UBF at the Crossroads

crossroadsUBF is in a crisis.

Many will disagree with me. “Stop exaggerating,” they’ll say. “Don’t worry, have faith! Focus on the positive. Remember what God has done. Great things happened at the ISBC. Many people accepted Christ. If even one lost sheep repents, there is great rejoicing in heaven.”

But for those who are willing to look, the situation looks grim. One major piece of evidence is that the attendance at the recent ISBC dropped by about 20% from Purdue ’08. UBF leaders have always assumed that their numbers would go up. They believed that if they just worked hard enough and prayed enough times and kept going and stayed with the program, then God would bless their faithfulness and the ministry would grow. But this time, the numbers went down, and they did so dramatically.

I’ve heard various explanations for the drop in attendance, and I have offered a few of my own. It is a symptom of malaise and low morale. Over the last three years, many natives have left the ministry, and the conflicts that led to their departure have not been addressed. Attendance at conferences can no longer be considered mandatory; chapter directors have realized that the days when they could simply command people to come are over.

None of these trends will be reversed by hope or wishful thinking. Praying more and praying harder isn’t going to work. “Just believe” won’t do. Tweaking the organization (e.g., appointing some new committees) won’t fix the problem either. Without major structural change, the decline is going to continue. UBF is in a downward spiral, and there’s a long way to go before it bottoms out.

I predict that most leaders will ignore this evidence. They will try to stay upbeat and apply positive spin. Some will point the finger of blame at Brian, Ben, me, and other infamous heretics and villains. They won’t take a long, hard look at what actually happened and why.

But suppose they do decide to take it seriously. Suppose they are stunned and begin to ask with real sincerity, “Brothers and sisters, what shall we do?”

If that happens, what would you tell them? What do you think the leaders need to focus on as their highest priority? What would you say are the top three action items (1, 2 and 3)? And what activities should they put aside to focus on those items?

I’ve been thinking about that question for a while. In the remainder of this article, I will give my answer.

In terms of high-priority items, I won’t list a 1, 2 and 3. I think there is only one. I believe that from now on, all the daily, weekly, monthly, yearly activities that take place (e.g., the work of the ethics committee, preparing Bible study material, staff training, meetings and conferences and workshops and retreats, etc.) need to be aligned toward one main goal. If a particular activity supports this goal, then we should proceed with it. If the activity delays, hampers or detracts from this goal, we should put it aside indefinitely.

In my opinion, the goal should be this:

Everyone needs to work together to revise the story of UBF. People must help one another to set aside propaganda and freshly discern what has happened in the community, to understand what God has done thus far, what he is doing now, and what he may want to do in the future.

This is not something that leaders can do in secret by themselves. The process must involve everyone. Leaders will have to stop talking about their own ideas, close their mouths, open their ears, and listen to all the current and ex-members. They will have to create space for honest, open-ended and freewheeling discussion of everything, no holds barred — including the kind of discussion that takes place on UBFriends, which they hate so much. They will have to engage in ethnographic listening for an extended period of time. If they are not capable of that (and, I’m sorry to say, many of them aren’t) then they need to just get out of the way and allow younger and more capable people to do it.

Why are listening and storytelling so important? Because the crisis in UBF is ultimately not one of shrinking numbers, falling income, criticism on UBFriends, bad relations between Americans and Koreans, unchecked power and authoritarian abuse, etc. Those things are all present, of course, and they are serious and troubling. But at the end of the day, those are symptoms of something more fundamental. Those problems could be handled if UBF was healthy. The fact that those problems are not yet solvable demonstrates that the community doesn’t understand what it is. Leaders and members don’t have coherent, credible and compelling reasons for why the organization should exist or why it should do the things it does.

The present crisis is an identity crisis. There is a large and growing disconnect between the story that loyal members have repeatedly told themselves and the evidence that has been accumulating year by year. The old UBF narrative is no longer believed, except perhaps by a small group of people who live in bunkers and cling to their convictions no matter what.

The old UBF narrative goes something like this. (I wrote the following paragraph for another article last year.)

In the early 1960’s, God began a great work in South Korea. A young female American missionary left her missionary compound and lived among the poor. Together with a young Korean pastor, they taught the Bible to university students. Instead of relying on outside funds, the movement became independent and self-supporting. Students overcame their “beggar mentality” and sacrificed everything to support this work. In absolute obedience to Jesus’ world mission command, they went overseas to preach the gospel. God blessed all their sacrifice, hard work, simple faith, etc. and transformed Korea from a nation that receives outside help to a nation that sends missionaries throughout the world. Unlike other churches and movements, this group raises highly committed disciples who are extremely disciplined in Bible study and prayer. They marry by faith, support themselves on the mission field, excel in their studies and become leading doctors, engineers, diplomats and professors. Although they seem highly intelligent, their success is not due to their intelligence but to their self-denial, their boldness in proclaiming the gospel, their absolute obedience and their uncomplicated, childlike faith. Their unique disciplines (Daily Bread, testimony writing, obedience training, marriage by faith, etc.) and their pure, inductive approach to Bible study are extremely potent, and other churches could learn a great deal from them. As they faithfully continue in this special calling, God will use them to send thousands more missionaries and raise countless disciples on university campuses throughout the world. And this is going to transform the nations. For example, it will turn the United States from corruption to its former glory as a nation of people who trust in God. As disciples are raised and missionaries are sent out, each nation will become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

That story is told over and over in UBF publications, at conferences, in Bible studies and private conversations. It was a nice story, and at one time it may have been somewhat believable. But today, the story has been debunked. There is such a huge body of contradicting evidence that very few people (if any) still believe the story, even though in UBF settings they might speak and act as though they do. The younger generation certainly does not, because they have very sensitive B.S. detectors, and because the internet gives them instant access to all the counternarratives.

There is overwhelming evidence that Samuel Lee abused his authority, routinely crossing the boundaries of what a pastor ought to do. SL collected, managed and used ministry funds with no oversight, deciding entirely on his own how to use those funds. He exercised undue influence over the personal lives of UBF members. The most obvious example of this is that he decided whom you could marry and when, but there are many more examples, some of them quite nauseating. Often SL did not tell the truth. Many of the stories and accounts about people that he told through his announcements, manuscripts, newsletters, personal letters to people, etc. contained exaggeration, distortion and fabrication. The list of SL’s questionable practices is very long and damning. Many ubf members will testify that they were deeply loved by him, but many others will testify that they were severely hurt and damaged by him. To trumpet the former without acknowledging the latter is blatantly hypocritical. Older Koreans can tolerate this contradiction, because they have a penchant for honoring their elders. But younger people cannot stand it. Americans cannot stand it. Above everything else, the present generation craves authenticity. If UBF doesn’t stop its mythologizing about the character and actions of SL, if it doesn’t stop presenting a one-sided and distorted picture of its own history, the organization in North America has no future.

There is undeniable evidence that UBF is not impacting society as the leaders imagined it would. UBF’s trademark brand of rigorous, high commitment, high loyalty, obey-at-all-costs discipleship training (what you might call martial-arts Christianity, Green Beret-ism, Just Obey-ism…) is not sweeping the world — not because people haven’t seen it, but because they have seen it and have rejected it. Perhaps it could have limited success in certain non-western cultures, but in North America and Europe it just doesn’t work. Where it has been tried, the disciples it produces do not look like healthy, happy, well adjusted, thoughtful, kind, attractive or loving human beings. They act strange and sound weird; they lose sight of who they are and become imitators of the Koreans who lorded over them, lending credence to the allegations that UBF is a cult. The traditional UBF discipleship program ignores too many aspects of spiritual formation. It damages family life. It keeps people from developing meaningful relationships with people outside of UBF. It prevents people from experiencing the full range of freedom that they have in Christ. It replaces the creative work of the Holy Spirit with principles, rules, behaviors and expectations. In a nutshell, it is too legalistic. If UBF doesn’t stop mythologizing its training methods, the organization in North America has no future.

There is undeniable evidence that UBF’s Bible study materials and messages are not nearly as great or effective or inspiring as UBF’s leaders have believed. The material published by UBF Press is not of sufficient quality to be accepted by any reputable publishing house; if it were, there would be no need for UBF Press. The format, content, language and style of UBF’s materials are peculiar to the community, reflecting parochial UBF customs and values, with little or no appeal to anyone on the outside. The messages delivered at UBF conferences (except for The Well) are designed to please the elder missionaries. They reflect what the elder missionaries want to hear, and what the elder missionaries think the younger generation needs to hear, but they are not connecting with and capturing the imagination of Americans. UBF leaders are proud of how many hours they spend preparing Bible study materials and messages, but based on the results, it is obvious that this time is not well spent. If UBF doesn’t stop mythologizing its Bible study materials, the organization in North America has no future.

I could go on and on about how UBF has been unsuccessful at raising indigenous leaders, about stubborn missionaries who should have ceded control decades ago but are still running the show, about the rogue chapter directors who are mistreating people, and so on. But I’ll stop here.

My point is not to prove that UBF is terrible. My point is that UBF has very serious problems, problems that threaten its existence but which leaders have never been willing to face. They seem to think that acknowledging these problems is akin to giving up or losing their faith. Some would rather die than let go of their illusions about UBF. This has been, and still is, the single biggest obstacle to healthy change. Leaders and longtime members do not want to lose face. They don’t anyone or anything to mess with their precious story about who they are and what they have done.

But the bitter irony is that, as long as they hold on to this narrative, they will continue to lose face and lose credibility. That story of UBF is fading away. Indeed, it has already expired. We need to just let it die. We must allow that kernel of wheat to fall to the ground and disappear, so that it can give birth to something new and vital and fruitful.

Members of this generation do not want leaders who appear to be strong and perfect. We don’t care if people make mistakes, as long as they fess up to their mistakes and learn from them. We want leaders of integrity, genuine human beings who have realistic opinions of themselves, who are upfront and honest about their shortcomings and fiascos.

The challenge that UBF faces is this: How do we come to our collective senses, admit our failures, and own those failures? How do we weave those failures into the fabric of the UBF story to make it into a new story, one that is honest and credible and inspiring and gospel-centered? How do we incorporate the stories of all the people who have been hurt by UBF and left UBF over the years, not demonizing or marginalizing them, but validating their experiences and making them an integral part of our understanding of what God wants to do in the UBF community?

Here are some things that I believe. Please read these carefully.

1. I believe that God loves UBF people very much. He always has, and always will.

2. God’s love for UBF people is not rooted in anything they have done for him. God’s love for UBF people is rooted in what Jesus has done for them.

3. God has plans for UBF people. Those plans are great and glorious. But God will never force his plans on UBF. If UBF acts in foolish ways, then God will adapt and revise his plans as often as necessary to make something good happen, something that glorifies Jesus and blesses the Church and all nations of the world.

4. For a while, I believed that God’s plan coincided with the “old ubf narrative” that I wrote above. It’s conceivable that God was willing to make something like that happen (minus all the tribalism and Korean cultural imperialism and triumphalism), But that plan has been neutered and derailed. That story is too self-aggrandizing and unrealistic. It ain’t happening, folks.

5. If UBF stubbornly clings to its old narrative, in the same way that the people of Israel clung to their own tribalistic narrative, then the organization will experience epic failure. That failure may come sooner rather than later.

6. If there is an epic failure, God will still have a plan to use the organization. He might allow UBF to go down in history as a textbook example of
* how not to do evangelism
* how not to raise disciples and train leaders
* how not to attempt cross-cultural ministry
* how not to study the Bible
* how not to interact with the Body of Christ
and so on. The epic failure of UBF may help other Christians to avoid our mistakes. It may bring mission-minded evangelicals to a new and deeper understanding of what the gospel is, and what the gospel is not.

7. If UBF lets go of its old narrative, allowing that story fall to the ground and die, then it may yet experience a resurrection. That death will be very painful to some, but ultimately it will bring new life.

8. If UBF experiences a rebirth, the story of New-BF may become a textbook example of
* how to listen to one’s critics and truly *hear* what they are saying
* how to apologize to people that you have hurt and reconcile with them
* how to corporately repent and join the rest of the Body of Christ
* how to build a loving church that ethnically diverse and truly multigenerational
* how to build a loving church that is theologically diverse, maintaining a foundation of orthodoxy while fully embracing people with different views on sacraments, miracles, gifts of the Spirit, inerrancy of Scripture, ..

9. The most likely scenario for what lies ahead is not a complete epic failure or a complete rebirth, but some mixture of the two. There will be mysteries and surprises.

10. If UBF and its leaders are slow to act, there will be many more people who, for valid reasons, cannot and should not hang around to wait for change. God will call them to go elsewhere. That has happened again and again. Many of the people who have left UBF over the years (in many cases, they were driven out) were the most gifted and qualified to lead the ministry. How many times have missionaries prayed for God to send them disciples who would become their ancestors of faith, their “Abraham” and “Sarah”? I believe that every single one of those prayers has been answered. I believe that God has sent countless Abrahams and Sarahs to all those UBF chapters across America. And the vast majority of those Abrahams and Sarahs were driven away by lack of love, bad ministry practices, and because those disciples would not or could not adapt to their shepherds’ ethnocentric expectations.


  1. Mark Mederich

    Joe, i agree it is a crossroads (perhaps a final chance), & the most maddening result would be appointment of a committee to bureaucratically ‘pretend’ to address it without real change (we know those games too well from the world, but don’t expect it in God’s religion, nor should we tolerate it any longer)

    i feel somewhat ‘indebted’ (to God, of course not people), unfortunately not as much for good to repeat as for bad to avoid, like you alluded to above

    yet as you also mentioned, big difficulty is also opportunity for big response, which could lead to big turnaround (or is that the eternal wishful thinking coming out it me?); truly broad, sincere response is the only hope left;

    ironically, it could lead to a model for reform/revival in much of the body of Christ at large (if people will only let go of honor & pursue the path of Holy Spirit help/change..it could spawn a whole new era of Spirit-led/Spirit fruit-blessing-healing in many lives..if not, it could spiral down/extinguish in flaming colors of ill-repute/human failure (clinging to collected financial reserves will not help quivering souls)

    may God grant brave restoration which could encourage believers worldwide to address big & small religious issues alike (if not, i only see waning horizons & obsolescence approaching)

  2. Joe, you’ve just nailed the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg church. Now its up to the UBF community to either respond or ignore. I’m sure, as you are sure, that God loves UBF and has a great and glorious plan for UBF people. I frankly don’t believe that it will involve a significant change in its current direction. But, with God all things are possible.

    • Joe Schafer

      I wish I could write with Luther’s sense of humor. Some of his insults are truly hilarious.

      “I would not dream of judging or punishing you, except to say that you were born from the behind of the devil…”

    • “Now its up to the UBF community to either respond or ignore.”

      And this means all members, not the top leaders. If you’re a UBF member, don’t wait for them and don’t expect anything of them. You must take things into your own hands. Didn’t SL like to quote 1 Kings 2:2 “so be strong, act like a man”? This would be an occasion to really follow SL’s advice.

  3. Thanks, Joe. This perhaps says it all as to what UBF can/should do: “The leaders will have to stop talking about their own ideas, close their mouths, open their ears, and really listen to current and ex-members. They will have to create space for honest, open-ended and freewheeling discussion of everything, no holds barred — including the kind of discussion that takes place on UBFriends, which they hate so much. They will have to engage in ethnographic listening for an extended period of time. If they are not capable of that (and, I’m sorry to say, many of them aren’t) then they need to just get out of the way and allow younger and more capable people to do it.”

    This is what I wrote last year about what UBF can do: “Dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue. This is so simple and accessible, yet so complicated, even painful. God says, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isa 1:18). But some older people are not quite “accessible” or “approachable.” They may implicitly communicate that they are “above” others, by virtue of their seniority, power ranking, leadership status, tenure, faithfulness, past achievements, fruitfulness, etc. Some younger people have expressed that it seems impossible to get a straight answer when they speak to some older UBF leaders, or when they ask specific questions. Can this and will this change?” – See more at: What Can UBF Do?

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks, Ben.

      “Dialogue” implies multi-way communication. I hope we can get to that stage eventually. But for now, I think that leaders really need to be quiet and just listen. They have all been trained to speak. We know how much chapter directors and senior staff love to hear the sound of their own voices. The UBF environment teaches people to be ready to say something even when they have nothing of importance to say. It teaches them to render judgments and diagnose other peoples’ spiritual problems from a distance as if they have Yoda-like wisdom. But we haven’t developed the skill of careful listening. I remember SL telling us to let sheep talk as long as necessary, allowing them “to get all their garbages out” so that eventually they run out of things to say and become teachable. That’s not listening; it’s just a cheap strategy to make yourself heard.

      BTW – A faulty assumption that leaders make is that younger people and newcomers have little to contribute to the conversation about UBF’s story, because they haven’t been around long enough. (In some cases, 30 years isn’t considered long enough. One person said of me, “Joe Schafer hasn’t learned the deeeeeeeep history of UBF.”) But it is often the young, the newcomers, and even the children whose observations are most honest and astute. They are the ones who see very clearly how odd we have become.

    • “I remember SL telling us to let sheep talk as long as necessary, allowing them “to get all their garbages out” so that eventually they run out of things to say and become teachable.”

      Wow, that’s exactly how my chapter director dealt with me when I started to talk about reform. He suggested that we had weekly 1:1 meetings about the issues. In these meetings, he let me speak out and explain all my concerns, giving the impression that he would listen. But then, he would wipe everything away that I explained and saying “you must forget everything and start anew” or “you know only one side, but I know all sides” or something like that, but never going into any of the concrete issues I wanted to discuss with him. He never responded to anything I said, never engaged in a real two-way discussion. He just “listened” and then he talked as if I never said anything. Not I start to understand that he must have learned this principle directly or indirectly from SL.

  4. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    Dear Joe, Thank you for writing this. I once believe in the old UBF until we went out to pioneer. We had no intention to leave our main chapter. In fact we built our house 5 minutes away from the UBF center but because of the many conflicts that couldn’t be resolved we felt he had to go. Then our two children were harassed in a UBF ministry that we supported and believed in. When our children left that chapter they told me “Mom we learned a lot in that ministry especially what not to do.” The points of what you said about UBF being a case study of what not to do were the points that our girls told us. In the end though we were thankful we were able to start a new ministry and we had the backing of many of our UBF leaders even the GD. Our girls are also growing spiritually. God can turn a painful event into something beautiful.

    I believe that God loves UBF and its people. I will tell you now that I love Dr. Samuel Lee. He was a father to me and he helped me in many ways and I learned a lot of good things from him about loving others in Christ, about loving the word of God and giving your very best to Jesus. I learned from him not to raise UBF disciples but Jesus’ disciples. Others were wounded by him and I am sorry for that. I also love UBF people, current and ex. They are the most sacrificial and welcoming people I know.

    After the ISBC, I was given a book about the life of Sarah Barry. As I read the early beginnings of UBF, it was so beautiful because it was student led. Everything was young and fresh. But when we look at UBF today, 50 years later. It is run by the older generation.

    Also the American missionaries who came to Korea gave all the leadership to the Koreans so that Korea became the fastest growing Christian nation in the world. They believed in the Nevus movement. But UBF does not follow the Nevus movement. Top leaders are still held by Koreans even in growing ministries that have been established for over 20 years. Native leaders are always under the watchful eyes of their Korean leaders. My brother by God’s grace began Manila UBF and later left and his Bible student became the leader. As Dr. Ben can attest this indigenous UBF ministry have grown and multiplied. The best thing my brother did was to leave them on their own and the Holy Spirit led them.

    Joe, you are right, we do need a new beginning. I read some of the other articles about Reform and the CMI ISBC. They are difficult to read for some but I believe we need to put every thing out in the open so that we can do something about it. To cut the cancer out we need to cut open the body for everyone to see, whether good or bad. May God help us.

    • Joe Schafer

      Maria, thank you for your kind words. Your daughters are intelligent and spunky, like their mom.

      I too felt loved by SL, and he helped me in certain ways. I saw him treat people in ways that seemed loving. But I cannot honestly say that his ministry was powered by love. He used lots of imperatives and instilled fear. God’s love is supposed to drive out fear. Jesus demonstrated love by giving up power, but SL worked hard to consolidate his power; many of the disputes that people had with him were power issues. And mature love is not supposed to be a one-way flow (shepherd to sheep, father to child, etc.); it has to be a reciprocal indwelling, a relationship among co-equals, as with the persons of the Trinity. SL never truly came down to our level; he always made sure that we knew he was the boss. When I hear people talk about how much SL loved them, it makes me pause and ponder the meaning of love. I wish that the messages at the ISBC would have explored the meaning of love with some depth.

      Regarding that book about Sarah Barry: That too is a stylized account, with a fair amount of mythologizing. Every account of historical events is subjective storytelling, an attempt to fit events into a narrative. Good historians recognize that, and they take every story with a grain of salt and strive to look at what happened from various angles. This is why books like Peter Marshall’s The Light and the Glory may be inspiring and exciting to read, but they are not good history. To get a handle on how the United States came to be, we need counterbalance. John Winthrop needs to be weighed against Roger Williams. But I digress…

      Getting back to the point: Beware of what you read. Always ask hard questions, and take everything with a grain of salt. Especially the articles and comments on UBFriends. At the beginning of UBF, was the movement truly student led? Probably it was, in some respects. But the reform letters of 1976 reveal that SL was exercising autocratic rule very early on. The stories that we all heard over and over — for example, how students sold their own blood to raise money for Bangladesh — probably have a lot of basis in truth. But it may also be true that most of the money raised for Bangladesh never made it there. The 1976 reform document, which was written by people close to SL, says that he diverted most of that relief offering for other purposes. We may never know exactly what happened. But we cannot ignore evidence that spoils the nice clean stories about the beginnings of UBF. The Bible includes lots of painful and uncomfortable details about the failings of Israel and the apostles and the early church. Why should anyone feel the need to scrub clean the history of UBF?

    • Mark Mederich

      unfortunate, necessary conclusion: whenever religion becomes an end in itself (prestige/benefits/etc, by human effort) instead of a means to seek/follow God (worship/right living/etc, by Spirit help), it becomes a worldly business with
      pyramid scheme, corruption, etc

      of course then, leaders will not listen, for it is not a collective process for collective good from God, it is a ‘do as we the leaders say’ (‘so that we can get what we the leaders need’ & ‘who cares what happens to you the followers in the process..hahaha!, you are only the means to our end.’)

    • Mark Mederich

      that’s the terrible, distressing part of all these problems/messes, trust is torn:
      AUTHORITATIVE MANIPULATION for PERSONAL GAIN (building one’s own kingdom/$/position/etc) at the expense of others, TWISTS HUMAN EFFORTS FROM HELPING, TO HURTING people spiritually & humanly

      BUT, THANKS BE TO GOD: He Alone Helps us
      Saul (Paul) was made twice son of hell by Pharisees, but Christ knocked him off his murderous horse & made him eventually true missionary (man’s misuse of religion was destroying him, but Christ’s truly helping relationship developed him)

      what man intended for evil, God will twist back for good. Amen
      recovering from trauma makes us resilient survivors/example to others;


    • Joe Schafer


      Mark, you have just posted the 10,000th comment on UBFriends.

      Another milestone in our history.

    • Mark Mederich

      Joe, i’m delighted to be #10k, & thankful i can read/share here
      (don’t tell my wife, she will tell you how many comments she had to listen to the past 23yrs before i started sharing here:)

    • Maria Peace
      Maria Peace

      Thanks for the advice Joe. I will be careful with what I read and take everything with a grain of salt. Right now I’m reading the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis. I don’t agree with some of the things he has written. I guess I have to finish reading it and then read it again and digest it more before I make my overall conclusion.

    • Thanks for your comment, Maria. I gave it a big “like”, but I want to address two things:

      When you say you love SL because he was like a father to you, I believe you. But at the same time my personal opinion about SL is that he showed all traits of a typical cult leader. I came to this conclusion after reading books on many different cults, and reading many consistent accounts about the abuse of SL. I also witnessed his behavior during the 2001 reform which was that of a typical cult leader, and I can conclude this even from the letters and messages he wrote, in which he e.g. claimed to be the “commander” and that those who don’t obey him would experience accidents or death. Only cult leaders are preaching such stuff. And to me it is not a contradiction that some people feared SL and other people felt loved by him and felt he was like a father. Rather, it’s one of the other traits of cult leaders to make people believe they are like a “father” for them. As you know Sun Myung Moon is considered the “true father” by all members of his cult. However, Jesus warned “do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.” Like Sun Myung Moon, UBF shepherds try to usurp both the role of your real parents and your father in heaven. Even Sarah Barry is called “Mother Barry”. And yes, SL treated some people good, some people bad, this depended on who he liked and who not, and who was loyal or who was not. Do you think SL would have still loved you when you openly criticized him or his ministry? That would a trait of a real father.

      You also wrote about the book about Sarah Barry: “As I read the early beginnings of UBF, it was so beautiful because it was student led. Everything was young and fresh. But when we look at UBF today, 50 years later. It is run by the older generation.” I guess this is a UBF press book, and written through the rose-coloured glasses of UBF. I just want to say that it is simply not true that UBF was “student led”.

      This is what Sarah Barry wrote in her mission reports to the Prebyterian church:

      1962: “He [Chang Woo Lee] is showing real ability in the art of leading from behind – a skill so necessary in work with students.”

      1964: “When I left in early June, Chang Woo Lee assumed full responsibility for directing the University Bible Fellowship.”

      1971: “During the past 5 years in Seoul the general direction and overall goal of the University Bible Fellowship has become clear. The major work of the U.B.F. has been training students to be lay Bible teachers …” “Since Bible teaching and the training of student leaders in the various centers is done by the staff, staff training is a very important part of UBF work. At present there are 17 active staff. In addition there are 3 men now in the army who will return to staff when they are discharged. There are 3 women, including myself. 8 of the men are married. All of the staff (except Mr. Lee, the director, and myself) came to know Christ and received Bible training during undergraduate days.”

      1974: “In the summer, Mr. C.W. Lee went to Europe. He represented U.B.F. at the International Congress on World Evangelization in Laussane [Lausanne]. While he was gone his responsibilities were divided among the staff, with final decisions that nobody else could make left to me.”

      This is what Samuel (C.W.) Lee wrote himself in his Christmas letter 2000 about UBF history:

      “In Seoul we concentrated on studying the word of God. Each week we held a shepherds’ meeting. We listened to a Bible message, wrote Bible study reports-testimonies-and shared them. We also wrote Daily Bread freely. Each semester there was a Shepherds’ conference. At that time, there were too many shepherds for me to check all of their Daily Bread notes, so I collected their notebooks and weighed them. The shepherd whose notebook weighed the most got a prize and the one whose notebook weighed the least was punished.”

      Does this sound like a healthy organization lead by students? No, it was never lead by students. First it was lead by Sarah Barry, but then already after 3 years taken over by Samuel Lee who made himself the “director” and the only one who was able to make any important decisions and who started to lord over all others. The goal of UBF was “to train other people”, from the very beginnings. SL always believed he knew it all and that he needed no shepherd, not even Sarah Barry who he considered his “secretary”, and that his role was to train others who had to obey him. This was definitely never a student-led organization, it was a one-man-show from the very beginnings. In 1976 the authority abuse and the misappropriation of money by SL had become so great that 7 senior shepherds complained in an open letter. It’s a complete myth that UBF was somehow better, not authoritarian or more Christian in the beginnings.

    • So we have written a myriad (in Korean: 만) of comments now. How much will be sufficient for UBF people to see the problems?

    • Maria Peace
      Maria Peace

      Hi Chris, I haven’t check UBFriends for a while. Thank you for clarifying the facts that UBF was not student led. Now you asked me if SL would still love me if I openly criticized him and his ministry. I don’t know. I never did. But I confronted him with some issues about registrations that I didn’t agree with as well as some billing issues at a conference that were unethical. He didn’t kick me out. He didn’t say “shut up and do as I say.” He accepted my advice. To me he was approachable. I heard of some others who were not treated well by him. I saw it happen too like when JP was boarded out of his house and I am sorry it happened. I didn’t do anything about it either because I thought it was just training.

      Later we also received this humiliation training in a foreign land and our girls too in another foreign country. That’s when I realize that UBF has a problem. Something is wrong here. But I don’t believe it is hopeless. There is still a lot of good in this ministry. I’ve seen so many miracles happened in people lives through the gospel in UBF. I believe it is the work of the Holy Spirit. I pray for our ministry and for all of us (including current UBF leaders) to repent so that the time of renewal may come.

    • Mark Mederich

      sad that unethical things occur for religious purposes, but i guess sign of offtrack motives..

  5. THANK YOU for articulating these thoughts so very well Joe. I can confirm that you’ve made observations and conclusions that resonate deeply and accurately with me and my wife. I am fairly certain that the families and student leaders who left with us in our part of ubf would concur wholeheartedly.

    Our therapist taught me and my wife an important lesson recently: sometimes you have to make the choice forward that is healthy for you. Some people have an innate desire to help other people avoid trouble. He said that’s good. But that desire to help can be unhealthy also.

    He gave the example of his young daughter on the playground at recess. The bell rang to end recess but her two friends wanted to stay on the playground. His daughter kept trying to convince her two friends to come inside so they wouldn’t get in trouble. But by doing that, all three of them got in trouble.

    His point was that sometimes we need to put aside our good desire to help others avoid trouble and make choices that are healthy for us. He wasn’t advocating selfishness in any way. He was advocating the most healthy way for all involved. In the case of his daughter’s two friends– they probably needed to get in trouble to learn their lesson while his daughter could see the trouble and needed to make healthy choices for her.

    It will take me some time to process your article Joe. I’ll react as time goes by. But for now I can safely say this is groundbreaking and means more than you could imagine to me. This article relieves a lot of pressure I’ve been feeling lately.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks, Brian.

      Your words remind me of a great book that I have been reading. The quote is about how making the choices that are healthy for us is very un-selfish.

      “…self-care is never a selfish act — it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to the true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.”

      from Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer

  6. David Bychkov

    Thanks for writing this, Joe. I would agree that honest and painful selfrealization, repenting and leaving bad, doubtful and useless practices should happen.
    In my opinion there is no future for UBF as organization. I thought much about this and I don’t think it has any. That’s my opinion.
    So what I would suggest, I would suggest only to single chapters/churches, the people who happen to gather together.
    For more or less large communities:
    1) Form collective leadership from few people who are ready to take real responsibility for the church. Concentrate on growing in honesty and real maturity. spent many time on talking to each other. Read good books. Learn biblical science and theology. Probably take some basis from other churches on what your church should like. Talk and pray together about it. Hate status quo.
    2) Do not take care about UBF, but take care about your people and your community. Love your people, die for your people, not for your organization, haritage, visions etc. Make their goodness and happiness in Christ your top priority. Make UBF your priority №100.
    3) If senior missionaries can not participate in this process, they need either just step down (really down – as simple church members not more) or leave.

    For small house churches which existing for a while without any growth – either join local church either join biggest ubf church (in case it stand on the way I decribed above)

    • Joe Schafer

      David, thank you for your input. Your advice is sound and wise. Sadly, I think your assessment of UBF’s future may be correct.

      At Penn State, we have been following your advice very closely. God has been helping us in many ways. We have formed a very fruitful partnership with another congregation. Our two groups (UBF and New Hope) share our building and worship together. Our histories and experiences are different, but we respect and learn from one another. For many of the small UBF ministries, partnering with non-UBF Christians in your local area is the only real alternative, because the UBF organization does not and cannot provide meaningful support or spiritual nourishment. No one should be pinning their hopes on UBF right now. You need to develop a network of Christian support in your local community, to help your family to ride out the storms that lie ahead.

  7. Thanks, Joe. This is a very good summary of the current situation of UBF.

    Ten years ago, when talking with a woman in an Evangelical church in Germany about my past and UBF, I got the answer “yes, I know them, my husband was there and suffered a lot under them”. This year, when I talked with another woman in an Evangelical church in Germany about my past and UBF, I got the answer “UBF? Never heard of it.” We prayed so many decades for Germany to become a priestly nation through UBF, but after 40 years nobody in Germany cares about UBF. Not even the cult commissioners mention UBF any more as they did in the last decades, because it has become so small and irrelevant. Only UBF is writing thick books celebrating themselves and their “achievements”.

    I sometimes wonder what would have happened if SL would be still alive and healthy until today. Would the ISBC conference be larger because there would be more pressure to attend and invite people? Or would it be smaller because that pressure would have caused another big reform movement and exodus, and more warnings by cult watch organizations? Anyway, with or without SL, UBF would be in a similar situation.

    Joe, one thing that should be added to your analysis is a comparison of all the numbers that we prayed for with the numbers that were really fulfilled. Like “10,000 UBF Bible teachers in America until the year 2000, and sending UBF missionaries from America to 187 countries of the world.” Already forgotten? This was UBF’s prayer topic when I was still in UBF. Even today in 2013, UBF has not even come close to these numbers. Do UBF people ever pause for a moment and ask themselves why God never fulfills their number goals? James 4:3 says “And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong — you want only what will give you pleasure.” I believe it would have given UBF leaders a lot of pleasure if they knew they raised 10,000 Bible teachers. The amount of bragging in UBF is hard to endure even now, when UBF actually has nothing to brag about — I don’t even want to imagine how much UBF would brag if they really had raised 10,000 Bible teachers. That’s why God will never fulfill such number goals. If they had prayed for 10,000 Bible teachers in UBF and elsewhere, then that would be a little bit more spiritual and might have had a chance to be fulfilled. In 1Cor1 and 1Cor3 Paul explains this difference and the problem of attributing the work of God to persons or organizations very well.

    Jesus says in John 12:24 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels – a plentiful harvest of new lives.” UBFers have so far only applied this to their own pre-UBF life. But it should also be applied to their life in UBF and UBF as an organization. It comprises a great hope for UBF. But it can only happen if the “UBF narrative” dies, e.g. by a clear admission of all the sins and failures and misconduct and guilt in the past, and an end of all bragging about UBF. Instead, all glory must be given back to God again. He loves us people (including UBFers) not because how much we did for him, but despite how much we sinned against him.

    • Hey Chris, just a quick update to your comment ““10,000 UBF Bible teachers in America until the year 2000, and sending UBF missionaries from America to 187 countries of the world.” Already forgotten? This was UBF’s prayer topic when I was still in UBF.”

      I think you already know this but the number has been increased since you left… The #1 prayer topic became “100,000 ubf missionaries by 2041”. It has been modified several times, such as dropping the 2041 deadline or changing “missionaries” to just “bible teachers”. Clearly the senior leaders can’t decide on what the vision really is. I doubt ubf will exist in 2041.

      And just for the fun of it, here’s something I noticed the other day when looking at the Chinese calendar (from our favorite carryout place). I was shocked to see the years marked as the dragon… Look at the “years of the dragon“: 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024


  8. Joe, I totally agree with you.

    Your article that defended UBF is still on the ubf website.
    Can you do anything about it? You may write ‘Retractions’.

    However UBF website deleted Dr. Jun Ki Jung’s paper that contains some critique about SL.
    http://ubf.org/bbs/data/press_media/An_article_from_missiology004.pdf – you cannot find the real article.

    You can find the original paper at http://mis.sagepub.com/content/31/4/473.full.pdf

    There is one M.Div thesis that describe the history of ESF(The first R-Group of UBF) written in 2009(in Korean “국내 대학생 선교단체로서의 ESF – 시작부터 1988년까지 -“). That paper contains a lot more detailed story of the reform-effort in 1976 including direct quotation from the leader of 1976 reform movement. This paper will be really shocking to many Korean UBF members who have no idea what really happened in past history of UBF.

    • Joe Schafer

      vmi, that article (which I coauthored with Mark Yoon and Scott Moreau of Wheaton) is defensive of ubf, but not slavishly so. In fact, many ubf members considered it to be groundbreaking because it contained some mild criticism of SL. It was published in the annual proceedings of the Evangelical Missiological Society. The article made it past the editor (Robert Priest) who is a reputable scholar. It cannot be retracted. But perhaps we could submit a followup article sometime in the future, after the dust settles. Perhaps that future article will be titled: “Whatever Happened to UBF? From a zealous missionary movement to a Korean nano-church.”

      By the way: Can you provide an English translation of the remarks by the 1976 reform leader?

    • Speaking of retracting things… Surely some statements in this letter would be retracted or modified?

      Statements such as these just aren’t true.

      “I find the charges against UBF to be essentially baseless. Most of them are rooted in culture and practices that some Americans do not like.”

      “UBF openly seeks to improve its mission and practice faithfully and thus it remains in contact with a number of notable Christian leaders in North America who are outside their movement. They wholeheartedly accept the Word of God as the basis for their ministry and their theology is consistently within the parameters of orthodox historic Christian faith.”

    • We should really start to dig out the Korean sources about the history of UBF. A missionary told me that there is a book written by a Korean ex UBFers titled something like “Darkness in Zion”. I’d like to read that book and other reports written by the early members of the UBF in Korea.

      Ruth Tucker who also defended UBF is known for having a disturbingly sympathetic view of cults and cult-like groups like JPUSA or WCG in her later years. Her friendship with Ronald Enroth (who had a much more accurate view of UBF) broke over the issue of UBF, and Mr. Enroth was very sad about this.

      And I think I remember that Robert Coleman who is also quoted as endorsing UBF actually sided with the reformers in 2001. It’s probably misleading to depict him as a supporter of UBF.

    • Joe.
      Seung Jang Lee, 1976 reform leader commented that UBF had failed to reform and become like a sect of some religious group.

      To me there were two new findings in the thesis paper.
      I found out that Seung Jang Lee was shocked when he visited SL’s house he saw that SL’s pet dog was eating expensive sausage. At that time all staff shepherds in training were so poor that they couldn’t buy a milk to feed their children. And he also witnesses that SL bought tens of Swiss watches when he went to Europe and gave it to his children’s elementary school teachers as gifts.

      In 1976, Korean UBF headquarter was largely depending on offering by nurse missionaries in Germany. So, if the nurse missionaries were standing by reform side, there would be higher chance of success of reform attempt. SL knew that very well too. So he wrote a mail to missionaries in Germany saying that the R-groups belongs to Satan. The missionaries were standing neutral at that time and waiting for some good reform result. They heard the news that SL was leaving Korea for the world mission and Dr. John Jun who was medical doctor, not a staff shepherd in training became his successor. The reform failed. Nothing was resolved.

      There are two books in Korean that described dark side of UBF history. The first one is “Yahweh’s night” written by former SNU ubf member. http://books.google.com/books?id=1rgBMwAACAAJ&source=gbs_book_other_versions
      The second book is ‘The road to Adullam’ by ex-ubf missionary Rebecca Kwon, who has served world mission for 15 years in Germany. http://books.google.com/books?id=1rgBMwAACAAJ&source=gbs_book_other_versions
      The first book is a novel based on his personal experience. The second one is a personal assay.

    • Thanks, vmi. The first book is probably the one I heared about. I guess Rebecca Kwon is the wife of Lucas Kwon who was a director in Gießen. I once visited them and remember they were very nice people. Can you post the link again? The link you gave is the same as for the first book. Too bad there are no translations of these books. I think these would be very useful and help people understand how most Korean members have been also victims of the “UBF system”.

  9. Terry Lopez

    My name is Terry Lopez,

    I know some of you, but for those who don’t, I live in Los Angeles.

    I have very little to say or share, but I do have a question.

    When I read the comments about Samuel Lee, one thought came to my mind. Why are you criticizing a dead man? Will he be able to respond to them? Do you expect him hearing what you have to say? Everyone of your criticisms may be correct, I don’t know, but does it really matter? What do you accomplish by bringing them up? If you have a criticism with the current ministry, say what you will, but to criticize a dead man, is in my opinion, weak and not very impressive at all.

    I am reminded of the death of Saul and what the men of Jabesh Gilead did.

    11 When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, 12 all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.

    I personally am impressed with their action. They remembered that Saul had once rescued them from being blinded in one eye. They never forgot the good he had done for them. They were ready to even lay down their life in order that the enemies of Israel did not abuse or mistreat the body of Saul. I’m really impressed with their loyalty and not forgetting what good Saul had done for them. I don’t think they were naive and unaware of Saul’s shortcomings as king, but still they went to retrieve and rescue the dead body of Saul, even though Saul had no use for it anymore…

    I’m also reminded of David’s actions when he heard of Saul’s death.

    17 David took up this lament concerning Saul and his son Jonathan, 18 and he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow (it is written in the Book of Jashar):

    19 “A gazelle[a] lies slain on your heights, Israel.
        How the mighty have fallen!
    20 “Tell it not in Gath,
        proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
    lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad,
        lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice.
    21 “Mountains of Gilboa,
        may you have neither dew nor rain,
        may no showers fall on your terraced fields.[b]
    For there the shield of the mighty was despised,
        the shield of Saul—no longer rubbed with oil.
    22 “From the blood of the slain,
        from the flesh of the mighty,
    the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,
        the sword of Saul did not return unsatisfied.
    23 Saul and Jonathan—
        in life they were loved and admired,
        and in death they were not parted.
    They were swifter than eagles,
        they were stronger than lions.
    24 “Daughters of Israel,
        weep for Saul,
    who clothed you in scarlet and finery,
        who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
    25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle!
        Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
    26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother;
        you were very dear to me.
    Your love for me was wonderful,
        more wonderful than that of women.
    27 “How the mighty have fallen!
        The weapons of war have perished!”

    Interestingly, David wrote a song remembering Saul’s greatness, not posting criticisms… And if anyone had reason to criticize Saul it was surely David. The question is why? It’s a very simple question.

    Perhaps, someone here who is much smarter than me can explain why David did such a thing?

    Thanks for you time,

    Terry Lopez

    • Hi Terry, yes I know you and welcome.

      First of all, I have some questions for you as well. Why do you compare SL to Saul? Is the David/Saul relationship the only paradigm or even the best paradigm to consider when talking about SL? Are you implying we should glorify SL and what he did?

      If we are going to treat SL like Saul, then is it not equally valid to react to him the way Samuel did? Should we not then grieve that SL was king of ubf, just as God grieved that Saul was king of Israel?

      1 Samuel 15:30-35 “30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the LORD your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD. 32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.” Agag came to him confidently, thinking, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel put Agag to death before the LORD at Gilgal. 34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the LORD was grieved that he had made Saul king over Israel.”

      And more importantly, would you like to share any thoughts on Joe’s article or about the current situation of ubf? Why do you value loyalty and honor so highly?

    • So Terry, if you ask why did David honor Saul, is it not equally valid to ask why did Samuel respect but not glorify Saul? Why was God grieved over Saul’s leadership? Did not Samuel express God’s heart in this matter?

      So if we broaden the scope of what the bible says in regard to Saul, I believe we can respect SL and other leaders (like David did as you point out) and also utterly reject his leadership style and teachings (like Samuel and God did). If you read this blog carefully you will find this sentiment, at least in what I have said: We respect ubf people including SL but we utterly reject the ubf lifestyle, ideology and methods of leadership which do in fact parallel what king Saul did in Moses-style manner. I believe that because of the gospel Jesus preached we must now say “NO” to such leadership.

      I find God’s advice to Samuel in the very next chapter to be a source of healing, if we accept the Saul paradigm for SL:

      1 Samuel 16:1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

      I don’t think we should mourn any longer for the failures of ubf leadership. Perhaps we should seek new, young leaders?

    • Hi Terry, thanks for asking that question. There are several answers to your questions, and all are very easy to understand.

      First, the questions is already old. In UBF it was never allowed to criticize Samuel Lee. When he was still alive, it was not allowed and it was the main reason why reformers were expulsed from UBF. After he died, it was still not allowed to speak about his sins, either under the pretense that he had been a great man anyway, or under the pretense that he was bad, but now irrelevant. The switch from “stop touching the Lord’s annointed” to “stop beating a dead horse” happened very quickly in 2002.

      Second, like Brian I also want to ask you why you compare Samuel Lee with Saul, i.e. with an untouchable king annointed by God himself. I’m asking because in times of the New Testament, there should be no kings or Mose-like rulers over the believers. Just read Mt 23 if you are not clear about this. You insinuate both that there should be King-like leaders in the church and that Samuel Lee was annointed by God. I vehemently dispute both of these ideas. Samuel Lee was never appointed by God, he appointed himself. He took over the leadership on his own, separated his group from the church, and established a system in which he and sub-leaders usurped the role of God for the naive young students in UBF. Why do you think that God has put Samuel Lee or any other shepherd over people? It’s only UBF who is claiming this, and I simply don’t believe this. That’s why for me your argumentation is completely irrelevant.

      So, now my main answer. The reason why we are discussing the leadership of Samuel Lee is because his ideas, teachings, practices, trainings, messages, mindset and covered-up wrongdoings and abuse – have shaped UBF like nothing else. When we talk about the “spiritual heritage” of UBF, then it’s actually “Samuel Lee’s heritage”. In a way, UBF was Samuel Lee and Samuel Lee was UBF. Samuel Lee was like the “man behind the curtain”, the wizard of Oz. He was the founder and claimed to be the “commander” of all UBFers, he was at the top of the hiearchical pyramid, the only one in UBF who claimed he did not have did not need any human shepherd, but all others needed one to train them. If you want to understand the problems of the spiritual heritage of UBF, you must discuss Samuel Lee. Do you think you can understand Mormonism without talking about Joseph Smith? These days, luckily, many Mormons are starting to question their faith, after learning the truth about Joseph Smith. It’s important for them to not discuss only today’s teachings and practices of Mormonisms, but to also discuss the original sayings and life of their founder. Or do you think you can understand Jehovah’s Witnesses without talking about Charles Russell and digging out what he really said and wrote, including his failed prophesies? Could Scientologists reflect their teachings without talking about Ron Hubbard or Moonies without talking about Sun Myung Moon? You may say that Samuel Lee’s teachings and practices were not so aberrant than those of these famous cult leaders, with which I agree. But they were aberrant nevertheless, and a subtle deviation may be even more problematic than a blatant one, and needs even more discussion in detail. That’s what we’re doing here. I could also argue the other way around: If you want to understand Christianity, you must discuss what Christ taught and how he lived when He was on this earth, though this was 2000 years ago.

      Another reason why the wrongdoings and false teachings of Samuel Lee need to be discussed is because until now these things have never been officially admitted or processed or discussed by UBF. If there had been an official statement by UBF about the abuse of Samuel Lee, and an official disassociation from his teachings about disciple training, “spiritual order”, “marriage by faith” etc. and a rehabilitation of all reformers of the past, if all of this had been properly processed, then there would be not so much need for us to talk about this. But unless that has happened, people will rightfully talk about these things.

    • And by the way, Terry, nobody of us is condemning Samuel Lee here. We are just condemining his abuse, teachings and leadership style. That’s something different. We are trying to see him realistically. We are also fully aware that we may have fallen into the same sins, had we lived under his circumstances, with a stepmother, with the trauma of the war, with the sudden fame and flattery and power he got in UBF. Many UBFers are guilty for what he became, first of all Sarah Barry who let it all happen. I am really angry on her and hope so much that she will repent before she dies. Unfortunately, again, nobody close to her dares to speak a honest word with her about her role as a facilitator and defender of abuse. Everybody considers here a nice old lady and flatters her, and so I fear her life will end just as tragically without repentance.

    • Sibboleth

      “Why are you criticizing a dead man? … Everyone of your criticisms may be correct, I don’t know, but does it really matter? What do you accomplish by bringing them up? … to criticize a dead man, is in my opinion, weak and not very impressive at all.”


      So, those Soviet dissidents like Solzhenitsyn should have just shut up about Stalin. And those North Korean dissidents should have just shut up about Kim Il-Sung. And those East German dissidents, and those Cuban dissidents …

    • Mark Mederich

      terry, we must examine & learn from our own & others mistakes; leaders of anything have more influence, so must be considered more accountable (don’t parents for example feel so regarding their kids);

      now add highest influence since religion deals with biggest issues (origin/meaning of life, eternal destiny, right living on earth,etc)
      religious leader must highly account; people must process negative & positive, however long it takes

      yet, it is helpful to focus on behavior more than person, to universalize
      (approve/emulate good not bad behaviors)

    • Sibboleth

      “So, those Soviet dissidents like Solzhenitsyn should have just shut up about Stalin. And those North Korean dissidents should have just shut up about Kim Il-Sung. And those East German dissidents, and those Cuban dissidents …”


      No, none of these dissidents nor other dissidents should have just shut up. No, UBF dissidents should not just shut up about Samuel Lee. This is because what’s most important is the truth. (Someone in UBF taught me that; they certainly didn’t live it, but at least they taught it to me.) Without these dissidents’ accounts, we’d only have the sanitized version of the truth, and that does no one any good (Joe’s original point).

    • Sibboleth

      David was the already-anointed King. He knew he would sit where Saul once sat. So, part of his reaction to Saul’s death was pragmatic. For a kingdom to function, the office of the King should be respected, no matter what. David, the future king, showed this by example and enforced this tenet by teaching his song to others. But we’re long past the age of absolute obeisance to Kings and King-like leaders. Saul and David’s reaction to his death are of no concern to me…

    • “Interestingly, David wrote a song remembering Saul’s greatness, not posting criticisms… And if anyone had reason to criticize Saul it was surely David. The question is why? It’s a very simple question.”

      Again, Terry, this is indeed a simple question. Why should David say bad things about Saul, the representative of his nation, and his antecessor on the day when he died and he wanted to united the country? But even if Saul would not have been king, who would not mourn at the grave of a person, and criticize instead? Particularly if a person dies and you’re not sure whether he repented for his sins, it is a reason to mourn. Personally, I was sad about the death of Samuel Lee and still am, I consider it a tragedy. Still, we can give it a positive spin by trying to learn from his faults. I think it is the same as the Bible does. The Bible exposes the sins of Saul (and also David!) very clearly. One difference between Saul and David was that David repented of his sins, and Saul did not. Therefore David was called a man after God’s heart, but Saul not.

      Another simple answer to your question is given by Matthew Henry: “Saul was his father-in-law, his sovereign, and the anointed of the Lord; and therefore, though he had done him a great deal of wrong, David does not wreak his revenge upon his memory when he is in his grave; but like a good man, and a man of honour. He conceals his faults; and, though there was no preventing their appearance in his history, yet they should not appear in this elegy.”

      Is this ok as an answer? Btw, Matthew Henry also notes: “The elegy itself. It is not a divine hymn, nor given by inspiration of God to be used in divine service, nor is there any mention of God in it; but it is a human composition, and therefore was inserted, not in the book of Psalms.”

      After having answered your question, could you also answer some of our questions above?

      To be honest, I’ve not only problems understanding why you are asking this question in this context. I also wonder why you say you don’t feel welcome, though we answered your question very politely and gave you more food for though. Isn’t this what you’re looking for? Or are you only looking for people who agree with everything you write?

      Also, I was concerned to read that you’re a member of an organization, but you don’t care about the conduct, teachings and practices of the founder and current leaders of your organization (“I have nothing to say”, “I could really care less…”). You also wrote “I’m a man not an organization…”. Terry, nobody claimed you’re an organization. But you’re definitely a member of a church organization/ministry, whether you like or not. The Bible says very clearly in many passages that it is very important with whom you associate. The Bible also says a church must be kept clean, any “old yeast” must be removed (this “yeast” can be teachings, practices or persons). Elders and actually every member must watch over this and should be alarmed about false teachings and practices or false teachers sneaking into the church. So I don’t understand why you don’t care. Can you explain? You even said you don’t care whether you are called an elder or not. I don’t understand that. An elder is the same as a shepherd in the Bible, both are clearly “leaders” because they are leading the people in the church. If you are an elder, you are also a leader. It is a serious office, if you have it you should be serious about it and responsible. If you don’t want to take that responibility, then you shouldn’t allow anyone to call you “shepherd” or “elder”. You can’t have it both, accepting the title elder or shepherd and at the same time rejecting it and any responsibility associated with it. You must be very clear about this, and I don’t understand why you’re taking it so lightly.

      Or, think about it this way. Assume you were fished in the ICC, not UBF. Would you then care about your organization? Or if you were fished in the WCG? Or by 7th day adventists or Jehovah’s witnesses? Would you care? Do you think there is a black/white line between cults and churches? At which point would you start to care about your organization? How grieveous must the sin of leaders or the systemic problems of the organization be so that you may feel compelled to care?

  10. I just have to point out that I find 1 Samuel 15:1-35 to be breathtakingly relevant (in case you couldn’t tell already :) in regard to interacting with “the Lord’s anointed”.

    If there has been any Scripture that has been my guide as to how to act toward ubf leaders, it is that passage. Samuel’s actions of destroying the king whom Saul had pardoned (1 Samuel 15:9) is an astonishing reminder of what God sometimes calls us to do.

    I find Matthew Henry’s commentary helpful for the last part of this passage:

    “He deserts king Saul, takes leave of him (1 Sam. 15:34), and never came any more to see him (1 Sam. 15:35), to advise or assist him in any of his affairs, because Saul did not desire his company nor would he be advised by him. He looked upon him as rejected of God, and therefore he forsook him. Though he might sometimes see him accidentally (as 1 Sam. 19:24), yet he never came to see him out of kindness or respect. Yet he mourned for Saul, thinking it a very lamentable thing that a man who stood so fair for great things should ruin himself so foolishly. He mourned for the bad state of the country, to which Saul was likely to have been so great a blessing, but now would prove a curse and a plague. He mourned for his everlasting state, having no hopes of bringing him to repentance. When he wept for him, it is likely, he made supplication, but the Lord had repented that he had made Saul king, and resolved to undo that work of his, so that Samuel’s prayers prevailed not for him. Observe, We must mourn for the rejection of sinners, 1. Though we withdraw from them, and dare not converse familiarly with them. Thus the prophet determines to leave his people and go from them, and yet to weep day and night for them, Jer. 9:1, 2. 2. Though they do not mourn for themselves. Saul seems unconcerned at the tokens of God’s displeasure which he lay under, and yet Samuel mourns day and night for him. Jerusalem was secure when Christ wept over it.”

  11. Joe Schafer

    Hi Terry. Welcome to the conversation.

    You asked, “When I read the comments about Samuel Lee, one thought came to my mind. Why are you criticizing a dead man?”

    Here’s a quick answer.

    My purpose in writing this article was not to criticize a dead man who cannot respond. My purpose was to help UBF leaders (many of whom regard SL as their spiritual father) to reflect on who he actually was and what he actually did. Because, for better or worse, it was his teachings and practices that set the tone for UBF. It’s similar to the way that, when you’ve written life testimonies, you’ve tried to reflect honestly on who your parents were and how their influence shaped your character and habits.

    If you have read my article carefully, you will have seen that the main point is not to pass judgment on SL. My point was that UBF is experiencing an identity crisis. The old story is no longer believable because it’s unrealistic. It’s unwise for people to arrange their lives around a fantasy-like story that simply isn’t true, that no one actually believes. They need a compelling, realistic, and God-honoring story that inspires and leads them in a healthy direction. Agree or disagree?

    About Saul: The writers of the Bible did not lionize Saul to build up the national pride and identity of Isreal. They told the story in a realistic way, to help the people of Israel have a sense of history, to reflect upon who they are and the purpose God has for them, and to learn from Saul’s negative example and not repeat his mistakes. I think that faithfulness to biblical principles compels us to do something similar in our situation. Agree or disagree?

  12. I would like to add that addressing the SL matter in identity is still relevant. Yes, it is possible to find people who have moved on. However, I met several missionaries in 2008 Purdue conference who were still questioning the granduer of UBF without SL. That means that many people were left bewildered (like a sheep without a shepherd if you get my drift). This was after 7 years since his death so I was a little curious myself. But many people lacked confidence in the quality or direction of leadership for UBF even by that time. Those people were not sure if it would keep on going without SL but were happy as a result of the conference. Now I cannot say this was a feeling from everyone but I certainly had conversations with individuals like this.

    As for the references to Saul, I agree with Joe and Brian. I would also add that God sent Samuel to find a king for the people as an act of compromise because they wanted someone to rule over them. It was not God’s original intention at all.

    @Chris, R. Coleman led a lecture and the altar call in 2008 Purdue conference if my memory is correct. You can still find a UBF link regarding the Purdue conference program:


    • “R. Coleman led a lecture and the altar call in 2008 Purdue conference if my memory is correct.”

      Yes, now I remember that we were pretty disgusted by his ignorant endorsement of UBF and his participation in 2008 since he was also a speaker at reform UBF meetings in 2001 and 2002 in Korea so he should know about the past. Maybe Mr. Armstrong had convinced Mr. Coleman in 2008 that UBF had changed or was willing to change.

  13. Terry Lopez

    So I guess my simple question, ‘Why did David praise Saul in song’ is not going to be answered.

    • Terry, the answer is obvious: David sang a song at Saul’s death to express his loyalty to both Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:17-18). So 2 Samuel 1:17-27 is David’s lament over their death’s — the death of a king under whom he served and a friend (whose love was more than the love of women to him).

      We get that. But I hope your comment is not another ubf drive-by. Are you here to engage in a dialogue? Chris, gc, Joe and I asked some very good questions.

      Why do you ask such things in the ubf context? Why are you so impressed with loyalty and honor?

    • Mark Mederich

      death always immediately brings eulogy out of respect for the dead & to comfort the living, but as time goes by true concerns must be addressed to increase good, rather than be hostage to bad

  14. Terry I do actually appreciate the point you are making, but many people have already made their position clear. SL was not God’s annointed – he took the position by human authority and ambition.

    Saul was God’s annointed – their is biblical evidence for that.

    In terms of your verses, indeed David praises Saul at times. But I must add that he reflects upon the deaths of Saul and Jonathon. he praises them not just speaking for himself, but on behalf of the community – which covers his own personal experiences and any feelings he may have had. He was indeed giving honour in the communal sense. However, look distinctly where he breaks away and apart to express his own deep and personal emotion and conscience.

    24 “Daughters of Israel, weep for Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and finery, who adorned your garments with ornaments of gold.
    -Emphasis on ‘Daughters of Israel…’ a command for the community.

    25 “How the mighty have fallen in battle! Jonathan lies slain on your heights.
    -What does this mean about Saul? David already had chances to strike down Saul, but didn’t because he was God’s annointed. But in the event that Saul was struck down – it was Jonathon who David calls mighty.

    26 I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.
    Here David reveals his heart and soul. Saul was a communal loss, but Jonathon was a also personal loss for David.

    27 “How the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!”
    Again closing in lament.

    • “But I must add that he reflects upon the deaths of Saul and Jonathon. he praises them not just speaking for himself, but on behalf of the community – which covers his own personal experiences and any feelings he may have had.”

      That’s a good point, gc. We are now 11 years after SL’s death in 2002. All of us have already expressed our “praise” at one point. Heck, I even stood on SL’s gravesite and celebrated him!

      11 years later is no time to lament over SL. It is high time we examine, expose and explain what his abusive teachings have done so that the pattern doesn’t repeat.

  15. Terry Lopez

    I feel so very welcome…

    • Your feelings are valid Terry. We are trying to process what you said. Maybe you could help us out by engaging in the discussion?

  16. Terry Lopez

    Is the answer that simple, that obvious? Don’t you find it strange that David would want to sing a song of Saul’s greatness, after all Saul had done? Was it loyalty to Saul that made him write such a song? Was it loyalty that made him have the whole nation learn it? Why does he highlight his greatness and completely ignore all the horrible crimes he committed? Tbh, Brian your answer leaves me unsatisfied. And I’m not convinced that it is as obvious as you believe it is…

    • Sounds like you want to make a point Terry. Go ahead and make it. Probably David’s words are not so simple.

    • Terry Lopez

      I really don’t have a point to make Brian. I came and asked an honest question. Do I have my opinion? Of course, and I’m sure you can figure what my opinion is. But I didn’t come to give my opinion. I came to have you think about it and do so a little more deeply. Who cares what I think? I asked the question that we could think about it together, not just me make a point…

    • And I answered you question honestly. I am glad to be challenged to think more deeply. I think gc, Chris and Joe tried to do that in their responses.

    • Terry Lopez

      Fair enough… I’ve got to go right now… I’ve got a Bible study with my wife and one young Chinese girl soon. We are going to a great coffee shop that has Brick Toast! Awesome stuff. But dangerous to the waistline (as if I have one, mines more like a skyline). It’s called Chimney’s coffee shop and Brick Toast. You should Yelp it. I always like to share where I’ve been with others. Have a good day and talk to you again.

      I hope that answers whether I will be a drive by shooter or not…

    • Thanks Terry. You are welcome to post here anytime. I am not offended by anything you wrote. I am glad you engaged in some conversation.

  17. Terry Lopez


    I came and shared my opinion that I think your criticisms of a dead man are weak and not impressive. Then I asked a very simple question and I was greeted by counter questions and a demand to answer them. I’m one man, I’m not an organization… I honestly felt like a had just been mauled by a a pack of pit bulls… And my question was never answered… Perhaps, the Prayers for Blogging are not such a bad thing to adhere to,

    Lord, help me to take each person at his word. You alone know his motives; I simply do not.

    Lord, grant me love to put out the flamewars. If I have no wisdom to do so, give me the strength to simply log out.

    Lord, you have not appointed me teacher to the blogosphere. What I think is only my opinion.

    • *My* criticisms of a dead man? If you take a look you should be able to see that I haven’t spent my words criticizing SL here or anywhere. I have criticized ubf ideology and heritage primarily.

  18. Terry Lopez

    To answer your question what do I think of Joe’s article. It’s his opinion, but genuinely it does nothing for me… He could be 100% correct and UBF may disappear tomorrow, I could really care less… I’m a man not an organization…

    • So as a leader in ubf ministry, you care nothing about your organization?

    • Terry Lopez

      The only thing I am a leader of is my home…

    • And therein lies one of the core problems of ubf ministry, unless you are subtly saying that you are no longer part of the ministry?

      I used to think like that Terry. I used to tell myself “If all ubf people run away, I’ll never run away! If ubf disappears, I’ll just keep doing the same things!” I have discovered that I was lying to myself. I was living in denial of the pain of people all around me; pain primarily caused by flawed theology, unhealthy ubf ideology and far too many Confucian values like loyalty.

      Yet I told myself that lie over and over. It was a cover up for my cowardice. It was a lie to hide the facade I was living and a refusal to face the fact that I was a leader in ubf and had helped facilitate much abuse of power and authority.

      Frankly I am sick of talking about SL. I met him only 4 times. I hate hearing about SL via Joe and Ben’s articles but I accept what Joe and Ben write because they are processing their own life narratives.

    • Terry Lopez

      No, I’m not subtly saying anything. I’m still part of this ministry and will be until it disappears or I die. I just honestly shared with you that I am a leader of my home. I’ve been made an elder in the organization, but it really means absolutely nothing to me. I pray that’s all… Others want to lead and make decisions, so let them. Again, I don’t really care. Like I’ve shared, I’m a man, not an organization.

  19. Terry Lopez

    I think loyalty is a good thing. I’m very glad my dog always shows me great loyalty, even when I neglect him. I’m very glad my sons show me loyalty Nd my wife also, even though I’ve been so poor to them.

    • Loyalty is a good thing. But the gospel goes way beyond loyalty does it not? I don’t want people to be loyal to me when I treat them bad. I want people to call me out and hold me accountable, speak with courage to me and help me see when I might be wrong. I am so very thankful for many exubf members who did just that.

  20. Terry Lopez


    Those questions are beyond my ability to answer. I don’t know what criticisms were made by Solzenityan (or however you spell it)… Kind of ironic since I went to school and studied political science with an emphasis on the middle east and took any classes on the cold war because of a personal interest in soviet American relations..

    But my first reaction is that Stalin was a godless man, I could care less who criticizes him… He is of no concern to me…

    • Mark Mederich

      probably whoever is most affected by someone cares most & vice-versa,
      yet general principles end up concerning all in this increasingly connected fishbowl we call earth:)

  21. Terry Lopez


    I should have been more careful with my words. I knew when I typed ‘your’ that you (Brian) may think I was talking directly to you. When in reality, it was not you personally. It had to do with calling Samuel Lee a cult leader…

    • Thanks for clarifying. When you address something to me, I respond as if you addressed something to me.

    • Terry Lopez


      I must confess, at first I was afraid that I would be unable to talk with you. But I can see that, my fear is unfounded. I must tell you, very honestly I’ve always liked you. I think you know that. You have always been kind to me. You are a man of soft spokeness, at least to me. You are also a man of thoughtfulness and gentleness and that I will always respect about you.

      I may not agree with you, but I really don’t have anything against you. You are alright in my book. :-)

    • Yea soft spokenness…. :)

      …like Jackson Mississippi

      Part of my recovery from ubf Terry has been that the facade of my “soft spokenness” has fallen off. I am me now–crazy, ugly, beautiful and wonderful. My real self will not bow ever again to ubf authority. I’m not afraid any longer to speak my mind.

    • Terry Lopez

      Lol… Be yourself… That’s all you can ever be… :-)

    • Terry Lopez

      Brian, I’m very happy I can talk to you. I really am. I am very happy for you, I genuinely am. I’ll talk to you later. Right now three of my sons want to play a game of Dominion : Intrigue… My oldest keeps kicking my butt!!! That is not easy to swallow!!! There was a time when I clobbered him always, but those days are long gone… Have a good night! Ttyl… :-)

  22. Terry Lopez

    It was a fair assumption to think… It was my careless use of words…

  23. Terry, is it wrong to call SL a cult leader? Is it wrong to call ubf a cult? Why?

    I hope I understand you because when I talked to my former chapter members they felt offended because they were still part of ubf and they didn’t think they were cult members, and they didn’t want to be called cult members. They felt they were Christians and they wanted to make a local change. Later they prayed and all left ubf. They didn’t want to be responsible for the heritage (and to defend it) and have a cult label. They joined a healthy church and are free to serve the Lord as Christains.

    Unfortunately ubf does nothing to be called a normal healthy church and is not going to. That’s why so many people tend to leave ubf. And you personally can do nothing to change ubf. You may try, and the sooner you’ll do, the sooner you’ll leave. Your comments seem to me kind of aggressive, but I appreciate your step toward the dialogue. I suppose many of us here made such a step some time ago. What is very good about it is that it is a sincere step for truth.

    • Mark Mederich

      maybe the hardest thing to break out of is our ‘bubble belief’ that all is good, when it is not..

      the real issue is whether there is openness to positive change; if so, it could happen within a group; but if the group has ‘superior’ ideas which can’t be questioned or altered, eventually people look elsewhere (especially if ideas are extreme/unusual/of questionable motive/etc)

  24. Joe Schafer

    Dear Terry,

    I’m surprised that you thought I didn’t answer your simple question. I guess I didn’t make myself clear. So I will try again.

    Actually, you asked a series of questions. I will respond to them precisely, one by one.

    “Why are you criticizing a dead man?”

    Because sometimes criticism is warranted. The Bible does not command us to never discuss the mistakes of a deceased ministry founder.

    “Will he be able to respond to them?”

    No, because he is deceased.

    “Do you expect him hearing what you have to say?”

    No, because he is deceased.

    “Everyone of your criticisms may be correct, I don’t know, but does it really matter?”

    Yes, I believe it does. The behavior of SL is very salient, even though he is no longer living, because many leaders in UBF are still imitating him.

    “What do you accomplish by bringing them up?”

    I hope that it will help UBF leaders, including yourself, to reflect realistically on who we are. I consider you a leader in UBF. An elder is a kind of leader.

    “If you have a criticism with the current ministry, say what you will, but to criticize a dead man, is in my opinion, weak and not very impressive at all.”

    OK, thank you. I will continue to observe the current ministry practice, evaluate it and criticize it when warranted. That is part of a ministry leader’s role. Please disregard anything I wrote about SL which you may find weak and unimpressive. But please consider the other parts, because much of what I wrote was not about SL.

    Thanks again for the interaction. God bless you and your family.

    • Terry Lopez

      Thank you for your reply Joe. Once again I must confess I should be more careful how I type. The first questions were actually rhetorical questions. Questions that went through my mind when I read ‘Samuel Lee is a cult leader’, they really were not my question at all. I can understand why, you would answer them, but my real question was only one. Tbh, Joe, I already knew what you and everyone here already think of Samuel Lee, you’ve (not you exclusively) shared it again and again, ad naseum… I really wasn’t looking for a regurgitation of the 10k posts (sarcasm) already posted. So I decided a different tact. Instead of talk about something that has been beaten to death like a dead horse, why don’t I try and ask a question that would really be thoughtful, and might lead to a discourse, like, ‘Why did David sing a song of praise as Saul’s eulogy?’.

      As far as whether you think I’m a leader or not, I reject wholeheartedly. It is not for you to decide what I am or what I am not… Who made you the decider of what i am?! I resent your comment greatly!!!!!! I was made a elder, but I really don’t know why. I don’t participate in the meeting, nor do I want to. Nor do I do so in Los Angeles. That is of my own choosing. I wondered why when they decided it and I’m sure they have their reason, but what it is I could care less. Nor do I care what you think my position is.

    • Terry Lopez

      Btw, Joe,

      I still genuinely remember the time I got to take you to the airport. I really do think you are an honest man of integrity. I am very thankful for the way you bore your real heart at the last staff conference you served as messenger. So even though my last post may be harsh, I really do respect you. I always have and always will.

    • Joe Schafer

      Terry, I respect you as well. I’m sorry if I offended you earlier. I too need to be careful what I write. These conversations evoke strong emotions which are not at all a reflection of the personal relationship between you and me.

      When I said something earlier about you being an elder and leader, I was reacting to my own experiences. I was put in a position of nominal leadership, but was not encouraged to exercise real leadership. In fact, I was discouraged from doing so. When I brought my concerns before the GD and senior staff — and I did so in careful, measured and respectful ways — I was not so politely told to keep quiet. In response, I expressed a desire to resign from my position, because it was clear that other leaders didn’t want the input that I was giving. In response, they urged me not to resign. It became apparent that the missionaries wanted to me to hold a title of leadership but not exercise leadership.

      I also realize that my comments to you were partly a reaction to someone else. That person is in a position of high leadership in UBF. But he has made comments to indicate that he doesn’t really care if UBF survives or not; he is just going to keep doing what he has always done and let God worry about the future of the organization. Those words were shocking to me, because the reason why an organization has leadership positions in the first place is to make sure that someone is watching over the community and making wise decisions to help it to prosper. In my workplace, I am a supervisor for part of my division. What would happen if I told my division chief, “I don’t care about the long term health or survival of this division; I just want to do my own research”? It would not sit well with him at all.

      Terry, you mentioned my role at the 2008 Purdue conference. My only role there was to deliver a message. Sometime soon, I may write an article about that message and what I have learned since then. That article will not be a slamming UBF and Samuel Lee. You may be surprised at what I write.

      Please keep reading and commenting if you can. We need your voice in this conversation. Hopefully I will learn to listen to you better, to hear the questions behind your questions.

    • Terry, maybe you just misunderstood something? We’re not actually criticizing the person of Samuel Lee here. That would not have much sense, since, as you rightfully objected, he is already dead. What we are really criticizing is the way that the UBF leaders and members (first and foremost Sarah Barry and John Jun, but also all other UBF leaders and members) dealt with him in the past, namely by tolerating the evil things he did, even though the allegations were numerous, substantial and shocking, like forcing abortions, torture-like-trainings and financial misconduct, and by expelling those who talked about these things. We also criticize how they deal with him currently, namely by still mystifying and celebrating and praising him as a role model, not processing the past injustice, not rehabilitating those who were expelled for rightful criticism in the past. We can’t talk about these things without talking about the wrongdoings of Samuel Lee in the first place.

      You’re saying that these things are a “dead horse”. They aren’t. They will only become a dead horse when UBF has adequately dealt with these issues, publicly admitted these things, rehabilitated the critics and admonishers of the past, repented, apologized, and changed. As long as this is the case, it is not a dead horse.

    • Terry Lopez

      Dear Joe,

      Thank you for your kind and understanding spirit. You are truly a man of honesty. You are not afraid to share your faults or to bring your concerns and for that no one should feel threatened. I measure whether I can trust someone by how vulnerable they make themselves to me.

      I remember one time, when I wrote an email to our Korean coworkers, that they should not speak Korean while in the presence of American students and coworkers. It was not greeted well by some. And in hindsight, I can understand their not liking what I had to say. Even though Msn. Isaac had given that direction, so that American students wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, I can see now what a terrible demand I was making on them. English is not their native language, America is not their native culture, their children were being raised in a culture so different from theirs, they gave up a great deal, and then to be demanded by some punk American (me) to speak English in my presence, wow!!! I’m now ashamed of myself… But I digress, after I wrote the email, and saw the response from them, I remember talking to Msn. Isaac and asking him if I had done the wrong thing. And I will never forget his response to me. He told me that if you want to change a window, you have to break the old one. After its broken there’s no way to fix the old one. It has to be replaced. Then he told me, Break a lot of windows. Joe, what you are doing here on this website is breaking a lot of windows. But do it with dignity. It may not be greeted or even accepted, and tbh, they really don’t have to listen to you or your criticisms and that doesn’t make them evil either…

    • “He told me that if you want to change a window, you have to break the old one. After its broken there’s no way to fix the old one. It has to be replaced. Then he told me, Break a lot of windows.”

      Terry, what you’re saying here sounds problematic to me again. The first part of what you’re saying is right and biblical. People need to be broken to accept and understand the gospel. But the question is, who shall break them? I believe only God is able to break and remake people in a way that does not damage their souls. If people try to break other people (as your last sentence implies) this can cause serious damage to their souls.

      As you confirm, UBF leaders have always followed that paradigm that they must break people and then remake them. This was the goal of all the “trainings” of Samuel Lee. Often people have be broken so completely that they lost any self-confidence, any feeling of self-worth and their old personality, started to tolerate any abuse done to them and others, and obey “absolutely” and fear any criticism. You say that you are not broken in such a way. But do you care that others were broken in such a way?

      It is fully possible for people to break and then remake other people. All cults engage in this business. But if people remake other people, the result is horrible. And example is given in Mt 23: “You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

    • Terry Lopez


      You miss my point fully.

    • Terry, this was a sidenote, not an answer to your point. I made this sidenote because I think it’s an important issue.

  25. @Mark: “Mark, you have just posted the 10,000th comment on UBFriends.”

    Just confirming… yes Mark made the 10,000th comment here. And we’ve had thousands of anonymous like/dislike buttons clicked. I’ll have to update my open letter since at that time there were only 4,680 comments (around December 2012). So we’ve had about 6,000 comments in 8 months this year.

    @Joe: “Another milestone in our history.”

    Should we setup an Ebenezer stone? Another sad milestone I would say. How many thousands of comments need to happen?

  26. Yes, UBF is more than at a crossroads, it is going down a cliff. God has blessed me more than ever after being gone from UBF after been with them for 29 years. God has given me the freedom in Christ not a life of slavery to twisted theology and works….God is love and He loves families…this is what UBF mostly lacks…I can’t wait to finish my latest book…inspired by God to bring UBF into the true light and the abuse and manipulation and the fear and the leadership….it is unreal…go to a healthy church where there is love and appreciation of God’s grace not abuse and force and so much lies and deceit in the name of doing gospel work…

  27. Thanks, Joe and guys for this post and thread. I have been away for a few days and there are almost 80 comments! ….and I missed out on the 10,000th comment on top of that. It’s going to take me a while to catch up.

  28. Terry, you wrote “I’ve been made an elder in the organization, but it really means absolutely nothing to me.”

    and also

    “I was made a elder, but I really don’t know why. I don’t participate in the meeting, nor do I want to. Nor do I do so in Los Angeles. That is of my own choosing. I wondered why when they decided it and I’m sure they have their reason, but what it is I could care less. Nor do I care what you think my position is.”

    Doesn’t that raise numerous red flags about what you (the man) and ubf (the org) are doing? I hope you can see the dangerous cocktail these ingredients make.

    I have interacted with 3 or 4 other American “newly appointed elders”. They all say similar things as you do: I don’t care. Does that bear any semblance to Christian eldership? Is that anything like the shepherd heart Jesus displayed?

    Your words express a big reason why I left, lead my family to leave, and won’t come back. I can’t follow such leaders. I can’t put myself or my family at risk when elders in UBF just build self-preservation pockets of protection around themselves. I hope you and the other “elders” in UBF will soon come to realize how harmful such actions are to those around you and even possibly to those in your protective bubble.

    • I could not agree more with Brian on that point.

    • Terry Lopez

      Hi Brian,

      Dangerous cocktail, family at risk… Really? What kind of power or influence do you really think I have? The whole idea of leaders I find repugnant. I can tell you right now. I do what I want, when I want, I always have and always will. I could care less, whether UBF or you like it… God gave me my own mind and allows me to do whatever I choose to do. I’m certainly not going to let anyone to trample on that God given right. Whether you think it’s a dangerous cocktail or a risk to your family, I find laughable. I’m not your children’s parents, you are. If you think it’s a threat, then deal with it. That’s why God put you over your children. Tbh, I’ve never experienced ANY of the abuses others have. What I have experienced, has only been for my benefit. I still remember when I was dirt poor and Msn. Issac Kim purchased a car for $1,000 dollars for me and my newlywed Mari. He bought it from a friend of his at work. he didn’t have to do it, but he did. Does that sound like abuse to you? Do you think I’m ever going to criticize him? I’m not. Msn. Monica after I got married gave her son Isaac’s room to me and Mari for several weeks, because I couldn’t even afford an apartment. Does that sound like abuse to you? And now Isaac her son and I joke about it. Not long ago, Msn. Isaac came to my home and helped to fix some electrical issues in my home. Did I pay him? No, but we did have Sushi lunch together. He’s my friend and like a father to me. Do I always listen or agree with him? No, but it doesn’t matter, I know he cares for me. And I care for him. I remember one time I was supposed to give a message at a conference, and I disappeared just hours before I was to deliver it. He delivered the message himself. Afterwards did he say one thng to me? Not one word. He never held it against me. I skip meetings, leave them, when I get bored of them. And now I don’t go to them at all. I still go to campus and study the Bible with college students. Every Sunday I invite students and coworkers and their family’s to my home to have fellowship, notice I said fellowship, not have a fellowship meeting. I’m not into meetings, that’s something I do at work, I have fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We eat together and laugh and sometimes play games or watch a movie.

      Tbh, I am surprised to see so many wasting their Sabbath day that God gave them, to. come and post here. Most of what is written here is wearisome and bores me to no end. I have to deal with such things, Monday through Saturday, in my everyday life. Yesterday, I spent my Sabbath in a God’s Love High. I enjoyed God giving His Word to me, I also deeply enjoyed the sweet fellowship with family and friends on the day of rest. Every Sunday, we eat with between 4 to 8 guests. So with my 5 sons and wife, we often have anywhere between 11-15 or more guests each week. Last week, two of my sons coworkers, who work at the Supermarket that is next to our house, came over for a drive by eating. it was a wonderful chance to show God’s love and generous welcoming spirit to our friend. Amusingly, several other of the coworkers of the supermarket, jokingly asked why they weren’t invited. I told them, it was their fault for not working that day… But then I told them, well… actually, it was good you didn’t work on the Sabbath. What was I saying? And we laughed. Actually, we have many friends among our neighbors, by God’s grace. one of the women at the supermarket asked me, when am I going to study the Bible with her son, I told her whenever he would like to, not when she wanted, but when he wanted. She has been to our house and shared some of her agonies with my wife and I Nd her son, Kevin is a friend of our sons and has come to church on multiple occasions. Do I care if he attends our church? No.


      I know you would never intentionally misrepresent me. But, with only limited information and not being a part of my life, it easily can happen. I’m not your enemy. Nor are you mine. I have no enemies. I’d really like it if you don’t slice and splice my every word I type, and analyze it and try to find fault with it, it really isn’t that pleasant… Trust me, I’m the greatest sinner i know. Actually, I’m the only sinner I know…

      Bro, enjoy your Sabbath fully! Don’t waste the gift God has given you with critical thinking. Lighten up! :-)

    • Terry,

      I hear echoes of at least one of the gospel messages in your words, and that is freedom. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free!

      I trust that compassion is also part of your understanding of the gospel. You are so free, but do you realize there are many around you who may not be free? Maybe you could deliver a talk about freedom in Christ at the next Korean elders meeting :)

      I do want to point something out:

      “I still remember when I was dirt poor and Msn. Issac Kim purchased a car for $1,000 dollars for me and my newlywed Mari. He bought it from a friend of his at work. he didn’t have to do it, but he did. Does that sound like abuse to you?”

      Where did the money come from? I trust it was IK’s own money. But consider this– what if the money came from offering? I must ask this because there have been numerous accounts of misuse or unaccounted for offering money historically among UBF directors and senior leaders. They rarely use such money for themselves (as far as I can tell) but they often use it to “bless” young students or to bolster the loyalty of faithful native leaders.

      Offering money from students who gave sacrificially in UBF has been used for horrible purposes at times such as covering up moral failures. I won’t go into details here publicly, but you can ask internally if you want to find out. So a “great blessing” to you might have been paid for with “great sacrifice” of others.

      I’m not accusing IK of doing this, merely pointing out how such events have indeed been cases of abuse in UBF in the past.

    • Terry Lopez

      Hi Brian,

      Msn. Isaac was a legal advisor for —— in downtown Los Angeles. He kept on working, even when Msn. Samuel Lee asked him to stop to focus on the ministry. Msn. Isaac didn’t agree and continued to work for —— because he said the students were so poor and they couldn’t support the ministry. No he did not use the funds of the offering, but used his own money.

    • Terry, if all you wrote is true then you’re living in a completely different UBF from the UBF I was in, and IK is doing his own thing and not UBF heritage. I was not allowed to miss a single meeting. Actually it was the reason why the chapter director tried to cancel my marriage even though I had been already engaged for a year. What we’re discussing here is the mainstream UBF and the UBF heritage that is still valid in most other UBFs. If you say “I don’t care because in my small chapter things are different and I don’t obey anyway and you were stupid to let others lord over you” then this is not really helpful but just adding insult to injury. I you don’t agree with the spirit of the mainstream UBF and the heritage of UBF and the wrongdoings of Samuel Lee and do your own things anyway, you should disassociate from UBF. Why do you want to be associated with a group which is so very different from yours and has trampled all the rights you believe in with their feets in the past and never repented for this?

      Now you may say we all have been just stupid to let chapter directors and shepherds trample on our human rights and abuse us. Yes, we were stupid. But this also means you don’t understand the dynamics of cults and cult-like groups. The magic trick such groups can do is alter the mind of actually clever people to do stupid things. This is called mind control, and it exists in many groups, not only UBF. If you don’t understand it because you never experienced it, it does not mean that it doesn’t exist.

    • “Dangerous cocktail, family at risk… Really? What kind of power or influence do you really think I have?”

      We are not speaking about you, Terry. But there are chapters directors in UBF who do have such power and influence. Samuel Lee was the prime example, and many copied him, and there are still many chapter directors who follow the example he set, like the one under whom “big bear” served. The fact that you don’t have power and influence does not contradict the fact that “big bear”‘s or my or Vitaly’s chapter directors exerted such power and influence. And as long as such chapter directors are tolerated in UBF, there is a risk that your family is at stake, it just depends on the chapter you’re in.

      “Don’t waste the gift God has given you with critical thinking.”

      Terry, can you elaborate on that? This advice worries me a lot.

    • [ADMIN NOTE: Terry, please don’t mention other people’s workplaces here publicly. The company name has been blocked out, thank you.]

    • Terry Lopez


      Los Angeles UBF is the second largest chapter in the US. How could that not be ‘mainstream’?

    • Joe Schafer

      This discussion among Terry, Brian and Chris points out something that I witnessed. The cultures in UBF chapters (at least in North America) have always varied a lot. Los Angeles is far from Chicago, and SL did not set the tone for what went on there in people’s day-to-day lives. In fact, SL didn’t seem to care much about what went on in places like LA, Washington, Toldeo, Cincinnati, New York etc. as long as the directors of those chapters remained loyal to him, and as long there was no hint that they did anything better than he did. However, if SL ever got the impression that these chapter directors might be criticizing him behind his back, or that they might be developing a reputation for being smarter or better than him in any way, it was then that the sparks started to fly. SL would then begin to spin tales that those chapters had become compromised, worldy, legalistic (“Judaistic”), or whatever. Then other people would take their cues from SL and begin to criticize and marginalize those chapter directors as well.

      The sentiment that Terry has conveyed in his comments (and I don’t intend this as a criticism at all; if it’s not accurate, Terry, please correct me) is that he is not and never has been deeply invested in the overall UBF organization, heritage, mission, etc. In fact, he doesn’t much care what happens to the organization at the national and international levels. Rather, he wants to live as a quiet life as good Christian, a faithful husband and father, and maintain good relationships with the people closest to him. Therefore, a lot of the discussion that takes place on UBFriends doesn’t resonate with him; it doesn’t reflect his experience or his interests. Terry deeply appreciates all the good things his chapter director has done for him. In fact, one of the best things that his chapter director may have done for Terry was to effectively shield him from the power plays and toxic politics of the larger UBF organization and the abusive things going on in other chapters.

      Terry’s story is a very important one, and I’m glad that he has told it. It’s a good bet that there are many others whose stories are similar to his. Those stories need to be heard and processed and incorporated into the community’s narrative.

    • Joe Schafer

      Here’s another interesting point that Terry has raised, which is worth considering.

      UBF in Los Angeles has always had a very different look and feel from other chapters. It is partly a reflection of the fact that LA and the West Coast have a unique culture different from other parts of the United States. One of the big challenges that the LA director has faced over the years is how to preserve that special LA-ness of his chapter in spite of the continual influx of missionaries from Korea. They came to LA in droves, bringing strong ideas of how ministry is supposed to be. Without strong direction and intervention and resistance by the chapter director, LA UBF would have quickly lost all of its indigenous flavor and become a Korean immigrant church or an outpost of Korea UBF. The fact that it did not is a testament to how hard IK worked. I do not always agree with IK. Sometimes I don’t understand him. But I do respect him. And he has been personally kind to me.

    • Probably the most wonderful time of fellowship I ever had in UBF occurred during a leaders seminar or something in Chicago. Terry, myself, and a bunch of other brothers, including some more senior missionaries from LA and other cities, were supposed to be writing testimonies. Instead, we were so joyfully talking, drinking coffee, and eating ramen noodles until past 4 am.

      Terry, you made me feel so much like your brother during that time. I still feel that way. You have a singular ability in that area among all the UBF people I’ve met. I deeply remember that quality about you. It moved my heart so deeply.

      We may be a bit cut-throat around here on UBFriends, but we never have forgotten the deep love we shared with our brothers. It is this love that moves us to speak out, sometimes a bit too loudly perhaps or aggressively, but none the less love.

      And it sounds to me that you have a beautiful loving ministry in your home. Praise the Lord! May you be all-the-more encouraged and strengthened to continue in it and show a good example of a healthy family and ministry.

    • Terry Lopez


      I remember that evening like it was yesterday. It was at that time that we became brothers. You so remind me of my own son named Joshua. He is the youngest, but he is a boy of kindness and gentleness, like his mother. I truly do love you like a younger brother. I hope all is well with you and your family.

    • “Los Angeles UBF is the second largest chapter in the US. How could that not be ‘mainstream’?”

      I have never heard of LA UBF while I was in UBF. The headquarters is in Chicago, the GD sits in Chicago, the international conferences are always on the east coast. Chicago is the mainstream of UBF, not LA.

    • Terry Lopez


      Very insightful observations. But not completely correct. I do believe that Los Angeles UBF is different from other chapters. I do believe that distance played a role. I also believe that Msn. Isaac’s pastoring over us, made it that way also. I know personally that I had very little interaction with other chapters. The little I did have was only with Chicago and Toledo. Only a couple of years ago did I get the opportunity to Washington. There was no diabolical intent to keep me from these other chapters, I was poor, and had no reason to travel across the nation to visit. Anyways I got to meet people from other chapters every two years anyways.

      I really see each chapter and each house as an individual oasis of God’s dominion on earth. I am very honestly thankful to Msn. Samuel Lee, because he challenged young Korean students to share the Gospel with others. And one of them, Msn. Monica, who I call mom, was inspired to do so and she came to America, at great cost to her and her family and shared God’s love to me, until my eyes could be opened. For that I am forever indebted and I will never forget it. I know for absolute fact that my life, prior to meeting Monica, was heading to a tragic and sorrowful oblivion.

      Do I have an interest in UBF? Of course, it is here that I met God. Is UBF, the end all, be all? Of course not. Do I care about about the
      That is why I brought up the story of the men of Jabesh Gilead, who went and retrieved Saul’s body because they never forgot what he had done for them. I AM the men of Jabesh Gilead, if not for Samuel Lee, ‘burning with anger’ and even ‘threatening the people of Israel (korean students) to be chopped up into a stack of BBQ ribs, if they didn’t follow him to go and rescue their brothers of Jabesh Gilead, I would have certainly been ‘blind in one eye’.

      Do I care what happens to UBF? Of course, it is here that I met God. Do I believe that UBF, is the end all, be all? Of course not. Do I think God is removing dead branches and bursting old wineskins? Yes, I do. Have I been pruned and burst, personally? Yes. It is because of my oldest son, that i learned just how set in my ways i am and how violent I’ve been willing to become to protect ‘my way’. To my oldest son, I also am eternally grateful and indebdted to. Perhaps, I’m a cult leader of my home? Do I think UBF is in a ‘crisis’? No. I don’t think there are any ‘crisis’ in God’s work. Is it changing? Of course. For the better? I think so. Because I trust God. :-). Do I think this group here at UBF Friends is a part of God’s work? Yes, I do. But I also honestly believe that, and this I really want to emphasize and highlight… Your remedy is becoming a poison all it’s own… And i really do believe that… I was a political, science major, and I remember looking at the life of Fidel Castro. As a young man, he honestly was bothered by the corruption of the Batista government and he saw the great suffering of the people under Batista. He wanted to make a better Cuba for the people. But, strangely and ironically he made Cuba a worse living hell in some ways for the people, even though that was not his intent at all. I can see that UBF friends could very well be headed in such a direction…

      I use the whole matter of calling Samuel Lee a ‘cult leader’ as a case study in that… It was shared here that after careful analysis Samuel Lee had all the ‘traits’ and characteristics of a ‘cult leader’. It was said that Samuel Lee was not anointed by God. But how do you know that for sure? Because the ‘evidence’ reveals it to be so? I will tell you if the Bible didnt’ teach me that Saul was God’s anointed, if I had lived in his time and under his rule, I would certainly not came to that conclusion at all… I would have thought he was a ‘murdering psychopath’, because after careful analysis, that’s what it appears he is… I would NEVER on my own have come to the conclusion he was God’s Chosen… That is being very honest… The ONLY way I know he was, is because the Bible says so and David treated him as such… My point is simple, Samuel Lee may have a litany of abuses, but you don’t know whether he was God’s anointed or not, just be the ‘evidence’. To be really honest, I have been extremely abusive, especially to my oldest son (I’m talking physically). I’ve also been emotionally abusive to others. So I am unqualified to judge anyone of being abusive. I dropped my stone a long time ago… Very honestly, if people were to look closely at my life, they may very well say, ‘He is not one of God’s chosen’, but they would be wrong, and I know it… I’m God’s chosen, not because of what I’ve done or how well I have performed, or lived a Godly life, it isn’t because of any of those things. And I don’t have to tell you Joe why that is the case, because you Joe already know why its true… Just as much as I know its true of you…

      I can also point to another reason why I see UBF Friends trending in a very unhealthy direction. The little ‘Like’, ‘Dislike’ thumbs reveal a great deal. I found it very enlightening that the comments where I shared some critical comment that I got more ‘Dislikes’ than ‘Likes’. But comments where I ‘kissed the pope’s ring’, by giving compliments to others I received more ‘Likes’ than ‘Dislikes’. This tells me that there is a great deal of ‘Group Think’ going on here… I know that you created this site for honest and genuine dialogue and discussion. But in reality it has turned into a very insular and small group of like minded people, who applaud one another. No real meaningful discourse is taking place, IMHO… There is very little ‘moderating’ or ‘leavening’ of the thoughts and ideas shared here… Very honestly, those who have opinions or views different than those the majority hold here are greeted with anonymous ‘Dislikes’ and their comments sliced and spliced and criticized to reinforce cherished ideas and views… Recently, not to long ago someone made a goodbye comment and left becasue he felt the site was becoming ‘unpleasant’ (I cant remember exactly what they said, nor do i want to hunt it down) or something to that nature. Basically, I think he wanted to have a genuine discourse, but was greeted with ‘facts’ and ‘analysis’.

      I see it here and even Chris recently wanted to correct me on my doctrine, as though he is the repository of all doctrinal correctness, just because he reads the Bible… I’m a little too old for that nonsense… I also gave a chance for a little meaningful discussion about a very simple question, and it went no where… It was used to again regurgitate the same old tired comments, instead of HONESTLY thinking about why someone did what they did, without feeling threatened or where the conversation might lead… Of course there was some comments that were made that made some attempt to think about it, but there were several comments that were so shallow and meaningless to not even bother responding to… Actually, I didn’t respond to any of them, because there was nothing to say… It wasn’t going to go anywhere…

      As far as the picture you paint of me, I would like to think that I’m not just living my life quietly and to enjoy the small world I have. Of course, what you say is true. I do enjoy fully the blessings my Father in Heaven has given to me. He wants me to. :-) But I’d like to think that I have an impact on others and that I actively seek to be impactful in others lives. Tbh, I do have my own idea what it means to be an ‘elder’, it means I’m old… :-) It means it is not my time any longer to make ‘decisions’, its my time to make friends and bring peace and unity… At one time I thought making ‘decisions’, ‘and what those decisions were’ was a very important matter, but honestly and strangely, I know longer feel that is true. I thought that me being a part of the ‘decision making process’ was very important, but now I don’t. I learned that if you bring two people in a room, you are going to have two different opinions on just about everything. Who is right and who is wrong? At the time, I always thought I was right… But am I really? For a time I thought that if I could just explain it a little better or if they understood what I was really trying to say, they would obviously see how correct I am! And I don’t know what happened, but at some point I realized that my fellow decision makers were not my enemy and their thoughts were just as honest and earnest as mine were. I knew they loved God and wanted to serve Him in the best possible way they thought, even if my views were different. And then I realized, wow, our ministry is in good hands. They dont even need my input. I just need to support them fully. I don’t always agree, nor think they are making the best decision, but I realized it really doesn’t matter. We are one, and that matters a great deal… Tbh, I believe I am doing my ‘job’ as an ‘elder’ by even coming here on UBF Friends, and reaching out and being honest and sincere, and genuine and making friends and offering unity and peace. I’m not sure that others in the ministry think so or would agree with me, but…


      If they don’t like it, they can fire me… But first they will have to hire me… :-)

      I’m an ‘elder’ not because I was chosen by men, I’m an ‘elder’ because I’m older… :-)

    • Terry Lopez


      By older, I mean… That my sons can beat me at basketball!!! I really hate that!!! :-) Please don’t ask me what I mean by this. For those who understand, there is no need to explain, to those who don’t understand, no amount of explaining will do…

    • Terry, thank you for sharing your narrative. As Joe already pointed out, it is important to hear multiple narratives here on this blog. You make several good points, especially the group think on this blog, which we need to be aware of. Even though I don’t accept many of your conclusions (especially the little dominions…), I’m glad our readers can see multiple angles to this complex system. UBF is really more of a loose network.

    • Joe Schafer

      Terry, thank you for correcting me and revealing more of yourself and telling more of your story. As Brian said, I’m grateful that you are telling it, and at least some of us are listening. If you feel that anyone misrepresents you or mistreats you on this website, then please continue to push back against any of us, as you have been doing.

      It’s interesting that you perceive this website as having an environment of groupthink, that you see it as unwelcoming and potentially oppressive. That is your honest assessment. That is how people here have made you feel, and I am taking note of that.

      Your observation is actually quite deep. The missiologist Lesslie Newbigin wrote about this. He said that human beings by nature all underestimate how much we oppress one another. Many movements in politics and in the church are born from a genuine desire to help the underdog, to free the captives, to stop the oppressors. That is a healthy, godly desire which is consistent with God’s heart. But once the tables are turned, once the oppressors lose their power, the oppressed people under them can so easily turn around and become oppressors themselves. In fact, the whole idea of calling certain people oppressed and other people oppressors needs to be constantly examined, because in reality each person is at times oppressed and at other times acting like an oppressor. In Jesus’ kingdom, of which the church should be a foretaste, the oppressor and the oppressed can both be present and in communion with one another, which is very hard to accept.

      Terry, please continue to share your stories and give us the opportunity to improve the way we interact with one another on this website in the midst of disagreement. Displaying love and respect in the midst of disagreement is one of the hardest things we can ever do in life, and it is one of the most precious and rare gifts that we can give to one another. I have already witnessed visible improvement on this website over the last few days, and I hope the trend continues. You have done all of us an important service by coming here, and I’m glad that you are reading and commenting.

    • Terry,

      Thanks for taking the time to write what you did. In my opinion, you are largely correct about the group think of this online community. I understand the reasons for it. Yet that makes it boring and predictable too often- discussions often go down the same tracks especially for people who want to share something not so negative. It drives away people who want to sincerely share other views about important issues in a friendly, respectful way.

      May God bless you and your family.

    • Joe Schafer

      aw, for the record: Which website, in your opinion, displays more groupthink? UBFriends.org or ubf.org?

    • Joe,

      I do value the work on this site and even “like” it sometimes, but would hope that such comparisons are not necessary. If group think is considered a problem at ubf.org then hopefully anything like it is not justified here.

    • Joe Schafer

      To clarify, here is the definition of groupthink. It came from wikipedia, which is always correct.

      “Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.”

    • Joe Schafer

      aw, I don’t see much of a desire to minimize or spiritualize away conflict on UBFriends. Rather, I see sharp conflicts over important issues that affect the lives of people. Sparks fly because of the strong emotions these discussions evoke. Most of the people who comment here are very familiar with arguments that could be made by “the other side” because they all once stood on that other side. So I don’t believe that groupthink is descriptive of UBFriends at all. Something is definitely going on here that causes people to coalesce around some common opinions, but I wouldn’t call it groupthink.

    • Terry Lopez


      I want to share with you, about my dog, Kuma (it means Bear, in Japanese). He looks like a bear. I’ve had many dogs when I was growing up, but I have to say Kuma is really the best dog I’ve ever had. He is a big derp (I learned that word from my sons… :-D. I think it means goofy…) He is a St. Weiler. One of the brothers who lives below us in the basement of our home, found him on the side of the freeway, and he pulled over and he jumped into his car). He gave him to us. We did a DNA test and found out he is 50% St. Bernard and 50% Rottweiler. But he’s 100% derp… :-D We’ve only had him 4 months or so, not very long. But it’s very interesting to me to see him at the dog park and how he interacts with the other dogs. Kuma is a BIG dog, about 104 lbs. He’s not overly aggressive and not looking to fight other dogs, but interestingly, there are some dog types that he doesn’t seem to get along with well, including Doberman’s, Pit Bulls, Huskies, and other dogs that I call Alpha breed’s (including Kuma). Everytime, I go to the dog park and I encounter one of these breeds, especially males, invariably their is an altercation. But like a said, Kuma is BIG, but he is a derp, and invariably even though he wants to be the BIG dog, in reality most of the time the other dogs are more Alpha than he is. ;-D So for the most part I avoid putting him in the fenced off area when I come across these types of dogs.

      But there is also another dog owner who has a lab mix, named Keena. It is a female. Keena is very interesting to me. She is a very submissive dog. Tbh, there is no dog I’ve run across that is more submissive than Keena. I mean she literally, rolls on her back and exposes her underside to every dog she meets. Strangely, she is NEVER in an altercation with any other dogs… When I see Keena, I know that Kuma and her will be just fine together. When Keena rolls on her back and exposes the most vulnerable part of her to him, strangely Kuma does not attack, but sniffs her for a sec and then goes about his business. Sometimes Keena wants his attention so she chases him and licks his mouth and plants herself in front of him and rolls over again. And the whole cycle repeats, again and again. Very strange… :-)

      But, it made me think about what brings about peace and what brings about altercations… I realized that Keena is so much smarter than me… I’ve always been the Alpha type guy. But I found I had lots of altercations with people. And by some of my posts here, I’m sure you can tell, that I still bear my teeth from time to time. But what I learned from Keena is that she makes herself completely VULNERABLE. And it is because of this that she strangely never gets in a fight. Go figure… lol…

      The real reason that I trust you Joe, is because you have made yourself vulnerable to me. You have shared your own very real weaknesses. I believe that real dialogue will be acheived when more people here would be honest about themselves and stop only criticizing others and UBF only.

      I really believe that people intrinsically know and it resonates with them when there is a vulnerability that can be seen. All the critiques that have been shared here, may very well be true. But it wont resonate with people, because so little vulnerability on those who make such accusations is revealed about themselves.

      Tbh, this is one of the great heritages I got from UBF that I absolutely cherish. They taught me through testimony writing to be honest and vulnerable and stop acting like I know everything. Of course, its not an end all be all, either, but it was a marvelous tool for me to be honest. Before, then I NEVER was honest about myself, nor did I ever critically look at myself. But testimony writing allowed me to learn such a wonderful lesson and for that I am eternally grateful. I get it when it was shared that Samuel Lee would ‘weigh’ the testimony’s to decide who was being the most honest. But that doesn’t mean that testimony writing is a bad thing. I think it can be absused, just like my computer can be used for this or for looking at porn… I think that is a much more honest assessment than just saying that testimony writing is a tool to control people.

      The same can be said about the critique of UBF. You (collectively) have been spot on IMHO in many, many areas, but I think in some ways, the critique has been unfair. And it has appeared to me that recently that the critique has become even downright ugly… I thought the reason is that because there was so little dialogue, that the way way to get the attention was to just lay down more accusations in a more critical way. But IMHO, that has only alienated you and hasn’t resonated with many.

      Be real, be honest, be vulnerable…

      You know at the ISBC, I was asked to pray and help with the life testimony sharers for the European group. Do you want me to tell you what we did? Well, I’m going to tell you anyways… :-D I told them, “Let’s pray!” Then I listened to their testimony’s and after the first person shared his, he asked me how he should share it. I thought it was very cute, that he would ask me such a question. So I told him, “Be real. You’re not giving a performance. Aren’t you sharing genuinely what God has done in your life? Well then, be honest and be real and be genuine and let God take care of the rest.” He asked me should he raise his hand in a sweeping gesture, like he had seen so many times before. And I told him, only if he really felt like he wanted to. And then I laughed to myself. And then I listened to the other testimonies and it didn’t take all that long. And we had more time, so I began to talk about them and their lives, what they shared, I could inquire about more about some of the things they were only briefly sharing in their testimony’s. I got to learn a little more about them. Then we talked some more about nothing in particular and then the room was needed so we all prayed one sec and went on our way… Later, that night when the first student shared, he kept his head down the whole time he delivered it. So I went to the back and pointed that out to the remaining sharers and said, “It’s alright if you do the same thing, but maybe it looks better if you occasionally look up and people can see your face.” And then I smiled to them. They got the point… I share this because, that is what happened… That is not the way things used to be done, but that is the way it happened this time around… Things are changing… Maybe not the way people would like to see, maybe not as ‘earth’ shattering or ‘deeply’ as some might like to see, but it is real change. There are changes going on, and more are on the way… Like I said, God is in the midst of spring cleaning in our ministry… :-)

    • Joe Schafer

      Terry, thank you for your kind words. I will say that I trust you as well, basically for the same reason. You have made yourself vulnerable in two important ways. First, you came to this website and made comments that you knew would not go over well with some people, and when they pushed back against you, you stayed here and shared more of yourself. Second, you have engaged in conversation here and said things (for example, about you being an elder) that could make some ministry leaders upset. For that, I really commend you.

      You have put your finger on something which is really, really central to the strong emotions and strong anti-ubf language appearing on this website. The people who comment here frequently are not strangers. They were highly committed to the ubf community and trusted their leaders deeply. Somehow, that trust was broken. Some ubf leaders will say that it was they (the disciples) who broke the trust. Once upon a time, I said that too. But after listening to these stories — and bringing them up with leaders in private — I was rebuffed. What I saw, again and again, was leaders refusing to make themselves vulnerable. I saw an organization refusing to make itself vulnerable. That lack of vulnerability, more than anything else, drove a wedge between us and made it very hard to work through these issues. And that lack of vulnerability, more than anything else, is what caused many of the people who comment here to leave the ubf community.

      I believe that Christians need to make themselves vulnerable. Christian leaders and organizations need to make themselves vulnerable. It is the way of Jesus, the way of the cross. It is the beginning of Christian love.

      Thanks again.

    • Hi Joe,

      Sorry, I was not attempting to define groupthink, just trying to articulate a way to encourage even more constructive participation discussion about important issues. Of course, I could be wrong as I am often.

    • Joe Schafer

      aw, thanks for accepting my pushback. It was good for me to be reminded of what groupthink actually means.

      I agree that there are dynamics on this website that cause people who are more sympathetic to the ubf community to feel unwelcome, to feel that if they comment here, that they will get pounced upon. It’s something that I hope will improve in the future. Participating in this discussion makes one vulnerable in many ways. Hence there are quite a few anonymous commenters. (Anonymous comments are actually against our policy, but we haven’t taken any measures to enforce it.)

      I do hope that this online community becomes warmer and more welcoming.

      And I also believe this: a big reason why many ubf members and leaders feel unwelcome here is that they are accustomed to discussing ministry matters only in safe, closed-door settings where the group dynamics and flow of information can be carefully controlled. They have never learned how to deal with sensitive issues and conflicts in a modern western cultural context, where people speak very directly to one another without fear of reprisal. (The online exchanges between us and JamesK have made that painfully clear.) Here at UBFriends, ubf leaders would be at a huge disadvantage,like fish out of water. They would feel weak, tongue-tied and oppressed. Just as I would have no clue how to discuss these matters at a Chicago elders meeting without them believing that I am highly immature and offensive — and, in fact, I don’t think that I can actually be myself anymore without offending them now — they would experience similar things if they engaged in discussion on UBFriends. Having survived for three decades in UBF, I am fully aware of how to play the game. I know how to say and do things that missionaries like, in the way that they like. However, I have firmly decided not to do that anymore — not for my sake, but for theirs. If they want to raise indigenous leaders, they need to allow indigenous leaders to be indigenous.

    • “The little ‘Like’, ‘Dislike’ thumbs reveal a great deal. I found it very enlightening that the comments where I shared some critical comment that I got more ‘Dislikes’ than ‘Likes’. But comments where I ‘kissed the pope’s ring’, by giving compliments to others I received more ‘Likes’ than ‘Dislikes’.”

      Terry, this is an intrinsic problem with like/dislike buttons. For instance, I like the fact that you participate in the discussion, that you share openly, and I also like some of what you write. But when I press “like” I feel I would also condone and approve some of the arguments and statements you make, which are really not valid in my opinion. So I think a “like/dislike” button is totally inappropriate in such situations.

      I’m already having problems choosing between like or dislike when my sister posts she has headache. Should I press like to express I like her and feel with her or should I press dislike to express the fact that I don’t like her to have headaches?

      I’m feeling in a similar conflict when I have to click like or dislike for your comments.

    • “I use the whole matter of calling Samuel Lee a ‘cult leader’ as a case study in that… It was shared here that after careful analysis Samuel Lee had all the ‘traits’ and characteristics of a ‘cult leader’. It was said that Samuel Lee was not anointed by God. But how do you know that for sure? Because the ‘evidence’ reveals it to be so?”

      Exactly. After my UBF experience, I read a lot of books about cults in general, and books about particular cults, mostly written by ex members. I was shocked to see the similarity between UBF and these cults, and particularly the similarity between the ways SL operated and these cults leaders operated.

      What you are trying to imply (and I remember my chapter directory tried to do this as well) is that we are not allowed to judge by evidence, but that there is a “hidden spiritual reality” according to which SL was God’s annointed anyway, no matter what he did. Sorry, but I don’t believe this anymore. It is mythical thinking and superstitiousness, the same kind of superstitiousness that SL himself instilled into others. I already posted the example where he claimed in a Sunday message that he (SL) was the “commander” and that to obey or not to obey him determines your fate, and gave examples where people experienced accidents and bad luck or even death when they disobeyed. I really stopped believing such garbage, and started to judge based on evidence instead.

      “I’ve also been emotionally abusive to others. So I am unqualified to judge anyone of being abusive.”

      I believe everybody has been emotionally abusive ot others at times and that includes me. With your argumentation, nobody would be allowed to talk about spiritual abuse. Again, this is a line of argument which I refuse.

      I dropped my stone a long time ago… Very honestly, if people were to look closely at my life, they may very well say, ‘He is not one of God’s chosen’, but they would be wrong, and I know it… I’m God’s chosen, not because of what I’ve done or how well I have performed, or lived a Godly life, it isn’t because of any of those things. And I don’t have to tell you Joe why that is the case, because you Joe already know why its true… Just as much as I know its true of you…

      “No real meaningful discourse is taking place,…”

      Then why don’t you participate in a real discussion? After you asked your question, and I answered it, I asked several questions back, but you didn’t answer any of them. That’s not the way meaningful discourse can happen.

      “‘Dislikes’ and their comments sliced and spliced and criticized to reinforce cherished ideas and views…”

      That’s absolutely not true. I went into your line of argumentation and explained exactly why I don’t agree. That’s how meaningful discourse happens. What else should I do in your view? Just press “like” and that’s all? Or just give a sweeping “dislike”? When I go into your arguments, you interpret it as “slicing and splicing”, but at the same time you say “no real meaningful discourse is taking place”. We seem to have very different views on what “meaningful discourse” is.

      “I see it here and even Chris recently wanted to correct me on my doctrine, as though he is the repository of all doctrinal correctness, just because he reads the Bible… I’m a little too old for that nonsense…”

      What do you want to say? The Bible is nonsense? Or my interpretation of the Bible is nonsense? Then please show me where my interpretation is wrong. I do not think I’m a repository of doctrinal correctness, and I’m willing to let anybody correct my views. Or do you want to say discussions about the Bible are nonsense? Then why are in a group that focuses on Bible study? Is it wrong to measure UBF against the Bible? What exactly is “nonsense” here?

      “Actually, I didn’t respond to any of them, because there was nothing to say… It wasn’t going to go anywhere…”

      It definitely was going somewhere. But maybe it just wasn’t going into the direction you liked?

      “Tbh, I do have my own idea what it means to be an ‘elder’, it means I’m old… :-) It means it is not my time any longer to make ‘decisions’, its my time to make friends and bring peace and unity…”

      The role of an elder in a church is also to make friends and bring peace and unity. Still, the word “elder” has particular meaning in the Bible, it is an office that church members either have or you don’t. I they have it, they should take it seriously. You should be clear about whether you’re an elder or not.

      “I learned that if you bring two people in a room, you are going to have two different opinions on just about everything. Who is right and who is wrong? At the time, I always thought I was right… But am I really?”

      Terry, there are things which are disputable. I too have become more tolerant of other views. However, there are views that are simply not acceptable, things that are simply wrong, not matter how you twists and turn them. Among them are several of the things that SL did as a leader. They were simply wrong. All we want to see is that UBF leadership publicly admits they were wrong instead of wriggling like an eel when pressured to make a statement. The most I could get out of James Kim was “some see it so, other see it so.” No, sorry, abuse is abuse. People have different opinions on everything, but not all opinions are legitimate. If everything is equally valid, there is no point in having discussions.

    • “Samuel Lee may have a litany of abuses, but you don’t know whether he was God’s anointed or not, just be the ‘evidence’.”

      Terry, this is exactly the point that my chapter director tried to teach me during the reform movement. We were not allowed to judge based on evidence, based on misbehavior and bad conduct, because he was God’s anointed anyway (or he “might be” in your line of argumentation). He taught us that even nice things could have an ugly smell (I have heard several such parables about things that smelled awful but were nice anyway during the reform movement).

      I challenge this line of argumentation, it is really black magic thinking. The Bible is clear about this as well, e.g. when it explains that the fruit (evidence) shows the nature of the tree.

      The other reason why I totally reject this idea is that there are not special anointed persons like Saul in new testimony times any more. There are just brothers under one shepherd, Jesus. There is no point in talking about special anointing of people any more. In new testament time, we are ordered to judge based on evidence and God’s word and our conscience and the Holy Spirit, not based on the authority of certain people or our perceived indebtedness to certain people.

    • Joe,
      First off, I don’t mind if you call me Alan as we do in our normal communications.

      Thanks for accepting my poke at UBFriends. UBF has serious issues and I am glad that we can honestly, openly and transparently discuss them here. Not only that, we can hopefully work through practical solutions to those problems. It could be that to a lesser extent (3+ years of existence versus 50+ years) UBFriends may also have areas in need of improvement.

      Maybe some in UBF don’t want to allow indigenous leaders to act indigenous, or be themselves. And we have lots of evidence to that effect. This has created a lot of problems and hurt. But we also have to let non-indigenous people be themselves as well. Yes, most of the leadership in UBF is non-indigenous. This is an issue that I in particular really care about and am quite vocal about. So the onus is clearly on missionaries to be incarnational- more like the indigenous people they serve rather than vice versa. However, as much as they try, they can’t do it to your satisfaction or my satisfaction. When it comes down to it, they are still themselves. And we are all messy sinners.

      My wife is originally from Korea. I love her very much. To a great extent she lets me be indigenous. So I watch football, eat hot dogs and crack corny jokes- among many other things. I also have no problem with her speaking Korean, eating Korean food and watching Korean dramas. But there is this wonderful place in the middle. Of course, Jesus is always with us. But those are the times when I really feel him with us. Do you know how cool it is for me to take her to a football game? Do you know how fun it is to go to Korean restaurant with her? It is really wonderful when we can have a conversation about things, understand each other and even agree with each other. It is most wonderful to worship together, pray together and serve others together. Sometimes she doesn’t communicate in ways that I immediately understand. Sometimes I may use idioms or nuance that she doesn’t understand. And we don’t agree sometimes. We accept that about each other in love and work on it from there.

      Of course it is impossible for UBFriends to be like a marriage. But I believe the love of Christ is here. I think most if not all of the people here are Christians. That is great. So I very much appreciate you, Brian, Ben and others. I truly consider you my friends- I think you know that. So I read/listen carefully to what you all have to say. Yes, there are serious and sensitive problems that have impacted our lives in sometimes very detrimental ways. And it is possible that some need to be rebuked and/or dismissed and I am the biggest advocate of that in the cases that warrant it. But I for one in the midst of these conversations want to make more of an attempt to go into that middle place where Jesus is, trying to understand the other side and trying to better help the other side understand me.

      Like you, I have been in UBF for more than three decades. But unlike you I do not yet know how to say and do the right things that missionaries like. Over the years, I have frequently expressed my honest opinions. I gave up trying to please them a long time ago. I remain the indigenous guy I am for better or for worse. But I have not given up loving them. While I express my opinions, I really want to hear the other side. And I want to give them as much of a chance as possible to speak, even in their own non-indigenous way- even when I hear the communication from the other side as a one way edict or an ad-hominem attack. I try not to respond in kind. And then I want them to hear me loud and clear when I speak. I try to make it clear that continued one way edicts and ad-hominen attacks, when/if they happen, will not make the ministry fruitful at all nor more indigenous.

      In my opinion, the more we hear each other speak and give each of the opportunity to do so, the more trust is built up even though we may never agree. Then we can work on a solution, knowing that the solution depends part on us, part on trust of others and mostly on trust in Christ.

      Yet, I have no pretense that I have all of the answers. I just don’t. May God help us and bless us, whether we are in UBF or not.

    • Joe Schafer

      Alan, thanks for continuing the discussion. An interesting thread on the state of UBFriends (and other things) has started on gc’s article, and I’ve said some things there that I don’t need to repeat here.

      You and I sometimes speak of UBFriends and UBF almost as if they are separate entities. But, for better or worse, they are joined at the hip. UBFriends is what it is, in large part, because UBF is what it is. Just as your power to change the culture of UBF is severely limited (regulations and policies can’t do it), so my ability to shape the culture of UBFriends is limited. As an admin, I could delete comments that I think are unhelpful. But that would probably make it worse. The only things that I can really do are to express myself and allow others to push back when they feel it is warranted, and then listen carefully to their pushback.

      The same process that I believe would make UBF a better place — the process of careful ethnographic listening — would also make UBFriends a better place. Some of that is going on. But it’s hard to do. I’m trying.

    • Terry Lopez

      Hi everyone,

      It was sooo good to get away from here for a while. It’s amazing how nice it was to stay away. It was like a breath of freash air to me. I have decided that I will come by from time to time, but not often.

      I was rereading some of the comments posted to me and one by Chris that I hadn’t taken the time to address and I would like to now.


      You shared that you weren’t “allowed” to miss any meetings. I was very curious about that statement. I am very curious as to what would have happened (or perhaps, better said, what do you think would have happened if you did miss any meetings?

    • “You shared that you weren’t “allowed” to miss any meetings. I was very curious about that statement. I am very curious as to what would have happened (or perhaps, better said, what do you think would have happened if you did miss any meetings?”

      Terry, obviously you did not read many of the testimonies written by ex UBF members. If you did not attend meetings, you were rebuked, told to be unspiritual, and finally kicked out.

      In fact I do not need to speculate what would have happened, since I experienced in real life what happened. I have already several times written about the reaction of my chapter leader when I did not attend a meeting shortly before my planned marriage because I wanted to spend the time with my mother: He kicked me out of UBF and sent my fiance to a different UBF chapter, telling her I had become unspiritual. This happened despite the fact that I had been 10 years in UBF, that I was a grown-up adult of over 30 years, that I had already been engaged for one year that we had decided to “marry by faith” and that I had even attended the SWS only hours before (it was only one of the supplementary meetings after the SWS that I missed – he insisted that I needed to attend, I insisted that I needed to spend time with my mother, that was it – it was interpreted as disobedience and reason to cancel our marriage). I’m actually very lucky that I disobeyed and did not attend the meeting. Without that small act of disobedience maybe I would have never found out the true face and character of my chapter director and UBF as a whole.

      Don’t tell me this was a singular event and only my chapter director was so evil. I know several other cases in UBF Germany where marriages were cancelled by leaders, and I know at least one chapter director in Germany who is far worse than the one I had the luck to be abused by.

    • Terry Lopez


      Thank you for answering my question. Your chapter director should be removed (if he hasn’t already) from his position. And it sounds like it was a good thing for you to be able to be free from his manipulative ways.

      No, I don’t read any of the testimony’s of others. I will only address real, live people, so that I can speak to them directly. Everything else, I do not concern myself with.

    • Terry Lopez


      I’m very curious about the girl who was your fiance. What happened to her? Did you eventually marry her? Did she marry someone else? Is she still in UBF or did she leave?

    • Terry Lopez

      I’m going to share another story (please forgive me if it isn’t Biblical… Perhaps, if Vitaly was around I could check with him first and see if it is valid or Biblical… sarcasm…)

      The other night I was at home and a brother who lives in the basement of my home came up with another brother who recently left our chapter. They had gone to dinner and they came upstairs to see me and my family. I was so happy to see this brother who had left. I had had the chance to spend a considerable amount of time with him in the past. I really love the guy. He’s like a younger brother to me. My son’s really like him and he is like an older brother to them. Well, when he came upstairs I could see that he felt really uncomfortable. Knowing him, I know that he lives for the approval of people. We have talked about this alot over the time we have known each other and he knows this is something he shouldn’t do. Well, I could see while he was visitiing that he wasn’t his normal cheerful self. I already had heard that he had left the ministry (please don’t ask why, because it’s no one’s business, except to those who he decides to share it to). So I guessed that he felt uncomfortable that I would be upset or disappointed that he left or perhaps he thought I was going to try and talk him to come back. I don’t know exactly what he was thinking, but what I did do was address the issue straight on and told him that I was happy for him and that I hope he finds a church that he feels comfortable at. I told him he is always welcome in my home and I always will consider him a brother. I was happy to see his old smile return and his shoulder’s relax and to see my ‘brother’ return. He confessed he hadn’t been going to a church regularly so I chided him and told him he needs to. He agreed.

      I’m going to share another story. There is a woman my wife and I studied with many, many years ago. She is a Korean woman, my wife met her at her work, long, long ago. My wife studied with her for years and years. She worked as a waitress in a restaraunt (with my wife). But after studying the Bible she decided she wanted to become a nun. She had been a Catholic her whole life. My wife and I never considered to tell her to be anything different. We believe that the Gospel speaks to God’s people. So she became a nun. She remained a nun for over 5 years. She was in Washington D.C. and she took care of the elderly. Well, Kim (her last name) every year contacts my wife and tells her that she loves my wife and thanks her for being her Bible teacher and friend. She left the sisterhood and moved back to Korea. She doesn’t attend UBF and it really doesn’t matter. We are so thankful for her.

      I’m going to tell you another story. There is a young woman who went to USC and was working on her Ph.D. in Marketing (I think… I know it’s business, but I think it’s Marketing). She finally finished her Ph.D. and is now teaching in one of the Ivy League Schools, I think it’s Princeton. She does not attend UBF, nor does she have desire to do so. But she leads a group Bible study with graduate students at the school she teaches at. For that my wife and I are so thankful and joyful.

      My point in sharing all these stories is that I don’t think and never have believed that UBF is the end all be all. Those who leave, I am very happy for. For those who remain, I’m also happy for.

    • Joe Schafer

      Terry, thank you for sharing those stories. I have many similar ones. Among the alumni of our fellowship at Penn State, we have one Catholic priest and monk, one assistant pastor and one seminarian and future pastor. All three of these left our fellowship without any trouble; we did not hold on to them and we blessed them as they went. We count all three of them as our friends. God called them elsewhere.

      Having said that, I know many, many other individuals and families whose departures from UBF were painful and traumatic. They were part of the ministry for 10, 20, even 30 years or more. They left because, plainly and simply, they were treated badly by immature and misguided ministry leaders who lorded over them. I am not happy at all about their departure. They are some of the most kind, devout, gifted and dedicated people I have ever met. It was foolhardy for UBF to drive them away. If you could gather them all together into a single church, it would be one of the finest congregations in America. Losing them was tragedy and a cause for deep concern.

    • Terry Lopez


      I echo your sentiments completely. People have been mistreated and ‘lorded’ over and I must shamefully confess that when I was younger I did similar things. I treated people who trusted me as though they were awards or medals on my chest that I could ‘show off’ how spiritual and great I was. Some I got to apologize to; but others sadly, I never saw again, to apologize to them. For that I do regret. But I will say this, UBF didn’t teach me to treat people that way. I did that all on my own. I recall hearing messages against such a thing on several occasions, but it went in one ear and right out the other, because of my great sin of pride and love of self.

      I thank God for His sin forgiving love to such a sinner as me. I thank God that I could grow up and learn to begin not mistreating people, (which I still do, but not in the same way that I used to) especially those who put their trust in my opinions and views and listen to my advice. I really trust and believe that God will look after those whom I have mistreated in the past and bless their lives despite me; which I believe He does, because He loves them, even more than I deserve their forgiveness.

    • I’m going to share another story (please forgive me if it isn’t Biblical… Perhaps, if Vitaly was around I could check with him first and see if it is valid or Biblical… sarcasm…) – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/08/21/ubf-at-the-crossroads/#comment-10507

      I can’t be everywhere to consult if something is valid or Biblical. :))

    • “Thank you for answering my question. Your chapter director should be removed (if he hasn’t already) from his position.”

      That’s true. In reality, he got promoted by Samuel Lee to become European director after I left, because he stood so strongly against reform. And after him, the other chapter director, who was even worse, was promoted to be Europe + CIS director for several years (I don’t know who made that decision, but it certainly played a role that Samuel Lee had praised that man even when he was already investigated by the state attorney and several shocking testimonies by members of his chapter had been published).

    • “I’m very curious about the girl who was your fiance. What happened to her?”

      Well, she is my wife now. The chapter director later revised his decision and let us marry after we had written the obligatory testimony of repentance. But he never really admitted that he did a horrible thing (and he never shared his own testimony of repentance over this stuff). He kind of “apologized”, but it was not a real apology, he just tried to cover up what had happened and wanted to let us pretend it never happened. But then, only month later, he did a similar thing with another couple who wanted to marry, so I know his “apology” was done just to appease us and so that nobody will hear about what happened. A lot of such stories happen behind the curtains of UBF and you never hear about them. To me and my wife, it was a severe trauma that happened in the phase of our lives that should be the luckiest days of romance and honeymoon, but this trauma overshadowed everything, and we couldn’t really be lucky in these days. Our marriage had been nearly destroyed by someone who we believed to be the “servant of God” (yes, we still believed that at the time, so we were very confused).

      It was interesting to read your response to this story. In essence you said: “No matter what evil things are done to you, don’t worry, because God is always with you, and as long as you have God, there is nothing that really can harm you – the whole experience helped you to focus even more on God, so it was probably good for you”. Recently, I found an old email written by a UBF friend from another chapter. He complained that he had been not only kicked out of UBF, but also out of his “common life” apartment in UBF, for no apparent reason except that he was “absent without leave” (very similar as in my case, I have no reason not to believe him that this was the only reason). He was kicked out late at night and had no other place to sleep, so he had to sleep in the railway station. Note: He was not kicked out by his room mates, but by the chapter director who believed to be the head of the common life communities. This is what he reported to me. Not with bitter words, but with sad words. What would have been the right thing for me to do? I should have demanded and explanation from that chapter leader and let this thing escalate. What did I do instead? I gave the poor expelled member the lame “spiritual advice” to focus on God, to learn from the bad experience, to look what maybe he had done wrong, to forgive his leader etc. Very similar to what you wrote in one of your comments to my story. Today I know this is just unhealthy, makes the hurt worse and protects abusive leaders and enables them to proceed with their abuse.

      In my case, your excuse may be even cheaper: “See, this story had a happy end anyway. So why do you still complain?”

      Please understand that I complain not only because this did real damage to our souls and our relationship, and because I know many similar stories in UBF without a tragic end. The point is that this is not a story about me. You try to turn it into a story about me. It is a story about my chapter director and UBF. It is not a singular, extraordinary event. Similar things have happened to several people in my chapter, in other chapters in Germany and all around the world, and particularly in Chicago. The way how my chapter director behaved had not to come out of his own head. He had learned all of this from Samuel Lee. When you read the letter written by the 7 senior shepherds in 1976 and other complaints about SL, what do you think? He should have been removed from office long ago? Why do you think this way only about my chapter leader? SL was much worse than him.

    • “No, I don’t read any of the testimony’s of others. I will only address real, live people, so that I can speak to them directly. Everything else, I do not concern myself with.”

      This is a horrible attitude, Terry. All the testimonies that have been published have been written by real, living people, who were members of your organization.

      Also, you are the one who can decide with whom you can speak directly. The reformers wanted to speak with IK, but he decided not to talk with them. The problem was not that he could not speak with the reformers, but that he did not want to speak with them. In your case, ask yourself, is the problem that you can’t speak with certain people, or that you don’t care to speak with these people first of all, because you don’t care about their problems, as long as you don’t have the same problems?

      By the way, you shouldn’t read the Bible any more with such an attitude. Are people like Adam, Noah, Abraham real, live people for you? Can you speak with them directly? So why are you concerned about their stories?

      Why should the world be concerned about anything that happens in the world as long as it does not affect us directly, or as long as we cannot speak with the affected people directly?

    • “I am very curious as to what would have happened (or perhaps, better said, what do you think would have happened if you did miss any meetings?”

      I already answered that question by telling you about a concrete “punitive measure” that I experienced, but now I want to give a much deeper answer.

      Behind your question I see the objection “What can they really do to you? The worst thing they can do is rebuke you, shun you, or kick you out of UBF, which would be a blessing for you if UBF is really so bad.” This objection sounds somewhat reasonable, particularly if you are a thick-skinned person. (Sorry if I think of you as such a person, based on the frequency of the phrase “I don’t care” in your comments. The horrible things that happened in your childhood would be a good explanation why you developed such a thick skin.). Your objection could also be phrased like this: “How could they ‘force’ you to attend meetings and obey them? What ‘lever’ did they have to force you do to something?”

      Let me approach your objection from that direction. One “lever” is certainly marriage. They can delay your marriage or cancel a planned marriage. After marriage, if your spouse is a loyal hardcore UBF member, this is also a strong lever. If you want to have a harmonic family life and not risk a divorce, you better follow the UBF program in that case. Marriage is a strong lever, but for many members, this is not the strongest lever. If it had been the only lever, we would have left UBF immediately after marriage. But we stayed more than one year longer and might be still in there if not the reform movement had happened after that one year, which opened our eyes.

      What really happens in UBF for the majority of members is this: When they started reading the Bible, they started to believe in God. They experienced a conversion, being born again, turning away from their former sinful life. So far, so good. However, UBF goes a step further. They strongly connect this experience of conversion with your becoming a shepherd and active member of UBF, and tell you the whole thing would never have happened without UBF, without your shepherd, without Samuel Lee who started it all. The testimony about your conversion, usually shared at a conference, is at the same time a pledge to become a shepherd in UBF. The “heavenly calling” is the same as the calling to be a UBF shepherd. The “kingdom of God” is the same as UBF. The center is the “house of God”. The leaders are the “servants of God”. The orientation given by the leaders is the “will of God”. The training by your leaders is “divine discipline”. Showing thankfulness to God is the same as showing thankfulness to your shepherds. Giving money to God is the same as giving money to UBF. The “holy nation” is UBF, and you have become a “royal priest” by being a UBF shepherd. The categories “God” and “UBF” become inseparably linked in your mind. Most of all, if you think about the meaning of your life, it has become to be a shepherd in UBF and to disciple as many students as you can. This calling gives your life an absolute importance and meaning. The UBF director now becomes the “visible servant of God” for you (I’m using the words of IK) who leads you through this process of becoming a great man or woman of God. Even your marriage has only this one meaning, it is a “house church”, and your spouse is not really your spouse, but your “co-worker”. Outside of this calling, your marriage and your life have no meaning any more. Would your spouse leave UBF, you would divorce and remarry a more loyal member (maybe not you and me, but I know several cases where this happened). Would you ever leave UBF yourself, this would be equal to leaving your calling, your faith, to leaving God. You would fall back to the same sinful, meaningless life as before UBF (which was part 1 of your life testimony – over the years you have been indoctrinated to believe that there are only two possible lifestyles, the spiritual, absolutely meaningful lifestyle of a UBF shepherd, and the meaningless, senseless and sinful life of more or less all other people). To leave your calling in UBF would also mean losing eternal live as a consequence. You could just as well go kill yourself. (Once when I got kicked out of UBF for a while, I really had suicidal thoughts because I believed God had taken away my calling. Others who were kicked out – even sheep who were considered “unteachable” – told me how much they felt not only disappointed by people, but also abandoned by God.)

      So with other words, what is the strong lever that can force people to attend every meaning and tolerate every abuse? It is the “meaning of live” that UBF gives you and that UBF threatens to take away from you as well. If you get rebuked by “the visible servant of God” it is much more than an ordinary rebuke from an ordinary person. It is the same as a rebuke by God himself. If you are shunned or expelled by the servant of God, this is tantamount to being abandoned by God. Leaving UBF under such circumstances, even if you already start to understand the problems, leaving your “absolute meaning of life,” is always a trauma.

      Now, as a thick-skinned person, you may not understand this. You may think we’re crazy to believe such things, and to interconnect our heavenly calling and our UBF calling so strongly, to make it the meaning of our lives, and to believe UBF people are servants of God. Nevertheless, this is what happened to me and many others. How did this happen? Through years of indoctrination in 1:1 sessions, sogam sharing sessions, conferences, Sunday messages, daily bread messages etc. etc. You hear the same stuff every week, every day, with no hiatus. It’s repetition and all the other mechanisms of mind control (including self-indoctrination by writing your own sogams) at work in UBF that finally result in this view of yourself, of UBF and God. By attending all these meetings, we reinforce this mindset that does not allow us to skip the meetings. It’s a vicious circle. UBF leaders know this very well and that’s why they also disallow people from getting a hiatus, because that could break the circle.

      Maybe because you don’t attend many of the meetings, you could not be brainwashed so deeply to get into the mindset I described, and so you don’t understand this “spiritual grip” that UBF has over so many people. Obviously you don’t believe in most of the stuff UBF teaches, you don’t even seem to take the Bible seriously. Maybe you just stay in UBF out of loyalty, because you see your chapter director as your “father.” Maybe you have more social reasons for staying in UBF than spiritual reasons. But even you seem to be susceptible to the idea that certain people are “anointed” by God, so they should not be criticized. This is not so far away from the mindset I described above.

      Sorry for writing so much again, but you provoked me to answer, and I wanted to explain things properly.

    • Terry Lopez


      Thank you! Thank you for giving me the most cogent and honest answer I could have asked for. Thank you for taking the time to write such an answer that I could understand what it is that you actually went through. I will tell you that your answer is not just being read by me but many others as well. An answer like this will do more to correct matters, than much of what has been written.

      I will make one correction although. I’m not thick skinned, if you didn’t notice, I take great umbrage when I feel I have been slighted or feel like I have been disrespected. I will tell you that I never experienced that kind of pressure, as I shared Msn. Isaac Kim did not do such things to me, nor did I see it for others. (I would prefer if you typed out his name. I noticed that many here who speak of him or Msn. Samuel Lee only type out their initials. I really think everyone has the right to have their name ‘said’ or ‘typed’. It may not be intentional, but no one has addressed me as ‘T’ or ‘TLo’, I don’t think that it should be done to them or anyone for that matter). Tbh, there are many people in our ministry, including messengers who have even taken vacations or gone camping and did not attend the Sunday worship service. I know some Korean coworkers were not happy, but it didn’t change their position and when their turn to deliver a message came they still did. I’m talking about me, but also others.

      I’m very sorry to hear that you felt and experienced such a thing, I genuinely am. I’m also glad to hear that you married your wife. :-).

    • Terry, in case of SL it was lazyness (and everybody knows who is meant anyway) and in the case of IK the idea was to avoid typing real and full names of people who do not take part in the discussion and who might not want to have their names published on the Internet.

  29. Wowsers, I think I would have pressed the “thumb-wrestling–I’m conflicted” button about a 1000 times by now.

  30. Based on my interactions with many people within UBF, a clear majority of non-Korean “leaders” actually agree with many of the points that Joe makes. Moreover, a significant number of Korean missionaries and second gens also are of a similar opinion. Of course, that doesn’t make it right but their reasons are Biblical: the gospel is about God’s righteousness, God’s glory and God’s grace in Jesus Christ, not about the goodness, glory or heroics of people in an organization. While I love UBF and recognize some wonderful things the Lord has done through it, UBF is made up of sinners such as me from top to bottom who have failed in many ways (sometimes miserably and repeatedly) and who need renewal all the time.

    If we don’t stand by faith in the gospel based on the Scriptures and speak up using the God-given opportunities we have, it is our own fault if things run amok. At least that is what the love of Christ is compelling me to do: to prayerfully share the truth in love. Some of these matters are quite delicate and complex, but I think it is worth having an honest respectful discussion about them even though it may seem awkward. And when we prayerfully do that, I am of the opinion that, God willing, the best of days of UBF could be ahead of it.

    • I would agree with this, aw. One nuance that is important from my point of view is the distinction between the sins of the shortcoming/failure nature and the sin of abuse of power. Misusing authority and power seems to me to be in a class all by itself in terms of how to deal with it this side of Heaven. Any thoughts?

    • Hi Brian,

      Yes, authoritarianism is a main issue that we need the Lord’s help with. There are good reasons to respect and listen to people who share the word of God with us and we should do that as much as possible. But we are all sinners with blind spots. Absolute obedience to people is not Biblical. That is why we have the Scriptures and that is why Jesus is our High Priest.

      So I think we cannot talk about any particular sin or any particular people in a vacuum. It is like the pot calling the kettle black. I’d rather focus on those in the context of the gospel, the humility of Christ, Lordship of Christ and the love of God for *all* sinners in Christ. In light of those, we can see clearly and have the power to improve our practices individually and collectively.

    • “I’d rather focus on those in the context of the gospel, the humility of Christ, Lordship of Christ and the love of God for *all* sinners in Christ.”

      Agreed. And what does the context of the gospel have to say about misuse of authority and how to deal with it? (that’s not rhetorical or cynical, I really want to hear thoughts on this)

    • Brian,

      The misuse of authority is a serious matter. It is counter to the gospel of the death of our Lord for our sins and also runs against the character of Christ who is gentle and humble in heart. The gospel also teaches that while all of us are sinners, God loves us. The perpetrators of sinful acts, be they people in authority or not, have an opportunity for redemption in Jesus Christ.

      I addressed some of how to deal with it in the second paragraph of my initial comment above. In addition to speaking the truth in love, I pray to model the Christ-like character that I desire in others. Of course I cannot do that at all, but my prayer is that the Holy Spirit may empower me and others to do so. Also, I pray that God may bring about repentance and renewal starting from myself, again something I/we cannot do in our efforts.

    • @aw, so this is what I hear you suggesting. Can you clarify if I’m not hearing you properly?

      Speak the truth in love, but we can’t see clearly.
      Be like Christ, but we can’t have Christ’s character.
      Ask the Holy Spirit to empower us, but we can’t be like Christ.
      God may bring about repentance, but we cannot it.
      God may bring about renewal, but we cannot do it.

    • Brian,

      The gospel is pretty ironic, isn’t it?

      Saying “I cannot” is an honest assessment of my capability. It doesn’t mean that I won’t try my hardest.

      Sorry that I cannot adequately and fully explain the grace of God in Christ! For me it remains mysterious and powerful, and that is where my trust is.

    • I have much to say in response to this, aw. You’ve just expressed something that relates to the massive transformation I’ve been going through– the realization that the gospel has nothing to do with “I can’t but I’ll try.” This is what I call the “evangelical layer” of burden that had enslaved me.

      To say “I can’t but I’ll try my darndest” is to beg the question, “What did Christ die and come to life for?”

      I believe the gospel has nothing to do with irony. Charles Spurgeon helped me understand that. Irony is a “close but no cigar” way of expressing the gospel Jesus preached. Jesus’ gospel does have an upside down nature, but not in an ironic way.

    • Brian,

      I don’t think you understand what I am saying. That is ok. But as I mentioned previously Christ’s love compels me to do it.

    • Brian,

      You asked me my opinion about how to deal with various practical issues around us and I answered those questions. I was not directly addressing the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice in how God views us.

      Do you have the capability to completely change people around you? To what extent are you able to change your behavior to be more Christ-like?

    • aw, you say that you pray that God brings repentance and we cannot do more. This is not true. Mt 18:15ff says that we can demand repentance for obvious sin in the church. If these people do not repent, we must disasocciate from them. The Bible is very clear about how to proceed. See also 1Cor 5.

    • I agree Chris. What good is it to sit around praying for God to do something when God clearly enabled you to do the very thing you prayed for?

    • Sibboleth

      “…UBF is made up of sinners such as me from top to bottom who have failed in many ways (sometimes miserably and repeatedly) and who need renewal all the time.”

      When I read the last part of that sentence, “and who need renewal all the time”, the first thought that popped into my UBF-Cynic’s head was, “and who need removal some of the time.” When I read Maria’s conference report, I was somewhat surprised and somewhat encouraged. But if you read her report, it’s inconclusive about the question of accountability and *consequences*. Abusive leaders in UBF have continued in their positions, almost completely consequence-free. Sure, their abusiveness has caused people to flee from them and contributed to the current state of the organization. But these leaders themselves are largely untouched; they’re still the leaders, decades later. We all need renewal all the time. That sounds great. But is UBF, sitting at the crossroads as it now does, moving toward accepting what healthy, ethically- and morally-grounded churches have accepted forever? That abusive leaders get shown the door. That authoritarian abuse by leaders merits real, personal and painful *consequences* for them. Based on what I’ve read so far in the comments, I’m not so encouraged.

    • @Chris, Interesting that you tell me I am wrong for saying we should not do anything and Brian is saying I am wrong to “try my darndest.”

      Yes it is not true that “God brings repentance and we cannot do more.” However, that is your paraphrase of one part of my comments. I probably did not communicate it as effectively as I should have, but what I said does not preclude Matthew 18:5ff. I’ll explain more in a follow up comment.

    • aw,

      “Chris, Interesting that you tell me I am wrong for saying we should not do anything and Brian is saying I am wrong to “try my darndest.”

      Correct. Both extremes are wrong. Doing nothing isn’t helpful. Trying your hardest isn’t helpful (how is that different from selfish ambition?). The point is to follow Jesus– let the Holy Spirit navigate you through all this chaos. That is the most peaceful and effective way to proceed. I’m learning to listen the Spirit’s voice and it is rather amazing.

    • @Chris, @Brain, @Sibboleth,

      Punishing people is one part of eliminating authoritarianism in the ministry, but it is not sufficient in developing good leaders. A deeper relationship with Christ is really the key to it and I was trying to address that above. However, since you guys are interested in the punishment aspect, there are indeed some things happening.

      The first step is a Code of Ethics that defines things that should not be done, a process for dealing with these and organizational consequences for transgression. The GD has sanctioned this initiative and a UBF Ethics has been working on it. In fact, based on the feedback from the ISBC Interest Group that Sibboleth referenced, we now have a draft Code of Ethics that is circulating among the UBF Ethics Committee. Matthew 18:15ff is prominent in the document as well as 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and 1 Peter 5:2-3 among others. Yes, the word “dismissal” is in there too.

      Once the Code of Ethics is finalized, we have a Biblical policy and procedure in place that can be enforced. Those who have been found to have practiced abusive leadership will be dealt with accordingly, but everyone deserves due process. So in the meantime, I remain prayerful for repentance. I hope that gives you a better understanding of where I am coming from right now.

      Since the Code of Ethics is still a work in progress, do you have any suggestions? We welcome them. We hope to have the Code finalized this fall.

      Once the Code is finished, I’ll be happy to post it here. Thank you for your concern in this important matter.

    • Sibboleth

      “Punishing people is one part of eliminating authoritarianism in the ministry, but it is not sufficient in developing good leaders. A deeper relationship with Christ is really the key to it…”

      Sometimes, punishment (consequences, even removal) may be just what the Doctor ordered to help a leader–or former-leader–develop a deeper relationship with Christ.

      My immediate question regarding a Code of Ethics (COE) is this: Does it apply retroactively? Or are some leaders immune because a COE did not formerly exist?

      Will a COE address UBF-chapter-run businesses? Whether such businesses should exist at all or how they should be structured or restructured?

      This may be beyond the scope of the current COE effort, but will a COE address the “The Lord needs it” (Lk 19:34) attitude toward the law and community standards. Examples of such an attitude toward the law might be a certain UBF chapter allowing/encouraging members to overstay their Visas, unlawful child neglect, or this.

    • “UBF is made up of sinners such as me”

      Personally I think the problem is that UBF is made up of sinners different from you. There are many different kinds of sins. There are personal sins. Everyone has to struggle with these. And there are the specific “sins of the shepherds” and “sins of the sheep”, as explained in the article about authoritarianism in the church by Steve Marin. I found that the UBF resulted from a kind of symbiosis between these two different kind of sinners.

      In psychological terms, these are the passive-agressive personality types (whose behavior resembles people with narcissistic personality disorder) who command others, tell others they owe them and make others feel guilty and never feel guilty themselves, even if you’re talking at them until you’re blue in the face, and the insecure, harmony-addicted personality types (whose behavior resembles people with dependency personality disorder) who let themselves be commanded and always feel guilty and that they owe something to others.

      Of course, the reality is a bit more complex, there are some thick-skinned members who don’t fall into either of these categories, but according to my experience most members have either of these personality types and disorders which “complete” each other so nicely and create a dysfunctional system that is hard to break and change.

      So in my eyes the problem is not that UBF is made up of the same kind of sinners but of different kinds of sinners who complement each other in a way that reinforces their respective sins.

      Because the kind of sins of the sheep and the shepherds is different, I believe they also need to be treated differently.

    • @Sibboleth, the Code of Ethics applies retroactively. The principles are simple and Biblical, so things that are found to be sins of the past fall under its jurisdiction.

      In the initial draft, some financial matters are addressed including how offering money is used. There is currently something about chapter run businesses too. The details are being vetted.

      It is the expectation that UBF leaders obey the federal, state and local laws.

    • Sibboleth

      “It is the expectation that UBF leaders obey the federal, state and local laws.”

      I would hope this is stated and elaborated upon in the Code of Ethics.

      This may have been asked and answered before, but can I ask who is on the Ethics Committee? I don’t need actual identities but just the make-up of the committee, i.e., number of people, what chapters they’re from, Korean/non-Korean, UBF/non-UBF.

    • Sibboleth,

      Thanks for your feedback.

      The UBF Ethics Committee is made up of 4 UBF people and a non-UBF consultant.

      Of the UBF people, two are Korean missionaries and two are non-Koreans. Two are from Chicago and two are from outside Chicago.

  31. aw: You wrote – “I don’t think you understand what I am saying.” Now that we can agree on! You are correct, I don’t know what you are saying. I am sincerely trying to understand however.

  32. aw:

    “Do you have the capability to completely change people around you?”

    No, I cannot completely change people around me.

    “To what extent are you able to change your behavior to be more Christ-like?”

    I cannot change my behavior to be 100% Christ-like. When Christ lives in me through His Holy Spirit, I am able to be transformed to be more Christ-like. What would that look like? I don’t think we can conform people to a prerequisite set of ideals, but we can and should explore what values Christ had, what actions he took and didn’t take and what character traits He displayed. Those are possible to begin learning and imitating.

    What are we talking about changing? I am almost always able to change my mind. (that’s what repentance means in essence– a change of mind). All human beings are continually changing, and we have far more impact on others than we realize. I can change, as we all can. How could we grow if we are not able to change at all? So I reject the “no change is possible” and I also reject the “complete change is required” attitudes. I also reject tying the “extent of change” to some litmus test for whether we are saved or not.

    I am curious, why do you jump into talking about change after I brought up the gospel?

    • Brian, I don’t think we are very different in our perspective here.

      I talk about change because the gospel of Christ is transformational. Having my sins forgiven by his grace and having a relationship with our loving Heavenly Father through the Spirit has been a life changing experience.

    • aw, I’m glad to hear you speak of personal transformation through the Holy Spirit based on the gospel, and with no mention of the ubf heritage!

      Was I being obtuse? Maybe (ok probably). But I am intentionally so because one of the crossroads issues (and the most important one in my observation) is the gospel. You landed on the gospel Jesus preached, but rarely did that happen in the ubf world the past 50 years. What I mean is ubf continues even today to define the gospel in terms of personal ambition and self glory, and then binds people’s lives to the 12 point heritage. People then act out of fear– fear that if they stop the UBF hamster wheel, they are sinning against God and following satan’s advice.

      The Ethics committee work is important, but I am discouraged to see that “ethics” is the first focus of whatever change is going on in Chicago UBF. Why not focus on the gospel? Why not first review and examine the 12 point heritage and fix your flawed theological fabric which could render your Ethics committee useless? Preaching the gospel and following Jesus is the “good path” Joe describes. What kind of gospel will UBF preach?

    • Brian, I didn’t say that ethics is the focus of change going on in Chicago. Someone else brought up that issue and since I am somewhat involved in that I spoke to it. I’ve emphasized numerous times in my comments above that the key is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      In fact, we are looking closely at the “heritage” you reference and are working on a new version of it.

  33. “However, since you guys are interested in the punishment aspect”

    Nobody here is interested in the punishment aspect, aw. The point we’re interested in is the confrontation of the current leadership with their sin, first the accumulated covered-up and untreated sin of the past, then the current sins (not their personal sins, but most of all the sins that affect people and the whole ministry). If they openly and clearly admit what happened in the past and repent (individually and as an organization), everything is well. There are very specific and concrete sins that need to be handled, like forcing a woman to have an abortion (a UBF leader even carried her to an abortion clinic by command of SL). You find many other concrete issues listed on this website. They have never been officially acknowledged. Currently, I don’t know whether the top leadership still claims this is all untrue and only lies and slander (as they did 10 years ago), or whether they admit this on the quiet. Even if the latter is the case, they could change their mind any time and start to follow the former strategy of calling everything lie and slander and persecution again. UBF leaders like this ambiguity and freedom of choice. But they need to make a clear statement, 1) whether these things really happened, 2) whether these things need to be condemned or not and 3) what measures to take that these things will never happen again. This will separate the wheat from the chaff. Those who are not willing to admit and condemn these things are not those with whom UBF members should want to associate with and tolerate in their organization.

    Second, the “ethics committee.” So what happened is that more than 50 years ago UBF split from the Presbyterian church, who had a sophisticated code of conduct and ethics (“book of church order”, “standards of ethical conduct” etc.) and for 50 years lived without caring about ethics at all (prime example: the abortion shows, but I can give many other examples) and about proper church discipline (prime example: the German reformers were expelled, but Peter Chang against whom several members brought force serious allegations and against whom even the state attorney made investigations, was demonstratively made the main speaker at the ISBC at that time, and again I can give many more examples). Then, after 50 years, members of this same organization form an ethics committee behind closed doors to elaborate something that every normal church has, and even ask us to wait until they are finished? The first thing any ethics committee should do is process the sins of the past and issue a clear statement about these things. If they don’t see the need to do this, then this disqualifies them already. Such a statement doesn’t need time. We don’t need an ethics committee to see that forcing abortions, faking photos, misappropriating money, letting people sit in ice water, letting people check their underwear etc. is unethical. They can repent for letting this happen in their organization for not having a code of conduct for 50 years now. From this point they can go on and create a code of conduct for the future.

    • I couldn’t agree more Chris. Facing the facts based on the gospel is THE first step in my observation. If the Ethics committee can do that, ubf just might be choosing the better path at this crossroads. (And I agree– punishment is not the right word. Justice, yes, punishment no.)

    • @Chris, thanks for your thoughts. I agree. A Code of Ethics is not the only document we have finished a draft of.

  34. @Joe, “Terry’s story is a very important one, and I’m glad that he has told it.” I echo this! TBT I was initially quite surprised when reading his story at first. But at the same time I was elated at hearing his story, because Terry did not “morph” into the “Keep spiritual order, just obey” paradigm which way too many UBFers, including myself, have experienced to varying degrees.

    Terry’s account of IK’s love, gentleness, kindness and respect for him is also quite moving, touching and really quite lovely. Sadly, this has not been the norm and experience of others who have shared here. Maybe it was when “sheep” first came to UBF. But sadly, as expressed by many, later it changed into more and more control and manipulation, which invariably also included coercion, intimidation, shaming and guilt-tripping to “don’t question and just obey.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, Terry’s account is moving. Please see the other comment that I just wrote: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/08/21/ubf-at-the-crossroads/#comment-10212

    • Phil 2 Five

      I attended the Los Angeles chapter! Yes Terry made some valid points! IK served him, took care of him, … I was also served and taken care of throughout my early years in UBF. I’m grateful to this very day! BUT, is there a hidden motivation behind their service? Is it driven by godly motivation or is it driven by selfishness? Is it driven with a motivation to later on demand loyalty? I cannot see a persons heart but when I hear from the chapter director, “Your Bible teacher has served you so sacrificially so just listen!”, I come to question their service! That’s my first issue with UBF! Second issue is the off the wall interpretations of the Bible. What do I mean? UBF almost always reads INTO Biblical text! They use verses COMPLETELY out of context! Ex: Bible student: “I cannot afford to go to conference/retreats 4-5 times a year!” Director: “Deny your self! Have faith!” Is that what Jesus meant by ‘deny yourself’? Maybe I’m wrong! If I am, I welcome correction with an open heart! UBF directors, shepherds, bible teachers (though not all) do not handle Gods word properly and do not interpret Gods word accurately!

      Accurate/Proper Hermeneutics:
      1. Literal Interpretation (no hidden meanings)
      2. Historical Context (geographical, cultural conditions, customs)
      3. Grammatical Principle (pronouns, word meaning)
      4. Synthesis Principle (Scripture interprets scripture)
      5. Practical Principle (implication not application)

      This is taken out from one of John MacArthur’s messages. I want to point out #5. He said that he rather give people implications of Bible passages and leave the application part to the Holy Spirit! In UBF, the director/pastor/bible teacher tell you what you should or should not expect! Is that biblical? Abraham left his fathers household so you should too! Isaac married Rebeca by faith so you must marry by faith! Again this list can go on. Praising UBF while ignoring these serious issues isn’t going to help UBF!

    • Wow phil2five, I didn’t make that connection until just now between you and LA (sorry for my poor West Coast geography)…

      Terry I think you should pull your head out of the sand and try to help those around you. Many are trapped under the layers of problems in the UBF system. They need real help, not glory stories.

    • Phil2Five, I agree with you on both of the points. The principle of “I give something to you and you are loyal to me and the organiztion forever” is seen even in Terry’s story (and in his case it worked well). And about Bible interpretation, even if all the abuses in ubf disappear (just an imagination) what would you do with all the ubf messages, like the one by DK? Through Terry I learnt that there are people in ubf who don’t care about the meetings but do such people enjoy ubf messages? Is it OK with you to be in such a “church” and “vote” for such a theology and “Bible study”?

    • Joe Schafer

      These observations by Terry and Phil2Five are not necessarily contradictory.

    • Sibboleth

      “… quite moving, touching and really quite lovely.”

      You haven’t been moved until you’ve read big bear’s first book recounting SZ’s love, gentleness, kindness, respect, etc.

    • Joe Schafer

      Sibboleth, that’s a great point. I wonder what old big bear — the one who wrote that first book — would say if he encountered the comments that big bear writes today. Actually, I don’t wonder; I can imagine it pretty well.

      And I can imagine what Joe-2005 would think and say if he encountered articles and comments by Joe-2013.

      If I could go back in time and give one message to Joe-2005, it would be this: “Don’t be so sure of yourself. Don’t state your opinions today as if they are absolute, objective truth. Because your perspectives are going to change dramatically over the next decade.”

      It’s sobering to think how different my perspectives might be one or two decades from now. I hope they are different. I hope that God continues to transform me in radical ways.

    • I’m still recovering from being so moved, so blessed, so loved and so helped…

  35. I just had this thought: If exUBFers had primarily experienced what Terry had experienced in LA UBF under IK, then perhaps many may still be in UBF, and/or that some comments here might be more conciliatory and gracious…perhaps.

    I believe that Terry experienced the Gospel/Good news of God’s Grace (Ac 20:24) from IK from the beginning of his UBF life till the present time—-while others who experienced otherwise in UBF, experienced the Gospel at first (which led them to commit to UBF), but which then eventually became Law, and Mission, and work (harder), and sacrifice (more), and just obey, in clearly authoritarian and abusive ways that violated and trampled on each person and each family’s personal boundaries.

    • Ben, here is something that seems to have not been clearly communicated by me.

      My experience in UBF matched a lot of what Terry mentions. I have many good memories. I was blessed and helped a lot. But here is where our stories part ways: I began sharing my honest feelings about a few things and asking about the problems my friends were facing. That caused all hell to break loose.

      I’m glad that happened becuase then my eyes were opened to see how many problems there are with the UBF system itself. Most of the severe spiritual abuses happened to me during the process of leaving because I was “sticking my nose into too many places”. All UBF people I talked to (apart from you and Joe) wanted me to “mind my own business and stay quiet in Detroit”, at least initially.

      When my eyes were opened through the blatant shunning process that occurs when someone wants to leave UBF, I could begin to see how deelpy flawed and shallow the UBF system really is, and how enslaved my mind had become, and most of all, I could see more clearly to begin to re-capture my own life narrative (which includes me being a Christian before any contact with UBF).

      Then I could also see the immense pain and suffering the UBF machine has caused, and bigbear is a prime example of such suffering.

      I have almost no input as to what UBF should become, but I am fully persuaded that Christ who lives in me wants me to be a living STOP sign to end the hamster wheel pattern of controlling people’s live and shredding good families to pieces. Anyone, incluidng Terry, can see that such things have happened. I do care. I will speak out.

      I really wish we could rise above the “good experience/bad experience” false dichotomy. We need to talk about the system itself which fosters many kinds of abuses.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I wholeheartedly agree. At this moment, you and Terry tell very different stories about ubf. But I’m quite sure that, if you sat down to compare notes about specific experiences that you had, there would be a lot of common ground. That is what makes ethnographic listening such a challenge. People can experience similar things in very different ways. And their perceptions of those experiences can change dramatically over time. But by sharing those things honestly and respectfully, and by valuing one anothers’ perspectives and trying to reconcile them, some common understanding can emerge.

  36. Terry Lopez

    Well said Brian and Joe,

    I want to share my own experience with my oldest son, Peter. The one who sings praises of me… There was a time, not too long ago, where him and I had real knock down fights. And it had to do with the changing of our relationship dynamic. You see, when he was a boy, our dynamic was one where I told him what to do and he did it… I really liked that dynamic… :-D. I was the father and knew more and knew better. And he listened and occasionally made mistakes and I helped clean them up for him. Like I said, I really liked that ‘time’ or ‘chapter’ in our lives. But then, he went and did a horrible thing. He grew up… And our relationship dynamic began to change with it… The problem was, both him and I were too immature to know how to properly handle this change. Very honestly, I thought he was rebellious, unwise, disrespectful and ungrateful to me as his father. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see that I had only his best interest in mind, and a lot more wisdom to see where his ‘choices’ were leading him. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see how much I had done for him and how much he should in great enthusiasm embrace all my words to him. This made me soooooo angry and even hatred and violence arose within me. I must shamefully confess I remember clearly thinking, ‘I hate this ungrateful son of mine! I’ll never talk to him again!’. Obviously, as can be seen, I really botched things up badly. And I almost ruined my son, and our relationship… But it cut both ways, my son was growing up and was learning to be an independent young man, but he really didn’t know what that meant either. He thought being independent meant asserting his independence by being rude and disrespectful and even arrogant. He completely dismissed all that I had done for him. And for all these things he was as guilty as I was. Like I said, we both were very immature. Just as I was ruining him and our relationship, he had his part to play in it going south as well…

    I will say, that this was a very dark and unpleasant time in my life, but one that I would never ask God to have taken from me. Only now in hindsight do I realize just what a wonderful thing God was doing by leading me down that path. It was only for my complete good and for His complete glory… Our God is sooo good to us!!! I shared my sons letter to all of you for a shrewd reason… To show you that our relationship has been completely restored. It is the testimony of God’s redemptive work in two sinners lives.

    I share my son and my story for two reasons: I’m sure there has been some very unpleasant things between students and Korean coworkers. And I’m sure there has been real abuse, perhaps as bad as the abuse I laid upon my own son, but maybe it was not done for the reasons presented here… Perhaps, it was a strange way to show their love… I know that sounds stupid, but I really mean it… Perhaps, the relationship dynamic was changing and neither side has handled it as well as they should have, but does that mean UBF is really an evil entity??? Are your attempts at dialogue evil? No. Organizations aren’t evil, people are… Including me… And as long as organizations have people in them, they are going to be unhealthy… I would imagine that some of my sentiments towards my son, resonate with missionaries who have given a great deal and gave a high cost for young American students. Perhaps, they thought very much like I did towards my son. At the same time it is completely understandable to me why my son ‘rebelled’ or ‘broke windows’, it was because I didn’t listen… At times he was disrespectful and ought not to have been, but all the same it is understandable why, just as understandable to me as my actions were to him (it doesn’t mean to excuse them, but to understand why).

    I also share it to show that something good can come out. UBF is not in a crisis, IMHO, but I certainly think it is going through a really good spring cleaning by God… :-). The only thing that may be left is the stump of a Terebinth tree, but there will be something left, I know so, because I’m part of that stump… :-).

    God is always changing and doing a new thing. He speaks and resonates to His people, He always does and always will… If we chose to be a part of it, He will gladly take our hand, if we choose to be old wineskins, then all our precious wine we hold near and ear to us will spill wasted to the ground, instead of being drank and enjoyed by others…

    My son and I were able to forgive one another and to be honest to one another. We were willing to listen and be critiqued and make ourselves vulnerable to one another. I’ve learned to trust him and allow him to make his decisions, now matter how bad I may think they are. Now does that mean, he still at times doesn’t drive me crazy with his decisions?
    Sometimes, it takes everything in me to bite my tongue and sometimes I can’t stand it and we have verbal arguments. But we are growing to be real good friends… :-). And for that I am eternally grateful and thankful to God!!!

    • Now that’s an awesome narrative. Thanks for sharing again Terry. If we overlay your father/son narrative onto what most of us former members have experienced, I would say that “we sons get it”. Maybe you could help “our Korean fathers” to get it?

      Most of us former members didn’t leave because of abuse, we left because our “fathers” dismissed us and refused to do any of the things you have learned. Again I would say, Terry, that your narratives would be excellent for senior Koreans in ubf to listen to. Will they finally listen?

    • So what I’m saying is that I also grew up. I am 44 years old now, no longer that timid 18 year old image that most ubf Koreans have of me. I outgrew the ubf system until there was nothing left. Just because I have many good memories of ubf times does not mean the only way to have good memories is to put my family under the boot of a Korean lifelong shepherd.

    • Terry Lopez

      Perhaps, the reason David wrote this song was so that his people would not have a root of hatred or bitterness… To not condemn a dead man. For the people to see the good he did and the real honest and genuine benefit they received from him. Perhaps, he did know that a new chapter had been turned, and to no longer allow the past sins of their forefathers to become a deadly root within them? Perhaps, this is why David is known as a man after God’s own heart? I don’t know, but it could be… At least I think so…

  37. Terry Lopez


    Only now, will I do what you ask of me… Because you are being honest, honest with yourself and honest with me… Now I have reason to say something… I promise you that I will speak to our Korean ‘fathers’…

  38. Terry Lopez


    Trust me I am already speaking to them, through this website. They may not participate, but I have a strong hunch they are reading… There is a reason I have put my full name on the board… Tbh, I wasn’t going to go to any more staff conferences, no reason to do so. But now that you ask me to speak to them, I will go and I will share with them, they may not listen, they may ‘fire’ me, but that’s ok… They first have to hire me… :-D. And even if they don’t, I won’t hold it against them… I will continue serving God in the capacity God has given to me, to the best of my ability and very honestly and gratefully, in the way that my ‘Korean’ fathers taught me… I will go and share the the Life Giving Gospel to those around me… :-)


    I really do love you. I mean that. :-). You are feisty… Never expected that… Haha…

    • I’m glad to hear that Terry. I don’t understand why you say “Only now, will I do what you ask of me… Because you are being honest, honest with yourself and honest with me.”

      I’ve always been honest with you Terry. I don’t hide anything. I am an open book. I am not trying to persuade anybody or even make people leave ubf. I only want people to make up their own mind, which you obviously do :)

      I share my mind and my reactions, without filtering them much. I respect you because you have the gonads to share here. Most ubf people don’t.

      I find this website to be highly unpredictable and volatile. I never know what to expect. Sure, you can count on me and some former members to never accept praise of ubf. But besides that, what is so predictable?

    • And if you want the feisty side of me, you should check out my priestlynation blog. I share my “worst poison” there and save my polite remarks for ubfriends :)

  39. Terry Lopez


    What I meant by being honest, is this… In your blog and a little here you basically said, your life in UBF has been nothing but darkness (I know I’m completely paraphrasing and I’m sure completely misrepresenting you), but today you shared that much of what I’ve experienced you also have experienced. I think that the both of these comments is really more what happened in your time in UBF. That would be a much more ‘honest’ assessment, that UBF has had a positive and negative impact in your life. It was because you shared this that I can see that you are being more honest. Nothing is completely evil or wrong and nothing is Red Wine and Roses either… If this website is going to resonate with others, it will have to be able to do both… See UBF’s great points, what good it did for their lives and not only see it as a cult organization, that only abuses people, because it’s not an either/or, IMHO…

  40. Terry Lopez


    My choice of words may not have been the best. I used the term Group Think because of being a political science major and its a term used in the field. That, and I’m a lazy thinker… :-D I would agree with you that Group Think may not be the best way to describe what is going on here, and I agree there is some trends to like thinking, but it wouldnt surprise me to find it. I think I do it all the time in my everyday life. I like to spend time with people who see things the way I do, and try to avoid people who I don’t see eye to eye with… :-)

    I’m glad you’re here, because you make me think also and not be so sloppy in my thinking… Same with Brian… :-)

    Guys have a good nite. I’m tired. I’ve spent waaaaaay too much time here. And I have revealed just how big a blowhard and know it all I really am… :-) Honestly, I enjoyed the discussion. I’m going to step away for a while and recharge my batteries and will come back at a later time. I’d really like to ask, if anyone has seen the movie ‘Mission’ (just watched it last night) with Robert Di Nero and Jeremy Irons, which of them was correct in the way they ended up helping the Indians? I’m very curious to hear what you guys think. :-) Good nite and God bless! :-)

    • Joe Schafer

      Good night. Hey, it’s only 2:30 pm in LA. What the heck?

  41. @Terry. Your stories and questions are quite nice but to me personally they don’t seem to be valid and biblical.

    I mean, 1 – Saul was literally annointed as a king. That’s why he was God’s annointed. Who annointed SL? Was he annointed as a king, a prophet, a priest or what? I personally agree with his own testimony that he was “demon-possessed” (at least at times) and what he did (including ordering abortions) characterizes him as a “typical cult leader”.

    2 – You compare your family relations with that in the community. It is wrong and not biblical. Your story can be helpful for family relations grow but it has nothing to do with the church relationships. There must not be any “fathers” in a church! And you shouldn’t consider anyone as ungrateful immature children in a church. Only fathers are fathers (who can make mistakes) and only children can be ungrateful immature children. In a healthy church there is brotherhood. (A story of that kind would fit better in the discussion). And if you bring forth a story about your family relationship then it would be better to compare it with the relationship of God-Christian, not father-like Christian – child-like Christian (this would actually be cult-like abusive leader – deceited young disciple).

    After leaving ubf I joined a Baptist church along with my family and some of my former “sheep”. We were baptized and accepted into the community. At that very moment the pastor told us that we should not think we are just newly accepted persons who are to take backseats and do nothing for there are many “older” brothers and sisters. He said about complete equality in the church, about brotherhood. Next Sunday we participated in a church members meeting where we discussed and made decisions of what to do with an “older” brother who fell into sin. Yes, I can say we are members of the church now. There was nothing of the kind in ubf for all my 17 years there. In ubf I was not permitted to make decisions about my family and my personal part of life.

    When you say that sogam-sharers asked you how they should do that – for me it is a bad sign. They are not your brothers and sisters, they seem to be your younger subordinates (I like the way you acted but the system is bad)

    And a couple of things about your director buying a car for you. I want to ask, have you tithed in ubf? If yes then do you know how it was spent? Again a fresh example from my church. There are tithes and there is a group of people who do the counting and decide how and where and when to spent the money (the pastor is not in the group). As a member I personally am able to see how the church deals with offerings. I know nothing about all the offerings in ubf, in my former chapter, though I spent there 17 years, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. So in this sense ubf is also cultish.

    And is it OK that I write in English on this website? Maybe Koreans should write in Korean and Russians should write in Russian? I mean that Korean missionaries MUST speak American while in the US, Terry. And if they speak American but speak for too long, they speak Korean actually. There must not be any life-long missionaries-leaders in a church for they would enavitably preach their own culture. Good missionaries should pray for raising indegenious leaders and then let them speak their native language to preach the gospel to native people. Even if IK is SO good in shepherding (hopefully not lording over) he is really bad if he is a leader in the chapter outside Korea. This is an abuse no matter how good his intentions and actions might be.

    • Mark Mederich

      makes me think of the 1950’s tv show: ‘father knows best’

    • Terry Lopez


      Tbh, I could really care less whether you think my stories are valid or biblica… Until your name is God, I could really care less what you think…

  42. I read that some Intelligence Services (including KGB and CIA) use such father-son relationships to have very loyal agents. It has been a typical practice in Russia to train people as agents, spies and commandos since their childhood and the children who have no parents are chosen. Their “teachers” become their fathers. Such agents would die for the sake of their father at any moment and would do anything to obey the father. They are clearly manipulated but are not able to see it. They absolutely trust and obey their organizational fathers.

    In a healthy church there must not be any hint of such things. To be vulnerable is necessary in the church. But it is possible only when people are brothers. In father-son relationship the “son” has to be and demanded to be vulnerable especially through sogams and obedience training, and the “father” is never vulnerable and is not allowed to be such because of his status.

    Again I would remind the words of SL himself. When someone called him “brother Lee” he prayed and understood that he was not a brother but a father even though there were people around him who were older. Actually he felt he was vulnerable at the moment and he didn’t want to and was afraid to be vulnerable. Since that moment the construction of the abusive authoritarian ubf system started. One father appeared in an organization and it ceased to be Christian and church-like.

    • I remember that one of the books I read in 90s was about American father-son relationships in training agents. It was “The Brotherhood of the Rose” by David Morrell. In the book the father betrayed his two sons and later they learnt that he had many such “sons” and some of them were sent even to kill these two “sons” :)

      Only former ubfers understand that they have never been like sons to ubf directors though for a long time they might think so.

    • Vitaly, speaking of the KGB….that reminds me.

      There were two instances where Korean UBF directors persuaded me to do illegal actions “for God’s glory”.

      1) As everyone here already knows, I was persuaded to break into the house of James and Rebekah back in 1990, along with my friends.

      2) When I was sent to Russia as a ubf short-term missionary, one of the Korean UBF directors there persuaded me to bribe the KGB to extend my visa so I could stay and attend the Moscow ubf conference.

      I am ashamed to say that I let even my American sense of justice be disintegrated in order to “be a blessing” and to supposedly “live for God’s glory”.

    • Mark Mederich

      messages still decry relativism, but the ‘mothership’ still hovers above with special people expecting special privileges which makes ethics go out the window for their sake, & causes extreme dilemma for the ‘disposable’ helper
      mealy-mouthed over-entitlement must be absolutely repented of:(

    • Mark Mederich

      glory glory hallelujah, His truth is marching on!!!!!!

  43. @Terry. I’d like to ask you why didn’t your actual father support you at those difficult times you had? Why wasn’t your real father like a father to you? Why did a ubf director become like a father for you? Thanks.

    • Terry Lopez


      My father sexually abused one of my sisters. He physically abused all three of his children and my mother. He was an alcholic and died several years ago in a VA hospital. The only attendes at his funeral was me and my sister.

      Does that answer your question?

    • Terry Lopez


      It is not uncommon for younger men to call someone who has cared for them and looked out for them, “Father.’ I went to UCLA and at one time their was a coach of the basketball team, who some consider the greatest college basketball coach of all time, his name is John Wooden. Most of his players considered him like a father. Does it really surprise you that I should consider someone like a father?

    • Terry Lopez


      I should also tell you that I did not see my father for over 25 years, because of the great pain in my heart. But when I found out he had cancer, I went to the VA hospital with my wife and spent several marvelous hours over 3 weeks with him. Most of the time he was on morphine and he was incoherent, but I would not take back that time. God was very gracious to me and allowed me to finally forgive him and even share God’s love and what Christ did for him. In a moment of clarity, he told me he believed and he would see me in Heaven.

    • Thank you, Terry. I just want to ask you a further question: what about God? Is He your father now? What do you think about His words not to call anyone “father”? (I think the words are about church relationship. There are no fathers in the Church but God, there are brothers. If it is difficult for you to consider IK your brother then something is wrong, not humanly, but in the church.)

      Though of course I understand you according to your answers. I think you’ll understand me for I think my ubf director did something very similar your father did to your family. Sexual abuse and spiritual abuse are not far from each other. And sometimes spiritual abuse leads to a sexual abuse, in ubf. God enabled me to forgive but my ubf “father” says he has been right always and has done nothing wrong at all. I talked to MY about SL and my director, and you know what, he also says SL was a father to him so he loves him no matter what. And he told me to love my ubf director and serve God together with him :) I would agree that a Confucian father is better than an alcoholic father. But when someone who brings people to Jesus brings them to himself as well, to be called a father by them, it is a spiritual abuse, it is a pride, it is confucainism. A good shepherd will bring people to Jesus and to the Heavenly Father and will himself remain invisible for the people.

      And I want to add. Terry, I hope you’ll understand me. Your father abused your sisters. If I lived in the US (and if the Lord hadn’t saved me) I suppose in such case as yours there could happen some more shooting. I mean, what would you feel if you saw how your ubf “father” abused your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters, almost daily? What would you do if your wife cries in a closed room almost daily, after a ubf missionary phone calls her and rebukes her? (You don’t read other’s testimonies but one of such ubf sisters of yours and someone’s wife jumped of the platform under a train, and it was in the US. (Anna Karenina committed suicide (because of her sins) in Russia and it was in a book, but your ubf sister committed suicide being in ubf in the US) What have you done about this? What has her husband done about this? What would you do if you were him? What are you going to do, being in the organization which has borne such fruit?) What would you feel when after you raise your concerns the organization and the “most holy ubf fathers” (and a Mother) tell you that the “fathers” are untouchable. And they start teaching you to forgive and forget and shut up and move on. If you understand me on this point you’ll understand many on this site.

  44. Darren Gruett

    Joe, what a great article. Thanks so much for your honesty in speaking openly about these things, and articulating them in such a truthful, yet loving way. It gives me a lot to think about.

    • Joe Schafer

      Darren, thank you. It’s good to hear from you, and it’s good to know that you are thinking about these things as well. I would love to hear your thoughts, hopes, dreams about what ubf could become.

  45. Meanwhile… on Facebook…

    ubf friend: I know just about all of UBF leaders including Joe Schaefer(ex-UBF).

    me: Ah ok thanks. So why do you say Joe is “ex-ubf”? He has not left and is still a leader there.

    ubf friend: Really? I thought he left and is attending another church. My mistake.

    me: Yes really :)

  46. Mark Mederich

    ubf (religion), your mission is clear, should you choose to accept it:
    the road less travelled: get with Holy Spirit & go with God! (you can lead the way); or the road more travelled: religion’s worst practices & go with evil spirit (you follow)
    my favorite poem:
    Robert Frost (1874–1963). Mountain Interval. 1920.
    1. The Road Not Taken

    TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same, 10

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back. 15

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference. 20

    (now is the time to choose wisely at the crossroad of religious experience)

  47. Thanks for sharing the Frost poem, Mark. I love reading poems!

    I am really interested in reading and listening to such things these days. There is such a rich trove of deep thoughts by amazing people out there.

    For example, I was so moved by the Willow Creek Global Leaderhsip Summit that I purchased the entire video series CD set of the talks there. They are astounding. The CD’s will arrive in October sometime.

    But they sent a free bonus video of an interview of Patrick Lencioni by a Canadian lead pastor. It is 29 minutes and remarkable. Patrick answers the pastor’s questions and applies his new book “The Advantage” to various church leadership issues. It was really eye-opening for me.

    Anyone interested in watching this 29 minute video of Patrick Lencioni?

    I am willing to do a Skype screenshare with anyone who wants to watch it. Patrick answers some tough questions pastors deal with in leading their church organization. Just send me email or reply here and we can setup a Skype session.

    My offer still stands. I am so excited about what these things are teaching me about leadership. It’s very helpful even in marriage and work and friendships in addition to church relationships.

  48. Clearly some ubflovers have gone past the crossroads and have taken the path of continuing the ubf heritage and honoring Slee. Some are collecting letters from Slee.

    Anyone have the letter where he made abortion a requirement for a missionary candidate couple to be “sent out”? I suppose they won’t include those letters…

  49. Thank you for this article and the discussion.

  50. Mark Mederich

    people choose at will, but mustneeds eat the resultant fruit, for BETTER:) Or worse:(
    enjoy your buffet! (I’M sure a enjoyin mine:) HAPPYDAPPYDOOYAH!!!!!!!!!!

  51. Mark Mederich

    wowser, crossroadsTOOFARBACKADOOYAH:( nothin left but eatin the grist of the mill path chosen (don’t like flour tortilla?-too bad real corn on the road less taken way back)

    except since WE ARE as JESUS WAS, Holy Spirit can move us right over to better path (gotta let go failed religio & grab on to espiritu..)