A Wonderful UBF Conference, But…

ISBC2013montreal indonesian danceOverall it was a wonderful conference. I went there eager to hear systematic and textual messages. I came to hear upfront calls to be missionaries. Jesus’ world mission command was clearly highlighted. To me this is refreshing. I liked the personal interest groups. They were a chance to talk with other people who are interested in the same thing. I am always happy that “non professional” Christians are encouraged and allowed to be speakers at the conferences. This rarely happens elsewhere much…but needs to happen. I appreciate the life testimonies. They were very clear. God has been at work in these peoples’ lives and it was expressed in a very poignant way. The conference had it all: messages from lay ministers, life testimonies, interest groups, an intriguing special speaker, an altar call, a recommitment call, a missionary pledge time. There was free time on a beautiful campus. All of the venues were close together. There was time to spend with our children. We were even roommates with our kids. There were soccer and basketball tournaments. There were cozy group Bible studies in the dorms. The music was fantastic. The MC, Greg Lewis was wonderful and cheerful. The drama was fresh. The food was abundant. I loved the barbeque. The weather was perfect. The road trip was long, but it was a road trip none the less. Those are always good. I liked the Pennsylvania mountains and even the nearby nuclear reactor. This conference is very unique in Christian conferences.  The group Bible studies could have been a little long, if people let them. If we studied as deeply as we were directed then it could have went on to past midnight each night. I like the freedom of the leaders to choose the length of time.

I am glad we were not required to pray 2 X 2 at every meeting. It is OK a few times.  I appreciate the group prayer.

Would I go again? Definitely.

There were some areas that need improvement. The messengers have to stay away from the old format that is repeated again and again.  We can not have the same sounding messages for decades. We need to abandon the “My wife is so beautiful!” phrase. Let people be themselves and greet the crowd as they would normally greet the crowd.

Several people, from different parts of the world repented of the same things, “an easy going life style.” When I heard the phrase I immediately thought of 1980’s UBF conferences. It is obviously a phrase introduced by the missionaries. I am not so sure that God wants us to live in constant state of mental and physical engagement anyways. In a few instances, those who had 10-20 1:1 Bible studies a week were praised. Teaching the Bible is good, but what about stopping to read a book or simply spending time with people with no agenda? Just being in a constant state of self denial is not the answer. It may be contributing to some peoples’ tunnel vision.

There was a need for more coffee. It was always out. I wish I knew there was a McDonald’s a ½ block away at the beginning of the conference.

The cost is prohibitive to some. A family, with several kids, may pay over $1,500 USD for the weekend. This includes travel expenses also. Not too many people can do this. It can only be done by someone who truly values the conference.

There was obviously a lack of young Americans who are converts to the faith. There were middle aged missionaries and shepherds and second generation children and missionary kids. Some people may say, “Well that is because people are not ‘feeding sheep’” or “That is because America is not sending out missionaries.” But it could be more than that. We need to discover why and respond in the right way.

There were opportunities for people to be short term missionaries. This is great. I wonder why people are not so excited about being short term missionaries in UBF and they are very excited to be short term missionaries in other ministries? Maybe it has to do with what happens when people go the mission field.  Is the work of the Holy Spirit allowed to blossom and flourish when they go? Is there too much focus on supporting another’s agenda?

There seemed to be a growing divide among the Koreans and the Americans. Missionaries need to become like the people in their mission field and not make the “Natives of the land” like them. Missionaries need to let Americans be American. They also need to respect American Christians and live incarnational lives among the Americans.  They need to stop thinking that Americans don’t “feed sheep” or “go out as missionaries.” They need to stop the divide from growing or they will become more irrelevant in the American context.  Maybe the older leaders need to step aside quicker and resist controlling things from the shadows.

There needs to be a decision on what this International conference is for. Is it for the missionaries? Is it for new converts? Is it for the college level shepherds? It seems to be a little something for everyone. That is OK. Should we get more specific on who we are trying to reach?


  1. Love your last two paragraphs!

  2. sheepherd1

    Like you I enjoyed the interest group that I signed up for. ISBC was the only conference that I had the chance to talk and share to other UBFers and new recruits.

    I also agree with Ben. I like the last two paragraphs :).

    • Mark Mederich

      yeah, more interactivity in religious activities is good/perhaps necessary for Holy Spirit work: more “2 way street” to sincerely share/develop ideas beyond general, less “1 way street” of being told main/general ideas repeatedly

  3. Thanks for sharing this, though I long for the day when ubf people no longer have to share honestly as “anonymous”. Why do we think the ubf is like the moffia? Where has our courage gone?

    I love the fact that the last 2 paragraphs are stated. I hate the fact that the last 2 paragraphs are true.

  4. “I wonder why people are not so excited about being short term missionaries in UBF and they are very excited to be short term missionaries in other ministries? Maybe it has to do with what happens when people go the mission field. Is the work of the Holy Spirit allowed to blossom and flourish when they go?”

    As someone who was a short-term missionary in ubf, I can say they do allow the Holy Spirit to flourish during such trips (at least for me). It was the first time I was free from the ubf bondage! I loved those 3 months in Russia! I was infused with the Holy Spirit and indwelled in an amazing way during those months in Russia.

    The problem is when you come back. All that Holy Spirit energy? It is harnassed to power the ubf engine. It is sapped and drained out of you until you forget there even is a Holy Spirit. Your mind goes numb after sitting through all the meetings when you know so well how the ministry could be if you were free. In short, you return to the shackles of the ubf heritage. The Holy Spirit is not only grieved, but quenched and insulted.

    It is all setup like Monsters Inc. where they harnessed the children’s energy to power the city.

    • Mark Mederich

      may anything/anyone standing in the way, be humbled out of the way

      if longterm religious don’t get it, either they can’t see the light or won’t;
      if can’t, i pray they may; if won’t, i pray they repent before the Holy Spirit moves them away from the body of Christ for the health of the body

  5. I also went to the conference, hoping that the Holy Spirit would show up and i believe that He did. But never in the way that we expected Him to.

    Ill start with the things that i believe need change. I must say that I was quite disappointed with the depth of the messages. I am not moved by overly rehearsed and trained messangers. In my opinion, It loses authenticity, and blocks the Holy Spirit from speaking through the messenger. We definitely need to get rid of the rehearsed voice ” H–e–l–l-o my name is…. and i am from…”. It is old and quite annoying. The testimonies also followed the usual pattern. Although there were a few testimonies that were authentic and there was a freedom for the spirit to move.

    But I did see and experienced the Holy Spirit move in many other ways, that i havent before. The worship was awesome!!!

    There was dialogue…open, honest dialogue among many people. The discussion group I attended was based on the book: Emotional Healthy Spirituality. Unfortunately one of the main leaders could not be there, but JR filled in and the Spirit worked. I believe that both leaders were genuine and JR shared his life story in a very honest and transparent way. Some of his experience brought me to tears because it reminded me of my own in many ways, and i am sure anyone who has been under the ubf system could feel the pain and relate to him.

    I am glad they invited several outside guests. One of the speakers was amazing, and my spirit was just so moved by her life story.

    I was thankful for all the open and transparent conversations i had. I believe I spoke the truth, and some people still have a difficult time hearing it, but i hope to do it in love and not in a loud and destructive way, like i have in the past. So the Holy Spirit was and is working in people. He is working in my own heart, He was moving at the conference. Perhaps its more of an inside out effect.

    A few people came up to me and mentioned they read my posts on ubfriends. So thats a good sign that people are reading these posts and the Spirit is working through this blog.

    • That’s great to hear Martha! I fully support such things and I rejoice that such things happened, especially the worship and the outside connections.

      This is evidence that the bad and ugly can and should be dug out of ubf. One of the worst bible teachings I heard taught from ubf directors was from Matthew 13:28-30. Many ubf directors can see some of the problems. But instead of working to correct the problems, they despair over Matthew 13:28-30, thinking they have to leave the “weeds” for the sake of the “wheat”. This is an utterly false teaching and has nothing to do with what Jesus was teaching there. Those who think a bad leader cannot be removed from office or that ugly practices can’t be changed based on these verses need to read all 58 verses of that chapter (and apply a little lateral thinking :)

      Those in ubf who have been indwelled with the Holy Spirit need to stand up and start pulling weeds. Otherwise the wheat will be choked to death.

  6. Anonymous, you summarized things quite well. Sounds like every conference I attended from 1987 to 2011.

    You mentioned: “There was obviously a lack of young Americans who are converts to the faith. There were middle aged missionaries and shepherds and second generation children and missionary kids. Some people may say, “Well that is because people are not ‘feeding sheep’” or “That is because America is not sending out missionaries.” But it could be more than that. We need to discover why and respond in the right way.”

    There is no need to form a committee and spend 5 years studying why. Just do a 3 second internet search for “ubf cult”. Or read through and listen to the nearly 10,000 comments on this blog and 325 articles. Many of our articles summarize the problems very well. Do that and it is so very easy to see why there was a lack of young Americans there.

    The same thing has been happeneing in ubf chapters around the world for several years. The 3rd reform movement, in 2001 or so, was a wake-up call for ubf directors. They ddin’t wake up. Now they are reaping the fruit of the past decade.

    The problem is not the “lazy sheep” but the “controlling shepherds” who are driving the sheep away. The prophets had some amazing words for such shepherds, and I believe we are seeing the truth of those words coming true.

    Will there be a senior ubf leader who listens to the cries of Jeremiah and Ezekiel?

    • sheepherd1

      Will there be an American GD in the future? As I remember, the former GD was at the ISBC which was surprising.

  7. Terry Lopez

    From this conference, one thing really struck me deeply and I don’t think I will ever forget it. It was the “One Word” I received from this conference: Baby strollers…

  8. Terry Lopez

    I saw soooo many young couples with young, young baby’s who attended the conference and I have to say it made me extremely happy.

    • Terry, making the “soooo” sound here is strictly prohibited :) Just kidding, just had to point this out because such things bring bad so many bad memories for some of us.

    • How strange to dislike Terry’s comment. Does that mean someone was unhappy to see young couples with babies at the conference?

      Would that person prefer we go back to the good ol’ days of forcing 3-month-old infants to separate from their nursing mother all of a sudden, resulting in a 24hr+ fast for the infant followed by an emergency drive of the babysitter to the conference place on the advice of a doctor, followed by many weeks of the mother being chastised for being “family centered” by nursing the infant during the conference? Is that scenario much happier for this person?

    • Joshua, I clicked “dislike” and then explained the main reason why… the “soooo” comment invoked bad memories.

      But in regard to babies at conferences, I don’t like that either. Should ubf go back to abandoning children at babysitters to attend such conferences? No way, that is hardly what I am suggesting.

      The deeper question is this: why do parents feel so compelled to bring young babies to such events? Is there any benefit for babies or mothers or parenting? No. It would be better to just stay home or perhaps attend a proper parenting conference. Why the guilt-trip? Why couldn’t mothers of young babies stay home and watch the live feeds? Why must they attend?

      Why not let the families be free and not compelled to attend? This conference had next to nothing for such “family-centered” people. And didn’t the onsite babysitting service mimic the old way of separating mothers? Does the way this was handled at the ISBC teach anything positive about being a responsible parent?

      This all goes back to the strange website announcement where families were told not to go through family registration.

      But of course maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the mothers didn’t feel abandoned by their husbands who were off doing ubf stuff. Maybe the ISBC had wonderful family-centered children’s programs and amazing child-care and now ubf is fully supporting family-centered ministries. I wish more mothers would share and comment.

    • Brian, thanks for your response. I had one of my first genuine encounters with Jesus as a child when my aunt and uncle brought me to a pastors’ conference along with their 4 children. The conference had some adult-oriented programs, children-oriented programs, and family-together programs. It was a big part of my formative Christian experience. I regretted that families were largely separated in the current format at UBF conferences, or at least in the conferences I was exposed in N. America, Europe, and Korea. The ministry has a lot to learn in this regard.

    • Terry Lopez


      Your comment about the soooo I found very amusing. It gave me a chuckle. :-). I know elsewhere it has been discussed about Americans speaking Kanglish. I have to say I was notorious for doing so. For the most part I’ve gotten rid of it. I remember my wife telling me on numerous occasions to stop doing it, but it was ingrained; my wife is from Japan and even she found it wierd. The funny thing is that no one deliberately told me to speak that way, I just did it. I don’t know where it came from. I mean I know, but I don’t know; if you know what I mean. :-D

  9. Stay tuned for survey results from the ISBC…

  10. Terry Lopez

    Personally, I see the church as a family. So for me to see young family’s was wonderful. That is why I see my home as a ‘church’. Every Sunday, my family (and I consider those my wife and I study with as though they are family-even though I know they are not) and we gather at my home and prepare dinner together and often host another family from church and their Bible students and we enjoy one another’s company. There is no message or daily bread testimony, we just eat and spend time together. Sometimes we work on a puzzle together (we are working on the Last Supper), other times we watch a movie (we are watching episodes of Planet Earth), other times we play a game we’ve been playing Mah Jong and a game called Dominion); but this week several brought their homework and were studying. One of the girls is taking Japanese 104 and is already behind, so my wife stayed up with her until 2:30 am to help her to catch up. My oldest son sat with them and did his homework. I went to bed early, because I’m suffering from a bout of Diveriticulitus.