the member eventually leaves.

    There was occasion that I felt like this very much and when I was still a student it often bothered me that maybe I would bump into X shepherd on campus after leaving. Of course I have stayed the course and I am struggling everyday. But that does not mean UBF is free of the accusations being made. Many people have left or are borderline. There comes a time when a person has to say enough is enough. As Joshua said above, “I utterly rejected this advice.” He became wise to the platitudes if you have read enough of his contributions to this website.

    It is sad, but yes, many contributers to this blog have left UBF. Because of this the gloves are off and there is more sting to every word that someone says. In some ways I envy their honesty because I must be careful with my turn of phrase and expression. I still want to make UBF a home for me and my family. But I already know what that means in reality. I am not wearing rose coloured glasses.

    What needs to be re-stated? In short, leaders like Joe, Sharon, Ben, Brian, Joshua, Mark and so on have already attempted the diplomatic approach within UBF dialogue. If the nay sayers have not already read various postings, there was never an action taken without careful thought. The feelings of leaders were taken into account as was the time and place to communicate problems. The problem has been stated already too many times on this website. UBF leaders and hardliners dismiss any concerns and no longer want to listen. As a result if change occurs it is rather a compromise from the actual desired course of action. It is also not in a proper timely manner.

    After giving service to UBF ministry for more than 20 years I am sure it was a stressful decision to make for some of these leaders. The same leaders who stood up to battle previous reform attempts as can be seen by discussion.

    All this to say, if a UBF member still does not understand the premise and objective of this blog then I advise that person to wake up and open his/her eyes, ears and hearts. The former and present members who take the time to express the feelings or the ideas that come to them are crying out for the benefit of UBF. I believe no one here wants to see UBF disappear, but they do want to see readical changes and a call for accountability. They also want the leadership to stop and listen so that real resolution may occur. As far as I am concerned their are no bitter, vindictive or unrepentant members here. The only members I can recognize when I read are the wounded and ignored.

    If it isn’t enough to provide endless comments on this blog, then I ask any willing former member to provide one thing. Please, if you are willing share an account from your present church and congregation. We will all take notice of the flavour of your thankfulness and walk with God. None of us are anti-UBFers, but we will fight against the abuse and the recurring blind eye that is turned when someone tries to speak up.

    • @gc, I don’t know who you are, but I want to! You requested: “Please, if you are willing share an account from your present church and congregation.” I just did that in my new article. But THAT is what I long to do! I so wish to discuss the gospel, the kingdom of God, Christ’s mission and all the amazing aspects of following Christ that my wife and family are learning at our church. Could that happen some day? I’m done with people giving me commands and telling me how wounded I am or how I should react better to all this. Enough! Let’s have an open panel Q&A session where anyone can attend and ask questions together freely!

      @wesley, your comment above has troubled me greatly but I could not express why. Please read gc’s comment above. gc expresses my heart almost perfectly.

  34. wesleyyjun

    Chris, Brian, gc, and Joshua, thank you for your responses. I don’t know how to respond all your responses. But I want to clarify a few things. First, when I began my posting with, “In marriage relationship…,” the last thing in my mind was UBF. I was alluding it to a believer’s relationship with Christ. Second, I apologize that I mentioned Chris Kelly. It was inappropriate that a person is talked about without his knowledge of what’s going on especially in negative light. I thought it was positive thing. But there are people who do not think so. I should have known what’s coming. Third, what I mean by “understand work” is to see God’s glory manifested in his work. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Ps 19:1). I am struck with awe when I see God’s works of creation.
    For example when I see a newborn baby, I feel wonder. As a child of God, it makes me think, “Can I do something similar?” Of course I cannot create a life. But I can think about people finding new lives through God’s words. John 21 is my favorite chapter of the Bible. When I see the Risen Jesus giving bread and fish to his weary disciples, I am moved. It makes me think, “How can I do something similar?” That’s what I mean by “understand work.” Yet, the word “pro” is not a well selected word. “One who sees God’s glory in His works” may be better. But that is a little too long.
    Anyhow, thank you gentlemen for all your thoughtful responses.

    • Wesley, you say “the last thing in my mind was UBF”. That’s hard to comprehend, since the artcile and discussion was explicitly about the kind of legalism that can be found in UBF and explicitly asked questions about UBF. I would like to see UBF members and leaders like you give relevant responses to our questions. How can you answer questions about UBF without having UBF in your mind? This is what distresses people. If you give completely irrelevant answers, bundled with an example that reinterpreted a sad story of abuse by Samuel Lee as something positive, it will make people only angry. Evasion of issues is a solution that is not accepted by us any longer, quite to the contrary, it makes us furious.

  35. Hi Wesley,

    I know what you were you getting at – that’s why I said I wanted to agree with you. Never in that part did you write or say UBF. But we all know what your “voice” represents, so I wanted to speak first as a present member of UBF since I had already seen Chris’ unedited response before it had been taken down.

    I closed my reply with a request that all former members if they could submit an article or comment about what is going on in their present church congregation. Brian had done so, probably while I was typing my comment here. (Wesley the rest is not really aimed at you.)

    My reason should not need stating but I will make it clear for those that can’t see my angle. There are many observations and comments about UBF on this blog that are seen as complaint or slandor or rebellion yada yada yada…

    Never expect former members to exclusively praise UBF. Everyone knows that their relationshio with Christ was hot in the beginning of participating in UBF. The love for Christ never went cold. The honeymoon period never stopped. But what did happen was a spiritual awakening. Keep in mind that a young student develops over a period of time and after certain points accumulates more and more responsibilities in UBF. These are not bad things and many of us wanted to freely serve because of our love for Jesus. When Chris commented on May 7 about chores in the church I am sure that in the beginning it was a real pleasure to help be an environment maker. Afterall, in a job we have to clean up and organize, at home too, why not in a church that we pleasure in.

    The love relationship gets impeded by all the work in UBF. Joshua expressed before about having the life sucked out of him. Vitaly gave us a translation meaning room to breathe. There are many examples I can take from comments but the common theme remains the same and believe me the horse is dead…..so we can stop beating it.

    The honeymoon with UBF has gone cold and stale. To find the identity of individuals that make up this blog we cannot even look at present testimony after years of experience and maturing. Rather, we need to look at the first testimony that we ever wrote in UBF. What year of university were we? Did we have friends? How fulfilling had our life been back then? We need to know the then instead of the now, because the years have coloured our memory.

    For many, UBF either gives us something to do after we have entered university or it stops us from seeing our friends and participating in other activities because they are seen as sinful. (Maybe yes, maybe no, I am not placing judgment on that.) The point is that UBF activities occupy our time so that we have the appearance of being holy when in reality we are being religious. The works approach has made our hearts cold to UBF.

    We have all heard enough testimonies to know that some people become fatalistic because their situation limits their time. I simply cannot list various Bible verses that apply here because there are too many. When a Bible verse is given to someone in kindness or rebuke it is often taken to the extreme measure of interpretation causing the person to be over burdoned. The Bible verse by itself is not at all the problem, in fact it is beneficial for all people. However, in the application of UBF standards it becomes a weapon. Did we not hear that God desires mercy and not sacrifice?

    I believe that the love relationship with Jesus is still burning hot for everyone who is commenting here. Even silent readers can have that same love. Those I am truly sorry for are the ones who have left Christ because they were disenchanted and disillusioned by their expreriences in UBF. But this is why it is so important for former members to follow the example of Brian and prepare an article expressing their present walk with God. Sharing a present experience from a new church will reveal the burning love for Christ that those people have and feel.

    I still feel the marriage analogy was misplaced, because no one is complaining about being a Christian. They are stating facts about their experience in a religious institution. Their love for Jesus is still fresh and they are learning new things everyday about their relationship with God. It was the ministry relationship that grew cold because of endless work and human tactics to uplift the congregation. These same efforts to boost morale actually caused more stress upon people because activities require preparation, time, money, energy and planning….and oh yes, the format and program must comply with regulation. This means that people are not so much refreshed as they are pushed further still, but must smile because it is all in the name of keeping appearances.

  36. wesleyyjun

    Gc, thank you for your response. You said you are still in ubf. If you really think the horse(ubf) is dead, I would recommend you pray about it and leave ubf and go to another church. If any member of a church thinks that it is not nourishing him any more, after prayer he should leave it and go to another church. Maybe you should have done it long time ago. I am sorry you had to stay all this time. But later is better than never, don’t you think? Personally I think the horse is still breathing. That’s why I am staying. I am in a small chapter, appointed as a director. But I see myself as an elder and help run the church as one of the elders. I am not “smart” enough to run a church with all my ideas or spirituality. I have to listen to other elders or even little children for strength, ideas, and directions. The other day one little girl, one missionary’s daughter, taught me a Christian song she learned from her school. She is a good singer; I am not. I can learn from her. Actually she scared me when she told me, “Now you sing it.” I take long time to learn a new song, even a simple song. This little girl contributes much to the church. When she comes to church on Sunday, she really brightens up the atmosphere. It is not only my own church members I learn from.
    I have to constantly learn from other churches, other pastors. There is no law that we should not learn from other church. In fact I attend monthly local pastors’s meeting. I learn a lot from them. I also invite them to come and speak at our church. This is really tragic story we hear past few days–three ladies kidnapped and confined in a small house. I cannot fathom tortures they had gone through. I am not a crime expert. I don’t understand why they could not run away from the place for ten years. This may be too extreme example. But I hope you understand my point. A church should never be a place where church members feel trapped and cannot get out. We must have freedom to freely leave it. Or if we choose to stay, we have freedom to learn from other churches and work with them. UBf is not the whole church. We are just a member of the whole body. I would have not survived spiritually if I had not learned from and listened to other pastors online, including other ubf pastors. They nourish me. I also come to this blog to be able to see things from different angles. I don’t agree all their opinions. That doesn’t mean I cannot listen to them.
    I said if you really think the horse is dead leave it. But if God guides you differently to see it breathing even faintly and you decide to stay I would commend you for that too. If that’s the case I hope you will learn from other churches and pastors and help this church because it’s not going to go away for sometime and you can help it. It will be joy to find another horse with vigor and ride on it. But it will be another kind of joy to see a weak horse revive and breathe again with vigor. I am glad I had chance to communicate with you.

    • Wesley, you just summarized the main things I think are wrong with ubf. I could not have expressed the problems of the ubf fantasy mindset any better. Your comments explain why good leaders are leaving around the world.

  37. Dear WJN,

    The dead horse is the repeated examples etc….from previous discussions. Thank you for choosing to misunderstand me. I recognize what others are saying but have prayed over the years and maintain my own personal struggle in UBF. But your reply to me is proof to everyone else – thank you. I only express in a nutshell what I have been reading and can somewhat relate to.

  38. Sharon

    beating a dead horse, or beating a dead dog is an idiom that means a particular request or line of conversation is already foreclosed or otherwise resolved, and any attempt to continue it is futile; or that to continue in any endeavour (physical, mental, etc.) is a waste of time as the outcome is already decided.

    Dear Wesley,
    I just want to help you to understand since I know that English idioms can be tricky. GC was not saying that UBF is dead. He was saying that ongoing discussion about certain UBF practices and their result is like a beating a dead horse. In other words, it is not necessary to rehash the outcomes of these practices as they are well documented here.

  39. Joe Schafer

    Wesley, it’s interesting that you mentioned the man in Cleveland who kidnapped three women and held them in his house for ten years.

    The police found a letter written by the man in which he confessed what he had done. But in that letter, he also partly blamed the victims because they agreed to get into his car. He wrote:

    ‘They are here against their will because they made a mistake of getting in a car with a total stranger.’

    This reminds me of how we have taken countless examples of abuse and explained them away, saying that the people who were mistreated willingly submitted to it at the time, and in some cases they still won’t call it abuse, so it wasn’t abuse after all.

    In many situations — especially where there is an imbalance of power, where the abuser is an authority figure — and where the victims are still in embedded in a community that has become very skilled at rationalizing it away — it is very common for victims to agree to it and even deny that it was abusive. People who were damaged by the abuse will often lack the self awareness to know how badly they have been affected by it. Some will even wear their abuse as a badge of honor. In ubf, I see some who back with pride on what they endured as proof that they are hard-core committed Christians, not like those wimpy cultural Christians or Sunday Christians.

    Until the community wakes up and becomes willing to see abuse for what it is, there will be no end to rationalizing and spiritualizing and pretending as though it never happened.

    • joshua

      @Joe: “People who were damaged by the abuse will often lack the self awareness to know how badly they have been affected by it.”

      That’s me and my wife. We became the “crying couple” at our new church. We come in and sometimes just weep. The relief and the sadness and the joy and the regret and the happy memories and the painful memories and all these disarrayed emotions well up and I can only feel, “I’m here, I’m alive, I’m free.” Perhaps that’s how those girls in Cleveland feel.

    • Joe Schafer

      Human beings have many God-given defense mechanisms that help us to survive and cope with pain. When physical pain becomes unbearable, we faint. When emotional pain becomes unbearable, our minds simply block out the bad experiences. We compartmentalize them away. We bury the emotions and go on as though it never happened. This denial can go on for years and years, especially in a community that rewards the denial and treats it as wisdom and spiritual maturity.

      When we have lost the ability to feel this pain, we are like people with advanced stages of leprosy.

  40. To empathize with our traditional UBF brothers/sisters they too feel an unbearable amount of emotional pain as well–whenever they hear anyone share about how UBF “abused” them.

    To them it is like a stab in the heart, since in their mind, they only “gave everything” for the sake of sheep and mission.

    For them to read HOT comments on UBFriends is like being dragged alive through burning hot coals with full conscious awareness!

    Yet, my CHALLENGE is if you avoid the pain, then you will never experience the marvelous grace in your most unbearable pain.

  41. Thanks, Wesley, for your comment: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/05/06/why-are-ubf-missionaries-tired/#comment-7017 I wish more older UBF leaders like yourself may seriously embrace such a liberating and refreshing attitude.

    This also expresses my sentiment: “Personally I think the horse is still breathing. That’s why I am staying. I am in a small chapter, appointed as a director. But I see myself as an elder and help run the church as one of the elders. I have to listen to other elders or even little children for strength, ideas, and directions.”

    There is nothing more exhilarating to me than when a young person is not afraid of me and able to freely speak to me, disagree with me, question my words and decision, and object to what I say and do! Those are my favorite kind of people. They, I believe, are the future leaders. Good leaders are rarely unthinking unquestioning “Yes men.”

    Sorry to say, but Yes men have been the predominant kind of leaders UBF have been attracting and raising. Why? Because anyone who dares to object or question their UBF chapter director becomes marginalized or shamed or worse. Eventually, they either become blindly unquestioning submitting members, or they leave for good.

    • Mark Mederich

      Amen. Always saying Yes comes from fear/Old Testament model; Holy Spirit encourages sincere answer with confidence/New Testament model.

  42. John Martin jr.

    One of the biggest if not the biggest revelation in my Christian walk has been my identity who I am. I sometimes hear that we should be identified by mission, which to me can’t be farther from the truth. My opinion is that I should be identified as God sees me. Which to me according to the Bible is “Christ in me” or a child of God because I am in Christ. If we are being led by a loving Father why would be get tired our our burnt out. However if we are trying to do anything else that is not in line with our relationship with our Father and under his care of course we will get tired and burnt out.

  43. wesleyyjun

    Sharon, gc, thank you for correcting me. Seeing the phrase “dead horse” I jumped to the notion that was back of my mind, my conception of the general tone of this blog about ubf. “The horse is dead; dispose it. Its leaders are hopelessly stubborn and wouldn’t budge to hear the good ideas that are discussed here.” I know I am wrong. You can have wrong conception in your subconsciousness. You love this body of believers. That’s why you critique it, with yourself being still in it or out of it, with hope that it will somehow get better like a mother prays for her wayward child with long suffering patience. I may somewhat sound cynical. But I am not. At least that’s what I hope you guys are doing.

    • Sharon

      Dear Wesley,

      Yes, I hope so, too. Of course, we know our hearts are deceitful. But my impression is that everyone speaking up here is speaking with the voice of truth and spirit of Christ’s love as best we can, aware of our own shortcomings as much as this is possible. That would include you and James Kim. I really do appreciate your participation in the discussion.

    • Dear Wesley,

      Thank you for reconsidering and listening for what I meant. I know maybe I have crossed the line for expression as someone who is still in UBF. But I am angry when I hear that so many people, friends have left. They left not because they lost faith or went cold with Christ but because they had ideas and contributions to make but were stopped. They saw some imperfections and wanted to correct them but couldn’t because of where they were or a leader stopped them. Whatever, your meaning in the marriage analogy – it bothered me because I have heard that applied to the congregation and serving in the UBF way. So I stood up and defended others on this blog because I see their love for Christ – but they now serve somewhere else. It is good to have this open discussion.

    • gc, you did not corss the line for expression. Quite to the contrary, when you wrote “They saw some imperfections” I feel you’re even belittling things instead of calling a spade a spade. Spiritual abuse is a sin, not an imperfection. And there is not some of it, but a lot of it. Even if it is not so extreme nowadays, the sins of the past still count if they are not dealt with by clear repentance. Also, much of it is sytemic and systematic, it’s deeply rooted in wrong teachings and beliefs. Authoritarianism is running counter to the gospel, it’s not just an imperfection. Messing with peoples’ lives and marriages is not just an imperfection. Ordering abortions, divorces etc. in order to “fix” such messing with people is not just an imperfection. Improper handling of offering money is not just an imperfection. Expelling half of the co-workers in 1976 and 2001 because they wanted change is not just an imperfection. If you say “they saw some imperfection” you’re sending the message that the things we are talking about are not serious and grave and small in number. But they are grave, and they are numerous. Let’s stay honest and clear and speak straight language. Sin must be called sin. It’s not just imperfection from which UBF is suffering. It’s deeply rooted and untreated sin. And old testament prophet would be more likely to speak of it this way: “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness – only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.”

    • Hi Chris,

      I sincerely apologize to you – sorry. Please keep in mind that I am still on the inside and try to be delicate in my “word-smithing.” You would have to have an outside discussion with me to get to my true feelings and very clear examples. After the above dialogue turned I made additional comments – consequently, you felt undermined. I do not retract my initial response to the discussion – sin is sin I do will not go against that.

    • Hi gc, I was not personally insulted, so no need to apologize. But I think it’s important that we create a new culture of talking with each other and also to the leadership – I think Ben called it “HOT” (honest, open, transparent) – and we should really abandon the old UBF culture of “word-smithing” everything and talking between the lines. If the old UBFers are offended by our new way of talking openly, let them be offended. Don’t give in and adapt to their way of word-smithing because playing games with words is the source of much of the evil in UBF and the reason why all of this drags on like chewing gum. They need to learn the new way of talking HOT, and the sooner they learn it, the better. That’s my opinion.

  44. @John Martin Jr. +1. In the Bible, mission is secondary, it is the result; the gospel is primary. UBF presses Mission as primary, while assuming the gospel. The gospel renews and makes mission vibrant. But mission burdens and makes people tired. This I believe is gospel math!

    • Mark Mederich

      Amen. We need “Daniel” 10 day vegetable/water test (Word/Spirit) to show spiritual healthy.

  45. In this 4:36 min video, Michael Horton, articulates how “being missional” has subverted the gospel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=XKQdVMXYX50

    When UBF emphasizes mission, it relegates the gospel to secondary status. The gospel proclaimed produces vibrant life giving mission, but the mission emphasized (which is only a result of the gospel) sucks life out of UBF people and makes them childish, immature, irritable, reactive, overly sensitive and TIRED.

    Mission NEVER gives life. Only the gospel does that (with mission thrown in).

  46. I basically agree with a lot of what he’s saying, Ben. It’s funny though I understood Guder differently. Horton seems to think that he is placing the emphasis on human activity…what people do and off of the gospel itself. That’s not how I understood him at all. He seemed to be making the opposite point; that the church has been functionally modalistic, and as a consequence has placed too much emphasis on human agency. The missional movement is a correction of this in that it puts the agency of mission back in God’s hands, especially through a deeper understanding the Trinity. Mission then becomes an act of participation with God in what he is doing inside and outside the church, rather than an imitation of God through our human obedience. I really don’t think that his point was to downplay the role of the the proclamation of the gospel in the church itself.
    I lent the book out so I can’t back up what I am saying as well as I would like to. I think this deserves a lot of discussion around the firepit, don’t you?

  47. Joe Schafer

    Ben, here is my two cents’ worth.

    In the missional church literature, and in neo-reformed (e.g. Gospel Coalition) circles, the term “gospel” is being used in different ways.

    In reformed circles, “gospel” refers primarily to doctrines of salvation, such as justification by faith. Spreading the gospel is to propagate these truths, mainly done through proclamation. Mission is to actively participate in that.

    In missional circles, “gospel” is more like kerygma. It is God’s salvific activity through Jesus Christ breaking into the present world through the active and creative work of the Holy Spirit. Mission is to actively participate in that.

  48. Can’t wait for the discussion around the firepit! But for the moment, the boss has a lot on her plate. So I will need to wait to confirm that.

    Yeah, Sharon, I was somewhat surprised he mentioned Guder the way he did. I can’t articulate what the book said because it was not an easy read. But I can’t imagine that Armstrong would recommend the book if Guder’s perspective was what Horton said–by emphasizing mission at the expense of the gospel.

    Every UBF conference ends with Mission, including the upcoming one with either Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15; Jn 21:15-17; 1 Cor 15:58; etc. It means that UBF ends every conference with a command, an imperative, a forced squeezing out for something/mission that only the Gospel can do.

    My prophecy is that until this stops, we will continue to have tired UBF missionaries whom we need to pray for year after year.

  49. Thanks, Joe. Your clarification is what I have heard. Reformed (over)emphasis is on doctrine and proclamation, that while important and which I personally love, can easily be used in a wooden static exclusive way to judge who is in and who is out.

    Today, I personally do prefer the participatory model of jumping on God’s bandwagon and allow the Holy Spirit to blow where it pleases.

    This articulation from a friend resonates with me: Rather than only bringing people to church to hear the Word, be the church with the Word wherever you go. I am not sure if I am paraphrasing you based on what you wrote.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, that paraphrase is a good way of putting it. There is much more to say. Come to da fire pit.

  50. I shared John Wimber’s quote on fb today: “Only Bible and we dry up. Only Spirit and we blow up. Bible and Spirit we grow up…”

  51. James Kim

    This is what late Missiologist David Bosch said in his book, “Transforming mission” that “Mission is not merely evangelism (more than evangelism). Mission is the church sent into the world, to love, to serve, to preach, to teach, to heal, to liberate”. This means our mission in broad sense is to love our neighbor as ourselves wherever we are, at home, in the church and in our working place.

    UBF mission is more close to evangelism. Bosch defined Mission in more broad sense to love our neighbor as ourselves. In that sense all Christians are missionaries wherever we are. We are missionaries not just inside of the church, but also outside of the church, especially in our working place where we spend a bulk of our time, sometimes one third of our lifetime.

    • James, you should know better. UBF is not close to evangelism. Evangelism just propagates information about the gospel with the goal to convert as many people as possible. The task of evangelism ends when people have been converted. But UBF 1) focuses on a very limited target group only, university students, and 2) does not stop when people have been converted, but sees this only as the beginning of a long process of “training” people until they become committed members of the organization and clones of the original discipler. Even inside UBF, it is called “raising disciples” or “disciple training”, with disciple having the narrow meaning of “UBF shepherd”. In Germany it is called “Jünger-Erziehung” where “Erziehung” is the same word that is used for parenting and disciplining children. UBF mission is really not close to evangelism, it is something completely different.

  52. Thanks, James. I really liked Bosch’s book. I think it would be very helpful to UBF to understand mission in this broad sense. At our staff conference, one of the stated goals was to integrate members from all walks of life. But this was considered secondary to renewing our calling to campus mission. I think it should be the other way around. If we value all members, and all expressions of mission then many problems would evaporate. But to keep campus mission at the center makes this impossible.

    • David Bychkov

      Thanks, Sharon.
      I think theoretically UBF could keep the campus mission in center but in undestanding the campus mission itself in the broad sense. So the goal of the mission would be changed from raising people who will do the exact things we used to, which means, they also will evangelize and raise ubf disciples who will evangelize and raise ubf disciples etc. which is really pretty meaningless. But the goal would be to serve students in order to find their own calling in the body of Christ and human society, who will know how to love God and neibhors like themselves. So I think such mission would be pretty good.
      But practically, first UBFers themselve need to learn what is the broad sense of the mission. Which might be difficult. And second I don’t believe the large part of UBFers are called to do the campus mission and really can fit it. One of my close UBF friends few times expressed his regret that he is introvert, while for serving campus mission he need to be more open and friendly, that he is interested in some things while he need to be interested in things which youth is interested in. As for me it was so clear that he is regreting about something what he does not really called to or need to do.

  53. Sorry my comment above should have been here…

  54. Also, the mission you describe for college students would benefit greatly from vibrant, happy and mature Christians who model this broad mission in a myriad of ways. Why can’t we include everyone for everyone’s benefit?

    • David Bychkov

      Yeah. I think that is what parachurch organization should exist for. For example I am a programmer. My pastor in his sermons can encourage me to love God, to glorify him in all things with all heart etc. But as a programmer in Ukraine I meet pretty specific challenges, where my pastor can not really help. But other Christians programmers can undestand me better and help me overcome them. Together we can do something in our specific area. The same with students. They have specific challenges and specific opportunities to glorify God in their context.

  55. I’m reposting here where it makes more sense….Good points, David. I think that we need to decide then if we are a church or a mission organization. It doesn’t seem healthy to me to make one kind of mission front and center because it means that we exclude/marginalize people like the friend you mentioned. I don’t think the church should do that to anyone. Rather, if that is our intent we should not call ourselves a church but a mission organization and members should freely worship with a church of their choice.

    • David Bychkov

      “I think that we need to decide then if we are a church or a mission organization”
      I tried to resolve this question at least for myself. As a pioneer I needed to have an undestanding what we should look like and what we are going to build. I even tried to write an article on this topic. But it appeared as a pretty difficult task, and once I was clearly communicated that UBF does not need my help, and I myself began my studies, I left this question unresolved.

    • Joe Schafer

      David, to me it seems outrageous that you would be told “ubf doesn’t need your help.” You are exactly the kind of person that ubf needed. When and how did this happen?

      This is another sad example of how the organization drives away the people whom it needs the most.

    • David Bychkov

      Hey, I just realized that I answered to Joe in another article :). Hey, Admin, can be done something about it?

    • Joe Schafer

      David’s extensive reply to my question was posted here:


  56. I joined UBF probably in 1998 and left the church in 2000. That was almost 13 years ago. Time really flies. For whatever reason, probably because two of my current church small group members are Korean, it reminded me that I once joined a Korean Church – UBF. I decided to search on the Internet and see how UBF is today. While it is refreshing to see UBF members self examine the issues, all of the issues mentioned in this site are not new. It bought back all of the unpleasant memory about UBF: leaders being idolized, marriage by faith, feeling guilt constantly…

    While open discussions are healthy, that’s not really for a church. If UBF still practices what it did 13 years ago, that’s something really wrong. A church like that will not sustain.

    • Mark Mederich

      there has been progress, but unfortunately some issues go back 26yrs that I know & evidently more; there must be a “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” for people to act that way that long (& I guess God is long-suffering/has hope)