Communication Confusion

BossHow different is the East from the West in terms of communication? In my opinion, a significant problem in UBF is our suboptimal and often unhealthy way of communication. A way to explain our communication conflicts is to explain the differences in the way that Westerners (blue) and Easterners (red) communicate in five infographics. Incidentally, even though I am an Easterner (a bonafide Chinaman from the East!), I am nonetheless quite a Westerner. Maybe it is because I watched too many American movies and TV growing up in Malaysia. Surely, these differences are generalizations. But I think there is much truth to them. See if you agree.

The Leader. The above picture clearly expresses how Westerners and Easterners regard their leader. To people in the west, the leader is almost just like anyone else. When I first came to the U.S. I was surprised that the President of the U.S. was publicly interrogated and had to defend his policies before journalists. I was also surprised when a medical student and a junior doctor called her professor by his first name. In contrast, an Easterner regards their leader as someone way “above” them. I realized that if anyone questions a UBF leader regarding almost anything (usually an older missionary) that person is regarded as rude, disrespectful and immature. As a result of such strongly pervasive sentiments in our ministry, disagreements and objections get bottled up, being unable to be expressed,…until some explosion occurs. How are we going to address this and navigate this?

ProblemSolvingProblem Solving. Westerners address problems directly and tackle them head on. But Easterners seem evasive to Westerners when they talk around the problem rather than tackling it directly. At the same time Westerners seem aggressive and confrontational to Easterners because they expect problems to be dealt with directly. Personally and practically, I have found problem solving and conflict resolution to be a most confounding and exasperating issue in UBF on countless occasions to this very day. Blame is put on “the other side.” Because leadership has the “upper hand,” juniors or sheep or indigenous leaders invariably get blamed. If this is an unfair or inaccurate statement, then please enlighten and educate me.

SelfExpressionSelf Expression. Westerners express themselves in a straight line, while Easterners express themselves with all manner of twists and turns that may be confounding for Westerners to decipher. On the other hand, Easterners perceive Westerners to be brash and abrasive because to them Westerners speak their minds directly, openly and often without nuance or subtlety.

angerAnger. I find this one quite interesting. When Westerners are angry they often openly express it and let you know it. But when Easterners are angry they act as though they are not angry and that everything is fine. This inforgraphic shows an Easterner smiling when they are angry. To Easterners they perhaps perceive this as being mature and self-controlled. But to Westerners this is perceived as being quite dishonest and not sincere.

moods-and-weatherMoods and Weather. Westerners like good weather and are unhappy about bad weather, whereas Easterners seem to be OK with both good and bad weather. Because Easterners tend to be more reserved, they are perceived by Westerners to be not real and authentic, but pretentious and fake. On the other hand because Westerners often express their opinions and feelings openly, Easterners perceive them to be childish, immature and lacking in self-control.

I hope that my expressions are not too much of a caricature. If they are, please do express them for my own education and edification. Nonetheless, in your experience and encounters in UBF, are these differences true and real?

All of these infographics were obtained from this post: East Meets West: An Infographics Portrait.


  1. Thanks, Dr.Ben. I agree that there are surely many differnces between westerners and easterners. (I think that the Mood and Weather point is a generalization). But while reading I thought about whether it is necessary at all to think about the other culture. I am sure that diplomats must and should study the other culture, maybe misionaries before coming as well. But if someone is a westerner and lives in the western culture and so to say attends a western church then should he care about the other cultures? I don’t think so. Let him/her be a westerner/easterner and care only about whether his/her cultural aspects of life go along God’s will.

    I agree with Joe (and NT Wright) that it is important to historically (and culturally) understand God’s word to better follow it. I also agree with those who say that the western culture has been influenced by Christianity in many ways, while the eastern culture has many clearly un-/anti- Christian things. In case of ubf I think that the bad understanding of the Bible (+no desire and understanding of “eastern” cultural issues) and the eastern lording over all the rest (being on the territory of all the rest) are what must not be in any church.

  2. I shared already that there is one more Korean church/organization in Yekaterinburg. And a sister in my new church attended it. She left after the “pastor” unjustly pressed out another sister and then cursed her saying that she left God and went to live with Satan. This sister from my church is absolutely blind. But she sees spiritually very well. Hearing the pastor’s cursing the other sister she saw that the organization is bad and cult-like and unhealthy. So she left as did many others.

    When you come to a church after you have been in another church, the new church asks why you left and whether you did it “in peace” and “with blessing”. So this sister was also asked these questions and she openly told everyone that she didn’t leave the Korean church in peace and didn’t want any blessing from such a church and such a pastor but that she left the church as unhealthy and unbiblical and cult-like. And so the whole church knows that there is an unhealthy Korean church in the city. As many people left the ubf chapter before us many churches knew that ubf is an unhealthy and cult-like before we could testify about it.

    There are pastors meetings in the city and all the pastors from all the churches participate. I would say that there are many disagreements between the churches, still they are able to acknowledge each other as “Christian churches” and respect each other. There are some strange churches among them with which I personally would never associate. But ubf and the other Korean church are not among them, not among those that could be possibly called “churches”. They are refused by the churches and rightly so. I wanted to say that not only ubf but unfortunately other “eastern” organizations are not Christian and that is because they insist on the “easternness” above the Christ and on the “above” leadership even though they are not in the East.

  3. About Moods and Weather. I tried to find the moments in the “Invincible” movie where they play football under heavy rain but didn’t find. (Watch the whole movie, it is very nice). But I found a video where the author says that “A search for mud is a search for the truth” and “Mud is fun”, and prays to God to give mud from time to time :) I also like both sunny and rainy weather. I don’t know but some labour or sport under rain seems attractive to me and funny and manly. So westerners also like both kind of weather and who knows who likes such weather more: westerners or easterners? :)

  4. It is a good time to once again raise issues of communication. Thanks Ben.

    I have been close to Koreans for more than a decade (both in and out of UBF) and also living in Korea for a couple of years. (Yes, I am living in Korea despite the politics in UBF that attempt to make it seem that I am somewhere in Canada.)

    There is truly a passive aggressive nature to any conflict and the men can be just as bad as the women – however, get some alcohol into them and just you wait. Alcohol is the emotion dispenser and will naturally lead to faulty communication anyway.

    But to raise a daily mundane observation that may seem unimportant but does reveal a lot I will simply comment on crowd behaviour as a pedestrian and also a motorist. Yes, language and culture build up an appearance of etiquette and politeness. But I might argue that there is nothing true or sincere about it. I could care less how Confucius feels – tell me what you are ‘really’ thinking.

    On a daily basis I have experienced and commonly witness true emotion as expressed through simple impatience. There is nothing to get tempers going faster than when you are on your way somewhere. To call it rude is an understatement. I am not culturally ignorant about this. There is nothing about Confucius when a bus driver provokes a man to a fist fight while he is carrying his baby to the car. All of this is done in front of everyone including his wife. All of this could also have been avoided with a little clear headedness.

    I know that traditional values/customs and Confucius are often used to explain why we are different, but actually, I find little similarities between what is written down by Confucius and what is actual practice. Like Christianity, it is also distorted by men as they develop their own way.

    My only comment on silence however has nothing to do with Confucius, but rather principles surrounding spirituality from other traditions such as Buddhism or the like. Silence and meditation is supreme. I will refrain from a lesson in this since I do find that the approach to spirituality there is like intellectual masturbation. (Yes, I am studied in history, religion and theology.)

    What can we say Ben? Seniors can do this and do that. They can say this and say that. They can ignore the long list of personal accounts, but when those same leaders continue to look around and see the receding congregation who can they blame? Will they blame God? Will they blame that person?

    …or will they blame Satan and evil spirits? But just ‘who’ are those evil forces? Tell me, from where do they come?

    Why does someone who committed themselves to UBF all of a sudden just leave? Such people stood up against the better judgment of family and friends. They took the weight of judgment from the community that maybe they were members of a cult. They made decisions based on the betterment of UBF and not the betterment of their employment or their family. They made UBF first priority in life cancelling any wedding invitation that was outside or UBF. Maybe they had a family gathering that had to be pushed aside. For whatever reason they looked at the verses that relate to the “costs” of following Jesus. People have been duped into believing that neglecting family and others for the sake of “UBF” is most important. There is a fine line between UBF and Jesus Christ, but I tell you it is a very important line indeed!

  5. Mark Mederich

    lack of important communication is biggest disaster; but ya learn to do without it,
    maybe even function better…’getting strong now’ HALLELUJAH

  6. @gc: “Why does someone who committed themselves to UBF all of a sudden just leave? … People have been duped into believing that neglecting family and others for the sake of “UBF” is most important.” – See more at:

    I have felt that longstanding UBF insiders (both missionaries and natives) strongly feel negatively about anyone leaving UBF. They really cannot imagine how anyone can leave UBF after they have tasted love, grace, blessing from UBF. They invariably feel to varying degrees that such people are sick, bitter, bad, wrong, ungrateful, rebellious, uncommitted, unfaithful, childish, immature, etc. I know because I have heard my name attached to all these labels (even though I never left UBF!).

    My responses are varied. On an obnoxious day, I say, “Yes!” On a pensive day, I say, “Well….” On a spirited day, I say, “Thanks for the compliment. Because you have no idea that I’m a lot worse than all of that!”

    • Hi Ben, In light of present and recent discussion (or lack there of) I am every so often going to raise the issue of declining members. I do want to see a positive change in UBF that can be seen universally. I do not want to be insulting, but constructive with my criticisms. Sometimes however the arrogance from senior leaders leaves all of us with no choice but to be insulting by regarding UBF as a cult that shows little resemblance to Jesus at all.

      As far as feeling negatively goes about those who leave it is a clear sign of where the serving has been coming from. The serving has come from men. Moreover, notice how quickly love turns to hate – but I forgot it was never love in the first place – what appears to be love for another in Jesus Christ is actually love for rank and power in UBF administration.

      Just as they label the people who choose to leave I wonder about the real heart motives of those who remain. When I say remain I am really speaking about the “movers and shakers” in the ministry – I am not referring to anyone whose desire and love really is to teach the Bible to young people.

      For history in American UBF I regard stories like Brian’s most valuable. Now here is an example of a member who willingly participated in things that were not from Christ but from men. Years later he came forward and confessed by means of true and sincere repentance. I don’t care if people on the inside may think otherwise.

  7. Thanks Vitaly for sharing. I expect that it is hard for some readers to read negative stories about Korean churches and how they are shunned by native people (as indicated by the 5 dislikes in your first 2 comments).

    The reason for the negative sentiment seems to be that the leader of the Korean church expects that he is to be highly regarded above everyone else in the church according to the first infographic in this article. Thus, to varying degrees he lords over others and he cannot take being questioned or challenged, while he freely challenges others.

    This I believe is a very serious problem that seems to be very difficult for Easterners to discuss or address, because they feel very very strongly that they should not “touch the Lord’s anointed”:

  8. Ben, your observations seem mostly correct to me. But they are presented in the “west=best” viewpoint. I think you are missing the “east=best” viewpoint. For example, the Japanese reactions to the tsunami were impressive. There was a nationwide calmness. But in the west there would have been mass rioting and looting. There is much to be said about the value of eastern cultures. And I agree with most of Vitaly’s points above.

    But the real issue is the UBF culture, which is neither eastern nor western, neither American nor Korean. ubf culture is some sort of an attempt to create “world class leaders” who are “shepherds of the world”. This elite, supremist extremism must be called out in every generation as dangerous and toxic. ubf culture is broken, narcissistic and cultic. ubf must become fbu.

    • What’s fbu?

    • joshua,

      fbu is an acronym (in reverse) that captures my “I have a dream” speech for ubf. It summarizes all the solutions that I think would make ubf a viable ministry. I would need an entire article to explain it, and in fact I’ve got most of my “fbu” article written already. I’ve tried to capture everything I’ve learned the past 10 years, since my 2003 fiasco.

      But who cares? Who would listen? What difference would solutions make at this point?

    • “But the real issue is the UBF culture, which is neither eastern nor western, neither American nor Korean.”

      I definitely agree. In my view the real issue is the “shepherding/discipling” paradigm which was actually invented in the US, not in Korea. The UBF culture is only a particularly nasty variation of that paradigm, because it is augmented and aggravated by the Eastern culture as shown in the article. But you can find essentially the same problems as we see in UBF in many Western groups like the ICoC which follow the shepherding/discipling paradigm.

    • Chris,

      You mention the ICCoC (ICC). Apparently it is very hard for outsiders to tell the difference between ubf and icc:

      “For instance, at Long Beach State, there is a huge group on campus of (from what I was told) going by the name of University Bible Fellowship, which after listening to some of the ex members and reading some of their tracts, have concluded they are probably a offshoot of the Moonies. They are actually a larger group than the ICC group at Long Beach State.

      Their recruiting tactics and other practices is so similar to that of the ICC, that I was confused at first as to whether they were a part of the ICC or not.

      For instance, they have a method of shepherding that is very similar to discipling. This group will assign someone to be over you and this person will be call a sheperd and you will be the sheep. Their dating guidelines is another thing that is very similar to the ICC. Very freighing how similar they are to the ICC.”


    • BUF would have been a better choice. I’m kinda “BUF(f)”

    • John, “gtfo” was my first choice, but I decided to be nice and remove the swear words.

  9. Ben, thanks for starting this discussion. I am an easterner. But thank God that life does not work in the binary way of blue versus red. Also thank God who sent His Son as a Middle Eastern Jew. It becomes difficult for me to put Jesus and his words and actions into either/or category of blue versus red.

    As to leadership, whoever met Jesus realized that He was no ordinary man. At the miracular catch of fish, Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8) Yet throughout the gospel narrative, Jesus is the friend of sinners. (Lk 7:34) We know that both eastern and western style leadership are failing in political as well as religious arena. That’s why our only hope is Jesus’ style leadership. A leader must have great vision, passion and lot of examples to show (as in red), yet be willing to work in and through those who are not as great as he is (as in blue). Leaders need to have and exercise great authority, but this authority must not be men-given but God-given. A leader needs to be led by God (more specifically in this time and age, by the Holy Spirit) before s/he starts leading others.

    I think we need another category, apart from the blue and red, as to how Christians are to communicate and express themselves in regard to leadership, problem solving, self expression, and moods and weather. I am sure that third category will be lot more interesting to discuss.

  10. Speaking of communication… I think awareness is very important and goes hand in hand with communication. How can any culture communicate if we’re not aware of what’s going on around us? I was not aware of things for so many years because my head was in the sand like an ostrich.

    Try this test. I bet you fail. Count the number of passes the white team makes:

    Awareness test

    (Note this video explains how you can easily be indoctrinated to believe or do something and miss something very important.)

  11. Joshua asked “What’s fbu?”. Because I won’t submit anymore articles about ubf, I’ll just summarize what I mean by “fbu” here. This is a long comment but Joshua asked for it :)

    “fbu” means to turn ubf upside-down. UBF must become FBU: freedom, bibliology, unity.

    Freedom. A courageous leader must stand up and say “You’re fired!”, removing about 20 Korean directors from office. A leader must stand up and apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Give leadership to 12 leaders their 30’s for example. Announce to all “sheep” that “You are free to do whatever God is calling you to do. You are free form the weekly supervision of your shepherd.”

    Bibliology. Throw out all existing question sheets, lectures and materials. Declare “We want to be part of the 2,000 year history of Christianity. We will stop inventing our own ways and we will learn from the amazing works the Holy Spirit is doing around the world and has done throughout history. Stop analyzing and worshiping the bible.

    Unity. Instead of demanding all members to conform to univerisity life as single people, become a campus ministry only. Focus like a laser only on a 4 year campus ministry. Stop all children’s, high school, and beyond-college ministries. Just be a campus para-church. Seek unity instead of uniformity. Send all “house churches” to local churches. Seek help from notable Christian pastors in each country. Respect the families who decide to participate. Stop teaching young people to hate their families. Stop de-humanizing families and make love your mission.

    Patrick Lencioni identifies five dysfunctions of a team. A courageous leader in ubf needs to stand up, call out these dysfunctions wherever they exist and build new relationships based on trust, love, passion, accountability and organizational health. Face the facts of declining numbers and wake up. Go learn from Ben Toh if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

    1. Absence of trust—unwilling to be vulnerable within the group

    2. Fear of conflict—seeking artificial harmony over constructive passionate debate

    3. Lack of commitment—feigning buy-in for group decisions creates ambiguity throughout the organization

    4. Avoidance of accountability—ducking the responsibility to call peers on counterproductive behavior which sets low standards

    5. Inattention to results—focusing on personal success, status and ego before team success

    –Patrick Lencioni

    • Thanks, Brian. I think your comment is not long at all, rather it is a very short answer to many questions.

      “Give leadership to 12 leaders their 30′s for example.” Recently as I was reading the Bible I saw what I had been blind about – Jesus was 30 years old when he was baptized and he was about 33 years old when he died. Why didn’t God trust the mission of saving the world to an older Jesus, to Jesus when he would be 50-60 years old? Jesus died when he was younger than I am now. And God entrusted him not a shepherding position, not to put chairs in place in the center, not to write a message for 4 times before preaching, not even a local leadership. God entrusted him the whole world, He gave the leadership to this young (“immature and weak and not able and not ever wise enough”) man! And the Apostles were also young when they were called to the APOSTLESHIP. Yes leadership in the Church should be given to leaders in their 30’s for God has been doing it this way.

    • Actually, I recall a number of 30s in the Bible, at least if memory serves:

      -Joseph was 30 when he became the ruler in Egypt.
      -David was 30 when he became the consolidated king of Israel

      It seems that many times God has used young, energetic, and vivacious young people for His purposes. It is also interesting to see especially in David’s case how he also surrounded himself with wise and experienced counselors, and he was generally willing to listen to them.

  12. Terry Lopez


    I love these verses.

    Numbers 8:24-25 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer.”

    Now that I am fast approaching 50 (only 1 more year), I realize that the work of God should be led by other men and not by me. I need to pray and encourage them and give gentle and graceful advice and leave it to them to decide and support fully their decisions.

  13. Terry Lopez

    I am realizing just how much of a ‘old wineskins I am’. I really like the way things were done, but I realized I really was hindering God’s work and not helping it. I don’t speak to this generation, I don’t understand them, and they don’t understand me. They need the Gospel in their ‘language’ and understanding and not in mine. I’m supposed to serve them, not myself and my comfort zone.

  14. Terry Lopez

    This generation is soooo much smarter than me. I really learn a lot from them. They really force me to be honest and humble.

  15. Love it Dr. Toh. Has the UBF leadership been open to this form of meta-discussion on communication?

  16. It’s great to hear from you again, Gerardo! Trust you are doing well in a new city and a new position. My son loves discussions with you, which I am sure he will miss since you have moved on.

    To answer your question, “Has the UBF leadership been open to this form of meta-discussion on communication?”: I think it is simply hard for Easterners to feel that they are being dissected, diced and disrobed. I guess I am just speaking and communicating like a Westerner (even if I am from the East!).

    • In others words, no. The ubf leadership has not been open to any form of discussion on communication, and hardly open to discussion on any other topic either.

    • For what I have seen and experienced God is working in UBF. Best thing to do is pray for them, like Jesus did. Through LDW and SBC I saw the unity between young and old, female and male, Korean and Americans. I pray for that unity. Pray that our hearts maybe new wineskins. Only God can change them.

    • Hi Romans12 and welcome.

      Why do you say God is working in ubf? What evidence do you have? How can anyone tell if God is working in any particular group?

      My prayer for ubf remains the same as always 1) admit abuse and 2) release the bonds.

      I think only by repenting in those two ways could ubf find unity with the one holy catholic apostolic church, the body of Christ.

    • It seems the prophets in old testimony times and John the baptist did something seriously wrong. Instead of just praying like Jesus did, because only God can change people, they decried grievances loudly and publicly. How stupid and unspiritual and un-Jesus-like of them. Surely Jesus must have had a mental blackout when in Mt 23 he ranted against the Pharisees or drove out the money changers from the temple instead of just praying for them because only God can change people. If only Jesus had read Romans 12! Oh, all these stupid prophets! Luckily, there were no stupid prophets in modern times. But alas, there were stupid people like Martin Luther. If only Luther had been silent and just prayed for the pope to stop the selling of indulgences, since only God could change the pope. Let’s forget that without Luther history would have been different and there would be probably no UBF and no UBFriends. What about Samuel Lee and all the UBF directors? They should just be silent and pray for students and coworkers, instead of giving them orientation, training and rebuke. Right, Roman12? Just a little stupid mistake of them, right? Let’s pray for them. Because only God can change people. And why should anyone have discussions when we can just pray instead and only God can change people anyway, not our arguments?

      Let’s instead wallow in our wonderful harmony and unity, after all the dissenting UBF members have been kicked out or left om frustration, all those who wanted to change something instead of just praying. Who needs troublemakers anyway? Who needs repentance? We can have harmony without repentance, right? Who needs accountability when we can just pray? Everything is so easy.

      Just wondering about one thing, Romans12: Is 1Cor5 a fabrication? Could the same Paul who wrote Romans12 write such hard things as “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”” Cannot be. Why didn’t Paul just pray for the wicked person, and wait that God changes that wicked person?

      What about church leaders who ordered abortions and misappropriated offering moneys, Roman12? Should they be challenged or not? Was it right of the reformers of 2001 to challenge these things? If it was right, why haven’t they been rehabilitated for doing so and have all been expelled from UBF instead? Can you tell me, Romans12? Ah yes, the “reformers” should have just prayed. Like Luther. I forgot, silly me. Big mistake of them to not just pray. Had they been silent, and just prayed, they would not have been kicked out and they could also enjoy the wonderful harmony and unity.

    • “How can anyone tell if God is working in any particular group?”

      Or, are there any religious groups or churches where God is not working at all? And, if God is working in a group, does this mean that the core teachings and practices of the group are automatically ok and should not be challenged? Does it mean that the leaders of the group are exempt from criticism? Does it mean that the past abuses of the group should not be mentioned and processed? Does it mean that the group does not need to repent for their sins of the past?

    • Dear Chris,

      There is a lot to say and I am not here to argue, but to encourage. It seems to me that there’s a lot of past hurts, you describe it quit vividly. Forgiveness is required. I don’t know if they are rectified. I’m not to justify what they did, but most people do things because they think is right, they are blinded by sin. And, only God can open their eyes, so that is why I say pray. Praying is powerful and effective. It is only by God’s grace and mercy we can change. God changed Apostle Paul. We see in the mist of persecution the disciples prayed. Paul was blind. Jesus prayed for His disciples. They were blind to see what Jesus was talking about and I see how deprived we are before God because of our sins and prideful minds. Pray for God to open people’s hearts to see the truth. Many Christians do things Truth is, many times as humans we look at others sins and it magnifies the problem, but it’s hard to see a solution. We are no better! We can try to do everything humanely speaking, but without God’s helps it’s nothing. We are only human, but know this, God allowed it and He is working!

      Jesus didn’t exchange hate for hate, but love! Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”. I love this quote, it reminds me of my sins and how Jesus has forgiven me. He foragve you and me. But also reminds me of praying for others. We need to forgive others. It shows they were blinded by depraved by sin. Jesus forgave God works through the Gospel, it doesn’t change the fact that people stop sinning and doing wrong things. God says our works are as filthy rags. Even the good intention of person doing good to someone, which how I see these leaders you talk about. We are no better!

      God works through us sinners. God worked in the Gospel, not the Catholic Church. God allowed things to happen, but we see that humanely , without depending on the Holy Spirit, it’s all works of the flesh. Same with Luther. But God let it happen, and accomplish His will through it. Many times it lead people to Jesus. Yes, people need to repent. Yes, they need to change. I agree. But, remember this we can’t change the people, but God can! Because we are sinners, all of us, I say we need Jesus. We can only change ourselves. God worked in me to forgive others constantly. It taught me to depend on Him. Hope this helps, it not to cause friction or to be critical of another, but mutual love and encourage for my brothers and sisters in Christ! May the peace of God rule over your heart with grace and forgiveness!

    • Dear Brian,

      Thank you for your warm and welcoming post! God works individually and collectively. I guess I was looking at it individually. We are all edifying each other in the body of Christ. Evidence of change as we think we see doesn’t always mean it doesn’t. God works in all situations in edifying us. That’s what I know. Trust God will work in them in His time.

    • Romans12, I clicked “dislike” on your response to Chris because your response infuritates me to high heaven. Perhaps Chris has mellowed out in old age :) but I haven’t mellowed out yet.

      However since you are a new commenter, I’ll cut you some slack and hold off on the fire-breathing dragon approach :)

      We ultimately just want people to see the need for the ministry of reconciliation and begin working on that. There are some things beyond our control that only God can do, but the gospel mandate in the Holy Scriptures is the ministry of reconciliation. *We* have to do that because God already reconcilied us through the cross.

      And when I say *we* I mean you and me. I mean former members and current members.

  17. Darren Gruett

    Ben, I am so glad you posted this. A few years ago, at one of the Friday prayer meetings at the church, we heard a lecture on this and these same graphics were used. I believe it was by Dr. Marvin Newell from Cross Global Link, but don’t quote me on it. I found it intriguing. Both me and my came to realize why we had bumped heads so many times with our shepherd. To this day, I still keep this in the back of my mind when communicating with “Easterners.”

  18. With the recent fire that has reignited this page I will say a couple of things:

    I appreciate that love and prayer is important, because it is…but in the same breath, no lip service please. If you read, listen, hear and in any way become aware of your sin, please repent. Yes, that means coming to God half way (50%) with a willingness to not only recognize sin, but also to change it. This is why Chris’ sarcasm and angst in the recent comment are so appropriate – because behaviour seems to keep plodding along.

    The other demand, request or just simple idea that I have is this:
    Leaders, Elders, The CEO and Board of Directors, Share holders……listen carefully. You know that online news bulletin? I think it would be a good idea if sometime it became normal practice to announce anyone who leaves. I say this not to cause more hurt to those people – but I do so to acknowledge the five W’s and the importance of every last one.

  19. Romans12,

    I would agree that God works both at the individual and the collective level. My prayer is that someone with enough courage will take an honest look at the collective level in regard to ubf. Perhaps that is beyond you, but individuals will need to accept the cult lables until someone does take that collective level look.

    I don’t quite understand your idea that “We are all edifying each other in the body of Christ.” Do you leave room for other work, such as reconciliation, accountability, repentance and justice? Those would be different from edification in my mind. We should edify yes, but would you agree that the ubf context desperately needs reconciliation?

    I agree 100% with Chris’ sentiment above. What else can we former members do? Whenever we former leaders hear the words you expressed, we former members tend to go ballistic.

    I hope you can take the time to answer Chris honestly. Your response above sounds like you are dictating your reality to him. Your response to Chris infuriates me, so I won’t react to it right now.

    But I will shine some light on your first comment:

    “Through LDW and SBC I saw the unity between young and old, female and male, Korean and Americans.”

    How does this internal unity promote reconciliation with former members? How does this interanl untiy help connect ubf with other Christians?

    “I pray for that unity.”

    Why don’t you pray for reconciliation? Can you see how dangerous the ubf systme is because it causes so much division and separating of ways? Aren’t you actually praying for uniformity and internal consistency (i.e. “chee”) rather than Christian unity found in addressing the messy ugly human issues?

    “Pray that our hearts maybe new wineskins.”

    I will not pray this. I only pray 1) admit abuse and 2) release the bonds.

    “Only God can change them.”

    So what do we do as former members? What can you do to promote change if you are a ubf member?

  20. I may be mis-speaking or misrepresenting some UBF leaders here. But my sense from some leaders is (sadly) simply and purely this: Why don’t you who left UBF leave UBF alone? What’s wrong with YOU??

    In my opinion, it is just so hard for some UBFers to seriously understand that UBF has caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-like symptoms in those who were hurt by UBF.

    In my opinion again, I think that some older UBFers are simply not able to either process this or to take any deep or serious personal responsibility for this.

    They feel stabbed in their innermost core, because in their own mindset and framework, they have mainly suffered and sacrificed endlessly for sheep.

    Again, I apologize if I may be misrepresenting some UBFers.

  21. Ben, you are representing some ubf leaders correctly. I have received emails in the past asking the same thing “Why don’t you move on and leave ubf alone?”

    If ubf thinks I will leave them alone, they should think twice. Former members of cults notice that it takes about 1 year for every year spent in the cult to recover. My recovery journey is only 2 years now… so I have 22 more years to go.

    And yes, Lord willing, I will be a vocal, blogging critic of ubf for 22 more years. I’m working on another blog by the way and hope to release it later this year. I’m glad bigbear is writing his book as well.

    Why won’t I leave ubf alone? Well becuase ubf became my life for ALL OF MY ADULT FORMATIVE YEARS. My conscience was cut out, so that is why I often react in ways that most won’t. If my conscience was fully grown back, I would be using more tact. But now because I have little conscience, I can call out the f’n bullsh*t with no problem (actually I have some conscience now because I just bleeped out the full swear words… :)

    ….. and I just love Joe’s answer to this a few months ago!

    “Brian, I think your responses above are gracious and wise.

    For 24 years, ubf was not merely your church. It was the dominant influence in your life. It affected all your relationships, how you ordered your time each day and each night, all your decisions large and small. It formed your self image, your identity. You literally gave more than half of your life to ubf.

    For all of your adult life, you were told by missionaries to give your whole heart and mind and soul and strength to serving God through ubf. And you obeyed them.

    Even if you ought to simply walk away and concern yourself with other things (not saying that you should; it’s only hypothetical), that would be impossible.

    To use a graphic analogy: Suppose I took a sword in my hand and removed half of your body. I cut off one of your arms, one of your legs, one of your ears, gouged out one of your eyes, took one of your kidneys and one of your lungs. And then I did the same to your wife. And then I took away two of your children. And then I say to you, “Brian, I would really be healthiest for you to just get over this as quickly as possible and move on to other things.”

  22. With the responses like that I’m appalled!!! Sarcasm is way out of hand. You lost my respect to write any further. To personally attack someone like that because you disagree is ridiculous. You can say whatever you want, but doesn’t justify the means. There is a thick cloud of sarcasm, bashing, and personal attacking that is clearly hatred. Hatred for UBF and anyone who see good about UBF. Hatred feeds on the pride and self-righteous. And hatred is the same as murder! It doesn’t matter what I say, you keep feeding your pride and self-righteousness. In the end, it doesn’t do any good, it hurts you and others in the process. How do I know, because I’ve been there, I gave it all up to God. Peace be with you!

    • Hey Romans12, who is being personally attacked? Do you feel attacked by my comments or Chris’ or others? Maybe you could help me and our readers here to understand where you are coming from? What is so appalling?

    • Romans 12, I hear sarcasm, but I really don’t understand how you perceive all of this as a personal attack generated by hatred. There is a difference between using strong language or graphic analogy to try to reveal a painful truth and using it to tear down in hatred. Your comments reveal that you choose to ignore the points being made and to use the deceptive tactic of “killing the messenger”. To me it looks like you are the one who has turned to personal attack.

    • Mark Mederich


      WOE TO YOU PHARISEES..! (Jesus)


      the Trinity speaks the Truth that sets us free: Hallelujah!

    • “You lost my respect to write any further. To personally attack someone like that…”

      Romans12, in your above two sentences you didn’t tell us: Who is “You” in the first sentence? Who is “someone” in the second sentence? What is “that” in “like that”?

      All of this is totally unclear to me, because I cannot find anybody who has been personally attacked in this thread.

      The only attacks were against Samuel Lee and other UBF directors, but for very specific and legitimate reasons like ordering abortion. By the way, I know that many fundamental Christians consider abortion murder. To me it’s extremely irritating that UBF defenders seem to believe its is such a minor issue that it’s not even worth discussing. On the other hand, UBF defenders like you, Romans12, equate the act of adressing and discussing serious issues in UBF with “murder”. What a strange and distorted is this? Please, come out of this world. Get your logic straight. Leave this confused mindset. The title of this thread “communication confusion” seems appropriate. Though, actually, what’s happening here is not even communcation.

    • “Getting rid of the messenger may also be a tactical move; but the danger is that an ethos of non-disclosure may follow any hostile response to negative feedback. ‘People learn very quickly where this is the case, and will studiously avoid giving any negative feedback; thus the “Emperor” continues with the self-delusion….obviously this is not a recipe for success.'[9] Barbara Ehrenreich in Bright-sided/Smile or Die argued that a culture of “thinking positive” so as to ‘purge “negative people” from the ranks…[fed into] the bubble-itis ‘[10] of the 2000s.”
      Wikipedia – “killing the messenger”

    • “People learn very quickly where this is the case, and will studiously avoid giving any negative feedback;”

      And it’s really astounding how quickly this happens. Actually, feedback was requested very rarely in UBF, but I remember two occasions. On one occasion, our coworkers were asked how they liked the new year’s message of our national director at that time. One naughty German coworker made a remark about the bad German pronunciation of the director. That coworker was immediately rebuked and insulted heavily for being so unspritual to only pay intention to the bad pronunciation instead of the “gracious” message. (We had only one coworker of that kind, and he was always on the edge of being kicked out.) On another occasion, feedback was requested after a conference. One “sheep” who did not yet know about the convention of non-disclore of negative feedback in UBF frankly revealed her opinion that listening to the many similar sogams shared in the Bible study meetings had been boring. She was rebuked heavily by the director. I don’t remember that she or anyone else made a similar remark ever again. These are the kind of mechanisms which are at work in groups like UBF.

  23. Hey! Now I am offended. The recent comments are sarcastic but restrained in anger (believe it or not). We cannot only speak while wearing rose coloured glasses.

    I am still in UBF. Also, I recently enjoyed the time of a missionary family who was happy that I could discuss and also listen to the not so nice side of the ministry. Neither one of us crossed the line of hatred, but we were not about to sugar coat the reality either. We did not redirect the conversation in dismissal or disapproval.

    There can be a variety of articles on ubfriends. There can also be a variety of comments. But beware that online communities talk about everything. Negativity generally catches our eyes more naturally, BUT… religious communities a lot of abuse is done in the name of God. Besides that what kind of reaction are you expecting from people who spent years inside UBF? UBF is not a Thursday night support group. It is an overbearing lifestyle that tries to define spirituality – separating sacred and profane in misguided notions.

  24. Joe Schafer

    Dear Romans12,

    I will respond to your comments above without any sarcasm or mocking. I will tell you exactly what I see in a clear and straightforward manner.

    1. You came to this website anonymously in order to give advice to Chris, Brian and others. You conveyed your advice in pious-sounding spiritual language. Your advice was, in a nutshell, that those who are being critical of UBF practices should stop being critical, just forgive, just pray, and just focus on changing themselves rather than changing others.

    2. Your attitude and words are offensive to people here. They are offensive because, for decades, words like yours have been used by UBF leaders to deflect concerns and criticisms about the ministry that are very legitimate.

    3. Some who were offended by your advice responded to you in kind. Rather than taking the time to reflect upon how and why YOU offended people, you chose to believe that YOU were the one being treated badly. In protest, YOU left the discussion that YOU started with a pious-sounding “Peace be with you”, even though you have no intention of engaging in the difficult and painful work of listening and dialoguing that can actually help to bring peace. This is a tactic that I know well, because I used it on my poor wife and children and people in my ministry many times over the years. It is a form of passive aggression.

    In my opinion, your behavior is immature. I think you need to grow up.

    • Joe Schafer

      One more piece of advice for Romans12. Before trying to give advice to Brian, Chris, and others — before trying to “shepherd” them in any way – you need to earn the right to be heard by them. That right is earned by hearing them first. By building a genuine relationship with them, by listening to them carefully for a good long time to understand what they have experienced and explicitly validate their experiences. You did none of that. In the future, before trying to give advice to anyone, please be aware of these elementary relational dynamics.

  25. Dear Romans 12 and everyone out there who believes that there way is only right and to hell with all other people…don’t forget that Jesus is the way…nobody is trying to bash UBF on this website or expressing anger…we are expressing our deep concerns as Christians…yes UBF has some abusive practices towards families and in the whole system on how it conducts raising disciples…I was a shepherd, director for 29 years in various roles…UBF needs reform and needs to come in line with the modern church where families and people are valued and are not used to build numbers or neglect families and relatives in the pretense of raising disciples…Romans 12 I once thought like you and used my bible knowledge to crush others and to try to justify UBF…it is a mistake…after a divorce and the loss of my family I had to come to terms with the truth that UBF has some twisted theology in its ministry and it has its system is not right…the biggest thing I saw is the neglect of children, relatives and all people who don’t belong to the system as evil and unspiritual…this is farthest from the truth…we are to love and show mercy and embrace all people….I am writing a book to bring the truth to light and to promote healing…God has turned my life around since I left UBF and He has showed me my sin and the sin of UBF as well…many on this site are still in UBF and are promoting change to stop the abuses…Brian, Ben, and so many others…I agree with Joe..I practiced the same lack of listening and concern for others including my own children…I am now open for real dialogue not one sided religion,,,,,etc

    • I see…Thank you Big bear for your response, it had help a lot in clearing up some misunderstanding.

      To Those I have offend, especially Chris, I am deeply sorry… it was in no way to disregard those who have been emotionally, spiritually, even physically and financially, abused by UBF…I give no excuse to what UBF has done to families and those personally affected by the pain and heartache it has caused. My heart goes out to you. I hope you may accept my apology, for the misunderstanding on my part.

  26. Thank you Romans12. I hope you will honestly join the discussion. When you start trying to understand, you’re always welcome. Like Big bear, Brian and many others, I have also sacrificed many years and heartblood for the sake of UBF. We all understand very well where you’re coming from, since we have been there, too. We would be the first to defend UBF if we had not deeply recognized and understood that something seriously and fundamentally wrong was going on.

  27. Joe Schafer

    Romans12, I respect your humility and willingness to listen to comments that were critical of you. I’m sorry for the harshness of my comments last week. I appreciate your willingness to come here and participate in this difficult and painful dialogue. God be with you.

  28. Thanks Romans12: “it was in no way to disregard those who have been emotionally, spiritually, even physically and financially, abused by UBF…I give no excuse to what UBF has done to families and those personally affected by the pain and heartache it has caused.” – See more at:

    Romans 12, if you have any influence or voice at all in the inner circles of UBF, please do seriously convey the above statements of yours to them. My sentiment is that for some older missionaries and long standing insiders and seniors, it is simply too hard and painful for them to hear the above TRUTH clearly articulated.

    So in my opinion I feel that they either simply reject it and deny it, or they do not take it to heart, or brush it off very quickly (to not let it sink in), or they just move on quickly to some other business. Then even if they might accept some responsibility, they still have not or have refused to address this publicly and clearly.

    A refusal to face the facts, and a refusal to address clearly articulated problems and issues is a sure sign of the demise of any church, organization or institution.

    So Romans12, whoever you are, I place this on you to speak up more and more in your sphere of influence.

    Thanks for participating in our flawed and messy community!

    • Thank you Ben Toh! Yes, I am currently in UBF. I will not say which chapter yet, but maybe in the future. I understand both sides of the story and wish to understand more, and in hope I see a lot of dictatorship in UBF, it sadden me of how much people are conditioned in a way that dehumanizes people. The info that is on the websites, it is good give in hope that UBF may change. In my chapter, alone I have personally seen Korean bible teachers being more considerate of their past mistakes and have been open about, some not so much. It is without a doubt a struggle. It is hard to come to terms, some people are conditioned in a sense that they don’t realize it yet. My hope in due time they learn and change their ways. I attended LDW, and I see people working (young and old, female and male, Korean and American) together to better UBF and admitting their mistakes within the ministry. To me, that is a starting of change in UBF, slowly but surely.