What Happened in Toledo UBF – Part 2

sSo here it is. This is the sequel you’ve all been waiting for. It’s nothing new however. There’s no need to read this post. These words have already been shared in 2011. Two years ago. The leaders with whom these words were shared didn’t feel the need to share these words with others. They saw no reason to do anything except write a few thank you letters in return. No one cared.

I cared. I still do. I love each and every one of these people deeply. I love each and every person in Toledo UBF deeply. It pains me even more deeply to see the flesh of the Body of Christ torn asunder by the abuse of power and authority and by the apathetic attitude of the very people who call themselves shepherds. 

I also care deeply about the “giants” who also left. The last leaders to leave Toledo UBF were the “ancestors”–the Gambers and the Wilsons (If they or others share something with me I reserve the right to post a “part 3” here)

My resignation as director of Detroit UBF came after over 4 months of intense discussions. I tried everything I could to bring attention to the problems these friends were expressing. I sent over 500 emails. My wife and I met SB in person for over 6 hours. I drove to Toledo. I later drove to Chicago.

I couldn’t believe I was witnessing the same pseudo-religious, political manipulations I had witnessed during the departures of 13 prior leader families who had left Toledo UBF from 1990 to 2007. In fact, I was stunned to see that I was watching the 1990 events all over again.

During  my last UBF worship service in Toledo UBF, I left early. Before I left, I said to the person sitting next to me who had experienced much anguish over these events: “I won’t let this go”. To this day, two years later, I’ve kept that promise. So without further ado, here is our story. Please listen. Please do not pour salt on our wounds. Please see our concerns.

A 14 Page Letter

“See previous 14 page letter and Emily’s letter. We did it, it wasted my time.”
–submitted by TF


Letter to the Committee 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Recently it was asked in the Committee meeting what issues I have that have led to my decisions and current separation from Toledo ministry. I would like to share those reasons clearly with you. I share them in the spirit of love and hope.

My primary concern with Toledo UBF is the ministry of God’s word. Since November, I have had a large burden on my heart about the word of God that was being preached in the Sunday worship service. On many occasions, I felt that the gospel was not being made clear and that God’s grace was often overshadowed by our works. Frequently the emphasis is on our response, what we do. It is often expressed using words like “must” “need” “absolute.” The problem is that these words are condemning unless the focus remains on the love and grace of Jesus. Because as we all know, our works must flow out of love, not even out of obedience. It is a careful balance that must be maintained every day.

For example when we studied John 14:1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” the emphasis was on the command “do not” instead of God’s invitation to trust in him instead of worrying. The idea that we can “not” worry by our own effort, by our faith, by our strength, by obedience to God’s command, takes away our very need for a Savior. God knows our hearts are troubled so He invites us to trust in him. Similarly, when we studied John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” the focus was on the word “must” not the word “love.”

As Paul writes, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2). Even if we could never worry or constantly even treat everyone well by our own behavior, Paul makes it clear, it is worthless without Christ’s love being at the center. The focus on what we should be able to do by faith, out of obedience, becomes a source of condemnation if it is not intimately tied to Christ’s love. These may seem like small semantic problems but they are not small when the result is an unclear gospel and feelings of burden and condemnation.

I believe that the balance of faith and works and love in our ministry is in trouble and I think that the root of that problem is in the ministry of God’s word. For several years, we have gone from messenger to messenger as Pastor Paul has travelled. While this in itself is not a problem, the inconsistency and the lack of time people have to meditate the passage, but more importantly the amount of freedom that messengers have in allowing the Holy Spirit speak to them and deliver the message that God gives them. Instead, an oppressive control seems to restrict the work of the Holy Spirit in our messages. My burden about this and its effect on Toledo ministry became so large that Tuf and I addressed our concerns with Pastor Paul a few months ago. However, this issue has not been adequately addressed or changed yet.

This is also true to our bible studies. A few Saturdays ago, I realized how unacceptable it is to continually reuse the same question sheets year and year, often giving and receiving the same answers. I often here “senior” leaders saying things like, “I have studied this so many times. I did not really receive anything new.” But as we know, 2 Timothy 3:16 reads: “All Scripture is God-breathed” and as Peter writes: “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). The word of God is alive and it works in us to grow and change us. But when we restrict the Spirit in the word of God, we lose that living aspect. Instead, we sit bored in bible study, surfing the internet and writing down the “answers” to the questions. Bible study should be a lively and refreshing Spirit-filled discussion.

I see the issue of the ministry of God’s word as both a cause of our current situation and a result of our current situation. My recommendation is that reviving the ministry of God’s word becomes a priority. New, fresh, open, discussion based question sheets need to be written. Messages need to be fresh and truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. Also, I believe that it would be most useful for a few people to work on this together and the messages given by a few consistent people in addition to Pastor Paul because it is too serious and too difficult a task for people to undertake randomly.

Which leads directly into my second major issue, the viability of a lay ministry the size of Toledo. I am not sure how anyone could pastor a ministry the size of Toledo while also working full-time. The work to meditate God’s word, to minister to students, families, men, women, high school students, children. To lead the ministry forward so as to remain alive and vibrant and an influence on campus. These are things that people could be devoted to full-time.

I feel like a major problem at the moment is that we have to much to do and as a result, we do not do things well. Instead of being able to move forward, we are spinning our wheels in place. We are “maintaining.” Many people have spoken of the need for true mentors in our ministry. Younger leaders struggle with how to live this life—kids, work, ministry—with joy in our hearts. I know this is true for me in the absence of TP and MP. But I think that what we also need to see is that this is more than giving advice to one another. While I appreciate Mark Gamber’s desire to meet and work with young families, I think we should also ask, based on what? Just experience? While that is valuable, it is not enough. We need to grow in our understand of how to grow personally and how to raise up others. We need to open our hearts and minds and become new wineskins. There are so many books, organizations, workshops, outside ministries that could inform what we do. Why are we not using these things as a resource? And in fact, often seem to have a suspicion and wariness towards them?

I think the conversation of how we can more effectively serve students and each other is a very important conversation to be had in our ministry. And a continual conversation, as we never reach the end of our growth, and just when we think we have it figured out, it all changes.

My final concern is our attitude towards student ministry. Not long ago, I was thinking and praying about the kind of church I would like Tabor to find in Ohio University. My desire is for a vibrant, active, meaningful ministry that students really want to be a part of. Then I realized that this is what we are supposed to be but in many ways we are not. I am not suggesting that we have nothing to offer students because we do. But I am suggesting that what we want often takes precedence over what would be best for students.

A recent example of this has been with our praise bands, easily one of the best aspects of our ministry at the moment, maybe the best. Students are engaged. They are clearly filled with a spirit of praise for God, a spirit they hope to help others find. They are full of ideas and passion and creativity but for some reason we are reluctant to let them actually be leaders and use those things. For example, the tight restrictions on the amount of new songs that they do and the requirements on old songs that older members want to hear is just strange. The praise band should be allowed a lot more freedom than this. And people who don’t like the new songs need to open their hearts to what students like and to what students are listening to. I’m not sure what exactly it is that we are afraid will happen if the student leaders actually lead praise band and are able to make choices for themselves. I am not suggesting that there is not some oversight, but let’s just see what they do. Let’s let the Spirit lead and work instead of keeping such a tight leash on the possible work of God that can be done through and in them.

Our Friday night is an excellent example of how things can be changed to be more engaging and interesting and student-friendly. I thank God for those who have been involved in restructuring and reviving that meeting. The same thing should be done with our Sunday worship service. Right now it is long, dry and boring. It needs to be revived.

In the educational conference I attended last week, an expert on designing and innovating for the future led us through a creative problem strategizing session. It was excellent. But interestingly, the very first step to designing an innovation solution to a problem began with empathy. We need to understand our audience, who we hope to appeal with, and empathize with them. We need to consider them. And we need to do this with students. We need to listen to them, get to know them, and ask THEM what they want, what they like. Again, I feel like this is also often approached with a sense of fear and wariness. This pride that our ministry is superior to other ministries and the distrust of outside ideas is no different than the pride of the Pharisees. It is what Jesus explicitly preached against time after time.

The bottom line became that I do not feel like I can serve God’s mission here. I am not comfortable bringing students into our ministry at the moment. I need to be able to bring students to a place that I have no question that the word of God that will be preached and its practices are biblical and sound. And since I know a lot of students who are ready to be ministered to, I feel like I need to take this problem very seriously.

I want to finish by saying that I do believe that Toledo ministry will be restored. I believe that God’s word and Spirit are here and will be revived. I believe that God is working and will continue His work to the end. I thank God for Mother Barry’s visit and for her message, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Mt 24:14). God will do this. We are invited to be a part of it but it is not contingent on our works. However, whether God is calling me and my family to be a part of this revival in Toledo ministry, we are not sure about yet. We are waiting patiently (trying!) in the confusing in-between and have great peace that this is exactly where God wants us to be at this moment. We have been attending Cedar Creek and North Point services and may explore other churches. If nothing else, I am learning a lot about what other ministries are doing and it has been a valuable source of information. Tuf and I are praying deeply for God’s direction and will do whatever God wants us to do. If it is to stay and serve with you, I will gladly join you. But for now, I needed some space in order to receive God’s word and really be able to hear God’s direction.

I pray that these words may be helpful and encouraging. I offer them in a spirit of love and open coworking. Feel free to forward this email to anyone who may want to read them.

With great love and hope,

“We left Toledo UBF in August 2011 for several reasons. Fran and I both agreed that this was not a ministry to raise a family. Despite the efforts put forth by families we love and care about, our children were not learning and growing. There was no real support for children’s ministry by the church as a whole. Primary emphasis was on college students. So much so that families and children were over looked. The phrase family centered still upsets me. I personally gave up attending Friday meetings regularly a long while before we left because my wife and kids needed my attention more than the church.

We also left because we knew in our hearts that God was calling us elsewhere. We no longer had the college student mission as a family with three young children. God gave us three precious kids for special reason. They became our focus.


We both were torn up emotionally from seeing all of our closest friends leave. With exception of a couple families, our nearest friends were hurt, betrayed, and not cared for. It broke our hearts. It started with our fellowship falling apart after one brother was mistreated by ubf leaders in Korea and Toledo. All the sudden our entire fellowship left. One family stayed for a short while but they too were hurting. Then, Fran and I accepted role of fellowship leader. This should have never even happened. In hind sight we should have said no and been taken in and loved by the ministry. Instead we were looked at as a exemplary family of faithfulness. We were broken. Fast forward to 2011 and more of our friends were hurt and left. It was too painful to stay.

Finally, Sunday worship became very dull and burdensome. Particularly i was not receiving from the messages for the most part. If I could circle back to the lack of family support. During a Friday meeting in august 2011, after several families and friends left Fran asked a sr. Leader if we could pray for our family and children’s ministry with all the pain and suffering. This so called leader said “no, tonight is student night, let’s not burden them with that.” This floored us and might have been the last straw. Contrary to popular belief we did not leave due to burdens of this life, but burdens from a ministry that hurt so many people that we loved and cared about, with no attempt for reconciliation. We could not grow there nor did we want our kids to continue to be involved where so much hurt and pain persisted. We pray for those we know there and pray God can bring about whatever His plan is for UBF.
–submitted by the Ellis family


“I left because rules were stressed over grace and obedience over love. UBF’s way of doing things were attributed to God’s way of doing things and obedience to leaders in UBF was considered obedience to God. This was evident in the messages. It was evident in the environment, where charts with stars and the traditions of UBF were more prominent than anything related to love or grace. It was evident in social interactions which became increasingly contentious even among leaders. The result was that while I spent all of my time to help children in CBF meet Jesus, and to show the high school students I taught professionally the love of Christ, I was made to feel guilty because I was not feeding sheep, even though I was doing what I felt called to do. In addition, my involvement in UBF took away time I needed to show my wife and children the love of Jesus, a tension I was never happy with. When I brought up any of these issues, no one listened. T and E were much more vocal than I was. They, in love, let ph know that the ministry was in danger and pleaded with him to institute changes. His response was that he did not care if everyone left, he could start over with one family. Then I knew that UBF traditions were more important than people to UBF leaders. I began to see the hollowness and deception inherent in UBF theology. And finally I began to see that leaders in UBF did not mind committing grievous sins in order to protect a man-made organization and its silly traditions. This was the end. I was completely embarrassed that I was ever a member. I needed to love my family. I needed to experience grace and freedom in Christ rather than condemnation. I needed time to rethink everything I had been taught. Most of all, I needed to learn to develop a personal relationship with Jesus and to find His path for me, rather than having a path imposed on me by an institution that I found to be arrogant, inflexible, obtuse, and insensitive. I could no longer follow Jesus in such a context. I love many UBF people, but hope the institution as I experienced it dies so that it can no longer present a perverted Gospel, justify the neglect of children and give Christianity a bad name.”
–submitted by the Muehling family


“I believe it was shortly after attending the European conference in the spring of 2011 that we began to question whether or not we were in the right place. In our eyes, the state of the ministry was becoming somewhat dark. At the time, we likened it to a cloudy fish tank where the fish in the bowl were blindly swimming around. To us, the cloudiness was some sort of spiritual darkness. In that environment, no one could really see the state of one another or help each other. And no outside Christian community (UBF or otherwise) could see inside either.

To us, the main problem was that Sunday messages did not sit with us well. At first, it was just that God’s word wasn’t able to speak for itself and messengers seemed to be emphasizing an idea or a point that they just wanted to make. Eventually, we heard unbiblical, heretical statements from the pulpit. Most importantly, the gospel wasn’t being presented clearly and human effort and works were being emphasized instead. Ultimately, the things that we heard on Sunday planted a sense of mistrust and we came to the point where we couldn’t worship God freely.

In July of 2011, we presented this issue as well as two other unresolved issues to the pastor and our fellowship: (1) The ministry was disjointed with no co-working between the pastor and the ministry as a whole. Key relationships of “senior” leaders were damaged and broken so that the ministry couldn’t function fully. And they weren’t being resolved. We felt limited in what could be done for God’s work and we felt that our full involvement was condoning unresolved issues and broken relationships to continue. (2) Two other families had recently left because they were legitimately mistreated and there was an absolutely silent response to it. Sure, people hurt people. But these families had been part of the ministry for a long time, were truly hurt, and nothing was done. To us, losing a part of the body and not apologizing or doing anything about it immediately was wrong. We didn’t hear any public prayers or see any acts of love go out to those who left and this broke our hearts.

While presenting these, we privately prayed for the spiritual health of the UBF community, including our pastor. But we also began attending two worship services — Saturday evenings at a local church and Sunday mornings at UBF. We did this for about four months and we prayed. We participated in helping the Leadership Council be established. But the items we had brought up were not addressed.

In November 2011, we received the final tug from God for us to go in another direction. Of course, we still have friends in UBF. We’ve heard of changes and of things being different. But we haven’t considered going back because God has led our family in a new direction. Our family still has the same calling. We’re just in a different community where we are safe, we can worship God, and we can be involved in great and beautiful things for God.”
–submitted by the Roth family


The Long Story:

Simply put, I left UBF because God led me out. I prayed and agonized for months, open to whatever God wanted, until the Holy Spirit moved me, made me know it was time to go. I even attended two worship services during my final year in Toledo UBF, the UBF service and a service at another church. I was in UBF for eight years, and the longer I stayed, the worse the problems became and the more aware of them I became.

There were several problems with Toledo UBF.

First, I was always made to feel like I was never good enough. Despite helping to lead HBF, running tech for Sunday services, meeting with college students, and doing several other things, none of that was good enough because I wasn’t teaching the Bible one-to-one. I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t disciplined enough, spiritually or physically. I didn’t attend early morning prayer meetings, and SH told me I needed to go at least one morning a week, as she said, “to show people.” (I told her I had no need or desire to prove my faith to anyone.) I was already a self-conscious person, but I became even more so during my time in Toledo UBF. I felt judged. I was almost always on edge, ready for the next critique. While it’s true I will never be deserving of God’s grace, the Holy Spirit finally broke through to my heart shortly before I left and reminded me what I had learned when Christ saved me: God loves me as I am. Christ died for me long before I even knew him. I am loved enough to die for. To feel crushed almost all the time is not what God wants for me.

Second, I became offended by “shepherding” as practiced by Toledo UBF. I value my relationship with the Holy Spirit. His guidance has been of monumental importance in my life. But UBF puts the “shepherd” in the place of the Holy Spirit. You’re expected to talk to your shepherds before making any decisions, rely on them, take direction from them. Instead of encouraging relationships with the Holy Spirit, people were expected to be puppets manipulated by their “shepherds” and “leaders.” And the Holy Spirit was seldom talked about, seldom preached about, if I remember correctly. In addition to this idea of “shepherding” was this idea that “leaders” knew what was best for others in the ministry. For example, at one time, I was up for a promotion at work, which would have moved me to a store a little over an hour away from Toledo. I had been praying very specific prayers about this job, even about the opportunity to interview for it, and God had been answering very specifically, and he was opening doors. It was really an amazing experience. I had also already decided to commute if I got the job. I was pretty quiet about it while I was interviewing because I felt I would be judged by my Bible teachers for making what would seem to them a stupid decision. When I did tell someone in the ministry, it was JP. I asked him to pray for me. He told me no. He said he couldn’t pray for me because then I would leave sisters house. He had no idea what God had already done, how he had already opened the door. JP didn’t bother to inquire about anything, just simply refused to pray for me because of one “negative consequence” he was certain would occur. I didn’t even tell my Bible teachers when I got the job. They found out weeks later and, as predicted, they thought I had made a poor decision.

Third, Toledo UBF operated on the understanding that there was only one way to do things, that every Christian had to be the same. Everyone had to be a Bible teacher. Everyone had to do the same kind of daily devotion (and the time of day you did it either increased or decreased its worth somehow). There was little-to-no real appreciation of individuals’ gifts, unless they were gifts already deemed beneficial and worthy, like musical gifts. Instead of allowing God to work through the uniqueness of his creations, Toledo UBF had this mold that it worked very hard to force people into.

Fourth, there was a mentality among many – maybe not all – that UBF was THE ministry. There was this sense, this idea, that no other ministry could do what UBF was doing. JP said to me, when I told him I was considering leaving, that I would never find another ministry that delivered the word of God the way UBF did. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I hoped that was true, which leads me to my next point.

Fifth, messages were tragic. GL delivered a message at a spring conference in 2011 (I think that’s the right year), in which he declared that we needed to pray for God to glorify us. I couldn’t believe it when I heard him say it. Then PH got up to deliver prayer topics and announcements and tried to justify it! What?! PH’s messages also appeared to be directed at rebuking certain people sometimes. Additionally, we studied the same passages repeatedly, and there were really only a handful of “lessons” that were constantly recycled and inserted into these passages. Messages conformed passages into the points the “leaders” wanted to make, as opposed to letting the Holy Spirit work freely through God’s word. (I will say that not everyone’s messages were like this, but most of the messages were or appeared to me to be so.)

Sixth, I was sick of people being judgmental and manipulative. SH became my Bible teacher later in my time at Toledo UBF. She explicitly taught me that women needed to be more spiritual because often or most of the time when people left the ministry it was because of the wife. She used MP as an example. SH also worked behind the scenes, manipulating people.

You know, on my final Sunday at Toledo UBF I really tried to pay attention to the message. I knew I was leaving, my decision was made, but I was listening, half-hoping for some sign that PH had changed, even a little. I was looking for some reason for the Holy Spirit to call me to stay. I was sadly disappointed. I forget now what the message was, but in it PH spoke of people leaving and problems within the ministry. He spoke of his own part and said he accepted responsibility, but it was obvious he didn’t mean it. It was obvious he had no sense that he had done anything wrong at all. It was heartbreaking. When I approached JW afterward to tell him I was leaving, he just looked at me with such sadness and said, PH doesn’t get it. And then we hugged each other and cried. Then I left.
–submitted by KB


“After living the UBF heritage, defending the UBF heritage and examining the UBF heritage for the past 26 years (since 1987), I have concluded that anyone who adheres to this ideological system will eventually build a cult. I left UBF because I wholeheartedly rejected the UBF 12 point heritage system. I find this system to be so severely flawed and full of contradictions that any sensible human being ought to reject the UBF heritage because full implementation of the heritage can only lead to severe misuse of authority, improper ennoblement of power and abuses of many kinds. Every Christian ought to reject the UBF 12 point heritage system as heresy that undermines the gospel of Jesus Christ by enslaving people to ideologies and behaviors that become extreme entanglements and hindrances to personal freedom and human well-being. I left UBF ministry because the UBF 12 point heritage has caused massive division among Christian brothers and sisters of many nations for over 50 years, tearing at the very sinews of the Body of Christ. I left in order to save my wife from such entrapment and to spare my children from ever knowing such burdens. And finally, I left in order to preserve my sanity, to restore broken relationships with numerous relatives and friends, and so that I could begin my long road of recovery as I follow Jesus Christ my Lord through the promptings and leading of the Holy Spirit who speaks through the Holy Scriptures. All praise, glory, honor, power and authority belong solely to our Lord Jesus Christ in whom is found all supremacy, necessity and sufficiency for a full, hopeful, joyful and amazing life.”
–submitted by Brian Karcher


  1. Reading this brings back to memory so many similar experiences we had in Germany back in 2001. No, this is not a problem of one man (Paul Hong) only, this is a problem of “the UBF 12 point heritage system” that has been established by Samuel Lee, as you rightfully point out in your summary. We have seen and read the same things from far too many chapters around the world to believe this is just coincidence and a problem of a few abusive leaders only. Even if that was true, the problem is that these abusive leaders, starting with Samuel Lee, but also many other regional leaders and smaller chapter leaders, were allowed to operate for decades, even promoted, and have never been held accountable until now. And this unaccountability of leaders is also part of the 12 point heritage (point 6, “spiritual order”).

  2. Many excellent points. KB shared a few things as well as others that I did not dive into but could have. I too became embarrassed to invite anyone new to church. Appreciate the forum to share. In time maybe we will share more. Thanks guys.

  3. I shouls also clarify. When Fran and I left, we met with two families and shared with them one main concern, that being the health and growth of our family in a ministry that is better suited for family ministry. Wr did not bring up other concerns at that time because so many of our friendscwho left did. Perhaps we did notvhave energy, strength, or courage to talk more. We saud we were taking time awaybto explore other churches. About 4 months later we communicated our decision to permanently leave ubf ministry.

  4. No one cared. I cared. I still do. I love each and every one of these people deeply. I love each and every person in Toledo UBF deeply. It pains me even more deeply to see the flesh of the Body of Christ torn asunder by the abuse of power and authority and by the apathetic attitude of the very people who call themselves shepherds. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#sthash.Ir82vcM3.dpuf

    I cared and i still do. I love each and every one of you, and i love those still in UBF. My heart is broken, and i am filled with so much pain and sorrow for all that has happened, and God knows i have tried. I will forward this link to the LC and to the pastoral team, just like i and Mark have done with the last one. If they do not listen, then perhaps our names and our story will be added to your list.

    • Martha, you’re right, this is the attitude that any church member should have, but particularly those who allow themselves to be called “shepherd” (including Terry). I really appretiate that you and some others in UBF have such an attitude. People like you are the only hope that UBF can ever change from a cult-like organization into a healthy organization. There are only two possibilities if you are in such an organization, stay and actively pressure for change and repentance, until this happens or you are driven out, or disassociate from the group entirely if you have no hope any more. It’s the sake of every person to decide which way to go, it depends on how much hope they see that change is possible.

    • Martha,

      God bless your care and concern. Mark was a life-saver for our family as we wrestled with all the same things mentioned in the letters. He listened, cared, and prayed–and it was so helpful and important to us. What a wonderful ministry your family is to the brokenhearted ones who have been wounded! I give thanks and praise to the Lord.

    • Martha,

      My generalization is not fair to you and Mark. Still it is how we all felt. I know that both you and Mark do care. Your friendship with me was also a lifeline for me these past two years.

    • Thanks Chris, Brian and Joshua. I have learned alot from you through this website.

      But i and Mark have not always been there for all those who left. In the beginning it was difficult to understand what was happening. I was not there for EF nor TF nor KB. And Im sorry for this. I still think of EF and TF often and pray that God would heal us mutually, for many things were said that were hurtful.I think i was trying to defend UBF like Brian was back in the days. I still would love to go out for coffee with EF and just talk and cry. Its sad to think of all the years together and yet we all lived like someone said “isolated islands”. I remember PR ( whom i miss dearly)trying to explain to me but not really understanding. I remember after they left feeling so confused and in so much pain. Then i woke up from this fog that i had been living in, and things started making sense. I felt like i had woken up one day and the Holy Spirit was alive in me again.

      Perhaps that is when you came along Joshua, and our hearts understood what you and your family were going through. The sad thing is, this happens over and over again. And nothing is being done.

      My prayer is that Toledo will wake up this time, and that History does not repeat itself.

    • Martha, It is never too late to show and express your concern, prayer and thoughts. I feel what you say very much even though I was not part of Toledo. I wonder how Mark has managed overall since Toledo was the second time to experience a mass exodus of people for him. The first being his home chapter. I entered after almost all of the families had left. In fact, two more missionary families left within 3 years of my time there and my own shepherd family almost did too, but they rather pioneered.

      About not caring: It is a very uncomfortable atmosphere in UBF when people leave. No one communicates their true emotion unless they have close contact together. Also, it is discouraged to dwell on those who left as though it would ruin the faith of others. Is it a personal faith we are calling others to in UBF? I sometimes wonder. I said somewhere else once before that losses within the church should be handled as though it were a death in the family. We should be allowed to mourn openly and review what went wrong and how we can proceed.

      I have no knowledge of the truth in my home chapter but I sadly remember the director say after a couple of years had passed that he would no longer let the situation bring the morale down within the congregation. I am not saying his point of view was not valid – since I am only remembering something said many years ago about events I was not really present for. Rather, what I was bothered by was the sort of personal comment of letting go. Personally, I believe that public grief is healthy regardless of why someone left. It is a simple acknowledgment of a valued friend and member of the body of Christ.

      Moving on with no real handling of the issues does not result in a healthy congregation. I just cannot imagine choosing to move forward after your best friend who was been beside you for years gets up and leaves. What if you had lived together or had classes together or just liked to hang out together. When one is UBF and one isn’t it is the breaking of a family and should be handled as such. When we don’t encourage personal response it seems to reinforce the drive for numbers which will always fluctuate. One leaves, another comes and so on. It devalues everything that any one of us does for Christ while we serve in UBF.

      Anyway, Martha, (and to all former Toledo families) I pray for you and appreciate the open stories.

    • Yes gc,

      Mark experienced this years ago in Montreal UBF his home chapter, before he came to Toledo. He is originally from Canada and that is why he felt such a connection with Joshua. The sad thing is, where are the leaders in all this? When do we say enough is enough? Lets repent and learn from our mistakes? Can you imagine how vibrant and wonderful and amazing this church would be? Can you imagine what a great place Toledo UBF could have been if the church had repented. But no, and here we are in the wilderness because we have not repented as a church.

    • Martha, these are my questions exactly.

    • Yes Sharon and Martha! Absolutely! Yet, here we are virtually together. Although UBF may be the subject of much contention, pain, and grievous sins, it has no power over us to get together and serve Christ. I really thank God for you Joe and Sharon. When I was really despondent, you invited me and Sandy just to share and eat and be together. You confirmed that Sandy and I were not the problem. We didn’t know each other that well, but you, along with Ben and Christy, really loved us. In addition, Mark has contacted me a few times just to get together. Love seeing Jesus revealed in people!

    • Thank you for clarifying Martha!

    • I really enjoyed spending time with you and Sandy, Nick. I wish we could do it more often! Thank you for your kind words.

    • @Nick, it was so much fun meeting up with you and Sandy, thanks to the invite of Joe and Sharon. Though it has been a few years ago, it still feels so fresh and recent. If and when you ever come to Chicago, do stop by, and/or stay over.

  5. Mark Mederich

    honor dies hard
    God Alone must be exalted
    otherwise anything is ok to save or restore honor..

    • Mark Mederich

      where are the leaders? evidently there are none: none leading rightly, none allowed to lead rightly, none strong enough to lead rightly against the flow & weather the storms..

  6. CHRIS, Brian…saw these same problems in Cinti UBF and many I visited…enjoyed some freedom in LA UBF and Columbus UBF….because they dont stick so much to the 12 point heritage…..this has relaced God and true love for people and families…the heritage breaks up families and many leaders dont live before God but man made rules and traditions…modern day pharisees…stubborn Ubf pride…..when things go wrong leaders make the victims hurt more instead of loving their flock….many legalistic directors instead of lovers of God and His sheep…my director told me that he gave me not so pretty wife so she would not leave me and told me that no one would marry me ….so untrue…he was wacko on some things but he was god…I pray for love and humility in ubf and the abuse stop with families

  7. Joe Schafer

    These testimonies are heartbreaking. If any senior ubf leader ever bothers to read them carefully (I seriously doubt that they will) I hope they ask themselves, “Are these the words of bitter, angry, rebellious, godless people?”

    To those who left: Even after all the crap you people have experienced, I am amazed that you are still willing to tell your stories in a respectful, calm, loving and Christlike fashion. Kudos to all of you. God bless all of you. UBF was not and is not worthy to have you.

    • Joe: Thank you for your encouragement and blessings to these brothers and sisters. I feel some of your blessing splashing onto my family as well.

      However, I have to give credit to my former chapter director. He has repeatedly expressed his appreciation for my involvement and has (to my knowledge) spoken well of me and my family upon our departure. We have kept in contact to some extent, and he was very happy when I recently told him I received a tenure-track position. I don’t believe that he thinks I’m bitter, angry, rebellious, or godless. I look forward to an eventual total reconciliation. I believe it is possible in Christ, who has broken the wall of hostility.

    • Joe Schafer

      Joshua, thanks. You are a gracious man.

      I’m sure that your former shepherd would never say to your face that you are angry, bitter, etc. That would be absurd, because anyone who talks to you can plainly see that it is not the case. But what really counts is what he says when he talks to others in your absence. And it would also be interesting to know what he says about me, because (as you recall) he specifically blamed me and UBFriends for your departure.

    • Lol, you’re right. Oh well, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt. Gradually, as time goes by, the blessings and love I received are becoming more prominent in my memory anyway. I suppose that’s the wonderful freedom of forgiveness.

    • Joe, these “testimonies” are really only heartbreaking for those that are still there. Otherwise, they are stories of Jesus working, bringing people out and beginning the process of healing. Otherwise, these posts would have been contentious.

  8. This phrase my NM resonates with me: “I was completely embarrassed that I was ever a member.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#sthash.R82OCrJF.dpuf

    • That really lead to a cognitive dissonance. I couldn’t in good conscience invite anyone, yet I was in a ministry that made me feel guilty when I didn’t. That can only last for so long before leaving.

    • Or it can last over 20 years if you do it “by faith”! :<

  9. Joe beat me to it and said it before I could: “Kudos to all of you. God bless all of you. UBF was not and is not worthy to have you.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10803

  10. @Martha: “Then I woke up from this fog that I had been living in, and things started making sense. I felt like I had woken up one day and the Holy Spirit was alive in me again.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10812

    Those who slam, bad-mouth, gossip, slander, refuse to listen to, or utter creative ad hominems against those who leave UBF (or critique UBF) seem to not like the Holy Spirit renewing, reviving, rejuvenating, rekindling and refreshing people in their midst!!! Go figure.

  11. So what happend in Toledo UBF? The gospel happened. The Holy Spirit happened. Jesus happened. Hence the picture of the sunrise I chose for this post.

    Here’s an idea. Perhaps churches and orgs like ubf could learn from American businesses, who exist to make money. Many people who make money have figured out more about humanity than most churches. For instance, burn the 12 point heritage and adopt these:

    Numbers and money follow; they do not lead. Don’t chase money. Chase the skills that will make you great at what you are doing or what you are building. Become an expert. Become the best. Then, and only then, do the better numbers or the good money follow you. Pursue your vision with uncompromising passion and numbers and money will follow you. Chasing numbers and money first will leave you chasing your tail.

    You’ll see it when you believe it. Do you believe it? Then you can make it happen. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can affect the outcome. When you believe it, it changes your actions

    Every client. Every time. No exceptions. No excuses. Clients don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Could it be any clearer? A great company is built one client at a time. If you “wow” every client every chance you get, then they win and so do you. It’s as simple as that.

    The inches we need are everywhere around us. Opportunities for us to make a difference are everywhere, and usually they’re found in all the little things. Everything we do matters. If we keep our eyes open, we’ll see that the little things – the “inches” we need – are everywhere around us. It’s the 1,001 of these little things, or inches, that add up to be the DIFF.


  12. Brian, one point from your source link says, “Innovation is rewarded. Execution is worshiped.”

    Am I overstating it to say that in UBF, it seems to be “Imitation (of UBF) is rewarded. Conformity (to UBF) is worshiped”?

    Doesn’t it seem that in UBF innovation, initiative and creativity is often perceived by the higher ups as pride, “no learning mind,” and rebellion?

    • That would be correct Ben. Reading Isaiah helped me a lot. I learned that I was such a failure at ubf messages primarily because I was being measured by obedience and plumbed by loyalty. God’s measuring line is justice, and His plumb is righteousness. That correction to my flawed theology has helped me see things so much more clearly.

    • Mark Mederich

      perceived as threat to status quo..

  13. Joe Schafer

    Here is an honest, non-rhetorical question for anyone and everyone.

    Suppose it becomes obvious that a member ought to leave (or, at least, substantially distance him/herself from the organization), because
    * most leaders within the organization lack the desire, will or ability to effect change,
    * the organization does not provide him/her with any meaningful way to use his/her talents, abilities or experience (i.e., all they can say is shut up with your proud and stupid ideas and just keep doing 1:1 as usual),
    * no significant culture change is on the horizon for at least 10 years, and perhaps even 20, and
    * the longer the person stays, the more he/she is marginalized and shunned.

    If this is the scenario, then:

    What is the best way to leave? What is an optimal strategy and exit process that honors God, displays gospel love, reveals truth, doesn’t cause unnecessary extra pain, yet recognizes and faces the wounds that are currently bleeding, allows everyone to mourn rather than make fake plastic smiles, and brings some semblance of closure, helping everyone involved to become more healthy rather than less healthy?

    • Here are some of my “exit strategy principles”:

      1. Make sure your wife agrees and understands. Listen to her advice.

      2. Make sure you have a safe, healthy church in mind first. Make sure your wife and children are already attending.

      3. Never ever accept a private, closed-door meeting with your shepherd or director. NEVER accept a meeting separately from your wife. Always insist on numerous people to be present.

      4. Spend much time in hidden prayer and reasoning. Ensure that you can articulate clearly what your issues are.

      5. Document everything.

      6. Document everything.

      7. Refer to your documentation regularly to look for patterns and principles and themes.

      8. Upon making a decision, stick to it, but remember it is YOUR decision. You can change your mind. Nothing is so permanent.

      9. Remember you are NOT losing your salvation. You may just be gaining your freedom.

      10. Call Ben Toh.

      11. Share a public post of your reasons on Brian Karcher’s priestlynation blog.

      12. Share your reasons publicly on ubfriends, before, during and after.

      Peace and grace.

    • 13. Do not be fooled by allegator tears of others.

      14. Share and discuss as much as possible with your closest friends whom you can trust. Trust is the key element here.

      15. Learn what Jesus meant in Matthew 10:34 and that entire chapter.

      16. Keep centered on the gospel and on God’s plumbline (Jesus’ righteousness NOT loyalty) and God’s measuring stick (justice NOT obedience).

      17. Remember there are many Christains out there. ubf is not elite but shallow. Look for connecting with those “hallelujah” and “nominal” Christains and especially those “weak” pastors. They will help you the most to recover afterward. Remember you have a recovery after leaving.

    • Sorry for liking #10. Whoever calls me is usually just so much fun!

    • 18. Realize that it is the ubf 12 point heritage system that is causing the harmful divisions, not you and not your leaving. Understanding what Jesus meant in Matthew 10:34-35 means you can leave for the sake of unity. Jesus’ sword only divides between believers and unbelievers in His gospel. Jesus does not advocate division and splitting nor did he mean just “shut up and go away” or “agree to disagree”. He meant be centered on the gospel. That is sword in a sense of a skilled surgeon’s knife.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I like and appreciate your points. Many of them focus on internal coping strategies for the person who is leaving, which is essential. But from the organization’s perspective — if there are some leaders like Mark and Martha who want to do what is right — what can those people in the organization actively do to create the right kind of exit?

    • Joe, that’s a question for someone besides me. The cynical side of me says “Stand up in the middle of worship service and walk out backwards with both middle fingers up”. But I would not recommend that approach.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, that would not be Christlike.

      The Christlike approach might involve a whip.

    • Mark Mederich

      just do it..

    • Very interesting comment for me Joe. Why? Because when all of the problems in Toledo UBF were coming to a head, Ron Ward came to visit. His proposed solution was that we should focus on feeding sheep. I cannot give any commentary on this proposed solution without being profane. However, I will say that UBF solutions often entail doing more of what is not working.

    • Joe, this is a good question.
      There is one aspect of this question. Consequences of a member exit to an organisation are also dependent on decisions of those who stay. Even fully Christlike exit can make organization worse if those who stay decide it was unspirutual, lacked love or caused some excessive extra pain. You mentioned the whip and there is a grain in the joke. So I would give more weight to “honoring God and revealing love and truth” and much less to “causing extra pain” (but not removing it fully).

      I think the main principles of a good exit strategy is to help one more person to see what you see and be vocal about reasons of leaving. This the way to honor God and to reveal truth (what do you have to say) and love (help one more person). The question of organisation future is a way less important. It is less important then a struggle of a person who is thinking to leave and not leaving even the organization will not change in 10 or 20 years.

    • “…Ron Ward came to visit. His proposed solution was that we should focus on feeding sheep. … However, I will say that UBF solutions often entail doing more of what is not working.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10855

      Unfortunately, I think UBF thinks their solution to such organizational problems actually works and has worked in the past. Maybe I’m giving an empty suit too much credit, but Ward’s proposed solution sounds to me in summary like, “Maybe this ministry isn’t really for you then” or “If you don’t like it, maybe you should just leave” or to borrow someone else’s phrase, “It’s time for ‘a good spring cleaning’ around here. Bye.” Then when people do leave, start over with new people. Problem solved, as far as they are concerned.

    • Mark Mederich

      i guess with assembly line style, there’s no time to fix mistakes or salvage damaged parts; the line keeps moving so make another one, who cares about the deformed ones (anyway all be more/less deformed by the end of the line due to aberrant manufacturing method..)

  14. Brian, i could see Tom Cruise doing this

    • I was thinking more along the lines of Jennifer Aniston in Office Space.

      I highly recommend watching Office Space and a lot of other movies, especially children’s movies to aid in your recovery from ubf…

    • Brian,

      I agree with Joe. Its not very Christlike. But how about turning the tables upside down like Jesus did at the temple.

    • That would be awesome Martha. If you want someone to actually do that, I volunteer. I will actually visit a ubf Friday meeting and actually flip the tables over, bibles and all. I would not hesitate to do this.

    • Well Brian,

      I guess some things have changed. if you are a hardcore UBFer please cover your eyes and ears, this might hurt. We do not have a traditional friday meeting with testimonies, like what you might envision. We have an Upper Room for students and led by students with wonderful loud worship music and excited students. Then we have an optional friday prayer/ sharing meeting for traditional people. And optional really does mean optional.

    • What! That’s heresy! just kidding, that’s awesome :)

  15. @MarthaO “The sad thing is, where are the leaders in all this?” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10825

    If I understand your question, this has already been a dead horse beaten to death: Isn’t it sadly true that certain UBF leaders attitude toward anyone who “dares” to speak up is that you either humbly submit to me without question, or you get the hell out of here?

  16. Mark Kwiatkowski

    Reading these letters makes me sad, I just really miss everyone that left Toledo. I do not blame them at all for doing what they did, at times I myself feel compelled to leave for the same reasons. I stay because I love the people here in Toledo, and because of what God is doing through The Upper Room and Praise and Worship ministries. Ultimately I stay because I strongly feel that God has called me to stay for the time being.

    I really hope to do my part in mending broken relationships with my brothers and sisters like TF, EF, KB, etc.

  17. By the way Brian,

    you keep forgetting to mention BM and BM who left shortly after MP and TP. They are one of our closest friends and they served along time in Toledo. They wouldnt want to be recognized but they are part of Toledo history.

    • Yes indeed. They are in my heart as well. I’ve lost contact with them. They seemed to have parted ways better than most…but perhaps this is one of my own blindspots… I feel so horrible that I was fellowship leader when they left and I just sat by like a dead frog. I should apologize to them.

    • btw, BM/BM are on my other list of families…the 13 prior to these current 7.

  18. DavidW sent me a link which I blogged on: Why Are Leaders Leaving Your Church.

    Perhaps the reasons I expressed are an oversimplification, as well as being a generalization.

    Please do tweek and expand upon them from different angles and complexities, if you care to.

  19. Joe Schafer

    It’s so good to see at least a couple of current members of Toledo ubf commenting here and expressing a desire for reconciliation. If any other currents are out there listening, I hope you want pursue this as well. Not for the sake of healing the wounded ex-members, but for your own benefit. I don’t want to be preachy, so I will couch this in terms of my own experience. Nothing has helped to revive me more, to get closer to Jesus, than my decisions to listen and accept other people’s stories of how I failed to love them.

  20. @Joe, Listening to others tell me “how I have failed to love and serve them” has also drawn me closer to the bosom of Christ–more than 25+ years of “labor intensive discipleship training” of attending countless and endless prayer meetings, Bible studies, writing and sharing testimonies, etc.

  21. I am glad, at least thus far, that no one sees bitterness in the comments. I was really afraid some of the comments could be misconstrued, and hesitated in writing anything because I know that there are some in Toledo UBF working for change, and I did not want to hinder this process. Yet, I felt these discussions may aid their process and I am glad to see the the comments were taken in the spirit in which they were given.

    That being said, it is also clear from the comments that Toledo is not unique. This is a great case study that shows the impact of the systemic problems that plague UBF as a whole.

    These problems can continue to cause great harm to families, to children, to relationships in general, and, most dangerously can work to separate people from understanding the love, grace, and freedom in Christ.

    Like Martha, in the past few years I wondered about how wonderful Toledo UBF could have been had everyone stayed. We loved each other, but were driven away by these bizarre attitudes that held traditions, obedience, discipline, as more important than people. How strange to me know, after being removed, that UBF could take such an ungodly stance. This made me angry and bitter at first. I felt as if I had wasted my time while honestly seeking God.

    But then, I got it. UBF simply doesn’t matter. I had been giving a man made organization way more credit, thought, emotion, etc. than it deserves. Perhaps this is because I was taught that UBF loved and accepted me, but that Jesus disapproves of me unless I did certain things or engaged in certain practices. Finally, I realized that that UBF doesn’t matter, but Jesus does. And Jesus does not disapprove of me. Jesus is not angry because I think daily bread is poorly written propaganda and I will not get up early to read it. Jesus is not angry because I quit writing stupid testimonies about what other acts of devotion I can perform. Jesus is not even angry when I sin (yes, even though I learned discipline in UBF, I still sin-shocking!!!) Jesus has known forever what kind of sinner I am and died for me BECAUSE HE knew I could do nothing about it. This realization was so freeing that I feel changed after leaving.

    UBF is going to do whatever it wants. I hope these posts, however, show others that UBF and Christianity are not synonymous. There is a freedom, grace, and love in Christ outside of UBF like I have never experienced. I really appreciate those, both in and out of UBF, that are willing to simply listen, love and search for Jesus with me!

    • nameuhling: I guess that’s what I mean when I asked some time ago whether its okay to say to my friends who remain in UBF, “I love you but I don’t love UBF.” Because that’s how I feel. They matter, Jesus matters, but UBF doesn’t really matter. That’s why I feel love for them, but not for the ministry that is really not that important in the grand scheme of things.

  22. KB it’s great that Bible study with SH made things clear for you. Seriously, how ironic is that. Amazing!

  23. Mark Mederich

    reality: those who scheme behind closed doors shall be shamed in the open

  24. Mark Mederich

    the worse thing than no-thing is a corrupted thing;

    do something Holy Spirit way (sincere/right): good
    do nothing: ok
    do something man’s way (sick/twisted): bad

    as you can see doing nothing (until seek/find Holy Spirit help) is spiritually better than doing something bad for it’s benefits or just to be doing something..

  25. Mark Mederich

    the religious problem is ‘southern plantation’ mentality:
    masters & slaves; if slaves wise up/rebel/get tired/disappear/escape, masters must do their own dirty work/pick their own cotton/provide their own support by WORKING..HARD..

  26. Mark Mederich

    Hitler’s ‘master race’ was obviously extremist evil, trying to takeover the world (i’m half german & half-east european so i have a right to speak:)

    any religious ‘master race’ must repent, or go the way of Hitler..

  27. Mark Mederich

    Saul was increasingly ‘religious’/increasingly evil until Risen Christ’ blinding light knocked him off his high-horse to grope on the ground, blindly dependent on Ananias until his eyes were ‘opened’ to see the light of Jesus’ saving grace, which was exceedingly good compared to his self-effort which had been exceedingly bad

    Saul had sought human kingdom of titles/benefits/pleasures; Jesus sought spiritual kingdom of love/light/life

  28. One thing is clear from this discussion: The problems are certainly not unique to a chapter, country or continent. They are same problems everywhere. It is because the leaders everywhere are primarily Koreans. Leaders everywhere are trying to copy the same man, SL. SL was deceived to assume a messianic figure in the lives of people and the organization he led (or his followers gave him that place), and became the idol that was more important than the Way and the Truth and the Life. Now SL’s followers want to enjoy same privileges from their followers: zero-accountability and absolute obedience. Instead of repenting when their sins are exposed, these leaders are ready to drive away those who question their unbiblical practices. Every activity in the ministry has an appearance of building Christ’s kingdom, but in reality there to build the leader’s empire, I like to call it modern tower of babels with the ancient motif “let us make a name for ourselves.”

    • Mark Mederich

      desire for greatness moved tower builders to wickedly evade spreading out like supposed to after flood, so God confused language/scattered;

      Nebuchadnezzar behaved wickedly thinking Babylon was built by his own power for his own glory, so God drove him out to live like animal for 7yrs until he acknowledged God Most High(then sanity was restored);

      Chang Woo (Samuel) Lee behaved wickedly (unethical/illegal) thinking UBF was built by his own power for his own glory, so God divided with reform movements periodically (if leaders/followers acknowledge God Most High, their sanity is restored..)

    • Mark Mederich

      I will no longer hide name of founder, Terry is right, we must be bold enough to be clear who we speak of, or it is hiding behind the baggage like Saul & not getting the job done

  29. @AbNial: “…zero-accountability and absolute obedience. Instead of repenting when their sins are exposed, these leaders are ready to drive away those who question their unbiblical practices.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10874

    I know this sounds very very harsh and deafening to those who love UBF. Yet, can we hear and take to heart what is too hard to hear so that we search our own hearts, rather than react in defensiveness and offensiveness?

    Regarding SL, I knew him quite well for the last 22 years of his life, sometimes seeing him 6 times a week. I believe he knows the grace of Jesus. I also tasted the grace of Jesus from him and through him. But I also know of those who tasted the unbearably painful and horrible things mentioned by many on this and other websites. Sometimes a dear one of mine still cries with pain and tears when she recollects some things that SL said and did.

    But my primary thought is this: Repeatedly (over)emphasizing SL and his faults distracts from some current UBF leaders in high places who are still abusive, authoritarian, unaccountable, blind to what they are doing, and silent in their own isolation and insular oligarchy.

    When many UBF people hear those continuing to call out the sins of a dead man, the few current UBF leaders who are perpetuating unhealthy and unbiblical practices can simply fly low under the radar, escape/avoid detection, while they simply emphasize how much some “UBF bashers” do not respect a dead man and keep bashing him.

    Don’t you think it is far better to focus on the few current “unaccountable overweening honor-seeking” UBF leaders, than repeatedly mentioning the sins of UBF’s dead founder (which simply inflames some UBFers, and confuses others, while “allowing” some current leaders to smile and snigger)?

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, the main reason why I think it is important to talk about what SL did is this. Essentially everyone in high leadership positions in the organization was mistreated (yes, abused) by SL in one way or another. I think it is essential, psychologically and spiritually, for individuals to come to terms with the emotions and experiences that they have effectively buried for decades. A couple of year ago, as I was sitting in a meeting with leaders and noticing how strange they were acting (relative to leaders’ meetings in healthier organizational contexts which I have been part of) it suddenly dawned on me: They were behaving just like the grown children of an abusive father who, though dead, still holds sway over their thoughts and emotions. Their experiences with their father are a mixture of love and hurt and fear. There are important reasons why support groups exist, for example, for grown children of alcoholics. People need to face those traumatic experiences, talk about them, and make sense of them, otherwise they remain frozen in time and cannot move on. There are still lots of people in the organization who are subconsciously trying to gain SL’s approval, even though he has been gone for more than a decade, and yet they do not realize that this is what they are doing. I want to see the organization’s leaders helped and healed, not punished. That healing is contingent upon how honestly they are willing to face their own past.

  30. Mark Mederich

    “Instead of repenting when their sins are exposed, these leaders are ready to drive away those who question their unbiblical practices.”
    then let’s get on with it/hold them accountable/silence their snickering, otherwise talk of Chang Woo will never stop & God will less nicely expose them
    inflammation/confusion is caused by religious humanism (inordinate elevation of man to God’s position); founder/leader/follower talk simply attempts to bring back to senses/restore sanity:)

    • Mark Mederich

      of course healing is the point, but people must remember delay to repent can lead to God’s punishment to save;

      Daniel revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream a year before it happened & advised the king to renounce sin/wickedness by doing right & being kind to avoid going to grass like cattle:

      but a year later (paraphrase) Neb said ‘is this not my great kingdom by my power?’ God answered ‘No, your authority is taken from you/you are driven out’

  31. @Joe: “Essentially everyone in high leadership positions in the organization was mistreated (yes, abused) by SL in one way or another.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10877

    Though I agree with this, yet understanding and living in the paradigm of a rigid and inflexible honor culture that is UBF, it seems virtually impossible for some of those leaders to ever be able to acknowledge that they were mistreated/abused, while sadly they themselves continue the mistreatment/abuse of others—all the while firmly believing that they have the absolute right to do and decide what they do because they are “the servant of God.”

    What is most unbearable and unpalatable in UBF (in addition to the authoritarian spiritual abuses) is the subtle and blatant honor-seeking and self-glorifying of UBF and missionaries at every opportunity. At its core this is just sheer pride and ego present in all of us, expressed as cultural and ethnic imperialism that throws all other cultures under the bus while insisting upon the superiority of their own missionary culture.

    I’m not sure if trying to call out SLee’s past abuses is really the way to go about it. It seems to me that there are more than enough recent abuses and ongoing unhealthy practices of current “untouchable” leaders to deal with.

    • Mark Mederich

      so servant of God idea must be replaced by slave of God until Holy Spirit can restore child of God (pride/ego must be debased until humility flows like river)


      if refuse heed God’s prophetic warnings, end up eating grass like cattle.(period)

    • Mark Mederich

      i plead with all of us: acknowledge God Most High & our sanity will be restored!

    • Along with your line of reasoning I will put this out there as well:

      We are talking about an older generation – let’s say – Asian, not just Korean. (It could be like old old generation European or whatever.) Anyway, punishments for wrong doings among older generations did take way of physical or psychological means. Is it possible that in their understanding they never actually did anything wrong even though they “abused”? What if striking someone (similar to corporal punishment) is a viable approach? What if scolding and speaking harshly on a personal level is all part of disciplinary understanding?

      We are beyond 2000 (well, 2013) and I see many aspects of the past approach in my daily life. At work I have already said that corporal punishment is illegal unless the parents have given their consent.

      I am hardly defending the abuse – I think it is disgusting! But I want to draw out aspects that are obvious to me through my daily life. It seems to be a very normal behaviour in the sphere of educating. We have said many times about 1>1 instead of 1:1. If the seniors truly see themselves as mentors than I could turn that around and say that they are tormentors.

      The other dilemma I see with all of these abuses comes from the timing of implementing them. Some leaders (my own shepherd) decided within a short while it was appropriate to take such action to train or discipline me long before I displayed any loyalty or real commitment to UBF. The consequence was a long term battle of wills – I had no real issue committing to UBF one way or the other in my time and God’s time. But to be bullied into commitment through means of emotional abuse and harsh language and physical dramatics by slamming your fist on the desk – this does not sound like a healthy relationship at all. In fact it was such a fresh relationship I often wonder why I did in fact remain – oh yeah, it was because I had actually experienced the grace of Jesus through reading and studying the Bible. But in terms of shepherd-sheep relations I had experienced confusion.

    • Joe Schafer

      gc mentioned corporal punishment as a means of discipline / education / behavior management. It appears in the Bible (especially the Old Testament) and has been a regular tool of the trade in most cultures, even western cultures, but in light of the gospel should no longer be considered an acceptable church practice.

      Here are many other behavioral strategies used throughout the community which, in my opinion, should have no place in a gospel ministry. Shouting. Public shaming and private shaming. Shunning. Spreading gossip in order to marginalize certain people and turn others against them. Shedding crocodile tears to instill guilty feelings (“After all God’s servants have sacrificed for you, now you treat them like this?”). Fostering a spirit of personal indebtedness to you. Withholding your love and approval until desired behaviors are displayed. These have been the standard tricks of the trade in many cultures. Many seem to think they are valid ministry management and discipleship strategies, especially if you use them to press people toward behaviors that are seen as good (e.g., fishing, testimony writing, etc.) But, in my opinion, anyone who thinks these are valid strategies for Christian discipleship has a deficient understanding of the gospel.

    • Mark Mederich

      “Shouting. Public shaming and private shaming. Shunning. Spreading gossip in order to marginalize certain people and turn others against them. Shedding crocodile tears to instill guilty feelings (“After all I’ve sacrificed for you, now you treat me like this?”). Withholding love and approval until desired behaviors are displayed. These have been the standard tricks of the trade in many cultures.”

      sad when religion becomes excuse to act worse than world; we all battle demons (within/without) but must overcome with God’s help;

      let’ get to the point: missionaries who use natives to do ‘dirty’ work/get benefits/shield from trouble have become gangish/behind-back connivers/back room deal-makers of the worst kind;
      it doesn’t matter who abused them to become that way or how hard to change:
      they must be dishonored until they come to their senses (wake up & smell the coffee), repent/be set free/healed/helped by God to overcome demons

  32. Mark Mederich

    we have many sensitive excuses that keep us disabled/afraid to seek healing

    nothing will ever get better unless we all buck up and face the truth: there is only one common humanity which must reach out to the Creator God for help/healing

    everything else is a bunch of feel sorry, respect man more than God
    (in so doing we actually disrespect by keeping self/friend enslaved-addicted)

    age/race just mean it may be harder to repent: more reason to get on with it, or end up like Nebuchadnezzar eating cattle grass (or like captive Israelites sitting by river in Babylon remembering life in ‘Promised Land’);

    This from Wikipedia is instructive:
    “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.
    Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the “ingroup” produces an “illusion of invulnerability” (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the “ingroup” significantly overrates their own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of their opponents (the “outgroup”).”

  33. Mark Mederich

    hey, groupthink can be reversed to help us heal: if key people admit we are dishonorous/in need of Holy Spirit help, group mentality may coalesce to repent & God may relent from sending impending calamity

  34. I am glad to read through all of these comments, because certain themes have emerged that help me to think about Christian life in general. One of the themes I believe is evident here is grace (or a lack of grace). I wish I had a bit more time to unpack this, but these comments have made me wonder if not just UBF, but Christians in general have a fear or mistrust of grace.

    I think this can first be look at on a personal level. I think I experienced a fear for a long time that accepting Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough, it was only a beginning. While this is a beginning, it is also sufficient. It changes us. Doing more work will not change me further. I think it is hard to believe that simply accepting Jesus’ sacrifice is enough.

    I think at an organizational level, many also fear a loss of control when grace is extended to others. Not only does this model contradict human ideas of leadership, it is hard to believe that people will not simply go nuts and live completely terrible lives when grace is extended to them. We lack faith in the transforming power of grace in others.

    I wonder is accepting grace is a fearful proposition to many. I’m still trying to work through this idea and wonder what others think and if others saw this same theme emerge through these comments.

    • Mark Mederich

      good points, yet how is there room for good spirits to come in hearts until bad ones are kicked out (how can grace help without first pushing evil back);
      we all battle demons within/without; so when i talk tough i’m really speaking to demons as an outcry to heaven & the Lord will answer to set us free (but we should not get in way/inhibit healing by tenderly defending ‘our demons’:)

    • In Christ I love grace, but in UBF I absolutely abhor it. In our lives Jesus extends this grace as simply as you said – through his death on the cross and resurrection.

      In personal application this can effect us in many ways and aspects of our lives. It can cover many facets including our social life, academic life, professional life , family life and so on. The point is that we are restored and recovered in God and are able to receive many blessings that await us.

      In UBF I have grown tired of the limited and shallow point of view of God’s grace. Jesus died for your sins etc….so now you must repay in way of these works: fishing, teaching 1:1, db, attending meetings, testimony writing, testimony writing, testimony writing….did I forget to mention testimony writing. I repeat because of db test, weekly test, conf test, thanksgiving test and so on.

      You must express yourself only in way of carrying out the works model that has been mentioned several times by Joe, Ben and Brian. In addition to this, any blessing in way of grace that comes upon you is only to be rejoiced about if it involves your graduation or employment opportunity that keeps you close to the church. No social relations unless they are Bible students. No BF/GF – you must wait until God blesses you – scratch that I mean church elders. Heaven help you if your job demands time during meetings or it is just too far away. I would rather not repeat what we already know….

      Anyway, blessings and grace in the way of ministry seem to always be caveated by the alterior motives of the elder involved with you.

      Keep it simple: focus on Jesus and Jesus alone.

    • Mark Mederich

      in Christ Alone:)

  35. @Nick: “I wonder if accepting grace is a fearful proposition to many.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10893

    Yes!!!! This has been one of my pet peeves and mantras over the last few years that Christians (in UBF and elsewhere) are deathly afraid of extending grace liberally, and preferring instead to express punishment and retribution on countless occasions (even for perceived misbehavior or disobedience or disrespect). In my opinion, this is tragic, and will lead to the death of any church or ministry.

  36. I think we are in agreement Mark. Although my post was not explicit about this, what I was wondering was whether certain practices that I experienced in UBF that seemed to me to inhibit grace stemmed from a fear or distrust of grace, and whether this is also evident in many other churches outside of the UBF context.

    • Mark Mederich

      seems too easy i guess; or doesn’t serve man’s kingdom building purpose:)

  37. It was during one service, perhaps late July or early August 2011. Praise and worship began. People were singing. Fran and I looking around. Tf, ef, nm, sm, kb had left. I can’t put into words the pain in our hearts, but we began sobbing. I will never forget that day or feeling. We stepped out to a more private area to cry and “get it out”. SH attempted to console us. She said lets pray, things will be okay.

    I remember several years earlier when 4of our 8 fellowship members ( tp, mp, bs, jj) left. I remember while in brothers house seeing more friends leave (jh, kh, at, ak, jt). None of them left because of the things they did wrong, but because of the wrong the ministry did to them. Before TP and MP left, most of my “training” was with TP. After tp and mp left i think ph tried to show some grace to me and my family because of what happened to the MTC fellowship. Seeing sooo many of my closest friends get hurt was enough for me and my family.

    Fran and I talk openly together about our experiences with our bible teachers from over the years and some of the pains caused. We also have discussed some of the pain we have caused to others like students or even family due to our time in UBF. In hind sight I saw so many warning signs, even in my first year of study, but ignored them because God was doing and did do some great things in my heart. Warning signs like the high pressure to attend a conference, to choose ministry events over family and friends, staying up all night re-writting a testimony because it was not to ubf standard, people crying over decisions a bible student made as if the bible teacher was personally responsible. the previous and early reformers who tried to share their stories of abuse in ubf and falling for the (they have lost their mission and are bitter routine).

    I wish I had been able to speak out sooner, often, more boldly and gracefully. I am sorry to all my friends who left before us and we stood by not saying or doing much to help Them.

    • Mark Mederich

      ‘She said lets pray, things will be okay.’
      that could help feel better, but did nothing to solve the malfunctioning of organization (easy to expect God to fix it all someday, rather than doing our part to try to ‘do’ something:)

  38. I wonder the same things Chad and share your guilt. However, that being said, you and Fran have never shown Sandy and I anything but grace, both inside and outside of the UBF context.

    • Not sure if we ever expressed our thankfulness to you, sandy and JL and LL before you for doing what you could for our children in CBF. At the tail end we tried to facilitate cbf for a few weeks after you left. Not sure how you guys did for as long as you did with such little help and support. Thank you.

  39. I too saw warning signs, Chad. The biggest one-seeing Samuel Lee in military fatigues pounding on the podium at a conference. I seriously do not understand why I did not simply run at that point.

  40. @nm, one of my very few direct encounters with SL was at a summer conference practicing a chorus. SL demanded that everyone call him “YES SIR!!!!” That completely freaked and wigged me out. I thought thank God I don’ t have to listen to him every week. Also speaking of voices, RW’s voice freaked out one of my bible students and I. After a conference I brought him to, he never studied again, but would often use RW’s ghostly voice in conversations I had with him.

  41. Thanks, Brian and everyone of Toledo ubf. I think that these letters are very mild and touch organizational and worship issues of ubf. My first letter was very much the same kind. But later when walking in freedom with the Lord, having time and space (without daily ubf “spiritual” activities) to think and to pray, the abusing side of ubf is clearly seen.

    It is not a question for those who left: to stay or not to stay? Everyone chooses to stay… in the freedom and grace with the Lord after he left ubf.

    To those who say that christianity as a whole is much the same toward the grace of Jesus I would say that ubf is a champion in crossing the personal boundaries to control people’s lives. Other churches may be more legailistic than graceful but still they are such through teaching of the law not through control and manipulation, not through loyalty and absolute obedience (to the guru/servants of god) Confucianism.

    It seems to me through the comments that ubf – Korean directors + being open to other churches = possible change and godly future of those who so dearly love each other as brothers and sisters. ubf directors (who are Korean and Confucian) is the main issue which creates the abusive ubf system (cultish and Confucian).

    • Mark Mederich

      “To those who say that christianity as a whole is much the same toward the grace of Jesus I would say that ubf is a champion in crossing the personal boundaries to control people’s lives.” True

      yet i experienced legalistic guilt growing up Catholic before ubf pretended to be better but ended up worse…& the Catholic hierarchy has it’s own history of loyalty/blind obedience travesties; the pope is infallible: yeah right:)

      point: can’t blame ubf problem on korean-ism; rather i blame greatness seeking of any race/culture (God doesn’t play when people pretend to be God/think they are God, He will crush their little tower of Babel:)

  42. And I think that ubf has “lost” its best part and it is not possible to make a tower out of the remaining ruins. (And nobody in leadership is going to let someone try. Though there is no one who would want to try. ubf is a bad tower (babel), why trying to rebuild it?)

  43. A thousands “likes” to every comment here! Well ok just 1 like per comment because that’s all I can give :)

    I’m really enjoying the discussions and thrilled that it’s not “just me”.

    I think it is a good time to remind everyone that we have a comments rss feed that may make it easier for you to read prior comments, especially if you have an rss reader (rss is a fancy term for “really simple syndication”).

    So here is our syndicated feed:

    Click here to see the prior 100 comments in a sequential format

  44. @Vitaly: “I would say that ubf is a champion in crossing the personal boundaries to control people’s lives.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10939

    My strong encouragement is for everyone in ubf, both young and old, to challenge this “control” (gracefully, respectfully and prayerfully) whenever it is perceived.

    “Controlling others” is the sinful default of every human being with no exceptions. We need constant ongoing repentance to NOT control others (like the father of the prodigal son), especially if one has positional authority in the church.

  45. That is tough to do Ben, to challenge the control, when the typical ubf message is preaching control, discipline and authority using thought-stopping techniques, teaching cognitive dissonance and preaching the fabric of “just stop arguing and just speak positively about Jesus like Paul did.”

    The Toledo UBF message failed miserably yesterday and is a classic example of everything not to do in a message. This is my harshest review yet.

    • Thanks for the review, Brian. I fully agree that it is the worst message I’ve read. I didn’t hear such bad even in our chapter. It seems to me difficult to comment the message because it is just bad and horrible. When I hear the messages of our pastor now I often say not only “yeah,baby!” but also “wow, I’ve never thought about it that broad!”.

      Again I would suggest for those in ubf to accept your challenge and stop “doing ubf” for at least one week. It will be the most exciting and joyful week, with Christ and with good messages from Jesus Himself!

      After the message I wouldn’t think about a respectful way to leave ubf. I would follow the Nike motto, “Just do it!”.

  46. @Brian, Just some random thoughts: I am wondering if the messenger BK would welcome a conversation with you and dialogue with you about his message?

    As a broad sweeping generalization (which surely does not apply to all), I have said this about our UBF messages over the past decade plus: “They instruct and inform, but do not inspire.”

    Without reading the Toledo message, my general thoughts are that UBF messages are not blatantly heretical; they do not deny Christ or the gospel; they do not break with traditional orthodoxy; they do not deny the Apostle’s Creed; etc. Thus, UBF messages are basically and fundamentally Christian. So, UBF messages do not really say anything that is grossly wrong or unbiblical.

    A recent thought is that UBF messages tend to be coma inducing, because they tend to be predictable (especially with their imperatives/commands), which then makes it boring. It tends to be forced, in that the message(er) is trying to force some point, rather than let the text speak for itself. It lacks spirit and spiritual power. Are even some 2013 ISBC messages like this?

    The point being forced in the message/sermon is invariably an imperative, such us, “You must …. (love, serve, be thankful, live a life of mission, deny yourself, take up your cross, make disciples, preach the gospel, etc, etc).” None of this is obviously wrong. It might even be preached in a “nice way.” Nonetheless, it is just hard to listen to because it is a message of Law, not of Gospel or good news. Therefore, an imperative driven message is basically bad news. It burdens people. It wears them out. It does not provide rest for a weary soul, but piles on your Christian responsibilities without any assistance.

    Sorry for rambling… Thoughts? Comments?

    • “I am wondering if the messenger BK would welcome a conversation with you and dialogue with you about his message?”

      I attempted to open up a private discussion but he replied “take me off your list”.

      So I’m open to other suggestions for communication, but as soon as I resigned from ubf, certain people instantly stopped talking to me and to this day won’t talk to me. So I have been using my blogs to communicate what I want to say. I know they are reading my articles and hopefully one day we could meet in person again.

      Your ramblings are basically correct Ben. However I feel that specific reactions to specific messages will lead to specific responses and actions (of some type). In my Fall review of the Toledo UBF messages, I seek to answer a question that I’m processing right now “Why did I fail to preach the gospel through my messages?”

      I rate all but 2 of my messages over a 20 year period as “1 star”. 1 message was a 2 star, and one was a 3 star. These “stars” are not exactly a quality rating, but merely a gauge of how well the message presents the gospel of Jesus.

    • And yes, I initiated the conversation before sharing this latest review publicly.

      My Fall review will end in September, so there are only two more to go. I suppose some will be saying wake me up when September ends.

      Nonetheless, I feel it is important to reason through these public messages, examining them with one question: How does this message present the gospel of Jesus? I’m not concerned with anything else in these messages quite frankly.

    • Joe Schafer

      I read the message, and in my opinion the messenger is conflicted. He repeatedly suggests that the Colossians are bored and lifeless. On the one hand, he senses that there must be more to the faith than what he is experiencing. But then he tells himself no, there is nothing more, we just need go back to what we have always done and immerse ourselves in the core values and then we will taste heavenly sunshine. This kind of message makes me sad.

    • “They instruct and inform, but do not inspire.”

      I doubt whether they really instruct and inform. I found they are often misleading and confusing instead. Also, the messages are often written in a way that they can be read on several levels “between the lines”. A UBF insider will understand certain allusions differently from a newcomer. I remember a particular message where our chapter director preached between the lines that we needed to follow and subordinate to Samuel Lee no matter how unreasonable and wrong his directions appeared to us. This teaching was very clear in that situation for those who had ears to hear, even if it was only preached between the lines. The general director Samuel Lee himself preached (several times) directly, not only between the lines in the announcements, but explicitly in his Sunday messages which were printed out and downloadable for members, that those who do not obey him or leave UBF will experience a horrible accident or death. Therefore, in my view he was a false teacher of the gospel. He taught fear of God and fear of himself, not trust in a loving father God. Even in not so blatant cases of unbiblical teaching, in my experience, nearly all UBF messages teach the UBF paradigms of “spiritual order” and/or “salvation by doing the works” of UBF. Granted, sometimes it’s more obvious and direct and the primary content of the message, sometimes it’s more hidden and between the lines or only a side message, but it’s always there, every week. In my view, both teachings are completely opposite to the gospel. Even if UBF messages often contain correct statements about the gospel, they are always somehow twisted, relativized, downplayed, accompanied with “but” statements, or annulled by other non-biblical teachings which claim the opposite. The audience is confused about the gospel at best.

    • Maybe a series on ubfriends is warranted? Perhaps review the standard books as primary rotation among UBF chapters (in our experience). I am guessing the most common books from the OT come from Genesis and 1 and 2 Samuel in addition to certain passages that highlight events and especially the premise for tithing. From the NT we could look at the four gospels, Acts, Romans (but only till chapter 8???), 1/2 Corinthians and the odd study from another book.

      What I am suggesting is not a message – that might become tiresome for whoever sits down to compose it. I am suggesting comparing the essense of what we know from UBF messages and what we freshly infer and take away when we sit down newly without having to adjust to the “mandate”. We have argued and discussed many times about how UBF style messages over emphasize mission (as understood by UBF) rather than focusing on the gospel. Often times I sense that simple messages are made much more complicated than necessary as a result of taking the books or chapters and stradling them with UBF missions.

    • Mark Mederich

      ‘straddling’: good point; you know what happen’s when you straddle, the beam bows in middle & sooner/later fall down:)

  47. @Chris: “…in my experience, nearly all UBF messages teach the UBF paradigms of “spiritual order” and/or “salvation by doing the works” of UBF.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/09/13/what-happened-in-toledo-ubf-part-2/#comment-10958

    I do not disagree. So UBF gets quite hung up and bent out of shape on “obedience” (sadly to a man rather than to God, and often equating the two) and “doing mission” (primarily on campus and/or only in UBF, rather than anywhere else).

    But I think that this may be gradually changing (even if it is at a snail’s pace) as more and more UBFers begin to bring this up in their own respective UBF chapters.

    • Mark Mederich

      still not sure what ‘spiritual order’ means (i’m yer older bro, do what i say?:)
      all i know is Jesus simply said don’t lord it like gentiles
      (if i ever questionned something over yrs i was told getting too complicated, but now my spiritual eyes are open to see my ideas are not the ones that were complicated..Hallelujah:)

    • Mark Mederich

      only remember being in toledo one time (for a wedding); many musics were being presented but samuel lee told them to hurry up & get to wedding since chicago people drove distance already:)

  48. As ubf headquarters continues their attempt to rebrand itself and bury 50 years of history as if it never happened, the parting of ways continues. Fortunately the latest parting of ways, at least in Toledo ubf, happened more smoothly this time.

  49. forestsfailyou

    JP from this story just moved from Chicago to my chapter. He plans on moving his family down later.

    • forests,

      We are certainly talking about two different JP’s. JP in my article above is Jim from Toledo, the father of TP (a long-time ubfer who left in angst around 2006). JP in Toledo would certainly not be moving to St. Louis.