A Korean Critic

cCritical thinking. Can a Korean do it? Could a Korean display the healthy attributes of a critic? After spending tens of thousands of hours with Koreans in ubf ministry for over two decades, my conclusion was, “no way”. But once again, I am proved wrong! Koreans can and do think critically. Here is one good example. In 1998, a Korean man named Yo Sup Lee wrote a seminary paper that reviewed the discipleship methods of Korean parachurch groups. One of the groups he studied was ubf. I find his analysis remarkably accurate.


Here is the link to the actual document. It is a fascinating read. I just want to highlight a few points here to spur some of your own critical thinking (which by the way is not the same as a “having a critical spirit” or just plain criticism)

Seminary paper by Yo Sup Lee
Lynchburg, Virginia October, 1998
Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

Author’s stated purpose

(page 1) “The purpose of this project is to analyze discipleship training Bible study programs developed or used by successful Korean churches and mission groups. The writer will introduce the best model of discipleship program currently practiced by Sarang Presbyterian Church. The discipleship methods will be evaluated, also biblical basis will be traced, and Jesus’ methods of discipleship training and the Korean church Bible study texts will be analyzed.”

Groups Mentioned in the paper


A. Joy Mission Group …………………………… 67

B. Campus Crusade for Christ …………………….. 70

C. Navigator group …………………………….. 75

D. Korean Inter-Varsity Christians Fellowship Mission group …. 83

E. University Bible Fellowship group …………………. 89

Description of UBF

(page 89) “To be a member of this group one must pledge the substance of 2 Timothy 2: 16. The actual pledge reads, “I as an unshameful laborer of Jesus Christ, will rightly handle the World of Truth, agree with the purpose of U.B.F and pledge that I will do my best for evangelizing the campus and achieving world mission.” This declaration reflects the purpose of U.B.F. There are three major points:

(1) It aims to produce good Bible teachers.
(2) It aims to evangelize campuses.
(3) It aims to achieve world mission.

Positive points

(pages 92-93)

First, their one- to-one Bible study method, which uses the principle of each person being interested in one another, has contributed to the life of the students. This method is being used in some churches today.

Second, their tent-making policy has made a significant impact on the progress of pioneering new nations with the gospel.

Third, the sacrificial stewardship of time and money by UB.F. members has been a rebuke and a challenge to many.

Negative points

First, UB.F’s inadequate concept of the missionary task has resulted in considerable lay involvement but few permanent achievements.

Second, UB.F’s lack of historical perspective results in the tendency to identify God’s purpose almost exclusively with its program.

Third, UB.F does not emphasize personal conversion experience, contrary to all other student movements.

Fourth, UB.F’s negative view of ecclesiology is well known to Korean churches and to other student movements.

Fifth, UB.F. members often seem to be too legalistic, separate and fundamental. Their ardent and subjective Bible study which are devoid of any evident concern for a dynamic and personal conversion experience may lead its members to spiritual Pharisaism.

Concluding thoughts

I found this Korean seminary student to be “right on target”. What could ubf learn from this paper? Why would ubf benefit from listening to critical thinkers?



  1. I’m happy to see this sort of outside critique. Kudos to the author, and to you Brian for bringing this to our attention.

    The good points the author mentions are very true, and certainly represent only a sample of the many wonderful attributes of UBF and the people in UBF.

    The negative points are also very accurate. It’s interesting that the negative points (seem) to deal with primarily theological, ecclesiastical, and soteriological issues (i.e. doctrine) and less on practical issues. In contrast, I’d say that the discussions on UBFriends is weighted more towards the practical issues. I’d like to see an article describing how the doctrinal issues and practical issues overlap and correlate. Do practical issues drive the doctrinal inadequacies, or vice-versa? Is it a chicken-and-egg sort of thing?

    • “Do practical issues drive the doctrinal inadequacies, or vice-versa? Is it a chicken-and-egg sort of thing?”

      Intriguing observation, joshua, thanks. If you have a two-legged stool, then yes, you have a chicken and egg situation where you are always balancing “what” do to with “how” you do it. The third leg to add for balance is “why”.

      Or another way to look at it, which we’ve mentioned somewhere before, is to consider these three: orthopdoxy (correct belief), orthopraxy (correct actions) and orthpathy (correct emotions). That is an oversimplified expression of the “pathy’s” (as I call them). But I think you get the point.

      We human beings need to care for our mind, our body and our soul. ubf constantly teeters on the brink of implosion because they ignore the soul/emotion/feeling part of human beings. Often, as I look back, I stood on a one-legged stool–just trying to focus on orthopraxy, ie. how to behave.

  2. big bear

    I FIND THE FINDINGS TO BE VERY ACCURATE OF ubf but the abuse and the unwriiten rules are not addressed.

    • Correct, big bear. Such things are hidden to outsiders. That is part of why this is all so complicated. Even JA took several years to see the “dark side” (which he does now).

    • Mark Mederich

      maybe they will be addressed soon, maybe ‘big brother’ needs to investigate organizational finances for tax ‘exemptness’…

  3. I think it is worth pointing out a clarification regarding the author’s mention of 2 Timothy 2:16. The mission pledge seems to be based on 2 Timothy 2:3 and 2 Timothy 2:15. New bible students should probably be aware of this pledge and realize they will be asked to take this oath at some point. And it is really an oath and vow to God for life. This “bury your bones” attitude is unfortunatley expanded to include all ubf activity, rather than a proper oath that reflect commitment to Jesus supremely.

    • Mark Mederich

      bury bones across town? let’s face it coming to america may not be the easiest, but certainly not the hardest missionary commitment on earth..

    • Mark Mederich

      criticize a korean, now what reason would anyone ever have to do that?:)

    • Mark Mederich

      koreans ought to be thankful for this site, wow! free godly advice at fingertips

    • Mark Mederich

      leaders don’t listen, gee why should followers?

      can’t beat ’em, join ’em; i am the master race…i will not give, i will get…i am entitled…i will live in fantasy world of all is well..

    • Mark Mederich

      Jesus was a rebel, with a cause (money changers tables, pharisees, etc)

  4. thanks for this post. im a semi-avid reader of this blog, and i am just commenting here to state a little of my own critique of this specific post. I know you didn’t mean it in any demeaning way, but beginning the post with “Critical thinking. Can a Korean do it? Could a Korean display the healthy attributes of a critic?” really turned me off. maybe it’s been mentioned on this site before, but whenever a non-Korean tries to (knowingly or unknowingly) imitate/mock Koreans in a message or in announcements, i find it distasteful. other than that, i really appreciated the rest of the post and this blog in general. i realize this comment doesn’t really much to the discussion or the content of the post, but i just wanted to put this out there. thanks!!

    • @fermi:

      Sweeping generalizations really are distasteful aren’t they? I hope that everyone can be more sensitive to this. I was discouraged whenever I heard statements by UBFers that started with “Canadians are …”. First of all, Canadians are so diverse, even we struggle to define ourselves, and this difficulty in pin-pointing who we are is a big part of our identity. So when people make such generalizations, it really rubs the wrong way.

      Now if only I could follow my own advice!

  5. Thanks for sharing that fermi; we welcome your feedback. We don’t wear masks here, so if something bothers you, please share it. Yes my intro was provocative, and intentionally so. I don’t pretend to not be bitter. I do have some bitterness against ubf and against Koreans. That’s not fair to express it, so I toned my article down (believe it or not). I am jaded against ubf and Korea, but I’m trying to see beyond my personal experience. That’s not easy, but feedback like yours helps me to see where I was too strong.

    • thanks Brian, i am deeply grateful for your honesty. i can never fully understand what you went through, but i do hope the best for you.

    • Thanks fermi. My 24 years in ubf were mostly quite good (as I’ve said repeatedly). It is the past 2 years of going through the “exit process” that jaded me. If you are “out”, ubf suddenly becomes a whole new world…opposite of when you are “in”.

      Had I received a Christian response from the leadership before I decided to leave (when I was trying to stay) or even after leaving, I don’t think I would be so jaded. I would have other problems, but I wouldn’t be jaded. (and just a quick shout out to a few friends in Toledo who have recently started to have a good response, I thank you.)

      So your feedback is huge, fermi. One reason I am so jaded is because of the dead silence I mostly receive from ubf people. Often I am over-the-top angry or bitter because 1) I know anger/bitterness is real and 2) it might make someone frustrated enough to start talking to me!

  6. Hi fermi, thanks for sharing your honesty about some of UBFriends “racially insensitive” comments. There is surely too much to say about racism. I once even asked if there is racism in UBF: http://www.ubfriends.org/2012/04/05/is-there-racism-in-your-church/

    Here’s a “cute” true story. When a Korean missionary was helping an American shepherd to marry, she strongly proposed to have Korean food for his wedding. He adamantly refused because he prefers American food. This missionary later told me that he is racist because he refused a Korean menu. The American later also told me that she is racist because she was so strongly insistent on having Korean food at his wedding. I find such stories cutely entertaining. Sorry if this story is racially offensive.