Do We Need a Counselor?

cAfter leaving UBF ministry in 2011, one of the first things I noticed was that numerous former members (and some current members too) were going to see psychologists, psychiatrists or biblical counselors. One of the first things a pastor asked me in 2012 after sharing part of my story with him, was “Do you need counseling?” I had to admit, yes I do.

So far professional counseling has been cost prohibitive for the most part. However, during the past two years I found various sources of informal counseling at our church. I have gained a new appreciation for studying human behavior and for analyzing what factors might have caused someone or me to act or speak the way they do. I also found that counseling is a normal requirement for Christian pastors. And our own pastor has been a tremendous source of healing, asking my wife and I questions without intruding into our boundaries. Here are my thoughts on what I’ve learned from various sources of counseling, in hopes that we may find another source of healing for our minds.

These topics below are not in any particular order. Nor are they categorized in any comprehensive way. These are just topics the Spirit has put on my heart and lessons I’ve been learning the past couple years on my own crazy, beautiful life journey following Christ.

So here are four healthy exercises for our minds that I’ve learned so far: define what spiritual abuse is, identify your primary value system, examine the identity someone gives you, and identify and respect personal boundaries. These are helpful both for ourselves and for our interaction with others.

What is spiritual abuse?

“abuse” means multiple things, but the definition from Merriam-Webster that fits for me is this: improper or excessive use or treatment, as in drug abuse. “spiritual” means relating to the spirit and more specifically the bible in this case. So “spiritual abuse” in my mind is:

An improper and/or excessive use of the bible as treatment for the problems of a person.

What are my primary values?

What do we value? Our value system will determine a lot about how much control someone can have in our life. And the value system of the church you are in will determine how much leeway there is for spiritual abuse to happen. In the ubf context, the “spiritual abuse” is expressed through authoritative control, usually involving bible verses: behavior, information, thoughts and emotions.

The prime values of ubf are typically expressed as loyalty, obedience, submission and mission (which is ambition often). More specifically, I’ve identified the following values of many ubf directors:

  • Etiquette – Learn the proper ubf rituals and learn to speak the ubf language.
  • Filial piety – Respect and obey your shepherd and be thankful to your new spiritual family for your entire life.
  • Benevolence – Be gracious always to all people with no negative words.
  • Loyalty – Be loyal to your leadership.
  • Nobility – Be the best and elite soldiers of Christianity.

These values are then bound to bible verses and used to conform ubf members to an ideal standard called “shepherd”. Non-conformance to this identity or to those values is dealt with through special training to bring people back inline.

Who am I?

Our new pastor explained that while the “shepherd” concept in ubf is perhaps one expression of Christian identity, it is not your specific Christian identity. The spiritual abuse in ubf is most easily seen by realizing that the ubf ideology is meant to instill one specific Christian identity on all people, ignoring what God may have uniquely designed for that person.

One of the themes of our nine month study group with our pastor was personal identity. Who am I? is a fundamental question that changes throughout the seasons of life. Any leader who does not continually evaluate this question is prone to fall into stagnation and faulty leadership. To be healthy in our mind, we need to discover and hold onto our personal narrative, the narrative we tell about our life with no input from others.

What are my boundaries?

From Dr. Henry Cloud, I also learned that one way to identify this invisible abuse is to realize personal boundaries. Our emotions tell us when those personal boundaries have been intruded upon. Anger, for one, tells me that something contradictory to my idea of justice has been violated. Whether I am right or wrong about that would need to be investigated, but at least I can start to identify the contradiction.

Follow-up questions:

What is your definition of “spiritual abuse”? What have you learned from a counselor lately?


  1. “Spiritual abuse” is when the shepherd, Bible teacher, or chapter director functionally and practically becomes the Holy Spirit to the person.

    The “spiritual abuser” (shepherd) practically and functionally becomes your god, your judge, your evaluator, your object of fear, your feeling of guilt, your source of approval, your need for his commendation, permission, blessing, etc. Thus, you are not truly “free in Christ” but a slave to a system advocated by your shepherd.

    • When leaving ubf I found out that I had been “a slave to a system” but surprisingly the director thought that I was even more than a slave I thought I had been. He said such a thing to me, “What?! Do you think that you can do something YOUSELF WITHOUT OUR BLESSING?!”. I was shocked by the question. SURELY I CAN LIVE WITH JESUS AND DO MANY THINGS JESUS CREATED ME FOR WITHOUT UBF MISSIONARIES BLESSING!

    • Mark Mederich

      I for one have had enough “failure to find/respect Holy Spirit” religion in world history: from now on Holy Spirit first/religion second (Oh Holy Spirit redeem our
      religion so it matures us in Christ & bears Holy Spirit fruit unto God’s glory alone with thanks to God alone! Amen. Hallelujah!)

  2. I think you are right Ben. The question that keeps bouncing around in my mind is this: If the Spirit is our Counselor why would we need human counselors? And thus why do I say we do not need human director or shepherds?

    I think it is clear that we all need help of some kind from each other, which is something the body of Christ is even encouraged to do. We can and ought to exhort each other from time to time.

    I think one answer is in the goal of our advice or counseling. What is the purpose of counseling? If we aim to subject the other person to my ideas, then I would say we’ve failed.

    I learned a wonderful definition of one goal of professional advising from the academic world: The goal of an academic advisor is to make students into peers who can challenge and defend themselves, even doing greater things than the advisor.

    I heard this from the PhD advisor for one my good friends (yes he too was a longtime 10+ year ubf leader who left in 2011). When my wife and I attended his PhD graduation party, hosted by his advisor, his advisor welcomed my friend into the academic world as a fellow academic and peer.

    Now, my friend has far less experience than his advisor. But his advisor considers him a peer who stands on his own, after just 5 or so years!

    Yet this same, brilliant friend was treated as a substandard shepherd in ubf, a complainer and troublemaker who was just bitter and whose wife was not able to make it in ubf.

    This is the horrible result of directing someone’s life (as ubf does) in order to preserve the ubf heritage and the honor and glory of the ubf directorship.

  3. I’d like to re-visit the recent report I mentioned a while back.

    What kind of counseling is being given to all US Korean ubf missionaries?

    1. Implant your Korean values in the US. “This report was meaningful and special with all the U.S. missionaries and many prayers for ISBC.” All the US Korean missionaries were flown back to Korea to have a “meaningful and special” time. Why? Why go back to Korea for this? Why not learn and adapt to America?

    2. Forget about why leaders are leaving and focus on fishing. “The first speaker, David Kim, planted faith in all attendants with his pioneering spirit and life. He testified that God raised disciples of Jesus when his family pursued persistent fishing ministry in the U.S. campus by faith.”

    3. Your ubf mission is for life and can never be given up until death. “We learned his shepherd heart, pioneering spirit, and never-giving-up spirit when he testified that he pioneered another campus, Indianapolis, newly in his 53 age after succeeding to raise many disciples of Jesus in DuPage.”

    4. Have a black and white testimony, bad before ubf, good afer ubf. “The second speaker, Daniel Kim, testified how the hope of resurrection in Jesus ministered to him and saved him. He was once lost when his parents died due to carbon monoxide used for the house heating. Jesus called him out of from his great sorrow and raised him with the hope of his resurrection. When he accepted his calling and obeyed it humbly, God blessed his mission life in the U.S.

    5. When you are a ubf loyalist, you will get a good job and life in the US. “Caleb Park and Philip Won are in their 30’s. When they sought God’s kingdom first, God blessed their study and gave a professor job in the U.S. campus despite global financial depression. They testified that God is living and the word of God has such power.

    6. Your value in life and value to God depends on your performance. “The last speaker, Isaac Kim, testified about the power of the word of God through his 40 years of missionary life. When he grew up, his mom always mentioned, “Why did I give you a birth?” However, when he studied Bible in UBF, Genesis 1:31 spoke to him so powerful that he finally found the purpose of his life and his life has been changed accordingly. He went to the U.S. as a missionary by faith holding the word of Romans 1:5 after realizing that the life as an attorney in Korea has lots of risks. God established a 36 house-churches, 120 adults and 120 children through him when he simply obeyed the power of the word of God throughout 30 years of mission life.”

    So why does anyone think anything will change in ubf in light of this event that just happened?

    ubf Korean missionaries are just re-doubling their efforts to do the same as always, believing ubf ministry is still possible and God’s best way, and still to this day ignoring the crisis in their ministry: “This mission report powerfully reveals that God is living and still works in people’s heart through his words. Not only God’s words saved each missionary’s life from their desperation, but also the word of God fed even American students and raised them as disciples of Jesus. The audience learned that raising disciples of Jesus was not easy everywhere, but there was nothing impossible in God’s words. Afterwards, Korean UBF president David Kim announced and we poured out our hearts into prayers for ISBC. I pray that we may believe in the power of the word of God and serve God’s work with the word of God powerfully.”

  4. @MarkM: Check out the “100th anniversary” hall in the picture in my link above. Guess where the ubf offering money has been going? I was in Korea. I saw the magnificent temple-like centers they are building these days! There is no more “manger ministry” in Korea ubf, but glorious buildings with beautiful stones.

  5. @Brian. “The goal of an academic advisor is to make students into peers who can challenge and defend themselves, even doing greater things than the advisor.”

    Sorry to point out that in UBF it seems to be that the shepherd ALWAYS wants to keep his sheep UNDER him. I heard that one chapter director refused to allow his sheep to go out and start another UBF chapter. This chapter director was the sheep’s shepherd. The “sheep” is now over 60 years old, and has been a sheep under his “shepherd” for 35 years from his 20s! This is cute and quite funny.

    • “in UBF it seems to be that the shepherd ALWAYS wants to keep his sheep UNDER him.”

      Correct. And I’m not sorry to point this out. And Lord willing, I will point this out publicly for 20 more years. Good Christian men and women found this out in Toledo since 1990. At least 6 fully qualified capable men were groomed to take over the leadership, only to be shot down and driven out of the ministry. None of those men are in ubf any longer even though one of them was the 1st American “fished” in ubf, the “ancestor of ubf sheep”.

      All I can say to a 60 year old man who obeys a ubf shepherd like that is: you might as well just eat your own vomit. There is nothing cute or funny about that.

    • I read that the Korea ubf director brought to SL coffee during three+ years. I thought it was not a healthy thing. But the director publicly thanked for Lee’s coffee training. So when I expressed my opinion to our chapter director, he answered, “You have no right to question SL’s authority and training. SL was right for the Korea director now thanks him”.

      I don’t know but from the outside it looks really strange. I think that the same way strange thing was when MV received a training from Koreans in order to become the US ubf coordinator. Maybe it is cute and funny but it sends a clear message to young people who are still in ubf “guys, you will be trained by your ubf shepherd your whole life! you better believe this!”

    • Mark Mederich

      maybe he’ll be ready to pioneer when he is 100!

  6. Mark Mederich

    Brian, thanks for writing this excellent article: just one note, is Benevolence global in all relationships or just with public/peers? (but private unbenevolence sometimes toward underlings/family?); just trying to help paint clear view..

    • Mark, I don’t understand your question. Would you clarify?

    • Mark Mederich

      I mean are directors really benevolent all the time, or just in public?
      (are they less kind “behind closed doors?”

    • @Mark, just saw this…hard to keep up with the comments here these days!

      “I mean are directors really benevolent all the time, or just in public? (are they less kind “behind closed doors?”

      Ah ok, I understand your question now. The answer is YES, they less kind “behind closed doors. They are mostly just benevolent in public or in the presence of others.

      If ubf directors are in a space that they cannot control, such as this website, they predictably act “nice” and “kind”. Don’t get into a situation where the director has control.

      How would you think such a kind, sweet SB would act behind closed doors? Anyone wish to reveal that? How do you think the noble, “gentlemen” of ubf act behind closed doors?

      I’ll just stick with my answer of “YES” and leave it at that. I sat behind those closed doors for 24 years, so I consider myself to have a PhD in how ubf directors act behind closed doors.

      Let’s just say if you go to meet a ubf director or director’s wife follow these simple guidelines.

      1. Do NOT go alone!
      2. Do NOT go alone!
      3. Do NOT allow your wife to meet separately from you. Go with your wife or husband!
      4. Keep the door open!
      5. Do NOT go alone!

    • Oh and also demand a written document of the meeting minutes. Then demand that the EXACT, unfiltered minutes be emailed to many leaders. ubf directors HATE those things because such thing call them into account and they cannot act the way they want to act. And if all else fails, send me an email and I will send it to my list of 200 ubf directors and leaders. {Note to ubf: go ahead and sue me. Please. And do it quickly.]

    • Brian, I cannot agree anymore to the 5 simple guidelines while meeting a ubf director or his wife. Especially about no 3, if your spouse is a Korean, you need to be extra careful. There were many attempts of brain washing my wife. She was indoctrinated before our marriage to support the director whenever there would be any conflict between the director and the native-husband, even if the director would be clearly at fault. I think it was MY, the famous former UK ubf director, who taught her such scrap during the missionary training. But no matter how much brain washings have been attempted, I kept joking to which she agrees that I have been so far good at making her brain dirty again :)

    • Mark Mederich

      of course, “big minded” people can never take the blame themself, gotta blame person or wife or somebody..

    • Mark Mederich

      “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
      Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto—upon learning that the Japanese Declaration of War had not been delivered prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

      secretly ganging up on Americans was not left unpunished

    • “Secretly ganging up on Americans…”

      Good point Mark. Always a bad idea..

    • “She was indoctrinated before our marriage to support the director whenever there would be any conflict between the director and the native-husband, even if the director would be clearly at fault. I think it was MY, the famous former UK ubf director, who taught her such scrap during the missionary training.”

      My wife was told exactly the same by PK, the famous CIS director. This is not some individual directors doing strange things, but a general pattern of false teachings.

      In fact, my wife had to meet every week with my chapter director in his UBF office, while I was at work. He let her share her sogam to him (even though she had to share it at the public meeting and before her shepherdess anyway). When she became more and more reluctant to meet with him, my chapter director told me to push her. And guess what, I even did that, telling her to write her testimony more diligently and visit the director, believing I needed to help her spiritually doing so.

      An ex missionary from my chapter told me later that the director did that even with the Korean wives. He wanted to be considered their spiritual counsellor/husband/father and let them share any problems with him, not with their real husbands. The missionary called this “spiritual adultery”.

    • Yes the wife of my director always used to say that if he left ubf she never would. She often said such things to my wife, so much that my wife told me the same words often. Thank God my wife rejected such hogwash in the end. Marriage in ubf is only transactional in nature :(

    • Mark Mederich

      either the issue is inferiority complex or superiority complex, if the latter it must be immediately repented of

      if someone thinks they own/control everything for their own use/purpose they risk losing everything

    • “Yes the wife of my director always used to say that if he left ubf she never would.”

      This is a common idiom in UBF, started by John Jun who said “even if SL left UBF, I would still stay”. The phrase is used to expressed your absolute loyality to UBF.

  7. It is hard to comment without saying ditto! I will add on that by submitting to the human element in UBF instead of the Holy Spirit we unwittingly allow ourselves to get bogged down in an unwritten code. So, what we know and understand to be the Holy Spirit prior to our relationship with a shepherd, Bible teacher and chapter director gets distorted.

    As Vitaly said in the previous article: When we say, “I just thought….” We are told not to think. Thinking under traditional UBF leadership is stopped. So are your natural instincts. How many of us had been successful at taming ourselves because we had adapted to the environment?

    The one sided relationship of Bible study requires counseling afterwards, because after one person submits themselves to another for any amount of time damage is possible. Although, I am still in the ministry I already went through my withdrawal period. Several years ago I went through a breakdown. During that time I saw how isolated and broken I was. As a result I began to allow myself only very basic activities in UBF. It was my own way of healing, because I felt a meaninglessness and emptiness from all of the activities. I did not concern how others perceived my faith so long as I still felt the presense of God in my life.

    As for personal counseling, I have never had it. Maybe I should, I don’t know. I have been pseudo counseled in UBF, but that doesn’t count. I would say simply that the primary goal of a counselor in any area of your life is to lead you in the best way for your life. Many ubfers will read Brian’s article and think he is crazy because Bible study with your shepherd is the only counsel you need. This is wrong! UBF shepherds, Bible teachers and chapter directors have their own interests at hand which are often works driven lives that justify their time spent. This is not the interest of the one in need.

    I don’t want to work my way to God, I want a relationship with God. Similarly, I do not want a superior military officer, I want a counselor in whom I can trust my best interests and my spiritual well being. One aspect of God’s grace upon us is his desire to know us. The Holy Spirit is not dependant on a human shepherd.

    • “Several years ago I went through a breakdown.”

      Yes, gc, I did too. I had at least 5 breakdowns while in ubf. Here is how I dealt with them over the course of 24 years…

      1. 1989 – I broke down when my father died > my response was to adopt ubf shepherds as my true family.

      2. 1992 – I broke down just before I graduated college > my response was to go to Russia as a ubf short-term missionary.

      3. 1994 – I broke down when I wanted to marry > my response was to accept ubf MbF.

      4. 2003 – I broke down when I reached the ceiling of the ubf system > my response was to go to Detroit as a pioneering house church

      5. 2011 – I broke down when I saw the pain of my friends and my own neglect of my wife and family > my response was to resign from ubf in protest and become a vocal critic

      So I already tried all the ubf suggested ways to deal with breaking down. Finally, my soul could not take it any more. I am now seeking healing and reality.

  8. Brian, a nice word “leeway” in the article. At first I thought, is it lee way – a way of lee?

    “how much leeway there is for spiritual abuse to happen”. This might have a relevant meaning in the ubf context. I may even suggest to rename “ubf” for “leeway” ))

    And the song would be much shallower and sadder if replace “my way” with “lee way”. While you are in ubf you have to do everything “lee way”.

  9. This song describes a lot of my feelings during those 24 years. I am awake now :)

  10. Hey Brian! You should prepare a list of songs that you feel appropriate and then post it as an article. There are already at least a dozen covered across the articles. Also, you forgot to post the entire Pink Floyd The Wall album. I wish I could share more about my personal breakdown, but it has to be confidential for now.

    • “the entire Pink Floyd The Wall album”

      Yes indeed (though I’m not a Floyd fan :) Most of P!nk’s songs lately though apply directly to me and my breakdowns.

    • Mark Mederich

      “We’re nothing but bricks in the wall”: Pink Floyd song that always describes how we feel in the situations discussed here.

    • “We don’t need no thought control”. “The Wall” was one of my favorite albums in school time in 1980 or so. Who had guessed that I happily underwent thought control 10 years later. Actually I already knew that cult leaders come in sheeps’ clothing. But the cults I had heared of were so obvious that I became so arrogant to believe I would spot a fake sheepskin immediately. I still don’t know whether it was the quality of the forgery or just the brazenness and presumptuousness of the sham that fooled me. Luckily I finally was able to see what was going on underneath that sheepskin. And I’m glad to all of those who spoke up and also spoke about the ugly things in disregard of the UBF code of honor that pressures us to only talk about nice and “edifying” things. Sometimes things must not be edified, but dismanteld.

  11. Good idea, gc.

    I already shared my list of movies that helped me recover from ubf on my blog:

    Helpful movies

    And I also shared my emotional responses to ubf on my blog:

    Helpful songs

  12. The movie Tangled was most relevant. This is the scene that parallels a ubf sheep (Rapunzel) waking up to the abuse of their shepherd (the mother)…movies and music have been my counselling…

  13. Speaking of movies that bring healing…we should all watch The Dictator for a good laugh…:) James, watch this movie! Culture is not the main problem in ubf. We should be able to laugh at culture, as long as no one enforces their culture on someone else.

    Trailer: Dictator

    But then you cry as you realize some of the things in this movie were not a joke in ubf :/

    • I guess if Korean missionaries can spoof Gangnam Style at a UBF conference, then it is ok to post “worldly videos” here.

      Brian, the video below helped me chuckle quite awhile back when I encountered a particular unpleasant (non-UBF) situation. I am the running guy and my Christian interpretation is that the guy is praying on his knees and the fire represents the Holy Spirit! :)

    • Thanks for sharing aw. That video is a bit too morbid for my taste but I appreciate the story. And this is NOT a ubf website, so just about anything is allowed, pending our commenting policies, which I for one need to re-read again >.<

  14. And Chris mentioned this again just recently, but “Amazing Grace” was immensely healing for me…

  15. All men are created equal. God created all men equal. This indisputable biblical truth is found in the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address. It is also declared by William Wilberforce is his quest to abandon slavery.

    The equality of all men created in the image of God is the cry of every human being and the decry of every human being subject to bondage. The cry of every human being is for justice and righteousness, and it is the decry of every human being denied it.

    When authoritarian UBF leaders (who place themselves unequally above others) acknowledge this basic biblical truth, make restitution and seek reconciliation, then perhaps the Holy Spirit may be pleased to being a new history of UBF in the next 50 years.

    • Reminds me of my eighth grade book Animal Farm by George Orwell: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

    • Mark Mederich

      If only…Amen

  16. To answer the second question Brian’s article poses “What have you learned from a counselor lately?”:

    1) I am unacceptable, I am insufficient, I can’t measure up. Those words were the dominant lens through which I viewed myself, the people around me, and the Lord. The hyperactivity in UBF really appealed to me because it seemed like through it I could be disciplined and trained and grow so that I could become acceptable, sufficient, and measure up to please God. Everything I did–every testimony, every act of fishing, every sacrifice–was motivated to please the people around me and, in my own way, try to measure up to please God. But no matter what I did, I only felt all the more insufficient and unacceptable. What counsel did UBF counselors give me? Crank the ministry involvement up to the next level, and the next, and the next, until my soul was completely sucked dry. And yet the fundamental issue in my soul that drove me to UBF in the first place was left untouched.

    2) “You are acceptable to me, my precious son.” Through a 9 week course in my church, I heard the clear word of God through a time of healing prayer: “You are acceptable to me, my precious son.” I didn’t need to do anything or be anything or measure up to anything, and in fact I can’t, yet I am acceptable as God’s precious son (1 John 3:1). And as the truth of God’s unconditional love percolates into the deep recesses of my soul and uproots the lies through which I saw the world, there is such a comfortable satisfaction and peace that I can rest secure in my Father’s arms, and I no longer have to strive for His acceptance.

    To answer the first question: spiritual abuse is leading people to themselves and the works of religion rather than to the True Healer and Comforter of their souls.

    • Mark Mederich

      old movie (Cool Hand Luke) song: “I loaded 16 tons and what do I get, another day older & deeper in debt. St Peter don’t call me cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store”

    • Thanks for sharing Joshua. Your words (and everyone else’s too) bring a bit of healing to my mind and soul.

  17. big bear

    I believe every one who functions as a shepherd in UBF probably needs counseling..the problem lies is when you do go to do you explain to a counselor how you been living in the UBF will have to go through much counseling…save yourself a bunch of money and get out and go to a healthy church that believes in family and not in works…or you can stay until you lose your mind and your family and all your life savings…the choice is yours…from a man who was finally freed after 29 plus years…I was very blessed to finally be released but it took at total breakdown to help me to see the truth I ignored for all those years…truthfully, I was so scared of counselors because how can I explain to them that my Pastor told me to stop seeing my son after Bible study…he told me my son was my Ishmael…and I believed it because I was naive and I trusted him because he was a man of God..please seek other pastors out and see if what you learned from your shepherd is true theologically…it may save you much future trouble…

    • Mark Mederich

      i think many families/kids have by damaged by works theology; the Holy Spirit has to rebuild lives; wasn’t religion supposed to help, not hurt; maybe religion has to be replaced by spiritual fellowship because the profit motive is just too much for man to handle

  18. Sometimes simple counseling is not enough, you need a real hiatus from everything. The Wellspring Retreat Center may be a good address for professional help, because these people know what they do. They have counseled many UBFers alerady, at least one of their officers has been a UBF shepherd. Their founder and former director was part of the Great Commision movement, which was also a part of the shepherding/discipling movement in the 1970s and 1980s. Former members of the GC movement made a website De-Commisioned where you can still find helpful material relevant to UBFers, because all such movements eventually and inevitably suffer from the same problems.

  19. Joe Schafer

    Yes, the Chief Operating Officer of Wellspring is a former UBF shepherd. He was a main speaker at the first SBC I attended at Niagara Falls in the early 1980’s. If UBF elders want to get serious about cleaning up abuse, I suggest that they invite John Wick to come to the Chicago UBF headquarters and speak to them about the effects of UBF shepherding practices on former members. I look forward to the day when he gets invited to be a main speaker at a UBF SBC once again. That would be real reconciliation!

  20. @Chris, thanks for the reminder about Wellspring. I may check that out actually.

    @big bear, yes, healthy Christian pastors are indeed a big help.

    @Joe: John Wick speaking at a ubf conference? Now THAT would be evidence of reconciliation! I don’t know much about him at all, but he visited Toledo once around 1990 or so. All I was told was “JohnW. is crazy and evil. Don’t ever talk to him.” Now I think we should meet…

  21. Joe Schafer

    If you do contact him, please ask if he would be willing to write an article for this website.

    • I was thinking the same thing. And I will contact him soon. Maybe he can help with the “Reconciliation and Relief Fund” organization.

  22. Joe Schafer

    Historical note (Brian, I’m sure you already know this): John W was part of the original Columbus UBF chapter at Ohio State University. That chapter severed its ties with UBF and became an independent church called Living Hope Fellowship. It would be good for someone to document in a fair and balanced way how and why they left UBF.

    • Thanks Joe, facts like these are an important part of counseling. I knew most of that. But I did not know about Living Hope Fellowship.

      I do have a copy of the letter Toledo UBF sent to Columbus UBF just before Columbus UBF dissolved. I wonder if I should post it to see who responds…

      It is the same b——t letter and thinking that I had to deal with in 2011. The letter covers up all kinds of facts and expresses how much Toledo UBF desired to “help” and “bless” Columbus UBF.

      This all happened around 1990 I think, about the time James Kim’s family was forced out and mistreated.

    • The director of the Columbus chapter was Peter Chang (not to be confused with the Peter Chang from Bonn UBF). He was a friend of James Kim from Toledo (not to be confused with the James Kim who is the UBF president now) and supported him, that’s why he was also expelled from UBF.

    • Mark Mederich

      those who expel, shall be expelled

  23. big bear

    Brian…if anyone gets a hold of John Wick…I would like to speak with him…I know he talked to my brother years ago about UBF…got answer from Chicago UBF they want to sweep what happen to my family under a rug…pushed me off on local chapter when the root is in UBF headquarters…..again no accountability

    • Yes, I will definitely put you in contact when I get a reply. Sent an email today.

      “pushed me off on local chapter when the root is in UBF headquarters”

      Yes, exactly how they operate. If you are in Chicago area, you can see some small changes happening. Even today our friend JA is doing a teaching session.

      But happen to be in a satellite chapter outside of HQ? You are out of luck. The satellites can do whatever they want and HQ won’t step in, except to deliver the message “Stop struggling with inter-personal conflicts and do more 1:1 and fishing.”

      That is a big part of why I resigned in protest and closed down the Detroit UBF chapter. There is no accountability. HQ will 1) demand offering tithes 2) demand numbers of 1:1/SA reporting and 3) Offer to visit in order to support the enforcement of ubf heritage.

      Other than that, they are hands-off when it comes to anyone outside of their “jurisdiction”.

    • Translation: HQ UBF politely says “Go f yourself and leave us alone.” They even have the ECFA fooled. Notice how many satellite and non-US chapters proudly display the ECFA stamp of approval, along with the NAE stamp? That is in violation of the guidelines as far as I know (I may be wrong though).

      When I spoke to the ECFA last year about this, they decided to send someone to speak and train at the NA Staff conference. I wish they would do a full investigation into the satellite chapter and non-US money flow. Chicago may be in order but the satellites are likely not.

    • “The satellites can do whatever they want and HQ won’t step in.”

      In the past the HQ sometimes stepped in when a director started to deviate from the party line. For instance, Augustine Song in Moscow UBF was discharged (in a very inhumane and crooked way) and replaced by Stephen Kim, when he started to attend a seminary and cooperate with other churches.

      But regarding abuse, you’re right, no director has ever been held accountable or disciplined by the HQ. Quite to the contrary, complaints by members to the HQ were usually dismissed as slandering or swept under the carpet. The worst case for me was that even after members had written letters about the abuse they experienced, the media covered the scandal and the state attorney started investigations, and all other German directors complained about Peter Chang in Bonn, he was still praised by the HQ, made a ISBC speaker and later promoted to become the European director.

  24. big bear

    Yes. been swept under the rug by both Chicago and local chapter…but God knows and this they will be hold to account…meanwhile the hertiage continues and all who are a voice are swept under….meanwhile families suffer and casualities mount up….our family is stuck with over 30,000 in fees for counseling and hospital stay and our family has been torn..but where is the love of God…..local chapter tells us to leave….Hq says we understand but dont bother us…….now I witness that it is all about the hertiage….what hertiage…..making converts sons of hell….the catholic church does the same…..everyone is a lie but the no not the wonderful directors…….I have now closed this chapter

    • “I have now closed this chapter.”

      That’s what I told my wife essentially when I resigned from being director. Maybe we need to hear this more often…

    • Mark Mederich

      it’s all about the $, too often churches know how to take God’s $ for what they want, but not how to give God’s $ to those in need; people could learn to limit giving & maybe God will find a way to redistribute his wealth

  25. @AbNial. Since this has come up again, will anyone in UBF leadership embrace/accept, be silent about and not comment, or condemn such UBF teaching that the UBF wife, after marriage, must listen to/obey the UBF chapter director first, before listening to her husband?

    Will anyone else share that they heard such a thing told to their spouse? I remember several who have already shared this previously.

    Will such cultish heresy ever stop???

    • I shall add to what I stated in my very first comment here.

      First, when I prepared to marry I was always suspicious that one of many reasons the director had was to keep me in line since I speak up for myself and receive either direct or indirect consequences. Many know that it makes no difference to me.

      I have said that after entering our chapter at that time my wife suffered a lot. In fact I will point out something new. It appears that the director and his wife do not have great communication with each other. (I don’t really know how to describe it, nor will I slander them.) As a result all males had to defer to him and all females defer to his wife. It is not really clear sometimes that they actually shared with each other. It was not uncommon to witness him rebuke his wife sometimes in public space with juniors. Consequently, after some meetings those who understood Korean would feel uncomfortable because an argument about honour would take place.

      My wife suffered in both identities as a woman and a Christian. Nothing was clear and often times things that seemed normal and acceptable were not. (Her role as a shepherdess, as a wife, as a woman.) In fact, one example that struck her as really strange was that married women could not be backing support for opening worship. The directors wife demanded that she change her thinking (and desire to honour God). I cannot say why, because I cannot remember the explanation, but still if someone has desire to serve God as an expression of love it should be accepted. My wife had been in a couple of chapters as I have by now, so her experience with variance in the ministry is great – but even she could not do anything correctly without experiencing difficulties at the hand of the director’s wife. The power of the director however over my wife I would say made its primary advance to keep me in obedience.

      In terms of keeping loyalty to UBF and not your spouse it should be a separate article altogether. I remember when my shepherd was in crisis – to stay or leave – everyone blamed his wife and some even said to me personally that if they had that situation they would just walk away from their wife. History shows that they pioneered. First, of all I was a sheep at the time – what kind of talk is that? What message do you want to convey to someone who still has not made a commitment to your organization? Think before you speak.

      I want to know what message these relationships send to the children. We are all expressing our observations, experiences and feelings as outsiders who joined and adjusted to the environment. But, what do the children and teenagers rationalize from what they see? When they look at their parents what do they see? If they are made aware of strange behaviours how does that mold them? Also, are they subject to the same behaviours? The children are often described not as children, but as Bible students and sheep – what is the consequence in how they have been socialized in UBF? I am not asking if they felt loved or not, I am asking that by somehow and way we address the development and growth of children in UBF. I know that in a big chapter the children can actually be well hidden from many things, aside from the basic complaints, but in smaller chapters the children often form relationships – friendships with the sheep and consequently are that much closer to what is happening to define relationships in UBF.

      I hope this is a clear comment – but I sort of became inspired to address another issue.

  26. Yes, Ben, “such cultish heresy” is present in ubf worldwide. I don’t think that you could possibly find a ubf chapter with no such practice. I’ll share my former director’s doctrine on this:

    “The wives must obey and serve the servants of God first then their husbands and families. How can you imagine to be blessed by God if you first obey and serve your husbands?! You will never be blessed by God! Never! You will be cursed!”.

    btw, when he daily rebuked natives for the “lack of sheep” he used to say, “You are not shepherds! You are cursed! I say, you are cursed!”. I suppose that the word “cursed” was the most frequent in our chapter.

  27. And btw he always compared himself to PK of Kiev and said that he was much more liberal than PK )) In 2001 our director and PK were the most zealous defenders of ubf heritage. They said that the reformers were not right because “they think that sheep can grow themselves without training. We will devote ourselves to making disciples through continuous training”.