Because God “Blessed” UBF, UBF is OK

Gen50.20Over the years I have heard this expressed by some UBF leaders: “Since God ‘blessed’ UBF, then UBF must be OK. For if God was not pleased with UBF, God would not have blessed UBF so abundantly over the last 50 years.” Are such statements and reasoning biblically sound?

My short answer is NO! This post addresses what I believe is bad Bible study, wrong Bible interpretation, and horrible theology. It is NOT what the Bible teaches. It is a butchering of Gen 50:20. It goes something like this: “Because good resulted from evil, therefore the evil is OK or not that bad. Since God allowed the evil to fulfill God’s good will and blessed people anyway, then the evil is acceptable.” Such a Bible teaching says that a good result justifies a bad means. I do not believe that the Bible ever teaches that the ends justifies the means. The Bible teaches clearly that evil is evil, even if good resulted from evil. (Read J.I Packer’s excellent short book: Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.)

Does UBF teach that since many people became good Christians through UBF, therefore UBF must be an exemplary Christian church and ministry? After being in UBF for 33 years, I believe that some UBF leaders teach this, if not explicitly, then implicitly. I believe that such a teaching–whether direct or indirect–is not healthy. It does not produce a humble Christian, but an elitist Christian. It does not promote inclusivity but exclusivity. It is in fact the exact opposite of what the gospel is. The gospel says that God blesses us in spite us. But such UBF teachings suggest and hint that God blesses UBF because we are good.

For sure no one in UBF ever says this explicitly. But UBF has been a proud church and Christian ministry that looks down and criticizes mega-churches (they don’t disciple people 1:1 like UBF), liberal churches (they are not absolute toward the Bible like UBF), and churches that serve mercy ministries (they are just doing social work instead of teaching the Bible like UBF). Also, I have heard UBF leaders say, “UBF has no weak point,” or “UBF is on the cutting edge of raising disciples.” Criticizing other churches and ministries and highlighting what we believe is UBF’s strength does not produce humble Christians. Worse yet, it does not highlight and promote the gospel of God’s grace (Ac 20:24).

The faulty Bible teaching, which is subtle, subjective and subjunctive says: “Because people who went through UBF did well and became pastors and good Christians, therefore, somehow UBF contributed to their good. Whatever evil or abuses that was done to them in UBF was still blessed by God. Thus, you should just bury the past abuses and move on.” I do not accept such reasoning and logic as biblical nor healthy.

In my opinion, such Bible teaching justifies spiritual abuse. It protects those UBF chapter directors who continue to exercise their authority in UBF in controlling, manipulative, clandestine and abusive ways. Some leaders in UBF keep insisting that since good was done through UBF, then UBF is basically OK. If this is so, my contention is that the problems and abuses in UBF will continue.

What do you think? Does UBF teach that a good result justifies a bad means? Does UBF imply that since God blessed you through UBF, you should just be thankful and not complain about any abuse done to you in UBF? Is this biblical? Healthy?


  1. Joe Schafer

    The story of Joseph seems very applicable. God used Joseph to lead his hard-hearted older brothers back to God by carefully and persistently helping them to see the damage that they caused until they truly repented. Then reconciliation followed. I hope that is what is happening on this website.

  2. I agree. But some UBF leaders put themselves in the place of Joseph, and regard participants on UBFriends as Joseph’s wicked brothers!

  3. formershep

    Great post that also highlights ubfers black or white mindset. There seems to be no gray or middle ground for them. My family got this logic when we brought up our concerns. We were just “reminded” of all the blessings we received. Yes, we did receive many blessings, but the TRUTH is many many hurts as well and those blessings in NO way negate the real hurts. The director even said that he “doesn’t like the word ‘spiritual abuse'” I was floored! I don’t understand why they have this black and white mindset. Any thoughts?

  4. Because God “blessed” UBF, UBF leaders should fall down in fear and trembling before the Holy God and repent with dust and ashes that they have made God’s blessing into an idol.

    Because God “blessed” UBF, each chapter director should personally telephone every former member and quietly say, “You were God’s blessing, but I treated you as my own possession. I am wrong; please forgive me.”

    Because God “blessed” UBF, every senior leader should renounce that the UBF spiritual heritage had anything to do with the success of UBF. The webpage should be taken down and replaced with the statement, “We will no longer glorify ourselves on this website. Even though we are weak sinners, God mercifully worked by His grace. We mostly failed, but God’s grace prevailed.”

    Because God “blessed” UBF, instead of a mission pledge at the ISBC, there should a public, corporate confession and repentance, and a pledge to open the doors to allow the unhindered work of the Holy Spirit.

    Shall I continue?

    God’s blessing is not evidence of UBF’s success, but evidence of God’s grace. It should not lead to self-satisfaction, but to humble self-examination, repentance, and change.

    • @josahus: +1 Yes I think you should continue. [And for the record: I love the smell of kimchee in the morning!]

      @Ben: This article hits the nail on the head. ubf theology could be called “Throw Joe into the well” theology. If you look closely you can actually see this explicitely taught in many ubf lectures. Who would say that Joseph was wrong in the way he treated his brothers during the famine? He crossed some lines yes but he was acting out of grace, love and justice.

      The Korean sense of justice is flat out wrong. Justice is not based on loyalties. Justice is based on truth. I think as a Christ-follower we need to combine all three: grace, love and justice.

      Where is the sense of justice in ubf? According to the bible justice is God’s measuring line, not loyalty.

  5. This may lead to some very interesting discussion. May I ask a question to everyone here – Who was a Christian before they entered UBF? (Raise your hands.)

    I asked because one of the most offensive aspects of entering UBF is the change in your history and identity as a Christian. One of my friends has been Christian all of his life and joined UBF. When family heard the adjusted life testimony they were not only offended from a personal point of view, but also from a faith point of view, because the testimony undermined his Christian identity before entering UBF. UBF is good at taking the glory away from other churches when they acquire someone who is strong in faith. But actually, this is not the glory that belongs to a church – it is glory belonging to and from God alone.

    To turn a blind eye to abuses because people who have left have become great inside another church does not make UBF look good. It makes the faith of that person stand out because they could get through such difficulties without throwing their faith in the garbage. UBF will always look bad in the midst of all the unanswered problems. Like I said last time – we can all handle mistakes – it is how we grow and learn. But UBF leadership boldly does the same thing again and again. It places failure on anyone who cannot meet the desired expectations – whatever they may be. Sometimes I wonder if there is a board game in the director’s office where toy soldiers are being played with. Those toy soldiers are real people – there are consequences in this.

    I will close on this point. UBF boasts about how many shepherds (Bible teachers) have been raised. It boasts about how many missionaries have been sent out to X number of countries! How many of those people have quit? How many of those people have tried to seek council for the benefit of UBF ministry? How many are here right now either reading, preparing their own article, or are commenting on something? How many of them are in a healthier relationship with God, with their brothers/sisters in Christ and with their families?

    Remember one thing the first victim in UBF is the student who consents to Bible study. The second victim in UBF becomes that person’s parents-family. The third victim becomes that person’s spouse. The fourth victim becomes that couples children.

    You can see where I am going – it is endless!

    It is not okay because God blessed UBF. Why did Abram refuse the King of Sodom’s wealth? He did not want the King of Sodom to say he made Abram rich!! Likewise, if there was ever a former shepherd or missionary who became a leader in an outside church than that is a reflection of personal faith in God – because God used and blessed that person!

    • GC, one small minor objection. Not all who study the Bible see themselves as “victims.” I guess it depends on the UBF chapter, and the Bible teacher/mentoring the students. I for one do not view myself as a “victim” though it goes without saying that my “atypical” experience is not shared with the rest of the active commenters on this forum. Also, not everyone in UBF leadership “boldly does the same thing over and over again.” Some do, some are reflective and adjust and actually change, and others do the same thing over and over again. I am a witness of this. Again, I would like to avoid making general characterizations of UBF leadership. You may be pointing out a historical pattern that persists in large measure today, but to imply that everyone who studies the Bible in UBF is part of a 4-level system of victims is probably a stretch. I get your point though.

    • But I will also qualify my above comment that there are likely those in which the 4-level of victims seem to resonate exactly with their experience. For that, my heart goes out to you, for whatever it is worth. I will not personally tolerate an environment in which victims are being made through the process of Bible study and entering a Christian ministry. This may sounds like empty words to you, but I will let time and my actions speak for themselves.

    • Thanks John Y for reading well. Actually, my comment about boldly doing things over and over is not for everyone. But I speak in those terms for a very clear reason. No one listens to more reasonable and moderate people. They are the ones still trying to independently lead. They have been the victims and are attempting to change the course in present times. It is like a parent teaching a child how to ride a bike. When will that parent let go of the bike so that the child can ride that bike all by themselves. That parent is like the senior staff whose presence is always felt no matter what a well meaning shepherd may be doing. As a result the shepherd has to against their own will tow the line and keep tradition.

      But, I am fully aware about dynamic and changing chapters. Presently, I am in one of the most dynamic chapters I have ever had contact with. But I cannot say which one. This chapter does get judged by other UBF chapters though, but I will not go in to detail. Personally, I did not have similar problems to my statement. My statement was a result of my observation of my close brothers and sisters in the ministry. When I read Ben’s article it interrupted my moment to go to bed. I had to contribute something. The only thing in common that I share is the experience of being victimized by someone and not being able to do anything about. Sadly, the only power for the victim in UBF is to leave – please see other articles and threads, I will not repeat what others have said better.

  6. I think God works in churches that don’t hinder God’s work. ubf is very busy hindering God’s work. But God is mighty to break through any hindering especially when some cults make such a mistake as trying to abuse through the Bible.

    Anyway it is God who works. I think that it is very difficult for him to work in the atmosphere of ubf. And anyone who leaves at once experiences God’s work in him without any hindering.

    So to claim that ubf is OK is very strange. That’s a self-righteous habitual idea. Again I advise every ubfer to follow Brian’s challenge and “leave” ubf’s activities for one month just to clear out where God works and where humans manipulate your life.

  7. Insightful comments, folks. Thanks.

    @formershep. A UBF leader who does not like the words “spiritual abuse” is like an overweight person who does not like the words “fat,” “obese,” “Miss Piggy,” or “Humpty Dumpty.” Sorry if this is a horribly bad or politically incorrect analogy!

    @gc. I thought I was blunt and brutal. I think I have met my match. Your 4 levels of victims in UBF is SCARY if it ever plays out to its full extent.

    @Vitaly. I think that perhaps some UBF leaders are a little more careful now with their authoritarian top down hierarchical spiritual abuse. Some know that they will be exposed if they dare do it as blatantly as they did in the past.

  8. @gc: “Who was a Christian before they entered UBF?”

    I was! Even though ubf convinced me I was not a Christian and demanded I make a “before/after” life testimony, I was a Christian before going to ubf.

    I remember the afternoon well. I was 16 years old. I became a Christian. I wanted to be a priest. I was and still am a Roman Catholic. Only when I engaged in a 9 month study group at our church with my wife did I come to terms with my true life narrative. I am much healthier now that I’ve done that.

    If anyone doesn’t like my scary, crazy, ugly self portrayed here, I suggest you see me as a mirror. All of my adult formative years, from 18 to 42 were formed by ubf. Don’t like my character? Guess what, I am the kind of person ubf is raising. The difference between me and others is that I took my mask off (as Sharon pointed out somewhere). And that is what I invite ubfers to do: take off the mask. This is a safe place to do that.

    • “come to terms with my true life narrative” I love this. Thanks, Brian. I am so often encouraged by what you say. I am encouraged by all the messy dialogue here. Thanks, David, AW, Vitaly, Joshua, gc, John Y…..etc.

    • Thank you Sharon. On one hand, like JohnY mentioned, I would love to just play video games while commenting. However, after 2+ years away from ubf, my wife and I are discovering just how deeply wounded, broken and messed up we are. And the worst thing is there is no one at our church who even remotely understands. ubf is SO small ans SO fringe that the things we deal with are almost incomprehensible to normal pastors and therapists.

      This stuff is real folks. As former members who went through the ubf shunning process, our children, our lives and marriages are on the line.

      Christian pastors have been helpful but ubfriends is my church community. Thank you so much for the “cup of cold water” you and Joe have given our family, Sharon. It means more than anyone could possibly know.

    • Joe Schafer

      Cup of HOT water?

    • In addition to wine, I also wouldn’t mind a SHOT.

    • LOL. In my search for reality the past 2+ years, I have found that humor is real. And so is Kraken rum, my favorite drink. Wine and beer are also real.

  9. @JohnY: You are definitely correct that “results may vary” depending on the chapter. I’m hopeful that the ethics and accountability commission can begin to iron out the differences between chapters and chapter directors so that fewer and fewer people find themselves as one of the four victims gc describes.

    @gc: You forgot the zero-th level of victim: the missionary/shepherd who is not properly held accountable by the organization, in whom abusive or authoritarian practices can grow unchecked even without him noticing. Such people are victims also who deserve our empathy and prayer. That’s what I’m struggling to do now.

    • Joshua:

      “I’m hopeful that the ethics and accountability commission can begin to iron out the differences between chapters and chapter directors”

      > I would not hold my breathe on that one. If JA were still part of that, then I would have some hope as you say. But I seriously doubt there will be any ironing out of differences by the ethics committee or by the unity committee.

    • Yeah, Joshua you are right. I also deliberately missed out boyfriend/girlfriend and just friends, because you are not allowed to have any of those.

  10. Wow! 5 levels of victims in UBF:

    1) Poorly trained UBF missionary who was taught to “train” his/her sheep to be a UBF-centered disiple who knows how to only relate to UBF and not to other Christians or churches.

    2) Innocent, naive, helpless sheep, perhaps trapped in some sin or sorrow.

    3) Sheep’s family, who is often excluded from their child’s new UBF family.

    4) Sheep’s spouse. Sadly, the wife is often blamed for the husband’s sin.

    5) Sheep’s children, who may be sacrificed on the alter of UBF mission.

    • I think victim #1 can be easily prevented. It is possible to be culturally relevant and spiritually connected at the same time. Just go outside and talk with other people. Visit other churches, worship with other brothers and sisters. Christian are part of the whole body of Christ. Victim #5 I think can also be avoided, love your kids like a normal parent does. Talk to them and hang out. UBF doesn’t stop adults from loving their kids. That didn’t happen in my family.

    • “… can also be avoided, love your kids like a normal parent does. Talk to them and hang out. UBF doesn’t stop adults from loving their kids.”

      That’s not quite true. You just don’t have the time to hang out with your kids if you’re a commited UBF member, who needs to be “financially autonomous” (“tentmaker”), feed many sheep, and take part in all activities. During the week, you work at day and make Bible study with your sheep or have UBF meetings in the evening. And the weekend is crammed with UBF activities anyway. Not to speak of taking vacation. You can’t have vacation with your family like normal parents do because you have always to be there for meetings, particularly the Sunday service. You cannot skip even once. Also, taking vacation is seen as lazy and ungogly. This thinking was so deeply ingrained in us (trhough UBF!) that we couldn’t even have normal vacation for some time after we left UBF, because we felt this would have shown that we have become lazy and wordly after leaving UBF. Whenever there was a holiday, our chapter director fille it with UBF activity. And then tere were all the conferences and conference preparations. So, considering all these things, when do you have time to talk to your kids and hang out? In practice it’s impossible if you lived in a chapter like mine and if you’re a commited UBF member.

      Of course, there are chapters that are a bit more relaxed, and there are some thick skinned members who don’t really care and manage to live in UBF according to their own lifestyle, considered as unspiritual by the commited members, and always on the edge of being kicked out. But I think they are a minority and they do not represent the typical traditional UBF mindset.

    • Luckily we left UBF when our kid was still very young, so at least in that regard we didn’t suffer too much. But I remember how the director’s wife recommended that my wife stopped breastfeeding our kid, so that she would have some more time for all the UBF activities (daily bread, testimony writing, finding and feeding new sheep, attending all the meetings, typing Sunday messages for the director etc.). I don’t want to imagine what other “good advices” for our family they would have given us when our kid was growing. I also remember that even after leaving UBF we often left our son in the hands of a babysitter in order to have Bible study meetings with students. It had been deeply ingrained in us that sitting quietly at home with the child was sinful. The Korean women missionaries often accused themselves for being “family-centered” or “just being housewives” in their testimonies, and repented sometimes with tears. I wished I would see such repentance from the leaders concerning the abuse happening in UBF and the many families that have been sacrificed on the altar of UBF mission.

      Let me quote the Bible once more: “… train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, …” Even Apostle Paul, who was not a family man, did not preach that parents should neglect their children.

      By the way, there was a big scandal in 2001 around the UBF chapter in Bonn, becuase of beatings of children and members, and child neglect. It was so evident that even neighbours and Kindergarden teachers noticed it and reported it to the police. The same UBF director under whose regiment this neglect happened was demonstratively praised and backed up by Samuel Lee and then became European national director.

    • Ditto, Chris and now that you mention it I remember breast feeding being highly despised among the women missionaries. A mother in ubf has so much guilt to deal with…I couldn’t bear it myself…

      Speaking of the child abuse event you mention, here is my article with links to German newspapers about the 2001 event in Germany ubf.

  11. A comment on my facebook page:

    “Ben, I so agree with what you said here and how true it is. UBF can’t take credit for God blessing a person who attended there. God blessed us in spite of ourselves. I know I am Blessed; that was from God not UBF. I go to a mega church. It was small when I started. We serve the community. We serve beyond the walls of the church and show Gods love in a practical way. When was last time people from UBF helped in the community, serving at a soup kitchen, a medical center, serving single moms and not judging them. When I was there I was basically told shut up do 1 to 1 study that’s all that mattered. Being told I wasn’t smart enough to finish school let alone nursing school. Was told I wasn’t good enough or worthy enough to serve. Some have even tried to take credit for my salvation. I was saved before going to UBF! Some in UBF refuse to see that they did anything wrong, believe the ends justified the means. Some leaders are not held accountable. UBF is exclusive not inclusive. I have visited a few chapters and some I was treated ok at. Was basically told it wasn’t my church, some were not interested in being my friends. By definition UBF is a mega church. My mega church does some 1 to 1, they promote life/small groups and doing life together. UBF wants people to put UBF before God and their families. UBF cares more about quantity than quality of 1 to 1 s, and the quality of spiritual growth. How are the quote Shepard’s and missionaries growing spiritually? What are they reading besides daily bread and UBF conferences? Who are they accountable to? The local church is hope of the world, Bill Hybels. That scares me to think that of UBF. When put into the context of that quote.”

  12. big bear

    UBF is blessed because God is faithful to His promises. Yes, change is needed in the area of family life and in relationships within the body of Christ. Over the last yea God prepared my life to accept the hard truths of how I treated my family, my brothers and sisters, and those in other churches. I did not like what I saw and God blessed me when I asked for His forgiveness and put my life on a redeeming road. God gave me an incredible wife that taught me how to love my children. He helped me to reconcile with with my brothers and sisters. He gave me a new house right next to my older sister. Family was pushed out of my life for over 29 years in Ubf. I was so caught up in mission that I failed to love people rightly. I have shared my story at many churches outside ubf with tears. My theology wa Ok on king

  13. big bear

    MJ…i agree with Chris when it comes to families…_Ubf screws up family with its twisted theology ….it is taught in the underlining theology that kids are a burden to raising disciples and I got to the point I was teaching and spending more time with my sheep than my own wife and kids….you live an unbalanced life in ubf and kids and wives suffer….it is justified with mission….it gets worse when the meetings take over your life and testimony writing and the chapter director… are left alone……Mj somebody needs to protect the families in ubf…the kids are screwed

  14. @MJ: When I left UBF, my former pastor defended himself, “No one told you that you had to get a babysitter 5-6 days a week.” He’s right. But we were told to go fishing on Monday, 1:1 Bible study on Tuesday, Group Bible study on Wednesday, testimony sharing and fishing on Thursday, group testimony meeting on Friday, and SWS on Sunday. We tried for a little while switching between my wife and I during the week, but it hampered my PhD studies quite drastically. My wife tried bringing the baby once to campus in a stroller for fishing, and was severely rebuked. And so our three daughters spend 5-6 days/wk with a babysitter and my family accrued >$15,000 of debt due to babysitters alone. And heaven help us if our babysitter was sick on Sunday morning and our children had to come to the SWS! Even when there were no other students in attendance, we were still strongly chastized for making a “bad environment for students” by bringing children.

    Not to mention that most mornings were spent in daily bread meetings. But you’re right, I had a wonderful time hanging out with my children and talking to them for 15 minutes between getting home from daily bread at 7:30 and leaving for work at 8:00. And let’s not forget the kiss on the forehead while they were sleep after returning from our meetings, and the “family worship service” we squeezed in before the regular SWS. High quality UBF-style parenting! They are certainly ready to maintain the legacy and carry on the UBF mission of obliterating families for the “sake” of the gospel. Mission accomplished!

    So, I’m glad that the above didn’t happen to your family. But do you know what that means? The missionary/shepherd serving you completely failed to properly teach you the “heritage” and “legacy” of UBF. You dodged the bullets that have laid waste to hundreds of families, spouses, children, and grandchildren in the trenches of “UBF campus mission”. They are the ones who are really on the front lines and who are really being shot down and attacked, the bodies being trodden underfoot as the so-called “marines of Christ” march ever onward in conquest.

  15. big bear

    JOSHUA…so true….I did it for 29 years until my wife and children threw me out and left Ubf for local baptist church…AFTER LIVING BY A RIVER IN A VAN…God woke me up…I saw how the Ubf system made me to disown my own family….God gave me new wife and new son but my tears overflow and the therapy costs….the real heros are those who speak up and who endured such false teaching should be compensated God will bring justice

  16. big bear

    I pray to live as a voice for children and families and believe many in ubf need deliverance from the bondage of all the rules and the system that will destroy your family….

  17. @Joshua. MJ’s mom was in my fellowship for over a decade in Chicago. Perhaps I can take some credit that their family did not “sacrifice their family and children on the altar of UBF campus mission.” :-)

    This is really truly so very very sad to hear, Joshua: “My wife tried bringing the baby once to campus in a stroller for fishing, and was severely rebuked. And so our three daughters spend 5-6 days/wk with a babysitter and my family accrued >$15,000 of debt due to babysitters alone. And heaven help us if our babysitter was sick on Sunday morning and our children had to come to the SWS! Even when there were no other students in attendance, we were still strongly chastized for making a “bad environment for students” by bringing children.”

    My wife took my kids fishing with her at UIC almost as a weekly norm for many years, so much so that my kids take credit today for UIC students coming to Bible study. It was because the students were “cooked” by how cute my kids were and their hearts were melted by them when my wife invited them for Bible study.

  18. Is ubf ok because God blessed ubf at certain times? According to this self-praising report, ubf chapter directors sure think so.

    Yet another self-glorifying report of ubf work

    “I wrote this report according to late Dr. Samuel Lee’s spiritual legacies.”

    “Jesus’ prayer topic for his disciples was to be unified. Shepherd Mark Vucechovich, who was my instructor while I was in training for new mission field, said to me, “You should never say, ‘I will change this ministry or I will fix up.’” I followed his teaching faithfully. It worked well.”

    “On the other hand, UBF missionaries look like a handful of mountain goats because many of us, like me, don’t have any seminary education background and experience. Instead, we do self-Bible study and dig the Scriptures and we are equipped with the knowledge of God. UBF missionaries directly interact with native college students using the very words of God through one to one. UBF missionaries teach them, train them, rebuke them, and raise them as future spiritual leaders of the country and shepherds for the flock of God.”

    “In addition, many of us are self-supported. This too is God’s grace. In a very unique way, God has worked in UBF world mission. Actually, Jesus was a lay missionary as a carpenter apprentice of his father Joseph’s carpenter shop. He left with divine glory and power. He served sinners in many ways and suffered many hardships of sinful man and endured persecutions. He faced misunderstandings even from his own family, insults, humility, and abuse and eventually gave his life for our sins.”

    And yes, marriage by faith (arranged marriage) is still reported:

    “We pray that God may raise two exemplary house churches in this year between Ap. Mike and Patience and shep. Albert and Ap. Nakato.”