My Concerns About The International Conference, part 2

SoLovedEarlier Ben shared an article expressing his concerns for the upcoming UBF ISBC (International Summer Bible Conference) to be held in Pennsylvania. The article quickly became our #2 most-commented article ever. But I read almost no response regarding Ben’s concerns directly. For those who responded to Ben, thank you. Here is a second chance for people to comment about Ben’s concerns.

I have added my concerns to the list. Let’s do a reset and try to stay on target this time. What do you think about these concerns? Why or why not are they valid? Why and how will you do things differently in order to prevent the concerns Ben raises?

1. UBF’s glory may be overstated and overemphasized again.
2. Human elements may influence the environment such as pride and competition.
3. The prayer topic for bringing 3,500 people may be burdensome.
4. Mandatory attendance may invade people’s boundaries in an unhealthy manner.
5. The theme and emphasis of every UBF conference is predictably the same: mission.
6. The UBF conference schedule is too hectic for any actual rest.
7. The quality and cost ratio may be out of balance.
8. Conference workers work like slaves and are not appreciated but taken for granted.
9. The message content skips John 17 and may not express the gospel clearly.
10. The conference neglects families by telling families to avoid family registration.
11. All participants will be asked to take the “UBF missionary pledge”.


  1. As a member of the ISBC program planning committee, I’ll just address these concerns because this discussion has become a bit tiresome, and heck, Brian is right. No one ready addressed these concerns openly in a focused way. So I’ll do so (even though Brian no longer guarantees my “safety” on this forum for people like me, haha)

    Concern #1. “UBF’s glory may be overstated and overemphasized again.”

    It would surprise some on this forum for me to make this claim, but I felt that there were members of program committee that had this exact concern from the outset. I would say that all members of the program planning committee desire that this be a conference directed at worship of God (not a worship of UBF) and directed on what God is doing in the world (albeit through this particular body of believers in UBF). Will I claim that everyone in the UBF community feels this way? I can’t speak for everyone. But I will attest to what I witnessed among our planning committee. Will “UBF’s glory be overstated and overemphasized again?” I don’t think so, not to the level that Dr. Ben is concerned about. But clearly in this case, the spirit is willing, even though the flesh may end up being weak. I guess we’ll see what happens. I wish Dr. Ben was part of the committee to have witnessed the level of open and self-reflective discussions we were having at these planning meetings. I would dare say he would have felt quite encouraged.

    Concern #2. “Human elements may influence the environment such as pride and competition.”

    Uh, yeah, of course human elements may influence the environment. Does it not do so for Gospel Coalition conferences? Or not for FamilyLife conference? And oh, is UBFriends immune to this as well? I know there’s a particular manifestation of organizational pride/competition that Dr. Ben detests. I hate pride and competition as much as anyone. Sometime my pride gets inflamed on this online forum that I want to make sure I have the sick satisfaction of proving myself right (and someone wrong) whenever I comment. And do you think my UBFriends article got to be the #1 “Most Viewed Article” because I lack a sense of sick competition? Ha! Again, I will attest that I felt the program committee members had no intention of perpetuating the same sort of tiresome practices/attitudes that Dr. Ben alludes to with this concern. Can I guarantee that pride/competition won’t emerge? Nope. Are we intending it? Nope.

    Concern #3 “The prayer topic for bringing 3,500 people may be burdensome.”

    Agreed. I just want people to freely come who want to be blessed and encouraged by other brothers and sisters in Christ, and perhaps make new friends. Some folks may be offended by this comment, but I often see UBF conferences as a “Family get-together.” I want to see people I haven’t seen in a while. I want to receive encouragement and give encouragement to friends I rarely get a chance to see. And perhaps, God will be gracious and one of the messengers will speak directly to my heart that leads to a spiritual breakthrough or genuine edification. I don’t want people to be there because they are obligated to be there. I want people to be there because they want to connect with me and connect with God together. So I share this concern with Dr. Ben. With that said, no one among the program committee has over-emphasized this prayer topic to the point I’ve felt burdened. Does the prayer topic come up? Of course. Am I burdened? Not yet.

    Concern #4. “Mandatory attendance may invade people’s boundaries in an unhealthy manner.”

    Agreed. See comment above. I don’t feel the pressure of “mandatory” attendance. If anything, i feel more the pressure of “mandatory” non-attendance. But ouch, I probably touched some buttons there :)

    Concern #5. “The theme and emphasis of every UBF conference is predictably the same: mission.”

    Partially agree with this concern. But lot of the younger members of the planning committee came up with the theme and emphasis of SO LOVED. And though they are not necessarily excluding a missional focus, let’s just say that I resonated with the theme of the conference from the outset, knowing where each of them were coming from personally. They care about mission, but they are not mission-maniacs in the way Dr. Ben would go crazy over. I’ll just leave it at that.

    Concern #6. “The UBF conference schedule is too hectic for any actual rest.”

    I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH THIS CONCERN. With that said, I’m approaching every part of the schedule with a relational-focus. At these conferences I end up staying up way past midnight talking to people, so I definitely don’t get a lot of physical “rest.” I would say the Well Conference programs were way too hectic as well. But I loved every minute of it. I hope I’ll be able to say the same with the ISBC, honestly speaking. But if I want rest at a conference, I shouldn’t be part of planning one, right? :)

    Concern #7. “The quality and cost ratio may be out of balance.”

    Maybe. Don’t know how you would calculate a quality and cost ratio for moments of genuine relational-building at conferences like these. I’ve met new friends at these conference that have remained my friends for over 15 years. Was the quality and cost ratio worth it? I’ve met my wife at one of these conferences. Was the quality and cost ratio worth it? (the answer is yes: if you know my wife. She may say no, haha. Dr. Ben, we share the same marital predicament, I see) Do I learn something amazingly insightful with respect to theological content and spiritual development that would merit the cost of conferences like these? No, not very often. Do I gain something amazingly valuable like new friendships and new relationships? Yes, most definitely. So yeah, I partially agree with Dr. Ben here.

    Concern #8. “Conference workers work like slaves and are not appreciated but taken for granted.”

    That seems like a total generalization, and clearly the answer is it depends. Given my recent knowledge of some folks who have honestly shared their negative experiences on UBFriends about conference planning, clearly it was the case in the past. Is it the case now? You’ll have to take a poll to find out. There is one person I know who is working like a dog day and night. Is he feeling unappreciated and taken for granted? I don’t know. I have to ask him, honestly. I’m working like a slave but I feel appreciated and I don’t feel taken for granted–yet. To this, Brian might reply, “Sure, you just wait and see, you naive fool.” :)

    Concern #9. “The message content skips John 17 and may not express the gospel clearly.”

    Hey yeah, come to think of it, what the heck happened with John 17? But hey, we also skipped John 21. Isn’t that a cause for much rejoicing? (Note: this last sentence was a joke. Well, sort of.)

    Concern #10. “The conference neglects families by telling families to avoid family registration.”

    Really? It does? Let me look into that. I don’t think it was meant to be an intentional slight on families to be honest. It might be a logistical matter. Or not.

    Concern #11. “All participants will be asked to take the “UBF missionary pledge”.

    They may be asked if they WANT to take the UBF missionary pledge. But are you implying that they will all feel coerced to? And what the heck is a UBF missionary pledge? Uh, let me look into that one. But on its face value, I really have no theoretical problem with that if there are folks who feel genuinely called to make a pledge to the Lord to serve as a missionary, as long as it is not something be used as a test-of-loyalty pledge to an organization, which I guess is Dr. Ben’s actual concern here.

    Whew. I’m done. Please no one blame me for my lack of participation on UBFriends. I’m in no illusion that this will alleviate concerns. It will probably inflame more rapid-fire commenting. But there is another narrative to this ISBC, besides the general one-sided impression given on UBFriends. And on this “safe” or “unsafe” discussion environment, other sides should be heard.

    • JohnY:

      Thanks for sharing. That is the kind of dialogue I seek. I want to reply to #10:

      “Concern #10. “The conference neglects families by telling families to avoid family registration.” Really? It does? Let me look into that.

      Yes John, really really it does. Here is a quote from the public website, information about ISBC

      Family Registration

      “Any attendee who is not yet in college must room with at least one parent. Family housing has a minimum of 3 registrants of the same gender.

      IMPORTANT: Families are strongly encouraged to avoid family registration. If at all possible, arrange rooming in such a way that the parents split up to room with the children of the same gender going through the non-family registration process. If you opt for the family registration, your rooming and group Bible study arrangements will be made manually. There will be opportunity during the registration process for parents to inform housing staff whom they would like to follow for their group Bible studies. For parents bringing children (not yet in college) that are not their own (e.g. your son’s friend), please inform housing staff of the details in the appropriate place during the registration process.”

      Maybe this is just part of the active integration strategy?

  2. I really want to thank John Y for his valuable contribution here. It is fundamental that we get a balance in commentary here and he has done that. He has answered all of the questions.

    Now, I am asking, begging and pleading with present UBF members if you are reading this to contribute both before and after the conference about this article. I also ask that the common contributors (including myself) limit their comments to somewhere between 60-75 words. Why? Because, the conference will be an experience for: 1) those presently in UBF and 2) those that will be attending. Since I am not attending I will make no further comment on this article because I cannot say “yes” those things happened or “no” they did not happen.

    Thanks again Brian for making us get back on track and John Y for thoughtfully and carefully contributing here with an awesome sense of humour. : )

  3. Thanks for answering, John. Personally I think this whole discussion and the questions asked here are leading us away from the core issues that had been discussed before and that need to be solved. The question is whether UBF should arrange a mission centered conference along the lines of earlier conferences at all, instead of focussing on repentance and a clear cut with the past.

    You say that the younger members came up with the theme of “so loved”. That would be nice, if that would be the real core theme. But as you know, in a speech the last sentence is most important. The last sentence of the ISBC is the missionary pledge and the “world mission command”. To combine these things makes matters only worse. Because the combined message is: “God loved you so much. Now you need to become a missionary to respond appropriately and pay it all back.” I’m really concerned by the “missionary pledge”. Do all participants even know beforehand the wording of this pledge? Or will they be confronted with it in an emotional moment at the end of a conference when they just learned how much God loved them, so they feel the need to respond and pledge anything? By the way, do you think pledges, oaths etc. are something that is seen as positive in the Bible or something that Jesus demanded us to do in his world mission command? I don’t think so.

    • You nailed it Chris: “will they be confronted with it in an emotional moment at the end of a conference when they just learned how much God loved them, so they feel the need to respond and pledge anything?”

      That is ubf theology in a nutshell.

      And your point about “leading us away from the core issues” is a valid one. However, I have to protect JohnY’s most commented article status and make a safe place for ubf bystanders to express their colorful language :)

    • Mark Mederich

      My biggest concern is that individual/organizational self-glory seeking invites the wrath of God, for He is not getting ALL the glory. Pride/competition are bad motivator: bear deformed rotting fruit.

      Praying for 100,000 missionaries seems like ego inflated idea: what is a missionary anyway? (hopefully not someone changing country/pleasing people to get piece pot o’ gold at end rainbow=retirement); my concern is someone do gospel work in own country feel diminished value (not trying to get $ or praise, but encouragement that task meaningful)

    • Mark Mederich

      unfortunately “mission pledge” is unrealistic wishful thinking for many of us who have previous responsibilities to follow thru on (here again are we inviting wrath of God upon us by vainly promising what we can only hope)

      window of opportunity may come some day, but need God’s personal leading/preparation

      so is it a true current goal? is it a tool to keep the hamster wheel turning for different reason..?

  4. Thanks JohnY. I agree with almost everything you wrote. I would have to say that this may be one of the first times in 50 years of UBF history that “middle leaders” like JohnY, Christian, and others are truly given weight and authority to influence a major international conference, where older traditional leaders would defer to them.

    This is truly a breadth of fresh air. I would say that this is happening primarily because of the influence of the present GD, who I believe truly wants to empower (rather than control and manipulate) the next generation of leaders.

    • Joe Schafer

      I too am glad that, this time around, younger people are being given important roles in conference planning and not simply being told what to do.

      But my gladness is tinged with sadness when I think about the many, many North Americans I’ve known over the last 30+ years who joined the UBF community, who were told that they were going to become great leaders, and who were never given the chance to lead, who were just ordered around and taken for granted and never listened to, and who eventually left in frustration and then were criticized and forgotten after they left. That list of people is very long. A staggering waste of human resources.

      If some younger people are now being given some opportunities to lead, those opportunities were won after many casualties.

      Please don’t forget the Lost Generations.

    • Joe Schafer

      It would be interesting to look at the international SBC programs in North America starting from the conferences at Niagara Falls, all the MSU conferences, up to the last one at Purdue. Make a list of all the native (non-Korean) speakers at those conferences. And see how many are still in UBF today.

      It is easy to lie with statistics. But it is even easier to lie without them.

    • Mark Mederich

      when efforts are valued, not nitpicked, it is a victory (if condescension sets in then it would be “from frying pan to fire”)

      i think empowerment must occur in order to endure; no disregard intended to anyone, but younger generations are not going to bear with as long as we did (thank God they’re “smarter”/more emancipated than us:) they sincerely help/follow/lead but if things get too ridiculous they will “bolt” (unfortunately i’m from the bear it too long, then “revolt” when tired, generation:)

      for example: i can volunteer as a grp bible study facilitator (i don’t like term leader), but will i do it the way someone wants me to do it? (i prefer let Holy Spirit reveal: i can offer initial example/insight, but then let others share; i don’t think i need to convey a complete “canned” answer.

    • Mark Mederich

      maybe the staggering list/”Lost Generations” deserve a moment of silent remembrance/prayer for their well-being (even if it’s just willing souls meeting at a “flagpole” or something)

  5. “I would say that this is happening primarily because of the influence of the present GD.”

    And the primary influence of the Holy Spirit as more people in ubf wake up and realize God is our Director. And also this is due in part to the interference of ubfriends. ubf directors are hiding right now, giving the impression of “see we dont’ do those things mentinoed on ubfriends anymore” “We’re not that bad anymore”. THAT is why I seek tension and am glad we keep telling our stories here. And it is why I won’t go away.

    • Mark Mederich

      “And the primary influence of the Holy Spirit”
      Hallelujah! Long “live” the Holy Spirit!

  6. @Joe. Yeah, the long casualty list of UBF is something that will not be welcomed because it clearly exposes the shame and failure of UBF.

    Several “great servants of God” have very impressive casualty lists from various countries and continents. But of course, they did their best and gave their heart, while those who left were ungrateful and bitter.

    • Mark Mederich

      why is it the word “great” has become so repulsive to me? (a sham of sorts)
      perhaps i’ve heard it too many times growing up in America: first in culture, then in religion

      in an episode of kid show Wishbone, the dog dresses up like a common “Everyman” in old times: i declare myself an everyman (i’m proud of it:)
      just a regular guy seeking the Lord my simple way

      i haven’t left (lately:) but can’t help it if my character is somewhat ingrate & bittersweet

  7. Joe/Ben: I have boxes of conference programs and “work of God” bound material, along with books, daily breads and newsletters. I even have a list of all ubf chapters in NA and their avg. Sunday attendance. I was going to through these out, but I didn’t because I realize they are evidence. Indeed the body count is huge and is not just typical “church leaving” that occurs naturally.

  8. Joe Schafer

    Some see the high body count as a badge of honor. After all, we are the elite forces, the Green Berets, of Christianity. Many try to become Green Berets but can’t make the cut because they aren’t tough enough, because they don’t want to suffer, because they prefer to go to an ordinary church and live as cultural/Sunday Christians, and so on. Even recently, I have heard leaders say things like this.

    • “they prefer to go to an ordinary church and live as cultural/Sunday Christians,”

      Yep, that’s me, and I LOVE IT! It is so much more heathly to be an orderinary Christ-follower. And it is SO much more healthy to be a normal human being (or at least try to be:) Still, because of my 24 years of ubf training, I can only muster enough strength to go to church once a month.

    • Mark Mederich

      maybe many just aren’t corrupt enough, abrupt enough, seared conscience enough, manipulative/controlling enough, sneaky enough, deceptive enough, holier than thou enough (shall i go on?)…i pray that noone makes that kinda cut

  9. Some UBF leaders have a positive spin on virtually everything UBF does and a negative spin on virtually everyone who leaves UBF or critiques UBF. This is NOT a generalization. Read it again carefully. It is NOT a generalization. I covered all the bases…I think. But I stand to be corrected.

    So if you leave UBF or critique UBF like UBFriends, you are already damned and condemned in the eyes of some UBF leaders. But if you are loyal and faithful to UBF, you can virtually get away with spiritual abuse and still UBF may not call you to be accountable, to receive church discipline or correctives. Such double standards and injustice will not bode well for UBF.

    • I agree that this is not a generalization: there are at least a few wise leaders in UBF who fear the Lord and who advocate repentance and reconciliation.

      What you say reminds me of Proverbs 9:7-10:

      “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

    • @aw: Praise and thank God for “a few wise leaders in UBF who fear the Lord and who advocate repentance and reconciliation!”

  10. Joe Schafer

    Ben, I agree.

    And in fairness, I will note that “Some ex-UBF members have a negative spin on virtually everything UBF does.”

    This is how human beings are. Our moral judgments are highly affected by our personal commitments. No one is immune to that sort of thing.

    My hope is that, by entering into respectful dialogue with people who see things differently from us, we begin to assess ourselves more honestly and become aware of some of our biases.

  11. True. Since UBFriends consists of mainly those who critique UBF, hopefully we may be aware of our own blind spots and biases, and not categorically lambast ALL of UBF just because of a few “powerful” authoritarian, clandestine and untouchable UBF leaders.

    • Joe Schafer

      “Few” is somewhat debatable but I think you are right. My best guess is that there are just 20 or so individuals (male and female) who are standing in the way of necessary reforms, at least in North America, and if most of them were to recognize this and agree to change course then healing could begin in earnest.

  12. JohnY, I also want to point out something for Concern #9. “The message content skips John 17 and may not express the gospel clearly.”

    You wrote: “Hey yeah, come to think of it, what the heck happened with John 17? But hey, we also skipped John 21. Isn’t that a cause for much rejoicing? (Note: this last sentence was a joke. Well, sort of.)”

    I was hoping for a more “meaty” theological discussion from someone. My concern is that ubf is presenting the “upper room discourse” but skipping the all-important conclusion of that discourse. I expanded on this on my article recently: Why John 17 is About the Mission of Jesus

    So how about it anyone? Let’s have a doctrinal discussion about John 17 and what the mission Jesus gave us is all about. Anyone have time for that? I’ll promise not to use the word “ubf” and make it a safe discussion.

    I also have been longing to discuss What is the gospel?.

    I would love to stop talking about ubf and talk about these kinds of things.

  13. big bear

    For the summer conference I would suggest all the UBF directors get together and share real problems with their chapters and find ways to help the smaller chapters and their families practically with issues even financial matters and emphasize the family unit.

    • big bear

      The family is the building block of every nation and ministry as well. UBF ignores family under the umbrella of student work. For a long time I saw the antifamily propaganda in UBF but did not contest because I thought was biblical from what I learned in my chapter but discovered this when my own family fell apart. I am concerned it willl happen to others. The horror we experienced I cant share here but in my next book.

    • big bear, you are absolutely correct. And I really apologize for my abrupt, harsh comment to you earlier. Like I share in private, I consider you a friend. I want to be available to help in whatever way I can.

      If not for the grace of God calling us to leave ubf and finding our current church (who became our Samaritan), our family could have easily become like what you experienced.

      Parents in ubf have to decide: family or ubf? That is not a question coming from God or the bible. It is coming from ubf directors. Choosing family IS God’s mission for parents.

      The ubf “Active integration strategy” for children is just horrific to me now. That is why the “family registration” is so concerning to me. ubf has ALWAYS taught that family-centered people are evil, wicked, low-lifes and certainly sub-standard Christians. But that is the lie ubf propagates.

  14. Joe Schafer

    “For the summer conference I would suggest all the UBF directors get together and share real problems with their chapters…”

    This is what we suggested for the North American staff conference which was held three months ago. That idea was nixed because leaders felt it would be too negative, that the conference needed to be encouraging, that we needed to focus on the good and not the bad, etc.

    • Mark Mederich

      the truth will set us free: what is more encouraging than honest constructive self/group reflection to guide our efforts? i guess religion prefers polyanna fantasy world; the problem is wishful religious thought makes sincere people also have wishful life thought with damaging consequences

    • “the idea was nixed because leaders felt it would be too negative”

      It is a shame that this is the pervading attitude to the sins or mistakes of the past. Why are we so proud? Which is better to look straight into our ugly past or to keep going forward without conscience? We are trained to meditate and reflect via the public testimony. When we were young in UBF everything about our motives and faults had to examined carefully – could that not make us discouraged and have a feeling to give up in our walk of faith?

      To me no matter how hard it is at some point, some way leaders must review all of this with a willingness to not only reconcile with those who were hurt in the past, but also to really heal so that they may too go deeper in faith.

      Sorry, I said no further contribution earlier, but this dialogue keeps compelling me to come back. Also, I was reviewing the articles. Ben Toh’s “Sorry” article has been grossly overlooked. But, I know that the main contributors to that would have to come from the leaders who are present in ministry and have made their decision to stand back and silent.

  15. Thanks, gc, for referencing my “Sorry” article:

    My thoughts are that loyalty and honor are older UBF leader’s strongest most deeply felt sentiments. For them to truly say, “I’m sorry” might seem to them to be disloyal to UBF, and shameful to their own honor.

    I’ve said this to the GD and others that the gospel of Jesus Christ has not yet evangelized the deeply felt loyalty and honor of some senior UBF leaders. Until that happens, don’t hold your breadth for any apology, or for any meaningful discussion of deep issues and longstanding problems in UBF.

  16. John Martin jr.

    I would like to add one comment about the ISBC that I have learned over my whole life of going to conferences, and this one thing makes a huge difference in the “success” of the conference. Simply put, whether God shows up or not. I think all of the above concerns are somewhat valid, however in any conference whether well planned or not, I think the #1 thing that makes the difference is really praying, expecting, and making room for God to show up. This includes messages, Bible studies, social time, etc… So within each of these concerns I ask this question, is what we are doing ushering in God’s presence? My greatest memory of the many many ISBC conferences I have attended was when I was about 13 years old. Dr. Samuel Lee was given his extended announcement and prayer topics. Honestly most of the messages as far as I remember were boring, rehearsed, and I just sat through them. However as Dr. Samuel Lee was giving his announcement and prayer topics, I listened like never before, he wasn’t reading a script he was speaking as the Spirit led him and what he said moved me to this day(I can share somewhat of what he said later.) For our recent Well conference, there was a team of people praying basically that God would show up and his will be done. And guess what, God showed up. For the ISBC this year for the original program we were going to have some time of corporate prayer and even the NYC praise band which can really rock the house and in my opinion usher in the freedom to worship. However I heard not sure if I’m totally correct that these corporate prayer sessions have been greatly reduced if not taken away and NYC praise band was labeled too wild or something. This is the main concern I have, is that we may over plan and over train and even though we do pray have little room for God to show up and work. I love Reinhard Bonnke who once said, “Jesus sometimes waits for our clever sermons to be finished so he can work.” If UBF was open there could be some great repentance of leaders and everyone else, past abuses, healing of wounds, admittance of mistakes, and a great work of the Spirit to unite the body of Christ and who knows what else. At the well conference the past two years in the evening sessions random prayer circles occurred at the end of meetings. I think God’s work done in times like that outweighs everything else sometimes. So again I am personally praying for one thing, that God will show up and that we will be open to His will for the conference not ours.

  17. big bear

    Well said, John Martin Jr.

  18. For God to show up, perhaps certain people need to allow Him to show up.

  19. JohnMJr:

    “For our recent Well conference, there was a team of people praying basically that God would show up and his will be done. And guess what, God showed up.”

    Amen. I am convinced God showed up at the Well also. But then what happened? How did the ubf hardliners in authority react to this amazing conference?

    “For the ISBC this year for the original program we were going to have some time of corporate prayer and even the NYC praise band which can really rock the house and in my opinion usher in the freedom to worship. However I heard not sure if I’m totally correct that these corporate prayer sessions have been greatly reduced if not taken away and NYC praise band was labeled too wild or something.”

    This is the standard bait-and-switch technique that has been going on in ubf conferences for decades. Anything that could “usher in the freedom to worship” is brought under “control” and bound to the ubf heritage.

    I found that the freedom proclaimed by Jesus in his gospel is not welcome at ubf conferences. The thought instead is “people must be controlled.”

  20. John, “whether God shows up or not” is a good question. But actually, what does it mean?

    Isn’t God always there, isn’t Jesus always knocking at the doors of our hearts? The question would be rather, whether people are willing to open their hearts on a conference or not. The question is whether the conference opens the hearts of the attendants for the questions God really wants to ask, for the things God really wants to discuss with each person individually. I’m not sure whether God wants to push people in UBF to do more mission. Maybe there are completely different things God wants to talk with people, but the conference creates an atmosphere that does not allow this to happen.

    Also, I think whether God “shows up” is a question that needs to be asked on an individual level. Let me take an example from outside UBF, so that we can look at this with less bias and emotion. Let’s look at big events arranged by evangelist Benny Hinn or Peter Popoff. When you attend one of these events without knowing about the people, I believe many Christians would agree that “the spirit showed” up at such events. But when you read more about these “evangelists”, you’ll find that they have been exposed to be charlatans tricking people into offering them their money who did become incredibly rich that way. If you haven’t done so, please read up on these evangelists. Watch – it’s pretty sobering. Now, I hope you understand I don’t want to compare UBF leaders with Hinn or Popoff. But I want to ask UBF people the simple question: Do you think God showed up at any of the events arranged by Hinn or Popoff? Do you think the Holy Spirit spoke to some of the people who attended, and who had pure hearts, different from Hinn or Popoff who obviously were only interested in money? Look into their eyes, how they put all their hopes to God, how they raise their armsm how they sing with all of their hearts? Do you think God could reach the hearts of people even through moneygrubbing impostors like Hinn or Popoff? Or would you say God did not show up? What about similar events lead by less dubitable evangelists? Do you think there is a black/white line of events where God shows up and where God does not show up? I don’t think so. Maybe you say, God only showed up for one of hundred attendants in such an event. But even that could be an extremely significant event for God (Lk 15:7). Or, do you think that if in a big event, people get touched by what is spoken from the pulpit or on the stage, this is evidence that the speaker must be lead by the spirit? Is it fair to say the spirit “lead” Hinn and Popoff?

    Maybe this example helps you to see that answering the questions “does God show up” or “did God show up”, and “did the spirit lead the speaker”, are in fact very difficult, they do not have simple answers.

    So my suggestion is to focus more on the question how we can prepare an open atmosphere where God can easily open the hearts of attendants for all what He might possibly want to speak to us, not only for the narrow and predetermined command to engage in UBF campus mission.

    • John Martin jr.

      Chris thanks for the response. Yes I believe as scripture says God is always knocking on the door of our hearts in fact Christ lives in every believer. But what I am more talking about is the unique setting when God’s people come together praying as you say for us to have open hearts. This begins with the way we prepare. Keeping God’s will be done as the foundation of preparation and prayer, and leaving room for it to happen

  21. Sibboleth

    1. UBF’s glory may be overstated and overemphasized again.
    2. Human elements may influence the environment such as pride and competition

    One wonders what the 2014 UBF wall calendar will look like after this conference. My 2013 UBF calendar seems to have 3 rows and 17 columns of pictures of what I guess are UBF luminaries.

    • Hi Sibboleth. Your comment was accidentally blocked, and I just unblocked it. I wonder if Joe S. is still on the calendar? Speaking of the calendar, isn’t that a remarkable competition and self-praise tool? Who gets to be on the calendar? I remember gettign the calendar every year and hoping and praying that maybe I would be on it. But of course I should never have been so naive. I would never have been on the calendar.

    • Mark Mederich


  22. big bear

    God will show up if many of the leaders at the conference will put God back in the driving seat and take a back seat to God’s perfect and pleasing will. Seek to honor God’s work in the family unit and learn to love each other with God’s love. Throw away all the agendas and just let God work through His word not trying to use the Bible to justify themselves. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Most of all, God is love. God loves the worst of sinners and He loves all people through Christ and please make the prayers short and discard the show of righteousness and allow those who come to be free and able to meet God without imposing many rules on them or have some kind of post conference agenda. This requires true repentance by all the leaders.

  23. Mark Mederich

    i hope many come to conference, but not to serve man’s purpose, to seek God together; the content is not as important as atmosphere (God’s Spirit can inspire content if hearts are willing: facilitators must be willing to share what GOD moves them, before willing participants can be encouraged to also share..)

    great oration has limited (even detrimental) value: sincere example has great value

  24. Hey everyone – sorry, I didn’t have the courage to check up on the comments after my initial long comment about the ISBC. Just checking now. But you guys were pretty easy with me this time, thanks! :) Also, I had to take a week break from UBfriends so that I could double-down and get some work done (man, I realize one can spend hours a day on this site! yikes!)

    Thanks everyone for commenting. Yeah I won’t be able to reply to every person’s valuable point now, but I just want to respond with several thoughts:

    1) Let’s not forget the “Lost” Generation, indeed. One thing for sure: I will definitely not forget you. Everything I have done in the past 2 years was to demonstrate my commitment NOT to forget you. But can I also make a plea to the “Lost” Generation? Don’t forget about us. Help us from becoming “lost” as well (as I believe you all are trying to do through a site like UBFriends). But also take the time to get to know us in our own contexts, to personally mentor us, and to come along aside with us, and to help us re-build a culture and community that no longer creates new “lost” generations. Your pain, sensitivity, and empathy that came out of those tough moments are what can precisely minister to us. We need your help. I know UBFriends is an honest expression of that (most of the time!). I pray that God will create an environment where it feels genuinely safe for each of you to come along aside us and help us learn redemptively from all the mistakes of the past so that we can rebuild together. We may not always be in a position to help you because we did not experience what you experience. But we know that you are in a position to help us because we believe the God of redemption knows how to make all things beautiful and life-giving. Each of you are beautiful and life-giving people, and I want to experience that in person someday soon.

    2) I want God to “show up” too (in the way that JMartin had clarified). I want him to show up so that in His presence there cannot but be a spirit of genuine repentance for the ways we failed to love God and love one another (even when we thought we were doing our best to be ‘loving’). God’s been working in my heart these days on this very issue, and I just want this conference to be something which contributes to his larger work of repentance and restoration in me. My Christian life seems to be long journey of repentance fueled by my faith in more of his future grace. The Lord, of course, is always with me. But I seek a greater fullness of His Spirit, and a deeper intimacy and awareness of His presence. So I want him to “show up” in the sense that I want a divine encounter with the Body that transforms me and transforms the Body.

    3) Big bear, my heart goes out to you. Somewhere on this website you shared something very painful, and when I thought about my own children, I could not but weep. May the Lord bring you the comfort that our community failed to give you, and which I also indirectly failed to give you as a member of this community.

    4) Brian and Chris, I’d love to get a In N Out hamburger with you both sometime. Dr. Ben’s treat. :)

  25. Hi John Y,
    I do empathize with the “lost generation” because I was a part of it.
    It’s all warm and fuzzy and good in UBF until you suggest something your chapter director doesn’t like or for example you want to change the theme or passage or speaker of a conference or the “one-to-one” method. If that happens than you are no longer “in” UBF; you are rebellious.

    Abraham T. Lee said that each UBF chapter is independent because they don’t receive financial support from the headquarters. This is good because ministry should be organic and unique to its part of the world, but at the same time it is dangerous because there is NO accountability. And the “headquarters” only listens to the director’s voice.

    At the upcoming ISBC my concern is that certain directors are praised where its not due, where there was spiritual abuse, but it goes unchecked and is ignored. I wish there was a committee that was open to listen to both parties instead of just one.

    I don’t want anyone to go through that process of being spiritually abused, especially if that someone is a high achiever according to UBF standards. We are a church we should be working together and not against each other. See you at the conf:)

  26. btw, I would call “the lost generation” “the found generation”. I am personally found in Jesus after leaving ubf. And I think that whatever changes might happen in ubf an ordinary healthy church would be incomparably better.

  27. I thought John Y was saying that he is a part of the “lost” generation. That’s the way I understood his comment.

  28. Joe Schafer

    John’s reference to the Lost Generation was a response to my comment at

  29. As we know, in the past, the “lost generation” were categorically and universally lambasted by UBF loyalists as: ungrateful, unthankful, proud, bitter, rebellious, ran away, abandoned God’s mission, wanting to live a nominal Christian life, etc.

    Now, at least where I’m at, I know that some UBF leaders are VERY VERY CAREFUL to NOT use or utter such horrific condescending caricatures.

    It may be sometime before those who stop saying such things begin to truly be sorry that rude authoritarian abusive UBF leaders ARE the SINGULAR SOLE CAUSE of the lost generation.

    This is singularly UBF’s loss – loss of numbers, loss of tithes and offerings, loss of honor and prestige, loss of influence, etc. My hope is that we acknowledge what is already so blatantly obvious to anyone with a brain. It is our fault alone, as much as some people want to keep insisting that “there is another side to the story,” or “there are always 2 sides to the story.”

    To blatantly generalize and oversimplify (sorry that this is one of my unwelcomed fortes!), I say that one side says, “UBF is spiritually abusive.” The other side says, “But, but, but, but, but….”