It Must Come to an End

Php2.12-13It must come to an end. If it doesn’t end, it won’t be healthy for any of us. That was the advice one of our pastors gave to a member of our cohort group as we concluded our nine-month “Emerging Journey” class. One of my new friends in this class was sad that the fellowship had to end. Nine months have flown by so quickly! As we finished our class last night, none of us wanted it to end. All night our pastor’s words bounced around in my head. He reminded us that it is unhealthy for a spiritual discipline or church program to go on and on without conclusion.

I thought, wow, what a concept! Christ-followers are happiest and most fruitful and blessed when we recognize the seasons of our life, the seasons of our community and the seasons of our family. As our pastor prayed for each one of us individually and we share our concluding thoughts he asked us: What’s next?  (He also asked us to be on the lookout for anyone who might want to take the class in the fall. I said “Do you have room for 8,000 people? :)

What’s next?

But that question, what’s next? sums up what I learned over the past nine months in this class my wife and I have been attending every Tuesday evening. I’ve learned to pay attention to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and to listen to people around me. At the beginning of the class I told everyone that I viewed myself as an empty shell, hollowed out with nothing inside and no idea of what God would have for me to do. As my wife and I shared our life narrative over the next several months, we shocked, stunned and amazed the other members in the class. But we also were shocked, stunned and amazed at hearing their stories and what their lives entailed.

What’s next for me and my wife? I don’t know exactly. But I do know we are now “filled up and being filled” with love, goodness, kindness, patience and an increased self-esteem and self-awareness. Here are some things I’ve learned that I feel compelled to share with our ubfriends community. I love each of you dearly.

Listen to the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Spirit is alive! Yes, you can listen to Him! And yes, the Spirit is God. What’s next for me? I answered that I will continue to listen and discern the promptings of the Spirit and let Him lead my journey in His way.

Gordon T. Smith articulates this well: “Christians of all traditions are appreciating more and more that the voice of Jesus is also present to the Christian community through the inner witness of the Holy Spirit… This inner witness is always grounded in the written witness of the Spirit–holy Scripture–and it is recognized by those who live in mutual submission within the community of faith. With these two anchors in place, Christians can know and live by the remarkable reality that God speaks to us through his Son, Jesus Christ, and that Jesus is present to us by his Spirit. We hear the voice of Jesus as we attend to the inner witness of the Spirit.”

Listen to your family and community. One of the more intriguing abilities I gained in our class was to begin to learn how to listen to people around me. I had to unlearn my “dictate and command” approach and start to listen to what people say and do. It was fascinating to begin to get to know my wife, and start listening to her, even though we’ve been married 19 years. What is my wife saying to me? What is my family saying? What is my community saying? I’ve learned in a whole new way that our journey of following Christ is not just an individual journey, but a communal journey. Together we go!

This collaborative approach to following Christ is expressed well in the following quotes from one of our lessons: “A collaborative approach seeks to accomplish goals through cooperative interaction and efforts of multiple people. We experience the joy of sharing challenges and victories, often facilitating a gradual move from a “me” mentality to a “we” mentality. Collaboration then puts a high priority upon the importance of building trusting relationships. Nothing can be more corrosive to a community, whether it is a family or team or organization, than distrust… In all of this, intentional communication is a key to nurturing healthy and empowering relationships.”

Listen to your self. Perhaps the most edifying part of the nine month class was for me to begin to know my “self”. I felt like finally, after decades of trying to be somebody else, I could begin to be myself.  Augustine’s prayer about knowing God and knowing self was highlighted in one of the classes, and has impacted me deeply.

This quote by Robert Greenleaf speaks volumes: “I have come to believe that every part of my life affects or influences my life with God. The world I live in, with its beauty and tragedy, with its creatiures of all forms and shapes, is constantly offering me messages about who I am and who God is. Everything and everyone teaches me about God, life, and myself…I try now to approach each person, event, creature with two questions: How are you my teacher? What am I supposed to learn?”


Yes, some things must come to an end. But every ending leads to a new season, a new beginning, and a new segment of our journey in the Kingdom. I want to conclude with the questions that ended the class. It was so refreshing to end with questions, not with answers! I would love to hear your thoughts. And I’m grateful you’ve all been on this journey with me together!

What have you learned about who God is and what God is like?

What has become clear to you about yourself?

What have you become aware of about who you are and who God is creatively shaping you to be?

What unique calling or purpose is God prompting you to follow?



  1. Joe Schafer

    Brian, thanks for writing this. I especially appreciated the prayer from St Augustine: “Oh God ever the same, let me know myself, let me know you!”

    And the quote from Greaenleaf: “The world I live in, with its beauty and tragedy, with its creatures of all forms and shapes, is constantly offering me messages about who I am and who God is.”

    For many years, God and certain people were gently trying to open my eyes to see myself more clearly. But I rejected what they were trying to teach me. I preferred to see an imaginary version of myself that I and my church had created. And when some Christians told me, “Don’t think about yourself. Just serve God and others. Thinking about yourself will make you self-centered,” I believed them. But that is simply not true. Without knowing ourselves, we cannot distinguish the voice of God from our own wish dreams.

    Admitting some painful truths about myself was the starting point of my spiritual reawakening. That process is still happening.

    “It must come to an end.” How true. Every season of this life comes to an end, whether we accept it or not. Holding on to the wish dreams of the past is a recipe for ruin. Letting go of the things that are dying is really, really hard but so necessary.

    Yet some things really are eternal. According to Paul, those things are faith, hope, and love. Especially love.

    • Yes Joe, I heard that a lot too, that thinking about yourself leads to self-centeredness. That’s a lie. What is true is thinking about yourself only or too much leads to self-centeredness.

      I’m learning that we must let go of many things and hold onto others. Not letting go leads to holding onto something that is dead. But practicing “letting go” routinely leads to a much healthier life. One problem with ubf people is that we find a good thing and we don’t let it go. We seek conclusion, but don’t find it. So we wait endlessly for our final conclusion in Heaven.

      But the kingdom of Heaven is now. We are not only returning to the Kingdom one day in the future– we are citizens of that Kingdom now, and it is high time we start acting like it.

      A refreshing bible study for me at our church has been James MacDonalds’ “Have the Funeral”. We talk a lot abuot forgiveness and moving on in this forum. But without conclusion, i.e. a funeral, there is no forgiveness to speak of.

      I am realizing what you say Joe, faith hope and love are eternal. Those are what we hold onto, and those won’t die. But all our programs and spiritual disciplines and even our very lives will die. I’m learning that it is far more healthy to let go and ride the tide of the seasons of life that to get stuck in my wishdream of the past, no matter how good it was.

  2. Sharon

    “He reminded us that it is unhealthy for a spiritual discipline or church program to go on and on without conclusion.”
    Thank you, Brian. This is important.

    It reminds me again of Bonhoeffer’s chapter on Community in Life Together. (I just keep going back to this book!)

    Bonhoeffer was very wary of community that fixes on an ideal and seeks to perpetuate it. Throughout this chapter he distinguishes between genuine spiritual community and “psycho-emotional” community.

    “…purely spiritual life in community is not only dangerous, it is not normal. Whenever physical-familial community, the community formed among those engaged in serious work(not spiritual), or everyday life with all its demands on working people is not introduced into the spiritual community, extraordinary vigilance and clear thinking are called for. That is why it is precisely on short retreats that, as experience has shown, self-centeredness(psycho-emotional community) develops most easily. Nothing is easier than to stimulate the euphoria of community in a few days together; and nothing is more fatal to the healthy, sober, everyday life of community of Christians.”

    His words are hard to follow sometimes, but what he is saying is simply that our attachment to “spiritual” community and our efforts to maintain it through meetings, conferences, retreats, etc are actually fatal to real Christian community.

    Our lifelong schedule of mandatory meetings, conferences etc in UBF have become a barrier to real spiritual community. In an effort to make us more spiritual, they often actually make us self-centered and unspiritual. When I allowed family and the demands of everyday life…ie life as a member of my town, school district, etc…all the ordinary stuff of life to catch my attention again, I began to experience the life of Jesus newly, especially his love for others. It’s a paradox.

    @Wesley, in my opinion this is why people get tired and unenthusiastic about UBF. Our love grows cold because we true community cannot develop under the weight of UBF’s “spiritual” environment making.

    • Indeed, I’m learning a similar thing, that the community itself can become a barrier to following Christ. I am so thankful that our pastor team is VERY much aware of those kinds of things.

      We once asked one of our pastors when was the last time you abused your authority? He answered, “About 6 hours ago. And I went and appologized to that person today.” He often prays before sermons, “Lord, help me to get out of the way. Let us hear your words, not mine.”

      You mentinoed an important point to discuss further: “In an effort to make us more spiritual, they often actually make us self-centered and unspiritual.” It is a paradox indeed, and an unhealthy paradox at that. What you describe, and what all spiritual discipines degenerate into, is a “me” focus. We start out doing disciplines and working hard in hopes of pleasing God. And that is a normal, human response. But unless we begin to dwell in the love of our Father, our good works meant to please our God become Cain’s offering to appease our God.

  3. Sharon

    I should be trying to answer your excellent questions, Brian! It’s incredibly hard to express but I will try. I have been asking this questions now for a few years. I can’t say I have clear answers yet.

    But what have I learned about who God is and what God is like? What have I learned about myself?
    Going fishing, attending meetings, etc, wer ekind of like a drug to me. They gave me a shot of well-being and even euphoria. I used to think that I was closest to Jesus when I was inviting people to Bible study, and when my life was organized around this one purpose and mission. Then God showed me that I was falling so far short of really loving people. I found out how much God loves me, not because I am doing these things, but when I am in real fellowship with Him over the deepest struggles in my heart…. struggling with Him honestly, rather than keeping busy. Taking time to listen to neighbors, friends, my community, and to ask hard questions drew me closer to Him. Life has become very exciting.

    What unique calling or purpose is God prompting me to follow?

    I found out how much I love to ask God hard questions and listen for answers. I found out how much I love to see God at work outside the usual channels of Bible study(not saying that we don’t need to stay rooted in the Bible). I see how amazing and creative people are…how they reflect an amazing and creative God. I know God wants me to see what he is doing in my community and join in.

  4. James Kim

    “Nothing can be more corrosive to a community, whether it is a family or team or organization, than distrust…” How important it is to trust each other even with different opinions! This reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:7. “It always protects, always TRUSTS, always hopes, always perseveres.”

  5. Sharon

    Isn’t that what we have been trying to say these past few years? Can’t you see how little trust has been offered by this organizations leaders to its members? The issue is broken trust, and the onus is on leaders to repair it.

  6. Joe Schafer

    James, I agree with what Sharon just wrote. We have invested a great deal of trust in the organization and it’s leaders for a very long time. UBF has had had so many years and so many opportunities to begin to address the problems and abuses. But so little has been done. For the last four years, we’ve worked very hard behind the scenes to call these problems to leaders’ attention. We’ve raised some dissenting opinions and presented them to leaders very carefully. Leaders have rejected these, and we’ve been labeled as the difficult ones. It’s always one step forward and two steps backward. Now you quote 1 Corinthians 13:7 to us. I’m not sure what you mean by it. Based on the repetition of the word “always” in that verse, it seems that you are trying to tell us to always trust ubf leaders, always keep waiting around for them, always keep investing and persevering in their failing enterprise and myopic mission model, always keep tithing, always keep registering for and attending expensive conferences no matter how irrelevant those conferences are to us. Basically, it seems you are urging us to keep investing in a human organization and never ever stop doing so, no matter what ubf does or fails to do, no matter how much they have squandered the human resources that God gave them, even when ubf leaders show by their actions that they do not trust us because we are no longer willing to go along with their business as usual. Is that what you are saying?

  7. Sharon

    “And I find myself wondering today if it is harder to outgrow a church that understands itself to be a resource and a launch pad than it is to leave a church that functions as a spiritual destination. Few churches use this language of themselves, but that doesn’t change the reality that some congregations are precisely that – organizational terminal points for learning, worship and service.” Scot McKnight.

    I want the church to be a launch pad, not a spiritual destination, or terminal point for learning, worship and service.”

  8. James Kim

    Hi, Joe. I don’t see 1 Corinthians 13:7 from the oppositional point of view, “us” vs “them”. Even though we have some different viewpoints, I long for the community of love and trust where only Jesus may be honored among us. “Always trust” requires deep commitment of love. I believe only God can help us to overcome mistrust and suspicion and to make deep commitment of love on both sides. I appreciate many people on this website are speaking truth with love.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ok, James, it is good that you don’t want to divide people into us versus them. Your desire for unity is admirable. But many of us are truly alienated from an organization in which we have invested a great deal. An organization which is rife with us-versus-them mentality. An organization of which you are the president. An organization whose leaders have long used Bible verses like that one to suppress criticism and marginalize anyone who disagrees with them. And you yourself have repeatedly said on this website, “Change will take a long time.”

      Yes, only God can help us to overcome mistrust. But we have to be willing to accept his help in the tangible ways that he offers here and now. It appears to me, even in this last comment, that you are unwilling to directly discuss what is actually happening here.

      Why is it that I feel you are never looking directly at me, never speaking directly to me, but only looking into the distance and speaking past me? Why is it that I feel you never want to answer a direct question, but always retreat into talking about pie-in-the-sky principles apart from the actual context of here and now?

  9. James Kim

    Joe, thank you for your comment. Hasidic wisdom says, “How can we know when dawn is near? it is when you can look into the face of the others and recognize them as your brothers and sisters. Until then, it is night.”

    The reason why I said, “in my opinion it will take a long time” was because we now have team leadership and it is operated through building up consensus. My personal opinion does not mean much. We are no longer operated by one man, top down style. We need to build up consensus among senior staff, elders and members and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

    • Joe Schafer

      James, with all due respect (and I do respect you), I think it will be impossible to build the consensus that you seek because consensus requires sustained, intense dialogue, and no one in ubf leadership has been willing to take the bold steps that are necessary to start that process. No one is committed to open dialogue in any real way that I can see. The window of opportunity is nearly shut. Your time has nearly run out.

    • joshua

      “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

    • It is good that we are moving away from a top down authoritarian model of leadership and more towards consensus. I must say that, in my opinion, the collective wisdom and experience of the senior leadership in UBF is remarkable. While they have their flaws as we all do, they are not evil people. On the contrary, they are almost saintly people who have a genuine faith in Christ, want to please God as of first importance and have overcome many things in their lives. I personally have learned much from them and have the utmost respect for them. Most of them are Korean missionaries / shepherds in their 60s. Even though they are originally from Korea, they are relatable to me as an American and as a Christian. They are some of my best friends and they have earned my trust & respect. However, I cannot deny that there are some deeply entrenched differences in how to approach things and for the most part “intense dialogue” is not something they are used to doing in building consensus. In a North American context at least, this kind of dialogue is necessary.

  10. Sharon

    “collective wisdom and experience that is remarkable”…”almost saintly”?
    aw. This requires a lot more explanation. I’m not saying that there isn’t something to these comments, but you have a case to make if you want me to understand where you are coming from. It is just this collective wisdom and experience that many of us have become disenchanted with, I think with good reason. But I am willing to be convinced.

  11. Joe Schafer

    Individuals in a group may be wise, but that wisdom does not always translate into group decisionmaking.

    Organizational psychologists ask the question, “How is it possible to have an organization whose leaders may individually have IQs of 120, 130 or more, but collectively acts as though it has an IQ of 70?”

    There are many reasons for this. Group dynamics can make it impossible for the organization to benefit from the talents and efforts of its members.

    Patrick Lencioni wrote about this in The Advantage. A healthy organization may not have superior human resources, but it knows how to draw upon the resources that it has. What I’ve seen in UBF — and believe me, I’ve seen a lot — is an organization that has wasted huge amounts of human capital. An organization that will not learn from its mistakes but repeats them again and again. An organization that rewards and blesses and promotes activities that are proven to be unfruitful. An organization that squanders the good will of those whom God sends to it. An organization that conducts no serious evaluation of itself. An organization whose idea of strategic planning is “What passages will we study at the next conference?” An organization that continually and vehemently drives away the people whom it needs most. An organization that takes people who are a major cause of its problems and puts them in charge again and again.

    aw, what you have said may be true for some individuals. But the organization is much more — or in this case, much less — than the sum of its parts.

    • Hi Joe and Sharon,

      Sorry, when I said “collective wisdom and experience” I meant the sum of their individual wisdom and experience. With “intense dialogue” we can better leverage all of that and improve on the overall organizational decisions.

    • Mark Mederich

      “groupthink” & ‘groupact’ can help people do more than they would have individually; the question is whether it is more good or more evil..

    • Joe Schafer

      I find this very ironic.

      For years and years, we were urged to follow the direction of “one man” (a.k.a. “God’s servant,” emphasis on the singular) with absolute obedience.

      And through countless Bible studies and messages, we were taught that “one man” — a heroic figure like Moses, Samuel, John the Baptist — could stand up with courage and conviction to teach the word of God to everyone, and the whole nation would repent and turn to God. We were urged to become that “one man.”

      Now that the organization is truly in crisis, we are suddenly hearing the need for consensus. Consensus means that we now need the agreement of everyone, and any major decision can be killed off by a small group of people or even one person who is afraid or unwilling to change.

      Why the sudden shift?

    • Good to see that I’m not the only one who found this answer pretty ironic.

      I also wonder why, if UBF now allegedly has “team leadership”, they still have positions like “General Director” or “President”. What are they good for, then? Why can developments like “The Well” simply be shut down by the leadership if you now have team leadership and seek consensus?

      @James, can you answer this question? What is the duty of a “UBF President”. If you personal opinion “doesn’t mean much”, what is that office good for? Also you say “We are no longer operated by one man, top down style.” Can you explain when this shift happened? And why? Did you communicate this shift to the membership, and did you communicate the reasons for this shift? Did you make this shift because you reconized that one-man-leadership is unbiblical in principle, or did this shift simply “happen”, just because there is no strong, ruthlessly authoritarian charismatic leadership figure like Samuel Lee available and everybody is struggling to keep his position of power internally? If such a strong leader would raise again, would you allow him to gain power? Many questions, but I hope to get some answers.

    • John Y
      John Y

      Chris, I’m not sure what you heard, but I don’t think it is quite accurate to say that the “The Well was shutdown by the [UBF] leadership.” As far as I know, the next Well conference is planned summer/winter 2014. There is a “conference pause/reset” for this year because of the overwhelming preparations for an upcoming international conference. Perhaps the next UBFriends article could be on “Lessons learned from the Well.” Wonder who has the time to write that…Wish I could more effectively contribute to this discussion thread. Hard to keep up with >100 Google Reader blog posts a day!

  12. Mark Mederich

    if questionable things don’t change, it means they are exactly the way someone wants them to be for some reason (position/$/?); the gig is up. Hallelujah!:)

  13. I echo Joe’s sentiment almost verbatim: “What I’ve seen in UBF — and believe me, I’ve seen a lot — is an organization that has wasted huge amounts of human capital. An organization that will not learn from its mistakes but repeats them again and again. An organization that rewards and blesses and promotes activities that are proven to be unfruitful. An organization that squanders the good will of those whom God sends to it. An organization that conducts no serious evaluation of itself. An organization whose idea of strategic planning is “What passages will we study at the next conference?” An organization that continually and vehemently drives away the people whom it needs most. An organization that takes people who are a major cause of its problems and puts them in charge again and again.”

    If I were to pick one among the many disturbing attributes Joe lists rather succinctly, I would pick this: “An organization that conducts no serious evaluation of itself.” Socrates said, “Know thyself.” Both Augustine and Calvin stressed the utmost importance of having correct self-assessment in order to know God truly and vice versa. Until one has a true accurate objective assessment of self (of organization/church), there is no way to proceed to change and improve in a meaningful way.

    So far any attempt to evaluate UBF has been met with resistance. These days a common one is, “It’s negative.” Then there is “UBF bashing.” Then it is, “that’s discouraging.” Then there is silence and non-response. Then there’s “what’s wrong with him/her?” It is just an endless array of ad hominems because UBF does not want to assess herself with HOT.

  14. James Kim

    @Chris, at least in Chicago, we have had the team/ collective leadership for the last 10 years. I believe this is a biblical and healthy way of church ministry although it is not a perfect one. I want to give the answer to your question based on the book, “Biblical Eldership” by Alex Strauch. As you can see we are in no way perfect, but at least we adopted a healthy and accountable way of team leadership. I happened to live in Chicago for many years and I happened to be an old timer. That is the only reason why I was called to be one of the elders. I hope many young American members may join in the elders group in near future.

    * Pastoral Leadership
    According to the New Testament concept of eldership, elders lead the church, teach and preach the Word, protect the church from false teachers, exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine, visit the sick and pray and judge doctrinal issues. (Titus 1:9)

    (Management skills) The eldership must clarify direction and beliefs for the flock. It must set goals, make decisions, give direction, correct failures and motivate people. It must evaluate, plan and govern. Elders must be problem solvers, managers of people, planners and thinkers.
    Like the apostles, the church elders must remember that although they are involved in ministering to practical care needs, their priorities must always be “prayer and the ministry of the word.” (Act 6:4)

    * Shared Leadership
    (A council of Equals) By definition, the elder structure of government is a collective form of leadership on which each elders shares equally the position, authority, and responsibility of the office. In contemporary terms it is referred to as multiple church leadership, shared leadership or team leadership.

    Collective leadership can provide a church leader with critically needed recognition of and balance for his faults and deficiencies. We all have our blind spots, eccentricities and deficiencies. — We can see these fatal flaws so clearly in others, but not in ourselves.

    Shared pastoral leadership also helps to lighten a very heavy work load. —Many overworked pastors are alone and isolated.

    Human leaders are sinners and they only accomplish God’s will imperfectly. Multiple leaders, therefore, will serve as a “check and balance” on each other and serve as a safeguard against the very human tendency to play God over other people.

    The orientation of shared leadership requires a great deal of patience, persevering prayer, wisdom, self-control, humility, trust, love and genuine respect for the gifts and perspective of others in the body of Christ.

    Elders need to work closely together as a united team, building trust and growing together. The elders meeting, therefore, are an extremely important time for ministering to one another as well as for doing business. One of the secrets to a successful eldership is regular, effective meetings that include a major portion of time devoted to laboring together in prayer. (Act 6:4)

    • @James, thanks for commenting, though you did not answer all questions.

      It’s a bit ironic that you quote Alexander Strauch to me, because it was one of the first books I read after leaving UBF and recommended in all discussions with UBF members from then on.

      I hope you are aware that “Biblical Eldership” as explained by Strauch is fundamentally different from what has been established by the founder and practiced in UBF so far. The shared/collective type of leadership is not only opposed to the one-man-leadership by the chapter directors locally and by the General director globally as exercised by Samuel Lee, it is also opposed to the idea of personal shepherding according to the shepherding/discipling movement that has been employed in UBF so far. As Strauch clearly explains, an “elder” in the Bible is actually the same as a “shepherd”; the words are used synonymously. That means there should not be fixed one-to-one shepherding relationships, but the group of elders works as shepherds for all the members of the church. Maybe one elder could “mentor” a new believer for some time, but he should not be considered “his” shepherd, and he should not rule and control and regulate the believer like UBF shepherds do.

      So, I hope you see and agree this is a completely new and different paradigm from what UBF has been teaching and practicing so far. You said you think this paradigm is healthy and Biblical. That’s really good to hear from you. However, I had asked a bit more: If this paradigm is the healthy and Biblical model of leadership and shepherding, would you also agree that what UBF has been taught and practiced so far was unhealthy and unbiblical? I think you should be so consequent to do so, the more so as the bad fruit of this leadership style – the abuse and hurt and divisions of which we have many examples – clearly proves that the authoritarian leadership style is not only unbiblical in theory, but produces devastating results in practice.

      So, I want to repeat and reformulate my questions: Do you agree that the authoritarian, hierarchical one-man leadership style that has been established and exemplified by Samuel Lee, and the idea of personal shepherding/discipling and disciple training order by personal shepherds are both unbiblical and unhealthy? I really hope you will not evade this question again, but give a clear answer. It is important for me and many others that you give a clear and straight answer, even if you claim your opinion as UBF president doesn’t matter.

      My other questions are: If you are convinced that the previous leadership and shepherding style was unbiblical, which consequences should that have? Shouldn’ t there be an official apology and repentance for promoting unbiblical teachings and practices before? If there is such a big and important paradigm shift, shouldn’t this be explained and communicated in UBF conferences and workshops and “continuous missionary education” to members and missionaries? Shouldn’t it be mentioned on the website? Also (you didn’t answer this question) shouldn’t certain offices such as “general director”, “president” and “chapter directors” be abolished? Why do they exist? How can you have true collective leadership if you still have somebody who is the “director” or “president”? How can you show that you want a paradigm shift if you still use the same offices and titles?

      You said that in UBF “oldtimers” are made elders or presidents. Usually, this is a good idea, as elders should be chosen based on qualification, and the older members are usually those who are most qualified. Hence the name “elder.” However, in UBF, the oldtimers are those who learned and followed and tolerated unhealthy teachings and practices over decades and caused the division with the reformers. Also, the oldtimers show a remarkable inability and/or unwillingness to communicate openly, to repent and admit mistakes, which is a necessary qualification for an elder. Most of the oldtimers are hardliners following the old style that has been proven to be problematic and wrong. So unfortunately UBF most of the oldtimers are the least qualified to be elders (I see you as an exception since you communicate which I appreciate).

  15. James Kim

    Chris, thank you for your comment and deep thoughts and understanding of the problems in the ministry. So far our experience of collective leadership has been very good in Chicago although it was not perfect. Many abuses we have encountered in the local chapters was partly because there was no check and balance system. Therefore we officially recommend the local chapters adopt this model of eldership and work together with local chapter directors. (Some small chapters may have difficulty of forming eldership.)

    Chris, I am not in a position to answer to your specific question. I would rather refer this to the future historians. Please respect my opinion. But I want to answer indirectly about your question. I wrote part 2 of “The freedom of Self-Forgetfulness” that I am waiting it to be on this website soon. This is part of the essay.

    ‘Bible tells us that God loves sinners but hates sin. The two
    entity “sinner” and “sin” should be detached. Many times we glue two entity “sinner” and “sin” together. In the worldly court they put them together. When we glue them together, naturally our reaction will be, “I hate him (her) because of his (her) terrible unforgivable sins” and react violently emotionally. Rather we should say I love him (her), but I hate the sin of pride in him (her). Then we can manage our hurt feeling better even though in reality it is not easy. I love S Lee, but I hate the sin of pride in him. Then am I better than him? I don’t think so. We have to bring Jesus in our equation for healing and restoration. If we glue the two entity together nobody, not even one can stand before the righteous Jesus. It is only by grace we can stand before him.’

  16. Mark Mederich

    Chris, I think you are right about shepherd relationship should be mentor which is shared: all believer are sheep belonging to God; goal is help each other grow in Christ & become one body believer. At first Paul was student of Gamiliel in religion but later learner of Christ in Spirit.

  17. @James, again thanks for commenting. But I still do not understand why you say “I am not in a position” to answer. My question was about your personal opinion. Does your position hinder you to speak what you really think? It is not the task of future historians to assess fundamental sin and flaws in the church. It is the task of the current leaders and members of the church.

    Let me give an example from the Bible. The church of Pergamum had some members or leaders who followed the school of the Nicolaitans. We don’t know exactly who the Nicolaitans were and what they taught and practiced. I have found this opinion: “The word nikos is the Greek word that means to conquer or to subdue. The word laos is the Greek word for the people. It is also where we get the word laity. When these two words are compounded into one, they form the name Nicolas, which literally means one who conquers and subdues the people. It seems to suggest that the Nicolaitans were somehow conquering and subduing the people.” If it was like that, then the problems of the Nicolaitans may have been similar to those we experienced in UBF.

    But anyway, maybe the problem of the Nicolaitans was something different, like propagating a hedonistic lifestyle or practicing unchristian rituals. The point is that Christ told the church to take a clear stance against the Nicolaitans. Do you think He would have accepted the answer “we don’t care about them, may future historians assess this issue”? No, He told them they should repent because they did not clearly distance themselves from the Nicolaitans. On the other hand, Christ praised the church of Ephesus for taking such a clear stance: “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” As you see, it is important that a church and particularly the church officials (like the “president”) take a clear position towards wrong practices that have crept in and were propagated by certain people in the church.

    I completely agree with what you wrote in the last part of your comment about detaching the entities “sinner” and “sin”. The example above shows this also very clearly: The church member did not hate the Nicolaitans, but they hated their practices, which is something different. In the same way, I agree we should not hate Samuel Lee or think we are somehow “better”. Maybe, if we had been raised up under the same circumstances, and were tempted by people flattering and honoring us too much and giving us too much power and control and money, we would have become corrupted too (power and money spoils people). So we should not condemn him as a person. But I think it is important to take a clear stance towards his practices. I really hate and condemn many of these practices, and so should you. It is important that UBF officials clearly express that they hate, or at least disapprove and reject certain teachings and practices that have been brought into the church by Samuel Lee. This is all I want to see from you and other “oldtimers”. And this is what is necessary for UBF from a spiritual and Biblical point of view, as the examples from the book of revelation show.

  18. @Chris, I am surely preaching to the choir when I say that UBF has a tremendous reluctance/anathenema to critique her founder(s) and senior leader(s). So perhaps what you are asking from James is something that he may be unable to do. For if he does give his true opinion, he would be critiquing his friends and fellow missionaries in UBF that he has personally known for 40-45 years.

    But yes, Chris, I do agree with you that if James is asked a direct question, he should answer directly. But you surely do understand that that is not part of his cultural upbringing and experience either in UBF or in Korea.

  19. @Ben, I know. But again, sound and legitimate critique is the opposite of hate. Lev 19:18 says “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is maybe the most famous verse in the Bible. But the verse before that says “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” If you love your brother, you will rebuke or criticize him openly. If you hate him, you will tell him what he wants to hear. I don’t care that this is not the style of UBF or Korean culture. But it is the style of the Bible. “Let’s go back to the Bible”, please. After all the decades of Bible study and training other people to obey the BIble, I just want to see UBF leaders to act one time according to the Bible themselves. Is that asking for too much? I don’t think so.

    • Mark Mederich

      It’s not asking too much/maybe it’s asking too little; loyalty is the issue: are we loyal to God/guiding friends right way or loyal to friends/approving their way? Do some think they are above the Bible?
      I don’t agree with culture excuse: Jesus didn’t say Pharisees actions OK because they studied/trained that way; He said Woe (stop acting that way & some stopped). The truth is people console who they want to: if they want to console themselves they do, but better if they console people truly in need or hurting.
      It’s easy make hellatious backroom deals/talk secretly about getting someone do what we want; it’s harder to openly/sincerely work together.

  20. Yeah, Chris, I think UBF Bible teachers/missionaries believe Lev 19:17 in their clear rebuke of their sheep. Are they able to accept that when they themselves are rebuked?

    • “Are they able to accept that when they themselves are rebuked?”

      Exactly. And also, are they able to understand that it is their duty and an act of love to rebuke other leaders which they have known for 40-45 years? If they are not able to follow the Bible in this point, I fear this proves that their life as leaders in a ministry that teaches the Bible and trains disciples was a hypocrisy. And are they able to understand that this is an urgent matter, not something that should be dragged for even more years and decades: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”