UBF in Crisis

ubf-50th-anniversary-bookJoe’s last article has brought me an unexpected amount of resolution and healing  on my journey of recovery from University Bible Fellowship. If a senior leader in UBF like Joe understands such things, what more is there to say? Joe began his article with these words: “UBF is in a crisis. Many will disagree with me.” Today I’d like to remind everyone of at least one person in UBF who agrees with Joe’s thesis, but presents a very different picture of that crisis and how to respond.

The picture of crisis in UBF

Based on 2 Timothy 3:1-17, David Kim, the director of Korea UBF, presents the crisis facing UBF. David Kim agrees with Joe on this point: UBF is in a crisis. Here is the picture David Kim paints in his Shepherd-Missionary Seminar 2011 Closing Message, which he titled “Terrible Times and the Bible“.

“They don’t like the good. Even though they are alive, they are actually dead. When it comes to the last days, there will be more people like them and they will make their generation terrible. But these kinds of people are not only in the world. The verse, “having a form of godliness but denying its power,” says that these kinds of people are also inside the church. The fact that they have a form of godliness means they look like men of faith and spiritual leaders outwardly. But the fact that they deny the power of godliness means that they have no spiritual power and inward strength to follow and obey the truth, and faith that they confess with their mouth.

This is the picture of the crisis that our church community confronts today. Nowadays, people love themselves and money. They love pleasure more than God. The waves of sin flow into the church community and infect our souls. Being infected by sins due to the powerful work of Satan, we gradually lose faith in the truth and the power of godliness. Co-workers who were once great in their faith fall into the temptations of sin. Some become tempters to knock down the faith of others. Those who once stood firm on the gospel faith and were once a good influence for their faith are rather influenced by sin and the value system of the world. They envy worldly people and begin to follow them. Many are losing their identity as a royal priesthood and a holy nation.”

How to respond to this crisis?

David Kim presents two directions as his suggested response to this crisis.

1. “Have nothing to do with them”

“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth; men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected (8). They are not the ones who serve God with sincere faith, but those who live hypocritical and superficial lives before people. Their folly will be clear to everyone. Paul clearly warns Timothy to turn away from them.”

2. “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of”

“Timothy learned the Scriptures and had faith in the truth of the Scriptures. “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of.” This is the word and spiritual direction that God gave to Timothy who was in trouble with serving the new generation.

I believe that this is also what God says to us. We are living in a world which changes rapidly. The circumstances in which we are living are totally different from those of the 1960s when UBF was founded and of the 1970s and 80s when our campus ministry flourished. We encounter difficulties and limits in serving the new generation who follow the popular trend of life infected with sin and go with the mainstream of sin. For this reason, we began to wonder if we should look for alternatives and changes different from what we had in the past. If there are better ways and alternatives to serve this generation, we should try to find them. From the 1990s, we made every effort to find better ways and alternatives to serve the rapidly changing generation. New programs were sought out. Some chapters tried to implement the spiritual movement, giving up raising disciples through one-to-one Bible study because it was so difficult. Other chapters tried to live a religious life without the burdens of sharing Daily Bread and writing testimonies. There were also some chapters that tried to attract the attention of the young through singspiration, rather than focusing on profound Bible studies or testimony training. However, we have not found alternatives better than one-to-one Bible study, Daily Bread, testimony writing, a life giving spirit with five loaves and two fish, a pioneering spirit, a community spirit, and a self-supporting spirit that we have had from the beginning of UBF history. Nobody can deny that those works are the best ways to raise disciples and missionaries who can preach the gospel.

If the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years came from human efforts or ideas, we don’t need to continue in them. Those that come from human thoughts and ideas are limited and will change or disappear someday in the future. However, the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years didn’t come from the ideas of Dr. Samuel Lee or Mother Barry. It was not a typical UBF spirit, but the eternal truth of God’s words. Living according to the teachings of Scriptures, a life-giving spirit, a humble mind, raising disciples, one-to-one Bible study, writing testimonies, and sending out lay missionaries are the truths we learned from the Bible. We learned and became convinced of the truth and obeyed the truth that God taught us, and God blessed us abundantly for the past 50 years. Therefore, we should continue in the truth that we learned and stand firmly on it. Those who do not continue in the truth will lose the power of godliness and will join the sinful trend of the world. But if we continue in the truth we learned and became convinced of, we will get the power of godliness. We will be able to challenge and serve the sinful generation with the power of godliness.”

Questions to ponder

Do you agree with Joe’s picture of crisis or David Kim’s picture?
How do David Kim’s thoughts make you feel about your friends who left UBF recently?
What is your opinion of the state of UBF ministry after 50 years?



  1. Without commenting on the specifics of DK’s message, I am very sorry to say that his diagnosis of UBF in crisis is all “out there,” and not “in here.” His diagnosis is that the problems are primarily with those who are in the world, and those in UBF who are influenced by the world. Perhaps there is an element of truth to this.

    But…and this is a very BIG BUT: There does not seem to be any indication that he (and some others in UBF leadership) takes ANY serious personal responsibility for the crisis in UBF. This is very very problematic to me. It is so easy to point a finger that the problem is in “others,” not realizing that 3 fingers are pointing at oneself.

  2. Mark Mederich

    regarding dk’s thoughts
    1. stuck in old testament theology (ignore dissenters like moses did)
    2. no change (continue in beliefs…& methods..:(

    what’s good for goose is good for gander: so opposite side of debate should do same (ignore/continue:)

    • Mark Mederich

      what the heck, why be unhappy, let’s have fun:
      dualing banjos..
      or runaway speeding trains gonna intersect somewhere ahead:)

    • Yea, Mark, humor or attempts at humor are to be expected here. Humor is a normal and often healthy way to deal with crisis and trauma of various kinds. We shouldn’t be surprised at the quick switches from serious comments to light, flippant thoughts. I’ve found that to be a normal part of my recovery process. It is a self-protection mechanism that seems to be built into our humanity.

  3. Lol. :(

    Thank you, Brian, that you make it clear which side to choose. I agree with your previous words that the best way to criticize ubf is to quote its leaders. After reading the DK’s message I am happier that I am not a part of ubf. This is just crazy!

    Still I see that DK is wise. I mean he didn’t say, “The Bible says…”, he didn’t say he interpreted the Bible text, he just said, “I believe that this is also what God says to us”.

    For me the strangest thing is the “spirit” he mentions. There are actually many “spirits” in the message and no Spirit. And I wonder about the one in these sentences “If the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years came…”, “However, the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years didn’t come from the ideas of…”, “It was not a typical UBF spirit, but the eternal truth of God’s words”.

    And maybe it became typical for ubf messages not to include Jesus. Instead they have that Mother (Mary ?! no, Barry!). This smells bad.

    I suppose that the message makes at least one thing clear: no possible changes in ubf. The leaders are not going to become “worldly” and to “fall into temptations” which are coming from those “tempters”, namely Joe, Brian, and others.

    btw, Joe and Brian and Dr.Ben, what do you think about your former “greatness” as ubf leaders, as royal priesthood and holy nation? How do you feel after you fell “into the temptations of sin” and became busy with “knocking down the faith of others”?

    • Vitaly,

      “For me the strangest thing is the “spirit” he mentions.”

      Yes, me too. What is this strange “spirit”? This is mentioned throughout the UBF 50th Anniversary Book (which I just call the blue book). Why emphasize some magical “spirit” of community over and above the Holy Spirit? Why leave Jesus out of the organization’s new mission statement?

      “btw, Joe and Brian and Dr.Ben, what do you think about your former “greatness” as ubf leaders, as royal priesthood and holy nation?”

      Valid question. I used to see myself and my fellow UBF leaders as “holy soldiers” and “world class leaders” :/ that is until I realized I couldn’t even speak American English :<

      "How do you feel after you fell “into the temptations of sin” and became busy with “knocking down the faith of others”?"

      Thanks for asking. I feel a whole range of emotions… sometimes bitter, sometimes angry, sometimes hopeless, sometimes furious, sometimes fatalistic, sometimes indignant, and on and on.

      Only the gospel Jesus preached saves me from such a mess :)

    • Vitaly,

      I must also say that since I’ve “gone down the dark path to hell”, I am MOST JOYFUL, HOPEFUL AND FREE! I’ve never felt more alive and more happy than after 2 years of recovery from the ubf quagmire. I love my wife, enjoy my family and most of all love Jesus and am becoming connected with the Body of Christ more and more. I just love all the philosophical and theological debates and discussions of all kinds! I love reading about 2,000 years of Christian history. We live in an exciting time of many movements around the world led by the Holy Spirit!

      And best of all, the Holy Scriptures have come alive like effervescent new wine with springs of living water quenching my thirsty soul.

      24 years of the ubf lifestyle left my soul dry, parched and bound up in a twisted web.

      Now my soul drinks in the living water with tears of joy!!

  4. Joe Schafer

    Scot McKnight posted a cartoon today that depicts this attitude extremely well.


    The best one word description of DK’s remarks that I can come up with is: self-indulgent.

    • That cartoon reminds me of a thought I had many times during my first 10 years in ubf. I remember thinking “How incredibly fortunate is was that SB went to Korea and that SL made disciples.” I kept thinkiing that Christianity would have died off if those two events hadn’t happened. I kept thinking that the unbroken line of shepherd/sheep discipleship that started with Jesus and the 12 was kept unbroken because of SB/SL. And then I began feeling as if the “unbroken lineage” depended upon me. It was terrifying to think that if I didn’t make 12 disciples, Christianity was going to end with me.

      All this speask to my pride and egotistical sin that was wildly out of control. My greatest realization in all this was that God agrees with me 100%. When I realized that, a light went on and I repented.

    • @Joe: I would add a second word, if I may: self-righteous

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, it’s interesting that you imagined UBF to be the outcome of an unbroken chain of shepherd-sheep relationships reaching back to the apostles. The imagery that I had was this: UBF had somehow reawakened a form of pure, Bible-based Christianity that had begun with the apostles and early church but had disappeared for a very long time. I believed that great swaths of the church and Christian history — basically, everyone who did not share the ubf-centric mission and worldview — should be passed over and simply dismissed because it was lazy, lukewarm, nominal religion.

    • I heard that narrative quite a bit as well, Joe. But possibly due to my Roman Catholic background, I envisioned that the long line of “unbroken Popes” was evil and corrupted and that the “true unbroken line” survived in a hidden way through the “lucky, per-chance” shepherd/sheep relationships. It never dawned on me that maybe, just maybe Jesus was working through the Holy Spirit to ensure His vision would be brought to fruition :)

  5. “…an unbroken chain of shepherd-sheep relationships reaching back to the apostles” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/08/25/ubf-in-crisis/#sthash.RC9oH1RH.dpuf

    I might go farther back by thinking that WE ARE THE LINE OF:

    * Abel and Seth, not Cain.
    * Abraham, not Lot.
    * Isaac, not Esau.
    * David, not Saul.
    * Paul, not Barnabas (who was not spoken of after Acts 16 when they split).

    WE, THE good guys, ALWAYS fall on God’s side!!!

    • Isn’t that so convenient Ben :) It’s really amazing..God agrees with me 100%. God hates the same things I do. God does the same things I do. And everyone else has been wrong for 2,000 years! PTL!

  6. Mark Mederich

    spiritually dull management does not perceive crisis: to them it is business as usual
    (until Holy Spirit change suddenly sweeps them away some day..)

  7. Meanwhile, back in ubfland:

    ubf museum opens up

    So who wants to be made into a statue? Anyone want to bring your kids to the ubf museum?

  8. I’ve been to Korea. I’ve seen the other “center” buildings. They are like castles. Hey bigbear there won’t be any of the ubf $13 million storehouse coming your way; it’s all going to Korea to build magnificent self-glorification temples.

    Here are some choice quotes from the new ubf museum in Korea:

    “It was a miracle that Israel people crossed the Jordan River as on dry land. God wanted his people to remember God’s history. However, when Israel people entered the promised land flowing with milk and honey, they forgot God and compromised with the Gentile culture. Therefore, God built up 12 stones as a memorial forever so that they may remember God’s history and teach it to his descendants.”
    >>> ubf people clearly are acting out the OT narrative literally, taking on various identities. This is a good example of what I call “KOPHN fantasy”. They can no longer distinguish themselves from this false identity, nor can they tell the difference between ubf and God.

    “Announcements and prayer topics were given by S. David Kim, Korean UBF director. First of all, we praised God who opened the UBF History Museum by remodeling the original building located at 176-1 Daein-dong, Kwangju, Korea. S. David emphasized the importance of history education. He asked us to pray that God may use this history museum to teach God’s history in UBF and pass on UBF ministry to our descendants. After our ceremony, we visited the UBF History Museum to pray together.”
    >>> There is no doubt that ubf has only one purpose: pass on ubf ministry…

    • Their modus operandi is: Do something and then claim God did this. Like open a museum, and then write “praise God who opened the museum”. Or choose another hardliner as general director and then write “praise God who chose Dr. Kim as the new UBF general director”. And while they say “praise God”, they only praise their own ministry and questionable “achievements”. Yes, Brian, in their minds, their is no difference between UBF and God.

      Maybe we should contribute some artifacts to the museum? Like the original of the open letter written by the 7 senior shepherds in 1976? Or the reform declaration of 2000? Or the original bathtub in which Samuel Lee forced people to sit in ice water? When we look at the history of UBF, we find so many things that UBF needs to be ashamed of. And still, they are bragging and bragging, full of pride and unrepentance. I’m so fed up with these people.

    • Perhaps there is a special wing in the museum dedicated to all us “R-group” people who “attacked them” over the years…

      Maybe we should nail this African proverb on the doors of the museum: “Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter.”

    • So 20+ years ago I just wanted to serve God and be a Christian missionary. Little did I know I was funding and enabling a plan to lead Koreans to the “promised land” and help Koreans pass on a heritage to their descendants.

    • Mark Mederich

      yes Chris let’s find the bathtub & hold no expense covering it in gold to glisten with pride of human training methodology, & it could be filled with special ‘fountain of youth’ water that all who sit in it for special baptism ceremony/polaroid photo moment (for ‘wall of faith’ display) shall exit it younger/ready to finish world mission battle valiantly..
      reminds me of mausoleum in North Korea to esteemed/enshrined father-leaders..may bragging turn to repentance until Holy Spirit sets withering bodies/quivering souls free from self-worship delusion so Christ Alone reigns if minds/hearts: HALLELUJAH!!!
      (3 exclamations as prayer that the tripartite God alone will, ever/only be worshipped by inferior worldly & religious man until all are eventually transformed to real spiritual people at the coming of Christ)