My Concerns About The International Conference

SoLoved(My original title was “Why I Won’t Attend the International Conference.” But I was persuaded to change it to a “less hostile” title.) Let me state that my prayer is for God’s abundant and overflowing blessing upon our conference and that Christ is truly honored and exalted through the conference. Everything henceforth should be understood with this prayer in mind.

UBF’s glory. This is my predominant major concern: There is an undertow and impression that the unspoken purpose of UBF conferences is to show the greatness of UBF, of UBF missionaries and of senior UBF leaders, rather than to display and declare the greatness and glory of Christ. This is subtle, subjective and subjunctive. This can be denied because no one ever says, “Our UBF conference is to show how great UBF is, or how great Korean missionaries are.” But my contention is that UBF palpably glorifies UBF, UBF missionaries, and senior UBF leaders rather than God Himself. This is a very very very serious charge. So, if this is incorrect, then please correct me.

Human elements. James Kim wrote that UBF has been “contaminated with many human elements like human pride, authoritarian leadership, impure motives, performance-oriented work, unhealthy competition, human glory seeking etc.” These “human elements” play out in significant force at the international conference: which UBF leader/chapter brought more attendants, which chapter was the main speaker from, who is more fruitful (Korea or USA?), who is honored, etc. It was expressed that Korea UBF is the host of the international conference held in the USA. Seriously?

Bring 3,500 people. A way to show UBF’s greatness is to bring many to the conference. This is good. But such (over)emphasis on bringing people is invariably to fulfill a number goal. People are invited not out of love for Jesus, but from the pressure by certain UBF leaders to keep one’s prayer goal.

Attendance to UBF conferences. This is regarded as a barometer of one’s spirituality, maturity and commitment to Christ. It has often been said, “You must show yourself to be a UBF missionary/UBF shepherd/UBF leader by attending the UBF conference.” Is this a biblical godly Christ-like motivation? Is it true that attendance to UBF conferences is a measure of one’s spirituality?

The theme and emphasis of every UBF conference is predictably the same: It is mission. This makes UBF conferences predictable. The same passages are repeated, primarily from the 4 gospels, with several favorite texts. The conclusion of every conference is the same: Obey the world mission command by feeding sheep. Are there not countless other biblical themes of beauty, majesty, mystery and glory besides mission, mission, mission, world mission?

The UBF conference schedule is hectic. Every moment of the conference must be filled with messages, reports, Bible study, testimony writing, testimony sharing, breakout sessions. Why? To make sure there is no time for attendants to hang out with others. UBF, a spiritual training academy, does not want lazy attendants who attend the conference for human fellowship.

Quality and cost. Today there are countless other Christian conferences that have gifted mature pastors and preachers, both older and younger. To compare any UBF conference in the world with them is like comparing a high school football team with any NFL team. Does UBF realize that we have a long way to catch up to improve the quality, content and spirituality of our UBF conferences? By comparison, UBF conference fees are also expensive. Other Christian conferences often has sponsors so that attendants receive free items, usually numerous Christian books that may even cover the cost of the conference fee.

Conference workers work like slaves and are not appreciated but taken for granted. Some years ago, countless unknown UBFers worked and served tirelessly for many months to prepare for a major UBF conference. Then the Sun sermon right after this conference was on Lk 17:7-10. I was floored. Of course, no one who served sacrificially and tirelessly expected to be specially honored or appreciated. But to hear from UBF leadership that “you have only done your duty” (Lk 17:10) is beyond belief. Also, conference workers have to pay their full conference fee even though they offer their services freely. It makes UBF seem like bossy unappreciative slave drivers, rather than like the God who is so generous that he pays you a full days wage for working just one hour (Mt 20:15).

To state again, my prayer is that God abundantly blesses our upcoming international conference to overflowing. Nonetheless, these are my (serious) concerns. Are there other concerns? Am I unnecessarily concerned? Off base? Too critical and picky?


  1. Hi Ben, thanks for your thoughts. I regret that you didn’t use your original title: “Why I am not attending the UBF International Conference” because there is a perfectly legitimate answer: you don’t want to. Regardless of all the other concerns you discuss, isn’t that a good enough reason?

    Actually, this topic is really a more fundamental one that some of the recent discussions have touched on: the (mis)understanding of the gospel, especially the gospel of grace and freedom. Exercising your freedom to choose against attending the conference is a legitimate expression of your freedom in Christ. If anyone responds with criticism, it begs the question, “Is it a sin to not attend the conference?” If the answer is yes, this merely exposes the root problems of a misunderstanding of the gospel of grace and freedom.

    • big bear

      About a week away from another sales job, the ISBC, a good movie to watch to prepare for this is “The Smell of Success” with Billy Bob Thornton. The plot is how to sell bullshit. Another good read for all fearful UBFers is “When bad things happen to good people” by Harold S. Kushner. They have mastered the trade of selling people on a ministry that is clearly abusive to families and students and even married couples. I promise you if you do not go God will not send you to hell in fact you will be doing the ministry a favor to really stand against abuse. They have no intentions of changing, us who were blessed to leave no it. I pray that the abuse will stop.

    • “how to sell bullshit”

      This gets my vote for heritage point #13.

  2. Mark Mederich

    trust in God is real issue: like the Protestant work ethic gone bad; start with good goal but mechanized system to get there gets out of control; we try to glorify God by showing him how great we are;

    direct approach like mission-driven wears people out; indirect approach like mature in Christ (prayer/bible/fellowship) will lead to service; in other words approach can hinder or advance; focus on number is like trying make plant grow faster by watching; sincere God-focused content will encourage/inspire many to come;

    don’t over-provide: set stage but allow room for Holy Spirit to work; provide positive content but allow ventilation of negative/concerns for healing/growth

    • “don’t over-provide: set stage but allow room for Holy Spirit to work”

      One point of over-preparation that always bothered me was that sermons and testimonies always had to be prepared in written, and then they were just read out instead of people talking freely, maybe with some notes as guidelines or fallback. So, actually, if you only want to hear the messages, you don’t even need to attend the conference, just read them at home since they will be published word for word anyway. Even the prayers and the strange gesturing and accentuation that accompanies the reading of the text is pretty predictable.

    • Another memory from a conference: I remember that after lunch I took a walk for talking with a member from another chapter. I noticed that he held a big alarm clock in his hand. When I asked about that, he answered he needed it so that he would not forget starting to write his testimony in time. I found it pretty symbolic for the atmosphere on such conferences. You were always under time pressure or practicing for theater, choir etc. Free and informal talk was suppressed and replaced by articifial setups. Even in the small room in our UBF center, we were required to talk on a stage in front of a pulpit using microphone and speaker, even when sharing our small early morning daily bread sogams.

      Also, I always felt that the term “conference” was a complete misfit. According to the dictionary, the term means “meeting for consultation or discussion”. But we never had consultation or discussion, it was always unidrectional reading of prepared messages, plus performing music or drama. Sometimes in Germany we also used the term “Freizeit” instead of conference, which means recreation or free (leisure) time, which was even more misfit, as nobody had really leisure time on these conferences.

    • Mark Mederich

      “It makes UBF seem like bossy unappreciative slave drivers” (seem?:)

      “my prayer is that God abundantly blesses our upcoming international conference” (prayer!:)

  3. namuehling

    While all of your concerns are valid, the one that has always struck me the most is the hectic schedule and lack of fellowship. This is true not just of conferences, but of life in UBF in general. Christian fellowship is emphasized in the Bible, yet meetings served as a replacement for real fellowship. While I did have real fellowship with a small number of people in UBf, it was on my own time-which was extremely limited by my involvement. I missed having relationships with many people. Reading testimonies at each other is not fellowship. My wife attended many women’s testimony sharing meetings where there was absolutely no dialogue. Even when someone was weeping, people would simply move on to the next testimony. Real fellowship obviously requires vulnerability that some are not willing to show. However, those people miss the joy and growth in Christ that comes from real fellowship-from being vulnerable and yet experiencing grace and love. As an example, Brian Karcher and I attended Toledo UBF for many years, but I don’t think we started to know each other until we stopped reading testimonies at each other, and simply hung out, laughed, chatted, discussed what we have been reading and thinking about. I have had this experience with a few people in UBF-some that are still there and many who have left-and it has been a wonderful. Anyway, thanks Ben and Joe, you have been willing to have real fellowship with me and Sandy and many others. I think that when friends in Christ gather in humility, sincerity and love we experience Christ.

    • namuehling, that is a very important point. My personal aha moment was when I talked with a young missionary in the night and for the first time I experienced somebody opening his heart and us talking freely and vulnerably. This could only happen because we were alone in the center in the night and had some time (we had to repair a computer and wait several hours for the harddisk to reformat or something), and because he was a junior missionary who did not think had to teach me something. The point is that my chapter leader had forced me to attend weekly testimony sharing meetings where this and some other male missionaries shared their sogams. I always hated these meetings because they were boring, but I was told to attend them to show my love and interest for the missionaries. When I did not want to come because I head headache, I was guilt tripped that I “did not love” my fellow Christians. However, from all these meetings I never learned anything real about the missionaries and their struggles. Only at that opportunity mentioned above where we talked in a normal way like two friends, we could develop a real relationship and understanding. In UBF, all relationships are kind of artificial. You never get the time to talk freely and informally, particularly not at conferences.

    • yellowblossom

      10 years of conferences, 4 a year. And I cannot remember any of the messages I heard. I used to think its because I wasn’t paying attention, …but the truth is…how can anyone pay attention? Every second is consumed by prepared messages, drama, etc. like you all point out…this is what life looks like at ubf. There is no time for fellowship. But God works through people and among people. What is the pint of asking everyone to share testimonies, when no one will ever even sincerely sit with you and pray with you. When no one could be turned to as a confidante and friend?

      I felt my 10 years became more and more robotic. Jesus! You are so good Jesus! For bringing me out into the sunlight and letting me follow you Lord. May you lord have mercy on everyone in my chapter and pen their eyes and bring change …let them love each other lord. Amen.

    • Mark Mederich

      elevating/parading model of ministry interferes with sharing/encouraging one another

  4. Mark Mederich

    in other words if you try to force/trick people to do something it doesn’t last but if you encourage/guide them it lasts

    • namuehling

      Yes, Mark-I believe that real friends have an influence. Maybe not even guidance, but honestly sharing experiences, honestly sharing hope in Jesus, and praying and letting God do the work. I am not discounting the fact that some people want mentors and that they can be helpful-but I think that peers often have a greater influence and that, with Jesus, this can be joyful and healthy!

  5. namuehling

    As an addendum-I loved many people in UBF, but felt the structure was separating me from what I needed. I need a big bunch of Jesus and family and friends to love. But the structure often prevents this and the structure, I felt, was something many were unwilling to abandon as evidenced by the lack of change, by banners reminding us of our “spiritual heritage” (I almost threw up a little in my mouth just typing that phrase), and by recent mission statements. The conference reminds me of that-the structure remains and, in my opinion, is completely a hindrance to living out my faith in Jesus.

  6. There are some pretty harsh statements and it’s not fair to the ones who share your concerns and at the same time want to serve through this conference for the glory of God and to build up Jesus’ church.

    I feel the undertones of bitterness and resentment although I cannot argue against your content. I think you should take some time to introspect and reflect on your thoughts/motives before writing out and publishing your criticisms.

    In the end I don’t think your words here are serving to build any one up–not even those who will agree. Again what can I say against your content? For the most part you’re right, but if some of the edge is removed I think it’ll be a more helpful article.

    This article contains too much bitterness and resentment. If its purpose is to vent then I guess it’s alright.

    When I say edge I don’t mean in a positive sense. The edge in this article doesn’t provide greater weight to your words, if anything it dulls it.

    • Anon, I am genuinely surprised that you hear a bitter and resentful tone in this piece. I agree that the criticisms are harsh. But they are based on facts and experience and are measured in my opinion. Where is the bitterness expressed? I know Ben quite well. His words are clear and cutting yes, but bitter? I honestly don’t hear it.

    • Anon, a simple question to you. Do you think it is even possible to “serve through this conference for the glory of God” when UBF has not dealt with the problems that have been covered in this blog?

      Amos 5 says: “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

      I think UBF should just stop all of these traditional activities and first come straight with its past, by admittance, repentance, and serious analysis of the issues. Maybe a conference would help, but only a real conference, with serious talks, workshops, and open and honest discussion. Bens concerns and criticism about the conference is legitimate in itself already, but I believe his tone that is perceived as bitterness and resentment by you (not by me) comes mostly from the disappointment over the fact that UBF instead of caring about the really spiritual important issues, repentance, processing the past, doing justice by rehabilitating the reformers and admitting their grievances were legitimate, instead of all of the serious issues which are urgent, they are preparing yet another typical UBF conference. To do what? To distract from the issues at hand. I remember that Samuel Lee’s response to the reformers at the beginning of the year 2001 was that he couldn’t care about their issues, because he “had to prepare the Int’l Summer conference”.

    • Joe Schafer

      Here is Eugene Peterson’s version of Amos 5:21-24 from The Message:

      “I can’t stand your religious meetings.
      I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
      I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
      your pretentious slogans and goals.
      I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
      your public relations and image making.
      I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
      When was the last time you sang to me?
      Do you know what I want?
      I want justice—oceans of it.
      I want fairness—rivers of it.
      That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

      I do not know the mind of God. But based on what I see in Scripture, and what I have seen of past conferences and the plans for the current one, we should be open to the possibility that God will not like the ISBC at all.

    • Anon, another request. Could you please use either your real name or at least a unique nickname when commenting? That helps tremendously having a serious dialogue. I’m not sure if you were the same “Anon” who posted earlier.

    • @Chris. Probably this is another annoying thing I do, which is to post emails to me as Anon. comments, since they may not wish to be identified. Sorry. I welcome favorable comments. But unfavorable comments are a lot more fun!

    • David Bychkov

      I would echo the request to our Anon friends to post under their true names or iniq nicknames.

    • Ben, maybe you can ask the person to comment here and join the dialogue instead of writing an email to you. If he or she reads here, then it is very simple to click on reply. Even easier than writing an email.

    • I probably should not post emails sent to me, since they primarily wish to correspond/interact with me, and not necessarily dialogue with a public community. Sorry, but I posted this because it was “different” and from a dissenting perspective.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, if the senders of these emails don’t mind, it’s ok to post it. But tell us when you are doing that, so that we won’t expect an interactive conversation.

    • Even though “anon” won’t reply, maybe his/her viewpoint is shared by quite a few:

      “In the end I don’t think your words here are serving to build any one up–not even those who will agree.”

      In my case, my goal is not to build up anyone here, nor is my goal to tear down anyone. My goal is to find what’s real and to share my honest reactions and thoughts. I am seeking to recover from my decades in ubf and this community helps me do that. If someone doesn’t like something I share, call me out. Swear if you have to but for the love of God share something! At least this blog ends the infuriating silence so many of us former members experience!

  7. Joe Schafer

    Anon., thank you for posting a dissenting view. Your comment is most welcome, and it raises an interesting question.

    First I will set up the question.

    Ben’s article presents an overwhelmingly negative view of the upcoming ISBC. It expresses a great deal of negative emotion, which you interpret as bitterness and resentment. Fair enough.

    You said “…it’s not fair to the ones who share your concerns and at the same time want to serve through this conference for the glory of God and to build up Jesus’ church.” Ben has been one of those who served at numerous conferences for the glory of God. He’s been there and done that as much as anyone. To use that native American adage, Ben has walked many miles in those moccasins.

    After that experience, Ben now has a great deal of negative emotion toward the whole enterprise, for reasons that you yourself acknowledge are valid.

    My question is this.

    Is it wrong for Ben to express his genuine negative emotions regarding the ISBC? It it unChristian, unbiblical to do so?

    If not, then are you suggesting that expressing a lot of negative emotion is a merely a poor communication strategy? Are you saying that he ought to be less honest, that he try to balance out his writing with some gratuitous positive comments as a pragmatic tool, so that UBF members and leaders will find the piece less objectionable and take his viewpoint seriously?

    This is not a rhetorical question. I want to know what you think.

    In my opinion, UBF members and leaders ought to listen carefully to Ben even if they do not like the tone of this article because they know him very well, because he has invested in the ministry as much as they have, and he is not writing from a standpoint of ignorance.

    • Joe Schafer

      Anon., I guess what I’m trying to say is this.

      If Ben was merely a curmudgeon who had little personal knowledge of the ministry and just liked to complain about things and had never offered any constructive help, then I fully agree with you. If that were Ben, then if he wrote such a negative article, then no one should take it seriously.

      But that is not Ben. The fact that Ben is who he is, and that he has written such a negative piece, is a relevant piece of information that should make everyone take notice.

      I guess I’ve grown weary of ubf leaders who claim the right to dismiss what Ben and I and many others have to say because they do not like the tone. For a long time, we spoke with a much softer tone, and they wouldn’t listen then either.

    • David Bychkov

      Hi Joe, While letting Anon to answer, let me share my thoughts regarding this question:
      “Are you saying that he ought to be less honest, that he try to balance out his writing with some gratuitous positive comments as a pragmatic tool, so that UBF members and leaders will find the piece less objectionable and take his viewpoint seriously?”
      From time to time I am to remind myself the words of Elihu to Job, which I really appreciate as his entire speach:
      Remember to extol his work,
      which people have praised in song.
      25 All humanity has seen it;
      mortals gaze on it from afar
      I am to remember to extol, to praise God for things which he is doing. That’s something what I really shall pay my attention to.
      Now as a sinner I am involved in community of sinners. And as a sinner I am really tempted to look into my brothers fails or sins, and they as they are sinners to, give me a lot of occasions to do it. My point is that as a sinner I am tempted to be really unthankful, and look just on the blind spots of others while not appreciate obvious and simpe good things which God doing for me through them. Last time I see that I really am!
      So I am not sure if sound positive in order to be correct is good, though I am doing it pretty often. But I am also not sure if expressing concern after concern after concern and only come from my honesty or it is a sign of sinful judging and unthankful nature?
      Well, when I am dealing with people, when I want to be truthful, when I want to share my concerns etc. I still want to be thankful to them, not b/c of desire to sound positive, but from heart.
      I am just answering the hypotetical question here, and I am not reffering to Ben or his article.

    • Joe Schafer

      David, thank you for a thoughtful response.

      Are you taking the words of Elihu as positive, godly advice to follow? I think of Job’s friends (who tried to stay positive) as bad role models, and Job (who, as time passed, became more honest and complained more and more) as the hero in the story.

    • David Bychkov

      Joe, that’s very interesting topic and I would harldy find the time and words to answer extensively. But basicly I believe that:
      1) Job was righteous man and to look for his faults which would lead to explanations why he suffered so much would be wrong. And yet, seems like he had space to grow, b/c at the end he expressed more deep knowing of God.
      2) Three of his friends has shown good atittude when they came to comfort his. But their desire to justify God and therefore to condemn Job was wrong. I don’t think everything they said was wrong though. I believe we can learn much from them, but their main point was wrong.
      3) Job’s reaction to the suffering which he met was not perfect, and actually particuliarly it was sinful. He was rebuked by God (Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?), and he said he repent (Therefore I despise myself
      and repent in dust and ashes.). And yet it was much better then the reaction of his friends, as God himself had witnessed (42:7).
      4) And here I found the distinguishing between Elihu and three friends of Job. Even if not mentioning the structural features which clearly makes Elihu different from his friends.
      I think the differnce of their approches is this. While friends of Job looked for Job fails which would lead him to this sufferings, Elihu rebuked him for his reaction. His point was this: “You say, ‘I am in the right, not God.’”, while Job simply is not in the postion, or he are to answer: “Tell us what we should say to him; we cannot draw up our case because of our darkness.”. And this is pretty in line with what God rebuked Job in: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”. And that’s the reason of the repentance of Job: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know”
      Well volumes can be said on the Job themes.

    • That David points us to the book of Job is really interesting. I am still trying to digest the depth of that book.

      The Elihu David mentions is a 4th friend who God did not rebuke. It says in Job 32:2-3 about him: “But Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became very angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God. He was also angry with the three friends, because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him.” Frankly I can identify with Elihu when I read some of the comments here on both sides.

      The hero of the book of Job is God himself. Job was rebuked harshly by God as he spoke to him out of the storm (from Job 38:1 through chapter 41). In response, Job said, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (42:3) as well as “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (42:5) Then God rebuked Job’s 3 friends (not Elihu), honored Job before them and had Job pray for them (42:7-9). There are horrible things that happen in the book of Job but it has a redemptive theme and is quite humbling to read.

      Per being “positive” and “negative”: I try to honor truth wherever it might come from, whether from a punk rocker or a Catholic priest. If it is in praise of something, I can honor it and rejoice in it. If it is a criticism, I can honor that too- but as someone with faith in Christ and in the God of Job I believe there is always hope of redemption even in the worst cases.

  8. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    I have been to many conferences in UBF. John was even asked to be a speaker at the Mission Report in Korea for the 50th anniversary. But he declined because it was in May and we are teachers and Korea is so far away. We didn’t even attend it. No one questioned us for our disloyalty. In fact we were even approved for a loan from central UBF to purchase our Bible House in Dec 2012. Every one is entitled to what they believe. At the same time one of my former Bible student told me she was severely encouraged to bring one student to their conference. She felt a lot of pressure. Which I don’t agree with. No one should be force to attend a conference. This year we didn’t have any conferences because we are rehabbing our center.

    I just attended the UBF conference in Odessa. It was the same messages but two messages really struck my heart. “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” Also “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” After the second message the leader apologized to his congregation that he caused them a lot of pain. He asked them to forgive him.

    The group Bible study that I attended moved me and I learned alot from my group Bible teacher who is in his early twenties and from Nigeria. His life before Bible study was not so pleasant. Through Bible study and brother common life God helped him. I also heard the testimony of one drug dealer who repented. He even sang a rap song for the wedding which was pretty good. As I sat and reflected at what was happening around me, I saw the fruit of young people coming to Christ and able to leave their life of sin. The young people that our chapter brought were moved by the love and fellowship they encountered at the Odessa conference. This conference was called a picnic conference because there were only two messages a day and a lot of free time in between. I was mainly in the beach swimming and sun taning. We had camp fire at night on the beach, candle lamps that we lit and it flew in the air. The director told me he wanted to change the conference and he did. God was in our midst. But I think it will not be like this at the International conference. By the way my family will attend the International conference this year.

  9. Thanks, guys, for all for your frank comments.

    @Joshua, yeah I have said to some UBF people that I will not attend the ISBC, and their response is basically one of displeasure. I hope that UBF will someday have this paradigm: “It’s REALLY OK not to attend a UBF conference!”

    @Maria. It sounds like I might actually like the Odessa conference.

    @namuehling, @Chris. Yeah, a conference that promotes intimacy, fellowship, friendship, brokenness, frailty, vulnerability would be very very very much welcomed. But UBF has so far seemed to want to “pound/force/enforce the Bible/UBF mission/core values into people.” Honestly, it is hard for me to support this “non-gospel emphasis” after 33 years in UBF.

    @Anon, @Joe, @David Bychkov. I was probably somewhat peeved when I wrote my piece. Was I bitter and resentful as Anon. states? My answer is that I do not want to be bitter and resentful.

    I have stated countless times and still do presently feel so that I am thankful for UBF, SL, SB, so many friends in UBF. But I am also concerned that bad unhealthy practices continue to go unchallenged and unaddressed.

    My fault is surely that I do not know how to challenge and address things sweetly, politely, kindly, deferentially, submissively. Do fault me for that. I stand guilty as charged.

    If you choose not to hear what I have written because of my unpleasant negative tone, then please listen to countless others who really write the same thing, but so much more sweetly, politely, kindly, deferentially and submissively. I believe they are saying what I am saying, but in a much nicer way.

    So perhaps you understand how great a woman my wife is, because I am that way to her as well and she has to live with me in her face 24/7!

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, you said:

      “My fault is surely that I do not know how to challenge and address things sweetly, politely, kindly, deferentially, submissively. Do fault me for that. I stand guilty as charged.”

      Why do you regard this as a fault?

      There is a time to speak softly, and a time to speak harshly.

      No one likes to be on the receiving end of harsh words. But sometimes that’s exactly what is needed. The early chapters of Isaiah are very harsh. The book of Jeremiah is very harsh, and so are the minor prophets, and so were John the Baptist and at times Jesus and Paul were as well. They were not abusive. But they sometimes used harsh words and sarcasm to make their points.

    • Thanks, Joe. I share often based on Eph 4:15 that to be loving without truth is rarely ever my problem. Rather it is that I invariably speak the truth with love not being perceived by some, because the truth was expressed perhaps like in this article which may be hard for some to receive the truth.

    • When I first read your post I was somewhat angry but I understand what you are saying and agree with you in some way. I think the way a conference is set up depends on the people planning it. I have attended conferences that were laid back and others that were filled with action, but more of the first than the second. The program at the ISBC doesn’t allow much time for interaction, which I was very disappointed about because I thought that was one reason why we had this conference. Instead we are mainly staying with our chapter members and region.
      I was surprised when someone said (sorry I don’t remember who brought it up first) whether this conference can glorify God. I think it is a matter on how you look at things. If someone says, “I did this, this, and this,” then that is not glorifying God, or is it? But the actions of one are not going to necessarily reflect on others. God judges according to what we did and what we didn’t do. His judgement is fair and just. So if one person is trying to glorify himself/herself then that is their problem, which one person could point out to him/her.
      I have helped prepare several conferences. This is my second big conference. I have to say, a lot of work goes into the preparation. Prayer is an important part of the preparation. I always appreciate the work people do to put a conference together (that doesn’t mean I am always happy about how it is laid out), but you are right that more appreciation could be shown for people who work their behind of. One of the issues people might have with this, is that those people might become proud. But could we do all these things on our own? Who gave us the tools to do them? Pride is important in some sense but dangerous in another.

    • @Yo: “One of the issues people might have with this, is that those people might become proud.”

      In my experience, pride does not develop when someone is legitimately recognized and appreciated for their hard work. Consider that even in Jesus’ parable, the master said, “Well done” to his servant. Rather, pride develops when we consider our own contribution as better than others, when we measure and compare contributions, efforts, and successes, and when we credit ourselves for our accomplishments. Any honest person in UBF would have to agree that such measuring, comparing, and self-congratulating is very common, and often routinely encouraged in pre- and post-conference meetings.

      Rather, I think it would take a huge degree of humility on the part of organizers to fully recognize and commend the efforts of volunteers. It would show vulnerability. It would imply that the leadership was served by the regular members, which violates their fantasy of endlessly sacrificing and serving for ungrateful sheep. It would imply that the leadership isn’t everything, and that the regular members really have something important to contribute, which would diminish the stranglehold on power and authority at the top. And so, in my view, when the small guy isn’t acknowledged, its not his pride that’s the issue, but rather that of the big guy.

    • +1 Well said, Joshua. God surely gifted you with the use of words that speaks to the very heart of the matter. Oh oh, I am now going to be accused of making you proud!!

    • @Ben: thanks. Don’t worry; I was proud long before meeting you :)

  10. “And yet it was much better then the reaction of his friends”. I prefer an honest, strong and even emotional response to UBF issues to a “searching, calculating” and “analytical” response. (Bonhoeffer again) I find Ben refreshingly human and natural and straightforward, and his opponents often strangely the opposite.

  11. What I mean is this. Anon, I don’t think its helpful or right to search out Ben’s motives. Why not just take his words at face value? There is a strong tendency in this church to overstep the truly spiritual relationship with layers of searching analysis of other peoples motives. There is also a tendency to overspiritualize and attempt to say everything the “right” way…the “gracious” way, etc. etc. I prefer the simple and honest way.

    • “There is also a tendency to overspiritualize and attempt to say everything the “right” way … the “gracious” way, etc. etc. I prefer the simple and honest way.”

      I remember one shepherd in my chapter who was considered very spiritual, who would always need several seconds or minutes to give a question. I could literally see the filtering mechanism at work in his brain. When he spoke with younger members, he always tried to give the “encouraging” answer, when talking with spiritual superiors, he tried to give the more “obedient” and “humble” answer. Just like you, I also like the simple, unfiltered answer, even if it is not always completely “politically correct” or does not sound nice and humble enough. There is a Russian saying “первое слово дороже второго” – the first word is worth more than the second. When I speak with people, I really want to know what is on their mind, what is really troubling them. In that regard, I really like how Ben is speaking these days.

  12. Bonhoeffer writes, “In the former(the truly spiritual community), unsophisticated, nonpsychological, unmethodical, helping love is offered to one another. In the latter(the pseudo spiritual community), psychological analysis and design. In the former, service to one another is simple and humble; in the latter, it is to strangers in a searching, calculating fashion.”

    Thank you Ben for your helping love through your words. I hope many will listen carefully.

  13. Joe Schafer

    I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:

    “There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build…”

    For the most part, I do think that we are called to be generous, to encourage rather than discourge, to promote what is good instead of calling out the bad, and so on. Under ordinary circumstances, that it what we ought to be doing.

    But from my perspective, these times are not ordinary.

    The organization is in crisis, though some do not see it. For me, going on with business as usual is not an option. Pouring more time, effort and money into strategies that have not worked and will not work is unwise.

  14. This is a public facebook comment to my article: “I am very disappointed in this article you wrote. I have been to many Conferences myself and although I may have not liked every single part of each program, I cannot deny that Conferences have opened my spiritual eyes more each time to see God’s Work that we pray may be done all over the world. It gives me hope, and helps me fix my eyes on Jesus. I can’t wait to go to the Conference this year. I’m sorry you are so bitter about past experiences. Every day is a new day, every Conference should be a new experience. I hope you find that perfect Conference experience you are looking for someday.”

    • “Conferences have opened my spiritual eyes more each time to see God’s Work that we pray may be done all over the world”

      Really? I cannot remember that we ever talked about anything happening outside the UBF world in conference reports. So is all of what happens in UBF “God’s Work”? Is all that happens outside of UBF not “God’s Work”. When you say “it gives me hope, and helps me fix my eyes on Jesus” then for me it means “it helps me fix my eyes on UBF heritage”.

      “I’m sorry you are so bitter” was also the only response I got from one fellow member after I talked with him about all the abuse that had been revealed, including abortions ordered by the top leader. Is this all you have to say? “Why are you so bitter”? My answer is: Why are you not bitter? Do you have real feelings? Do you have a conscience? Do you have a sense for justice and truth? When I hear these words “I’m sorry you are so bitter”, then I really become bitter.

      I can’t help myself but quote the Bible again: “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jer 6:14)

    • yellowblossom

      I could see the point of this comment…I too looked at conferences with rose colored glasses and truly convinced myself that I was spiritually growing. But here is the truth….there is a big wide world outside of ubf. Ubf conferences only focus on ubf and the ppl and work within its walls. It’s like living in a bubble and ignoring the world. Jesus loves all people and the gospel is for all. This is what I struggled with since 2009… I sincerely began wondering…why doesn’t ubf reach out to other churches and seek other missions? Why don’t we have christian books as supplementary material? Why is everything so bizarrely mundane and repeated? In such a repeated structure, I just stopped growing. Yet, Jesus word itself drove me to seek Him.

      I attended the so loved conference, but I didn’t see th focus of it. To be honest I was disappointed. The focus should have been Jesus love…not ubf and the mission. Ben, I agree with you on all points of this article. Ubf is in fact numbers driven, pride driven, mission driven …but is it Christ driven?

  15. Christian Misurac

    Dr. Ben,

    I don’t have time to read through all of the comments and I made it through most of your post, but as someone who is at the Chicago chapter and heavily involved in the conference prep I don’t experience most of what you mentioned. No doubt, there are struggles and frustrations, but that comes with culture shift (this conference will be different than previous ones). I have consistently found that when someone who is committed to UBF and to change (within a certain boundary that I am happy to oblige with), works together with leaders, they are amazingly open and flexible toward compromise. But it takes listening, honestly sharing and spending friend time together (not just work time) to build those relationships. This is has been my experience working with Jose Ahn for world mission night. Also with Pastor Abraham and always with Pastor Ron. None of these struggles should be a surprise or even a weakness. I expect these kinds of challenges with a multi-generational, multi-cultural congregation. This was all Jesus’ idea anyways (Ephesians 3 – the manifold wisdom of God revealed through the church. The first diverse group of people to function as one body in the history of the world. Crazy idea, and it is not easy, but it is God’s great wisdom).

    Anyways, I just wanted to share that I am so thankful for my experience working on this conference thus far.

    We can get together to talk about it more if you want.

    • “I don’t have time…”

      And that is the problem.

    • Joe Schafer

      Christian, what you say is admittedly true if you do not stray outside the boundaries of the paradigm assumed by the senior leaders. For many years I was able to stay within that paradigm. But when I started to question the fundamentals of that paradigm, their attitudes toward me completely changed.

    • “I have consistently found that when someone who is committed to UBF…”

      THAT is the key. If there is any hint or smell of not being committed to ubf, their attitude becomes “go f yourself.”

    • Joe Schafer

      I strongly agree with Brian here.

    • David Bychkov

      I think we need to define what being “commit to UBF” means. Does it mean to support UBF main line (no matter what?), to simply obey and approve it in anyways? Or does it mean to love the community, to appreciate time spent with it and deeply desire the good for it?
      Sometimes those two can contradict each other. I think this site was founded b/c of the commitment in the second sense.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, David, you are exactly right.

      My commitment is to the people in ubf, to the long-term prosperity and health of the community, and to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am committed to the Statement of Faith. But I am no longer committed to any of the commonly identified core values (for example, as defined by the 50th anniversary mission statement) because none of them are essentials of my faith.

  16. Christian, aw, anon, or anyone who cares to respond:

    What about Ben’s concerns? I read justifications, appeasements and bible discussions here, but what do you think about Ben’s points he raises?

    Let’s pretend Ben used his nice, sweet kitty voice. What do you feel or think about these concerns? Are they valid? Is there anything worth considering here? Or should we all dismiss these?

    I had been HEAVILY involved in the behind-the-scenes preparation for international and local conferences. I saw the way SL acted at these conferences. I saw how the current people act. I can testify that Ben’s concerns are valid.

    The question for newcomers like you Christain is this: Why and how will you do things differently in order to prevent the concerns Ben raises?

    1. ubf’s glory
    2. human elements
    3. bring 3,500 people
    4. mandatory attendance
    5. theme and emphasis
    6. hectic schedule
    7. quality and cost
    8. slave workers

    I would add:

    9. message content – Why skip the most important passage in your John series, John 17?

    10. weird instructions – 75% of those who attend have families. Why create a “Family registration” and then publicly say on your website “Families are strongly encouraged NOT to do family registration”? This is not a college student conference, but a family conference. Stop pretending to live as single people!

    • And another concern:

      11. The group “missionary pledge” – This is scheduled for Sunday morning. Do any of those attending understand this pledge? Are any of them prepared to shout it as a group in military style?

    • Brian, about the family registration. In our church there is a group Bible study. And my family and one more former ubf family participate. Well last time the pastor suggested to have two groups for some discussion. We started moving to sit separately. And we were sitting so that our families would be separated (the husbands and the wives). It seemed very usual for us for during the ubf conferences we have always been separated (I have never been in one Bible study group with my wife in ubf!). But this time the pastor said at once, “No, no you please sit together, let one family be in one group and the other in the other group, don’t separate the families”. It was a new experience for my family after 17 years of separate Bible study at ubf conferences!

      Jesus’ words came to my mind, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate”.

    • “don’t separate the families”.

      Yes indeed Vitaly. My wife and I held hands during worship service a couple weeks ago. And we attended our first longterm bible study together, after 19 years of marriage. That was liberating!

      As a new student to ubf in 1987, I was wowed by all the “single” people. But I was surprised to find they were almost all married! Unfortunately I learned to live in that fantasy world where we pretended to be single for the sake of “not wounding the faith of single people”.

      Such circular logic is false and harmful. Such thinking lead to a hurricane of lustful thoughts in me. Only the fear of rebuke from a shepherd kept me from acting on those thoughts. It was so hard to live as both a married man and present myself as a single man in the ministry. The tension of such a contradiction did untold damage to my conscience.

    • Maybe the ISBC theme should be changed to “Love your wife. Love your family.” Until families are honored and loved properly in ubf, there is no hope for real change.

      How can you have the audacity to “serve the world with love” when you don’t know how to love your spouse or children?

      Being family-centered is not a sin. It is God’s gift and mission to you.

    • And I want to point out something publicly that resides in the back of the ubf mindset for married men in ubf: The sexual innuendos in ubf are rampant. They are not the typical innuendos but that sexual tension is part of the binding of men’s lives to ubf. Married life in ubf for men is a twisted fantasy of mixing marriage and singleness. I always had to double-check myself in my workplace, because I realized I had been trained to present myself as single.

  17. I have had similar experiences to Christian in other contexts. When it is clear that one is speaking the truth in love, people are far more open and receptive to contrary comments. When people feel that they are being attacked, they become defensive or counter-attack.

    I know and trust that Ben, Joe and others are indeed speaking the truth in love. But I also know that they may not have had the same experiences that Christian, I and others have had. They have been misunderstood and criticized themselves, so the tone of their communication may be quite different from ours.

    • ” I also know that they may not have had the same experiences that Christian, I and others have had.”

      What?! I have had the SAME experiences you had Alan! My time in ubf was good and I am thankful for it. But I no longer deny the reality of the “dark side”.

    • Joe Schafer

      aw, the tone that I use (and that people perceive I use) is not merely a reaction to how I have been treated personally. I am a person, of course, and that has something to do with it. But my perception of these things is based on a very long history, on how many others before me have been treated.

    • Keep in mind who you are talking to here, Alan. This is Ben Toh, Joe & Sharon Schafer, Brian Karcher, Joshua & Dana Brinkerhoff, Nick M., and Chris Z. and others! We know almost everything there possibly is to know about “how ubf really is”. Combined we represent nearly 130 years of “commitment to ubf”.

    • Brian and Joe,

      I understand where you are coming from because a “dark side” indeed exists and needs to be dealt with very seriously and decisively. This is not just based on your own personal experience but mostly based on patterns of behavior that many have experienced over the years.

    • “But my perception of these things is based on a very long history.”

      That’s true. And therefore, maybe aw is right in so far as he and Christian don’t know about the long history of UBF since as far as I understand they are much younger than we are, and only know UBF and UBF conferences from the post SL era where things have somewhat changed. The same problems exist, but maybe they are not so blatant and you only start to see them after several years. I see the always same pattern: Senior members, who really know UBF, criticizing UBF based on their experiences, and junior members, who really don’t know what was going on, vehemently defending UBF and criticizing those who really saw what happened and start to deeply understand the problems. It was exactly the same in the 1976 reform. Many of the top leaders in UBF are the junior members from that time.

      This week I watched the movie “Downfall” (Der Untergang) in German TV. It ends with some closing words by the (real) secretary of Hitler. There, she explained how she used to excuse herself by saying she was young and she didn’t really know what was going on. But then one day, she said, she saw a plate remembering Sophie Scholl, and she recognized that Sophie was exactly her age, and that, if she really wanted, she could have known the truth. The question is: Are you really interested in knowning the truth and understanding the problems? Christian wrote that she didn’t even read our comments and did not fully read the original article. To me it indicates that she doesn’t really take us seriously and does not really want to know, but prefers to continue to live in a fantasy world. Like Hitler and his entourage in the bunker in Berlin.

    • Chris, just fyi, aw (Alan) is older than me and “in” longer than me. Christian is female and is younger.

    • So that would excuse Christian somewhat (with the caveat given above). But I agree, aw should know. And so should Abraham K, Ron W and Jose Ahn who were mentioned by Christian. They all know about the past and all they have to do is prepare yet another old style conference. Yes, I’m sure it will be somewhat different and better. But not substantially. Christian mentioned “world mission night”. I know what that means. Exactly what Ben spoke about in his first point. I have attended many of such nights. And I’m pretty sure that many if not all of the people they bragged to have raised as shepherds in these reports now have already left UBF, frustrated and disappointed. Like Vitaliy and so many others.

    • Yes, Chris, I was among those who stepped to the stage as one willing to become a ubf missionary. And it was in 2008!

    • Vitaly: ” I was among those who stepped to the stage as one willing to become a ubf missionary. And it was in 2008!”

      Ha! Me too :) My wife and I was there in 2008 (well I didn’t see her much but we were both there).

      Wasn’t it so strange to see SB on the big screen with “All my children” in big Korean words above here? I felt SO weird during that whole thing. It really bothered me. Looking back, maybe that was the moment of change in me.

    • Aw and Christian,
      I hear what you are saying. I do think that you are having different experiences and I’m am genuinely glad that your experiences are good.

  18. Chris “This week I watched the movie “Downfall””

    That is an excellent movie. I recommend it as the first movie to watch for any former ubf member. It is highly relevant and brought much healing to my conscience. Yes it is an overdramatization of what the ubf experience is, but take note of how various people reacted to Hitler and the Nazi propaganda and parades and celebrations. The ranges of reactions parallel the reactions to SL and ubf and current ubf directors.

  19. Joe Schafer

    Here’s an interesting article on how few theologians and philosophers spoke out against the rise of National Socialism in Germany.

    A quote from the article:

    “It’s a story of courage, very little of it; it’s the story of complicity and collaboration, very much of it. It’s a story that needs to be told, again and again. It’s the story of ignoring the opposers and restoring the collaborators, again a story that needs to be told again and again.”

    • Yes, Joe. The story needs to be told again and again. Recently my sister-in-law who is a teacher told about visiting Berlin with a class of young adults. In Berlin there are many memorials and places remembering the crimes of the past, and the pupils were required to listen to some presentations about the history. She said she was shocked to see the attitude of many who said it was boring, they didn’t want to hear about it any more, their generation was not guilty in all of this, they knew all of that already etc. – even though in reality they knew next to nothing about that time. Such an attitude is horrible. But it reminds me a bit of the attitude of junior members in UBF who just don’t want to hear us talking about the past.

    • I found the end of the Downfall movie in the German TV on Youtube:

      Here is my ad hoc translation: “Of course I perceived this horror, this killing of 6 Mio Jews revealed during the Nuremburg trials, as a very staggering, horrible fact. But I hadn’t yet made the connection with my own history, I was still content with the belief that I personally wasn’t guilty and didn’t even know about these things – I didn’t know about this extent. But one day I came past the plaque that had been mounted for Sophie Scholl on the Franzosen street, and then I noticed that she was my age group, and that in the year when I came to Hitler, had been executed. And at that moment, I actually felt that it is no excuse to be young, that perhaps, one could have also found out about things…”

  20. Dr.Ben, thanks for the article. It is very interesting: yesterday I told my wife, “There are so many comments on ubfriends these days. I think the Holy Spirit is doing something in the hearts of many. But…I suppose that ubf is preparing the conference. And as usual in ubf they say that “When the Holy Spirit is working, satan is also working, ecpecially before the conference”. So ubf people I am sure are saying that satan is at work here on ubfriends to distract ubfers from the conf prep. I am sure the conference will be an usual ubf conference with no mention of any problem. Until ubf conferences change and become a place for sincere dialogue and repentence ubf will never change”.

    And today I see the article about the ubf conference! Thanks!

  21. btw, the conference issue in ubf has been discussed many times before, such this 2004 discussion: Things different about MSU international conference.

    The “promise” and “hope” was always “Maybe this year will be different…” I am so glad I see the reality now.

  22. During my first SBC the director asked me, “What did you receive through the conference?”. I didn’t know what to say. But even many years later I remembered that all that I received at the conference, I mean the best part that really touched me was the conference title “The Hope of God”. I didn’t like the messages and they didn’t follow the title actually, but the title was nice. It helped me to think about God and his hope. (But not at the conference because at conferences there is no time to think as you may know).

  23. My first ever international ubf conference was ISBC in 1999, soon after I had come to faith in Jesus Christ. The theme of the conference was “Have faith in God”.I was also a life testimony speaker at this conf, and this is when I was first introduced to Ben, who was helping the life testimony speakers. Obviously my local chapter supported me financially to participate. I experienced victory of faith to get visa at my second attempt, since at the first attempt I was rejected. It was a dream come true for me to see the USA and received much love and attention from everyone. I didn’t like the testimony preparation and busy rehearsal schedule. But I really loved the conference atmosphere. I think I experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in this conference. I say ‘I think’ because experiences can be subjective. From the beginning of the conference (singing All Hail the Power) through most part of it I didn’t know why I was weeping. I was thinking about God’s love and mercy and hope and beauty as I kept weeping. I think it was a life changing moment for me. And my impression about this conference was “every brothers and sisters should participate ubf isbc at least once in their lifetime!”

    Having said that, I also participated all other ISBCs till I left ubf in 2011 either as a life testimony speaker, or morning devotion speaker or one of main speaker in HBF. But I missed the experience I had in the first one. I began to experience repetitiveness and emphasis on performance.

    My point is this. Ubf conferences are good for beginners, just as ubf bible study is good for beginners. But sooner or later, we need fresh and healthy food. And that does not come from human performance but from the presence of God.

    Secondly, and this maybe controversial, my opinion is as ubf kept on ignoring legitimate need to reform itself from unhealthy theological and practical issues and put forward a posture of business as usual, the work of the Holy Spirit diminished rapidly in the last ten years or so. Post-SL, I think God was giving chance to the others to go ahead and reform. I have not seen any genuine powerful work of God (conversion or repentance) in these years, at least not in my part of the world.

    Though I cherish my first ISBC experience, I will not be interested to participate another, because there is nothing more to WOW me and Ben’s concerns are legitimate and if they are not addressed with the urgency they deserve, I do not think anybody is going to be wowed by the presence of God.

  24. Thanks again, guys, for participating. I can’t even keep up with the comments! As many have already shared, the initial experience of UBF is really good. Unfortunately, the experience of WOW decreases with time, probably because UBF is rehashing the same thing with minor changes, all along with control from the top (but not God!).

  25. @aw, @Christian, These are my simple practical proposals and suggestions (even if it is unwelcomed):

    1) Please have an American shepherd give the closing message! This is a conference held in the US with perhaps 70% of attendants being from the US and Canada. Politely and humbly ask David Kim to defer to a UBF American leader, whose closing message will be received much better than from a foreigner. There are countless American UBF leaders who can more than aptly give the closing message.

    2) Announce that all attendants are free, so that they are not pressured to attend every single program. The program is already filled and hectic. Often less is more. It is far better that they freely receive what they choose to attend, rather than being guilt tripped that they must attend every single program. The nightly Bible studies, testimony writing and sharing on Sun should be entirely optional. The more freedom is proclaimed and encouraged, the more their hearts will be lightened to receive the Word and the Spirit.

    3) Do not over-train the messengers. Over-training the messengers has made previous messengers come across as unnatural and over-rehearsed. Let the messengers truly be themselves, rather than trying to influence their content, sentence structure, body motions, and application.

    4) Entrust to those who are stewards the responsibility given to them, rather than micro-managing and directing what they are to do.

    5) Have no preferential treatment for certain particular attendees, regardless of how great a servant of God they may be. We are all sinners condemned unclean, saved entirely only by grace. The greatest servants of God should be willing to take the “worst” accommodations at the conference site.

    That’s my 2 cents.

    • ” Announce that all attendants are free”

      Yea right, that will never be a ubf announcement! I remember SL shouting at the 2000 (1999?) ISBC “I will shoot you if you don’t write your testimony!”

      We all laughed nervously. We knew he was joking (maybe?). But such things were stern reminders of how absolutely we must be toward keeping the activity going.

    • Ben,

      …trying to catch up on all of the comments.

      Thanks for the suggestions. All of them are quite reasonable. With all due respect to David Kim and to our brothers and sisters in Korea, I also agree that it is far more appropriate to have an American do the closing message. It is really wonderful how many missionaries have been sent from Korea and we are familiar with the narrative of how God has blessed South Korea to rise from the ashes of civil war in the 1950s to be a prosperous missionary sending country. However, an American with a uniquely American narrative will connect much better for the people at this conference. Someone like John Peace would be great.

  26. Thank you for the timely article. I think we should see bright sides as well. Among many positive points, here are some good things about international conferences solely based on my past observation and from conversations with my own old UBF friends:

    1. For small chapters, it is a good chance to show bible students (if they bring any) that UBF is a real and big organization.
    2. For those who can’t afford sight-seeing trips in busy mission life, it is a good chance to look around and see this country is indeed beautiful.
    3. It is a very good opportunity to have a sort of class re-union. You will meet with old friends (co-workers, their own bible students/teachers) who came from other chapters/countries. Korean missionaries really long to attend international conferences.
    4. For many, it could be the only chance to actually see the General Director or any legendary elders/missionaries. If you catch a good timing, you can even shake hands and say hello.
    5. International conference offers a much needed break to most local members because they don’t have to prepare their own summer bible conference.
    6. Conference theme/bible passages/messages are very familiar so we feel easily very comfortable throughout the conference.
    7. Seeing a great number of attendants from all over the world, it makes you feel good when you think you’re struggling lonely in your mission field.
    8. It does unite all attendants under UBF spirit/heritage. This unity will assure us that the next 50 years will be just fine. UBF is strong.
    9. For those who actively serve in preparation, including messengers, messenger trainers, coordinators, they are all prepared and raised to be next generation of spiritual worriers.
    10. It also helps us contribute to our mundane community, in particular boosting US economy. Think about our spending in traveling, airplanes, gas, food, lodging, babysitting, etc.

    • ugh…this list makes me sick. That would be close to my list of reasons not to attend…

      “UBF is a real and big organization”

      The first thing my new pastor said about ubf is this: “ubf is so small.” 3,000 “core members” and 8,000 total adherents around the world after 50 years makes for a rather small, fringe movement.

      ubf only appears grandiose in a self-glorifying way that denies the facts of reality.

    • Haha! This list is hilarious. Surely it’s satirical, no?

    • “Think about our spending in traveling, airplanes, gas, food, lodging, babysitting”

      I’d rather not. But since you mentioned it. The ISBC is a drop in the bucket compared to the large American church events, such as the upcoming Willow Creek Leadership summit.

    • “ugh…this list makes me sick. That would be close to my list of reasons not to attend…”


      Yongha, are you serious?

    • ubf people think they are like this but in reality they are just a small cult movement:

      Willow Creek stats

      “In 2011, the Global Leadership Summit was broadcast via satellite to 65 000 leaders in 185 churches around the United States. It then reached a further 80 000 leaders in 75 countries via videocast. The impact and success of the summit has been phenomenal since its inception in 1995, with more than 900 000 leaders having been trained and equipped to raise transformation-minded churches.”

    • [And Willow Creek does not need to create fake conference images to make them seem bigger than they are….]

    • “they are all prepared and raised to be next generation of spiritual worriers.”

      Worriers. Now THAT does make sense. Or is that just a typo for “warriors”? But it is true. ubf raises people who worry about so many things. And worry is tied to fear and guilt.

    • Hi Youngha, I don’t want to discourage your participation here, but I have hard time discerning your position. Are you being coy, are your 10 reasons sarcasm, or are you being serious?

      If you’re being serious, my question is this: are the things that you list very important? If so, do you need a conference to accomplish them? If so, is the ISBC setup to accomplish those things best?

      Nonetheless, I agree with your number 5: I definitely preferred letting others do the planning!

    • “ugh…this list makes me sick. That would be close to my list of reasons not to attend…” Sorry that my lists make you guys sick. Yeah, I hear you… Since I came to the US in 1995, I attended twice (very reluctantly each time) and then stopped attending. I used to preach to my friends that we’ve got to stop this kind of conference. Now they may heard voices like me and hold it every 4 years. But, at least, I want to recognize many members being sincerely praying for and attending this conference. God bless them. If you can’t avoid, you should enjoy.

  27. Here’s another public facebook comment: “Honestly, Dr. Ben I like how you see so many concerns inside the church (especially this coming CONFERENCE) and every word you said is totally correct without a doubt. But posting it as an article so everyone could read? Even the young people or the non-Christians who are fortunately your Facebook friends? I’m not saying that you should cover up or ignore the wrong issues concerning the conference but posting in public like this I believe is inappropriate-in my perspective of course, it seems your talking negatively against your FAMILY. Don’t you think it would be best if you talk to the leaders or perhaps organize a sincere meeting?”

  28. Thanks Youngha for your very interesting 10 reasons. Without a doubt there will be new people who will enjoy the conference, and that the Holy Spirit will work and move their hearts. I am happy that this does happen.

    But as many have already commented, there seems to be the law of diminishing returns at work. Subsequent conferences are unable to match our initial enthusiasm and joy, perhaps like a marriage that is going south after an initial exuberant honeymoon.

    If a spark is not found to ignite and excite the marriage, unfortunate outcomes are the inevitable result. You need a new love interest to replace the old.

    Christ always gives us a new day, a new song and a new morning. It should not be boring and predictable and a rehash of the past.

    • I’m with you Ben. I long to see all UBFriends at a conference where no mission is artificially preached, where truth is revealed humbly, and where failure is embraced graciously. I’ll be there if you plan on one. Just put it up here.

  29. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    Ben, I like your 2 cents. The 5 things you posted about changes for the international conference. Definitely, the closing messenger should be an American speaker. Joe, I agree with what you said about there is a time for everything. It is the time to act. We need to change. So many native leaders have left our ministry. We need to see why and act. To Christian, I believe this conference will be different. I also worked for many years as a conference worker. I always enjoyed working with Brian Kracher. He was a pretty good conference worker. As Dr. Ben stated, they were exhausting but for me they were a joy because I was able to work behind the scene and met so many young people all over the world. I worked closely with SL and learned a lot from him. Yongha, I like your suggestion about UBFriends having a conference, “where no mission is artificially preached, where truth is revealed humbly, and where failure is embraced graciously.” I will certainly be there if they have one. It is 3am now in Kyiv but I couldn’t sleep. I have been thinking about the posting here in UBFriends. May God help us to be the people of God he wants us to be. May the Holy Spirit lead us.

  30. For you UBFers, I truly do pray that God abundantly blesses the conference to overflowing–as I stated at the beginning and end of this article. Then I, even I, may receive some small crumbs of leftover blessing.

  31. wesleyyjun

    I think speaking the truth in love is one of the hardest things to do. I see that some ubfreinds here are trying to speak to ubf truth in love. I really admire your effort. I pray you will succeed. I know it won’t be easy. I am sure there are success stories in history. I cannot think of one right now. But I can easily think of examples that such efforts led to division. I think it is in man’s nature to be divided than to be united despite differences.
    Neither party should claim the monopoly of truth. Why was it that Jesus gave this command before his crucifixion: “Love one another.” Why did he wash his disciples’ feet and say, “I set an example for you?” Why did he pray “they may be one” in Jn 17? I believe it is uniquely Christian to be able to be united despite differences. Before Jesus’ death and ascension, there is no mention in the gospels of Peter and John working so closely as the one described in Acts 3. When something like that happens it really gives glory to God(by the way it coincides the take-off of the early Christian church), more so than one brilliant theologian triumph in his crusade to teach “dumb” people the truth. I long to see the glory of God when different people with different views humble themselves and honor and respect the others because they also belong to the Lord.

    • You write “Neither party should claim the monopoly of truth.”

      If you mean that neither party should claim to be the ultimate source of wisdom and be right in all matters, then ok. But if you mean that in certain questions that have been discussed, like the ordered abortions or more generally spiritual abuse and authoritariansm in the church, all positions are equal and should be equally tolerated, or we should “agree to disagree” as James Kim put it, I again vehemently oppose you.

      You also write “it is uniquely Christian to be able to be united despite differences”

      Again, I must disagree. Rather, I found Christians to be much more intolerant than non-Christians. Even UBF has shown this very clearly in the past. Why has UBF split from the Presbyterian church? Why have been all reformers expelled by UBF in 2001 and 2002? Can you please tell me? Or, to give a smaller example: When one of my friends in UBF said to one of the Korea UBF honchos who was visiting us (I think it was David Kim) that he didn’t like the use of the word “shepherd” as title, that Korean leader answered: “Well, you are free to leave if you don’t like it”. So much about “united despite differences”. Even you, Wesley, recently recommended somebody who posted here to leave, when he had critical views about UBF.

      Second, it is not even Christian to be united despite all differences. John 17 is a general principle. But the epistles (and even Jesus in Mt 18:17) give many examples where people were told to separate from those who sinned. It is not ok to be united under all circumstances.

    • Wesley, I am sorry that you still see what is going on here as a disagreement over debatable issues. I cannot keep quiet when what is clearly sin is being minimized once again. These sins have been revealed and they need to be addressed. Period. Also, it’s hard not to hear a well worn rebuke in your words against those of us who have learned from “brilliant theologians”. I was warned many times to stop being complicated, to have simple faith, to return to UBF Bible study (which by the way is by no means simple and pure)etc etc. If you only knew the life these theologians have breathed into me over the past few years. You seem to see pride. I am very sorry to hear that.

    • Wesley, I owe you an apology. I read your words with a defensive spirit, assuming criticism that may not have been there. I am sorry.

  32. Samantha

    Thanks Dr. Ben. I appreciate your analysis of the character of UBF Intl conferences. I would heartily agree with what you wrote. In particular, I would agree with the last point you made in regard to conference workers, as that applies directly to my conference experiences since 1993. My dearly beloved friend Maria Peace brought me into the fold of conference workers. We had some wonderful times together –too many stories to tell. I would also agree that my first conference experience was my best. Very exciting and eye opening to see and greet people from all over the world.

    However, being a conference worker became like a full time job for me for many years. It’s almost funny –if it weren’t so sad–that conference work was always viewed as ‘unspiritual’ work. If all of the logistics worked out at a particular conference, no one said anything, i.e. you have only done your duty. If however, there was a problem, yikes!! Watch out! I worked with Alan and Brian over the years, they can both testify to the demand placed upon those ‘called’ to serve.

    My last conference that I lived in Chicago HQ for, at one particular meeting, I disagreed with the conference director about something. No matter how I tried to communicate my opinion (which was different than his) it was to no avail. Honestly, I think my opinion really didn’t matter. It was his way or the highway. By 1am I had had enough. I spoke my disagreement rather bluntly (likely disrespectfully) and left – to go home to my three small children.

    The next day, I was told to work with another director on another portion of the conference. After ten years of working together, and spending endless time together, it was almost as though there was no relationship between myself and the conference director. Very painful experience for me–because we were friends–but friendship does not trump spiritual order. He is my elder –and will always be my elder. (As an aside, he also had elders above him, who will always be his elders. It’s not really all his fault –it’s the culture!)

    Fast forward to the next international conference, I lived in Omaha, 500 miles from Chicago HQ. I made it clear (so I thought) that I would help from afar, in an advisory role. I was not willing to take on a specific task for the conference. We were a single UBF family with three children and my husband was a college professor –working endless hours toward his tenure. Yet, while on a conference call with 5 other people, the lot fell to me to manage the development of an online registration system with a company that was hired to do the work. It seemed as though I was the only one for the job, as everyone else had full time jobs and I was a stay at home mom.

    Long story short, I spent endless hours –and I mean endless. We started about 5 months late because the board of directors who needed to sign off on the project were too busy with some conference preparation to make the decision. After working for months –like it was my full time job –accommodating everyone’s needs and wants, the thing went live. I was so exhausted –especially since I never wanted to be so involved in the first place. But, I learned that you just do it — don’t think about how it feels.

    One rainy day, while trying to come with an alternative picnic site for my son’s Cub Scout den, I got a phone call from a very senior Korean missionary –to complain about the registration site that was developed. He asked me why I made it so difficult. He then asked me if I had ever bought anything from Best Buy. “Why couldn’t you make it like they do at Best Buy?” For me, that was the end. The tears did not stop flowing for days! Turns out that missionary received a phone call from another missionary chapter director –who used the Best Buy example –so naturally, he called me to get the answer. Argh!!

    I finished my work. Attended the conference. But, my first night there, I told the conference director that I was done. I felt abused. Through tears, I said those words. He basically said nothing in response. He spent the rest of the conference trying to make me feel better~but never really addressing the real problem.

    I am sure that there are many examples out there of this kind. @Christian I am glad that your experience is going so well. I am glad that you are “listening, honestly sharing and spending friend time together (not just work time) to build those relationships.” Perhaps your experience is the fruit of the blood, sweat and tears of those of us who have gone before you. I pray it is so.

    @Sharon, thanks for your comment about liking things simple and honest. I have tried to do so in this post.

    • Samantha: I’m really glad you share this. We should make and article out of it. I remember the ISBC serving with you and Maria and Alan and others. For me as an outsider to Chicago, I knew I was spared the brunt of the rebukes that you and Maria took. It always made me so sad to see firsthand how passionate and hardworking both of you are, only to see the harshness with which you were treated. It was not fair, even when honest mistakes were made, for you to be treated that way. I saw Harvey’s gentle spirit too though, and how he was a stabilizing force for the team!

      Now we are getting into a topic that is much needed for public discussion: servant abuse.

      A “new sheep” in ubf is coddled and love-bombed, not realizing that in 5 to 7 years the training mode will certainly have kicked in.

      Those of us who volunteered or were drafted for ISBC preparation got to experience a whole different level of “training”.

      Our Christian church we attend now is SO different. Every event is designed and planned so that nothing depends solely on one person. Servants are not abused, they are appreciated.

      A flood of tears came to my eyes when I saw the tagline of the email sent to me after serving communion just one time.

      The words sent to all the servers were: “Because you matter.”

    • I am thinking of sharing an article on “servant abuse” soon. This really needs much more exposure.

      btw, my ISBC serving began with trauma (doesn’t everything in ubf begin with trauma?). I was devastated with fear and guilt when I saw how our friend BVM was treated when his database fell short of features. I am sure I stepped on his toes big time when I swooped in as the “database expert”. SLee seemed so happy to get rid of BVM’s system and use mine. But I was so afraid of something going wrong.

      This kind of servant abuse I experienced in ubf is why I had to run out of our church service last year. I was serving Communion and we ran out of the “blood of Jesus”. I physically started shaking and left the service in terror. All I could hear was the voice of SLee and others vehemently rebuking me…

    • Ok just one more memory and I’ll stop for now:

      How many “blissfully unaware” conference attendants knew they were “special people”? I’ll never forget the “special people” lines we setup to handle their registration “specially”!

    • Thank you Samantha, for your blood, sweat and tears, and for your simple and honest post! I hope it helps us to start “addressing the real problem”.

    • Thanks for reporting about your experiences Samantha. Junior UBF members should really know what happened and why we are frustrated.

      As another historical note, several of the early “German shepherds” in UBF, among them bright people like Ben and Joe, left at the beginning of the 1990s because of the way Samuel Lee interfered with the preparation of the European conferences. For instance, they would prepare sermons, dramas, music etc. for weeks and months, and then, in the last minute, Samuel Lee would cancel all of this and replace the European speakers or singers with Americans or Koreans. I guess they also experienced similar things as Samantha reported, because it made them so upset that they left.

      Now sure you can say: “These people just weren’t humble enough. They should have simply swallowed and accepted everything and humbly submit.” Right. You can think so if you want to create an organization that only consists of subservient borgs without a backbone and without own ideas, and in which abuse is considered normal. Do you think such “humility” is Biblical? It is not. In 1Cor 11:20 Paul rebuked people with such a mindset: “In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face.” Christians who put up with such people are not humble, but silly, and they do not only harm themselves, but also others, because they become enablers of abuse.

  33. Samantha, it probably doesn’t mean much coming from someone like me. I mean, I went to all these conferences blissfully unaware of all the sacrifices that were being made, but I just wanted to say thank you for honestly sharing all that. And thank you for all those blood, sweat, and tears for our sake. I truly had no idea.

    If there is new fruit budding in this ISBC, it is certainly because of individuals like you who have paved the way for the rest of us. Thanks also for your hospitality when our fellowship did a road trip in your part of town.

    Nebraskan-Mongolian grill. Love it.

  34. Before Jesus’ death and ascension, there is no mention in the gospels of Peter and John working so closely as the one described in Acts 3. When something like that happens it really gives glory to God(by the way it coincides the take-off of the early Christian church), more so than one brilliant theologian triumph in his crusade to teach “dumb” people the truth.

    wesleyyjun, thanks for your desire for unity. I also dream for the beauty and impact of the early Christian church to be repeated in my lifetime. But I want to ask you, what was the basis for Peter and John’s working so closely post-ascension? Was it their ability to be united despite differences, or was it their own unity with the Holy Spirit and submission to Jesus’ leadership?

    I wish we had a brilliant theologian here on ubfriends. I for one would have loved to sit under his feet as one of the “dumb” people. But sadly most of us in ubf grew up with it’s faulty theology and were told that pursuit of theology is wastage and theologians are bad. We were even discouraged to refer books and materials by other people outside ubf at the cost of spiritually starving and malnutrition.

    • wesleyyjun

      AbNial, Peter and John’s unity was the result of “their own unity with the Holy Spirit and submission to Jesus’ leadership.”
      I also wish we had brilliant theologians on ubfriends. But some may get there. How about yourself? I have been talking to ubf people that we should invest in people and raise scholars if this organization is to last for a while and has meaningful impacts.

    • wesleyyjun, perhaps I misunderstood your previous comment. I thought the unique Christian ability to be united despite differences you referred to was by the usual ubf way of not addressing the differences and it’s implications. I also thought you were suggesting that correct and up-lifting theology may not be necessary for God-glorifying unity as that in the early Christian church. I was reacting to that, and my response to your comment has been colored out of my past ubf experiences. I am sorry, if those were what you did not mean.

      As for your hope/desire/thoughts for me to be a “brilliant theologian”, I should say I am humbled. I do not have the discipline and the time. However, I want to learn from many who have gone ahead of me and have done the hard work in various streams of the Christian faith. Unfortunately my desire to learn outside of ubf was not appreciated by ubf leaders and without even listening to me they spread the news that I was following a cult-group. Nevertheless, I want my theology to evolve out of progressive experiences of the unfathomable God, who loves to surprise us.

  35. @Samantha, thanks a bunch for sharing your heart and pain. There are too many sad elements to your story. What workers do is less important than what directors direct. Sorry to say that UBF leaders have treated subordinates like peons.

    To such leaders genuinely saying “Thank you” would be a sin and beneath them to do so. Taking you for granted would be the norm. That is why I will never forget that Lk 17:7-10 was the passage after the conference: You totally gave of yourself, your time, your family, your heart, your resources without any compensation (not even verbal gratitude), and well, “you just did what you’re supposed to do. So, what’s the big deal! Go get your reward from God.”

    But as @Christian and @JohnY have stated, perhaps they now realize (5 decades later) that they should at the very least treat workers with dignity, humility and gratitude.

  36. I’ve not gotten this many facebook comments before:

    “Got back from work well after midnight and then I saw your article. Pretty tired but want to take a stab at this and ask a question.

    First in the article you say that you want God to bless the conference, and then the rest of the article is “concerns” you have about the conference. These “concerns” are points where you think UBF is completely going away from scripture even going so far as to say that this conference is meant to glorify UBF and its members instead of God. Total and outright sin against God. In fact all of your points are really quite awful if they are true.

    Now my question is, “what exactly do you mean by ‘you want God to bless the conference?’” Why do you want God to bless the conference if it is the way you say it is? What I think, is that by bless you mean that God will correct all your “concerns” so that Christ is honored as you said.

    By praying for this, I’m assuming you have faith this is going to happen, right? So, if you’re praying for this, you have faith it’s going to happen, things will be corrected, therefore you should go because your concerns are gone…but… you’re not going because of the concerns you have, even though you’re praying for it, so you don’t have faith it’s going to happen, and you’re praying for something that you don’t think is going to happen. Does that make sense? It’s pretty late. lol.”

  37. wesleyyjun

    Chris,I don’t think I encouraged anyone to leave ubf. When I said that to someone, I only meant if he thinks ubf church is not nourishing him spiritually any more he should leave it and find another church where he can be nourished and grow spiritually. I don’t think unity means just being in the same church building or organization. I can be united in love with someone who goes to another church. I am fine with anyone leaving ubf for different reasons as long as we can respect each other. But if we can grow spiritually and serve God together in the same church what can be greater blessing than that?

    • “I am fine with anyone leaving ubf for different reasons as long as we can respect each other.”

      Ben and Joe have already commented. In the example I gave, the shepherd didn’t want to leave UBF at all. He just felt that the practice of using “shepherd” as a title was wrong. Then he was told he could leave if he doesn’t like it.

      The other example I gave was the expulsion of half of the membership in 2001 and 2002. These people didn’t leave. Nor did they want to leave. They were expelled, quite officially and formally, by the UBF leadership under John Jun. From this I learned that UBF heritage was more important than unity. And no, they were not respected. They were called rebels, crazy dogs and worse.

      Also, it would have been no problem for UBF to serve students as a special ministry under the umbrella of the Presbyterian church. But UBF preferred to found their own church instead.

      Also, I know so many chapters in UBF that have split in two because of internal differences. Sure, you can say they still are united in their wish to serve God, but I think that’s just playing on words. If you have unity as a real core value, you will try to also have unity outwardly. The Catholic church takes this very seriously, and Martin Luther took it also very seriously. He didn’t just leave the church and found another church with a mind of “agree to disagree”, he actually wanted to reform the whole church.

      How UBF dealt with the reformers ten years ago clearly showed me that all the talk about unity in UBF was hypocritical.

  38. @wesley, @chris, The fact remains that countless UBF directors have told their juniors, “If you don’t like it, you can leave UBF.” This is a very very sad commentary coming from leaders who have been in UBF for 3 to 5 decades.

    After being a UBF chapter director for decades, all you can say with someone who disagrees with you is “If you don’t like it, you can leave UBF”? Is this not childish, immature, arrogant???

  39. Joe Schafer

    Wesley, I really didn’t like it when you wrote:

    “I only meant if he thinks ubf church is not nourishing him spiritually any more he should leave it and find another church where he can be nourished and grow spiritually.”

    If people are malnourished in a church community to which they have invested so much of their blood, sweat and tears, why should they simply leave? Why shouldn’t the leaders recognize the problem and do something about it? Isn’t that what God would have them do?

    I’m sorry to say this, but your comment strikes me as callous and indifferent.

    • wesleyyjun

      Joe, in my original posting about “leaving ubf” I only stated it as a general principal of church not to be place where members feel trapped. If anybody who has stayed in ubf for decades has to leave, I would be really sorry. I know it has been happening. It is heart-breaking. Decision to leave ubf or any church, which he has decided is not a place where he can be nourished, should happen as early as possible.
      But I am thankful to see some of ubfriends staying in ubf and fighting for change. Just like you I hope change will happen and that more leaders will recognize problems and do something about it.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thank you, Wesley. If you get a chance, please watch the video posted on the latest article (Brian Karcher is Bitter) and tell us what you think.

  40. David Bychkov

    Yeah, and I think to be part of UBF, so to be real UBF disciple means to leave behind everything else you have. I am not sure what it means now, but as many of us know for us being the part of UBF really required to give our lives to it. The frinds, family, identity of a person became so much connected with UBF so he/she could have nothing else. And then to tell such people – well, you can just leave would be pretty cruel.

  41. I’m so happy to hear all of my thoughts already mentioned here. Ditto.

    I just want to mention that maybe we should all send our concerns to the ubf Unity Committee?

    Oh wait, we just need to declare our unity, and silence all the critics. THEN we will be so united! :/

    • Or maybe if all of us “critical people” would just SHUT UP AND GO THE F AWAY, ubf could “be used as God’s instrument” so WONDERFULLY again…

      This is a direct quote. I am not making this up:

      “Praise God for declaring what is to be in 2011. God quieted all critical people to UBF so that UBF may be used as God’s instrument for the world mission.”

      (Source: 2012 UBF Newsletter, page 35).

    • Joe Schafer

      For the record: although my name was attached to that “unity committee” report, I had absolutely nothing to do with it. It was written and published with no input from me. After it appeared in the ubf newsletter and on the ubf website last year, I was very upset because my name was on it and I found the content objectionable. I complained to the author and the GD but nothing was done.

      To my knowledge, the Unity Committee never met even once.

    • “To my knowledge, the Unity Committee never met even once.”

      LOL. Let’s have “unity” but not meet… that’s classic. Yea Joe I suspected as much when I saw your name. The whole point is actually “Public Relations” which is what that committee used to be. I couldn’t imagine you would agree with what was in that report! But keeping your name from the old committee was a good PR move for them.

    • Joe Schafer

      The PR committee didn’t do much either. The only time I can recall anyone from PR committee actually meeting together was about 5 years ago when I proposed creating an interactive ubf-sponsored website called UBFriends. I put together a proposal and sent it to senior leaders and the GD. Their reaction was: Such a website would need to be carefully controlled by senior ubf leaders and headquarters to make sure that the discussions always stay ‘healthy’ with no bitter complaining spirit!

    • “Such a website would need to be carefully controlled by senior ubf leaders and headquarters to make sure that the discussions always stay ‘healthy’”

      The numero uno question for me these days is “What is healthy”? I don’t know. My journey the past 3 to 5 years has been a search for reality. I want to know what’s real. I want to know what’s healthy.

      So far found out that my wife and children are real, and it is healthy to have H.O.T discussions both online and in person.

      [But sometimes I feel like walking away from ubf with two middle fingers held high shouting “have a nice day!!!]

  42. big bear

    Dear friends, I can relate to dr ben toh post. i think summer conferences could be more useful if there were more influence by the whole Christian community. This is what I attempted to do when I was a UBF director at NKU. I believe the lack of involvement and communication in UBF has caused many problems. There is also lack of support for growing small mininistries when failure comes their is no resources to get practical help. A big part of ministry is serving and supporting others in Christ. The focus of conferences is to stir up more mission but the true focus should be on the whole church. UBF is just a small part. Get the whole church christ, andrew

    • Hi big bear. I am speechless to see you posting here. You and I know each other. Through the Spirit I am both deeply furious and terribly saddened by you. Would you share your story honestly here some day?

  43. In UBF unity means only 1 thing: Absolute non-negotiable conformity to what certain people regard as UBF core values. If not, you’re totally dispensable and disposable.

    So, if you don’t like it, you can leave.

    Or you can start another UBF chapter, but just don’t say that it is because of conflict, because we are united for the whole world to see. It’s very cute.

  44. “Such a website would need to be carefully controlled by senior ubf leaders and headquarters to make sure that the discussions always stay ‘healthy’ with no bitter complaining spirit!”

    Wow, you guys must be totally sick and unhealthy and with full of bitter complaining spirit!!!

  45. Joe Schafer

    Yes, my bitter friend. This discussion is sick!

  46. Thank you Ben for this article. It seems I am a little late since I could not look at the blog recently.

    Personally, in my experience conferences are all the same, BUT….the smaller and local (sometimes joint) gatherings are better. As for the ISBC – much ado about nothing. It is only good for new-comers to see the UBF machine. But as we know there are far better and more beneficial Christian conferences for young believers to go to.

    Any debate over Ben, Ben’s concerns and/or anyone else’s?
    “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Tim 4:3)

    I guess that time came from the birth of the UBF style conference. I have a couple interesting points from a friend who attended only one local chapter conference (no Bible study; no SWS):

    >>The Word of God was preached but many bold statements were not supported by the passage itself but would not be conflict with large thematic ideas within the Bible.
    -This means that the UBF message style invented some illustration which betrayed the Bible passage.

    >>The importance of following the program superseded looking deeply into God’s word.
    >>Neither questions nor discussion were encouraged
    -During a group Bible study students were ignored/silenced after taboo questions were made, because they did not include the mandate set out by UBF interpretation and goal of Bible study.

    >>Jesus and the gospel were mentioned but in the shadow of the subject of service and ministry

    “I only sensed and did not entirely realize this until after the conference. This is because this was not overt but a matter of nuances. But what an important nuance it is.”

    I agreed with the entire summary of experience (about 2-3 pages). I agree with the above mentioned concerns on this blog.

    The international conference is another means to wear down God’s people with the deception that it will actually restore them. Frankly, the best way to restore your people is to have a loose structure. Yes, a message is needed, maybe even some activity like song/worship and dance, but at the voluntary choice of the attendant. Time that restores you, that brings you closer to God should allow that old breathing room we have been begging for. A conference should truly be an opportunity to experience God’s grace, while the machine (UBF) remains at the back of your mind and not at the front. Being aware of the machine actually inhibits your chance to come to God.

    I agree with many sentiments that have echoed the cruel reality that these conferences do not encourage social relationships.

    When you do have a social relationship it is almost always because:
    1) you are a shepherd and you must shadow your sheep
    2) you are a sheep and must:
    a) stay with your chapter brothers/sisters respectively
    b) stay within sight of your shepherd

    Maybe some people like this or do not even notice it, but I always got bothered by this limitation.

    You want me to be encouraged. You want me to experience the global aspect of UBF and yet I am restricted by being observed in the name of shepherding.

    That being said, I never had much trouble with meeting others. I used to make a point of avoiding my own chapter members as time went by whenever I attended a conference. I have to be honest though, the local chapter conferences are much more dynamic for change depending on the leadership. My home chapter had evolved into a more dynamic environment which is why after some time I never had difficulties, but I have eyes to see what is going on in other chapters and certainly in the ISBC.

    What I am getting at with Timothy is simple. There has/will been/be objection to Ben’s fb wall. Do UBFers really think that in light of all their preparation that such an article would be missed from the blog? Not at all. It is not just a conference – it is the CONFERENCE. Some small chapters have a modest Easter worship just to afford the time and energy that committing to an ISBC means. Do not expect to hear rejoicing and praise because of it. It is actually a time of high level stress for most people. Don’t forget morning and evening (mandatory) prayer meetings. The recitation of endless name lists to fulfill the body count.

    I received an email recently from someone in my home country. It had nothing to do with the ISBC, but I was given a question in the imperative. Thoughtfully added, I could argue, and I know that nothing was intended to pressure me. However, this is the atmosphere that a conference generates. examples: “You must come. Even if you can’t come – COME!” Thankfully the mentioned in my case was as bold as these examples.

    As for the bad reaction to non-attending members – well, I shall say simply. I almost did not make it to Purdue (2008). All tactics to guilt me to go were used. Even as a status of ‘almost didn’t make it’ senior leaders look at you differently. Because your priorities do not compliment theirs (I know not everyone is like this).

    So yes, UBFers “gc” is not coming to ISBC. Why? It is not a priority for me at this time. Also, my wife will deliver a baby during this summer and I am doing the responsible thing.

    • Well said, gc. I am glad we could become Facebook friends. I have just couple responses…

      “Jesus and the gospel were mentioned but in the shadow of the subject of service and ministry…”

      THAT is at THE source of all the problems mentioned here. The ubf mission statement from the 50th does NOT mention Jesus anywhere. So it is clear that the directors pledged themselves to be a Confucian cult for another 50 years.

      Here is my suggestion for the 5 minutes of “free time” at the ISBC for anyone going: Play the “Where’s Jesus?” game. It is just like “Where’s Waldo?”. Try to find out if Jesus is there, if Jesus is even mentioned and if so, is Jesus given HIS rightful place as LORD and GENERAL DIRECTOR?

      “…my wife will deliver a baby during this summer and I am doing the responsible thing.”

      Kudos! I would say you are also doing God’s mission. Anyone with children has a primary mission from God: raise them. I am ashamed to admit that I spent 19 years of marriage and helped raise 4 children but never even asked these two questions:

      1. How can I be a good husband?
      2. How can I be a good father?

  47. MarthaO


    I agree there is a common theme amongst people who leave, they do not want to leave, but they are forced to leave.

    ‘Ben and Joe have already commented. In the example I gave, the shepherd didn’t want to leave UBF at all. He just felt that the practice of using “shepherd” as a title was wrong.’

    ‘These people didn’t leave. Nor did they want to leave. They were expelled, quite officially and formally, by the UBF leadership under John Jun.’

    And this is how they are forced to leave….

    “And no, they were not respected. They were called rebels, crazy dogs and worse.”

    We had several American Shepherds (including Brian) who served in Toledo Ministry for more than 20 plus years. They did not want to leave, they were forced to leave. I believe that the Holy Spirit worked to help them see the spiritual state of Toledo UBF. When they raised these concerns, guess what happened? They were treated like rebels, they were disrespected, “they had lost mission”, their heart grew cold…etc.
    I heard many of these things and believed many of those things without questioning my shepherds. And I am sorry that I was so blind to all of it. That is how we are trained right?

    Are things different in Toledo? Yes in some areas and No in some of the areas that I think are very important to develop honest and open dialogue. Real friendships cannot develop unless people are willing to be vulnerable and admit sin issues. People still don’t like to talk about what happened two years ago. There is so much pain and hidden wounds. They would rather move on.

    If you have the courage to bring up the pain or raise issues, you are viewed as the trouble maker and the bitter one or the rebel. There is no love, but hate towards you. Your life becomes miserable enough that you begin to have a very difficult time fitting in. You feel like an outcast. You begin to realize they were never really your friends, or were they? You begin to wonder if its worth staying. You begin to struggle. Sometimes, you find yourself crying a lot. You might share your struggle openly to see if anyone truly cares, but all you get is a cold shoulder, frowns etc..

    Its the same pattern…anyone who raises questions or concerns will be forced out of ubf unless they conform back into doing all that ubf demands.

    The above is what I am experiencing at this time. Some people ask me from time to time…are you ok now? As if somehow by ignoring me or not dealing with the issue, it sort of goes away. Are you still struggling to stay they ask? Then when you tell them that you are struggling because there is no forum to speak the truth, its just bottled up…then their nice face turns into a cold mean face. or they say’ Have simple faith like me, and trust in God.’ Tell me, Is this what loving your neighbor means?

    I do have problems with the So loved conference, I am tired of hearing about So love but not seeing it in practice. I am tired of not having real, honest and genuine friends and real genuine love in our church. Isnt this gospel work to love one another with genuine, transparent love? I am convinced we will never experience real love, real healing until people are willing to go to the ugly dirty places with each other. Not looking down on one another. Some people might disagree with me on this, I would have two years ago…

    • Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather

      Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men

    • Martha, I agree with Sharon: Well-said. And as you and Mark know well already: My “leaving process” was not a leaving process at all. I was searching for a reason to stay. I wanted even one reason to remain. I was searching for reality. I was searching for the meaning of “healthy”.

  48. “I am tired of hearing about So love but not seeing it in practice. I am tired of not having real, honest and genuine friends and real genuine love in our church. Isnt this gospel work to love one another with genuine, transparent love? I am convinced we will never experience real love, real healing until people are willing to go to the ugly dirty places with each other. Not looking down on one another. Some people might disagree with me on this, I would have two years ago…”
    Thank you, Martha. Well said.

  49. wesleyyjun

    Joe, I watched the video you mentioned. He said several things that are noteworthy but I will just say one thing: what the speaker said reinforces the truth that being silent in the watch of abuse is crime. For me to be a grandfather recently is almost experience of new birth of myself as well as of the baby. Looking at the baby lying down, completely depending on parents’ care, not being able to do anything for himself, I almost felt the holiness of God, who gives me a divine command, “Take care of the helpless.” Jesus used the word “sheep” instead of “the helpless.” If I found a baby lying on the street abandoned by his parents and I don’t do anything for him, my inaction would be heinous crime.
    With the same token if I watch abuse happening and remain silent in any place or organization including my church, I would be committing sin against God and the abused and defenseless.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thank you. I agree.

    • “With the same token if I watch abuse happening and remain silent in any place or organization including my church, I would be committing sin against God and the abused and defenseless.”

      Thanks for clarifying this. But I want to go one step further. What if you don’t drectly watch abuse happening, but only hear rumours that it is or was happening? This would correspond to my example of Hitler’s secretary. She didn’t see any of the crimes commited to the Jews happening.

  50. Before we ‘go back to the Bible’, or ‘do the bible conference’, we need to go back to ‘the 1976 open letter’. Before we do any ‘religious’ activity, we need to deal our ugly dirty sins first.

    In 1976, SL ordered to hide Dr.JJ from the 7 rebels(senor staff shepherds) so he could not hear anything from the rebels. So Dr JJ had been detained for several days.
    Maybe, some leaders in UBF would be relieved by hearing Dr.Ben is not coming to the ISBC. They might worry about Dr.Ben’s ‘bad’ influence to hard working ubf missionaries who barely knows about the truth. Your absence at the ISBC could be a good reason for some leaders to marginalize you.

    So, I think Dr.Ben should go to the ISBC to tell the truth. You should meet new missionaries and shepherds and share your concerns and issues. Maybe bring some printed documents from old letters, articles on ubfriends. It will be a good way to raise more voices so ubf cannot ignore it anymore.

    OT prophets did some wired behaviors to get attentions from the Israelite because people had refused to listen prophet’s words.
    So I encourage Joe and Ben to take more courage to make your voice heard to many ubfers at the ISBC. More people will happen to see how ubf leaders deal with you and the issues as well.

    This might be SL’s general discipline method, he purposely offend someone and wait for the natural character coming out and rebuke it severely. Please don’t use this approach like SL. Just tell the truth like Jesus did. Some will be very offended, some will listen, some will ignore it. Their true heart will come out.

    • I volunteer to lead a PIG and to deliver the main message.

    • Joe Schafer

      Some dissenters have come to UBF conferences in the past to protest abusive practices. We (and I include myself here) never spoke to them and told everyone else to ignore them, calling them “mental patients” and such.

    • “told everyone else to ignore them, calling them “mental patients” and such”. LOL!

      I don’t believe that coming to the conference with whatever letters and articles would do any good. ubfers will be in their fantasy at the moment. I wouldn’t listen to Ben or Joe if still a ubfer at a conference.

    • “Some dissenters have come to UBF conferences in the past to protest abusive practices.”

      Indeed. And with picket signs and flyers! I am not being facetious; that really happened. And I was in a group of ISBC people who was told by the conference director to hold up our bibles over our faces and walk very quickly past them and NOT to speak. We were instructed to sing Amazing Grace.

      I hope AY and NT is reading this. No matter what their personal issues were, we owe them a HUGE apology. Unfortunately NT may be legally bound from publicly commenting. Those are the stories that need to be told. Oh wait, they already have been told and are easily found on the internet…

    • No body will believe ‘Joe Schafer’ and ‘Ben Toh’ are mental patients. If something similar happens, more people will see the real dark-side of ubf even after the conference.
      It was just my thought. I believe you will follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
      I heard the news that Korean staff shepherds are discussing about Joe’s article. I don’t know what kind of response will come out but, at least they are listening what you’re saying.

    • “Before we ‘go back to the Bible’, or ‘do the bible conference’, we need to go back to ‘the 1976 open letter’. Before we do any ‘religious’ activity, we need to deal our ugly dirty sins first.”


      “In 1976, SL ordered to hide Dr.JJ from the 7 rebels(senor staff shepherds) so he could not hear anything from the rebels. So Dr JJ had been detained for several days.”

      I’m always learning something new. From where do you know this?

      “So, I think Dr.Ben should go to the ISBC to tell the truth.”

      I don’t think this would be a solution. The ISBC is not the place where people would open their hearts for this kind of information. They are in a completely different mood and mode. See the experience with an attempt to inform members some years ago. Dr.Ben would be considered as a crazy person who is hindering “the work of God”. And they would close their ears with their hands and shout “I don’t care, I don’t care”, as AY reported after trying to give conference attendants important information. Also, I don’t think it’s right to put all hope and push all responsibility to Ben and Joe now. UBFers don’t need the next big leader who helps them but must be empowered to think and act for themselves. The conference is not the right place for this. It would do only harm.

    • “I don’t think this would be a solution. The ISBC is not the place where people would open their hearts for this kind of information. They are in a completely different mood and mode.”

      I agree Chris. It would be harmful. I am glad some are suggesting options and strategies here. However, unlike you and I Chris, most people in ubf don’t realize how long this has been going and HOW MANY attempts have been made.

      It may be mind-boggling for some readers here, especially anyone who came to ubf bible study after 2002 (SLee’s death), but all the strategies mentioned so far have been attempted by Koreans and nearly every national country “natives”, old and young, in and out, and repeatedly.

      One new thing is this blog. No one can control information anymore. So ubf can only hope for a B.T.E. model of control. The “I” (information) is gone forever. Shepherds can only try to manipulate behavior, thoughts and emotions now. And even that will be very tough without information control.

    • @Chris

      “In 1976, SL ordered to hide Dr.JJ from the 7 rebels(senor staff shepherds) so he could not hear anything from the rebels. So Dr JJ had been detained for several days”

      I think I gave you incorrect information. I heard it from a person who was in Gwangju UBF at that time. I think it’s Shepherd Samuel H Lee, who was a staff shepherd in Gwangju at that time. He was the one hidden or ‘under protection’ from the 7 rabels. If I am correct, Dr. JJ was in the army at that time. I am sorry that I wrote some wrong information.

  51. big bear

    dear Brian, surprised to hear your response to my post, I am doing great and God has given me a new beginning in his grace. I do not want to share my story of how I left UBF on this forum. I am writing a 5 book entitled (The year the world ended 2012) I think you will find the answers there. I love God people in UBf but I was indirectly asked to leave after a failed marriage and a year of struggle in prayer. I met Christ in UBf and I am forever indebted to God but my story is one of freedom and redeption in Christ. God will never leave you but it is true that after 28 years I felt abandoned. I cried out to God and He answered my prayers as I sttod barefooted in the Ohio river and watched in horror as everything was taken away from me. I started over at 50 and God blessed me with new wife and son from Romania. I now understand your pain…forgive me. In Christ love Andrew

    • Andrew, I’m glad to hear this response. If we are friends (and I think we are) and if we are brothers in Christ (and I think we are) then it is rather unfair of you to drop this statement above: “This is what I attempted to do when I was a UBF director at NKU.”

      It may surprise you, but I know many details about this. So I am not fishing for details. And there is no need to air such details here.

      What I seek is honesty. Your first comment above came off as ignoring the facts of reality. I am highly edified by your second comment.

      And I do forgive you. I have been praying for reconciliation in both of your families.

    • And when I say “I do forgive you” I want you to know that behind those words is a desire to “take you behind the woodshed and beat the living hell out of you.” And I say that with all the love and restraint I can muster.

  52. @vmi: “No body will believe ‘Joe Schafer’ and ‘Ben Toh’ are mental patients.” Maybe so, but nonetheless I’ve heard all kinds of cute and creative things said about anyone who DARES to question or challenge any sacred untouchable UBF leader(s) or UBF core values.

    • The ISBC conference is equated with “God’s work” by UBF members. Therefore anybody who would disturb the planned course of the conference would be considered as God’s enemy, Satan’s agent or similar. It doesn’t matter how much reputation you have. So it would not be wise to address the problems at the ISBC conference. UBF has made a decision. They don’t want to have a conference with a different agenda, where they would deal with the problems. In such a conference, the current members and leaders would listen to testimonies from former members, have open panel discussions, workshops and lectures on shepherding/discipling etc. But they are determined to have an old style conference, business as usual.

    • Mark Mederich

      THE UNTOUCHABLES:) if u can’t beat em, join em (declare yourself untouchable
      until all God’s children understand & learn humility together, HALLELUJAH!)

      me: I’M A BLUES BROTHER:)

  53. @Brian. Even though UBF can no longer control the Information, there continues to be those who discredit the (any)one who Informs, especially behind the scenes.

    For instance, people really think that you are a (bitter) MONSTER until they meet you in person and are shocked!

    • “For instance, people really think that you are a (bitter) MONSTER until they meet you in person and are shocked!”

      Yes I am well aware of my image. Most people don’t realize this is me, the quiet, timid wallflower. But it is. On one hand I kind of like the “Detroit image” that has been attributed to me. And there is some truth in the “I am bitter” statement. I am now expressing my real, raw emotions that have been frozen in time for over 20 years. And I have permission (in most cases) to do so from the Holy Spirit.

      And another misunderstanding about me that I suspect is being rumored is that BrianK is “powerful in writing” and “hiding behind blogs” but would never be so bold in person.

      I hope my visits to Chicago have demonstrate that I do have the ability to speak boldly in person, even with the GD.

    • Mark Mederich

      welcome to the “Paul” club..:)

  54. Here is another movie I think we all should watch, “The Help”. I haven’t seen it yet, but plan to. From what I’ve seen, this movie speaks to the servant abuse that is rampant during a big event such as the ISBC.

    This scene reminded me of how a lot of conversations go in ubf, especially right before ISBC. This is how some of the discussions went as students tried to find ways to pay for attending things like the ISBC. It is one thing to help someone be independent (a good thing) and an entirely different thing to ignore them or patronize them with faulty Christian thinking.

    • Wow, what a sad scene. UBF is all too willing to take money from students, but very reluctant to give money for charity or anything. Ben gave the example of how they even had to rent the church building from UBF that had already been financed through offerings.

      At conferences such as the ISBC, a huge sum is collected as offerings on the last Sunday. That alone may be incentive for UBF to arrange such conferences. Nobody is told what the money is used for when it is collected, it is just called “world mission offering” or “special offering”.

      I remember how at the first European reform UBF they also collected offering money as they had been used to in UBF, and then they were shocked to see how much money it was and started openly discussing what to do with it, for the first time. How about not collecting money at the ISBC this time? Or using all of the money for a charitable purpose outside of UBF instead of piling it on UBF bank accounts which already have accumulated millions of dollars? Then this would be a real offering.

    • Christmas offerings are also an incentive. I remember our little chapter raised $12,000 in just one Christmas service. Sounds good for a group of about 60 people right? No! It wasn’t enough! The goal was something like $13,000. So we had to make a SECOND offering after Christmas to supplement the failed offering. The guilt trip as a fellowship leader at the time was horrendous!

    • Mark Mederich

      $=a necessary evil: Jesus said we either love God or $;
      liza minelli (cabaret) sang: $ makes the world go around;
      we must master $, not let it master us;

      “fight fire with fire” The source of this phrase was actual fire-fighting that was taken on by US settlers in the 19th century. They attempted to guard against grass or forest fires by deliberately raising small controllable fires, which they called ‘back-fires’, to remove any flammable material in advance of a larger fire and so deprive it of fuel.

      back-fire: if your family really needs something important (like college study) that God is trying to provide thru your income & noone else can provide it, pay for it first before donating (be the housechurch you were meant to be:)

  55. The comments here in this article reminded me again of the need for healthy boundaries. Dr. Cloud has much to say in that regard. ISBC preparation and ubf shepherd training often ignore personal boundaries, and become unhealthy regardless of any good outward appearance:

    • Brian, this is a really important and relevant video. One of the biggest problems of (mostly Korean) UBF leaders and shepherds is that they are constantly overstepping boundaries. They are telling sheep that even having boundaries is a sin and a symptom of the “ungodly individualism” of western society that they need to destroy.

      Here is another example in the context of conference preparation. You know, during the 3 or 4 weeks before a conference, we were not only required to have daily bread sessions in the morning, but also prayer meetings in the evening. The meetings were pretty long, with one or more tesimonies being shared, and then praying in groups. One evening when I was sitting in the last row, I overheared a phone talk. A woman missionary who was working in another city during the day called to apologize for not coming to the prayer evening because her train was late. Her husband (who was not working) rebuked her heavily and told her to try to come anyway, by all means, if only for the last 5 minutes, by taking a taxi. He was obviously afraid of losing face when his wife was not attending or did not show an “absolute attitude”. Everybody should have accepted her excuse (it should not even have been necessary to phone to excuse herself) and allow her to rest after her hard day job. Later I learned that this very woman had a premature birth because she needed to work so much and had to run to the train during her pregnancy. She had to care for 3 children and work in another city, and still blamed herself in testimony sessions for having become “only a housewife” and not having enough sheep.

      In a similar situation, I once excused on the phone for not attending one of the Sunday meetings because I wanted to have some time for my mother who was visiting me (we already had attended the Sunday worship service together, and I had already attended the coworkers meetings, but there was yet another testimony sharing session in the evening which I wanted to skip). However, the chapter director did not accept my apology and demanded me to come anyway, even though he knew my mother was there and it was the last time to meet with her before my planned wedding. When we started a discussing and my mother asked what was wrong. I was embarassed in front of her because I had to admit that I was not even able to decide on my own how to spend my time. So I just hang up the phone and stayed with my mother anyway. Actually I wanted to prove her that I was not in a cult and that I could take time for her. The result was that my marriage was immediately cancelled, my wife was told that I had become “unspiritual” and she was transferred to another UBF chapter the same night. I have already reported about this experience. I have experienced hundreds of such cases of overstepping boundaries in my ten years of UBF. I think that’s what makes us look back so stunned and confused, asking ourselves how could we ever tolerate such things being done to us and fellow members. To me, it always felt as if they did not only overstep the boundaries around my personality, my self, but even the boundaries around my soul. Like they were directly manipulating and operating with dirty hands in my soul.

    • “You know, during the 3 or 4 weeks before a conference, we were not only required to have daily bread sessions in the morning, but also prayer meetings in the evening.”

      Yep. Ditto in my chapter. And of course we also had to be part of a dance or something else that required staying 3 to 4 hours after all that for practice.

      ” I once excused on the phone for not attending one of the Sunday meetings…”

      Ditto again. Once I did the unthinkable while in Detroit: I was in Indiana for work on Sunday. Even though I had already been sent out to Detroit from Toledo, I felt obligated to call my director in Toledo to tell him I was missing a Sunday service. Not good. [I still can’t believe how bound I was! So stupid to act like a teenager when I was already an adult and a father!]

      He demanded me to drive all the way back to Toledo (4 hours). That would mean I would miss the Sunday service in Toledo. But that didn’t matter. The point was that I should obey and visit him anyway. If I was going to miss Sunday service, his thinking was that at least I should visit him. That would make up for missing ubf service.

      I hung up the phone and attended a Salvation Army service in Indiana. Then I drove home and did not stop in Toledo.

  56. As I mentioned earlier, one of my concerns for the ISBC and ubf in general is the content of the messages. Maybe another game for ubfers at ISBC is “Where’s Confucious?” Try to recognize the Confucian values being hammered home in all the ubf messages: loyalty, proper etiquette and nobility.

    Joe, somewhere here you asked Chris to read the ubf Galatians messages and comment. Like Chris, I can’t stomach reading those messages. They are so full of Confucian thoughts that it just gets silly to keep pointing them out.

    But I did read some of the new ubf Holy Spirit material. That too is tough to stomach. ubf directors seem to have a knack for looking right at something and ignoring it. Galatians and the Holy Spirit studies ought to turn ubf upside down and spark reform after reform. Instead, the studies incorporate Confucian values of loyalty, etc., weaving them into the bible text with artful skill.

    For example, below I quote the conclusion of the final message on the ubf Holy Spirit series. I have to say that this is the sorriest commentary on Ephesians 4 I could possibly imagine. The message completely misunderstands Christian unity.

    Unfortunately, the ISBC messages will be Confucian indoctrination lectures, not Christian sermons about JESUS.

    Here is the conclusion of the ubf Holy Spirit study:

    “Honestly, sometimes we think it’s too much of a struggle to keep trying to relate to other Christians who seem unlikely to change. We need to have a clear reason to do it. Why should we make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit? Read verses 4–6. According to these verses, though there are many kinds of Christians, there is much more that unites us than that which divides us. According to verse 4b, we all share the same hope. This hope is another gift of the Holy Spirit (Ro15:13). It’s our hope of eternal life, our hope to see Jesus, our hope in God’s kingdom. According to verse 5, we all have the same Lord, the same faith and we’re all baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. According to verse 6, we all have the same God and Father; he’s over all and through all and in all. Because our God and Father is in each and every believer, we have an absolute reason to do our utmost to be united.

    In verses 7–10 Paul talks about Christ who descended, then ascended. It was to help us to learn how we can make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit. Like Christ, we need to descend to the lowest place, to be completely humble, to reach out to our Christian brothers and sisters, for Jesus’ sake. And instead of focusing on our differences or competing, we need to acknowledge that it’s Christ our Lord who gives gifts to each person, and he does it so that we can build one another up to Christian maturity. We’re all vulnerable and easily influenced. So according to verse 15, to build up our unity we need to speak the truth to one another in love. Since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, as well as the Spirit of love, he can help us do this. Verse 30 tells us that we can grieve the Holy Spirit of God, perhaps most of all when we break our unity.

    In this passage we’ve learned that the Holy Spirit gives us unity, and that we need to make every effort to keep this unity. May God help us to cry out to him and ask his help, so that we can be completely humble, gentle and patient, and bear with one another in love so that we can keep the unity of the Spirit among us that can lead us all to Christ-like maturity.”

    • As per opening paragraph….Brian you missed the mandatory seating arrangement men together and women together, but separated. It gives a new meaning to apartheid. ;)
      That is one strong force in foreign countries – a congregation that would usually encourage husbands and wives to sit together submit from the strong Korean culture. Anyhow, we have all poked fun at that one.

    • Yes gc, another thing to do to pass the boredom at the ISBC would be to sit with your wife (or husband) at every meeting and every meal together. Keep track of how many times someone says you are “family centered” or “have a honey moon spirit”. It will be said kindly usually, with some nervous laughter. But the spirit behind such comments is this: “Why are you being more loyal to your family than to ubf?”

  57. And someone mentioned the need for a brilliant theologian here. Ok, how about Charles Spurgeon? Here is Spurgeon’s conclusion to Ephesians 4:30. Maybe ubf “preachers” should just read Spurgeon at the ISBC and repent with tears and sighs?

    “And now, in conclusion, there may be some of you here who have lost the visible presence of Christ with you; who have in fact so grieved the Spirit that he has gone. It is a mercy for you to know that the Spirit of God never leaves his people finally; he leaves them for chastisement, but not for damnation. He sometimes leaves them that they may get good by knowing their own weakness, but be will not leave them finally to perish.

    Are you in a state of backsliding, declension, and coldness? Hearken to me for a moment, and God bless the words. Brother, stay not a moment in a condition so perilous; be not easy for a single second in the absence of the Holy Ghost. I beseech you use every means by which that Spirit may be brought back to you. Once more, let me tell you distinctly what the means are.

    Search out for the sin that has grieved the Spirit, give it up, slay that sin upon the spot; repent with tears and sighs; continue in prayer, and never rest satisfied until the Holy Ghost comes back to you. Frequent an earnest ministry, get much with earnest saints, but above all, be much in prayer to God, and let your daily cry be, “Return, return, O Holy Spirit return, and dwell in my soul.”

    And the wonderful conclusion:

    “Oh I hear the word of the gospel, ere ye separate, for the Spirit speaketh effectually to you now in this short sentence—”Repent and be converted everyone of you, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord,” and hear this solemn sentence, “He that believeth in the Lord Jesus and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” May the Lord grant that we may not grieve the Holy Spirit. Amen.”


  58. Chris, the good thing is that no matter how many people attend the ISBC and suffer through conference preparation, all ubf shepherds will have to hear this over and over again.

    The new song of ubf sheep:

    • haha, Brian. Pitty I can’t access in my region the video – but look up Rock and Hyde “Dirty Water.” It is a secular song against religion – but rather so as a result of disillusionment.

  59. So to summarize my “plan of rebellion” for the ISBC:

    1. Register through Family Registration if you are a family.
    2. Try to identify how Jesus is presented and honored.
    3. Look for messengers to emphasize loyalty, nobility and etiquette.
    4. Sit with your wife at the meals and meetings.

    Any other suggestions?

    • Joe Schafer

      Wear a button or pin or armband that says “” Can we get some made? Designs, anyone?

    • Joe Schafer

      And to help you stay awake during the messages: Keep tally sheets and mark off every time these things happen.
      1. A North American speaking with a Korean accent, dropping articles like “a” and “the.”
      2. Someone shouts at you, telling you that you MUST OBEY the world mission command!

      I think we need to publish an ISBC Survival Guide.

    • “a button or pin or armband that says “”

      Sounds kind of like wearing the Star of David during WWII. Maybe a slogan like “If your friends are affected by the ubfriends cancer, where this ribbon and support the cause!”…

      “an ISBC Survival Guide.”

      The only way I could survive the 4 days now would be if Mr. Morgan, Mr. Killian or Tito himself were attending.

    • Guys, the pin or armband could say, “Stop the Confusion, we are Christians” or something like that.

      Bad, terrible and totally influenced by a pin that read “A little less Hamas and a little more Hummus.”

    • gc, how about “A little less chi and a lot more kimchi.”

    • haha, I am sure we can come up with many and then take a vote! :) With all of the stress from our concerns this becomes therapy, albeit a little silly.

  60. This seems to be a legitimate comment on facebook regarding this article:

    “Ok, forgive me, but I’m still trying to understand what you mean by you’re praying for the conference, mainly because you said, “Everything henceforth should be understood with this prayer in mind.” You did mention newcomers, which is good, but then you started talking about UBF in general which confused me, because I thought the article, and also my comments, were mainly about the conference.

    “Are you saying that you are praying for UBF in general? Praying for a conference and UBF in general are very different. You said, “I do not expect the concerns to evaporate overnight.” This is referring to the problems in all of UBF that have existed for 50 years. This statement is totally correct, and expecting such a request is outrageous. The problems in UBF will never be solved and no amount of “concentrated determined effort” will ever completely fix these problems because we are sinners and this will not happen until sin is gone.

    “All churches are the same, a community of sinners, with problems and sins. However, praying for a conference is very different. I think we should pray that even though we are sinners and our church has problems, God can overcome those things for us and Christ can be glorified at the conference. That even though you have these concerns, God is stronger and a great work can happen at this conference. Isn’t that the foundation of prayer and faith? That even though we are sinners and our enemies surround us, He can rescue us and we can overcome, and this is what gives us the strength to act and do things we don’t normally do and have doubts about.

    “I think that’s how you should be praying, but honestly, reading your article and your comment, it really isn’t clear what you’re praying for. You didn’t really answer my question about your prayers for the conference (is it for newcomers, Christ to be glorified, your concerns corrected, UBF in general) and you instead generalized about UBF even saying that every single UBF church and pastor are all the same and will just give me “cute ad hominems” when you don’t even know if I’m in UBF or what chapter I’m in or who my pastor is. I honestly did not know how to respond to that when I read it. When I read that I was quite bothered. I wish you well Ben and God bless.”

    • This response is utter nonsense.

      “The problems in UBF will never be solved and no amount of “concentrated determined effort” will ever completely fix these problems because we are sinners and this will not happen until sin is gone.”

      Has this guy ever heared of the word “repentance”? If you sinned, just continue, because we are sinners and sin will never go away? What’s that for a theology?

      “All churches are the same, a community of sinners, with problems and sins.”

      Such statements really make me angry. Yes, all churches consist of humans. But otherwise, churches are very different. Why did Martin Luther make such a fuzz when all churches, including the Catholic church are the same anyway? Are the “church of the latter day saints” and the “church of scientology” and the “unification church” all the same?

      “even saying that every single UBF church and pastor are all the same”

      Again such a nonsense. Nobody is saying this. Ben himself is a UBF pastor, and he is very different (now). The only thing we say is that many UBF chapters and members are remarkably similar, because most UBF chapters have adopted the bad teachings and practices of Samuel Lee at least to some degree. Some more extreme, some less extreme.

      We who have been in UBF for many years, have taken part in many conferences, have seen different chapters in different countries, and have exchanged and discussed our experiences many times, know very well how much can be generalized.

      And even if UBF would be completely different today and no abuse happening anywhere, it would be still necessary for UBF to openly and publicly repent for the sins of the past before UBF can even think about preparing any new Bible conferences.

      The problem of sin is not solved by saying “everybody is sinning anyway”, “nobody is perfect” or “you can’t avoid sin”. The problem of sin is only solved by repentance. Particularly sin that is committed in the name of God. I think such sin is the worst of all, and UBF is guilty of it.

      And no, we’re not talking about minor issues that are happening in every church. Please tell me another church where leaders are ordering abortions? Tell me another church that controls people and arranges marriage. Oh well, Unification church.

    • “All churches are the same, a community of sinners, with problems and sins.”

      I’m hearing this silly, and completely unbiblical excuse since over 10 years already, repeated over and over. Can we please for heavens sake stop arguing on such a level?

      If all churches are the same, and sins are “normal” in a church, why did Christ rebuke the 7 churches in revelation so seriously and individually? Don’t you see what nonsense this is?

      It’s true that churches are a community of sinners. But you miss one important point: They are a community of repentant sinners. Unrepentant sinners have no place in a Christian church, as Mt 18:17 and 1 Cor 5:13 and Rev 2:5 and many other Bible passages say clear enough. The problem with UBF is that so far the top leadership did not repent of systemic, systematic, serious sin that has been done in the name of God. Things that I have never seen in any other ordinary church.

      “But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.” (1 Tim 5:20)

    • I agree Chris. Sounds like someone has a “fatalism demon”…

      “The problems in UBF will never be solved and no amount of “concentrated determined effort” will ever completely fix these problems because we are sinners and this will not happen until sin is gone.”

      So there is no hope for ubf? I would tend to agree, but I am not hopeless. ubf people can be redeemed. At least we are starting to get documented examples of the wacky ubf mindset.

    • Mark Mederich

      i guess utter nonsense is better than no response at all (sort of)

    • “Sounds like someone has a ‘fatalism demon’: ‘The problems in UBF will never be solved and no amount of ‘concentrated determined effort’ will ever completely fix these problems because we are sinners and this will not happen until sin is gone.'”

      To me this doesn’t sound like fatalism, more like relativism, callousness. In essesence, let’s arrange with sin in the church and learn to ignore it.

      “Back to the Bible?” The standard of the Bible is a different one. “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48) And yes, the churches in Rev 3 are measures against this standard: “Rouse yourselves and keep awake, and strengthen and invigorate what remains and is on the point of dying; for I have not found a thing that you have done [any work of yours] meeting the requirements of My God or perfect in His sight.” (Rev 3:2, amplified Bible).

      This is the standard of the Bible, but obviously UBF leaders and lower ranking UBF defenders don’t care. They don’t strive to be perfect, they don’t even strive to be mere ok, they think fixing problems is unnecessary or low priority, because according to them all the sins don’t matter, God “soloved” them anyway.

  61. CanadianGirl

    So many comments… can’t keep up!  :) Firstly, may I just say Ben that I think you have excellent dancing skills as I saw in your chapter’s Harlem Shake version and I would put that in the conference hands’ down!! (perhaps as like a prayer for North Americans at dance clubs or something?) hmmm?

    I agree with all of your points about the conference. Due to those exact reasons and just my own personal reasons I likely won’t be attending. I mean if I’m going to go to a conference, it needs to be something I really want to go to and not just something b/c I’ve been blessed by UBF.

    But, that doesn’t mean God won’t work through the aspects of the conference so this is not a boycott promotion.

    (I know that the 2008 ISBC was my first UBF conference and first Christian conference ever… it was great for a new believer… I too remember wanting to cry as we all sang together… and of course just growing in relationships with others, etc… )

    I appreciate hearing Christian’s point of view as well. I think that in the end, you can just pray and hope to wake up and have everything be different in UBF and the conferences… or work with senior leaders to organize and attend the conference, praying and dialoguing to at least begin to go in a different direction. I think people may also want to hear or acknowledge positive things that are also occurring. (it may help people to be more open to discussion?)

    I don’t really know a lot about the conference but some maybe new/improvement things:
    – Between 12-3 PM on 2 days there is lunch and free time! Was there “free time” last conference? There could have been and if so then this point doesn’t really have much punch.
    – There are Interest Group sessions on Saturday… something new right? And I’ve heard there will be a variety of them (maybe 30?) and some include Holy Spirit session and orphan spirit session.
    – a pretty cool promo video 

    Ok those are my 2 pennies except Canada is getting rid of the penny so this is only 2 virtual pennies.

    • Hi CanadianGirl:

      “I don’t really know a lot about the conference but some maybe new/improvement things”

      I want to point out something that all new people to ubf must understand. The best way I can say it is by quoting Ecclesiastes 1:9. ubf directors are very shrewd at presenting things as “new”. But the reality is that every ubf conference could rightly be titled: “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

      Here are my responses:

      “Between 12-3 PM on 2 days there is lunch and free time! Was there “free time” last conference? There could have been and if so then this point doesn’t really have much punch.”

      > YES! There has always been “free time”. But only new people and even a few of them at that will ever know it. Why? ubf always schedules free time (at least EVERY ubf conference I attended for 24 years since 1987). Most people who attend though after their 1st time, will have dancing practice, or testimony practice or message practice or drama practice or all of these together. Even as a messenger once I was required to still go to singing practice. Don’t wonder aimlessly as a “new sheep” during “free time”. A shepherd will find you and “help you” in some way.

      “There are Interest Group sessions on Saturday… something new right? And I’ve heard there will be a variety of them (maybe 30?) and some include Holy Spirit session and orphan spirit session.”

      > NO! This is not new. A new name like PIG or IG? Yes. But most conferences after Slee’s death in 2002 have been having “panel groups”. As I shared already I led a panel group on ubfriends. (Well it was cut short after 5 minutes, so not much “group” and not really a “panel”…) So having 30 PIGS is a lot and the number of PIGS is new, but who is in charge of these? Yes our friend JohnY who may have some new impact. But if JohnY has success his IGs will likely be taken over by senior missionaries.

      “a pretty cool promo video”

      > Well ok I’ll grant this one. FINALLY after 50 years some younger generation people are being allowed to give some input. But why don’t you ask my friend Haiser from LA about “promo video training” and how “helpful” such training is… sadly even video making has become a new form of “dead dog” training…

    • btw, Canadiangirl, the “free time”, as usual, has been moved around. “Free time” now means 11:30 to 2:30, and as you point out, you’ll have to eat lunch during “free time”. That is not so easy given you’ll have to stand in line for an hour most likely, if 3,000 people do actually attend.

      This is the classic bait-and-switch technique. It has happened nearly every conference at ubf for decades. Initially the appeasement though is “let’s have free time to play soccer!”. But a few weeks before the conference, some “enlightened” missionary swoops in and says “We must challenge the lazy, wicked servant attitude! Let’s schedule some program during free time.” And everyone nods their head in obedience and just crams everything into the program.

      Notice there are multiple copies of the program. You might think this is the program. But this is the real program as of now. And in reality neither will be the final program.

      I remember SLee making changes on Thursday, the day the conference started, and having people rush around like crazed chickens. I remember ripping out the program from the conference folders and replacing it with the new program.

      All of the programs were essentially the same, but names and passages, times, etc. were all so loosely organized no one really knew what would happen until the last minute. This may be known as “conference program training”. This yet another method of control and servant abuse.

  62. In keeping with HOT, let me share that quite a few people whom I know well, trust and love have told me privately that my recent articles have become increasingly negative and discouraging. It is pointing out the sins of UBF without love. It is badgering and hammering incessantly. It is only seeing and pointing out the bad and not the good. It is shoving sins and shortcomings in peoples faces. It is like a tabloid that picks up on sensational negative things in order to provoke and get a rise and a response out of people.

    It is not promoting love, change, friendships or relationships where it counts. It is discouraging and hurting people in the middle who are trying to promote change and reconciliation in UBF, but who may now just want to give up on UBF, or not attend the conference, or just leave in frustration. As a result, even though most people agree with what I have to say, they no longer care to or want to hear what I say because of my negativity.

    This is basically the gist of what quite a few people have been telling me in person and in emails. I am seriously praying and considering what has been said to me. I welcome your thoughts, feedback and comments.

    • I regret that people have said this. It is not unloving or critical to state your opinion and heart in a way that expresses the way you’re feeling. We are not politicians that need to worry about not offending anyone.

      Why is negativity bad? If I’m talking about things that are–in my view–very negative, it’s going to sound negative. I don’t apologize for my negative view. Negativity is not the same thing as being disparaging or being unloving.

    • “they no longer care to or want to hear what I say because of my negativity.”

      Ben, this is not your problem, but their problem. Already people in the old testament have hardened their hearts the longer a prophet was talking “negative things”.

      The problems will not be any different, whether you are negative or positive. They just decided they don’t want to care about the problems, and your alleged “negativity” gives them a good excuse to ignore the problems. Unfortunately, that’s not a legitimate excuse. It only shows their callousness towards the problems.

      The observation that critics start talking louder and become more and more negative and frustrated the longer they don’t see any response is certainly right.

      This may also be a certain tactics of UBF. They do not respond to criticism in any appropriate way, just wait until the critics become more and more negative, and then finally dismiss them completely or expell them, saying they were too harsh and negative, as they did with the reformers in the past.

      On the other hand, the more critics see real positive developments going on, the more they will speak positive. For us, the ISBC is not something positive. Not even the fact that some things are a bit more modern, like a promotion video, more free time or “interest groups”, because it is still old wine in renewed wineskins. It is still business as usual. That’s what makes things worse to us because if sends the message that they still don’t think any of the problems are serious, not fundamental change is necessary, and they can go on with some cosmetic change only.

    • This means you (and us) are hitting their buttons. I for one will keep hitting those buttons.

    • Ben,

      “It is discouraging and hurting people in the middle who are trying to promote change and reconciliation in UBF, but who may now just want to give up on UBF, or not attend the conference, or just leave in frustration.”

      So what? We are all adults here. We are human beings, who belong to God. I say let people make their own decision. A cult leader tries to control negative information and coddle the flock, based on fear. A Christian pastor is honest, open and transparent, trusting in Jesus our Lord.

  63. Mark Mederich

    follow your heart (Holy Spirit); mostly don’t feel sorry/that’s a trick from the pit of hell to avoid change (like wait until the elders die; respecting man more than God)

    you know determined people love opposition & feel excited to defend their cause;
    middle people always analyze good & bad so aren’t strongly on either side;
    new people may be scared away or may be interested to see what’s really going on

    so i don’t think what you do will be an end-all/be-all for anyone; if anything, as usual, controversy will fire people up to get more involved/not less; i don’t think God is looking for great mission call at conference: rather humble revival which may guide some in mission

    my biggest concern is: if too quiet now, nothing will begin to get better; didn’t you promote love, change..long ago to no avail while suffering, & write more supportively about it for quite awhile to no avail; so this is the only avenue left for systemic redemption-some don’t like it, but it’s needed;

    most disturbingly: although people agree about problems, they don’t want to do anything about it & certainly don’t want to keep hearing about it:(

    oh well, here we go again: the problem isn’t the problem & we dont’t have to bother ourselves to do anything about it; instead you/we are the problem for pointing out the problem & trying to seek change..we’re back to square one

    • Mark Mederich

      let me be perfectly clear with this example: the president/owner of the little hospital i used to work at had ethical issues while making more $; being the only social worker at the place i suffered alot for 12yrs trying to do good while not ending up bad (walking that tightrope of showing the owner: i can do “this” but i can’t do “that”); needless to say he wouldn’t listen & eventually found way get rid of me like other voices of reason (that was ’07)

      anyway recently 50 fbi flooded in the place & took him “down” along with a couple doctors; no i’m not the mole who got rich off turning him in, i’m just sharing words with the wise: if we don’t listen to God he catches up with us somehow someday

    • Good thought Mark: ” if too quiet now, nothing will begin to get better”

      Thanks for sharing your relevant personal example. Indeed, we cannot hide from God. Adam and Eve tried.

  64. Thanks, @Mark, @Brian, @Chris, @Joshua, it seems like we might all be cut from the same piece of cloth! :-) Maybe it is the kind of cloth that main stream, main line, status quo people find not to their liking.

    It is perhaps true that some older leaders “hate” to be told by ubfriends what their problems are. They have virtually refused to hear it since 1976. Now they might have no choice but to hear it, though they still do not like it. They might perhaps be changing, be it ever so slowly and in greatly measured ways so as not to offend anyone among the seniors, nor to implicate themselves. These people perhaps might be the hardest to ever truly change because they have been in the UBF system for the longest time. Also, they have climbed too high on the ladder and honor roll of UBF seniority and success.

    That said, the people I am most concerned about are some “middle leaders,” who truly do want to see change happen in UBF, but who may be discouraged by my “incessant negativity.” I do truly need to be concerned for them so that they are not body slammed by the brunt of the blunt brutality in the way I write.

    If I were to arbitrarily describe two ways of writing: one would be meek and mild to convey the truth gently and gingerly. The other would be like grabbing the person by his collars and shoving him with full force against a brick wall. I seem to almost always choose to write in the latter way! I know it annoys the heck out of my wife, who is the last person I want to annoy!

    My wife has told me that I am even like that when I am dreaming while sleeping. While sleeping she would hear me shout at the top of my voice, “Go ahead. Kill me!” I am somewhat shocked that I am in my dreams (which I do not remember) what I am while awake.

    • Mark Mederich

      yep, the cloth may not look pretty but it’s durable fabric:)

      look (like obama says when making important summary point & Jesus said when noting the spiritual harvest) God’s Holy Spirit is always trying to help
      people seek & grow up in Christ

      so let’s not forget what this is all about: “little ones” being hurt while “big ones” continue business as usual forever; you/us sharing God’s “voice of truth” are not the problem (eventually unheeded voice becomes prophetic shout: Stop (in the name of God) that way of operating before it’s too late!

      CASTING CROWNS say it best:
      But the voice of truth tells me a different story
      And the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!”
      And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory”
      Out of all the voices calling out to me
      I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

      & don’t worry about “middlemen”, we always make it thru someway somehow: am i not stronger from work/religious/life battles? however, God prefers balance, so speak simply/clearly while gently/gingerly shoving against wall:)
      remember: onus is on “big ones” to listen/change, then “medium ones” won’t suffer in the middle; the problem is not voice, but lack of change;

      keep speaking; if we are unthankful to God for voice of truth, He will find way to speak louder/decisively: WHY DIDN’T YOU HEED MY VOICE & DO RIGHT? Do You Honor/Respect/Believe man More Than GOD?
      so our voice is a blessing to change/heal before worse curse comes

      by the way, i like your dream: Go ahead. Kill me! (if God let’s u:)

    • formershep

      Great article and comments by everyone! could say so many things. But I’d like to answer Ben’s question of what he should do regarding the “middle people” : Suggest them to comment HERE!!! and give their thoughts and opinions here if they don’t agree with you!
      BTW, I’m so so happy that I’m not attending this ISBC!

  65. Thanks @CanadianGirl for saying: “may I just say Ben that I think you have excellent dancing skills as I saw in your chapter’s Harlem Shake version…” I remember that day vividly. Suddenly, right after I gave my Sun sermon, I was “forced to do it” by the entire congregation! I had never heard or nor saw the Harlem Shake before. I was simply aping what someone else did. I had no idea what I was doing. I was simply trying to be a good sport. It was one of the most awkward moments of my entire life! Looking back, I guess that was fun. But please don’t make me do this again.

  66. wesleyyjun

    AbNial, if this really happened it was wrong: “Unfortunately my desire to learn outside of ubf was not appreciated by ubf leaders and without even listening to me they spread the news that I was following a cult-group.” We should learn from other Christian thinkers and also encourage our juniors to do so.
    On the other hand I remember some ubf elder telling me something in this context: “When we read the Bible it is important to let God speak to us through His Words. Depending on commentaries too much may be like having someone interfere our conversation with God. Scripture must be God’s voice speaking to us. It is more important than listening to some secondary resources.”
    I completely agreed with him.

    • “Depending on commentaries too much may be like having someone interfere our conversation with God.”

      Indeed. For 24 years I listened to the voices of ubf directors too much. Those voices interfered with my conversations with God. Now I am much happier and peaceful having silenced those interfering voices which were invading my boundaries and intruding into my space.

    • Mark Mederich

      Wesley, you are a lovable person, but we’ve got to get beyond: if this thing really happened (of course things happen when making human kingdom more than God’s kingdom);

      we should listen to Holy Spirit: ubf elder is right in saying don’t depend too much on second source, yet fails recognize that he himself is second source; he is not God;

      we should consider variety of “helping” voices, however final answer is in our spirit from God thru prayer: the inner “policeman” (Holy Spirit, not any man) guiding us;

      LET MY PEOPLE GO! (God is shouting from heaven) THEY MUST COME TO WORSHIP ME IN THE DESERT: no man has right to stand in the place of God.
      (period: “popes”, “grand poopahs” etc included);

      we let GOD speak, we converse with GOD:
      if we listen to God’s voice, we do what God does;
      if we do what God doesn’t do, we are listening too much to any man’s voice

    • “Depending on commentaries too much may be like having someone interfere our conversation with God.”

      Wesley, what do you think UBF messages in Sunday services, UBF messages on conferences, UBF lectures, UBF newsletter, UBF daily bread, UBF testimony sharing sessions, UBF questionnaire etc. are? They area all commentaries, and all the same kind of commentary, based on the same framework of ideas and UBF heritage.

      Relying on this secondary source alone would be indeed very foolish. So either, you don’t listen to any commentary at all, and listen only to the Bible. In this case, we don’t need UBF messages. We should just read the Bible in every Sunday service and conference, without adding any kind of comment and interpretation. Or, we should many different kinds of commentaries, to get well-balanced view on the Bible and form an educated opinion. UBF takes the oppoite approach, to repeatedly and exclusive listen to the same people from the same group talking about the Bible.

      I hear you saying that UBF messages and Bible studies are different, they are “inductive” Bible studies that are neutral and don’t add anything but let the Bible speak for itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. Just analyze any UBF message very carefully. The pattern of writing UBF messages is always the same: You read a verse from the Bible, the you repeat the same verse in your own words, giving it a more or less subtle twist, then you add some more words of your own or examples, and then you interpret and comment not the original Bible verse, but the words that you just said, and come to the conclusion that you already had in mind before even starting to write the message.

      “like having someone interfere our conversation with God”

      Actualy, everything that happened in UBF was a constant interference into my conversation with God.

      What you claim is either that UBF commentaries are neutral or that they are better than everything that had been written by Christian scholars outside of UBF. Both are fallacies. The first fallacy is based on naivety, the second on pride and arrogance.

    • Mark Mederich

      Chris, you are right, problem is pride/arrogance. When we’re not open to other points of view, we can’t learn anything new (main problem is Holy Spirit is squelched so we end up bound to limited human idea instead of free to mature in Christ).

      Sometimes people have to listen to their own preaching & struggle to do it.
      We’ve heard often about gnostics who claimed they had special knowledge, yet religious leaders sometimes act like they have special knowledge.

  67. @wesleyjun: “Depending on commentaries too much may be like having someone interfere our conversation with God. Scripture must be God’s voice speaking to us. It is more important than listening to some secondary resources.”

    Hi Wesley, the “faulty” logic with this is that when someone teaches the Bible or preaches a message, the Bible teacher and preacher has already provided a “secondary resource.”

    So, when you tell your Bible student or church congregation, “do not read or depend on commentaries,” all you have done is to tell them, “Listen to my Bible teaching. Listen to my message. But do not listen to the Bible teaching and message of other Christians over the last 2,000 years.”

    I hope that you and other UBF Bible teachers and chapter directors realize this.

    For the international conference, I would very very very strongly encourage every single messenger to refer to many many many commentaries so that they can “hear” the voice of God through “MANY” secondary sources. Otherwise the ONLY SINGLE secondary source of their message will be from UBF messages, ideologies, paradigms over the last 50 years.

    That’s why ALL UBF messages tend to sound the same regardless of what book of the Bible or passage you are preaching or teaching from. As someone recently commented, even the beautiful book of Galatians sounds like any other UBF Bible teaching.

  68. “We should learn from other Christian thinkers and also encourage our juniors to do so.”

    I say it is the SENIORS who should be DEMANDED to do so.

  69. I have to add to this as well. What did Jesus repeatedly rebuke the Pharisees and religous leaders for?

    He rebuked them for not following the law set out by Moses. He reubuked them for betraying the basic commandment to love God and love your neighbour. Jesus said in Mark 12:29-31, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

    Why choose these verses? Simple. When we love God first we can find God revealed through many things, but that does not take away from our basic faith and relationship with God. It also should not overshadow God when we come to him. Now, if we are discouraged from seeking God outside of UBF message manuscripts and sources it is can also be problematic. We need to seek God whether it be commentaries, academic journals, theological courses or religion courses. We can find God in every way possible when we want to build a deeper relationship. We just need discernment. If UBF leaders can tolerate anyone studying or using sources not recommended in the ministry then it may be an expression of their love, yes/no?

    The point I will return to is the Jews should have followed the Torah/Tanakh, but instead they tossed that aside for the Talmud. Likewise, UBF depends on its tradition as the Alpha and Omega. Consequently, when we serve Bible students the UBF way we lead them into the second of seven woes that Jesus gave which I will edit a little, “Woe to you, missionaries and shepherds, you hypocrites! You travel from campus to campus to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

    Why be so harsh? Simple again. Bible teachers in UBF suffer from their own Talmudism. They depend on tradition and oral law more than the Bible itself. They add and drop important nuances (or passages) in the Bible when something does not fit the subject of mission as per UBF.

    Now we must love each other as we all come to God in the only way that we know how – and that in itself is God’s grace upon us! No, there is not one way to Jesus – through UBF works. There are many ways. When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet Peter’s pride almost seperated him from Jesus. Jesus would otherwise have no part with Peter unless he overcome pride and let him wash only his feet. We are all clean before God so long as we earnestly seek him. We must encourage each other and wash each others feet. It is not right that we should ignore the many valuable resources for the sake of UBF Talmudism.

  70. @gc: Wow, your paraphrase of Mt 23:15 is NOT going to win you any brownie points!

    UBF’s greatest contribution to my life is that God used UBF to lead to my salvation, to provide me a wife who is the treasure (small “t”) of my life, and through UBF’s influence, I have loved Scripture as my master passion to this day. Not that I am but I would love to be a homo unius libri.

    Since I began reading books and commentaries, I have heard this said about me through the grapevine: “Dr Ben does not study the Bible any more. He only studies Rick Warren. And he only reads books.” I find this totally entertaining and exhilarating!

  71. @Mark. When my wife tells me my “shouting screaming dreams” in the morning, I am quite shocked actually. I sound “worse” in my dreams than when I am awake. It is scary even to me!

    @formershep. I truly love our “middle leaders.” They are truly genuine and humble Christian men and women who want to do what is right before God and men. I understand that it is very very hard, if not impossible for them to “support” or even comment on any of the critiques on UBFriends without them having to face some negative repercussions, not from all leaders, but from some, who just categorically, emphatically and absolutely regard UBFreinds as an anathema, because its administrators are two ungrateful UBF leaders and one bitter exUBF member.

  72. formershep

    Ben, I appreciate what you are saying and your concerns for “middle leaders” not posting here. But it’s very interesting that you think that they acknowledge that there is a strong chance for them to “get in trouble” for posting here. It’s that very telling? Isn’t that a red-flag sign of a high-control group–being afraid of your pastor or church leaders? I hope they would recognize things like this and allow themselves to accept it as WRONG. It’s wrong to be afraid of pastors or other church leaders. It’s wrong to not exercise your conscious and God-given ability to think critically and stand according to your conscious.
    To add one thing that burned me up was to hear from a close friend of mine who expressed doubts about the ministry was immediately asked if he had been reading this website. First of all: that person is an adult and is and autonomous individual, they can read whatever they want to read! Second, since ubfers think in uniformity, they cannot understand someone having their own thoughts or forming their own opinions.

  73. Formershep, I also was asked once, “Did you read things on the Internet?”. (And actually I hadn’t read anything “negative” for so many years). And then, “Why did you read those negative things?”. For ubf directors their questions are similar to the question in Gen 3, “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”. ubfriends is among those Satans who just destroys ubf kingdom. “Who told you that ubf is not perfect?” Who told you that ubf directors are not better than the Holy Spirit?” ” cursed is the ground (ubfriends) for thy sake”

    On the other side ubfriends is just echoing God’s voice in Gen 4, “And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou (ubf)cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy (ubf directors’) hand”.

  74. Formershep, that is one possible reason for “middle leaders” to not want to post: that they refrain from doing so out of fear of getting in trouble by UBF leaders. The other reason is out of fear of being slammed by the other side in ways that lack a certain amount of social courtesy and personal accountability normally seen in personal face-to-face conversations. And the other possible reason is that they are more than willing to talk these things out openly and honestly, but choose not to do so in an internet forum for their own personal reasons that have nothing to do with fear. So I would not be quick to make judgments on those who choose not to carry out these kinds of important, often emotion-laden discussion on an internet forum like UBFriends. Meaningful dialogue on all these important issues is not limited to cyberspace. Just my two cents.

    • ubfnomore

      john y, to address your condescending reply..I doubt even 3 current so-called middle leaders in all of ubf are having these sorts of conversations in person with the directors.

      They are ignored once these sorts of topics arise and then they would probably suffer the repercussions of questioning the ubf system.

      That’s why this site was created..because even senior shepherds like Dr.Ben and Joe have been getting ignored for years..

    • “The other reason is out of fear of being slammed by the other side in ways that lack a certain amount of social courtesy and personal accountability normally seen in personal face-to-face conversations.”
      John, at the risk of sounding like a blind supporter of UBfriends (I am well aware that this conversation is far from perfect) I have to disagree with you on this one. I, for one, have not said anything that I am ashamed of and I think that everyone hear would stand by what they say even if standing face to face. Everything I have said I would be happy to say face to face in hopes of continuing conversation. I would be quick to change my tone, admit any misconceptions, change my opinions, if necessary. (BTW, I have already seen this happen many times on this website with everyone here.) Your judgement is unfair in my opinion.

      Everyone here has to overcome a powerful tendency to be ashamed of their honest feelings. I commend ALL of them for being so willing to reveal themselves, knowing how many will view their honesty. Because of the many times they been shamed, they are very sensitive to anyone who tries to continue to shame them. Fair enough.

      I believe that everyone here would love the to say the things they say quite openly, face to face, if given the oppportunity. What is lacking is those who are willing to engage in true conversation from the other side.

      Haven’t you noticed that when someone, anyone, makes an attempt to do what Brian is suggesting in his comment (see below…i would sum this up as coming here with a humble desire to listen and hear what others are saying about the wounds of UBF) the tone completely changes. It is true that commentators will not get away with superficiality, platitudes, and avoidance of these wounds. So be it. They are very important and must be expressed. So if there is a hint of shaming and blaming those with strong opinions or feelings, or of minimizing the reality of these sins, etc. etc. they will be pressured. In my opinion, that is what a real conversation about very difficult things would look like whether face to face or not.

  75. I have to agree with both points (formershep) and (John Y). It all depends on what chapter you are in. I remember in my home chapter 10 years ago when the RSQUBF website was active. One of my friends (a brother in my fellowship left because of what he had read. His shepherd asked me about the impression of the website because of what had happened. I had to say that “yes” I knew about the website and had read some things but that the truth lay somewhere in the middle.

    There is never smoke without fire. When someone shares something no matter how controlled their emotions are it is going to be extreme one side or another because a church like UBF changes your life forever good or bad. So, when formershep commented about the “fears” I believe her. Some chapters are more open to talk about things, especially in the age of internet communication. However, some chapters want to move heaven and earth to stop the spread of these blogs – I can totally argue for that.

    Don’t be suprised by my tone in this post. I happen to love UBF – that’s why I have grown to be compelled to share my thoughts. Some HOT comments that I have made always came from my heart because it is through my experiences over the years. I want to see a healthier ministry where the mistakes have been learned from. Mistakes should be – mistakes. They should not be enforced habits that we claim to repent of but never do. A mistake is okay if you change and learn from it. But the trouble is no one even wants to recognize that some things in UBF history were mistakes and should have been already corrected by now.

    If someone feels afraid to speak up it could be for a number of reasons that have been justified in the name of training. Some reasons could be daily testimony and sharing to be sure that the student or shepherd is working to rid themselves of such negative thoughts. It could also be a “demotion.” Someone who presided, led singsperation, participated in orchestra or served publicly in any way could be told that they are no longer needed to do so at that time. A Friday testimony may involve a scolding and rebuke because the repentance was seen to be insufficient. I can carry on with examples that I have seen over the years but it all leads to why some people may be scared.

    I take the risk to speak up because I frankly have not much to lose. I burnt my reputation long ago. I am well liked among those who know me, but I have often been seen with suspicion because I often challenged outside the boundaries of 1:1 Bible study with my shepherd. Statements that I have made here are not so different from what has been said over the years publicly. So, I am not and most likely will never be a poster boy for UBF.

    What John Y said is the cold hard truth. When and if a UBFer who is struggling and working hard shares something, they have to be prepared for war. Even the slightest comment out of place will lead to a thread that knows no bounds. The exchanges here are not so timid as a simple slap – they can be so severe that you feel beaten senseless. There is an imbalance of commentary here – which is the result of not enough UBFers contributing.

    I agree that some contribution deserves what it gets. I already said once before that the gloves are off – and they are, nothing gets filtered when a shepherd or missionary tries to reason with the discussion and fails. But in the same breath a UBFer should feel comfortable to share without returning here to find 50 comments that lead to no rational conclusion – it becomes a character assassination.

    The purpose of this blog is stated clearly for unity. How can there be unity when a UBFer comments and is told that they do not belong. When it is not healthy for a dialogue between both sides to be heard than the criticism about UBFriends becomes true. I know it is difficult to listen to UBF commentary that you thought was behind you, but if you really want closure and diplomacy than you must be prepared to listen one more time. Believe me when I say, I do not want to listen one more time to the same defense, but I have to if I want to proceed in the best way possible.

    Lastly, someone who has washed their hands of UBF just leaves. But someone who enables the scars to remain keeps coming back for some reason of closure. I recognized Ben’s comment above to me and reflected that even though I am still in UBF I am much more a critic of UBF than a defender of it. I make such statements because I feel strongly and I want to see change – I have not given up hope.

    • GC, my sentiments exactly. Thanks for sharing that.

  76. Here is my 2 cents worth of advice for a ubfer who wants to comment here:

    1. Answer questions. Stop dictating.
    2. Give us your honest opinion. Don’t do drive-by quotes.
    3. Don’t tell us how wonderful ubf is. We get that.
    4. Have some courage. If you can’t take HOT discussion how can you be an elite shepherd?
    5. Defend your positions. If you disagree, that is ok. But don’t tell us you disagree and then leave. Tell us why! Show some reason and logic!

    Kudos to “gc” for doing just that!

  77. “Formershep, I also was asked once, “Did you read things on the Internet?”.”

    I for one am glad that people read negative things on the internet and begin to ask questions. I am even happier if it leads to an honest assessment of ubf. To leave or to stay is then up to each family, but I want people to start making their own decisions.

    Yes, you ARE your own man! You are your own woman! And most of you are families.

    Yes, I am against ubf. I hate ubf ideology. I despise the ubf heritage. I wish all Korean ubf missionaries would pack their bags and go back to Korea, all who have implanted Korean culture and done the opposite of a Christian ministry should just leave. Leave us alone, since you think we Americans are such lazy wicked servants anyway. Anyone who thinks America’s financial crisis is because they don’t obey the “world mission command” should just get on the next boat to Korea.

    After 24 years of trying to make the ubf system work, I not only share Ben’s concerns in this article, I think ubf is a cult. Until the facts of reality are faced and dealt with, ubfers will need to deal with negative information for a long, long time.

  78. gc,

    ” if you really want closure and diplomacy than you must be prepared to listen one more time.”

    I do not want closure. For 3 years now I have not sought closure, but tension. I have been seeking to keep the door open and not let it slam shut on my friends.

    Who wants closure? ubf directors wants closure. They just want this crisis over with so they can get back to maintaining control.

    Who is telling people to leave ubf? Not me. I never say that. ubf directors and even RW himself are telling people to leave. Their attitude is that if you don’t like ubf, then leave and leave quickly and quietly.

    For 3 years now I have been seeking to increase the tension in order to shed light on unaddressed problems that will eventually split ubf into 2 or 3 ubfs.

    And as for hearing it one more time, I am SICK of hearing the same self-glorifying attitude. I am so glad to hear your attitude though gc, because you don’t just praise ubf.

    • Brian, perhaps gc means that some people who leave want to put their time in UBF behind them, recover properly from their wounds, and move forward. I find myself feeling that sometimes. Other times, I am so angry that I think it will never happen.

  79. Some UBF chapter directors, missionaries, elders and leaders are perhaps “genuinely” upset with UBFriends because they blame it:

    * for being unspiritual,
    * for causing people to leave UBF,
    * for complaining against UBF,
    * for challenging and questioning UBF’s God appointed and untouchable authority,
    * for being rebellious, disobedient, and lazy,
    * for having “human thinking,”
    * for wanting to date and to not marry by faith,
    * for not feeding sheep and not writing testimony,
    * for refusing to receive humbleness training,
    * and this list can just go on and on and on.

    I guess UBFriends might even be the cause of the 15 trillion dollar U.S. debt.

    • Hello! Wake up and smell the kimchee everyone! Each of these points is a great big flashing warning sign:


      It reminds me of the passage where people call good evil and evil good.

  80. formershep

    @John Y. Thank you for your reply. I will admit that there are many things that former members share on here that I don’t like the tone or I think they go too far. But not everyone is like that and no one does it all the time. It’s just something we have to try to understand what it going on and the hurts that are present (maybe I’ll get fire for that and I’m sure there are some people who don’t agree with me). In real life, there are always people that you don’t agree with or like very much. But in REAL life, you have to deal with that. I don’t think some one can come to a HOT forum like this and expect to be treated with polite formalities. Also, as for face to face dialog, I myself use a pseudonym. It’s because I’m not ready to share my name publicly. The honest reason for it is that there are certain people that I don’t want to hurt. For right or wrong, this is where my healing is right now. And I don’t want to see or talk with these people. I don’t think I would be able to say these things to their face. It’s because I was under such strong control and abusive spiritual authority. I don’t think there is a way to ever break out of that role with those people. And that’s a whole other point. Like I said before, There is a very unhealthy amount of spiritual and mental (thought-control) continuing in ubf. THIS should not be ignored.

    • Formershep, I appreciate this reply. I wholeheartedly agree with the essential point of your last reply (which I neglected to address in my last reply) that unhealthy spiritual control/abuse cannot be ignored. I was emotionally reacting to the general characterization you were making about “middle leaders.” But given your honest explanation of where you are at, I have to say that I support your approach all the way, and forgive me if my reply was “condescending” as another commenter accused me of. I can be proud sometimes, and I guess my foolish pride gets inflamed from time to time when I participate in online discussions.

      Sharon, I don’t think I’m biased to say that I CANNOT THINK OF A SINGLE INSTANCE where my last reply about “the fear of being slammed” ever applied to any of your comments. Period. Someone should analyze the psychology of online commenting when it comes to people you trust and people you don’t trust. Even the most intense comments from you, I have never felt it as being “slammed” because I trust your intentions and good will toward me outside of cyberspace. On a public forum like this, I cannot say I share the same level of trust with everyone on this forum, hence my willingness to be vulnerable and honest with my thoughts depends on who the audience is. It is the same when I have dialogue in person or in a actual public space (not cyberspace) with lots of people, some I trust, some I’m learning to trust, and some I don’t trust.

      I also agree with that on a HOT forum like this one cannot expect to be treated with polite formalities. Which is why I want to share with Brian Karcher that this is precisely the inhibition that “bystander” folks like me may choose to NOT want to participate, and it is not fair to keep demanding folks to participate in a forum where a safe environment for bystanders has not been carefully cultivated. Let them participate in ways that they feel comfortable, even if it is “drive-by quote-giving.” Brian Karcher knows for a fact that I am not intentionally avoiding discussion on hard topics even if other UBF folks are intentionally avoiding to do so. But Brian, if you want more honest participation from bystanders, “caught-in-the-middle” UBF folks like myself, I need to feel that I’m in a SHOT forum, rather than a HOT forum. I’m adding “Safe” to the HOT (safe-honest-open-transparent) forum. Is it wrong for people to want to feel “safe” in a forum when they are willing to be vulnerable about their honest thoughts and feelings? At the risk of making a bad joke, I rather be SHOT than HOT. Sometimes this forum feels SHOT, and sometimes it just feels HOT. When it feels SHOT, then I participate. If not, then I pass until a better time. Is that a wrong approach toward online discussions? I’m all ears.

    • Joe Schafer

      JohnY, we value your friendship and welcome your participation whenever you feel it is helpful and productive.

      At this point, I take a similar stance toward ubf. If there are settings where I can participate where the environment is SHOT then I might. I may even settle for HOT. But otherwise, my participation has become counterproductive and my time is better spent elsewhere.

    • You thus speaketh the truth, my friend.

  81. @John Y. I love the SHOT! I am going to miss my original creative unique HOT. But I have no choice but to give credit where credit is due. Yes, SHOT is better than HOT!

    I have been championing “safe place, third space” at West Loop and in Philippines UBF over the past many months. My gauge of how safe people feel who are in my sphere of influence is their lack of hesitation to approach me, critique me, criticize me, disagree with me, or even rebuke me. When they are able to do so freely without any fear or hesitation, then I know that God has created a safe space for them. They can simply be themselves without any pretense.

    Yes, I do agree that some will not comment on ubfriends because after they comment they get hammered. In fact, I can even see it coming. A friend says that UBFriends has become “boring and predictable” when they attack any comment they do not like.

    Nonetheless, my simplistic challenge is, “Hey, BE A MAN (or woman). Speak up and take it like a man!” It will be no where near what Jesus had to take upon himself on the cross. Don’t be a wuss. Sorry, for my last parting shot! Let me have it for this. Hopefully, I can take it like a man.

    • For the record, I prefer to be with TOHS, rather than SHOT.

    • Wow. Both HOT and SHOT still keep intact my last name in reverse! I realize that I am so slow to catch on, until it is pointed out to me.

    • JohnY:

      “On a public forum like this, I cannot say I share the same level of trust with everyone on this forum, hence my willingness to be vulnerable and honest with my thoughts depends on who the audience is.”

      > Trust is an important factor yes. I think we are all at different levels of trust with each other. It is hard for me to trust the double-agents in ubf. Will they turn their back on me? Will they just try to get me to go back to ubf and submit to a new shepherd? I don’t know.

      “I want to share with Brian Karcher that this is precisely the inhibition that “bystander” folks like me may choose to NOT want to participate, and it is not fair to keep demanding folks to participate in a forum where a safe environment for bystanders has not been carefully cultivated.”

      > That’s fine with me. I’m not going away anytime soon. I will back off from time to time however. I for one have no insterest in cultivating a safe enviroment for ubf bystanders. ubf people have been on standby for decades. It is time to s— or get off the pot (as my dad used to say).

      “But Brian, if you want more honest participation from bystanders, “caught-in-the-middle” UBF folks like myself, I need to feel that I’m in a SHOT forum, rather than a HOT forum. ”

      > I want more honest participation from whomever is prompted or compelled to share here. I am not colluding to “war” against ubf. Keep in mind this website began when I was “in” ubf. I have felt this to be a safe place for me all along, in or out of ubf. And for the record, I thought the Voy forum was a safe place back in 2004. As “Mr. Baghdad UBF” and “Tom Cruise of ubf” I loved participating in those discussions. It was a safe place for me as a ubf yes man to defend my positions. I found out all of my defences and most of my theology was stupid, but hey it was SO helpful to engage in the dialogues.

    • Brian, do you really mean what you said here: “I for one have no interest in cultivating a safe environment for ubf bystanders.” I’m going to give you the benefit of doubt here that you wrote this in frustration over something deeper. Because I thought the whole point of a UBFriends website dedicated to building friendships and unity would attempt cultivate a safe environment for all who want to engage in dialogue, by-stander or not.

    • JohnY:

      “Brian, do you really mean what you said here: “I for one have no interest in cultivating a safe environment for ubf bystanders.”

      > Yes I mean what I said. I am not frustrated or upset. I rarely am upset these days. I am calm and peaceful and joyful and hopeful. I mean what I say. Our purpose is clearly stated above in our header.

      “I thought the whole point of a UBFriends website dedicated to building friendships and unity would attempt cultivate a safe environment for all who want to engage in dialogue, by-stander or not.”

      > The key is “safe environemnt for all”. What does “safe” mean? While I do think we should care about other people’s feelings, my main point is I do not concern myself with what is “safe”. One person may be offended because I love ubf too much. Another might be offended because I don’t hate ubf enough. If you spend your time trying to decipher loyalties here you will go crazy and get frustrated quickly. I just speak my mind and be myself with no mask. I would encourage everyone to do so. If you want a “safe” environment, create one.

    • …sigh…

  82. On a more serious note, let me say that I have not received more emotionally positive and negative responses than with this article. The negative reactions were primarily by email and in person.

    First, I need to apologize to those who were hurt by my article. They felt that I lumped everyone in UBF in one big bad basket. I am sorry if this was what I communicated. I was simply attempting to address my concerns which I may have articulated in a way that came across as highly offensive, insensitive, inconsiderate, discouraging, and as a broad sweeping generalization.

    Second, it is unfortunate that the transgressions of a few become representative of the whole. It is like the entire Catholic church getting hammered for the crimes of a few pedophile priests. I believe that it may be somewhat the same as with UBF. I know tons of UBF people. Almost all of them are truly genuine loving Christians, but with a few UBF eccentricities, which is present in any Christian anywhere. But there are a few senior UBF leaders who, in my perception and opinion, chose to remain silent and unaccountable for past and ongoing issues related to their need to control UBF and UBF people. I cannot and will not support such UBF leaders no matter who they are.

    Third, try to understand that these are the words that describe me: choleric, polemic, diatribe, vitriolic, irascible, querulous, and captious. Virtually, everything that I write will have elements of some or all of those words. Forgive me for this. Nonetheless, I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I do not treat anyone with kid gloves. I do not know how else to express myself. But I am open to your suggestions. Be gentle if you can, but it’s OK if you’re not.

    • Well, you may try expressing yourself with interpretive dance!

    • If I have to do that, then I will definitely stick with “choleric, polemic, diatribe, vitriolic, irascible, querulous, and captious.”

    • Dr. Ben, I love you for who you are, even though sometimes you give me the truth like opening up a fire hydrant into my face when I’m capable of handling a glass of water at a time. I just want you to know that an invitation to SHOT dialogue is not very inviting when you say things akin to: “Hey, let’s have a friendly match of boxing. Yo, I’ll be easy on you but please know that sometimes I’ll lose it and knock you out” Clearly, you are a trained boxer; I am not. Do you blame me for not wanting to join the ring? I rather have an invitation to play SONY PLAYSTATION boxing while we are having a SHOT conversation over video entertainment. That feels more inviting. :)

    • You are right John. My wife and 4 kids tell me that again and again.

  83. ubfnomore

    BTW I think a great way to get bystanders to engage in these conversations is to install a like arrow or dislike arrow for the comments. Have it available for all visitors to rate comments they agree/disagree with.

    Here is example of the rating system:

    This plugin is called Disqus and can be easily configured for this wordpress website.

    I think we’d get a lot more activity and more people engaged just by clicking which comment they agree with more.

    • Good idea, ubfnomore. I agree with that.

    • I like that. Brian, can this be done?

    • I say no. ubf people love to just “like” or “dislike” something or someone. We need to comment and discuss. The like buttons allow people to remain anonymous. ubfers love that.

    • Brian, fuck you and your stupid ass generalizations about ubfers. How is that for HOT?

    • Man, did I just feed the troll or what? I respect you Brian, but sometimes your generalizations are simply wrong and someone has to hold you accountable.

    • I love it David. Yes I do need to stop making generalizations. What generalization is wrong and why is it wrong?

    • David Weed, you write like a ubfer. (What kind of ubf “spirit” is leading you? Is it “manger spirit, soldier spirit, giving spirit, self-supporting spirit, or pioneering spirit”?) Your comment looks like not so ubfriendly :)


    • I agree with David’s *sentiment* wholeheartedly! To use words like “UBFers” which imply that all people in UBF think alike, act the same and all have the same experiences is not accurate and pejorative. Such a generalization of complex and, in many cases, even fairly intelligent people actually shuts down meaningful discussion.

    • Brian, you know that I value most of what you have to say and I truly love you as a brother in Christ. I suppose my strong reaction was the result of a building frustration that I have with ubfriends in general.

      But as per your comment, the whole thing was a sweeping generalization; Ubfers tend to

      1. think in black and white terms
      2. remain anonymous (for whatever reason, perhaps out of fear of…)

      This is not true and is highly offensive. I really don’t care about defending myself against these accusations, rather such comments frustrate me because they do not prompt others to engage in dialogue in the true sense of the term. Why would I want to engage someone in honest dialogue if they have predetermined who I am? Although my commenting here is contradictory to this very sentiment, I think it’s still valid and something that ubfriends needs to think about moving forward.

    • aw, I heard quite a few times, “We are also Christians and we are normal people though we are in ubf”. ubfers don’t like generalizations. But what can be done with this? This way or another every ubfer is a ubfer, a member of this organisation. And he/she have to be responsible for his/her choice to be a member of this organisation (which is btw considered a cult by many Christian organisations and even in Google search). So if you are a ubfer and you don’t like someone saying you are in a cult then do something about it: change your organisation or leave it if change is not likely. If you don’t do that then be ready to hear many “generalizations” where you will be put togeter with the bad ubf guys (cult leaders).

    • Thanks for the comment, Vitaly. You just proved my point perfectly. Btw, I’ll take all of the above spirits. If I’m going to be a true UBF man, as my writing so clearly indicates, why not go all the way, right?

    • Vitaly, I know that aw, David Weed, John Y and others are among those in UBF who are truly, genuinely, patiently, prayerfully and humbly seeking positive change and reconciliation in UBF. They are my heros.

    • David, Alan: I’m also very guilty of generalizing, perhaps the most guilty. I hope that because you know me and we’re friends, you’ll forgive my “generalizing spirit”. I know that UBF is really varied. When I generalize, in my mind I’m thinking more about the “UBF system”, or perhaps the current UBF system that I experienced.

      David: I’m surprised that your “colorful” post made it through, but I’m glad that it did. I’m happy that you’re allowing us see into your real heart and feelings. There are good reasons for UBFers and exUBFers to have strong feelings for and against the UBF ministry.

    • I believe so, Dr.Ben. When I carefully read Joe’s report in “Telling to the Church” I found so many good words written by ubfers! So of course “ubfer” is a generalization. Nevertheless these people are still in ubf which is a cult. I believe that a Christian can be a Christian and live with Jesus even in a cult. But is it “expedient” (All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient) for a Christian to be in a cult? Does the ubf name help to share the gospel of Jesus with others? What about the conscience? What can ubfers say to Bible students, to the new “sheep”? “I am in ubf but I am a good ubfer, you know”? “ubf is a cult but there many good Christians in ubf, and I am one of them, trust me”?
      And, David, why not be the same way HOT towards ubf leaders: “fuck you and your stupid ass” cult like practices? Please approach RW or AK with this question. I am sure they will respond the same way Brian did. And likely there will be some positive change in ubf.

    • Vitaly, you might actually like me more than you think:

      In truth, I have shared these exact sentiments with RW recently. I was very shocked to see him take in every word and in turn give me honest feedback concerning my assertions. It was an extremely helpful and edifying conversation. I would even safely wager that RW would understand where you are coming from.

      I hear what you are saying Vitaly; I don’t discount your experience and I am sorry for the abuse that you went through. But you have to understand that people like me can’t simply leave UBF or see it as a cult outright because there is palpable change occurring and moreover there are many people here that we have built positive and loving relationships with. Leaving for me is not a foreseeable option; I’m here because I want to pray for change and love those who are put before me.

    • Joshua, thanks for clarifying your position. Honestly, I’m on the fence about UBF itself; in some ways its extremely good but in others its God-awfully bad, to put it mildly. But about the people, even the abusive ones, I see them as souls at the end of the day who deserve my respect simply because they are made in the image of God. Also, I suppose stereotypes inherently strike a cord with me because I’ve been on the receiving end of racial stereotyping. Some of the blanket categorizations here conjure up those unfortunate memories because they share the same vitriolic, condemning kinship, in my opinion.

      By the way, Joshua you are the last, last person I would have ever expected to see on ubfriends. I say this partly in jest, but you were Mr. UBF through and through. When I first saw your comments I thought, whoa something must have ripped the very space-time fabric of UBF. But in all seriousness, I am so sorry for the pain that you and your family experienced while in UBF and at the same time I am exceedingly thankful to see God working powerfully in your lives.

    • Yes, David, thanks for that anon comment! I’d like to say that in the Russian language the “f” word you used has many variants and ALL of them are really bad. So for a Christian in Russia it is really impossible to use any of the variants otherwise people would say you are not a Christian. It is Russian ethics. But I was taught by an American teacher (btw she is a Christian and she asked me many times, “How would you say that in Russian”? She was making a dictionary of some bad kind of slang. I couldn’t answer her) that in the US the “f” word is quite normal and it is possible to use it even in family talks. I used your quotation (and it was not easy for my Russian conscience) for it is really difficult for a Christian in Russia to say that on his own.

      And I agree with you and want to say that if a Korean is/was a chapter director outside Korea then it is better for him to LEAVE his mission field. All those native shepherds councils which are supposed to cowork with (under) the director will do no good. There MUST NOT be a Korean director outside Korea (at least more than for 3 years). It doesn’t matter whether he has good intentions and character or not, if he stays a director there will be much multi-level abuse. And for a ubf director it is impossible to take a back seat (it is impossible in the Confucian ubf context). Even if the director tries to take a back seat the natives won’t feel any change and relief from the abuse.
      There should be no “both sides” outside Korea. There should be just one side and that is “native”.

  84. And just have to say one more thing regarding the “like” buttons before my lunch break ends…

    What has ubf been doing about They took a survey!! They polled people. Do you like ubfriends or not? Instead of ANALYZING us, make some COMMENTS! This is now a “weapon” used by some directors… Some are saying: see only 40% of people “like” ubfriends, it is just boring rehash.

    • ubfnomore

      Brian, you guys have made it a bit difficult to comment.

      Many people will not want to register and give out personal information.

      The rating system is configured so that ‘like’ or rating is allowed per IP address. You can block also block ones that are abusing the system.

      Anyways this article alone has over 1500 views, I don’t know how many unique visitors there are, but imagine if we had a good percentage of that show their opinions through rating the comments.

      This makes the site more open compared to having the 4-5 main commenters on here going back and forth.

    • Hi ubfnomore, and welcome to this crazy blog.

      You stated:

      “you guys have made it a bit difficult to comment.”

      > Would you elaborate? Why is it difficult to comment here?

      “Many people will not want to register and give out personal information.”

      > Why not? Why remain anonymous?

    • ubfnomore

      Dear Brian, I’ll expand:

      “you guys have made it a bit difficult to comment”
      – To comment, you have to register an account with this blog which consists of giving out your email address and creating username/password. This is just another hassle people probably won’t go through unless they are REALLY compelled to speak on something. Make it easier for people to comment/interactive and you will get more interaction.

      “Many people will not want to register and give out personal information.”
      – This blog is controversial and people that are currently involved in UBF probably don’t want their real identity attached to this website in fear of being judged.

      Hope that clears things up.

    • “This is just another hassle people probably won’t go through unless they are REALLY compelled to speak on something.”

      ubfnomore, I think that’s not something bad, bad something good. We don’t want it make easy for anonymous trolls to comment here, we want real people with real opinions, and people who care. If it is too much work for somebody to create an account, then this indicates that he or she does not take the issues seriously enough. Creating a small hurdle is not so bad.

      “Many people will not want to register and give out personal information.”

      You don’t need to use your real name, only a nickname. Your email is not shown to the public, and it’s easy to create an anonymous email account for discussions.

  85. I was just thinking that those who comment will still comment. But those who never will, may at least remain anonymous and let them like or dislike.

  86. Based on recent comments, I realize that our collective default is to somehow make broad sweeping generalizations, that may be unfair to the other side.

    Some/many UBF loyalists have made broad sweeping generalizations against UBFriends and about anyone who leaves UBF or who critiques UBF.

    Likewise, exUBFers also make broad sweeping generalizations of UBFers, even if the offenders and abusers may just be a few (not all) older senior UBF leaders, who have choosen to “take the high road,” remain silent and quiet, and never show themselves for who they truly are, like the Wizard of Oz (the original one). This, sadly, is their way of maintaining control over the majority without truly seeking consensus, and by applying their “UBF senior trump card.”

  87. @Vitaly, Thanks, as always, for sharing. Maybe I am more sympathetic toward UBF spiritual abuse (without condoning it), because I myself participated in this sort of abuse myself for over 2 decades. During that time, I believe I was a Christian. So now, when I see others in UBF practicing “control and manipulation” in the name of shepherding, I am sympathetic toward them, since I myself did so for a long time.

    Jesus also keep the wheat and weeds together until the harvest. As I had just shared, there are truly many lovely UBF people, but with their unique (cute or annoying) UBF quirks, as every Christian would have. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I think that your experience in your UBF chapter for 17 years was at the “worse” end of UBF experiences. Nonetheless, it brings to light the problems inherent in UBF.

    My faith and prayer is that more and more people in UBF will begin to address and correct the issues that are unhealthy for 50 years. Things, I believe, are changing, albeit too slowly for my taste. But God is never impatient or in a hurry like me.

  88. David Weed:

    I’m glad you are at least one ubfer who is no longer anonymous :)

    “But you have to understand that people like me can’t simply leave UBF or see it as a cult outright”

    Like it or not, no matter how much palpable change you see, you and ubfers must deal with the cult label. Who calls ubf a cult? The public does! Ever since ubf has come to North American, the public has been suspicious that ubf is a cult. There are numerous newspaper articles scanned on my blog that show how Canadians rejected ubf as a cult from the beginning.

    So far the ubf party line has been “We don’t care if we are labeled as a cult. In fact, we will pledge ourselves to another 50 years of cult behavior with our 50th anniversary pledge.”

  89. Brian, one other good thing that I will credit ubfriends for is helping members in my generation to come to grips with allegations such as these. I think that we categorically detest the aberrant aspects of UBF doctrine and wish to move forward by way of instituting healthy paradigms and practices. But if we truly want to forge a new path, I think it’s necessary for us to understand the extent of the abuse that occurred and the ensuing label of ‘cult’ that has been applied to us. The information is plainly out there ( and so I ask my generation what will we do with these allegations? Sure, there are many generalizations made here and elsewhere, but they do hold some truth.

    I still will not call UBF a cult because I know that healthy chapters exist and I have seen lives impacted by the work of the Holy Spirit through people in UBF. These changed lives were not a result of ‘in spite of people God works through them’ scenarios, but rather they stemmed from Spirit-led UBFers working in very conscientious ways to help those in need. I’m not extolling or hagiographizing UBF heritage in any way by saying this; I’m sharing my honest testimony of what I’ve seen and experienced on a person to person basis.

    I know that an increasing number of young leaders in my generation are working behind the scenes in very constructive ways, but can we consolidate our efforts some how and spur change quicker? I’m contemplating writing an article about this, but I want to think and pray about it more.

    • “I still will not call UBF a cult because I know that healthy chapters exist and I have seen lives impacted by the work of the Holy Spirit through people in UBF.”

      I would argue the opposite way around. I call UBF a cult because I know that non-healthy chapters exist in Germany, like my own chapter in Heidelberg and the one in Bonn, and how UBF top leadership dealt with these chapter leaders, namely by promoting them to national directors. I also know that healthy chapters existed in Germany, and I know how UBF top leadership dealt with them, namely by officially expelling the from UBF in 2001 and 2002. Not to speak about he founder of UBF and what happened in the headquarters. No tree can be healthy if the stem (the founder and his practices and teachings) is not healthy. And if there is a pattern of supporting the unhealthy branches and pruning the healthy branches.

      Maybe UBF is less cult-like today than it was in the past, but unless UBF clearly admits its cult-like past and clearly distances itself from the sins and teachings of the past, it will continue to be a cult. When I see people wining that we “generalize” I can only conclude that they haven’t understood what we are talking about. I you join or remain in an organization where the founder and top leader ordered abortions, beat people, misapproporiated money, has been completely unaccountable, where severe spiritual abuse happened over decades in many chapters, and no kind of corporate repentance had happened even aftr 50 years, then you need to live with people challenging you about that and “generalizing” their experience to all of UBF. Do something about that instead of wining and complaining that people are “generalizing”.

  90. @DavidW: If there is any “one thing” I want, it is for ubf people to have the attitude you just displayed in the comment above. In fact, let me renew my challenge I made here awhile back. This is a challenge I shared in person with ATK, the GD (Ben and JohnY are eye-witnesses of this).

    If 10 ubf Korean directors comment here on this blog for a consistent time period, say 6 months, with an open, honest and transparent attitude, I will shut down my blog.

    Joe and Ben do not count, obviously, because they are not Korean ubf directors.

    Given your input, DavidW, along with JohnY and aw, I am willing to count Wesley Jun as “director #1” (if you are indeed a director Wesley!)

    So there are nine more to go if you want to persuade me to stop being a vocal critic of ubf. And I would welcome your article David!

    • Brian, I don’t know about your challenge but having the president of UBF comment here deserves some recognition.

    • Yes, if he would not have evaded answering my questions, I would have given him some recognition.

    • Not in my book, aw. The prez does get the award for the most comments using quotations from other sources so he doesn’t have to be personally accountable for his opinions.

      And James is not a chapter director, and does not display the reform and reconciliation attitude here like several of Wesleys comments did.

  91. ubfnomore, just a couple responses:

    “- To comment, you have to register an account with this blog which consists of giving out your email address and creating username/password.”

    > Correct. From a technical perspective, we need to prevent sploggers (spam bloggers). Chris’ points above match my other reasons.

    “- This blog is controversial and people that are currently involved in UBF probably don’t want their real identity attached to this website in fear of being judged.”

    > Judged by whom? Isn’t that telling? So either ubf is a deeply unhealthy church or it is a cult.

  92. One of my hopes through UBFriends is that younger members of UBF speak up boldly and without fear regarding what they really think, feel and believe.

    A very unhealthy pervasive atmosphere of UBF that has been created over 50 years is to plant the fear of man in the name of respect toward older Korean leaders. I will categorically say that this is unbiblical and unhealthy for any church.

    By fearing your chapter director or any older leader, you insult God who is above the head of the chapter director you fear (Prov 29:25).

    By fearing your chapter director you actually aid, abet and assist him to continue to be spiritually abusive, controlling and unaccountable. This has practically and virtually caused all of the problems of UBF.

    I am not advocating disrespect or anarchy, but I am addressing fearing any man, who is a human being who uses the washroom just like yourself.

    Are you still going to fear your UBF leader, chapter director, missionary, elder???? That if you are single, he won’t allow you to marry? That if you are married, he still has authority to control how you run your own family and your children? That if you are a young UBF leader, he would not honor, recognize, affirm and approve of you? That your sense of your own self worth is entirely dependent on the assessment and evaluation of your leader?

    • I agree with what is being said here.I will repeat what I said some time ago in a different thread. When I began Bible study to me it was just Bible study. I never joined anything or consented to anything more than that. But randomly my shepherd started tagging expectations on me – that I never consented to! As a result when I received rebuke at first I never understood what I had done wrong. It was not clear to me. I did not sin – well, at least not what I had been accused of. By the time of all this I did feel an emotional or friendly loyalty because a relationship had formed. So fear introduces itself in strange ways. (But that is not why I remained.)

      I want to always encourage younger readers to contribute. You can share anything experienced in UBF. Without the contributions from younger people it is unclear whether or not anything has really changed. And, yes, another generalisation, but without that I would have to isolate each chapter and each person.

      If we fear anyone who is a leader in UBF many things may happen. We start to cut friends from our life, because we cannot have them as Bible students or because they are ungodly. Whose to say we cannot be a good influence to them even if they never have desire to come to UBF? We can fear where we live, because everyone in UBF lives close. Now, this makes a little sense for families because of practical matters, but a come-and-go student should not be pressured into “common life” as a sign of their faith. Even jobs are a concern, as I think Big Bear had expressed. Being pressured to do church activities when there is a possibility of being fired from your job is not a test of faith it is just wrong.

      One fear that I had to face was leaving my home chapter to go to another by circumstance (meaning there was nothing in ministry leading me to a specific alternative). I was later asked in detail by a brother who was making the same move how to handle it. Actually, you always get this feeling that you are letting everyone down, but each one of us has their own path. We cannot always fulfill the goals established by leaders – who sometimes it seems are playing with toy soldiers.

      I remember the first conference after I left I was treated okay, but with contempt. I even experienced the leaders boldness when they told me to look at all the people they brought to the conference. Well, to turn that around, it is good to see that you can rebound and bring many people to the conference – don’t cry over me, I have my own path.

      I reviewed something just now. Will some UBF leaders call a lack of fear “individualism”? A lack of fear can be seen as self confident. It has no connection to the people pleasing “yes” man approach. It’s the * you approach. I think Rage Against the Machine wrote a song about that. Not to compare free thinkers to secular humanists, but in the ministry such people are often seen that way.

    • “I think Rage Against the Machine wrote a song about that”

      Nice, gc. Yes, music is another thing I have discovered on my search for reality. Music is real.

  93. @gc. Good point about “individualism.” Eastern culture, including Korean culture is communalistic. Therefore, being individualistic is perceived and regarded as selfish. Thus, the phrase “selfish Americans” was often used by some UBF missionaries. So, if you think outside the box, or disagree with “UBF core values,” then you are selfish and not considerate or mindful toward the entire community (of UBF).

    That is why UBF chapters throughout the world is for all intents and purposes “the same.” Strong and dominant Korean cultural elements in UBF does not welcome, permit or embrace indigenous local expressions of the Christian faith.

    UBFriends critiques UBF spiritual abuses. But some UBF leaders view this as UBF bashing, negative, complaining and being ungrateful. They do not like HOT or SHOT. It is the evidence that they want to control UBF top-down from behind the scenes.

  94. Most of the rhetoric I’ve been hearing surrounding the ISBC seems to be cynical rather than hopeful, whether it be from my friends, peers or even UBFriends articles. Much of it is probably justified. I just hope that in the midst of it all, fellow brethren can have a spirit of prayer beyond anything else, myself included.

    I respect/admire what you and other leaders are doing as I observe from a distance. I do visit the UBFriends website occasionally and enjoy the articles. I firmly believe that provocateurs are crucial in moving any organization forward. But in a church, true provocateurs are filled and led by the Holy Spirit. That is why there is a difference between those who merely provoke and those who have a truly “prophetic” voice through God’s Spirit.

    When I read some of the online content, particularly the comments, I wonder how much of it actually comes from the Holy Spirit and not the flesh. Because that will make all the difference in terms of spiritual impact–otherwise the leaders will be “hearing but never understanding, seeing but never perceiving.” Hopefully through our Spirit-filled prayers, words and interactions we can see the day that “they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn and be healed.”

    • Anon,

      Your general comment isn’t so helpful to us. How would you suggest we tell the differnce between a “provacateur” and a “prophet”?

      You write: “I wonder how much of it actually comes from the Holy Spirit and not the flesh.”

      This is like asking, how many school teachers really teach from a spirit of love for children and how many are just control-freaks. Such a broad statement is of course based on a true observation. Some words here (including mine) are sometimes from the Spirit and sometimes from the flesh. It would be far more helpful to explain how to tell the difference. And I should point out that word from the flesh are not automatically bad or evil.

      How can we know if something comes from the Holy Spirit or if it is coming from the flesh? Is the flesh so evil? Thoughts anyone?

    • “Your general comment isn’t so helpful to us. How would you suggest we tell the differnce between a ‘provacateur’ and a ‘prophet’? You write: ‘I wonder how much of it actually comes from the Holy Spirit and not the flesh.’ This is like asking, how many school teachers really teach from a spirit of love for children…”

      I agree with Brian, asking such questions is not really helpful. If something truthful and Biblical has been said, you should consider it carefully, no matter by whome or from which motivation it has been said. Check the content of what has been said, not the person who said something, or the motivation you are imputing to someone, that is the only way to find out whether it is Biblical and right. Check against the facts, use rational thinking and empathy, use your conscience and common sense and check against the overall teachings of the Bible.

    • @Anon, thanks for your contribution here. Do you mind if I add my thoughts?

      >”When I read some of the online content, particularly the comments, I wonder how much of it actually comes from the Holy Spirit and not the flesh.”

      This is a hard question. In my experience, I’ve observed this type of question frequently covers a troubling reluctance to listen to what others say. I echo Brian’s comment: how can you define or tell what comes from the Spirit? John 3:8 comes to mind. Also, what does “flesh” mean? A sinful motive? How can one really distinguish the motives of another? Only God who can read another person’s heart. It is very easy to disregard exUBFers by saying, “I don’t have to listen to them because what they’re saying is from the wrong motive–from the flesh.” It provides an excuse to keep the same mindset and direction. So by making a judgment of the motive of the “provocateur”, the person or group under discussion excuses themselves from having to listen to the content of the provocateur’s message.

      >”Hopefully through our Spirit-filled prayers, words and interactions we can see the day that “they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn and be healed.”

      Amen. And not only through Spirit-filled words and prayers, but through all the words and prayers and interactions and dialogue. We can move forward when everyone makes a concerted effort to just listen without making judgments about each others’ motives.

    • Mark Mederich

      first, some comments include some venting so we can feel alive after being held to the ropes by legalism (we have more to do than worry about every comment fixing leaders, sooner or later we all have to grow up & let God fix us, do our part to fix ourselves,etc..:)

      secondly, the internal policeman (the gut feeling of right/wrong) is helpful in discerning what’s good from God (if it seems right it probably is, if it seems wrong it probably is:) think back in life/religion, when we continued on into trouble it was usually because we didn’t heed the internal alarm from God, we listened instead to a different part of ourselves, or friends, or respected authoritities/etc

      may God guide us into all truth, & away from all pitfalls. HALLELUJAH!

  95. Great questions, Brian. We are doing a 10 part video Men’s Series called “Stepping Up” by Dennis Rainey. This is a summation of part 6, which we watched last Sat: I found this about Bonhoeffer interesting since I do not think that I could or would go along with assassinating anyone today (this is a rough transcript from a video by Rainey):

    “So how do we know if we should take initiative in something? How are we to know if it’s the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do? After learning what kind of an evil man Hitler was, Bonhoeffer, along with many of his friends, decided to plot how they could assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a Christian. How could he commit murder? According to the video, he believed that God is the God of the Scriptures. It was his absolute faith in God, that helped him take the initiative. He believed in his heart that this is what God wanted him to do. Bonhoeffer believed that if we obey God, even if we make mistakes, it’s okay. He believed that it was better to do something for God than to run away in fear. But, his plot was eventually found out and Bonhoeffer was hanged. Bonhoeffer wasn’t able to complete his mission, but yet, he still showed courage in taking initiative in something that he believed was right to do.”

  96. Hey everyone, check out the new presentation with details.

    Check out slide 29. Thought I was kidding?
    Check out slide 30. Nice stats.

  97. I inquired about the negative number change last week. It was just that those who registered partially were paying in installments, which bumped up the number, which then required correction.

  98. Ben, something else to inquire about, please. What is “MBF”?

    So CBF means Childrens’ bible fellowhip, HBF means Highschool bible fellowship. What is MBF?

    And I would also check into why someone with an IP address in Seoul, Korea tried to remove all controversies from the ubf Wikipedia article? This is getting a bit ridiculous. Don’t they know everyone can see what they are doing?

  99. @Brian: “Don’t they know everyone can see what they are doing?” I honestly do not think that they do realize this. They might still be operating during the “old times,” where they can control, dictate and regulate what they want without being accountable, or discovered, or exposed.

    Will the (shameless, cowardly) attempt to remove the “entire Controversy section about UBF” be accepted? How does Wikipedia decide what changes to adopt or reject?

    Can we start a new Wikipedia section on “UBFriends”? How?

    I may be wrong but MBF stands for Middle (school) Bible Fellowship, I think. I’m not sure where the age division is.

  100. @Ben:

    “Will the (shameless, cowardly) attempt to remove the “entire Controversy section about UBF” be accepted?”

    > Yes, that is part of the Internet Committee’s job. From time to time some ubf do-gooder (like I used to be :) will try to remove some negative material about ubf. This is still happening, for example I published the 2011 email I got instructing ubf leaders to dislike some negative article

    “How does Wikipedia decide what changes to adopt or reject?”

    > The Wikipedians enforce the policies. Basically it is an honor system built on mutual accountability and academic exercise. Many PhD’s and professors are Wiki Admins. Don’t mess with them :) They hate “fancruft” and “self=praise” and “self-promotion”. So bascially you can’t really submit an article about yourself. Wikipedia is meant to only publish from reliable sources. And guess what? Reliable sources say ubf is a cult. Erasing whole sections, as ubf keeps trying to do, earns you a ban eventually.

    > Oh and by the way, I’ll repeat something I’ve said before here about Wikipedia: I REPENT! I am so ashamed that I accepted advice and direction and quotes from SB and her team to “clean up” the ubf Wikipedia article. The Wiki Admins (who never heard of ubf) slammed me for doing so.

    • Mark Mederich

      clean-up, cleanup for Jesus, ye soldiers of the’ll never suffer loss:)

  101. @Yo, nice name! Welcome to UBFriends. “When I first read your post I was somewhat angry…” Sorry about that. Several people have already told me this, especially those who are not political, who have no political agenda, who are not trying to impose their own agenda, and who are truly giving their whole hearts to serve and prepare the ISBC because they love Jesus and the church.

    I have no doubt that God will bless such as these.

  102. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here Yo. It is healthy and normal to be angry from time to time. I would think most ubfers would be angry at things said on this website. That’s ok. That’s human. But what is harmful is to never express such anger or to deal with it in an unhealthy way. Reminds me of someone’s comment a while back regarding “many sunsets in ubf”. It is not healthy to let the sun go down on your anger. Better to deal with it today than to deny it or pent it up.

    And just to stroke everyone’s ego, especially yours Ben, thanks for pushing us over 9,000 comments in 3 years!

    Ben, you get the prize for making the 9,000th comment (the prize is a beer from me :)

    So just a note of advice to all you silent ubfers reading this… next time someone tells you “ubfriends is so predictable and boring” or “nobody wants to read that stuff” or “ubfriends is slowing down”, just ask them:

    “Then why does ubfriends have 9,000 comments? Why did they publish 295 articles in those 3 years? Why have the comments been increasing in 2013? Why have dozens of current and former members contributed to ubfriends from all over the world?”

    (then you might want to run for cover…:)

  103. Can’t wait for my beer, Brian. I think I like the IPAs, which was introduced to be by an exUBFer, who seems to know where the good beers are!

    295 articles in 3 years is like writing 2 messages/sermons a week every week for 3 years!

    9,000 comments in 3 years is like writing or listening to 170 testimonies a week every week (or 24 Daily Breads every day) for 3 years!

    Can anyone in UBF beat that? Woops, I defaulted to my ultra-competitive UBF mode, or rather my sinful depraved one-upmanship mode!

    • Ha! And we are doing WORLD MISSION to boot :)

      Yes, I noticed my capacity to ingest and comprehend information, and also to express and articulate my thoughts, increased at least 100 fold since leaving ubf. All those condemning voices and spears of guilt were ssapping my mind!

      And also I no longer speak, think, act, eat, sleep or feel like a Korean, but as an AMERICAN! Koreans can be Korean and that’s fine. Just LET ME BE an American.

      (And I think we should talk to Chris and other Germans for “high quality” beer :)

    • “(or 24 Daily Breads every day) for 3 years!”

      Actually I think the math works out to about 8 daily breads per day for 3 years or 24 daily breads for 1 year.

      I feel like I write that much myself alone! And if I didn’t have to eat or sleep, I would be blogging non-stop.

    • Mark Mederich

      the end of the spear:)

    • Mark Mederich

      wise man say: when number grow so fast you lose track, you are successful:)

  104. big bear

    With all else said…the reason Ubf denies its wrongs is because the leaders dontpractice what they preach….a double standard….it they see the abuse the Ubf system does to familes, students, and even neighboring churches and the body of Christ…they simply cant except the truth….many are stuck in the trap and receive much honor in ubf….Ubf is such a small ministry and there is a reason…it is a pharisee ministry…the Bible study is used to trap people in the system….Jesus never manipulated, never even promoted a system…he loved people geniunely…this is rare in Ubf…Ubf people only help those who commit to their system..all other believers can go to hell..the conference is set up to glorify the system…their is no altar call….people are forced to attend all the conference by leaders…it is a show…..the show ends in 4 days then depression sets in…the time would be better spent putting God love into action…once I went to Kenya to attend a Bible conference…one morning I left Ubf to go alone in a villiage to meet the natives and share God love and to see how people really live…one family invited me into their hut….I shared the gospel, drank and ate with them. gave them my water purifier and bought their children candy….I skipped the boring ubf meetings…did this on many oversea conferences….in Caracus. Ven I skipped testimony sharing in Mother Barry bible study group to buy cokes for the native boys and go horse back riding with other shepherds andboxes o ofah esnatives…when we drove to drove to mexico we handed out boxes of spanisBible….these things are practical ways to show God love

    • Mark Mederich

      you go big bear! but as we know, for many ‘the show must go on’..

  105. big bear

    BOYCOTT…spend the weekend with your family and friends and join a healthy church….take a stand against abuse and stand up for your family….dont be pushed around by the bullies of Ubf…..this would be real love in action..a universal boycott…..then true change will begin….

  106. big bear

    Please if anyone forces you to go or pressures you to go…dont go….there should be a meeting for all about the abuses in ubf….openly so that new comers will know the truth and all should know that families and children must come first over ubf business

  107. @big bear, I may be wrong and I’m not sure about other UBF chapters. But my subjective sense from where I am is that pressuring people and arm twisting people to go to the ISBC and guilt tripping people is less than before. This is so even if and when some UBFers seriously sincerely strongly believe that you should go.

    I hope it is not just me feeling this way, but more widely experienced by all UBFers.

  108. big bear

    Ben Toh…I hope you are right…the pressure was so much in Cinti UBf even when you could not afford to go and kids were left alone and the bills were tight…I hated thinking about the safety of our children while wandering off to a conference..the pressure of trying to get all your sheep to go and the daily prayer meetings and the pressure, pressure pressure to conform to the director’s wishes…this pressure became a way of life for us who became directors..we learned from our mentors…even now I have to refrain myself from forcing and pressuring people…God is slowly healing all of us and bringing the true freedom of the Christian life to all…Please no pressure on young Bible students..just God and love them rather they want to go or not..not judgments…just love…be happy even if they don’t go…and I know this is hard for a UBFer but is needed…this is God’s love…

  109. big bear

    THE CONFERENCE ONLY PROMOTES ABUSE AND CONDONES ITS FROM THE LEADERS…leaders go there to show off God work….though they know it is a show….behind the curtains children are being neglected, marriages are being torn apart, directors are drinking every night, people are so depressed and so broke from going to conferences that it is a sham…..people are forced to write half truth life testimonies and young Bible students are groomed to abuse new sheep….after the conference the abuse continues….if you are in ubf there is no need to fear any of the leaders they are only sinners…..many only have big heads…challenge them to live in love not bible knowledge….you will know them by their wives and children talk to their children…they know the truth…watch them outside of ubf…run for the hills…..

    • I don’t know about “directors are drinking every night.” :-)

    • I can’t confirm that either. Drinking alcohol of any kind was seen as very unspiritual by most missionaries in UBF. Most of them didn’t drink at all and often did not even know the difference between alcoholic beverages. I know some directors were a more liberal in private which can be seen as hypocritical. But if anybody had a drinking problem that must be a rare and individual case.

  110. big bear

    Ben Toh…our director would tell us not to drink alcohol…I went to his house and he had a whole cabinet full of wine and other alcohol..once he took me out and he even bought me a beer which was a shock..not just me all of us…I could not believe it I was drinking a cold beer with director…realized he lived differently behind closed doors…I have not doubt many directors are drinking alcohol…yes, many are drinking to drown their depression

    • @big bear, Perhaps, it is not fair to judge anyone’s motives for drinking. I drink alcohol to chill in the evening, or if I can’t sleep, or when my wife and I have a nice meal. Drinking is not a sin, drunkenness is.

      In a sense, I’m glad your director took you out for a beer. They would make a lot more friends if they did so out of genuine love and friendship.

    • Interesting, bigbear. That is the first I’ve heard of anything alcohol related. In my part of ubf, we were all squeaky clean in that area (or so I think).

      I drink now though, casually. I intentionally have a beer several times a week and sometimes visit the Captain just to remind me never to go back to ubf and to ensure almost no ubf person would want to come near me :)

  111. Fill me in, Brian. What’s “the Captain”?

  112. As we are just less then a month away from the ISBC I am interested to hear accounts from senior (ex)members about the normal last minute efforts to bring people to Jesus – OOPS!!! – I mean the conference…

    From my observations over the years directors demand initiative to go to campus and invite anyone who is willing to just come. Such activity is done so that memebers are always busy and concerning about the conference as much as possible until the actual date. In many cases the remaining month is crucial until about the last week to do this.

    The problem I have always found with the strict effort to invite newcomers to the conference in this way is rather simple – UBF always comes off as a cult to most people who have a first introduction through the conference. We meet many brothers and sisters who came, but afterwards – run for the hills.

    I know everyone has given some insight into this in the context of building numbers, but I can just imagine the reality in many chapters right now – that everything has stopped so that the campus may be visited to bring people to the conference.

    It is much better to build up a relationship first. But that being said – conference programs must be reviewed all around. I am in no way suggesting a more sinister approach to gaining loyalty and commitment from people when they would eventually smell a rat.

  113. gc, I don’t think that the pressure to bring people is as intense as in the past. But then again, I am no longer a traditional hardliner. In fact, to some, I’m not even a UBFer anymore. :-)

    • Ben, I cannot really say about the ISBC, but my local chapter had a conference and we did persistently go to campus in the remaining month just to bring people to the conference. I remember this had been usual practice in many chapters. So, I was really just commenting on the real practical benefit. In the past few year things like what I am talking about have been dropped in some places for sure.

  114. big bear

    In 3 days, another ISBC, will there be a breakthru, the title is right “So Loved” Ubf leaders need to learn God Love and practice it not just preach it.

    My concerns:

    — the family unit and the toll on them…children neglected at home and forced to attend…leaders pressuring young believers to attend….poor families and large families strapped in debt and running up credit card debt….life testimonies are they real…messages are they scripted and messengers own words…other church involvement….hectic and unbalanced schedule that promotes ubf not love…….bible studies are they open or driven by one word….koreans are they making this their conference only for connections….abuse and shunning for those who dont go…love driven or work driven…traveling and safety for families..will there be real openness and trasparency…real prayer…rumors and false reports like Big Bear is working for the devil because he left ubf…will the truth be told …. will abuse be addressed openly…willl change come to protect families and students..will God be gorified or abuse and ubf

  115. sheepherd1

    I’ll be attending this big conference. I hope it will be blessed it one. I hope students will be blessed with the theme “So Loved”. I just hope I will not be forced to write life testimony or a testimony regarding Chapter 14 and 15 of John :).

    • You’ll not be forced, but it is in the program for you to write and share your “reflections” on Sat night and Sun morning < ^_^>:

    • sheepherd1

      I’ll just orally share my reflections, just like the last Easter Conference. I feel it’s more natural that way. Let the Holy Spirit do its work :).

    • sheepherd1,

      I am confident that you will not have to write or share anything about John 17 :<

      btw, holy contradiction batman! How many here have read "Your Church is Too Small“?

      This book is amazing. I have to resist the urge to quote the whole thing here. As I systematically review the 12 point ubf heritage, I see contradiction after contradiction with “mainline Christianity” and historical Christian doctine.

  116. What a nice expression of ubf’s purpose of studying the gospel: “We will study the gospel during the conference so we can firmly hold on to our campus mission.”

    I think the purpose of the ISBC is just the same.


  117. Today is the day the 2013 ISBC begins. Many people, including my 2 sons, left Chicago very early this morning (6 am), in order to arrive in time for dinner in Indiana, Pennsylvania, a 10 hour drive.

    Strangely, I have been feeling somewhat down and sad since yesterday in that I am not attending this conference. I think it is because my entire Christian life of over 3 decades has been so closely intertwined with UBF, and that I have always fully participated in “UBF’s big events.” But this time I am not because of the concerns that I have addressed in this post.

    I have been told by many UBFers that “things are changing.” Surely, they are. But sometimes I wonder if the change is a genuine broken “inside out” change. Or is it just a change of expediency, simply because of external pressure, and/or because of the need to change in order to keep the controls over UBF at large?

    All this to say that I am sad and feel bitter sweet in that I am not able to fully jump into this big UBF celebration.

    Still, I truly do pray that God will abundantly bless the conference so that God is indeed glorified, and that many hearts will be renewed and refreshed by the Holy Spirit for the glory of God!

    • I know the feeling well. Kidd Rock has often helped me the past 2 years.

      I heard “things are changing” for 24 years. And things were changing. Yet nothing changed.

    • Every once in a while I remember how nice and cozy it was for me to live in my own little fantasy world, denying the reality around me and ignoring the problems of others. Then I remember who I am and that someone has to to make a stand.

    • Mark Mederich

      you go bro!
      in/out, here/there, may God help us remember who we r (& who we r not:) & to take a stand (even when we wobble or fall-we get back up, so help us God.) we who strive for God’s Best/Right ways, r one in God. Amen HALLELUJAH!


      change doesn’t happen, we happen: inspired by God we incur man’s wrath until God’s slow change always comes..:)A.H!

      did not the wall in Germany finally come down (not so much because of our prayers but because of increasing West/East sufferings, cries to heaven, & those bold enough to advocate right for All!

      likewise the separating walls of religion (hierarchy/privilege, denomination, inordinate benefit) must, will come down, so help us God-Amen (even if our efforts are persecuted & our blood spilled someday, even if we pass on not seeing earth change to God’s way in our time, we still welcome it from afar knowing man’s ways will not prevail, God Alone will Prevail & His people will be set free to Worship Him Alone & serve Him by helping one another along the pilgrim way: A. H!

  118. For anyone who is interested, I just found out that there will be live streaming of the event at the following URL:

    The broadcast will be during our general sessions (all are Eastern Standard Time in the United States):
    Thursday, August 1st: 7:00 – 8:30 PM
    Friday, August 2nd: 9:00 – 11:30 AM; 6:30 – 8:30 PM
    Saturday, August 3rd: 9:00 – 11:30 AM; 6:30 – 8:30 PM
    Sunday, August 4th: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

    I might give it a shot since UBF has never done live streamming before. At 7:20 pm, eastern time, Aug 1st, the link still does not work.

  119. My synopsis from watching the live streamming (Thu, Aug 1):

    Andreas Hassani (Heidelberg, Germany) gave the 1st message (Jn 13:1-38). He spoke forcefully, passionately and very precisely.

    Samuel P. (India) gave a life testimony: “From an Outcast to a Kingdom of Priests.” He shared how he was changed from a low caste person and one who was not accepted to be a trainee priest to become a shepherd and Bible teacher.

    Sarah Neusa shared a life testimony: “From a Samaritan Woman to a Woman of Faith for Portugal.” She shared her life of being sexual abused, and her change through Bible study to be a mother of prayer for the nations.

    Greg Lewis gave some business announcements (10 min).

    Teddy gave the the prayer topics and announcements very naturally and graciously (4 min): Jesus loves you.

    This seems to be a much better way for an introvert like me to attend the conference!

  120. Yohan Hwang

    I suppose there are many these days that feel they have a lot of time and money to blow. Where they get these from, I have no clue.

    I think it would be more helpful if these intl conferences were only for chapter directors. Leaders of churches need to continuously check and align their doctrine. No chapter should be in isolation for too long, for there are always other influences whether local or from the internet creeping in and one can start deviating slowly.

    But if the purpose is to reach out to newcomers or seekers, why should anyone spend so much on a plane ticket. It’s better to have local retreats.

    • Yeah, Yohan, I agree. Chapter directors need to meet, perhaps, not necessarily for “more Bible study,” but for building deeper and more meaningful friendships and relationships.

      For sure, local retreats would be a far more economically efficient and productive way to welcome new believers or seekers.

    • Mark Mederich

      i think there have always been some who felt sufficiently blessed to do so (whether from individual gain or entitled access to collective gains)

  121. I’d have to say that this 5 min introduction video to the ISBC is quite well done. It was likely produced by our younger leaders. Check it out:

  122. A noteworthy quote that perhaps puts any big Christian event into proper perspective:

    “It is a painful fact indeed to realize how poorly prepared most Christian leaders prove to be when they are invited to be spiritual leaders in the true sense. Most of them are used to thinking in terms of large-scale organization, getting people together in churches, schools and hospitals, and running the show as a circus director. They have become unfamiliar with, and even somewhat afraid of, the deep and significant movements of the Spirit.” Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer

    • Mark Mederich

      ..& the deep/significant needs of people, who if Sincerely helped/encouraged when possible, will sense God’s good & respond to God naturally

  123. Sibboleth

    “Photo bomb” from the other night.

  124. Thanks for the updates, Ben, Sibboleth, Yohan (nice photo Sibboleth!)

    The ISBC seems the same as always: a big show; some individual testimonies and sincere/heartfelt announcements. When ubf puts on its best show, it looks rather spectacular, and they will always find a way to “make quota” in terms of numbers. ubf will indeed plow onward.

    I have no doubt that God is doing something in the lives of the individual testimony sharers. I just hope they don’t end up in the Ohio river someday :(

    • Mark Mederich

      Amen. I appreciate sincere young (& not so young) people, but am sad when sounds like their words are changed/overcoached/or ‘used’ to someone else’s end; religion must repent of climax in offering & call, for it colors all that precedes it to get beneficial final result; may Holy Spirit Alone reign to work in each person’s need & response to God Alone, & let Him Alone who is worthy then disseminate it As He Alone sees fit/knows best to those truly in need (not the overly blessed already)

    • Mark Mederich

      meant to say pledge above; call is ok to show new or renewed desire for Christ (i think best way is for all to stand, for all need newly ever day, if honest to self)

      pledge is ok if general to follow Christ & as He personally leads in one’s life; but specific is wishful presumption, unless God guides/enables over time

  125. Like you Ben, this is the first ISBC I’ve missed since 1988. What did I do with the extra time and money? Our family is going on vacation, I volunteered with my company to clean up a Detroit neighborhood and I had a nice glass of wine.

  126. Sibboleth

    Observations from this member of the captive audience:

    Ben, I think you were mostly right on with your concerns.

    I note that the late founder and his American partner seem not to be mentioned as frequently as they used to, though it was disconcerting to hear her being introduced on opening night by that stupid “Mother Barry” title. I think with the lessened emphasis on hagiography, there’s also less of the “Look at us! We’re UBF and we’re notable!” self-glorification. But if hagiography were truly dead I wouldn’t have had to hear some Ukrainian guy praising his leader for giving him run-to-McDonald’s-while-shouting-slogans training. Seriously, WTH?!

    To my untrained eye, it doesn’t look like the place is overflowing with members. Maybe they didn’t emphasize numeric goals nearly enough. But why is it that these still formulaic “life testimonies” get the biggest audience reaction when they mention having a large number of Bible studies per week? Why are these numeric accomplishments mentioned in life testimonies at all?

    As predicted, the theme and emphasis is “mission.” I hear the Gospel of Mission being frequently preached with a spirit of urgency. I hear the gospel of Christ being preached with that usual obligatory spirit that ends with that usual perfunctory “Amen!” They have it backwards, and they don’t seem to know it.

    It seems that I witness at least one act of spiritual abuse at these conferences. This time it was some senior Korean chewing out some helpless conference technical staff, right in the middle of the auditorium with the audience seated all around. Sigh.

    • Sibboleth

      Corrected link to Joshua’s article on the Gospel of Mission

    • Sibboleth

      (This time for sure. Sorry, admin.)

      Corrected link to Joshua’s article on the Gospel of Mission

    • Mark Mederich

      interest group about Holy Spirit was a blessing: leaders did a nice job of presenting (especially Andy/Waterloo: God seems to have been working better there for awhile because they let Him/gave Him room; wish it would rub off on rest of world..)

      also time was allowed for comments: of course some stalworths defended God/Jesus from overemphasis on Holy Spirit, but others strongly spoke up for Spirit gifts/fruit/courage/help/freedom/etc; a dialogue started

      if churches spent more time in such dialogue, God could work much better;
      too much time is spent in monologue (listen to one point of view repeatedly/adnauseum, without opportunity to respond)

      i think Bereans digging out the word of God in their time would be ashamed of the repetitive rehashing in our time:) but what else can we do by human effort? that’s why we need to forsake man’s spiritual bullying which comes from lack of Spirit help, & seek freedom of Holy Spirit working/guiding/flourishing all who are willing! HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • “Why are these numeric accomplishments mentioned in life testimonies at all?”

      And why are these numeric goals are mentioned in all ubf prayers?!

      I read an article by a Russian missionary to Canada. Someone told him, “Let’s pray for raising (a number) new churches in North America nex year!”. He at once answered that he would not pray for any “numbers” and would be very careful when someone suggests such numeric prayer topics. So there is such a temptation in churches to have numeric goals and prayer topics. Healthy churches don’t give them a way. But ubf shows clearly what happens when all this numeric stuff is of the highest priority.

  127. sheepherd1


    I’m one of the attenders of this UBF ISBC. I really think that this conference is a really blessed one. Maybe because I never been to a UBF International conference, this is my first time. I observed that UBF seems to be a big organization. They showed us videos that showed the work of UBF around the world. Other than that, To be honest, the testimony sharers and the messengers were very unnatural to the way they deliver their messages. They almost sounds the same and same tone of speech. Maybe I’m accustomed to listening to pastors and preachers without them having to read off from a written message. My other observation is that people seem to mention the word “training” a lot in this conference. Other than that this ISBC is better than the other smaller conferences, like Easter BIble Conferences. Less pride, more Glory to God.

    I decided not to go to my church’s GLS this summer and go to this one because I want to experience this big conference and God’s working thru the UBF ministry.

    • “I observed that UBF seems to be a big organization. They showed us videos that showed the work of UBF around the world.”

      As far as I understand, that’s the whole point of the conference. People who only saw their small chapter at home shall see how large UBF really is, be impressed and get “vision”. That’s why Samuel Lee even faked photos by adding cloned audience to make it appear even larger. I also once attended an ISBC. Even though I refused to go because I did not understand why I needed to waste so much money for the trip, my chapter leader pushed me until I went. Of course it worked as my chapter leader planned, I was impressed. Until then I had never been in America and sure I was impressed. (Coming from a small country to America will always leave a big impression no matter how good or bad the conference is.) You start to believe that UBF is a great thing with international importance.

      “Other than that this ISBC is better than the other smaller conferences, like Easter BIble Conferences. Less pride, more Glory to God.”

      Doesn’t this contradict what we said above? Isn’t showing all the “greatness” of UBF also a sign of pride? Sure, outwardly, they wrap it as “all the Glory to God” and appear to be humble, but in reality, all this glory goes to UBF.

    • Sibboleth

      You may have captured my conclusion after this conference. A piece of metal looks big if you hammer it out enough. A batch of dough looks big if you roll it out enough and stick a bunch of national flags on the edges. But where’s the depth? I asked that after these messages and life testimonies. The messages are essentially the same tired ones I heard many years ago. (Moran did try to change it up a little, God bless ‘im). The life testimonies follow the same formula they did many years ago. You thought they sounded flat? I did too. That’s because they were flat. Where’s the depth? The depth could be found on the table outside the auditorium where they were hawking books from … the UBF Press. They produced flashy promotional videos that contained zero honesty about the troubled history of UBF in places like Canada and Germany. Honesty is depth. Where’s the depth?

    • Sibboleth

      A few more brief, mid-PTSD thoughts and questions on the conference messengers and life testimony sharers: If a group of psychologists (1) were to do a blind screening of these messages and testimonies, what might they conclude about the personality types of those at the podium? They’d probably conclude that they nearly all fall within the same personality type. And if those psychologists were informed that all these people underwent UBF “message training” (2) and other types of training for years beforehand, what might they conclude about UBF and UBF training?

      (1) Let’s say it’s a group of Christian psychologists to lessen the potential offense.

      (2) message training which apparently included making every person at the podium begin their performance with a “Helllllooooo!” while waving their arm in the air

    • Sibboleth, there are two mechanisms at work. One is “message training”. Our chapter director even went so far as to record us with a camera while practicing to deliver the message. Second is simply the pressure to conform. I always liked when new members delivered there sogams, because it was so different and fresh in style and content. But after only a few weeks, and without any message training, they started to change until they had the same style and content as all the others. The atmosphere in UBF is so that everything that is different is frowned upon or ignored at best, while you are appreciated and applauded if you do things like you are told and like all the others are doing. The opposite of “ungodly individualism” is conformance. So you quickly learn to behave like the others, it’s the best way to survive and be recognized in such an environment. Therefore I assume that even without the message training, messages would be alike. Any psychologist who is worth his salt would conclude, alone from the conforming way how people in UBF behave, that it is a cult, even without knowing all the background stories of training and abuse. Actually every normal person sees this.

    • Mark Mederich

      reflection i wrote at conference
      1WORD: H.S. HELP

    • Mark Mederich

      note in my reflection above caps was NOT for emphasis, just speed of typing in word & ease of reading, then just copied here..:)

  128. Overall, I liked what I could see despite the limitations from using the streaming. I would agree with comments on message and testimony styles. But most of us already know what to expect from the formulaic approach. Actually, when I can sit back (away from the spectacle), I appreciate the possible struggle that many people have in conforming to the directions they have been given. Some people you did not notice too much difficulty, but others I felt could have done better if they were allowed to be themselves.

    In my experience diretors responsible for training people to deliver a message (testimony) or even compose it in some cases are too busy reinventing the wheel. The last message I struggled to write was dismissed and I consequently read through a manuscript which was not personal for me at all. In addition the director insists he is God of message writing and testimony writing.

    What a crock! It is the five paragraph essay! The man is so proud that he discovered the five paragraph essay that is taught to elementary and middle school as a template for essay writing. Oh, but I forgot, he uses some pseudo theology to discuss his contribution to the world.

    That being said, I have also had many pleasant experiences that cannot be understated. Don’t expect much to change any time soon in terms of grand public display. And wouldn’t you guess, but I am married to the moooooooooooooost…..beau-ti-ful woman of God! *enter name here*

    My most disappointing observation was regarding the so-called work of God that was being done. Chapters being omitted in countries, people being omitted in countries. For all that was mentioned there was much that wasn’t. I think it is a shame. I wrote in a personal message to Ben:

    “Everyone wants to be somebody famous. UBF is no different. It makes an exclusive art out of it. If we can revere historical Christian figures for the efforts that they made then why can’t we also recognize our own. Do we have to be sure they are really trying to spread the gospel? Why are we so paranoid? Why can’t top leadership trust in the Holy Spirit and just allow pioneering leaders to act according to their faith? Why does everything in UBF require some pompous ceremony in order to become official? It is really far from Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    When someone says they are going to pioneer I generally believe they are. However, when leaders enforce the direction of pioneering on someone it may lead somewhere else – but we don’t need to ask ‘Why?’ – the Holy Spirit reveals that those examples are generally from men.”

  129. I think the guy in the Mariachi with the little mexican guitar did it pretty good at the end!

  130. Mark Mederich


  131. Mark Mederich


  132. Great comments, yellowblossom: “Why don’t we have christian books as supplementary material? Why is everything so bizarrely mundane and repeated? In such a repeated structure, I just stopped growing.

    I attended the so loved conference… To be honest I was disappointed. The focus should have been Jesus love…not ubf and the mission. Ben, I agree with you on all points of this article. Ubf is in fact numbers driven, pride driven, mission driven …but is it Christ driven?”
    – See more at:

    Just for the record and for some counterperspective, I have friends who have been in ubf for over 3 decades who dislike and disagree with much of what I wrote in this article.

    Or they may have just seen the title and immediately disliked it. Or they already have such strong negative sentiments and emotions that much of what I’ve written would be quite distasteful, nauseating and anger inducing to them.

    My hope, if it ever arrives this side of heaven, is still to discuss this point by point with anyone who is willing. But then again, it might simply be regarded as a total waste of their time to do so, because this is NOT Bible study, not evangelism, not discipleship training, not message preparation, not conference preparation, etc, etc, etc.

  133. Yellowblossom, I love your fresh and real heart felt comments, which I hope that some people in ubf will be willing to hear and listen to: “10 years of conferences, 4 a year. And I cannot remember any of the messages I heard. Every second is consumed by prepared messages, drama, etc. like you all point out…this is what life looks like at ubf. There is no time for fellowship…. I felt my 10 years became more and more robotic.”
    – See more at: