John Armstrong on Knowing When to Stop

stopsignAs I read Brian’s last article, “It Must Come to an End,” I thought about the importance of knowing when to stop.

How many organizational leaders have gotten themselves and their followers into severe trouble because they failed to see their own limitations? Because they held on to their positions of authority for so long that they lost the ability to self-reflect? Because they failed to allow the next generation to take over in a timely manner? Because they imagined that they were the rightful owners of the organization and that it couldn’t survive without them?

Then, purely by chance, I happened to watch a video of a lecture by my friend John Armstrong. It was the fifth in a series of seven lectures on Spiritual Leadership that John presented to UBF leaders in the Chicago area.

 The video is over 50 minutes long. In the last 20 minutes, beginning roughly at 31:00, John weaves together several examples of leaders who did or did not know when to stop. He talks about:

  • David Wraight, the International President of Youth for Christ, who realized that the organization was in deep trouble and approached its leaders with the question of whether they ought to disband. After conducting a top-to-bottom critical review of the entire organization, they concluded that their only hope for survival was for the elderly leaders to step back and give decisionmaking over to very young leaders, men and women in their 20’s.  They did so, and now Youth for Christ is thriving.
  • Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of the Willow Creek megachurch, who commissioned a careful study of Willow Creek and concluded that their model for Christian discipleship was deeply flawed. Hybels publicly announced the findings and carried out a major overhaul of the entire organization.
  • John Armstrong’s desire to turn over the reins of his own organization, ACT3, to a much younger person (someone in his or her 20’s) as soon as possible. John asked his board of directors to find such a person. If that plan doesn’t materialize, John is prepared to gradually shut the entire organization down so that it ceases to exist.
  • John Gagliardi, the legendary football coach at St. John’s University in Minnesota, who led the football team from 1953 until 2012. For years, everyone assumed that Gagliardi’s successor would be his son, who had faithfully served at his father’s side as an assistant coach. But the father never stepped aside. He kept coaching well into his 80’s. When his finally retired, his son was already too old to coach the team, and the university appointed someone else.

At roughly 48:45, John turns to Sam A. Lee, the son of UBF’s founder, and asks a pointed question: “How old was Dr. Lee when he started UBF?”

Sam responds that his father was about 30 years old.

Then John asks everyone in the room, “Would you trust a 30 year-old man today to lead this ministry?”

As I listened to John’s lecture, I thought about all the UBF chapters which, after two or three decades, are still being led by Korean missionaries, many of whom are now in their 60’s and appear to have lost all ability to self-critique. About all the North Americans who, after devoting decades of their lives to UBF, are still considered too young and immature to lead even though their hair (if they have any left) has turned gray. About the countless natives who left — including the best and brightest, nearly anyone with independent ideas and leadership potential — because the missionaries treated them like babies who needed to be spoon-fed and ordered about year after year. About the handful of natives who have remained and been given leadership titles and yet are still submissive, apparently unwilling or incapable of making any decision that might upset the status quo. About the upcoming International SBC which, as far as I can tell, will be essentially no different from the UBF conferences that I went to 30 years ago.

I thought about UBF leaders who continue to say things like, “Change will take a long time,” and, “Maybe UBF can change within a decade.” A decade from now, I will be a grandfather in my 60’s.

Do UBF leaders actually think that they have another decade?



  1. joshua

    Tasks are like a gas: they expand to fill the time allotted them. If a decade is allotted to change, then it will surely take a decade. If a year is allotted, it will take a year. Change is not difficult to implement organizationally. Look at how much General Motors has changed since 2008, when it had to be bailed out. Rather, it is the change in heart that is difficult. If it takes 10 years for leaders to change their hearts, either the Holy Spirit is slow in exacting that change, or they are slow in responding. I tend to think it is mainly the latter.

  2. “Change is scary. Change threatens people. Many leaders avoid real change simply to avoid conflict. Tweaking an organization can’t fix things that are really broken; it requires true change…….”

    “To youth-inize the church, Baby Boomer senior leaders must be not only willing to die to their primary positions of security and authority but must relish the anticipation of new horizons. They must reinvent themselves much as a healthy grandparent should take pleasure in their changing role in the extended family. It is time for our generation to be as courageous and radical as we once were in the days that we first signed up for this movement. The question remains and must be asked: can we do it or maybe more importantly, are we willing to do it?”

  3. Mark Mederich

    Dr Samuel Lee taught well about “secular” humanism. However, have religions avoided “religious” humanism? Whether one supreme leader or group of supreme leaders, isn’t the supremity the problem? Only God is supreme: we all, especially leaders, must come to Him on hands & knees.

    Decisions/changes only require timely prayer & effort to soundly understand & apply Godly principles based on His word & Spirit guidance. We may not get it perfectly but surely God will guide/refine seekers. Anything else is trying to please ourselves in ‘Good Ole Boy Networks’, which incorporate man’s corrupt motives & can take forever.

  4. John Martin jr.

    Thanks for the article and thoughts. I love John Armstrong I wish we would listen to him more and not push back so much but I’m thankful for his patience. God is doing so much especially and I mean especially in the past few years. However because some of these things look different and even have a few “charismatic” aspects to them even though we should never label what God is doing there has been small push back and now even bigger push back. Even older missionaries who are very supportive of God’s work in the young people have gotten push back and even disciplined. This maybe more than anything really honestly concerns me and has been concerning my spirit. And here is why, God is answering prayer, prayer of the older UBF generation and prayers for our ministry. However because God is answering prayer and doing amazing things that the older generation is not comfortable it is being quenched and that really saddens me. God can do whatever he wants, and we should test everything obviously young people in UBF are not straying from the Bible we want to experience revival and I believe God is trying. An example of this is God has been doing awesome things at the YDC now well conference. However instead of learning why God was moving so strong at this conference the conference has basically been shut down and given to leaders that our top leaders feel more comfortable and can control better. If something is not from God, it will not produce Godly fruit, but there is no room for fear and I pray and hope we can stop being afraid and let God do his thing. Amen

    • Joe Schafer

      John, I totally agree. The Well was an amazing conference. Thanks to John Y, younger people were empowered to make the decisions and they did so with utmost thought, seriousness and prayer. God showed up at the Well. Now the Well has been effectively shut down, and those who made it happen have been locked out of decisionmaking. This, along with some other things that you have alluded to, trouble me very deeply.

    • Mark Mederich


    • Yes, the Well Conference was very good. The thing that most encouraged me was the leadership & initiative of the young people, although the messages were good too (thanks in part to John and Joe).

    • Mark Mederich


  5. Thanks, Joe. I was present during John’s lecture. It was perhaps the best of all the 7 lectures that he gave. Your account is exactly what I remember. I believe it “stunned” our UBF leaders; perhaps it was too much for them to take in. They will say they agree with John. But as to whether or not they can embrace, apply or put it into practice is another matter.

    Thanks, John (Martin). Your sentiment about YDC/Well is exactly the kind of very disturbing top/down control and unilateral decision making that, as you said, is “quenching” what the Holy Spirit is doing.

    It’s like the wind is blowing wherever it pleases (Jn 3:8). God is doing what pleases Himself (Ps 115:3; 135:6). But some senior UBF leaders think they know better and (ab)use their positions of seniority to get done what they want.

    • John Y
      John Y

      Again I mentioned in another comment that 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.

      Random reflection that I wanted to share that is spilling out of me into cyberspace: Is it possible to pursue change too quickly that it causes a major rift or division? Is it possible to pursue change too slowly that it likewise causes a major rift or division? Or is there such a thing as having the courage to accept the possibility of a temporary division in order to reach for a greater, long-term unity (greater good)? I’m not advocating any of this…just wondering with great trouble of heart. I mean, I was just reflecting over the movie Lincoln and the fact that he achieved unity and a higher goal–but only after a fierce period of division. The final moments of the movie where it shows his 2nd Inaugural Address have haunted me ever since.

      Abraham Lincoln (as re-interpreted by John Y): “The Almighty has his own purposes. ‘Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.’ If we shall suppose that [something deeply troubling in UBF] is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both [UBF-A] and [UBF-B] this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the [UBF spiritual heritage] … of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ‘The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’ With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up [UBF A & B’s] wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.”

      Lincoln’s vision of love at the end of this address deeply resonates within my soul these days. Wonderful phrases: “Malice toward none; with charity for all” “Firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right” “Cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves”

      Lord, bring us there on eagle’s wings, because we’ve all grown very tired and weary. All of us desperately need our strength renewed, and our spirits encouraged. Lord, you said that if we put our hope in the Lord, we will renew our strength and soar with wings as eagles. Lord, you and you alone are my true hope. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

  6. Mark Mederich

    efforts to control=fear of unknown; we may lose/we may win but if we don’t try something new we won’t learn.

    When our kids were little we watched The Aristocats:
    the young dog says: “Let’s Go”
    the old dog says: “I’m the Leader…Let’s Go!”

    so regardless of who says it: Let’s Go with the Holy Spirit & see what God can do!

  7. Thanks, JohnY, for the excellent paraphrase of Lincoln’s immortal words to our UBF A (traditionalists) & B (critiquers) context, especially “with malice toward none; with charity for all.”

    At this stage of the game, A views any critique by B as malice. While B cannot impose her will on A to come clean with UBF’s history of abuses, then all B can do is to press on in charity, regardless of how often A will insist that it is malice, negative, unforgiving, discouraging, bashing, not being “unforgetful,” etc.

  8. the Well has been mentioned several times here on ubfriends. I wanted to ask, “Is it an international or N American event?”. As far as I understand it is organized for ubf youth. And is it more for second gens or anyone? And if it is for everyone, who participates more? I mean, among N American ubf youth are there many N American youth? Is ubf mostly Korean on the adults level only?

    In 2003 I was in Korea and saw a group of second gens from Europe. There were about 60+ Korean sec.gens and the only one European teenager. He looked not so happy. At the moment I thought about my children. Do I want my children to be in ubf and participate in ubf programs for second gens?

    By now my children have participated in some youth events in the Baptist local churches. The youth there is very independant and free. They meet and pray and evangelize together and study the Bible, but mostly they, as they call it, “communicate”. My children are just happy and WANT to be in the church every day (if that would be possible). There were no chance for my children to experience anything like this in ubf (even in the future).(I remember how once my daughter told me she was sure we wanted her to marry a Korean in ubf when she grows up! That was a shock for me. I had never thought that we became so Korean oriented and Korean-like. Though when fishing I heard from students”Are you a foreigner?” many times for I developed a steady Korean accent)

    If ubf is a Korean church it is nice and normal for it to serve Koreans in any country. (And then it is nice for Koreans to reform or change their organisation the way they like) But if it is an international organisation, how comfortable is it for e.g. N American youth? In my church now they say there is a great need for Russian speaking leaders to serve in North America. But nobody says the leaders are going to serve(or focus in) N Americans. They are going to serve mostly the many Russian speaking people in the US and Canada. It seems very healthy to me.

  9. @Vitaly, you ask: “As far as I understand it is organized for ubf youth. And is it more for second gens or anyone? And if it is for everyone, who participates more?”

    I didn’t go to every Well (formerly YDC), but I attended 3 over about 5 years. My observation was that it originally was dominated by 2nd gens (children of missionaries), but the population began to even out so that by the last year I attended (I think 2010 or 2011), it was about 50-50 Koreans to non-Koreans. It probably varied some year to year too.

    One of the obstacles I faced as a non-Korean and non-American attending the YDC was that many of the students already knew each other and were already friends, which made it a little bit hard to “be accepted” into their group. Of course, some were very welcoming.

    Regarding speaking with an accent, you’ve got a +1 from me. If I visited home, my relatives asked me, “Why are you speaking so weird?” I guess that when you spend so much time together, sounding the same becomes inevitable. The most striking distinction I’ve found now that I’ve left UBF is the unique way UBFers pray. To an ordinary Christian in Canada, it sounds very different.

    • David Bychkov

      Vitaly and Joshua. As for me my language and speaking manner also became weird, and I also heard quite a few times – I talk like foreigner. And sure while in UBF we used to strange words, expresssions and even the manner of speaking. However I want to mention one thing. In Ukraine we are using two languages. The oficcial is Ukrainian but many people speak Russian. I’m also a russian speaking guy b/c of my roots. My UBF shepherd preffered Ukrainian though. And while I joined him for fishing/preaching he usually spoke Ukrainian. And you know what? At most times I still used Russian, but when I was preaching the gospel / inviting sheep I suddenly switched to Ukrainian. It sounded weird in my mouth, but I still was more comfort with it then with Russian once preaching. Probably I just imitated my shepherd, used his manners and even words. Therefore Ukrainian was more comfort to me. Not sure how to comment this…
      But one thing coming to my head is that this can refer in some way to my whole christian life for some period. There was time when I thought that I’m a really good Christian. But the truth was I just was good imitater of my shepherd and a good follower of his teachings. That does not mean I was not a Christian. I sure I was and I am. But most part of my Christian personality was just following my shepherd example and his teachings. And it took me quite a few time to realize it.

    • David Bychkov

      The changes in my life style and personality were really significant once I joined UBF. And yes with time I have left many many of things I commited my self to learn and follow before. That tells me that those changes was mostly coming from outward, when I think the gospel should grow as a mustard seed and as a little breed from heart. That process also was in place though.

  10. Thanks for sharing John’s lecture. This ought to be played as the “main message” of the upcoming conference.

    In regard to your getting old comment, Joe, I have seen the same thing. I feel like ubf missionaries take a snapshot of you in the first year. Then you are forever seen as that snapshot person. As I grew in my 30’s and 40’s, became married for 10, 15 and now 19 years, and had 4 children, I felt as if I was still viewed as that timid boy I was back in 1987.

    I think fear is at the heart of why leadership and authority is not transferred or even understood well at all in ubf. One of the most important imperatives from Jesus is “not so with you”, but ubf says “it is so with us”. They fear losing their heritage, they fear letting go of control, they fear someone else being better than them.

    Here is a good example of the fear in the first two slides of the 2010 leadership presentations. Right away fear of ubf slipping away is planted. I have observed this fear for a quarter century.

    The slide first identifies the Student Volunteer Movement (SVM) and it’s demise. ubf loves to tie themselves to SVM just because of a brief encounter between Moffit and Barry (is this rumor a myth or fact?)

    SVM grew to about 4,300 and dissolved after about 80 years

    UBF grew to about 3,000 and the apparent “solution” is fishing

    [Here is the ubf 2010 slideshow]

    Based on this, even ubf missionaries see that God can put a stop to an entire movement. Are the missionaries now fighting against God? Will ubf follow SVM and dissolve in 2041 (80 years)?

    Note the significance of the year “2041”! That is 80 years after ubf began in 1961. All old-timer ubfers know the repeated prayer topic for “100,000 missionaries by 2041”. My conclusion is that this is kicking the goads against God’s will.

    It is time for a new movement to begin. I had hoped that movement would be the Well, but that will revert back to a mediocre YDC retreat now.

  11. Mark Mederich

    unholy “spirit of control” wants to possess/dominate our lives; Holy Spirit must “control” that “spirit”:)

  12. David Bychkov

    Thank you for asking, Joe. Though that’s not easy question to answer briefly. So I will make another try to give extended answer to provide some background of what happened with me.
    As you know I am from Ukraine. I met Christ in Kiev UBF, and served there from 2001. In the beginning of 2010 my family was sent to Kharkiv (the second large city in Ukraine) for doing mission work there. Actually another native family served in Kharkiv from 2004, but it hardly had any success. So they were supposed to return to Kiev, and we had to serve instead.
    Till this time I already was not an UBF hardcore guy. There was few reasons for this. In 2007 we had a painful division in our church. I was aware of some facts from UBF history. I questioned at least some of our practices, e.g. shepherd-sheep relations. The mission work, activities which we were doing in Kiev for few last years appeared to me pretty meaningless. It appeared just doing something in order to do something. We had always things to do – like conferences, leader conferences etc. So it seemed like we are busy with gospel work, but for me it was just fooling ourselves – doing something in order to do something. I had a personal challenges as well. Few of my cowerkers accused me in being harsh and dictator-like, while I thought I’m just doing what I learned from my shepherd. For some time I served as shepherd for the people of the village, not students, where our church in Kiev located. And while serving them I was totally confused, not knowing how to instruct them without strict ubf mission-centered ideas. We had some discussions in Kiev. We stopped practicing some of our practices. And other things happened.
    At the end, I was pretty confused, not knowing what I am supposed to do, what to believe in and who I am at all. I decided I don’t need push myself into our usual ubf practices, which I tried to do, was not successful in, and failed and failed to keep them. Instead I decided to concentrate on personal Bible study with the goal to find and undestand the coherent Bible meaning and not just practicing each passage. And I decided to start reading some of classical Christian literature.
    Well, that was the very time when I was sent to Kharkiv to change here another shepherds family. I don’t konw exactly why I was sent. Our Kiev leader hardly explained it to me, but I think he wanted to give me some space. He thought I have the energy and ambitions which need to be realized.
    Well. Another family decided to stayed in Kharkiv with us, and did not returned to Kiev as they were supposed to. So we start serving Kharkiv UBF as two shepherd families. And very soon new questions were raised. What and how we need to do as pioneers? What we need concentrate on? How invite students? How raise disciples, etc. And more deep questions where on my mind. For me it was very clear that we just can’t simply follow the models we learned and were used to. But what else we should do?
    In this time UBFriends was started and from it first days I became the part of community, b/c it was exactly what I was seeking for. Our friend Timothy Ha has sent Joe’s excellent article “do you speak UBF?” in our CIS disciples mail delivery and it provoked some discussions related our slang, the using of titles etc. But our Kiev UBF director, who was CIS director has banned the discussion with some strict comments. I was deeply frustrated and emailed him expressing my frustration. I said that it is a sign, that we are not allowed to express our opinions. And I stayed an active part of our UBFriends community as you know, b/c I found it to be very edifying.
    Well, as a pioneer I still needed to do something. So I tried to invite students and do some programs on the campus. And the same time I tried to learn some methods for evangelizing from articles, lectures etc. But with time it became more and more clear that we are in fundamental deep issues. Life and people around us have been changing so significantly that our models was just not in work with the world around. And even if they would, they still are something to be questioned b/c of different fruits they have produced in history. We ourselves are not really fit nor in the world around (mission field) neither in our own UBF mission and identity. And the very conceptions of our church, mission, christian life, meaning of Bible study, their corresponding to the gospel should be really questioned. Our UBFriends community, another Christian communities I was engaged in and books which I read convinced me that those questions are something necessarily to be asked. Those are fundamental questions which need solid answers. And hardly believed that we would be able to find the answer in one or another lecture concerning the mission or something. In the same time once I started looking outside from UBF world into the wider Christian community I was in the same time encouraged and confused. Encouraged b/c of fresh and interesting ideas and confused b/c of variations of opinions. How not to be lost in them? If talking about doctrine, I struggled with questions what UBF should look like? Should we have theological system and how to have it?
    As for me I had always sympathy toward Reformed theology. The books I read were reformed books, and I had a friend in a Reformed seminary. I thought about entering the seminary during few years. For me it becoming more and more clear that if we need help and there are people who can help – we should use it. And b/c of my personal struggles I wanted to get a sound theology educations in order to build the foundation of my faith.
    Well, in the same time I was supposed to do UBF missions. I had to visit Kiev for a Bible study once per month. In Kharkiv we had pretty free discussions during Bible studies and in other context. But not in Kiev. Even if leaders does not pressed us much, they still had certain expectations from us. And probably it just could not be different. But we didn’t share testimonies, had a daily bread meetings, feeding sheep etc. I didn’t think if I will tell my wife that she just need to feed sheep, write testimonies etc. it would help her. I believed I need to preach her and others the gospel instead of pressing them to do UBF activities. They already was pretty paralyzed by guilt to add to it. My consciences and understanding of gospel did not let me do it. I even became somehow sick of this practices. Not b/c of themselves but b/c of the view UBF has on them. Like they were really the silver bullet, the answer to all questions, the measure of our self value etc. But it was hard to explain to leaders in Kiev and they hardly wanted to hear the explanations. The leader expressed few times that we don’t need discussions. So it’s getting harder and harder to meet each other. There was not conflicts, but just a silence. We were at least to make appearance that we still doing those things or at least believe in them and repenting of not doing :). It was difficult thing to do though. I stopped visiting Kiev for some time b/c of difficulties both financial and spiritual. But our Kiev director asked me to keep coming in order to keep and build unity. I agreed an continued to come for the Bible studies with desire to work on unity. But nothing have changed.
    Well once I came to Kiev and opposed to the leader, woman missionary, how she treated sheep. The woman asked me what is wrong with me :) and we had pretty good open talk during few hours and prayed together at the end. Next time we had a group Bible study (in Kiev) and we talked about a calling. I asked how we can know if we have certain calling if it does not clear state in the Bible like being shepherds for students? And this question raised some confrontation between the director and myself. During the next Bible study he said that we do not supposed to talk about problems we just need to believe and preach the gospel.
    It was the spring of 2011. The 50 years celebration was near. After it once I read the mission statement it was very disturbing to me. And then on Kiev UBF website appeared the sermon, where we were called to rebuild the walls of UBF – with Bible study and mission. Chapters which did not practicing DB, 1:1, testimonies where rebuked, leaders who just talked about problems were rebuked. I just could not stand it! Well. In the same time I felt I needed to enter seminary. Formally it required to have a church recommendation. And this should be resolved. I felt that this is the very moment I just need to talk with the director. If we can’t talk within the Bible studies, then we need to talk in person. I emailed him asked about the meeting, and he agreed. It was the beginning of July. And I came to Kiev (Kharkiv is in about 500 km from Kiev). What was my intention? I don’t really know :). I think I just wanted to share all things which I wrote above. I told in my email : “I want to share with you what is happening in my heart”. Well, once we met, we was not able really talk. He does not seem wanting to hear anything from me. He just harshly rebuked me and Kharkiv UBF. I also answered him pretty harshly. He said that I can go my own way. That we can do in Kharkiv whatever we want, that I may enter a seminary, that I may leave Kharkiv UBF, but if so he asked to agree with another Kharkiv shepherd – when. And we prayed.
    That was the last time I visited Kiev UBF. I returned to Kharkiv and from September entered to seminary. The undefined situation arose though. First, I was not ready to join another church yet. Second, our Kharkiv UBF coworkers did not want us leave them. I also was not really convinced I want to leave UBF and Kharkiv UBF. And my wife was prepared to do it even less the I was. And the way of leaving was also not good, b/c no one from Kiev UBF, brothers and sisters with whom I spent 10 years of my life, knew nothing about what happened, b/c director would not let them know and they would not ask. So my hope was that Kiev UBF is not only the director, but others, native leaders would ask questions and would do something. If not change UBF :), I hope we could at least do it somehow godly. But nothing happened.
    The 2011, fall was 20 years of Ukraine UBF, and they had a big conference. Sure my family did not come. Another Kharkiv family came but we didn’t. I think it would be clear why. I talked to some of shepherds including director wife that I would come if I would be invited to the leaders meeting in order to discuss the situation and I will be glad to come. But nothing happened. I waited and waited. And everyone also waited and waited :). They asked me sometimes when I will come to Kiev or something like nothing happened. And in Kharkiv we also stopped open discussions. My coworker seemed to be waiting that I will be quite and everything will normalized somehow. Everyone seems to hope that everything will be resolved somehow.
    The situation becoming worse and worse. We were in Kharkiv UBF but we were de facto out of UBF and yet not really. Somewhere in November or December I emailed the director, few key leaders and GD letting them know what happened. And had no answer. On January I emailed to all Kiev leaders (the church council members – “Eagle team” in Kiev) including director family. In few words I explained what happened and asked for the meeting where we can talk and decide how to be. Almost everyone agreed that such meeting is required. The director banned it though. Not sure why. He told that I need to solve my problems inside Kharkiv UBF and if we will need, we could ask Kiev UBF to help us in our internal problems. Someone told me that he said they don’t need me to tell them what to do. Anyways nothing happened. I know that after this one or few brothers asked him to have the meeting with me. But it was not the case.
    Our UBF people really making view like everything ok. And that is something killing me. You know, even after this we in Kharkiv and they in Kiev seems to be just heading forward. I stayed in Kharkiv and even though I refused coming to the conferences, meetings etc., but the fact that I have stayed give them opportunity to pretend that everything ok. Kharkiv UBF is still there and I am still in. So nothing really happened. And I had a feeling like everyone would be happy continue this game to the very death. But I would not. I read somewhere that this is the passive form of manipulation… And for my family, for the family which was with us in Kharkiv it was really unhealthy situation. Something should be done. So on April or May of 2012 I told another shepherd in Kharkiv that we will leave UBF till September. That time new Ukraine UBF director was chosen, he was native Kiev shepherd whom we new very well. My Kharkiv coworker invited him to help us. He came, we had 2 days discussion and he was asked to organized meeting with Kiev director and leaders with us to resolve the conflict. And it still never happened. UBF GD contacted me on summer, answering my email I sent to him before and he asked me what I have to share. He told me that he exchanged few emails concerning me with my director. But still nothing happened.
    So on September my family left UBF at all. And from October we joined the local Presbyterian church in Kharkiv.

    • Thanks for taking the time to write all of this down. Also thanks to Joe and Ben for their recent articles about their struggles for change.

    • Mark Mederich

      sad that people have to deal with ‘religious games’ in spiritual search:
      oh Holy Spirit, save us from games/grant all sincerity

  13. Change the names, dates, locations, and some other details, and this is the same story that my family has to tell.

  14. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    Thanks David for sharing this. I didn’t know the details.

  15. Joe Schafer

    David, as I read your painful account again, one aspect really stood out.

    When conflicts arose between you and the leader, you traveled 500 km to meet with him personally. You did Step 1 exactly as you were supposed to do.

    When that failed to resolve the problems, you attempted to go on to Step 2, which is to meet with him again in the presence of witnesses. You tried to make that meeting happen. But the leader ignored your request, and the witnesses (here I’m making an educated guess) were afraid to press the leader to make the meeting happen.

    In my case, it has been essentially the same. Leaders have been willing to meet with me in very private settings (Step 1), but they have refused attempts to engage in Step 2. They do not want controversial matters to be raised at any meeting except one which they can carefully manage. Unless they remain in control of the flow of information and in control of the outcome, they do not want to meet. That’s why real dialogue rarely happens. Dialogue cannot have a predetermined outcome. It requires that everyone give up control.

    • Mark Mederich

      control: spirits of control want to control people to control others

      noone likes feeling outofcontrol: may God set all free from controlling & grant Holy Spirit help instead!

  16. Hello friends… Just picked up this piece titled “Leader of Southern Baptist seminary marks 20 years, helped make school more conservative”. It’s about the leader of Southern Baptist seminary. I don’t know about him, but he must be well qualified when “Mohler took over as president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993, when he was just 33.” Also kudos to the board of trustees who elected him when he was just 33.. (assuming the school board had elected him.) That’s very impressive!!