LeBron James Takes Responsibility

LeBronIn Game 3 of the NBA Finals (6/11/13), San Antonio beat Miami by 36 points, which is the third worst loss in NBA Finals history. After such a humiliating blowout loss LeBron James said, “If I’m better, we’re better. I’m putting everything on my chest and my shoulders. I’ve got to be better. I’m not doing my part. I am owning everything that I did.” That is a man and a leader. He took full personal responsibility for the loss: “I put everything on me. I own everything.” He could have easily and justifiably said, “We lost because we didn’t play well as a team.” Anyone who watched the game knows that the whole team played poorly. But LeBron did not blame his team. A man and a leader takes full personal responsibility. Though I do not like LeBron, he gained my respect and admiration when he took responsibility rather than blame others, or make excuses.

This is moving to me because the Bible NEVER gives any wiggle room for making excuses, for blaming others, for being evasive, for not telling the truth, for slander and gossip, for justifying, rationalizing, defending or covering up wrongdoing, and especially for not taking responsibility.

Once a junior UBF leader told me that their chapter director said, “My chapter is not growing because of YOU.” Did this chapter director take responsibility? Does he need to learn from LeBron and from the Bible about how to be a leader?

When one felt abused by their Bible teacher or chapter director, some share painfully what happened because of their inner agony. My sentiment is, “I’m so sorry this happened.” But the response heard from UBF is silence, or “There is another side to the story.” Is this taking responsibility?

For sure UBF takes responsibility for campus mission, which is good. But do we equally and urgently take (personal and corporate) responsibility for wrongdoing and spiritual abuses (which are now surfacing more and more)? Do we take responsibility for what is being said about UBF on Wikepedia (which anyone can now google to find out)?

Granted that it is hard to take responsibility when you fail (Gen 3:11-14). When I hurt my wife, it is hard for me to take responsibility that I have failed to adequately love my dear wife. But the mark of Christian maturity is humility. The evidence of humility is the ability to freely apologize and take responsibility for mistakes, errors, abuses and sins.

How has UBF been doing with regards to taking responsibility? Can we learn from LeBron?


  1. Sorry Ben, I have no capacity to even begin to process this or how to comment. At the ubf brother’s house we were forbidden from having a tv and often rebuked for being worldly when we tried to watch the NBA or NFL or HHL, etc.

    Plus I can’t stand the Miami Heat. All I can say is that I loved watching the blowout! I hope there is another one tonight. I think Lebron is half the man that Manu Ginobili is.

  2. I hear you Brian. I was (and probably still am) always regarded as the obviously shamelessly worldly sinner who loved sports and movies (and now cats!). But there seemed to be an unresolvable contradiction because I often had the most sheep.

    Some resolved the contradiction by saying that the only reason I was fruitful with many sheep was because SL attended and served my fellowship every week, and that all the sheep only came because of his good influence, prayer and faith.

    Thank God for my wonderful brothers (and sisters) who know how to keep me humble, which is a very good thing, by making sure that I get no credit at all for having many sheep (which incidentally is biblically absolutely correct!).

  3. Hi Ben, your continued effort to address accountability and ownership is a true reflection of your patience.

    May I illustrate an interesting point in the Bible? John 5 reveals a story and example that has always caused my attention to focus. Jn 5:5-6 read, “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'”

    This is one and I believe the only example where Jesus demands ownership of action in such a way. Usually, Jesus heals and is very graceful, creative. Often he instructs people to do something so they participate in the healing process. We know this man was depending on someone to do the work for him, that is clear in his answer, but it does not change the question that Jesus asked.

    How would UBF (corporate) reply to Jesus’ question? If the answer was ‘yes’ what would inhibit UBF from taking 100% ownership for its sin?

    The man wanted many others to carry him into the pool and to think of him first. Maybe UBF would claim that lack of faith and obedience in others is the cause for what has been happening for the past 50 year…

  4. @gc, I think there is a good, bad and worst answer to Jesus’ question: Do you want to get well?

    Good answer: Yes I want to get well, and take full responsibility.

    Bad answer: I am/we are not that sick. Others are more sick than I/we.

    Worst answer: Refuse to answer.

  5. btw, I am still rooting for San Antonio. But after LeBron’s humble response to losing Game 3 and taking personal responsibility, I sensed that he and his team would turn it around…and they did. Now unfortunately, they are favored to win.

    I guess that is what humility and taking responsibility does: You win!

  6. Maybe it is not much to the topic but I want to say that ubf “training” destroys responsibility of native leaders. In our chapter you might daily hear, “You, sweep the floor!”, “Take this mat out of here!”, “Bring that, bring this!”, “Report what you have done, do it fast, I am the director here and I make all the decisions according to your reports of what is where happening”, etc. But when submissive native leaders do this and do that, they receive rebukes that they did this and that badly (99,9%). The director says, “You swept the floor in a wrong way!”. “You are not able at fishing, I will teach you!”. “Your message is not ready yet, write it again”. Etc, etc.

    There is always dissonance in native leaders (at least it was so in me). I had eyes and I saw that e.g. the director is not able at fishing at all and has not fished anyone for the 17 years. At the same time he rebukes everyone and is going to teach you everything. If you bring him even a message of Piper or McArthur it would be “weak and not ready yet” if it is not at least the 4th version. Also ubf life teaches you that in whatever way you do this or that you will be rebuked. So you can not understand and cannot be sure you did the right thing. And after some years of such ubf training you won’t hurry to do anything at all not to mention to take responsibility for that.

    The tension grows very high at conference preparations. You have to spend 6 weeks or so of your vacation to do many things and to hear very many rebukes. I remember a CIS leaders conference in our city. 100% Koreans from CIS and 100 % Korean guests from all over the world came. (It is very strange that they are the leaders of CIS and in the world. The first CIS leaders conference in our city was in 1997 when I got married, the second one was 2004 and the same Koreans came as leaders)). A very long bus came up to the building of our center. Suddenly the director shouted at native shepherds that they are stupid and irresponsible because they didn’t take responsibility to go out and to say to the bus driver that he should take the bus up to the opposite side of the center. It was long ago but I remember the feeling, “dear leader, nobody is going to do this or that for you would rebuke us anyway, everybody fears to make the next step for surely it will be a ‘wrong’ one”. I worked very hard to serve that conference, the “leaders” smiled. But what was and is their attitude? It was and is, “Look, here is a “lowly junior”, a “stupid and irresponsible Russian””.

    a real dialogue:

    – “What’s your name?”
    – “I am Vitaly, nice to meet you!”
    – “And I am MR(!!).Park”

    • I witnessed this even in our small chapter. When a big shepherd from Korea came to visit, the missionaries were nearly unbearable with their bitter attention to details. This might be the result of painful abusive Asian education standards (I’ve heard some scary stories as a teacher of English as a Second Language). Definitely, I saw suddenly the unwritten expectations about where to sit, how to arrange the table, how to welcome people, and so on, took on epic proportions of readiness. Not to mention woefully irritable people.

      Somehow I don’t think people in Joppa and so on acted like this to Peter.

    • MJ Peace

      Your stories remind me of the Power Distance Index (PDI) which “shows the extent to which less powerful members of organizations accept and expect that power is distributed unequally…the distance between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’”’ -http://www.clearlycultural.com/geert-hofstede-cultural-dimensions/power-distance-index/

      Basically, Germany scored a 35. The US scored a 40, but South Korea scored a 60. In South Korea, the difference between authority and subordinates is quite large. (This is also clear from the Korean language, which is also hierarchical, but I don’t know Korean, I’ve just read about it.) I think in UBF, culture is one of the biggest influences and that is why it stays a predominantly Korean organization. By the way, the aforementioned website is interesting because it also compares different countries scores on individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance index and long-term orientation.

    • As a Malaysian, I am shocked that Malaysia PDI is #1 at 104! I never would have guessed that. It is perhaps because it is a Muslim nation.

  7. “You swept the floor in a wrong way!”

    You chapter director was clearly a bit extreme. Our director was more friendly and subtle. He even gave the impression to be your friend. But then out of a sudden he could also shout or do things like cancel you marriage. He knew very well that he needed to execute such blowoffs only rarely, and that he could maintain his authority more efficiently when appearing friendly. I never heared him saying things like “You swept the floor in a wrong way!” But on the other hand I also never saw him sweeping the floor like nearly everybody else did. Korean directors will not do such things because they believe they will lose authority if they do “lowly” things. Our director did not even type his own messages (he had several “secretaries” for typing), and let subordinate missionaries and shepherds do the lowly things like xerox copy his lectures and questionnaires every week, maintaining the copier which was always defect etc. Even though he knew these people were busy with university study, day jobs with long commute times, fishing and making 1:1 with sheep, all of which the director did not do, and even though he got a monthly salary from offering money, he delegated all lowly office and janitor work to others. Still he was called the servant of God, and this title was attributed somewhat exclusively to him in our chapter. It is obvious that Korean chapter directors do not understand at all what servanthood means, even though they talk so much about it. It is as if they never read John 13:5-17. But they are good in reframing their training, manipulation and commanding of people as “servantship”. So good that their followers buy it for many years and even are thankful for that.

    • Either way, the native (sorry to use this word, distinction between missionary and native shepherd from that place) shepherd is seen as an empty vessel, a tabla rasa, who is essentially a big flesh container of nothing, which needs to be filled, written on and so forth.

      Part of the beauty of Christian ministry is to see the outpouring of love, each in their own uniqueness, when people who are in Christ welcome one another. I remember going to a family who left our ministry, and feeling so welcome, so comfortable, because they simply loved Christ and loved my family, and welcomed us in the best way they knew, with real joy.

  8. Intriguing update to the Lebron saga:

    Lebron goes home

    • Yes indeed. That letter is excellent. I know Lebron’s final words to be true:

      “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have. I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.”

  9. Compared to how Lebron was 4 years ago when he left Cleveland (full of himself, full of air and fluff), he certainly seems like a different person today: more mellow, mature, measured, meaty, meaningful.

    Because he changed, there is hope that people can change, however unlikely that might seem.

    • Yes indeed! Change is possible. And it only took 4 years in this case to see some change. With the right mindset, change happens rather fast. In fact, you might say that “change is life” and if you keep everything the same for 53 years and don’t change, then you are stagnate and dying…

  10. 2 Corinthians 7:10-13 comes to mind… can we see any earnestness, eagerness to clear themselves, indignation over the cult label, alarm over the abuse, longing to repair damaged relationships, concern for the former leaders, or any readiness to see justice done for those who were wronged?

    Did Beka’s family experience anything remotely like this from ubf leadership? Did anyone in the Yekaterinburg ubf chapter feel anything like this? Did any of the half of Toledo ubf leaders see anything like this? Did any of the single family ubf chapters scattered around the world ever find anything like this from the ubf echelon?

    I hope someone comments here to prove me wrong… but wouldn’t ubf ministry change overnight if say, Ben Toh was General Director?

    10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 11 See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. 12 So even though I wrote to you, it was neither on account of the one who did the wrong nor on account of the injured party, but rather that before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are. 13 By all this we are encouraged.

    • ubf would change instantly with a new leader like Ben or Joe, just as Cleveland has been instantly changed by Lebron’s announcement. There is much work ahead for James and company of course, but change is in the air.

      How exciting would it be for Joe or Ben to be the new ubf GD! Much work would need to be done. But how much of a breathe of fresh air would that be for all of us!!

    • Joe Schafer

      No, please no, hell no. I have much more important things to do, such as pursue my career, spend time with my family, worship God, and read UBFriends.

    • Joe Schafer

      Actually, Brian, I would dispute what you said. UBF would not change instantly with a reform minded leader, because there is strong resistance to change at every level. UBF could not accept the tough decisions of a reform minded leader unless it were already significantly changed.

    • “there is strong resistance to change at every level”

      Correct. But the fire of the gospel has been lit at the bottom level. If the topmost level was also lit with gospel fire, would not the resistance be overcome?

      In reality, a “Robert Irvine” style leader would need to be put in charge.

  11. Brian, how can I possibly not laugh to the heavens and love you to the depths, when you come up with a statement like this: “…wouldn’t ubf ministry change overnight if say, Ben Toh was General Director?” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/06/13/lebron-james-takes-responsibility/#comment-14466

    Probably, only some readers on UBFriends will find this hilarious.

    • Since you started it, if ever I became GD, say in 1 out of a million chances on a good day, I would be martyred with my first decision by appointing Brian Karcher as my vice-director.

    • Ben, if you become the next General Director at ubf and make me the Assistant Director, I will gladly accept. And no I’m not kidding around.

    • There should never be another GD with the absolute power to decide the VD lol

    • I agree Matt. I don’t think absolute power is a good thing. However, the ubf organization needs a strong leader to come in and revamp the failing ministry, Robert Irvine style.

  12. On a more serious note, Pope Francis recently, publicly, unashamedly, asked “forgiveness” for victims of abuse by priests in the catholic church.

    Riches in the kingdom of heaven anyone? God bless this man, though I do not understand many things about him, I have a high regard for anyone who can take responsibility.

    I actually heard a wonderful message once (probably you all did to?) at a UBF conference where one noted UBF PhD Shepherd defined repentance as “Taking responsibility for your actions.” This is a truth that will hold up.

    The Bible is about responsibility in our rlationship with God and others. Perhaps the first big crack in my blind heart was when BrianK publicly apologized for a certain mostly-illegal act. It began the logical reasoning that my own complicit quietness had in fact, likely, allowed many young people in our ministry to be belittled/embarassed, to establish standards of reflection sharing/Biblestudy and marriage by faith in our ministry which were used to punish/shun others, and allowed me to overlook completely irrational behavior since I was the favorite and supported in so many ways.

    I used to really think I wanted to lead (maybe someday I can somewhere, I do enjoy leading) but the inconsistencies I see, I cannot ignore and move forward.

    Anyhow the Bible says, even if we know someone is sinning and don’t bring it up to them, we are joining in the sin.

  13. MattC, “… the inconsistencies I see, I cannot ignore and move forward.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/06/13/lebron-james-takes-responsibility/#comment-14483

    I saw and ignored inconsistencies for over 2 decades. Worse yet, I felt (or was made to feel) that it was NOT up to me to address the inconsistencies, since the implicit subliminal understanding was that it was up to the “top brass,” the servants of God, to address issues and effect changes.

    My proposal, suggestion and recommendation to anyone who would listen is simply this: Whatever inconsistency is observed, address it. Every person has the same God-given right to address any issue, problem or inconsistency in the church that is observed.

    Sorry for coming off as though I am giving an imperative directive. It is one of my PTSD reactions after functioning according to “just obey, don’t question” for several decades.

  14. MattC, This is hopefully changing, though it might be a long, drawn out, painful, unbearable, laborious process for it to be completely eliminated: “I witnessed this even in our small chapter. When a big shepherd from Korea came to visit, the missionaries were nearly unbearable with their bitter attention to details.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/06/13/lebron-james-takes-responsibility/#comment-14481

    Those who grew up in such a culture have NO IDEA how the gospel is being butchered by such behavior. It really causes some UBF people to behave as though they fear the human leader more than God (Prov 29:25). This is unbearably painful to observe, as you had indicated.

    • Right, +1. I appreciate how your comments temper mine. I am willing to face the challenges, but quite frankly I don’t know how to proceed, so at the current time I am praying. I told God I would do whatever he wanted me to do, and I meant it.

      Now I’m trying to figure out how to approach situations, as I’m not very confrontational, and in addition, have been wildly misunderstood at times. It is not an easy minefield to cross.

  15. Matt:

    “Perhaps the first big crack in my blind heart was when BrianK publicly apologized for a certain mostly-illegal act. It began the logical reasoning that my own complicit quietness had in fact, likely, allowed many young people in our ministry to be belittled/embarassed, to establish standards of reflection sharing/Biblestudy and marriage by faith in our ministry which were used to punish/shun others, and allowed me to overlook completely irrational behavior since I was the favorite and supported in so many ways.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/06/13/lebron-james-takes-responsibility/#comment-14480

    I too was a favorite. In Europe such favorites are called “hope carriers”. I believe Chris and AbNial here were also such favorites at one time.

    Stop and think about that…where are most of the darlings of ubf now? JoeS? BenT? TrentP? BrianK? JoshuaB? ChrisZ? AbNial? and the list goes on and on of men and women who were once ubf favorites.

    Such favoritism among ubf missionaries creates a highly unstable environment in my experience at Toledo ubf. The “favorites” are used as Goebbels-like defenders of the ubf system because we didn’t personally experience the problems other non-favorites were speaking up about.

    Just to add more clarity to my illegal actions… I wrote the article called “My Confession“, regarding my role in the infamous 1990 James Kim event.

    I should have been in jail because breaking-and-entering is illegal in the US. You cannot just go into someone’s house (even with a key) without their permission. Our constitution protects the property and possessions of our citizens. Punishment is a fine and/or jail time, at least in the state of Ohio.

    Oh wait, but I was “being a blessing” and “helping out” the late James Kim’s family…

  16. Yup, the favorites have become those frowned upon. The princes have become the pariahs. I can’t speak for others, but it’s SO MUCH MORE FUN being a pariah!