Why the Shepherding Movement Failed

w1Have you heard of the Shepherding Movement? It was a phenomena that occurred in America mainly in the 1970’s. The Shepherding Movement, which had roots in the 1960’s cultural revolution, grew quickly and seemed to disappear just as quickly. Are there any similarities between this movement and the UBF ministry?

The Shepherding Movement was fraught with problems. Some of those problems, displayed in several pseudo-Christian organizations that grew out of the movement, have been discussed openly for many years. Most notable in this discussion is Ron Enroth’s book, Churches That Abuse.

The face of the failed Shepherding Movement was Bob Mumford, who became a sort of poster-boy of the movement. In 1989, Mr. Mumford offered a public apology to those hurt by the movement’s teachings and practices.

In his formal statement of repentance Mumford said:

Accountability, personal training under the guidance of another, and effective pastoral care are needed biblical concepts. True spiritual maturity will require that they be preserved. These biblical realities must also carry the limits indicated by the New Testament. However, to my personal pain and chagrin, these particular emphases very easily lent themselves to an unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders. Many of these abuses occurred within the sphere of my own responsibility.

The movement began to disintegrate in 1986 when its magazine, New Wine, folded due to steady loss of revenue. In the latter years of the 1980s Baxter, Basham, and Mumford officially “released” their disciples from their previous pyramidal authority structure-Prince had already severed his formal ties with the others in 1983.

Yet even with Mumford’s public statement of apology-and in spite of Buckingham’s obituary of the “discipleship era”-the abuse of discipleship and spiritual authority continues unabated by other men (and women) in other churches and movements. (source)

Here are some excerpts from another blog that describe two main reasons why the original Shepherding Movement failed in the United States. One of the failed doctrines taught by the Shepherding Movement was covering theology.

“Most of the Christian church doesn’t believe in covering theology. It appeared on the scene in North America about 40 years ago through something called the shepherding movement. That movement was completely discredited and some of the leaders have publicly repented of their involvement.”

Reason 1 – They replaced Jesus as master.

“In this context, a group of older, more experienced charismatic ministers came together to bring a corrective. The occasion of their meeting was a moral failure of a ministry in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Believing themselves to be equally vulnerable to moral failure apart from better accountability they mutually submitted themselves to one another. When this happened, they described themselves as having a supernatural experience binding their ministries together for life. Initially the group was made of Derek Prince, Don Basham, Bob Mumford, and Charles Simpson. Eventually, former Branham campaign manager Ern Baxter was added to the group, and they became known as “The Fort Lauderdale Five.”

“The five very talented men immediately began to teach on authority, submission and discipleship. Although there were a number of important doctrines, the central doctrine—the one that reshaped the church—was that every person must be submitted to another person (Shepherd/Pastor/Discipler), and that all of your major life decisions should be submitted to this person. Effectively, if unintentionally, this put the individual in the position of having two masters– Jesus and a personal shepherd. With time the personal shepherd gains more power, as Jesus gets less. And in time, this creates a system where those who have unquestioning obedience to man are promoted. All kinds of ungodly things came in through these doors. Several books have been written detailing the kinds of abuse suffered as a result. The scary thing about the whole system is that it started out with the intent of promoting accountability, and eventually enslaved people.”

Reason 2 – They made their shepherd/sheep relationships permanent

“The second dangerous doctrine had to do with “Covenant” relationships or “Spiritual Family.” If being absolutely submitted to another person was an imprisonment, then the covenant relationship was the iron padlock on the door. The idea here is that when you enter into these discipleship relationships, they are permanent, and more broadly that your association with a specific group of believers is permanent. You were in a “Covenant” and if you left the relationship or the fellowship group, you were breaking a covenant. This quickly becomes a very dangerous situation: no matter how terrible your experience becomes with a group or person, you can not leave, and if you do, you believe that you’ve broken a covenant with God, so to get right with God you’d have to go back to the abuse! You slowly become enmeshed with the other members of the group and separated from the outside world. Your “spiritual family” becomes more important than your natural family or other believers you’ve had relationship with. You slowly become more and more isolated and more and more dependent upon the group or leader. At a certain point if your leaders do not check the pattern, it becomes a full fledged cult. Normally, however this pattern is held in tension with Biblical expectations so these groups rarely become true cults, while still exhibiting cult-like features. Scary.”

Result – The fruit of absolute obedience to human authority

“After a couple of years, the fruit of these doctrines became obvious to those outside of the movement such as Jack Hayford, Pat Robertson, Demos Sharkarian and others, and they confronted the “Five” in the infamous “Shootout at the Curtis Hotel,” in 1975. The result was that the Five issued an “apology” which did not really represent repentance on their part. They rejected the excesses of some who had followed their teachings to their logical conclusions, without accepting that the doctrines they were teaching had been the direct cause. Their persistence created a split in the charismatic movement between those who accepted the authority teaching, and those who did not.”

“This split is still evident today but under different names. No one dares be associated with the “Shepherding Movement” by name because it was so discredited. But many still believe in the basic principles to some degree or another, and find support in classic authors such as Watchman Nee. The “Prophetic” stream of the church became the branch of the church that did not accept authority teachings, and the “Apostolic” branch became that which did. The tragedy is that the basic observations of the Five were correct (i.e. need for discipleship, accountability) but their solution of hierarchical personal submission was not. Therefore the “prophetic” stream still tends to reflect the lack of authority that the rebellious hippies brought into the church through the Jesus Movement. Chaos in the meeting is welcomed and even praised as spiritual, and generally everyone does their own thing, hears from God totally in isolation, etc. On the other hand, those with the Shepherding heritage value “order” over all else. While they speak in tongues and claim to be charismatic, often in practice, the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy are not welcomed, because order is valued over the moving of the Spirit. Or prophecy can only come through an established authority in the church hierarchy.”

Jesus is Lord

“In summary, the Shepherds were right right to raise the issue of authority, but they were wrong about submission to other men. Christ is Lord of all, and each should be in submission to Him by the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Because we need order and peace, we should submit to those who lead ministries over us just like we would to our bosses at work. But this is far different from owing them allegiance in our personal or spiritual lives. And when we come to the place where following them violates our conscience, it’s time to move on.”


Do you see or experience anything in your UBF chapter that resembles something above? Are there similarities between the Shepherding Movement and UBF ministry? What should be done about this?


  1. Thanks for this article. I experienced something that was almost *identical* to the “Covenant” theology described in this article.

    When I was contemplating my future involvement in UBF, I was told something like this: “Your relationship to your church is like a marriage. You made a commitment to serve God in this church, and it is where you met Jesus. You don’t leave your spouse if she has problems, so you shouldn’t leave your church because it has problems. Just like your relationship with your spouse is a lifetime commitment, you should keep a lifetime commitment to your church.”

    I responded, “I don’t see any evidence for that position in Scripture,” and immediately said good-bye. Such a statement was a crystal-clear confirmation that I should remove myself and my family from such a controlling and constraining environment.

    Others’ experiences may vary, but it was clear to me that such “lifetime commitments” are unbiblical, unrealistic, and unhealthy. Instead of producing good fruit of maturity in the Lord, it bore bad fruit of fear, self-condemnation or self-righteousness (depending on the esteem of leaders), inability to discern God’s leading but reliance on directions from others, and a squelched personal identity and unique expression of personal gifts.

    • joshua: “inability to discern God’s leading but reliance on directions from others, and a squelched personal identity and unique expression of personal gifts.”

      Nice summary of exactly my observations and experience. I always felt uncomfortable having my true identity become “molded” and “shaped” into some facade that I felt I had to carry around like a costume.

      Now I burned that costume. And as you say below, I just do the opposite of what ubf taught me and I’m much happier and healthy. Maybe we need an article series about “What does it mean to be healthy?”

      In my part of ubf, in the last few years of my time there, the word “healthy” took on a strange new meaning. Healthy meant overweight. If someone in Toledo told you “You look healthy these days…” It came to mean “You are gaining a lot of weight and need exercise training.”

      This was an inside joke among some of us leaders. I am ashamed that I never called this out when I was there…

  2. I should add that the shepherding did have some initial benefits in helping me overcome certain life-dominating sin problems. I am very thankful for the involvement, prayer, labour, and personal attention of my “shepherd” in those areas. Undoubtedly, God used that time for my good (Rom 8:28).

    • I think you capture one of the main points I learned from studying the Shepherd movement failures, Joshua. Shepherding is valid, but the relationship must change over time, adjusting to all the seasons of life, never to be permanent and never degrading into lording authority over another person. That is where ubf goes wrong even as we speak.

  3. big bear

    WOW…that is exactly what UBF is…a shepherding movement…I spent 28 years under this control but did not begin to recognize it until I lost everything….my daughters complained to me that I had learned twisted theology and my ex-wife but I did not see it…in someways my ex did me a favor by kicking me to the curb it must have been God favor…..God gave me back a life to be a blessing….Ubf is to controling and has gone to far…….years ago I was on the news as a cult leader…..proudly taking disgrace for Christ..students threw stones at me…maybe I deserved it ….promoting ubf on campuses

  4. UBF was in fact influenced by the shepherding/discipling movement of the 1960s. Samuel Lee had some contact with the Navigators, who can be considered as forerunners of that movement (Lee worked as translator for them around the time when Barry engaged him for UBF). Groups like ICOC and UBF developed unique and particularly extreme forms of that shepherding/discipling paradigm. I think the UBF version was even worse because it was infused with Korean Confucianism.

    Note that shepherding as understood by the shepherding/discipling movement is very different from shepherding as understood in the Bible, where it is actually the same as eldership. The book “Biblical eldership” by Alexander Strauch could also be called “Biblical shepherding”. The group of elders is understood as a group who act – together – as shepherds for the whole flock. There is no single-person leadership by “directors” and there are no authoritarian 1:1 shepherding relationships in real, Biblical shepherding. To emphasize this difference, the unbiblical hierarchical, authoritarian form of shepherding has also been called “personal shepherding”. See also the article “The Fallacy of “Personal Pastors” by Steven Lambert.

    Note that nearly all of these groups, including the ICOC, eventually found that they ran into serious problems of spiritual abuse, apologized and renounced their teachings. The only exception I know is UBF who did not renounce their teachings, but reaffirmed them as their “spiritual heritage” in their 50th anniversary book. I believe the main reason why UBF was so far unable to do this is Korean Confucianism where “losing face” is considered worse than “losing faith” and truth and truthfulness is considered less important than loyalty, plus an amount of pride I have rarely seen in any other church or organization.

  5. Thanks, Brian. Shepherding is biblical. Yet shepherding that is abusive has simply disobeyed what Jesus EXPLICITLY said in Mt 20:25-26, Mk 10:42-43, Lk 22:25-26. I preached this in Manila, and this Sun I will preach it at West Loop: http://ubfchurchph.blogspot.com/2013/04/shepherds-christian-leaders-are-not-to.html

  6. Mark Mederich

    excellent article, Brian: “Christ is Lord of all, and each should be in submission to Him by the conviction of the Holy Spirit.” (each=all must look up to Christ, not down on others)

    spiritual “coaching” is ok but “absolute” deference is reserved for God

    systemic improvements require analysis of faulty motives (power/$/…) & determination to take the “road less travelled”; anyway individuals can be freed by Christ to limit deference to people & reasonably limit funds given so as to break the bondage of excessive influence

    there really needs to be discussion of financial factors: belonging to “ecfa” looks good, but practice is what matters; I’m not concerned about communal $ used for communal purposes or reasonable projects, but are funds sometimes used for special favor for special people? for example are funds given to a school or university & then specific enrollment enhanced? (students who got in by their own hard work may then seem “out of place” but certainly feel more accomplishment)

  7. big bear

    Yes, shepherding is Biblical. Jesus is the good shepherd. The Pharisees were bad shepherds because they fed themselves, they did not practice justice or take care of the sheep, they lord their righteousness over others and gave people burdens they themselves could not bear. Jesus rebuked them most harshly. They hindered others from coming to God with their rules and their traditions. They took the place of honor at the table. They wanted their sheep to serve them. They were in it for power and self glory and did not see the beggar on the road or the lost children of Israel. They were proud men. They sought honor from men instead of from God. There are many wolves out there posing as shepherd in our churches today. A Bad shepherd rules people with fear and manipulation and looks down on the one he teaches. It is best not to even eat with such a person for you will be made guilty that you ate their food and he will use it to trap you in the words: “see God’s grace, I fed you” now you owe me your life and all the decisions in your life and please don’t date anyone and stay away from your family. This is how bad shepherd manipulate their sheep to gain power over them and to trap them in the Hell that they are in. A true shepherd must be humble and follow Jesus and serve the sheep with much prayer and repentance.

    • Mark Mederich

      I guess religion never changes thru the ages..so spirituality has to supersede it

  8. I am interested to know what you guys think about the common question in UBF, “Who is your Bible teacher or shepherd?” Often times this is asked in such a way similar to when a Korean asks another Korean “How old are you?”

    Maybe I am too sensitive, but to be honest I sometimes wonder what the root and measure for such a question really is and where it comes from. It’s true that it could be innocent, however, with all of the other ills we have discussed I am throwing it out there.

    May you be judged according to how effective your shepherd is? How loyal? How obedient? We are supposed to resemble our teachers in the shepherding movement. Why not wear couple’s shirts or pants?

    I also want to remark on big bear’s comment. When Jesus served many people during his public ministry he sacrificed his time and more…..he sacrificed his life and yet he still said on the cross ‘father forgive them.’ When he had difficulty on the cross he asked why God had forsaken him. His moment was an absense of God.

    Some students may feel indebted because of serving from shepherds. This may include snacks during Bible study, gifts for birthday etc…, lunch and dinner in or outside of church. These are but basic examples, more severe could come as a result of marriage and/or a specific title that bestows leadership on the sheep. In any case, the shepherd is not doing this gracefully as Jesus died for us, but rather so that they may enslave and own us. The sheep often suffer feelings of guilt because their shepherd did so much for them.

    I have a tough one on this. Why? Because some may argue if you have a conflict with your shepherd it has to be reconciled so that you may be right with God. I agree only on condition that I have hard feelings of unforgiveness in my heart. However, if I can see that some leaders serve for their own benefit it becomes a problem. Thankfully, most shepherds serve for the hope to raise disciples. Not many have ungodly motives while serving, but I for one received an email that claimed ownership over me because such a person prayed for my wedding to establish my family. I am thankful for that – yes! But as stated in my very first comment, I evaded the topic of marriage for more than half a year because I was suspicious about what was going on. Only when the Holy Spirit moved my heart did I pray and later consent to marry.

    • “I am interested to know what you guys think about the common question in UBF, ‘Who is your Bible teacher or shepherd?'”

      This is due to the fact that UBF employs personal shepherding. It is essentially the same question as ‘Who is your covering?’ (see also here).

      Some commenters wrote that shepherding is Biblical. I think this is a problematic statement, because shepherding is usually understood to mean personal shepherding practiced in the shepherding/discipling movement which is definitely not Biblical, as explained in the articles we linked to (please read these articles carefully!). The things that shepherds (elders) do in a normal church is usually not called “shepherding” or “discipling”.

    • Good point Chris. I cringe every time I hear the word “shepherd” or “obedience” or “go into all the world”. Such concepts need to be untwisted and re-understood in their proper Christian context.

      gc, you raise something that needs highlighted: “Who is your Bible teacher or shepherd?” If there is any tell-tale sign that ubf is a cult, it is this question.

      Can you hang around ubf WITHOUT a shepherd? No. ubf is a private, closed-membership church. You cannot just walk off the street and start attending.

      If you answer that question with “No one.” be prepared for some training. You’ll be asked to submit to 1:1 or leave.

      And God help you if you answer “Who is your bible teacher?” with “Jesus my Lord and Savior!”. That answer will earn you some severe rebukes! You simply must obey a human shepherd to be a member of ubf. And as big bear points out, if your shepherd leaves, then the chapter director becomes your shepherd by default.

      The only exception to this is the one on the top of the pyramid, the GD, who has no human shepherd. Everyone else technically has a shepherd.

      However, something new has happened in recent years. Some people are starting to “go rogue”. That is a good thing.

    • Mark Mederich

      “but I for one received an email that claimed ownership over me because such a person prayed for my wedding to establish my family.”

      when people become experts at elevating themselves, thankfulness becomes dangerous (tool of manipulation): then thanks can only/must only go to God, so help me Jesus. Amen

  9. big bear

    GC…good question, “Who is your Bible teacher or shepherd?” I have never gone to a church that emphasis this so much than in UBF. It seems like a innocent question but it seems to bring glory to the shepherd and it makes the sheep forever indebted to the shepherd for what he has done for them. UBF helped me so much in my early years and the structure was helpful and the fellowship and with God’s help I overcame much and still am in His grace. After awhile, you feel so indebted to your shepherd for helping you and feeding you and being there for you like a father or mother. I think this is asked in UBF because it is part of the underlying culture of UBF ministry and it is kind of like bragging rights and a badge of honor for the shepherd. It is so overdone I believe that it weighs a new Bible student down and demands in some way commitment to the ministry. I think it is healthy if the shepherd or Bible teacher remains humble. My shepherd left UBF many years ago but the chapter director will than say he is your shepherd. Like you said, Jesus is the good shepherd because He alone lays down His life on a cross for the sheep. If you leave UBF, they claim you forgot God’s grace but this is not always true, it might mean that God has changed the direction in your life to serve Him in other ways or that the chapter you was in became abusive over time or the shepherd is a bad shepherd. My shepherd helped me much, so I was proud of Him, and still thank God for him, but I do not owe him or the ministry my life, only the good shepherd Jesus. I learned much in UBF, needed the structure and the support, but as you grow the support is not there especially if you become a chapter director and you have a large family. I was sent out to establish a new ministry but I never got any support in any way from the chapter that sent me out. Yes they prayed for us, but when my family fell apart, they never visited or even tried to help in any practical way. For almost 4 years, my family suffered by paying two house payments because the property we left to pioneer new ministry did not sell. You are required to be independent and if you complain you must repent for God will take care of you. Any problem you just keep your mouth shut and just keep teaching the Bible and raise disciples. By the time, I knew it, I could not save my family. There is so much that I learned in God’s grace and so much things that need to be changed in UBF because families are being alienated from each other and many innocent people are getting hurt in the name of doing God’s work in faith. I hear the complaints from many children in UBF. I think when someone asks you who your shepherd is you should tell them Jesus Christ and never deviate from that answer period. I do thank God for the period to learn the Bible in UBF. God gave me a new wife from Romania, I have to thank UBF for it indirectly, she watched the video of me giving my life testimony on the internet which was taped by UBF and she immediately fell in love with me, I studied Genesis with her online while in Romania, and she came to America to marry me in faith. We attend another church together weekly, and I teach her and my new son the Bible but we pray to put family first and I believe this pleases God more than spending no time with your children to raise disciples and neglect them and cause much harm to them in the name of serving God. I am free to serve God in a healthy way but the Bible study was good at ubf. God is helping me to be a better father to my other children as well. After leaving UBF, it is important you seek out a healthy church where family is important and raising disciples starts with your own household. If you like you can hear my testimony on the internet….

    • Mark Mederich

      f”I was sent out to establish a new ministry but I never got any support in any way from the chapter that sent me out.”
      funny how a “mother church” can avoid mothering

      mene mene tekel upharsin (numbered, numbered, weighed, & divisions)
      when I hear of families devastated by “God’s people” who are supposed to help them, I remember the writing on the wall in book of Daniel

      words to the wise,
      God has power to take kingdoms away & divide up: Babylonians were using God’s temple goblets (precious children) for drunken (self-indulgent) praise of gods (idolatry); that very night the kingdom ended & Medes/Persians each took their share; Let’s repent of any part lest more division come

    • Mark: “mene mene tekel upharsin”

      I wish it were not so, but yes that is the new slogan for ubf. It has been mentioned to the most senior leaders in ubf already. Thank God for many Daniels among us.

  10. big bear, just a few responses:

    “My shepherd left UBF many years ago but the chapter director will than say he is your shepherd.”

    > Ditto for me. Raise your hands if your shepherd left ubf… that is so common because a pyramid scheme, even a Jesus one, cannot be sustained.

    “For almost 4 years, my family suffered by paying two house payments because the property we left to pioneer new ministry did not sell. You are required to be independent and if you complain you must repent for God will take care of you. Any problem you just keep your mouth shut and just keep teaching the Bible and raise disciples.”

    > Almost ditto. You are correct, my mind was trained in ubf to just suck it up, grin and bear it and shape up or ship out.

    “After leaving UBF, it is important you seek out a healthy church where family is important and raising disciples starts with your own household.”

    > Yes, but I highly suggest finding and testing out other churches prior to leaving. I did not submit my director resignation until my family was safe in a new church. Then I could be vocal and forceful with ubf without so much concern for my family. I also attended some church services at another church with our friends when we visited Toledo after leaving. It was odd to see an entire “ubf dropout section” at the church. So many people from Toledo ubf were going there that one of the pastors noticed and actually felt the need to communicate to Toledo ubf that he was not trying to steal members away.

    “If you like you can hear my testimony on the internet….”

    > I would love to… but are you referring to after ubf or during?

  11. @ big bear. Without violating confidentiality, are you able to share why your shepherd left UBF?

    “Bad” shepherds often think of:
    * how horrible/”sinful”/”useless” you may have been when you first came to UBF,
    * how much you changed and improved through them serving you, and
    * how you should always submit to their authority because you must be indebted and thankful to them, now just now but forever.

    I am thankful to UBF for many many things. But when they throw this indebtedness to UBF in my face, they are simply taking credit for what God has done. They are not the prime movers; the Holy Spirit is.

    • big bear

      BEN…NOT SURE WHY HE LEFT…never told me…not heard from in years….like he fell off face of the earth…

    • Mark Mederich

      noone is indebted to people for anything (that’s man’s creation to get something back)

      we’re indebted to God Alone (All owe everything to Him); He is pleased when we pass on His blessing to others, not expecting Anything back from them directly

    • Mark Mederich

      spiritual leaders have only done duty when help others seek God
      (do you help someone out of the same quicksand someone else helped you out of & then say you owe me?)

      parents raise kids not for payback but for payforward to society, which helps all

  12. big bear

    Mark..”spiritual leaders have only done duty when help others seek God..” very true Mark and they must do it with humbleness and repentance…not looking down at those they help but serving them with fear of God…and not lording it over them for years…”noone is indebted to people” true again…my shepherd and chapter director kept me in fear and always told me not to forget God’s grace..what they were saying is don’t forget we helped you…I got to the point where I felt if I even did anything against UBF I was condemned to hell…I never missed worship service for 29 plus years and still don’t but not because I am threatened by forgetting God’s grace but because I love God and I am thankful to Him alone…UBF does not have the best messages most are given by people who have no education of sound doctrine or theology…I feared reading a commentary or to hear someone else preach because for a long time because I was a UBF’er and when I came to UBF I did not know the Bible or know Jesus personally…but over the years I began to see some discrepancies from the truth of free grace and works in UBF…when I started my own chapter I began to discover gradually my error in theology and I was living by works not by grace…this discovery changed my heart and gave me freedom…not long after that my family broke up and God sent me to the desert…there I prayed without any UBF influence while standing in the Ohio River in tears for months..I studied the Bible differently with tears and I went to many churches (100 or so and prayed with many Pastors)…as I watched like Job everything taken away from me…there I discovered the truth…we are saved by grace not by feeding 12 sheep every week or preaching a UBF message…this discovery brought me to freedom and restoration in God and gave me new hope…I shared this freedom with many churches standing before them in tears…but God revealed to me the problem with UBF…it is about works and not about grace and freedom…I was finally free…praise the Lord…I had a dream the day before I went to UBF for the last time from God that I would be rejected and my new wife would not be accepted but the Lord told me to go anyway..everything happened as I dreamed it…(by the way, UBF will tell you I am Satan agent but no I am a voice for freedom and grace in the desert…I suggest everyone in UBF take some time away in deep prayer to reexamine what you are doing…I am just sharing what God revealed to me in the deep pain of loneliness at the Ohio river..I am convinced that I must tell the world but I will be persecuted by religious people who only preach works and who do not accept sinners)I pray that the upcoming conference may lift the eyes of all to love and grace and freedom in Christ…no more rules or requirements to be saved by acceptance of Christ period and what he did on the cross for our sins…we all deserve to go to Hell..but God sent Jesus to save us period not gospel plus. The church is the bride of Christ and we are all members of it no matter what church you attend..we need to share His grace with the world and not impose burdens on people they cannot bear in the name of increasing our ministry or bragging rights that we are the green berets…

    • Mark Mederich

      “we need to share His grace with the world and not impose burdens on people they cannot bear”
      big bear, you don’t sound like satan to me, you sound like a bro in the Lord, a Grace & Freedom Fighter:)
      “I pray that the upcoming conference may lift the eyes of all to love and grace and freedom in Christ…”

  13. big bear

    Jesus is our Savior, not UBF. I hope that at the Conference they take the UBF Logo down from the podium and put a cross in its place…may God be our banner…

    • “I hope that at the Conference they take the UBF Logo down from the podium and put a cross in its place…”

      This reminds me of another experience as UBF conference servant I can never forget because it was so symbolic. We had our conferences in a Christian recreation home that had a hall where we met for listening to the messages. The hall had nice decoration on the back side and a simple but prominent wooden cross on the front. It also had a speaker pulpit. I think the pulpit was always replaced by our own special pulpit, but the most important thing for missionaries was to make sure to put it on a pedestal so that the speaker would always stand higher than the audience. Not sure any more if we also had UBF logos on our pulpit, but I remember having seen them on UBF pulpits, so I know what you mean. Like the hall in our center, the hall in the recreation home was small enough so that no pedestal and no amplifier was necessary, but we always had them at the conference and in our center. They made sure that we never had a familiar atmosphere, looking each other in the eyes and speaking freely, but that the atmosphere was always artificial where the messager could speak from above with a loud voice. The pulpit was even mandatory when sharing your early morning daily bread testimony. The mode of communication was always one-way.

      The other first thing the missionaries always did was to take down the wooden cross from the front wall and put it in the broom closet. Then the conference slogan was pasted on the wall in big letters, usually an imperative like “You Shall be a Blessing” (meaning “You shall become a UBF shepherd”). The director of the recreation home looked bewildered at this, but the missionaries didn’t really care about what “outsiders” think or say anyway; home directors or janitors had no chance but let them have their way, such people were never respected.

      Personally I was always bothered when I saw the missionaries taking down the cross and putting it in the broom closet before the conference. It was particularly embarassing when they let everybody sing “I’ll cherish the old rugged cross” while in reality the cross was standing in the broom closet behind us. So one conference I volunteered to be the “conference title decoration servant”. I made sure to be the first to arrive at the conference place, so I could paste the conference title on the wall while leaving the cross at its place. I think another young “German shepherd” helped me, and we were pleased with the result. We thought that the title and the cross harmonized very well. Then we had other things to do so we left the room. You can imagine my amazed looked when I came back to the hall for the first message that evening, and noticed that the cross had been taken down again by a Korean missionary, and the title rearranged to stand alone one the wall. Of course you can tell me about your experience that Korean missionaries accept the opinion of native coworkers, and cherish the old rugged cross. But I made my own experiences.

      (In our own center we did not have a cross for many years. After we native members pushed to have one, they allowed us to put one on the side wall. It was the only decoration apart from that picture of the broad and narrow path, where the narrow path was interpreted as coworking in UBF and the broad path as everything else.)

    • Chris, you mentioned “In our own center we did not have a cross for many years.”

      I am thankful that the new center building in Toledo does have a large cross in the proper place: high and centered and visible. It was made by one of my friends and his dad. I hope no ubf missionary ever takes down that cross in Toledo.

      Speaking of the cross… we need an article to discuss the cross of Jesus and what it means to take up your cross. How many of us thought that taking up your cross meant “sitting on folding chairs 10 hours a week for ubf meetings?” That is the essence of ubf’s teaching on self-denial and taking up your cross. Those teachings are at the heart of ubf theology problems.

    • I agree Brian. We can address what it really means to take up the cross – focusing on Jesus and also address the ill-gotten examples in UBF. I love the fact that if you focus on family you a family centered. If you have to spend time at the office you aren’t serving God. But when UBF talks about having crosses you have the cross of mission, of family, of work, of school studies etc….

      So one minute it is acceptable to mention them as a cross, but the next minute you are scolded for actually using your limited and valuable time to carry out these basic things. Of course the mandatory cross is mission and that is always acceptable conversation.

      Anyway, back to Jesus’ cross and what that really means!!

    • “It was made by one of my friends and his dad.”

      Same here, we had to make it on our own. The missionaries never bothered for such things. Similarly, we have the nice tradition in Germany of having an Advent wreath before Christmas. If we had not cared to make one, the misisonaries never thought about such things. For the new students it was always strange to come in Christmas time, and not finding any Christmas decoration like everywhere else. Regarding the local traditions, I can somehow understand that the Koreans ignored them (though missionaries always should try to show more interest and respect for local traditions), but I never understood why they also ignored the cross. Actually Koreans apart from UBF like the cross symbol; I heared in Seoul there are many crosses, even illuminated in the night. It probably had to do with Samuel Lee’s general aversion against anything reminding of traditional churches.

    • After I left ubf, I went back for several meetings starting in 2012 after my 1 year vow ended. At one of those meetings, I was told by a Korean ubf director his definition of “Jesus’ cross and what that really means.”

      His definition? He thinks it means shape up your will through training. He said you cannot do God’s will until your will is shaped up. The prooftext was of course 2 Timothy 2:15. And almost no ubf person I’ve talked to can articulate the gospel or taking up one’s cross or self-denial or repentance or doing God’s will WITHOUT mentioning ubf activity. They are SO bound to ubf heritage that they cannot speak as normal Christ-followers. Taking up your cross, in the ubf context always leads through a road of contradictions back to ubf campus mission.

      I can rip this “theology” to shreds, but I’ll just say here briefly that such thinking is a lie coming from the devil meant to enslave us. It is not the truth of God from the Holy Spirit meant to liberate us.

      The gospel of Jesus so needs to be preached to ubf leaders.

  14. big bear

    Chris..like you this bothered me too….I experienced some of the same things and it was hard to swallow. When I was a UBF director, my house was filled with crosses and my new house has a cross in every room and I put one on the outside in front and many neighbors told me they appreciated my openness to share the faith…the cross is what Jesus did..the Logo is just another promotional tool for business. There is still not a cross in the center I left as far as I remember…my shepherd told me it is because we should not depend on religious symbols but it is ok to depend on a UBF logo…I say this is crazy!!!! God help us…we need to return the cross of Jesus to our churches and raise the banner of God. We need to create unity instead of division in our churches. Yesterday, I met a young Pastor who took the time to chat with me and this morning my wife and I are visiting their church…He made me feel welcome and accepted…this is the love of God not a elite club with a closed community where only those who match up with a shepherd or study the Bible can attend…as a Christian you should feel welcomed and accepted in any church because we are all one….for years I could not understand why people I invited to UBF felt unwelcomed and unloved…I was taught to believe that they need to repent and that is the reason…what a twisted thinking…how about they need to be loved and accepted and welcomed not seen as a potential recruit….let the love of God work and accept them unconditionally this is the love of Christ…

  15. @MarkM: Love your reactions to the comments here. We do need to discuss the ECFA and ubf and money. Maybe that needs a whole article or series by itself.

    @Chris: Hearing your story about the cross being removed by ubf missionaries infuriates me. But of course, we did the same things here in the US. We had to push just to get a cross displayed for Easter. I also felt ashamed when I saw our ubf logo taped on top of a cross that was on one of the podiums. Another conference I helped pick out the retreat center here in Michigan. I chose a Christian retreat center complete with a beautiful sanctuary. How wonderful it would be, I thought, to listen to messages about Easter in this beautiful sanctuary. But no! We were directed by ubf missionaries to use the somewhat dingy auditorium. The way the Koreans looked at the beautiful sanctuary in disgust made me feel like the sanctuary was evil or something. At the time, my eyes were not fully open and so I believed them.

    @big bear: I’m so encouraged by your sharing. You have a whopper of a story to tell. Maybe we could publish something you submit as an article? Also I am moved to respond to something you wrote: “as a Christian you should feel welcomed and accepted in any church because we are all one…”

    You are correct. The problem is that the ubf mindset tries to be a peacekeeper only within the walls of ubf. We are one, yes, but to the ubf people this means only for ubfers. They cannot fathom that being one means the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church-the Body and the Bride of Christ universal.

    So as we study passages like the Beattitudes, we should hear Jesus calling us to be peacemakers who take active roles in making peace and representing Jesus to all human beings. Keeping the peace is not the same as making peace. Those who just want to keep the peace and get back to ubf ministry are using Christian code words that send the message of “shut up and leave us alone.”

    But according to Jesus, those who make peace, living out the peace of God with Jesus inside them, those people are blessed. Christ-followers are called to bring peace, not keep peace.

    • Mark Mederich

      Thanks Brian, I’m realizing use of $ is a big issue in churches so I’m sure it needs at least an article; not sure I know enough to write it myself, but I’m sure someone will..:)

  16. In our chapter we also had a ubf logo and not a cross on the pulpit. We spoke about it to the director and the answer was “No”. Then he said that the logo was too tightly clued to the pulpit. After I left all the rest spoke about the “praise ubf” logo and it was taken off. Such a reform in a ubf chapter! ))

    Today we had a Bible study at the Baptist church. Among other things the pastor said, “Nobody should come to a local church because he likes the pastor or some people there. What if our church teaches stange things in, say, three years?! Today the church is good tomorrow it may appear to become bad. You should be independant believers who have personal faith and personal relationship with God”. (Compare it with marry-ubf-forever teaching)

    And I liked watching a talk with John MacArthur. Please watch the first 7 minutes. I think it is very relative to the article and even to the site. And pay attention to the way they talk. Could you imagine some of ubf leaders talk this way publicly? SB? RW? JJ? It seems that fear of losing face wouldn’t allow that, especially when someone represents a cult-like organization. (I heard that they had some public talk in Hong Kong and ubf representatives chose to deny the ubf reality especially MbF)

    • Thanks Vitaly. MacArthur’s words about authority are so different from anything I ever heared in UBF!

    • I pray, pray, pray, pray that EVERY PERSON in UBF listen to this video and follow Dr. MacArthur’s counsel. It was jaw-dropping to hear him refute virtually EVERYTHING I was taught in UBF from my shepherd and everything I was taught about how to be a shepherd.

      Now I know what to do: the same thing as before, just the opposite.

    • Kudos for sharing this Vitaly. Can we have this played instead of the main lecture at the ISBC?

      “No preacher by virtue of his calling has any authority.”

      Listening to this with tears upon tears and shouting AMEN at the top of my lungs! I am so glad my family found a church with a pastor team who embodies what JM is saying here. JM nails it this time.

  17. It is interesting that MacArthur’s 1st 7 minutes is basically the sermon I will be preaching in about a half an hour at West Loop: A Christian shepherd servant leader does not lord over others or exercise authority over others.

    Oh yeah, I read UBFriends comments before preaching to relax myself!

  18. big bear

    Vitaly….every UBF leader should listen to this video…John MacArthur really explains what true Pastor is and that Christ is the head of the Church…I am amazed how much UBF controls your life and you do not even know it…Wow..it is so unreal but I did not see it for over 29 years…it was God’s providence that lead me to a new understanding of the gospel…I pray for reform and real healthy leadership…I can see in many ways I myself was not a good shepherd because I taught to extensively the UBF program instead of just letting God’s word teach..I am happy just to be a part of the body of Christ…I am happy just to be a Christian…no title…pray that God will somehow use me as a voice for change and a small part of a healthy and vital church..happy to be a door keeper in His grace…

    • Mark Mederich

      Hallelujah! I ‘fear’ we often live in the Old Testament, leaders feeling entitled to speak in place of Moses while that whole legalistic system is surpassed by Christ: now leaders are ‘only’ guides to Christ (quite humbling but also quite freeing);
      especially collection ‘purse strings’ belong to God (an awesome responsibility to fairly/wisely use for God’s work, with no hint of ‘elite’ use or indiscretion permitted); properly use of donations is effective witness, improper use can damage all otherwise good testimony..

  19. @gc: “But when UBF talks about having crosses you have the cross of mission, of family, of work, of school studies etc…”

    Yes you point out an important contradiction that needs addressed. I contend that it is so wrong to think of such things as your “cross”. Doing so led me to the brink of depression. Why? Because my world became a macabre death march! All things became a gruesome cross and my joy and life and hope were sapped out of me.

    If you feel like that, you are NOT taking up your cross, and I doubt you are following Jesus.

    I even went so far as to start thinking my wife was my cross, my children were my cross and my job was my cross… UGH! “Happy Valentine’s Day honey! You are my cross to bear!” :(

    That is not proper healthy thinking, and it certainly is not Christ-like thinking. We need to re-think these things because the Shepherding Movement got it all wrong and twisted:

    What does it mean to take up your cross?
    Why is Jesus’ yoke easy and light?
    What does it mean to deny yourself?
    Why are Christ-followers not bloody self-butchers?
    What does it mean to repent?
    How can I see my self in a healthy way?
    How can I see my wife and family in a healthy way?

  20. big bear

    Brian good point…I went so far as seeing my wife and my own children as my enemies…it gets scary when you mix the gospel with UBF traditions and twisted teachings..I used to tell my wife and children I am dying and they thought I lost it…they were right…once I invited a Baptist preacher to my house and he told me…if your raise your children that will be enough for God’s kingdom…He was right…How misguided I became…Lord, I thank you for giving me freedom in Christ..it is all I ever wanted..but UBF weighed me down with rules and slogans and missions that they can’t even bear…I am so happy to enjoy the life in Jesus again without all the bull and all the guilt trips and the twisted understandings of God’s love…God loves us unconditional..in UBF you have to repent your whole life for something you did 20 years ago…God says they are gone as far as the east is from the west…Going to enjoy Kings Island with my kiddies this summer and show them God’s love…this is most important…

  21. big bear

    Brian..if you have a free Saturday..come down and join me after June 16…bought the gold passes for my children..all guests get in for 10.00…let’s pray for one another my brother and let’s keep being the voice of change and growth..God will make a way…

    • Sure big bear I would love to do that. Sounds like we have a lot of catching up to do. I do drive through southern Ohio/Kentucky for my work from time to time. Thanks, your friend Brian.

  22. big bear


  23. Being a shepherd is a great privilege and also requires great responsibility as professionals. Shepherds are professionals. :)
    Shepherding is not only being a witness of Christ but also eventually dealing with a whole person.
    It is not enough to be a shepherd by having some knowledge of the Bible or personal faith in Christ. Since it deals with the whole person, shepherding demands humanity, ethics and counseling skills as well as bible knowledge and personal faith.
    Our failure in the past can be a wise reflection, and now it is time to take lessons from the past. I want to entrust all the failures of others as well as mine to the graceful hand of God. I want to pray like this, “Father, forgive us for we did not know what we were doing.”
    In that sense, I highly regard honesty, openness, challenges and
    embrace efforts of all people who shared their stories and opinions here.
    Don’t you think we should hold classes that can teach humanity, biblical ethics, ministerial ethics and basic counseling skills for those who prepare themselves as shepherds? Or shouldn’t we make personal shepherd or ministerial ethic codes as a qualification of a shepherd or minster, so that we can minimize the possible mishaps?(though we still cannot avoid mistakes completely. Have mercy on us!).
    Most of sins we have committed are from ignorance. Who intended to harm their sheep?
    We should work to free people as Christ freed us. We should not put our sheep in a second prison due to our selfish ambition or thirstiness for rewards. Shepherd should not sit on the throne of God. Ministers should not idolize the ministry as well as family, but balance both.
    Shepherds also need healing and restoration, for our battle is against the devil’s works. Shepherds can be wounded when misunderstood or when their labors are fruitless.
    Is there anyone who can restore the wounded shepherd as well as wounded sheep?

    • +1, Dr. J. and welcome to ubfriends. Your questions are valid. I hope other ubf people will listen to your questions and seek honest answers.

      “Most of sins we have committed are from ignorance. Who intended to harm their sheep?”

      Yes, you are correct. However, once a ubfer displays disloyalty of any kind, what happens? In most of our cases, the real abuse begins at the sign of disloyalty.

      Was I wounded during my time in ubf? Not really. But the mind-numbing abuse and wolf-like nature of ubf directors is revealed in stunning detail during and after leaving.

    • Just want to quickly mention that we are all both the wounded shepherd and the wounded sheep. ps…i really don’t like this terminology at all but use it because it is the language used above….

    • @Dr. J: The answer to the rhetorical question at the end of your comment is that there is only one who can heal us. Clearly nothing we do can completely solve these problems that have hurt all of us. The only answer in this unfortunate situation is our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:57). For this reason I am very glad to have discussions such as with Vitaly’s article, “Jesus is Lord.”

      It is so true that people who confess Christ in this world face persecution and misunderstanding. It is because our Lord was rejected himself (John 15:20) and we follow in his footsteps. Many Korean missionaries have suffered misunderstanding because of their faith in Christ, love for God’s sheep and even from language and culture issues. All of us are wounded and hurt in this process as well, but not nearly as much as Jesus was for all of us. Some of the hurt experienced by those of us who have tried to help others in Christ may be “Jesus’ suffering” but some of it also is because of our own sin when we “sit on the throne of God.” It is hard for us sometimes to honestly and humbly differentiate between the two while trying to help others. Those of us in ministry may find it very difficult to deal with criticism due to our own mistakes and sins in the process of trying to help someone because we think we have the best of intentions. This has been true of many people in our regrettably rich Christian history of fighting and violence but UBF has definitely has its own unique manifestation of it.

      Actually it may be that the people who have made the most “mistakes” in our ministry are in fact quite wounded people themselves. Their wounds have in turn produced wounds in others. Those folks (including me) need healing through confession of sin and a fresh acceptance of his grace in Christ (1 John 1:9). Also if we are serious about our witness for Christ, we can extend grace to those who may have something against us. Then hopefully a cycle of Christ’s healing can happen rather than a never-ending cycle of wounding and criticism. Ultimately we can all come to Christ knowing that “by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

    • aw, though what you say is right, I think we’re missing an important aspect of the problem here, namely that the “sin of the shepherds” is not only an individual sin of directors in UBF who overstepped their authority in a way that it became abuse, but it is a problem of the whole shepherding/disciping paradigm in general, which is simply not healthy and in line with Biblical teachings. As long as this teaching is not renounced and clearly dismantled as heretical and dangerous, the abuse will inevitably continue or come back. From history we know that each and every shepherding/discipling movement eventually ran into the same problems, because the underlying teachings cause and downright provoke the sin of the sheep and shepherds explained in the article “authoritarianism in the church”. I really would like to see a discussion starting around this issue. It should be not so difficult, because such a discussion is not about individual sins of individual persons (though these may serve as examples), but about general principles and a general understanding of the term “shepherd” and “disciple” in the Bible. I think such a discussion would be very fruitful. So far I have the impression that many UBF members still think of shepherding/discipling as something positive or at least consider it a viable alternative to what ordinary churches do. But then, please let’s have a discussion why you think UBF should be so different and the only movement where this paradigm should not lead to spiritual abuse? Should UBF people be immune against these things? Isn’t rather the opposite the case, that UBF is even particularly susceptible to the sins and dangers inherent in the shepherding/discipling paradigm, due to its rootedness in Korean Confucianism?

    • Chris, + 1. This is the discussion I would like to have.

    • Chris,

      “…please let’s have a discussion why you think UBF should be so different and the only movement where this paradigm should not lead to spiritual abuse?”

      I never said that I thought UBF is or should be related to the “paradigm” of shepherding as you’ve defined it. Like you, I think that the kind of “shepherding movement” whereby one person fully trusts and obeys another is not clearly Biblical. If we use the word “shepherd” it should be in the context meant for people in the church (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2). The attributes of that kind of shepherding have been discussed by Ben Toh (and others) accurately on numerous occasions. That kind of shepherding includes compassion, prayer, Biblical advice and being an example for others. It excludes authoritarianism of all kinds including the kind rooted in Korean Confucianism.

    • aw, don’t you think that the verses you mentioned are directed to those within the church who have a special pastoral calling, and that to create an environment where everyone is pressured to perform this task is problematic to say the least? (The stated purpose of the ISBC is to renew our calling to campus mission) I think this discussion leads to another which is vital….are we are church, or are we a discipleship/shepherding parachurch? You can’t have it both ways in my opinion. And if we are a parachurch, you must allow members the freedom to go to church! You can’t call yourself a church, and call everyone to a specific kind of mission at the same time. And frankly, i need to go church…a place where all who experience the grace of Jesus are called to the high calling of living out this grace in many different ways.

    • Sharon,

      Both of those passages I quoted were addressed to elders in the church. And, yes, it seems that one should have a pastoral calling to help others from their own volition (“because you are willing”) in Christ. The expression of “pure love” you mentioned below is beautiful and is exactly my take on the motivation behind what we do / who we are. Without that, we are a resounding gong, a clanging symbol or worse.

      I see us as a church that serves communities. One of our strong points has been and is campus ministry but it is not exclusively that. Moreover, while 1:1 Bible study is a really excellent way to help people, some of us are more called to that than others. I am very thankful for people who use their God-given talents in other ways to build up the church as well. I feel very fortunate that I came to Christ and have been blessed not only through a Bible teacher but also through the love, service, prayers and simple friendships of people who might not be recognized as great Bible teachers.

      “…living out his grace in many different ways.” Thank you, we have failed to do that too many times but I hope we can do better to live out his grace.

    • aw, I trust that you understand what Biblical “shepherding” really means. But the problem is that many (if not most) in UBF do not understand what it means. There are some very important differences between Biblical shepherding and UBF style shepherding. These differences are not only in the conduct of the shepherd, but also his self-understanding. As long as a shepherd believes a sheep somehow “belongs” to him, as long as he sees himself the “personal pastor” of the sheep (http://www.slm.org/trtdigst/articles/ppastors.html), as long as he speaks of “my sheep” instead of “Jesus’ sheep”, he is on the wrong track.

      “Both of those passages I quoted were addressed to elders in the church.”

      Exactly! And this is not coincidental, but because the words “shepherds” and “elders” are actually synonyms in the Bible (see the book “Biblical shepherding” by Alexander Strauch). In UBF however, a shepherd is something different from an elder (traditionally, most UBF chapters did not even have elders). According to the Bible, the shepherds should always watch together over the whole flock. This avoids that one single shepherd takes credit for “raising” one sheep. In 1Cor 3:4 Paul makes it very clear that we should not employ such “personal shepherding”. All the shepherds together, not a single one, help the sheep, and even then, the credit must go to God alone (1 Cor 3:6-7).

      Unfortunately, the shepherding/discipling paradigm entails some more elements which are simply wrong, e.g. the idea that sheep need a human “discipler” who “raises” them like parents raise children, and “trains” them like a drill sergeant, even in humiliating ways in order to make them more humble and obedient. All these things must clearly be named as wrong, and it must be admitted that UBF, and first and foremost SL, favored and employed all these teachings. Unless we are able and willing to clearly name and frame what is wrong, how can we have meaningful and lasting change?

    • Thanks Chris for your insightful comments. I very much like the what you said about all shepherds working together with all credit going to God alone. In fact I’ve seen that work far more effectively even in UBF than “personal shepherding.”

      The things you indicated were sometimes issues in how some shepherding was done in the past within UBF and it still exists to some extent. It may vary some by UBF chapter.

      SL did many things right and I can tell you from my personal experience that he generally respected my space and that I did not really fear him. He gave me some solid Biblical teaching as well. However, there were times when he stepped over the line.

      The GD, the elders and some senior staff are praying about this and working to address these issues even now. Thank you for your advice on this subject.

    • “SL did many things right and I can tell you from my personal experience that he generally respected my space and that I did not really fear him.”

      The problem is that we have many reports of cases, starting from 1976, where he grossly and extremely overstepped his limits and became abusive and humiliating. Some of his “training methods” which he was proud of resembled physical or mental torture. It does not matter much that he did not “generally” do this to you or some others who are still in UBF. Of course he did not abuse everyone to the same amount. We all know that. I have become particularly sensitive to the argument “I personally did not experience what you’re talking about, so it’s not problem for me”. I hope you don’t think like that, but I have seen this attitude often enough and it always seems to shine through all defenses I am reading here, and it always makes me upset. In the church there should be no SEP” (Someone Else’s Problem) – if one member suffers, all suffer together.

      The other problem is that SL not only practiced personal shepherding, but taught and prescribed this as a mandatory regulation for every member. You can’t be in UBF without having a shepherd. Now is the time where UBF must renounce this teaching, and that explicitly.

  24. Thanks Dr. J. Welcome to UBFriends! I love what you wrote and shared. I hope that you can share with many others what you wrote here, beginning in your own UBF chapter.

    Your questions are truly excellent! “Don’t you think we should hold classes that can teach humanity, biblical ethics, ministerial ethics and basic counseling skills for those who prepare themselves as shepherds? Or shouldn’t we make personal shepherd or ministerial ethic codes as a qualification of a shepherd or minster, so that we can minimize the possible mishaps?”

    Thanks again.

  25. Since I stopped trying to live as a shepherd, I find a pure love in my heart that can only be the love of Christ. There is something wrong with this paradigm. I am sure of this.

  26. Shepherd and sheep relationship is a beautiful metaphor that also refers to the relationship between Jesus and believers. However, I deeply understand why such a beautiful terminology brings allergic reaction to many. I myself should define about shepherding based on Scripture. I will give up ministry expectation and what tradition set. And I wish I can shepherd over people as a my confession of faith and love for Christ.

  27. Ditto Sharon. My situation actually cripples my regular activity in normal UBF routine. That being said, where I am is different from other UBF chapters. I still teach students as I can, but my activity in other areas has been greatly reduced.

    The shepherding/disciping paradigm is sure to have problems. One must be led to faith through God’s word and the Bible, but that does not mean subverting that person’s life – as one over another. As the video Ben just posted reflects that good intentions can not please God and do nothing for building a relationship with Jesus. Only letting the self trust in God and embracing that unique and imperfect person will help to establish anyone in faith. Discipling does not allow for God’s time, nor does it allow anyone to truly be unique. It rather forces time afforded by the goal set by the leader. What is your 2, 5, 15 year plan anyone?

  28. David Bychkov

    Hi Sharon!
    As you’ve mentioned church/parachurch issue I would like to suggest you and others this document from lausanne movement, which was writte by Johh Stott and others: http://www.lausanne.org/en/documents/lops/67-lop-24.html
    The UBF is different from ordinary church and parachurch, but some basic definitions from this document can be helpful.

    • David Bychkov

      I found Appendix B as helpful. For example there stated the difference in structures:

      The Church

      1. God’s creation
      2. Spiritual fact
      3. Cross-culturally valid
      4. Biblically understood and evaluated
      5. Validity determined by spiritual qualities and fidelity to Scriptures
      6. God’s agent of evangelism and reconciliation
      7. Essential
      8. Eternal
      9. Divine revelation
      10. Purpose to glorify God

      Para-Church Structures
      1. Man’s creation
      2. Sociological fact
      3. Culturally bound
      4. Sociologically understood and evaluated
      5. Validity determined by function in relation to mission of the Church
      6. Man’s agents for evangelism and service
      7. Expendable
      8. Temporal and temporary
      9. Human tradition
      10. Purpose to serve the Church

      How those to can go together? What would we have if combine them together? However seems like in history the examples of this combination could be found. I think that’s really interesting topic.

    • Thank you David, this is so helpful. It clarifies so well what I have come to believe. I’m not sure you can/should combine the two. Seems to me that if you do you end up with what Bonhoeffer warned against in Life Together. It seems to me that the parachurch would always be a corrupting influence on the church if not kept separate and subordinate.

    • I agree with Sharon that it’s not possible to combine this, at least not in one organization. But Campus Crusade and some other groups show that it is possible to combine them as separate organizations. If you work for Campus Crusade, you are still member of a local church. That way, many people from different churches come together and can learn from each other. The church should stay the church, and those in the church who feel appointed to do some more mission or evangelization on the campus, can cowork with Campus Crusade or other organizations as long they have the time and energy. Some will stop doing campus mission or focus on something different when they have a family. Some others who maybe are still working at the university, may want to stay and still engage in campus ministry. All should be natural and everybody should do what they can do best, using and developing their talents and spiritual gifts, and according to their own decision, without neglecting their family and spiritual, mental and physical health.

    • aw, It is not just for the health of individuals and families, it is for the health of the organization and church as a whole. If we do not clearly define this, then those who choose another path are always considered “second class”. This is NOT right.

  29. “I see us as a church that serves communities”. This is a good vision, aw, but in my opinion we are far from this. Perhaps in some larger chapters there is a beginning of this kind of broad vision and maturity. But for the most part, UBF is still defined narrowly and struggles to keep it’s focus on UBF tradition…raising campus shepherds. Regional directors and most elders and senior staff still keep this expectation alive and kicking. The ISBC has to keep it front and center. Some have indicated that each local chapter is given the freedom to define itself. This may be true to a limited extent. But what if a local chapter or family realizes that it cannot and should no longer try to function as a church? What if they decide to attend church? (as defined by appendix b above) Is there freedom to do this?

    • This is a topic worthy of more full discussion within the leadership of UBF. Campus ministry is very important. Thank God for campus ministry. However, as has been pointed out here, families are extremely important and we should be open to how God is leading us to the help people he brings to us.

      Yes it seems to me that there are instances where it may be necessary for the health of the individuals and the family to be part of a larger community of believers. In fact, we should strive to be part of a larger community of believers whether we are in UBF or not. There are wonderful friendships to be had and insights to be shared. God is working around us in many ways.

  30. For, as Frank Colquhoun says in his booklet The Fellowship of the Gospel, “It is possible to lay too much stress upon the ideal of fellowship and to create a false unity, lacking a secure and solid foundation in Christian doctrine … To strive for unity by going beyond the boundaries of truth is to manufacture a purely artificial fellowship.” But, “it is possible to go to the other extreme and to overemphasise the duty of ‘separation’ from anything and everything that is regarded as false, through a desire to create a pure church. No doubt, the motive that promotes such separation is admirable and reflects a passionate jealousy for the honour of God’s Holy Word; but it often results in a series of quite unnecessary and useless splits among Christian brethren and is accompanied, all too often, by a proud, intolerant and pharisaical spirit.”

    I don’t see UBF making much progress in overcoming either of these pitfalls. Do you?

    • Great questions. I do know that HQ recently hired a trained theologian as a staff member. Also we are continuing our relationships with some organizations outside of UBF. It is some progress but more is needed.

  31. big bear

    DAVID and Sharon I agree. UBF is a parachurch but acts like a chruch this is deceptive. The problem comes when families especially children are grown in such an environment. Everyone in Ubf is kind of forced to be a shepherd. This creates a rigid and judgmental environment and no love for God and the body of Christ. All I knew was Ubf other than Catholic church with its rituals and I saw great change in my life. My leaders always told me dont forget God grace and how we helped you. Told me I was sinning if I went to another church. I ran away a few times because I knew something was wrong with the system but I needed the structure coming from a broken home. God blessed me despite the many wrong teachings the leaders taught me. I wrote books and found little by little problems with trying to earn salvation through works. The year before everything fell apart I read many sermons from piper and charles stanley and others. The pressure is so great in Ubf on feeding sheep and building Ubf that the love of God is replaced with works. I saw it years ago but I was afraid to leave it was all I knew for 20 plus years. Ubf does more harm than good. Sharon like you I feel a great love for God and The pressure of all the works is replaced with grace. I at first felt guilty for loving my kids and taking many times to kings island. How my children suffered because I had to work heaven? Thank God I am family centered in Christ. Proud to be a father please nobody call me shepherd again. I cant wait to tell all in my new book.