I’m Done…Writing Testimonies

I'mDoneIn 2007, 27 years after being in UBF, I woke up one morning and said to myself, “I’m done writing testimonies for the rest of my blessed Christian life in UBF!” I uttered this to myself because I have written at least one testimony a week, every single week without fail for 27 years. But it does not mean that I no longer share. In fact, I share at weekly meetings just as much. I just do not read a written testimony but share orally. To some I share and speak too much! Pray for me to learn self-control and speak less (Jas 1:19) and give others a chance to speak!

Also, I now write even more than when I was writing one testimony every week. Presently, I write out and post one sermon a week on westloop-church.org (which I do not read on Sun since I prefer to preach extemporaneously). I also blog or comment on UBFriends almost daily. My 27 years of weekly testimony writing surely helped my writing and blogging today. Thank God for 27 years of testimony writing! Thank God that I am also now so elated that I’m also done with it for good.

The greatest joy of no longer writing testimonies is that I am reading so much more. I also listen to preaching online, preferring reformed preaching primarily. I have read more Christian books since I stopped writing testimonies in the last few years than I did for the preceding three decades. Reading has helped me to broaden and deepen my understanding of the Bible and Christianity, which was quite poor. For instance, I thought I knew the Bible very well since I read the Bible daily and wrote testimonies every week for over a quarter of a century. But when I began to read, I realized how limited my knowledge of the Bible was, both in scope and depth. I also love to read blogs, especially related to Christianity, movies, sports and food.

Since I stopped writing testimonies I also no longer judge UBF people based on whether or not they write their testimonies. When I was writing and sharing testimonies weekly, I always (inwardly) felt annoyed by those who did not write or share their testimonies. Now I am happy to embrace and enjoy anyone regardless of their testimony writing status! This seems like a small thing, but it is exhilarating to me to inclusively welcome everyone in the gospel, rather than to feel annoyed by some simply because of a sense of exclusivity, elitism and superiority based on whether or not a person writes their testimony!

Im-Done-With-Living-Like-a-Christian-logoIn future blogs I may also share how my Christian life has been enriched beyond measure since I’m also done with…

  • fishing,
  • going to the campus,
  • preparing Bible study binders,
  • having 1:1 Bible studies,
  • restricting dating among singles,
  • teaching “marriage by faith,”
  • giving “message training,”
  • “training” people,
  • attending “mandatory” meetings,
  • attending conferences,
  • addressing friends with titles,
  • studying UBF messages, etc.

I am done with all of the above and more because the gospel is the gospel of freedom (Gal 5:1; 2 Cor 3:17). Is it truly true that the truth will truly set you free? (Jn 8:32) Are you truly free in Christ alone?


  1. I should add that I’m also done praying for America to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Just to clarify, I’m not done praying for America.

  2. big bear

    Ben Toh…well said…I second you on all that as well…I am free to help others practically and prayerfully instead of being enslaved to a church system or a church that demands by force to follow their rules instead of loving others unconditionally…

  3. charleskim

    When we have freedom in gospel, we can taste grace of gospel. God wants us to enjoy his grace and freedom through his Son, not enslaved to religious activities or rituals. Jesus Christ ended all our requirements before God so that we can enjoy his free grace and joy. This is gospel teaching. We should make sure no one should take it away freedom and grace and joy which Christ bought through his death. On the contrary, many religious christians want to impose many religious or even spiritual rules on themselves and others to be complete before God and others. This is not the gospel. This is nullifying what Christ did on the Cross. We need to learn to enjoy what Christ did on the cross for ourselves and others and share these grace and joy from it with others

    • Welcome Charles, Excellent stated: No spiritual rules can ever improve our standing and status! Thanks. It’s always so great to meet your lovely family.

    • Hi Charles and +1 on your first comment!

  4. Nice Proverbs for our blogging: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2013/07/proverbs-for-facebook-twitter-and-blogs/ (Prov 15:1; 11:12; 12:18; 17:28; 26:4-5). “Our goal in speaking, or tweeting, (or blogging) must be eventual healing, even when using our most pointed words. Use a scalpel, if you must, but put the dagger away.”

    This is a comment from FB: “Some of these things are displeship based. Rules are good they establish order. There is nothing wrong with teaching the things you listed that you will no longer teach and do. I just think wrong when its forced. Testimony writing is good , dating is a good but the idea of courtship is better. There is freedom in wanting to do the right thing for God because his will is the best will for our lives. When it is is forced or coerced it backfires people go back to being lukewarm. When testimony writing is forced it becomes mundane and it loses it intended purpose. It was a good thing when it started but it turned to legalism. We all need discipline but one person’s discipline can’t be everyone’s. I like topical bible study and chapter meomization weekly but it can became mundane and legalistic especially when I stop doing it for God. The freedom we found in Christ its being redeemed from the curse of the law. Its not man pleasing it is doing things in secret not for status but for his glory.”

    • Thanks for sharing Ben. I think each of those proverbs is a double-edged sword. For example, Prov 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” This is merely a statement of fact. It does not mean anger is always bad or that we must always have gentle answers. Sometimes it is necessary to stir up anger. Sometimes we can’t stop wrath.

      Also I hear condescending tones in the FB comments… for example “When it is is forced or coerced it backfires people go back to being lukewarm.”

  5. Joe Schafer

    Ben, I appreciated this article but didn’t know how to respond.

    I was thinking about the list of activities that you are done with: fishing, going to campus, preparing Bible study binders, …

    Many of these activities are good. There is nothing in them that is inherently wrong, and much in them that is commendable When you did them at first, your life was blessed. But when you stopped doing them, you were blessed even more. That’s been my experience as well.

    It seems paradoxical. If something is good, then why shouldn’t we just keep doing it over and over? How can good activities at times lead people away from God?

    I was struggling to put this into words.

    Then I ran across a recent sermon by Greg Boyd about “sociopathic religion.” The sermon is long (about 55 minutes) and I haven’t had time to listen to it yet. But based on the written summary, I think he nails it. Go to this page,


    and look at the “Extended Summary.”

    Is this what you are talking about?

  6. @Joe “Is this what you are talking about?” In short, Yes. This quote is what I am expressing, which perhaps many in UBF has silently experienced:

    “Their standing with God depends….on their performance. And they begin to get life from judging others instead of life from God. In addition, these people become blind to their own performance issues and make everyone else’s sins greater than their own. In a world where all fall short, they convince themselves that they’ve fallen a little less short and are therefore better. Instead of serving others they condemn others.”

    I hope I’m wrong but UBF tends to (implicitly) communicate that:

    * those who write testimonies are better than those who don’t.
    * those who attend the 2013 ISBC are better than those who don’t.
    * those who “feed sheep” are better than those who don’t.
    * those who “receive training” are better than those who don’t.
    * those who “just obey and don’t question” are better… etc, etc.
    * those who read and comment on UBFriends are worse than those who don’t.

    This list is endless. Question: Is this really true??? If so, what, if anything, can be done?

  7. Joe Schafer

    Ben, you are not wrong. UBF and its leaders do communicate all those things. Often implicitly, but sometimes very explicitly. I used to like those messages, because they built up my ego. But now I see how offensive they are.

    A while back, Brian asked me why I joined ubf in the first place. I never gave him a specific answer. Now I think I can explain it.

    I joined ubf partly because I was seeking God and sincerely wanted to know him.

    But I also joined because I picked up those implicit and explicit messages. UBF people were saying, “Because we do these things, we are better than everyone else. We’re hardcore disciples. We’re so disciplined, so sacrificial, so dedicated, so superior to those worldly people, those ordinary churchgoers, those nominal Christians, those Sunday Christians…” UBF was so good at putting on a show to make themselves look better than everyone else. For a long time, I bought into this ideology. It was what my itching ears wanted to hear. UBF became the vehicle for building up my sense of self-worth, always at the expense of others. And because our community was so insular, I was able to perpetuate the myth that we were better, because I had developed no meaningful relationships with Christians outside of UBF that would hve challenged the myth.

    In short, I was a religious sociopath.

    • Joe, there are several different reasons why people stay in UBF. One is the sense of elitism and pride of being a shepherd, a tough and responible warrior for God, what you’re talking about. Another strong reason is a feeling of obligation because you were fished in UBF, you “owe them”, so you need to pay back. Or you think that UBF is the particular and personal calling of God for you, because you were fished in UBF. Another reason is that UBF with all these rules gives you “security”. It’s hard to believe in “justification by grace alone” once you’ve understood how deeply sinful you are. But UBF gives you this assurance. You don’t need to have faith any more. Blind obedience and following rules is much easier. They clearly tell you when you are spiritual and when you are not spiritual. When they say you are spiritual, and when you follow all of the weekly program, you have the warm and cozy feelign that everything is allright. You also don’t need to make any decisions on your own any more. Makign decisions is always straining. You are indoctrinated to believe that there is always only one right way and making a wrong decision will cause God to not bless you any more. So if you have someone who tells you the will of God and you just can follow and will be sure you’re blessed that’s very convenient. And then, for some members, UBF has become a “replacement family”. You can get a lot of love and fellowship and music and bulgogi in UBF and it’s easy to overlook that this love is always conditional. As long as you’re “functioning”, you will not notice it. For many longtime members, if they leave UBF, they have noone else to go, because they dumped their family and circle of friends long ago. So there is a bundle of reasons why people stay. I noticed that some stay more for the spiritual reasons (feelings of guilt and obligation), and some more for the social reasons (feeling of being loved in the community). For most, it’s a mixture of both.

    • Also, UBF has an “attractive” offering for both kinds of people. Those with a stronger self-confidence and ambition and whose main motivation is the feeling of elitism can make a “career” in UBF and become directors. And those with a weaker self-confidence and less ambitions and whose main motivation is to get security and convenience by letting others make decisions over their life can stay as ordinary “shepherds” or “missionaries” forever. I’ve clearly seen both types of people in UBF, but usually it’s some hybrid type. So the attitude to life in UBF is a very strange combination of hubris and arrogance on the one hand, and humbleness and submissiveness on the other hand. I have never seen such a strange combination outside of UBF.

    • Joe Schafer

      Chris, the reasons that you give for why people stay in ubf are undoubtedly true for some.

      I think it is wrong to point to a person and say that he or she stays in ubf for a specific reason, because we cannot see their motives. (Not saying that Chris has done that.) Many of us cannot even discern our own motives, because we do not know ourselves very well. Honest introspection is difficult, and I have found that the ubf environment tends to discourage this kind of self-evaluation.

      I’m sure there are some who have stayed for reasons that are good, noble and valid. Depending on where you are, and on what stage in life you are in, ubf may be a reasonably healthy environment. But maintaining your health, in my opinion, requires that you keep some emotional distance between yourself and the organization. Based on what I have seen, the people who invest themselves the most — the ones who have dedicated themselves fully to the organization’s ideals, to the point where it becomes a main source of their identity — are some of the unhealthiest individuals I have ever met.

      Here are a couple more reasons why people stay.

      Passivity: Leaving requires that you take decisive action. People who tend to be more passive, who tend to delay making major life-changing decisions, can stay for a very long time simply because of inertia.

      Family ties and friendships: For those grew up in ubf, leaving would put a great deal of strain on their relationships with their parents, siblings and friends. These people understand that the community is dysfunctional and that another church would provide a healthier environment. Yet they choose to remain because of their personal commitments, just as some people choose to stay in unhappy marriages — for the sake of their children, because they made a commitment before God, because I don’t want to bring disgrace on themselves or bear the mark of divorce, etc.

      Remaining in a difficult marriage is not wrong. It may be precisely what God wants you to do at a given time. But the person who does this, in my opinion, had better not do so passively. They ought to be taking decisive action to improve the relationship, for example, through professional counseling. Similarly, if someone is aware that ubf has serious problems but chooses to stay, I think they ought to be actively seeking ways to make the situation better. They owe it to themselves, to their families, to their fellow ubf members, and to God.

    • Upon our departure from UBF, my wife and I spent most of the time with the counselor discussing what brought us to UBF, what made us stay, and what made us leave. It was interesting to see that the two of us had very different reasons.

      I was raised in a strong Christian family, but I struggled with life-dominating sin problems, so the rigorous discipleship appealed to me. I believed that God would love me and I could be acceptable to Him if I grew, became self-controlled and well disciplined. I liked thinking that I was a soldier for Christ.

      On the other hand, my wife did not have a Christian background, but was saved a year before university. She had never really known the Bible, and so was drawn to the serious study of Scripture and Christian living.

      After the years passed, I began to realize that I don’t need all the programs in UBF to please God, and trying to win his favor by my own efforts was just sucking the life out of me. For my wife, she realized that although Bible study had initially helped her to understand how to live as a Christian, she was prevented from true healthy spirituality because of the immense spiritual and emotional pressure and abuse.

      So the very things that drew us to the ministry were the things that God used to show us that UBF can’t solve our problems. Testimony writing can’t bring real healing. Only the wonderful free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ. So we chose to live in grace and liberty rather than depending on all sorts of religious activities as a sort of spiritual placebo.

  8. I identify with Boyd when he talks about how exhausting it is to play God, and how freeing and wonderful it is to live in divine love instead. I have definitely experienced the new freedom to love….it happened as I “lost my mission” so to speak. I find his theology refreshing, too. Wonder what some people make of his emphasis on God’s love and deemphasis of his wrath…can possibly guess their objections.

  9. Joe, Sharon, I hear you.

    Don’t you think it is the elitist mindset that will eventually rob anyone of joy and contentment?

    Or do some simply keep playing the “we are the cutting edge of ministry” game and become tired, burdened, irritable and ungracious?

    Or is it just the disguise of (enforcement of the) Law in the name of mission, core values and gospel?

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, yes, the elitist mindset does eventually rob you of joy. It is profoundly unsatisfying because it prevents you from experiencing the love of God. You project a false religious self, believing that God loves you better than other people because of all the wonderful things that you supposedly do. But that’s fake. We can only experience the love of God if we come to him as we truly are. That is why I believe it’s so necessary for ubf leaders to stop role-playing, take off their masks and allow the truth to be told. If they don’t, they won’t experience God’s love.

  10. Joe Schafer

    Sharon asked, “Wonder what some people make of his emphasis on God’s love and deemphasis of his wrath…can possibly guess their objections.”

    The sermon before, titled Let Love Lead, is about that issue. The summary says this:

    “Our theology should be led by love. Whenever we think and study God, we should always view God as love. This means that we don’t say God is justice and love, but rather, we say that God is love and loves through justice. In a lot of theology, God’s attributes are given equal weight to God’s love, instead of being interpreted through God’s love. Whenever we encounter a picture of God that doesn’t look loving, we need to question that picture against the love that is portrayed on Calvary.”

  11. Ben, somewhere else you mentioned relationships. In this context I would add that the gathering, exercising and judging of all of these activities in UBF promote an unfriendly environment in general. For those who know the system, they may come prepared and be good examples. For those who know, but are unprepared they are made an example of because it is not right to come unprepared. We are not really gathering in friendship – this is business as usual. For the new comer allowances are usually given to adjust, but pressure is applied in time. If it is not applied by that persons shepherd than someone senior takes the initiative to talk to the sheep, telling them to write testimony or pay for a daily bread book etc…..

    All of the messages among the layers of ministry point to an unfriendly unity. We emphasize church community and loyalty, but where is the community. We are too busy with these works which make us burnt out and irritable.

    So, to say, “I am done….” is a necessary step when examining our sincere relationship with God. I am always going back to simple faith, but I really find worth when I contemplate God’s word about mercy and not sacrifice. It’s funny for me, because your year was 2007 – so was mine! That’s when I told my original chapter director, “No singing, no dancing, no…, no……just simple Bible study and/or Sunday worship.

    It is rather difficult for me to talk about my breakdown and re-construction of self between 2005-2008. I would rather look forward with post marriage events – but – my past in UBF maybe should be more closely examined and confronted so others may understand why I say what I say.

  12. Chris, I hope that UBF as a whole will begin to discuss and understand this: “It’s hard to believe in “justification by grace alone” once you’ve understood how deeply sinful you are. But UBF gives you this assurance. You don’t need to have faith any more. Blind obedience and following rules is much easier. They clearly tell you when you are spiritual and when you are not spiritual.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/07/09/im-done-writing-testimonies/#comment-9198

  13. gc, Some ubf leaders truly sincerely believe from the bottom of their heart and soul that you are most helped and most holy and spiritual if/when you “write testimonies” regularly. So they can’t really give it up or let it go, or approve of any UBFer who does.

    Check out this “cute” quote: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Martin Luther King, Jr

    • I agree and I know that it is customary in UBF for testimony writing. What I am more poking fun at is the legalism. When I had a breakdown I moved close to the church and took action to initially handle things in the typical way. However, I never felt more distant from everyone than at that time. As a result I realized early on that such rituals were meaningless. At the one moment I needed to receive a Bible verse, prayer, encouragement (inclusion) and general understanding I felt abandoned by the church. (Key note: felt)

      At that time I had closed my company (about 40 employees), lost a good friend, was on failed/conditional standing, lost my shepherd…

      When I experienced leaders who only concerned about the rituals in UBF that make you presentable before (God) I had had enough. One more thing, by default I was not a part of the community in reality because I was not yet married. Just remembering certain ministry aspects causes me slight anger. That is why I would rather dwell on post marriage events.

      There are always two sides to the story – true – but I did take initiative to play the game and quickly became disillusioned so in the chapter perspective I most likely am the one who looks bad. Anyhow, I stepped back and recreated myself. So, instead of becoming a long term victim I took action to help myself. It’s a surprise I ever got married in UBF – but that was explained in my first post.

  14. This topic of testimony writing reminds me of my own experience in UBF from 2007-2012 (and very shortly in 2005). I remember that I first enjoyed writing the testimonies because it helped me to express my thoughts about the text that I had heard in the sermon. But after I became a shepherdess I felt more and more that I was not allowed to write everything I wanted to. I had to send my testimony to my bible teacher first and she “corrected” it and told me that it was more “gracious” now and that I would disencourage the others with my negative thinking and saying. I continued writing my testimonies just including what I knew people would like to hear and then they would let me share my testimony in the gathering of all. Sometimes I still wrote what I really thought and still they let me share it, so it was not that absolutely strict. It makes me unhappy to realise that I lost time in deepening my relationship to Jesus just because I was not honest towards him (or at least I didn’t stand up for what I really learned from the bible texts). After 2 years that I (and my husband) left the chapter I started to have email contact again with my former bible teacher. Although I would never ever want to go back I am feeling sad about how much I was dishonest and cheating. In the beginning when we started to go to another church in our city I even missed the regular testimony writing and it took me into a period of re-organizing myself. Now the outer pressure was gone and I (we) enjoyed our new freedom. But it also meant that I had to fight by myself to read the bible regularly and not only on Sunday when we attended the worship service. What I want to say is that testimony writing in itself is good if it is done with the aim that the writer can admit honestly his sin to God without being afraid of being punished afterwards. I feel I am not able to find the right words to describe this dilema that I found myself in during my time in UBF. I hope and pray that the responsible leaders can acknoledge personal failures and help to change the dominative climate in this chapter of UBF in Bonn (Germany).

    • forestsfailyou

      I currently face a similar issue Fiona, but I don’t change them. They are just not shared if they are found to be unacceptable. And when that happens I post them here. If you search my name you can find the testimonies that have not been found to be “about Jesus”.

    • Thank you for sharing Fiona. It takes courage, and it may seem like nothing changes, but we really need to keep hearing more and more stories, from everyone and everywhere.

      Two more people shared their stories of abuse with me this week, from outside the US. Such stories do make a difference. They provide much needed reality checks for everyone involved and help all of us move forward in our journey.

      People at ubf seem to be gaining a sense of human sorrow now. I’ve hear that sentiment numerous times lately. But like you Fiona, what I pray for and seek to find is godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

  15. But the person who does this, in my opinion, had better not do so passively. They ought to be taking decisive action to improve the relationship, for example, through professional counseling. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/07/09/im-done-writing-testimonies/#comment-15755

    I feel this sentence sums up that odd feeling that sits in my stomach when I read some of the articles and comments. It’s related to my last comment on BK’s “Glimpse of the Gospel”. It makes me feel that if the action taken by the person is not approved by members of this board, it is not, shall I say, good enough? What is passive? Is praying passive? Is waiting on God passive? What if there is no means for professional counseling? Is it not possible that God could help the person in other ways namely by coming to him and asking for help?

    I was in a difficult marriage. We had no children and I could have easily divorced. I stayed because Jesus wanted me to love, even my enemy. He wanted me to surrender myself to him and wholly trust in his sovereignty and perfect goodness. I could not get counseling, but I experienced God’s breakthrough in my heart and my husband by prayer and waiting on his answer.

    The action you are looking for may not be obvious. But more people than you know are taking action in small ways and big and the small ways are not to be despised. But if you were not to see results you wanted even in your lifetime, would you look back with regret and consider your efforts wasted? I hope not because Jesus is everything we need and not a single tear is shed in vain for him.

  16. Facebook reminded me that I wrote this 2 years ago today. These days I’ve been primarily just glancing and browsing through what I had written over the past four years on ubfriends, as facebook daily reminds me.

    I wonder if it’s possible to count, but I think I’ve written over a hundred articles over four years.