Post 2013 ISBC Reflections

2013.ISBCso-loved-overheadDo share your experiences and reflections from the 2013 ISBC. Share the good the bad and the ugly. When we share only the good (as on UBF websites), it is perhaps not entirely realistic or honest. But when we share all bad and ugly (as may be the case with UBFriends), it does become difficult and painful for some to read (even though I personally have no problem with brutal vitriolic comments). Hopefully, those who care to share and reflect may do so with reasonable objectivity and balance. Do speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15).

When I shared my concerns about the international conference, little did I realize that it would become the second most commented article with over 350 comments. Several friends and family in UBF shared with me privately that they felt as though I threw them under the bus with my “negative” article. For this I am sorry. My intent was my hope and prayer that some of the negative experiences from past UBF conferences would be seriously addressed and improved upon, which I think did happen to some degree.

ISBCThough I did not attend the ISBC, I watched some of it on live streaming. This would be good for those (introverts such as myself) who would rather watch in the comfort of my home while babysitting with my wife. From what I saw and heard:

  • The music and band was good. Though I did not see it, I heard that the New York band was very good. The Lincoln Park band which I saw twice on Sat night and Sun morning was awesome. The violin solo by Joy Vucekovich was excellent.
  • The video presentation of the continents was generally good, though gc expressed his “most disappointing observation”.
  • The basketball tournament generated tons of interest and sheer excitement.
  • The 40 separate interest groups on Saturday afternoon generated much positive buzz and good reports. I saw the marriage powerpoint presentation of Kevin and Julie Jasmer which is very very good. I would highly recommend this for all married couples. Mark Mederich shared that Andy/Waterloo did a nice job of presenting about the work of the Holy Spirit.
  • Several people expressed to me that the testimony of an American missionary on Friday afternoon was the highlight of the conference and very very moving.
  • That over 100 people responded to the altar call on Saturday night was encouraging (though I am personally not a “fan” of the altar call, which was popularized by Charles Finney during the Second Great Awakening and by Billy Graham).
  • I heard of a second gen who was a professed atheist who began breaking down in tears and coming back to faith in Christ.
  • I know of not a few “unknown UBFers” who worked their butt off (with no political agenda) to serve the conference in countless ways behind the scenes. Though they may be exhausted and burnt out from overwork, yet they did so willingly simply because they love Jesus, and they love His church. They are my heroes.

ISBC2Clearly, God is alive and at work at the ISBC. But there are also the less favorable comments, which primarily have to do with the sermons, the life testimonies and the “training.”

  • Sheepherd1 felt that “this conference is a really blessed one” and also said: “To be honest, the testimony sharers and the messengers were very unnatural to the way they deliver their messages. They almost sounds the same and same tone of speech. My other observation is that people seem to mention the word “training” a lot in this conference.” – Read the entire comment here.
  • Sibboleth shared similar and other concerns: “The messages are essentially the same tired ones I heard many years ago. (Moran did try to change it up a little, God bless ‘im). The life testimonies follow the same formula they did many years ago. You thought they sounded flat? I did too. That’s because they were flat. Where’s the depth? They produced flashy promotional videos that contained zero honesty about the troubled history of UBF in places like Canada and Germany. Honesty is depth. Where’s the depth?”
  • Chris shared that UBF conferences glorifies UBF rather than God: “Isn’t showing all the ‘greatness’ of UBF also a sign of pride? Sure, outwardly, they wrap it as ‘all the Glory to God’ and appear to be humble, but in reality, all this glory goes to UBF.”

LewisWhatUseeUnderstandably, unfavorable comments of those who are still in UBF were made anonymously. Perhaps, someday soon they may be made openly and publicly in UBF without any fear of retribution, shaming, gossip, humiliation, “training,” and marginalization.

I have intentionally shared many good things about the 2013 ISBC. For sure, the Holy Spirit was working in the hearts of many who participated and attended, seemingly more so among the younger generation.

Would you also care to share your HOT reflections and thoughts?


  1. savedbygrace1


    I attended the ISBC this year and can offer a few of my observations. First, I had been reunited to many faithful brothers and sisters. I realized again that there is such a diversity among ubf members. There are many that are such a blessing, truly love others, and are so faithful in prayer for others. They are truly the beauty of the ministry. It appears, from my experience, that there are a just a few that have made things difficult for me. But strangely, it seems that the ones who cause divisions and make it difficult tend to in more leadership positions. So I really enjoyed my fellowship with many people and this was a great blessing.

    I was a little trouble about some things about the conference. I think there was a tendency to cast us sinners as more like victims then sinners against God, which is more in line with the Biblical testimony. This was especially clear in the drama performed. I thought the acting was great, but the message was a real disaster. I think the conference title also fed this mindset. My concern is that this may cause an unhealthy view in many young attendees, and even some senior members. Of course this is compounded by the fact that the goal of the conference was to get people motivated to teach others these things, because it may spread error. True repentance is less likely when a person is taught that they are the victim rather than the offender.

    In a similar vein, I thought the altar call was simply inappropriate, and of course unbiblical. An exhortation was given that people could come and “receive saving faith.” Of course, this is unfair to young people who just experienced emotionally charged messages and dramas. We cannot know what is in a person’s heart, nor judge another person’s spiritual condition. I fear that many people involved in this may then think that they are saved, but are actually just as lost as before the altar call. These young people deserve better than this. They should be counseled, taught about sin and about Christ’s work. This should be done to provide a setting that we hope God will work in. A setting where God may personally speak to the person and enable saving faith and true repentance.

    I only have to more “disappointing” observations. I realized at this conference that ubf messengers tend to cover swaths of text that are far too large for a single message. This provides to much leeway for conditioning the messages, skipping some parts and dwelling on others depending on the intent of the speaker. It also creates messages that lack depth. Instead, speakers should really struggle with just a couple verses at a time. Hopefully this would enable to text to speak for itself, rather than being fit into a certain cast.

    I want to say this carefully as some people may find fault with this, yet I am only speaking from what I believe to be Biblical. While the Bible teaches that women are equal to men, we are still suppose to fit the roles God created for us. There are some very forceful texts that teach women are not suppose to be pastors. Yet, the main Sunday message was preached, in part, by a women. Leaders, really should have stopped this. Not that I think this person could not effectively communicate the passage, but simply because that’s what God said. Again, I thought this was inappropriate, and more revealed the only partial submission of ubf leadership to the Bible. It seemed to fit an overall trend in the conference.

    Lastly, the missionary pledge was inappropriate. James 5:12 says that Christian’s should not make such oaths, but rather let our “yes” be yes and our “no” be no. I was surprised that the pastors did not prevent this from happening, especially since a well known pastor introduced the pledge. It seemed more like a control mechanism than a Biblical pursuit. It certainly made me feel uncomfortable, mainly because I was familiar with God’s revealed will on such oaths / pledges.

    Now some more of the good things I saw. I had wonderful fellowship. Really appreciated the special lecture, which was by far the highlighted of the conference. I was encouraged by ubf’s desire to send missionaries, which is lacking in most Christian circles. I was also encouraged to read that there is a pursuit for an education program, like that of an M.div., which would be for staff shepherds. Hopefully it would become a basic part of all shepherd training, so that people who are not suitable for teaching do not hurt / mislead young people.

    I hope this is helpful, God bless.

  2. Sibboleth

    The following may have been the low point for me. It was heard from one of the last day’s messengers:

    “This passage reminds me of a time in my own life where I was particularly sorrowful. I often dreamed of finding perfect love. So when I met who I thought was Mr. Right, my heart was set on marrying him. I was even convinced that it was from God and I brought him to church and to Bible study. My Bible teacher challenged me to focus on studying the Bible, on teaching the Bible and on learning more of Jesus before marriage. I was excited that I could bring him to the Lord. But as time went on, a big conflict arose in my heart. He was not growing spiritually as I had hoped. I would fall asleep crying and praying night after night that it would be God’s will for me to marry him.

    “Even though I knew following Jesus was the best thing to do, I could not believe that doing so would make me happier than the life I wanted for myself. But God challenged me through John 1:39 saying, ‘Come, and you will see.’ God knew the conflict in my heart. God wanted to show me how blessed my life would be if I followed Jesus. So, I ended the relationship and the other person left the ministry. But my heart was still broken.”

    Sorry, but this makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t blame the messenger because in the end she was just the messenger. This was read from the podium for all the world to hear on the last day of the conference: We control people’s life decisions through manipulation and control, and WE’RE PROUD OF IT. If God is pleased with this, if God approves of this, then he is the Devil of Hell.

    • savedbygrace1

      I hadn’t thought about it until you pointed it out. However, I wish you wouldn’t have closed your post as you did. I am also concerned that this is an example of how the only right way to get married is the “ubf way,” which is highly controlled and mostly based on how submissive a person is to ubf traditions (or how many “sheep” a person has). Of course a Christian is commanded to not marry an unbeliever, but the idea of a ubf member marrying a Christian from another church is considered by many ubf leaders to be just as bad. Its certainly unfortunate that this happens.

    • Sibboleth

      “However, I wish you wouldn’t have closed your post as you did.”

      @savedbygrace1, I hear you. I’ve been sleep deprived and grumpy, and that’s not entirely the fault of the conference. Maybe I was trying too hard to incorporate another C.S. Lewis quote. I probably should have closed with a simple statement that it’s unthinkable that God would want such practices to be associated with him.

    • savedbygrace1, I agree with most of your comments. Actually, if UBF would take the Bible as literally and seriously as they often claim they do, they would not allow women in leadership. But as you know, they even made Sarah Barry a “general” director after Samuel Lee, which seems to be the ultimate violation of a literal understanding of 1 Tim 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” Now in this case I would even agree with UBF and a liberal position that this verse should not be taken literally nowadays. The problem with UBF is that they claim to be fundamentalists, while in reality they are pragmatic about the Bible. They take certain verses literally and important, while ignoring and violating other verses. For instance, UBF pushes for divorce and re-marriage if one partner leaves UBF, violating Lk 16:18 and many other verses. Or they hold up hierarchical structures and titles which violates Mt 23 and many other passages. The measuring stick for UBF which verses to ignore and which not is the “UBF heritage” and an “end justifies the means” mindset. If a verse contradicts the spirit of UBF, they ignore it, if it supports the spirit of UBF, they emphasize it. And they are even proud of having “no theological system”. The result is that UBF heritage itself has become their highest measuring stick.

  3. I usually don’t write on blogs, but I’ve been a bit appalled from the things I’ve come to see and realize the past couple of days. First of all, a quick introduction: I’ve been going to UBF Bible studies/Sunday service the past couple of years. They do know that my commitment to them is very small, but my Bible teacher has come to kind of accept it in the hopes that my commitment will grow little by little. I’ve had experience with congregations that try to extort money from their members, and some that tergiversate the teachings of the Bible, so I’ve grown a bit pessimistic of joining a congregation. UBF from the start seemed to be different. Money doesn’t seem to be a huge deal, and the teachings of Kings and Matthew I felt were mostly spot on. Now we are studying Genesis, which most of the time I’ve felt that they draw really off topic conclusions on it. In my mind, I’ve often thought something like “What? That verse doesn’t say that! How do you draw that conclusion?” or “Tithing? Abraham building an altar and sacrificing the first born doesn’t mean he is tithing.”

    Anyway, back on topic. The conference. I usually don’t go to conferences for more than an evening, but the day they asked me I was in a good mood and I said yes. I changed my mind later, but I made the commitment and I felt I had to go.

    The People: I was surprised that about 90% of the people that were there were Asian. I thought an International Bible conference would bring people from other countries and there would be a healthy mix, but not so. At some point someone asked if there were any Japanese in the crowd and no one stood up, so yeah, mostly Korean.

    The Videos: The videos highlighted what UBF is doing throughout the world. They threw a lot of numbers at you, and it seemed that the church is doing pretty well. I know pretty well Latin America, and I was surprised of some facts that they gave, because I felt that they were completely false.

    The testimonies: I was very disappointed by them, they felt really scripted along with horrible unnatural hand gestures. They went like this: First, a joke, second describe just a little bit about your troubles before UBF, then describe how you changed and how your church is growing. I’ve heard really spirited testimonies before, but these were monotonous, and when I hear monotony, I start to daydream. The most powerful testimony and the one that touched my heart was from somebody that was not part of UBF and it was not in their format.

    The Bible studies: These are the ones that I enjoyed the most, even though it was with the same people of my chapter. We studied John 14th and 15th (not in depth, just with emphasis on ‘I’m the way’ and ‘Remain in me’). I hadn’t read John in a long time and was inspired by all the things that Jesus said. I was disappointed we didn’t study it in depth because these are really powerful chapters.

    My interaction with strangers: My friend wanted to meet new people, he virtually met none, even though he tried hard. The few people we talked to, would sit with you and eagerly share their life testimony in the first few minutes they met you. People would cite Bible verses left and right, but when someone would ask a kind of tough question, they really struggled to answer it and eventually go off topic. I noticed most people looked kinda quiet and introverted.

    The past few days I’ve got some time to reflect about my sins and how I need to reach the torch that Christ, our Lord, is passing to me. I decided to do more research about UBF to see if it is okay to grow in the church, but I’ve read some horrible testimonies that have made me feel appalled. I’ve come to realize the different stages of training some people in my chapter are going through and it makes me sick in the stomach. I’ve grown spiritually while at UBF, and I am glad that God made me cross their path because there are so many good things about it. I can see many people benefiting a lot in their early stages of their training. But I need to grow correctly in order to bear fruit and hopefully one day pass his torch with the true conviction that is his torch.

  4. Thanks, savedbygrace1, Sibboleth, tar_xvz, for your comments. I generally agree with your detailed and insightful comments. Hopefully, they may be shared in your local chapters as well.

    Being a soft complementarian or semi-egalitarian, I probably do not have a real big issue with women preachers or pastors. I love listening to Nancy DeMoss teach and preach to women (since she is a complementarian). She is spirited, joyful, convicting, gracious and gospel-centered whenever I hear her on Moody radio.

  5. Hi all,

    Thanks for your input. Of course, I wasn’t at IUP, but I liked looking at the pictures friends posted on FB. While I was looking at them, my wife commented: “People look so energetic, joyful, and excited. But that’s not the reality at all.”

  6. Joshua, Perhaps this comment above by savedbygrace1 is right, don’t you think?:

    “There are many that are such a blessing, truly love others, and are so faithful in prayer for others. They are truly the beauty of the ministry. It appears, from my experience, that there are a just a few that have made things difficult for me. But strangely, it seems that the ones who cause divisions and make it difficult tend to in more leadership positions.” – See more at:

    • I would also agree with that Ben, for sure.

    • @Ben:

      Truly, there are many who bless, pray, and love seemingly without bounds. They reflect the image of Christ. They are the ones who make the ministry so enticing to newcomers. Through their hard work and sacrifice, the conference could happen. They are doing their best before the Lord and are to be commended.

      But I will not commend the crux of UBF–pleasing God through human efforts and raising disciples through control. No matter how loving the workers are in UBF, when the leadership (who are really not leaders as much as controllers) adamantly and unrepentantly hold to these as their sacred calves, all that beautiful love and service gets poisoned. “A leaven works through the whole dough.”

  7. I am happy to see some new comers speak up. Regardless of the reaction that our addressing the conference gets it is not just the same old voices on ubfriends. After experiencing MSU and Perdue the better experience for me all around was MSU. It did not have the alter call and there was less concern to have people sign up for short term mission (by my memory). I appreciate the focus for mission, but the information should be provided in a less emotionally charged environment. It is easy for people to be swept away in a euphoria (even if they aren’t getting it).

    The alter call is unfortunately transparent for many. I for one did not stand up or close my eyes or do anything of the sort in 2008. But look at me now – when placed in a real life decision to go to Korea I did just that. In fact I am serving faithful Bible study to students. My availability has been highly limited by the jobs that I happened upon. That being said, I am managing in my faith.

    Anyhow, this is about the conference. Regarding testimonial from message or testimony. Yes, about bf/gf and marriage. That is why I was impressed by Vladimir Point in 2008 when he challenged that issue in his message “….if you want your students to run away…” I did not get a chance to enjoy most of the streaming from UIP, but what I did see I was familiar with from my many years in UBF and attending conferences.

    Frankly, seniors, if your reading….take notice that many more young attendees may contribute here. No, they are not demon possessed. Consider carefully what you read and revise/correct future conferences. I bet you can find many young people who value UBF for what it has done in their life, but please be prepared to hear, listen to and accept the other side of the coin!

  8. sheepherd1


    Thanks for the article. As someone who is familiar to big production presentation in a church, I think the ISBC coordinators/planners did a good job with the stage set up. The stage lights were cool and the back drop was cool. It reminded me of my church. The bands that led worship were pretty good, though I liked the Lincoln Park worship band better than New York. The worship song selections were so so. I thought they could have chosen better worship songs. I only liked couple songs like “How Loves Us” by David Crowder and some other song which I can’t recall. In addition, I liked how the orchestra played their music. The solo violinist, Joy Vucekovich, played awesome.

    The ISBC intro video was pretty well done by UBF. It almost looks professional. The presider was cool, especially with his Cookie Monster hat :).

    The messengers sounded the same, if though someone had programmed them to speak the same. I felt they were very unnatural with the way they spoke and even the hand gestures were pretty awkward. In addition, they come to the podium saying the same, “Helloooo!” (Waving their arms awkwardly). I thought coming back to a UBF conference. I really felt that it was going to be different, especially the way they deliver the message of the Word of God. Correct me if I’m wrong. This is just my honest opinion. It seemed that they boast about “House Church” marriage. I’ll tell you how it sounded in my mind while I was hearing the messages. “Since I study 1:1 bible study in UBF, I overcome my sin problem; God blessed me a wonderful House Church and 1:1 bible studies with sheep.”Imagine those people who have marriage problem feels about it?

    The highlight of the conference for me was the guest speaker. She really hit the spot. She said (in my own words) that your actions speak louder than your words. After that message, I felt that I’m ready to go home. I was blessed by it. Also, I really enjoy our bible study group. I really believe that the people I was with were very humble people and nice people. Also I enjoyed our late night discussion/oral testimony sharing. We had blessed time together :).

    I almost walked out of the last day of the conference. Honestly, we heard enough of the same type of messages in the whole conference. It was boring me. By the way missionary pledge, I think it was just wrong to do that. Writing something on a paper doesn’t make you committed to become a (UBF) missionary. It should come from true spirituality that comes from the knowing of God that translates to loving God and loving people.Yes, we should have a missional life in Christ that’s led by the Holy Spirit. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.” Anyway I enjoyed my time. It was good to visit my old UBF friends. The people that I knew and had fellowship with during my time at UBF, seemed that they had forgotten about me :/. My former shepherd didn’t even visit me :/. Anyway during the conference, I met some people from different chapters of UBF. Most of them are students and they seem that they were enjoying their time. It was a good time talking to them.The bus trip to Chicago after the conference was fun. I met a student who is new to UBF. We spend time talking and asking me what church I currently attend. It made the time go faster.

  9. “The People: I was surprised that about 90% of the people that were there were Asian. I thought an International Bible conference would bring people from other countries and there would be a healthy mix, but not so. At some point someone asked if there were any Japanese in the crowd and no one stood up, so yeah, mostly Korean.”

    Imagine that no Korean attend this conference what would it look like? What about no Koreans in ubf? ubf would dissappear. Or maybe some healthy local churches would come out of this. I just can’t understand Korean “local churches” in any country of the world, Korean “international” conferences in the USA. Local churches should be “local” and local people should form their church and local people should pastor it. Then naturally the messages would become natural and sincere and truthful. I like Koreans but I’d like to stay natural Russian and attend a Russian local church and listen to natural Russian messages. I’d like to be whom God created me to be and share the gospel with people of my cultural context.

    We are doing Matthew study now. And I asked myself a question, “What would I do if God sent me to share the gospel with Jews like Matthew?”. My answer is, “I would pray and ask God’s mercy that He would convert a single Jew person through me the sooner the better so that I could leave him there with the Holy Spirit raising a local church for local people”. I would never think about bringing many Russians to Israel and to other countries to make them 90% in local churches (especially when I know for sure that such “balance” makes nothing else but hinders the work of God).

    This unnatural “balance” can produce only unnatural messages and testimonies for those who are of the 10% non-Korean attendants.

    • You’re right Vitaly. What more evidence do we need beyond the UBF-wide misunderstanding of the word “attendant”:

      Attendant: A person employed to provide a service to the public in a particular place: “a gas station attendant”

      Attendee: A person who attends a conference or other gathering.

    • Thanks, Joshua! LOL

      My English practice was inside ubf mostly so sometimes I can’t be sure if I can use this word or another.

      btw I have a question, is “to deliver a message” a normal English/American phrase or a ubfism? If it is a ubfism then what do you do with the message at the podium? Thanks.

      (This week I am going to be an interpreter for a conference in another city for some American guest speakers)

    • “Deliver a message” is used primarily for relaying a message from one person to another. The normal parlance is to “preach a sermon” or “preach a message.”

      My former chapter director in UBF purposely avoided using “sermon” and preferred “deliver a message” to describe his Sunday sermon. He said that sermon implies the preacher is speaking his own ideas, while message means that the preacher is delivering only God’s words. He envisioned himself as a sort-of disembodied voice of God or messenger of God, and by doing so, eliminated any possibility for dissenting voices or having to listen to contrary opinions within the chapter, because he is the “messenger of God.”

      Doesn’t this show how powerful words are? UBF missionaries frequently pretend that they are poor in speaking English, but don’t believe them. They are very clever in the way of redefining words, choosing words, and avoiding meanings to reframe how their members think, inhibiting them from properly articulating their thoughts and communicating properly.

    • And it’s the same in Germany. They always use the word “Botschaft” (message) instead of “Predigt” (sermon). It’s really unusual. If you google for “Sonntagsbotschaft” (sunday message), the first thing that pops up are UBF messages. The most revealing word in German is “Jüngererziehung” (disciple training). The term “Erziehung” used by UBF is the same word that we use for parenting and raising up children, and training dogs. Again, if you google for “Jüngererziehung”, the first thing that pops up are UBF web pages. (Particularly scary and revealing:

  10. I didn’t attend this conference but I attended ubf conferences in 1997, 2001 and 2008. I think I would not be able to express my sincere reflections after the conferences. So I am happy that some people share here and say what they think (naturally).

    In 2008 I became a debtor in order to participate in the conference. It cost me about 3000$. I owed this money to Christian people and payed back only in 2012 after I left ubf. I lived with the feeling of shame and guilt for all those years. At the moment I left ubf I had accumulated more debts (+3500$). And I always thought about the conference. “Why did I participate? What did it give me? Was it a blessing for me? What other Christians think about it and about me as I became such a shameful debtor before them with no possibility to pay back for many years? Why God gave me such a difficult time after the conference?” God began to bless me and let me free from the debts only after I left ubf (even miraculously).

    What I liked about the 2008 conference the most was the pool which I did my best to attend every day. That was nice and btw the people there were very natural for they were Americans, not ubf members. Among the messages I remember only JR’s message about the prodigal son. JR did well, performed well. (btw I couldn’t understand why JR didn’t do anything at all when some Moscow (and Kiev) ubf leaders whom he knew very well left ubf and even now I haven’t heard anything from him about the issues. Though I think I understand for I remember him saying at a messangers training, “SL said that!” meaning that it was an absolutely perfect interpretation of a Bible passage by SL. He has been a very loyal disciple of the “servant of god”, unfortunately)

    This time as I see some reports and reflections about the conference I am happy I am out of all this ubf’s stuff. This week five former ubf members were baptized in a local church (two weeks earlier other four-five former ubf members from our chapter were baptized in another local church). God’s blessing was there. I liked that when the pastor was saying, “Look, here is water! Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” a sudden raining started. Here is water!!! And right after we were baptized it stopped raining and the sun was shining. We sang, “O happy day!” and it was a very happy day. And I don’t think there were many happy people at the 2013 ubf conference under the alter call and the missionary pledge and the unnatural messages and testimonies.

    • Vitaly, hi! In fact JR did come to talk to me when I was about to leave. We had a very long conversation at FT house. I brought 20+ printed testimonies from with me including those he should know personally. He denied everything, his point was that “it was always more than good in Chicago ubf”. Then he had a Bible study with the rest of Russian members.

      I was a messenger at couple of int ubf conferences. So I know where these unnatural gestures are come from. I had to come to Chicago about a week ahead and read the manuscript about 10 times a day with the “trainer” help. This is not a pleasant memory of being a puppet. Still much better than to be a puppet. ))

    • Hi, Andrey! Yes, I personally saw how Korean “trainers” were pushing a folk into your hand to make you feel the suffernings of Jesus on the cross so that you would be natural at the podium. I also went through much “training” for I was a listener and an atendee of a ubf conference only once, at most of my conferences I was a messenger or a translator. btw Andrey, do you remember our Russian translators team at the 2001 ISBC? At the conference I didn’t sleep for almost 4 days in order to translate at night and be a group Bible study leader and translator during the program. During the orchestra playing I fell asleep in the translators’ booth with my head on the table and slept through all the “message delivering” of our former chapter director. I woke up when the orchestra was playing again. I couldn’t believe that I slept for nothing changed before/after the sleep and you didn’t wake me up. It is interesting that all the Russian translators team is out of ubf now.

    • Vitaly, thanks for reminding – we did not slept all three nights at that conference. We were translating all nights and then did simultanious translation of all the program. I remember during the night #3 I was coming out from the room you and others were working to lay down on dorm floor for couple of minutes. We did a Russian dance at that conference too and had a rehearsal every night. )) you made me to remember a couple of big rebukes and trainings me and my wife got from moscow missionaries out of blue just before and after the conference that added a flavor to the experiences of “ubf international bible conference”. ))

      I was ready to sacrifice a lot for what I considered right. The Russian messenger from this year conference told me when I was leaving that I “simply overworked”. In fact I realized i worked for what was deep wrong.

      As I can see this conference was not so intense as previous. There are some changes but all of them are superficial. Same boasting, same training theme, same control theme (what was mentioned in the comments) etc. I do know what stands behinds them – what teachings and what practices. The fact this stuff is still coming out from the pulpit of international conference implies ubf leadership is not trying to change the core issues. It would be very simple if they try to.


    This is a picture of some “bitter” former ubf members being baptized ))

    • Thanks for posting the pictures, Vitaly. I was blessed to travel to Russia with my dad when I was a child in the early 1990s. This picture reminds me of that trip. It was to Perm, maybe about 20 hrs east of Moscow? The country was still recovering and there was a shortage of pastors, as I remember, but I attended a church service and I was so moved by the sincere and joyful worshipers there. It was in a community building of sorts, perhaps an auditorium, but it was jam packed with people. Your picture reminds me of the joyful and prayerful Russian Christians I met as a child.

      My dad is a doctor. He went with some other doctors and a group of American/Canadian pastors. We went to a womens prison. When many of the women saw me–an 8-year-old blond-haired, blue-eyed kid–they were reminded of their own sons. Many of them crowded me and hugged me with tears. I was very moved and touched. From movies I had the impression that Russians were stoic and unemotional; then I realized that it is really not true.


      God bless!

    • Yes, Joshua, Perm is 20+ hours east of Moscow. 10 more hours and you would come to Yekaterinburg, my home city. You remember many people at the services in 90s and ubf Korean missionaries went to Perm from Yekaterinburg about 4-5 years ago. They are praying hard for 1 faithful sheep and think they are very important and necessary for the work of God in Russia. Our former chapter director said that he would leave Yekaterinburg by this summer but it seems that it was an usual lie of his. (Why is it that a ministry that calls itself Christian say lie left and right?) It seems that he wants to stay here and it is only because of his “loyalty philosophy”. It is not possible for a Korean to leave “the mission field” without “honour”, it would “ruin” all his life and achievments. Maybe he wants to also pray for one faithful sheep his whole life for ubf missionaries like to choose “the difficult way” as SL used to say.

  12. secondgen777

    Hi, I attended the ISBC fully expecting to sit through dozens of boring and monotonous testimonies and messages. For the most part, I was not wrong. Honestly, I felt that the testimonies and messages were very basic and had an unnatural feel to them.

    I really enjoyed the praise and worship, the drama, and the altar call.
    I went down to where the altar call was taking place even though I had already made a decision to follow Christ in order to support those who were making that decision for the first time. I talked to one young high school student there and his love and desire to know God was so genuine. We prayed together and I felt much joy and hope in my heart, not only from him, but from the many other people there who honestly wanted to know God.

    Later, I was asked to come to the prayer room to intercede on behalf of a group of high school girls who desperately wanted to meet Christ but for some reason could not. Me, and several others prayed with tears with our heads to the ground for them to receive Christ while several others counseled them in another room. I’m not sure what came of that situation but I am sure that God’s glory was being revealed.

    Even despite these things, I still felt very cynical about the conference overall. Most of the programs and Bible studies were just the same old ones that I had already heard over and over again.

    However, after talking with another young mbf student about the conference, I realized how jaded I had become. I asked him what his favorite part about the conference was and he said with the most honest and genuine expression on his face “I liked all of it.” I was so moved by that statement. I realized that he had truly experienced something of God from this conference.

    That is not to say that all of my qualms about the programs are unwarranted, of course not. The point is that people who are just beginning to grow in faith experienced God through this conference and I want to encourage that. Jesus tells us that whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him to have a large millstone tied around his neck and to be tossed into the sea.

    Suppose that when I talked to these young people about the conference I had brought up all of the things that were bothering me. That would have been so discouraging and hurtful to them

    Sure, the testimonies were strange, but at the end of the day, it was still their true life stories and I saw that God really did change their lives. The messages were very basic, but the truth of God was still being proclaimed from the pulpit. The bible studies were shallow, but once again, we were still talking about Jesus and seeking to follow him.

    I also really enjoyed the Holy Spirit breakout session, through it, we all had an encounter with him.

    To those who seek to completely discredit any work of God that took place at this conference whether it was the altar calls, praise and worship, etc. I challenge you to realize that our God is a God who works through imperfect people in bad situations. Even if the aim of UBF was to glorify itself (which I do not think it was for the most part) God can and will still work through it for his glory to bring people to him. He wouldn’t waste an opportunity like this.

    • @secondgen777:

      Praise God that indeed He uses all manner of people and circumstances to accomplish His work. When I attended my first UBF conference, I was so enthused by the work of God and the Spirit worked powerfully in my heart and life. I believe that He is continually doing so in and through the ISBC. May He continue His good work in everyone’s hearts who were there.

      You are right that it is not good to disparage or cause “little ones” to stumble. Our words here are not written with that intention. Yet it is because I myself am a little ones who stumbled that I speak so candidly and passionately. I met Jesus through the conferences, and through it began a life-long love relationship with him. But it was also the way that I was sucked into a works-righteousness paradigm that stunted my spiritual growth, infected me with a wrong view of God, and induced me to seize control of others’ lives while surrendering control of my own and that of my family. These are not things that came by accident, but were the deliberate (albeit implicit) objectives of the conferences. While I pray that the young people who met God through the ISBC grow strong in Jesus’ grace, I also pray that they are not led into the kind of life in UBF that I and my family were led into.

      And by the way, there is a big difference between critique/evaluate and discredit. Despite what may be portrayed of us exUBFers, we are not fire-breathing children of hell with little horns running around with pitchforks, trying to destroy and discredit what God is doing. A solemn, even-tempered, and critical perspective is healthy, and healthy organizations welcome it.

    • secondgen777, I believe you’re right. But your arguments would also hold for, say, a conference held by Benny Hinn, who in my view is a charlatan and a crook. I believe many people experienced God in a Benny Hinn conference, just like in a UBF conference. So God works despite the circumstances, because on such conferences, people gather who are earnestly seeking for God, and God will not abandon those who earnestly seek him. Still, this does not legitimate or give credibility to the ministry of Benny Hinn or the ministry of UBF with all its unbiblical practices and teachings.

      And, as Joshua said, through such conferences people get sucked into UBF and into the whole spiral of guilt and abuse, marriage problems, child neglect etc. Those young people who served the conference with fresh ideas and professional music, videos etc. probably tried to do their best with good intentions. But in effect, they make it only harder for attendees to see the real face of UBF which is different. And they make it also harder for the UBF leaders to repent because such conferences and the atmosphere (which was created by the young members, not by the leaders) seem to give credibility to their ministry. So they believe they can go on and on without repentance.

  13. secondgen777

    @joshua thank you for your reply

    I am fully aware that most if not all of the people on UBfriends do not intend to over criticize or discredit the work of God that does happen to go on in UBF.

    I am also aware of the many abuses that people here have experienced through UBF, even through ISBCs. I also share in that painful experience and am also a vocal critic of UBF’s systematically abusive practices and doctrine.

    I do not wish to paint anyone here as a fire-breathing child of hell, because I don’t think any of you are.

    I was referring to comments like this “I thought the altar call was simply inappropriate, and of course unbiblical.” and others made about the altar call which seemed to discredit the real work of the Spirit that was happening in those young people’s hearts.

    We do all need to be careful not to over speak and over critique

    • secondgen777

      I realize that in many ways this conference was disappointing. We hoped for more change and for a clear repentant heart to be revealed through the program, however we were left wanting, feeling like there hasn’t been any change at all.

      However, the truth is that change is happening, albeit much more slowly than we would have hoped. The interest groups themselves such as “Emotionally healthy spirituality: can we go back to the Bible without it?” and “The Holy Spirit,” and “Corporate Worship,” just to name a few prove that point.

      Although I was disappointed by a lot of things, I also could not deny that there were definitely some improvements from previous conferences, including the benediction by a guest speaker on saturday evening.

      Rebuke of UBF requires mercy, as well as acknowledging, rejoicing, and focusing on the improvements that are being made instead of the things that didn’t measure up. In my experience this is how God has dealt with me over the course of my Christian life. He is long-suffering with me. If God compiled a list of everything that I do wrong or need to improve on, it would overwhelm me and discourage me. He doesn’t do that, instead he gently shows me one or two areas where I can improve and then rejoices and celebrates when I find victory.

      In the same way, when we speak against the flesh of UBF, we must all avoid the temptation to focus so much on the negative that we cannot see the baby steps that are being made towards wholeness.

      In large part, I am preaching to myself here

    • savedbygrace1

      If you would please show me how the altar call is Biblical, then I will recant my statement.

      It is likely that we are coming from two different theological positions. You mentioned being saved by a decision, while on the other hand, I believe that true saving faith and repentance is the gift of the sovereign grace of God. I’m sorry that you felt my comment was inappropriate, but I’m still convinced that the Biblical data does not support this practice. And on top of that I believe that a number people who participated in the altar call may be deceived in thinking that salvation works in such a way. I’m not saying that God could not have been working. Surely, God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. Nevertheless, God will work His salvation in people’s hearts without such human derived contraptions, which I still believe do more harm than good.

    • “Rebuke of UBF requires mercy, as well as acknowledging, rejoicing, and focusing on the improvements that are being made instead of the things that didn’t measure up.”

      secondgen777, I believe there is only one thing that is really necessary, and that is corporate repentance. As long as I can’t see this happening, everything else has no value. In my eyes, it even makes things worse because if people start to make changes it shows they understand that the old ways were wrong. But they still don’t want to repent. The human way is to make gradual improvements and to be content with them. But we can never reach God that way. In fact, all the efforts make things only worse (as exemplified by the Pharisees in the Bible). The only way to God is Jesus, and this means to repent and to admit sins, and this includes all the sins commited by UBF through following the practices and teachings of his leaders, including very ugly sins like forcing abortions and covering such things up. “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” These verses do not talk about gradual changes, but about living in the light. That is the only change that needs to happen. If UBF does not walk in the light, there is nothing to rejoice. As I explained, seeing all these efforts by young people that help to cover up the past and make leaders continue without repentance, it makes me sad.

  14. savedbygrace1

    I also wanted to mention that it would have been very nice if people from ubfriends who attended the conference could have met up there. I’m sure it would be a blessing to see those people who desire to see change in the ministry.

    • I introduced myself to J Yoon. I would like to have introduced myself to others, but it is kind of hard, since everyone uses aliases (myself included). I am not going to lie, my favorite parts were basketball (congratulations Timlin 5:)! and the non ubf speaker. The ubf messengers spoke too slow and unnaturally for me, except for Abraham Lee. And some of the messages seemed like simple dramatic readings of the passage. However, I had such a good time meeting up with people. For that reason alone I wish the conference was a week long. Also on Saturday I went to the hbf meeting for Elia Kim s message. I enjoyed the hbf meetings and praise so much I wish I had gone there from the beginning of the conference. I am glad I went. I don’t know if there is going to be another one but I hope the message style changes and that less emphasis would be put on numbers and mbf. And the joke about everyone’s wife being the most beautiful is really old.

    • MJ, nice meeting you in person. I wished you could have met my wife, however, because she truly is the most beautiful.

  15. Thanks for the interesting interaction regarding the altar call. Personally, I am not in favor of it, even if God is surely able to work in the heart of those who respond to an altar call.

    As alluded to in my post, the altar call was the result of Charles Finney, who was the main figure of the 2nd Great Awakening. Some scholars and theologians regard Finney as a heretic. He popularized the idea that you can cause any person to convert to Christ by using certain techniques and strategies, all of which amount to emotionalism and manipulation.

    Billy Graham has also been criticized for his famous altar calls. According to some research, 90% of people who responded to a Billy Graham altar call stop going to church after 5 years.

    That said, when the Gospel is clearly heard, preached, or taught, the desired result–which is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit–is to respond with repentance and faith (Ac 2:37-39). Obviously, this does not need to happen with an altar call. It can happen in any situation of life–when one reads the Bible, reads a book, prays, reflects, meditates, etc. The starting point of the redemption of the lost son, is when he came to his senses (Lk 15:17), and he was starving to death among stinky oinking pigs!

  16. Since I am not in North America I have no idea what the present feeling is. I remember after 2008 ISBC it was rumoured that there would only be one more. Is this the fact? What are present feelings in organizing this one? Will UBF carry on with gatherings of multiple thousands of people? I never really concerned about such things when I heard the rumours, but I am just remembering it now. Also, I am curious since we have not heard from Joe (sorry Joe). What did you think of this ISBC?

  17. I only attended the second half of the conference, so unfortunately, I missed the special lecture that everyone was very moved by.

    Overall, I agree with the general sentiments you posted, Ben.
    Just based on the messages I heard, I sensed a lack of a clear focus on God’s love – instead, it seems like the message of “So Loved, So Love” ended at the human level, and not just in a UBF way. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I notice that many people who seek Christ, whether or not they’re not in UBF, seek for some kind of peace within themselves. This is not necessarily wrong, but it just kind of ends there. And like most people here hinted at, the messages were almost like performances.

    I had a friendly disagreement with a close friend about the woman messenger as well – I was very encouraged by a woman speaker while my friend (a woman) did not think it was Biblical either. However, I was hoping to hear more depth from a great diversity of speakers, but instead they were all very similar (I’m almost getting tired of the family photos and the “my wife is the most beauuuuttifulllll woman in the world” spiel).

    Ok, some good:
    The music, skit and the many people who dedicated themselves to Jesus for the first time were all moving.

    As others mentioned, I loved seeing old friends again. The downside to that was that I didn’t really meet anything new. Nevertheless, meeting old friends from all over the globe was like witnessing testimonies of God’s work – many of them had grown so much in faith. Also, with such a huge conference, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I would have loved to have more personal conversations with people, but instead I could only exchange smiles or “Hello, how are you’s”. This leads to the awesomeness of interest group time….

    The interest group was one of the best parts of the conference, in my opinion. This time allowed for more honest and personal discussion in areas that our ministry hasn’t traditionally focused on. Though the “healthy communication” group was canceled, there was certainly some of that in my refreshing IG. I wish the IG time was longer.

  18. Sibboleth

    Some more stray thoughts:

    I only caught one mention of KOPHN. Maybe this meaningless slogan has finally met its end. Or maybe it was just replaced temporarily by SLSL.

    “Establish a house church” is the new “marry by faith”.

    The first skit was good but devolved into a bout of Bible verse quoting toward the end. But you know … baby steps.

    Why were prayers offered for the general director (Mr. Kim) but also for Mr. Jun, the former general director? The prayer made it sound like the two were on almost equal footing (a partnership?) when it comes to “setting the direction” of UBF. Because of the shockingly Stone Age nature of the messages and testimonies in an otherwise “modern-age” conference program, the continued role of the Mr. Jun troubles me a bit.

    The CCM, skit and multimedia elements at the conference would have been familiar to anyone who’s attended local churches that have active youth and/or young adult groups. But the core teachings seem to be little changed, as evidenced by the messages and testimonies, in both content and delivery. The impression I get is that UBF is just repackaging itself: the same core teachings surrounded by modern trappings, a velvet-covered hammer. Could it be that the messages and testimonies were the core Chicago/Korean leadership’s assertion of their authority? If so, I wouldn’t expect substantive changes within this generation.

    • Sibboleth

      Also, as you could guess, there was no hint of an acknowledgement of or even half-hearted apology for past wrongdoings and abusive practices and teachings. But that has to happen in God’s good time and in the most God-glorifying way possible, according to some. The conference was apparently not that time.

    • Sibboleth

      I guess you could see these as baby steps:

      There weren’t any public pronouncements that I heard during the conference that God blessed the weather just for the conference.

      Also, I only heard one (ONE!) public pronouncement comparing the conference to heaven (or as a “glimpse of the heavenly banquet”).

    • Those are good to hear about, Sibboleth. I would say however, that taking 5 years and letting hundreds of leaders go (or pushing them away) and then making the changes of not saying/praying “kingdom of priests and holy nation” so much is not really like the steps taken by a newborn baby who is just beginning life. It is more like the limping along of a dead man.

  19. Joe Schafer

    @gc, I have been reading everyone’s comments with interest, but I haven’t offered any personal observations because I didn’t attend the conference.

  20. big bear

    God is always at work despite us and yes God worked at ISBC. UBF is the greatest ministry in the world at first. In time like marriage you see the flaws and the abuse toward families and the control and the manipulation. As a newcomer it is hard to see but when you grow you see it. Like marriage, you are committed for life even when you discover the ugly of UBF. I WOULD STILL BE IN ubf….it was my life for 29 years never wanted to leave….met Christ and director……But pity you if marriage and family fall apart…….I RECEIVE NO SUPPORT HELP….DAUGHTER WAS RAPED IN UBF NO LETTER OR ACCOUNTIBILITY FROM UBF..ON TOP OF THIS i was asked to leave…this is not God love…I do not regret….GOD HAS ANOTHER PLAN FOR MY LIFE…BUT TAKE TO HEART THE STORIES OF US WHO LEFT..OUR LOVE FOR God is real and alive…remember those who went before you… might save yourself needless abuse from loveless shepherd…….call me 8593948953

  21. See if you agree. From reading your HOT comments, my assessment of the 2013 ISBC based on what people have communicated are as follows:

    * Non-UBF American speaker (Fri afternoon): A+++

    * Music: A

    * Interest Groups: A

    * Basketball: A

    * Bible studies: B? (People enjoy the fellowship)

    * Life Testimonies: D (formulaic, scripted)

    * Messages/Sermons: E (except for Mark Moran and Abe Lee) – Rehearsed performance, not natural, speaking too slowly, saying “Heloo,” talking about “best wife” (I did this at the 1989 ISBC!), awkward gestures, “Stone Age message and life testimonies.” No one said this, but from what I watched, the messenger asking people to repeat something really comes across condescendingly like you’re speaking to learning disabled kindergarten kids rather than mature adults.

    * Long distance commute, cost: E

    • Joe Schafer

      * Enjoy Central Pennsylvania scenery: A

    • * Reading ubfriends from the IUP campus: A

      * Looking at hundreds of empty seats that would have been filled with many of us: F

  22. I experienced God “showing up” at this conference much in the way that a treasure shows up in jars of clay: shining through the cracks (2 Cor 4:7)

    • Surely all worked hard. But seemingly the most blessed aspects of the ISBC came from the younger UBFers who gave their hearts!

    • Mark Mederich

      in my post above less techno me said download, i guess i meant upload:)
      anyway, may Ghrist guide all to himself & inspire all toward others..

    • Mark Mederich

      now i put that post in the wrong place & misspelled Christ:)
      anyway my failure is Christ’s success! the more i fail the more he is exalted!
      i guess God sovereignly wanted to show that my humanity is not dependable so i/we must only depend on Christ, while imperfectly helping one another..

  23. Joe Schafer

    One interesting fact about this conference is that the number of attendees dropped significantly from the last North American international conference (Purdue 2008). I don’t know the final figure, but the preliminary total of 2,800 reported on is significantly lower than what ubf members were praying for (2,500 from North America and 800 from other countries).

    This really is unprecedented. Up until 2008, the attendance at every international conference held in North America increased by several hundred. This time, it dropped by several hundred. Attendance from North America was smaller than anticipated.

    I would attribute the drop to these interrelated factors.

    * A large number of North American leaders have left the ministry over the last two years.

    * The former policy of mandatory attendance is no longer being enforced because it cannot be enforced.

    * Morale is low; members are burned out and tired; leaders have not presented a compelling vision capable of inspiring people; the ministry is badly in need of renewal.

    I’m curious to see whether this decline in numbers gets mentioned in ubf publications (I bet it won’t). And I’m curious to see whether leaders discuss it among themselves and ask why. (I wager that many will blame this website.)

    • Joe, this ubf report states that only 2,600 attended the activity-filled conference. I heard that Purdue was 3,300? Anyone know that number? And while we are at it, anyone have the Korean numbers from the past 5 years?

      “Around 2,600 attendants came from 71 countries, as well as 11 special guests from other ministries. There were 16 messages, 27 life testimonies, 4 world mission night programs, 7 world mission videos by continent, group Bible studies with testimony sharing, 38 interest group sessions, various special music and dance programs, a skit and dramatic animation of a Bible passage, and sports tournaments.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, my figure of 2,800 came from this report:

      The figure of 2,600 that you noted was posted later and is probably more accurate.

    • Thanks Joe, yes I would think 2,600 is the official number. According to this ubf ISBC 2008 report, 3,300 people attended the ISBC in 2008 in Purdue. (And the weather changed just for the conference…)

      So that means a 21% drop in attendance (700) from 2008 to 2013.

      “We thank God for answering our 3,000 prayers. God blessed our registration. Altogether more than 3,300 members from 77 nations attended. God blessed all the messengers of UBF, HBF and MBF meetings by the help of the Holy Spirit. After 3 World Mission Night’s video presentation and life testimonies, more than 500 young and senior members came out making a pledge to be a missionary anytime to anywhere. God also gave us cool weather as we prayed. When we left Purdue, the temperature returned to normal, 90 degree Fahrenheit.”

    • Joe Schafer

      For the record: In November of 2010, I attended a retreat where ubf leaders were beginning to discuss plans for the 2013 conference. It was there that we agreed to hold it at IUP. This was immediately after I had written this report about the low morale in North America.

      One ubf leader at that retreat confidently predicted that the attendance in 2013 would be several hundred more than in 2008 because every conference until then had reliably increased by several hundred. I thought to myself, “If that’s what he thinks, he’s in for a surprise. I’ll bet that the attendance in 2013 is going to be lower than in 2008.”

      I’m not writing this to gloat or to say, “See, I told you so.” I’m not claiming to have any special foresight. Anyone who had eyes to see and ears to hear should have seen this coming.

    • Yes, I too have found that it is easy to be prophetic when observing ubf. The leaders are highly predictable. [Note: Even though I realize bible prophecy has little to do telling the future, the prophets were skilled at observing facts and pointing out where people were headed. When you know God’s word and the love of God, you can see clearly what will happen.]

      Just as a large rhino keeps running for quite a while after being shot, even though it’s dead, ubf will indeed keep plowing on in denial. So many doors of opportunity have been intentionally closed. What can anyone do with those who take authority and keep holding onto it? The only real option is to discuss it so everyone can see what’s happening.

      I expect ubf to start to become very un-predictable however in the next 1 to 2 years. 2015 will be a pivotal year and there’s no telling what might happen. I’m actually looking forward to seeing what happens then, if the Lord allows me to see it.

    • Mark Mederich

      @Joe, thanks for sharing that survey of ministry/direction concerns download from 2010: what i read there is inspiring, yet 3yrs have passed; i have seen some promising external changes at ctr in recent yrs, but not sure how much internal change

  24. I like the 2008 ISBC title better “For God so loved…”. Shortening this to just “So loved…” is rather un-Christlike in my observation.

  25. Joe Schafer

    A question for those who attended the conference: Did you encounter (either in the messages or in the group meetings) any nontrivial discussion of the meaning of love?

    Given that the conference theme was love, I’d like to hear whether anyone tried to define it. This is an important issue, because I’ve seen lots of bad behavior justified as love.

    • The special lecturer (leaving out name for security reasons, and I hope whoever seems to be moderating this forum can take it out if it ever gets accidentally mentioned on this site) gave such a profound definition of what it means to love by life example. It was one of those definitions that is best defined by pointing to an incarnational example of it. “Show before tell” was the take-away point. I’m pretty sure that every attendant who understood the talk would have said, “This special lecturer’s life story taught me what it means to love in such a profound and challenging way.” Joe, you would have absolutely loved the talk for sure. It was the message that our community needed to hear. It probably wasn’t live-streamed and unfortunately one had to be there in person to hear it, and audio-recording wasn’t allowed.

      In addition, in my Bible study group, there was an interesting discussion regarding the troublesome practice of counting the number of NEW 1:1s Bible study mentoring relationships that one has in one’s personal ministry, and whether this counting (and publicizing such counting in life testimonies) actually reflects love for God/love for others. There was a sort of half-serious/half tongue-in-cheek proposal (Uh, I won’t say who proposed it!) in which we begin to start counting the number of OLD 1:1s in which there was a serious strain/relational break-down (or failure to love) in which we ended up sincerely and humbly working toward toward restoration and reconciliation. I personally would be fine with UBF charts that tracked the number of OLD 1:1s that have ended in a failure to love in which we were now working on toward restoration and reconciliation in love. Let’s count that and talk about those numbers at the next ISBC. :)

      God bless you all.

    • Also, just to throw it out there: it would seem to me that the counting of conference attendant numbers cuts both ways. You may rightly object to the use of increased numbers as a “sign of God’s blessing on UBF.” One could also rightly object to the use of decreased numbers as a “sign of God’s disfavor upon UBF.” Who knows what increased or decreased numbers truly mean in light of eternity? Only God knows. Let’s just look at the glory through the cracks, and give God the glory for he chose to reveal through an organizational jar of clay.

      I will just say this: I witnessed one person attend an interest group and walk out reconciled with another person. If the conference was just attended by two people–those two people who reconciled–then what a dang great work of God.

    • Joe Schafer

      John, thanks for your helpful observations.

      I don’t believe that the number of attendees going up or down is a sign of God’s favor or disfavor. But ministry leaders do have a long history of interpreting numbers that way. I recall many occasions when SL, during his lengthy announcements, would talk about the number of 1:1 Bibles studies and SWS attendees in various fellowships as a measure of the leaders’ spiritual condition or as a sign of God’s blessing or disfavor. One of his favorite expressions was, “Numbers don’t lie.”

      No, I do not believe that the drop in the number of attendees is a measure of God’s displeasure. But it is definitely a symptom of organizational malaise.

  26. Sibboleth

    The John 19 message (“It is Finished”) on Saturday night, that preceded the “altar call”, would have been the low point of this conference for me, except that I was already expecting the letdown. As has always been the case when I’ve been present during a John 19 message in UBF, the “finished work of Christ” never left the messenger’s lips.

    At a link on the finished work of Christ, we read this message of grace:

    “If Christ’s Atoning work is finished, what folly and what sin to attempt to supplement it! What vast numbers are doing this! Away with your tears, your confessions, your duties, your charities, even your repentance and faith, if these things dare to take their place side by side with the finished work of Christ! See that you attempt to add nothing to it.”

    But through its John 19 messenger last week, UBF said that Jesus’ proclamation that “It is finished” allows us to “have a new beginning”. Funny that a sacrifice that perfectly finishes merely gets us to another beginning. And what can we do with this new beginning? Well, we can “be purified to form healthy families”, rescue our marriages from the verge of divorce, renew marriage vows, and after some years go to another city and pioneer a new UBF chapter, then finish a discipleship program in this city which results in five new UBF recruits being raised as disciples … and, of course, that’s still just the beginning …

    It’s no surprise to me that the finished work of Christ wasn’t adequately conveyed during that message or the conference. It stands in opposition to the Gospel of Mission.

    • Maria Peace
      Maria Peace

      I agree with you, Sibboleth. After the message I asked myself, “it can’t be finished. He didn’t say Jesus finished it all on the cross!” It was a great let down. Also the closing message didn’t inspire me at all. “Make disciples!!” I can’t. Can you? Jesus can because he finished it on the cross. But there were inspirational speakers also like MM, AL and the guest speaker.

      I really liked the interest group I attended, which was Shepherding with integrity. We talked about ethical issues that is going on in UBF. AW and AS led it. When people asked what bad stuffs had happened in UBF, AW generally said a list of really horrible things. I was shocked. This interest group was transparent. He couldn’t go into details. We broke down into small groups and people were able to talk about their experiences. In my group were people from Canada, Germany, US, a former missionary to Russia and Ukraine. We wrote what are the ethical problems, past and present. How should it be resolved. One person talked about divorce which he experienced. Another talked about polygamy in the ministry in Africa. There were a lot of interesting topics. There were about 5 or more people from Toledo. One meeting was not enough, though. It was just the tip of the iceberg. I wanted to know about the accountability of leaders who were abusive. Just the fact that this Interest Group was at the conference made this conference worthwhile. I hope and pray that an ethical code of conduct can be made for our ministry and those who break them should be accountable.

      Another thing that made this conference a blessing was that our son went out for the Altar call and so did our three sisters from Ukraine. Though many say an Altar call is just an emotional reaction, I was very happy about our son. He has been through a lot, like life and death stuff and not because of UBF but personal reasons. John and I have been praying for him and our prayer was that this conference may make a difference in his life. The thing that moved him about the conference was what the guest speaker said. It made the gospel so simple and understandable about God’s love for us. Our son couldn’t stop talking about it. I don’t believe the altar call is a one shot deal to know Jesus. But it is a step. I hope that he can come to Jesus who said, “It is finished” so that he does not have to prove anything to anyone or to himself but just believe that God paid for all his sins on the cross. When he knows this Jesus then he can really be set free and be a happy man.

      Yes this conference has its flaws but isn’t amazing how God can work in the midst of our weaknesses and shortcomings.

    • Hi, Maria! I am very happy about your son. We are happy about our son as well for he was baptized together with us. We had studied everything the Bible says about baptism and made the decision. DB wrote about church/parachurch difference. I also asked a question to Dr.Ben about WL and baptism in his church. A church shourd teach the gospel and baptize those who believe. Recently I read Calvin on Mt.3 and he wrote that John’s and Jesus’ baptism were one thing, only John was a servant and Jesus is the Lord of baptism. I think it would be hard to imagine that a corporation would appear which would say, “Yes, John baptized, Jesus baptized, the Apostles baptized but we as an elite corporation will nor baptize nor have the communion and will be proud of that”. It is very strange that ubf hasn’t obeyed the Bible in these simple things which are attributes to any normal church.

    • “Yes, John baptized, Jesus baptized, the Apostles baptized but we as an elite corporation will nor baptize nor have the communion and will be proud of that”

      This conundrum is even larger when you know that UBF’s key verse is Mt 28:19 which explicitly talks about baptism. If you call this verse a “command” as UBF is doing, that command includes baptism!

      Sure, some will say that baptisms happened here and there in UBF. But that was already arbitrary and sporadic, depending on the mood of the leader and if members demand it, and there was never a systematic teaching and practice of baptism in UBF.

      In my chapter I never saw that a child of a missionary was baptized, neither as an infant, nor later. When non-Christians became believers in UBF, nobody cared to baptized them either, even if they were never baptized as children. So I didn’t experience a single baptism in 10 years of UBF.

      Sarah Barry writes ( “We accepted Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to “obey everything I have command you.” (Mt 28:19,20) But they didn’t even obey the simple command to baptise mentioned in this very verse. Instead, they taught their disciples to obey many other things that Jesus never commanded.

      It would be an interesting question worth a blog post on its own why UBF does not emphasize baptism (and holy communion ftm). My personal understanding is that UBF is mainly what Samuel Lee made it to be. And Samuel Lee seemingly hated things that resembled orthodox, traditional churches. In the UBF building in Chicago which had been a real church before UBF, he removed all things that resembled a church. It’s consequent to remove baptism and communion as well. He always wanted people to feel that it’s not enough to be a “normal” Christian, you need to be a “UBF Christian”. Second, baptism is a reaffirmation of the fact that Christians are saved, by the finished work of Christ. But Samuel Lee didn’t want that people are sure of their salvation. What keeps a UBFer running and obeying the UBF leaders is the fear of not being saved. So UBF does not want to talk about baptism.

    • Well said Chris. For the first 10 years or so in ubf, from 1987 to 1997, I don’t recall any baptisms in my part of ubf. Then someone married an outsider who was a mature Christian (very uncommon but it happened). That family brought a healthy dose of Christianity to our ubf chapter (until they left). We started doing communion once a year at a conference and the sprinkle baptisms happened every other year or so. We even started having baby dedications. We had one funeral also for the mother of one of the American students who died.

      Also when I was going through marriage by faith, I discovered that there is a baptism ceremony as a requirement before getting married in ubf. I’m not sure if that was a global requirement or just a requirement for me.

    • Hi Maria, I’m glad to hear about some transparency finally happening. ubf lectures make me so frustrated and angry that I really can’t stand reading or listening to them. The reason is because they always glaze over the gospel! The gospel is just within reach and just when they get a chance in the passage to preach the gospel of Jesus, they slam home a heritage point :(

      And I just have to exclaim, woa back up the bus:

      “One person talked about divorce which he experienced. Another talked about polygamy in the ministry in Africa.”

      That is what happenes when you push the heritage at any cost. I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating. ubf directors value loyalty and obedience supremely. So if you are loyal and obey the heritage points, you can do just about anything you want. As a director I could have created my own terrorist group and they would have accepted it as “donig world mission”.

      ubf is going to need about 50 JA’s and dozens of ethics violation committees. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceburg.

    • It would be fair of you who “disliked” my comment to explain what you didn’t like. Maybe you just don’t like to hear the truth.

    • I think that your comment is perfect, Chris, but for this sentence, “What keeps a UBFer running and obeying the UBF leaders is the fear of not being saved.” You’d better delete “of not being saved” to make your comment perfect (to me))) I suppose people “dislike” this sentence. I was a ubfer for 17 years but it is difficult for me to say that I did the many ubf activities because I was not sure of my salvation. But I would agree that the ubf system promote fear and unnecessary doubts. I was not able even to think about not obeying and miss a single ubf meeting (daily). What would I feel if I missed a meeting? I would feel guilty before God though it is not based on the Bible at all. So I lived and lived in ubf slavery so many years. Fear is the main motive in doing ubf activities and it is clearly wrong and manipulative and devilish and cultish. Nevetheless I believed in my salvation. I think ubf “uses” the truth about salvation in order to control and “use” your whole life after you are saved. Lie and deceit start after you are born again. It is like in the muslim religion “There is no God except God (true) and Mogamed is His prophet (lie)”. In ubf it goes, “Believe in Jesus to be saved (true) and be thankful and obedient to us, ubf leaders, forever (lie)”.

    • Vitaliy, you’re probably right that this was the offending sentence. However, I still think it is true. If people in UBF were really sure of their salvation and their standing before God, they would not fear UBF leaders so much. Therefore UBF leaders like to undermine everything that would assure members of their standing before God. Personally, I have been kicked out once twice of UBF and both times it was like God has left me. Both times it felt like God left me and I lost my salvation. Two former “sheep” told me about similar feeligns after being kicked out of UBF. Being accepted by UBF is the visible sign that you are accepted by God, being rebuked or ejected a visible sign that your salvation is at stake. Also, you fear that you can slowly become unspiritual if you’re not doing all the weekly UBF activities, in the end losing your calling and salvation. Your salvation is closely coupled with your calling as a shepherd in UBF, and how well you follow this calling and fulfill this role. I remember how we studied the passage about the broad and narrow path, and a missionary in my fellowship told me she was so full of fear whether she could enter the Kingdom of God. She said she wanted to hold her husband’s coattails to enter the Kingdom of God that way. Doesn’t this show very graphically how she was insure of her salvation? I know for sure that many other members have similar feelings, even if they didn’t express them so openly, or maybe would never admit them to themselves. Only the leaders were always sure of their salvation, and never had qualms about their sins. All these feelings of being guilty for not performing well enough are ultimately signs that people have qualms about their salvation and the fact that God loves them anyway, no matter how they perform. People want to believe they are driven by love, and it is certainly true for many things they are doing, but what keeps them in UBF is ultimately fear, not love. But they don’t want to admit that, not even to themselves.

  27. JohnY:

    “You may rightly object to the use of increased numbers as a “sign of God’s blessing on UBF.” One could also rightly object to the use of decreased numbers as a “sign of God’s disfavor upon UBF.”

    Numbers don’t reflect a sign of blessing or of curse. But that is what ubf directors teach, correct? They live and die on numbers. All ubfers know that.

    There is a saying in business that I believe is true: “Don’t follow the numbers. Money and numbers follow, they do not lead.” ubf has been chasing numbers for 50 years. Numbers increasing is ALWAYS seen as a sign of God’s blessing. When numbers decrease, heads roll.

    So ubf directors will not talk about the 21 PERCENT drop in attendance from 2008 to 2013. They won’t talk about real numbers of what’s going on in Korea. Do you have those numbers?

    The numbers do tell a story however. The numbers show that ubf does not offer a vision that people can accept. As Joe pointed out, ubf can no longer enforce the unwritten mandatory attendance rule that used to exist. The numbers reflect just what we have been testifying to here: there is a crisis of people leaving the ministry, especially among leaders.

    ubf conferences are always like family reunions. Those reunions continue to become more and more painful. Heck, Joe Schafer was a conference messenger at the 2008 ISBC! Does no one care that they didn’t even attend this year?

  28. I was semi-smugly “bragging” to my wife that the 2 “Most Viewed (Last 30 Days)” posts are the 2 ISBC articles I wrote ( and this one–which has over 1,000 views in a few days!).

    She laughed and said, “That’s why you deserve the jerk of the year award!” That’s why I love her to death, since “insulting each other” is our premier and primary love language!

    • There are reasons for that Ben and aren’t related to your bragging :)

      People in ubf are crying out for a leader with courage to voice concerns and lead the organization out of its crisis.

      (Yes I am attending the Leadership Summit right now! All ubf leaders desperately need to listen to Bill Hybels and take note of what Willow Creek is doing.)

    • I look forward to a detailed report of the Leadership Summit!

    • sheepherd1

      Ben: Haha that’s funny. “insulting each other is our premier and primary love language.”

      Brian: That’s great! You’re at the GLS! I’m kind of jealous. I was gonna be there but I already went to ISBC. Are you at the Willow Creek South Barrington campus or are you viewing it via satellite?

    • sheepherd1, my wife and I attended today and plan to tomorrow as well. Our church is a satellite host for the Summit (

      It was awesome to have a discounted rate by the church (as opposed to always being asked to pay more as a leader at ubf).

      Right now I don’t have words to express what just happened today. I am breathless, speechless and entirely blown away and amazed beyond belief. Today several more layers of crud fell off as I heard real world class leaders speak of real Christianity. Every sentence seemed to contradict what ubf taught me. Every word chipped away at the ubf heritage that was still entangled in my mind.

      After every speaker I thought “ubfers MUST hear this!” and “ubf could be revolutionized and explode with potential if they believed this stuff!” and “I must write an article on every speaker!”

  29. In case anyone is interested, here is the link for more info about the GLS:

    Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit

    My favorite speaker today was Chris Brown. His point was servant leadership. He hammered home like I’ve never heard before the message that Jesus turned leadership upside down, demanding His followers to not create an authority hierarchy based on the “not so with you” passage and others. He implored church leaders to reject the Moses and Elijah models and surrender to Jesus to learn leadership (based on the Transfiguration events).

  30. My most highly recommended session for ubf people would be session two today, from Patrick Lencioni entitled “How to Lose Your Best People“. ubf leaders excel in everything Patrick said not to do :(

    • Brian,
      I attended this yesterday at a satellite location in Chicago. Patrick is a really gifted speaker and a lot of what he shared has been insightful to reflect upon. It was interesting for me to particpate there yesterday (I’m not able to go today) and compare it with ISBC

    • That’s awesome, Paul. I would highly recommend watching the GLS. I have some plans and ideas that I think you (and Ben too :) would really be interested in. I believe there are some initiatives that God is putting on my heart that will revolutionize ubf, if they take me up on my offers. I’ll share some of my thoughts starting with tomorrow morning’s article. Stay tuned :)

      btw, yesterday at the GLS was astounding. Today was 10 times more astounding. Andy Stanely’s closing sermon is a must-see sermon. Andy might have just saved Christianity in North America. Literally. God is doing amazing things around the world.

  31. “why UBF does not emphasize baptism (and holy communion ftm)” – See more at:

    I was not baptized until about 10 years after I became a Christian. Interestingly I decided to get baptized primarily because a Bible student of mine was getting baptized before her marriage, so I joined her!

    Since baptism was not part of my “spiritual formation,” I do not sense its “value.” I say this because even though I was never physically baptized I knew from my heart that God changed my heart at my conversion in 1980, and that I have been baptized by the Holy Spirit and was no longer the person I was. Of course, I still have a lot more changing that needs to happen!

    Regarding communion, it is similar to baptism in that it was not and is not part of my spiritual formation. Though I do not have communion regularly, I know God’s presence and that I want to be in constant communion and fellowship with Him daily.

    That said, we do baptize our kids and new believers, and have communion now at West Loop averaging about once every few months, or several times a year.

    • Sorry to say, Dr.Ben, but I feel in your words some of ubf’s elitism. It is bad that baptism was not a part of your spiritual formation and it is very strange for a Christian to be baptized in 10 years after being born again. Francis Chan spoke on this topic and said that people have many and many questions when they don’t obey the Bible: “Am I saved if I believe and not yet baptized?”, “Am I saved if I was baptized but I didn’t believe at the time?”, Is it OK? What shall I do?”, etc. There are no questions when people believe and are baptized.

      I thought the same way you do. But some reading of the passages with the word “baptized” was not a small revelation for me. I could see the “norm” of the Bible in this matter. I believe it is good to do for a leader of a church )) because in your words I see your good testimony as a Christian but can’t see a lesson for young believers and newcomers. Are they to think that they are better to be baptized in 10 years after they come to faith? :) Is communion and even baptism not a big deal for elite Christians like in WL?

  32. “It would be fair of you who “disliked” my comment to explain what you didn’t like.” – See more at: I agree.

    These are my (subjective) reasons why people in UBF do not express something “negative,” including why one “dislikes” any article or comment (Sorry in advance if this comes off as a broad sweeping generalization!):

    * UBF does not promote or encourage critical thinking.
    * UBF regards any critique that is not flattering or glowingly positive as complaining, criticizing, discouraging, bashing, and as being unthankful, immature and unspiritual.
    * UBF people have been more or less conditioned to “Keep spiritual order,” and “Just obey.” There is little to no room in most of the UBF world for disagreement or objection with any “senior” UBF leader.

    Thus, as a result, UBF people tend to:

    * Be supersensitive about any less than favorable comment, such as the comments here on UBFriends.
    * View any unfavorable comment about UBF as being bad, while at the same time being unable to explain clearly why it is bad beyond ad hominems and caricatures.
    * Not develop objectivity and thus do not know how to respectfully and healthily critique something, such as a poor message, poor Bible study questions, predictable prayer topics and announcements, poor leadership, poor decisions by leaders, etc.
    * Be fearful of honestly speaking up.
    * Not know how to handle being critiqued and objected to after they object to something on UBFriends. I was told that some UBF people are now “scared” to comment on UBFriends, because they will simply get blasted for any “pro-UBF comments.”

    All this to say that any dislikes of any article or comment will sadly go unexplained. I wish this were not so.

    • One word: Hypocrisy.

      ubf people like to think of themselves (as I once did) as holy soldiers, the elite marines of Christianity. Some even envision their sheep bowing down to them in Heaven. Yet they can’t face the facts about themselves or their organization.

    • The supreme irony is that the ones who are so flabbergasted by criticism are the same ones are so quick to critique and judge others, either their Bible students or Christians outside the ministry.

    • Exactly, Joshua. And that irony is a big reason why it is so hard to navigate through many of the control layers placed on you by your ubf personal shepherd. Your ubf lifelong shepherd will always attempt to turn your thoughts inward, focusing you on your own shortcomings, turning the tables in an ad hominem manner.

      The first thing that helped begin my journey of recovery was to “nail down the table”. I stopped allowing my personal controller to turn the tables on me. I refused to believe his words of condemnation about my spiritual life. I decided to find out on my own and obey my Master, Jesus.

      And btw, we former members know this already but it is worth stating for our ubf friends: Nothing ever said on this blog comes close to what ubf directors said about us. You may think some words here are harsh. But they are gracious compared to ubf director’s words behind closed doors.

      [For example: One ubf director told people they are “stupid” and “not intelligent”. But he would never ever say such things publicly.]

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I remember SL berating people as stupid, not just in private but in public. Here’s an example. Every Sunday, a few minutes before the Chicago SWS, there would be a meeting to pray for the SWS. SL would be there, along with the messenger, presider, prayer servants, offering servants, etc. (5-10 people or more). I remember one Sunday where, at that prayer meeting, SL began to rebuke a young woman from the UIC ministry. He repeatedly said to her, “You’re a stupid woman.” This wasn’t an isolated incident. Things like that happened fairly often in Chicago.

    • That’s not surprising to hear Joe. I think a lot of directors in ubf try to emulate SL, but they don’t quite have the guts to do or say what he did. At least SL was more transparent than the directors who are here now. The hiding behind closed doors makes things worse.

    • btw, although I can’t say that I admire SL, I do respect one thing about him: he had gonads.

  33. Chris, “It would be fair of you who “disliked” my comment to explain what you didn’t like.”

    I agree that would be helpful. Probably it is fear or trolling.

    Also the ubf mindset is trapped in the low-level kinds of arguments, such as ad hominem or responding to tone only. They can’t move up to higher level arguments because they sense that they will lose the arguement.

    • Joe Schafer

      Many Christians like to argue as long as they feel they are winning the argument. When they sense they are losing, they step back and quote some biblical command against arguing.

    • I’ve learned the hard way that proof-texting and springboarding are two of the worst tools a Christian has.

    • Joe Schafer

      What’s springboarding? Is it like waterboarding?

    • lol. Springboard can mean “anything that serves as a point of departure or initiation”. I use it to describe one of the message writing methods I was taught. It means to take a concept, like say “rest” and jump into talking about something completely different, such as “work”.

      I used this a lot in my ubf lectures. I tried to describe an example on my own blog a while back.

      ubf lectures often just springboard into talking about one of the heritage points, no matter what bible verse we are talking about.

    • Hadn’t seen Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement before. Thanks for point to it, Brian. I wished I could argue with UBFers on higher levels than the first 3 or 4, but it rarely happens. Particularly in the time of the reform movement, I only experienced the lower three levels as reaction of the hardcore UBF to the serious and legitimate grievances of the reformers.

  34. @Chris: “what keeps them in UBF is ultimately fear…” This is very very sad. I posted this quote today on Facebook:

    “Terror accomplishes no real obedience. Suspense brings forth no fruit unto holiness. No gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor can subdue one lust, or correct our crookedness of will. But the free pardon of the cross uproots sin, and withers all its branches. Only the certainty of love, forgiving love, can do this.” ~ Horatius Bonar