Traits UBF Leaders Do Not Like

Free SpiritedUBF leaders clearly do not like those they regard as rebellious, stubborn, proud, self-directed members who do not listen to them, obey them, wait on them, or submit to them. Strangely, to me, those sorts of people are a lot more fun than “boring predictable accommodating” people. I am writing this because I simply teared up emotionally as I read Brian’s post on how Rebekah BK felt about the way she was treated by SL. I cried perhaps because she was my wife’s shepherd for 3 years in Toledo UBF before she moved to Chicago to marry me. Based on what Rebekah wrote, it seemed quite obvious that SL clearly did not like her. I wanted to figure out why. My conclusion is that she demonstrates many of the traits that authoritarian UBF leaders do not like or welcome even to this day. In no particular order these traits are:

1. Free spirited.

2. Fearless.

3. Bold.

4. Takes the initiative.

5. Speaks out. Speaks his/her mind freely.

6. Independent minded.

7. Follows one’s conscience or the Holy Spirit, rather than the leader.

8. Not asking for permission or approval or consulting the leader first.

9. Not deferring to the leader (which the leader expects).

10. Not giving credit to the leader (where the leader feels dishonored).

11. Being more fruitful than the leader (where the leader feels shamed).

12. Acts like a leader.

From my limited knowledge of Rebekah BK, I think she had most if not all of the above traits. (In contrast, the “hidden spiritual director” was totally submissive to SL and she likely acted as a spy for him.) Before she married, Rebekah started Toledo UBF almost single-handedly–without being officially sent out by UBF. From my wife’s recollection, she was tough, fearless, independent, self-directed, initiative driven, and a very fruitful Christian woman. In the late 70s and 80s Toledo UBF had the most American sheep of any USA UBF chapter including the HQ in Chicago (which had many missionaries but few Americans). My thinking is that SL likely felt that she was too wild. Thus, he likely tried to tame her, train her, control her, humble her and mold her to fit the image of the kind of person he expected her to be. But I would have to categorically say that if he did indeed try to turn her husband James K against her, it is simply reprehensible and deserving of censure.

I think that many Christians who left UBF after being committed members for many years likely have some if not most of the above 12 traits. Am I right? If so, it is really quite sad. It is the reason why some accuse UBF of raising clones (of the chapter director) and of being a Korean church.

Thus, I pose this question: Is UBF raising Christ-centered leaders or UBF-centered followers? Does UBF allow her younger leaders to truly lead with their own style and initiative? Or must they lead based on the terms, conditions and approval of their chapter director?


  1. I remember reading the article almost ten years ago on the website before. It is difficult for me to comment directly about that account because it speaks for itself.

    To say directly about your post however that any one whose actions are in accordance with natural instinct and freedom of thought betray the very basic teachings in UBF. I have been quiet for a couple of days. Why? Over the weekend I began to prepare a reflective thought about the events that led my family into it’s present situation. I am divided about submitting it or not – but one thing will be clear: It is evidence of both helpful leaders and destructive ones. I was not expecting Brian to recall this account, so I will respectively wait before I step forward.

    I can simply say here that I have always moved with the wrong foot first in UBF. It had never been my intention at first, but after discovering the particularities of UBF sometimes I was and still am compelled to do so. Such behaviour and attitude is always handled with rebukes and training which serve nothing for Christ.

  2. Mark Mederich

    who cares what they like, only what God likes matters, certainly they do not presume to be God:) or closer to Him than Christ seeking/Holy Spirit helped individual believers:))

    sounds like Rebekah BK started out “too sincere” (with God’s true favor) & SL couldn’t handle being accidentally one-upped in religious humanism system, & so had to “eliminate the competition”;

    FEARLESS (having/showing fear, but continuing on with God’s help anyway); never give up! Let’s have tee-shirts made:)

    Here’s another question: is religion trying to tear down Christ seeking individuals?
    (instead of struggling to redirect itself)

    • Mark Mederich

      i guess it’s really hard to escape ‘Old Testament religion’ & enter into “New Testament Spirit’

    • Mark Mederich

      ditto, I was just thinking my same comments, 2yrs later: time-up/game-over, movin on..from any diSpirited (whether accidental or purposeful is no longer important) religious activities/affiliations..from now on Christ Alone & those who strive to ‘Tary then Implement’ effective Spirited manners of living..

  3. Ben, based on the self-awareness quizzes and tests I’ve taken, I have all 12 traits :)

    And guess what?! THOSE ARE THE TRAITS OF WORLD CLASS LEADERS! The ubf “training” to raise “world class leaders” is a sham meant to raise “world class brown-nosers”.

    My “world class training” in “high quality” ubf lead me to have thoughts of suicide, to react heartlessly toward my own family and to break into a friend’s house. My training stripped me of my American identity, coerced me to act, think, speak like a Korean and to live inside my own litte fantasy world where I was the Shepherd.

  4. “Is UBF raising Christ-centered leaders or UBF-centered followers? Does UBF allow her younger leaders to truly lead with their own style and initiative? Or must they lead based on the terms, conditions and approval of their chapter director?”

    In my own recent experience with UBF (2010), UBF missionaries are not open to indigenous leaders’ recommendations. My family used to serve with one other missionary family in an independent midatlantic chapter. Our ideas were not well received and at times, the director’s wife would react confrontational towards us because she felt we were overstepping our bounds. She was particularly sensitive whenever I had an opinion different from her own, and would accuse me of not being respectful of her husband’s leadership, of being a “troublemaker” and so on. As a woman, I often felt that I was being treated inferior compared to my husband who happens to have a PhD. We could have the same ideas about something, but if I expressed my opinion, I would be accused of being proud or disrespectful while my husband would at least be given some latitude. Once when we were all discussing something that we differed with the missionaries about, the director said that the issue cannot be resolved like a democracy because “then everyone will choose what they like”. Instead, he said that as the director, he would pray about it and make the ultimate decision because “a church is not like a democracy”. Those were his words. Unbelievable.

  5. big bear

    Jen…Ubf followers…they know this is only way they can survive for now….the biggest thing Ubf hates in a person is a thinking person like the communists….or a person who stands in their own convictions….they attract many people who are vulnerable or who are broken but the plan is to make you loyal to their ideas and there false doctrine of works…they help you only for their agenda….every penny is for their agenda…all you have to do is be free spirit just for one week and you will see the difference…challege every leader to do this…you will find they really dont give a crap for you, your family…they are an intellectual cult….they will blame you for your failures and you are the sinner not them

  6. David Bychkov

    Interesting thing is that UBF trains people to be bold, fearless, independent minded for external world (and probably for gaining UBF goals). I remember 1 or 2 or even 3 our brothers who has shown such behavior in different situtations. And I remember looking on them I thought that mostlikely they at the end could show the same atittude toward UBF and the director himself. And nothing would stop them. And this really happened. I may be wrong, but it looks like Terminator 2 or something… Machines which supposed to serve the system at the end rebeled and used the same skills against the masters. I sorry if I sound too harsh – I have language limitations to express my mind.
    Well, just think, if I was trained for obeying God’s will, for being fruitful for him to step through my own parents, my family, my security, my boss, my friends, my reputation etc. (is it no real in UBF?) why should I be afraid of loosing my UBF reputation as well? stepping through my UBF friends? my chapter director (the very special person :))? Was I not trained enough for doing this?
    The only problem for doing this lays here – once I came to UBF, the will of God, God’s truth, obedience to God all is connected very close with UBF. So as long as they are tied so close in my mind I would hardly do it. But if they somehow will “divorced” in my mind I would do it inspite of all those pressure etc.
    Sure while joining UBF, if you are “right” disciple, you are totally changing your world. You are leaving your fathers house, your land and going wherever God will lead, and it is UBF world. So you are leaving your world, your parents, your friends, your hobby, your reputaion etc. and you obtaining 100 times more – UBF family, UBF identity, UBF mission, UBF shepherd and chapter director etc. So you actually have nothing left except of UBF. And if you would suddenly loose your UBF treasures (for example will confront your director or something which you know could lead anywhere) it would mean again like you loosing everything. So it is surely difficult. But haven’t you do it once already? What for? If you’ve done it once for Christ sake, why not do it again?

    • David Bychkov

      And yes, I’m not claiming that everyone who joins UBF and became “true” disciple is doing it for Christ sake, or everyone who leaves UBF doing it for Christ sake, or everyone who stays in UBF, or everyone who confronted UBF directors or submit to them doing it for Christ.

    • I often had the same thoughs, David.

    • David, I think the following article by Soren Kierkegaard talks about the same thing. I find it very relevant for us:

      The reluctance to really address the burning issues of UBF is clearly a sign of cowardice. Pride and cowardice can coexist so very well – Kierkegaard even says “these two are really one and the same.”

      “Cowardice and time always find a reason for not hurrying, for saying, ‘Not today, but tomorrow’, whereas God in heaven and the eternal say: ‘Do it today. Now is the day of salvation.’ The eternal refrain of decision is: ‘Today, today.’ But cowardice holds back, holds us up. If only cowardice would appear in all its baseness, one could recognize it for what it is and fight it immediately.”

    • By the way, the “Bruderhof” which is mentioned in the copyright of the article, seems to be yet another cult of Christianity. To me it looks a bit like “Colonia Dignidad”. It’s amazing how much Christianity and the Bible are abused to build autoritarian groups and cults.

      Of course the article itself and its author have nothing to do with this cult.

    • bekamartin

      Ummm….Hard question to answer. But I think the best answer is that to follow Christ’s leading and the Bible’s leading, through the Holy Spirit, is the best way, whether staying in UBF or leaving UBF. Not all the leaders are dictators. Not all the leaders frown upon creativity and boldness.

      But many, especially Korean leaders, do try to squelch bold and creative types.

  7. big bear

    UBF LEADERS are trained not to rock the boat. Paul and Peter got into it concerning gentile and jewish believers. It was healthy for the church of Christ. Change came in the church. When you are in Ubf you are treated well if you dont make waves or you are a clone of the founders. This is not healthy and will not last. Those who endure abuse and harsh realities are honored but those who stand up or challenge the system are called Satan agents or wrongly protrayed by those who remain. Ubf has so much to learn from the long standing churches about the importance of family, the unity of all believers, the service to the poor and sick, the importance of dialogue and disagreements, the dignity of all people, and the humility to admit their wrongs before God. The leaders are very proud like they have some special knowledge that the long standing churches do not have. They are sadly mistaken. Jesus talked about putting a milestone around a the neck of those who cause his little ones to sin. Judgement begins with the people of God. God people must repent and stop looking down on God little ones. Take the speck out of own eye

  8. “Ubf has so much to learn from the long standing churches about the importance of family, the unity of all believers, the service to the poor and sick, the importance of dialogue and disagreements, the dignity of all people, and the humility to admit their wrongs before God.”

    Exactly, big bear. Recently I went through some orientation for a new job. The format was much like ubf staff conferences. I realized that ubf is in a perpetual orientation mode. In my new job, I went through orientation, now I’m doing my job. But I remember 2 decades of orientation after orientation in ubf. We always had to study John 4, for example. at major conferences.

    Why is this? Clearly this is because human nature rejects conforming to cultic control. So ubf has to continually orient, and re-orient. This is called CME now (continuing missionary education) at the director level. But every conference was also a “CME”, meant to orient everyone back to the heritage. In ubf I realize I was contiually being trained, but there was never any intention of ever “entering the ring” or living my life as my self in reality. The carrot was always dangling there, just out of reach. Maybe when I’m 30…no maybe 40…no maybe 60…

    Highlights of my new job training showed me some glaring holes in the ubf training. ubf needs to include basic sensitivity training (how to be sensitive to cultures other than your own), harrassment awareness training (how to identify and avoid harrassment), manipulation avoidance training (how to tell when you are being manipulated) and personal interaction training (how to be handle disagreements/differences).

  9. Good article. I think that the problem is that UBF is trying to be a missions agency and a church at the same time.

    A church is a place where people can find shelter and support and teachings in the word of God and mentoring. UBF has this. But a church is also a place where people can express their gifts and talents and find support for the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This is what is lacking in the church life in UBF. Because it is trying to be a missions agency with a focused mission, leaders can not support other expressions of the work of God in the member’s lives.

    They have a mission and an agenda. It is campus mission through one to one Bible study and discipleship. This may be a good mission for a missions agency but not for the entire church body.

    In a way it is kind of deceptive, because people are drawn to the church and actually become a harvest field for the missions agency. People can not but feel used. UBF should separate the church from the missions agency and then these two organizations can co-operate together.

    Leaders in UBF find it hard to accept dissent because everyone is answering to a higher level of the missions agency. They are seeking measurable ways to show that they are actually bearing fruit and not wasting their time. Dissent means that the leaders are not able to answer to others above and show numbers of growing leaders to support the mission of their branch of the missions agency. UBF needs to stop answering to other chapters and to leaders in other nations and trying to prove their worth with numbers. They need to stop being a church and missions agency at the same time… thoughts?

  10. big bear

    ANON..”missions agency and church at same time” this is so true. This is why families suffer so much. Kids are pressured to live only for mission and even shunned by leaders and their own familly. Directors are playing god with people lives and lack spiritual maturity and right theology. a recipe for abuse and future diseaster. It is a shame that ubf has survived

  11. @Anon:

    “…UBF is trying to be a missions agency and a church at the same time.”

    On the surface, that may appear to be what’s happening. My inside view for decades tells me something else. The “sheep” want and expect a Christian church. That force is contrary to the directors who want a ubf missions agency. Directors in ubf will only talk about Christianity or church if it supports or does not contradict their mission agency agenda. Those two forces keep going back and forth and so ubf is stuck in a cultic state.

    “They have a mission and an agenda. It is campus mission through one to one Bible study and discipleship.”

    Don’t be deceived. ubf directors care nothing about campus mission or bible study or discipleship in the normal meaning of those words. They do care very much about the ubf meanings of those words: campus mission means ubf activities on a college campus, bible study means submitting to a ubf shepherd for life, and discipleship means conforming to the ubf ideology as a means of preserving the ubf heritage.

  12. So how many Americans can say this news article brings back memories?

    It’s been a wild life folks. I read CNN every day and this article nearly sparked PTSD reactions… but it was mild thankfully.

    So anyone else remember a Korean “dear leader” upset about something not being done “right”? A dear leader who gets involved in jobs he knows nothing about but claims to know how to do it? A dear leader instilling fear in a drab room of chairs while everyone stands or sits around with sullen looks on their faces?

    Those are the memories stirred up in me this morning.

  13. forestsfailyou

    Yes, I feel that at first my willingness to write so many testimonies and my last name was something leaders enjoyed. But they must have been surly disappointing to find a tactless, rash, person who was in his element picking apart flawed arguments (I lived with a atheist for many years and most of my upperclass work was proofs). I think they cannot understand that my willingness to write testimonies was something I wanted to do and not something I did out of obedience. So they have incorrectly concluded that my time here is the cause of my “rebelliousness”. Oh how I would have my friends tell them stories on end that would counter the point. As I was once told “The thing I love most about you is you say absolutely what is on your mind even when you shouldn’t.”

  14. More quotes and images from North Korea that bring back memories:

    “Kenny Zhu visited North Korea from China and captured North Korea using his Google Glass. He was allowed to wear the wearable camera as long as “everything reflects the positive side of DPRK.”

    North Korea – positive side only

  15. MJ Peace

    I think you should add: “inclusive” to this list. If one is a part of UBF he/she is not supposed to take part in other ministries or read Bible Study materials from other sources. I was always discouraged from meeting with other believers of other denominations. This needs to change. Seminary studies also should not be discouraged, but encouraged.

    “Life together under the Word will remain sound and healthy only where it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegium pietatis (schools of piety), but rather where it understands itself as being a part of the one, holy, catholic, Christian Church, where it shares actively and passively in the sufferings and struggles and promise of the whole Church. Every principle of selection and every separation connected with it…is of the greatest danger to a Christian community. …the human element always insinuates itself and robs the fellowship of its spiritual power and effectiveness for the Church, drives it into sectarianism.”- Bonhoeffer

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