Focus on the Less Honored

themWhen the church becomes ugly. I often read a short daily commentary by Henri Nouwen. I find him insightful and inclusive, refreshing and renewing. An excerpt from today says, “When the Church is no longer a church for the poor, it loses its spiritual identity. It gets caught up in disagreements, jealousy, power games, and pettiness.” It quotes 1 Cor 12:24-25: “God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

White boy sheep and HNWs. This reflection exposed my perspective and practice of Christian life. For two decades I was only interested in reaching, evangelizing and discipling young Caucasian Americans. The so-called “presentable parts” (1 Cor 12:24a) were the white boy sheep and HNWs (holy nation women or white women), terminology I no longer use. Thus, I ignored or despised anyone who is not white. They were “the parts that we think are less honorable” and “the parts that are unpresentable” (1 Cor 12:23). The most offensive term I ever coined (for which I am ashamed and speechless) is “paddies”–my short form for anyone who is not white. Their singular purpose as far as I was concerned was to “pad the number for our Sun church attendants”–“paddies.” To think that I never ever considered this offensive or racist for the longest time still daunts me. Even now I quiver with personal nauseating disgust and trepidation as I type this.

Exemplary. When I thought in such discriminatory ways I clearly was not a church for the less honorable, the unpresentable (1 Cor 12:23-24), the poor, the marginalized, the less fortunate, the ignored, the hurt, the wounded, the broken. I was only interested in young whites–the so-called “leadership material”–because they would make me, the fellowship leader, look good to the church. Since my fellowship had the most young white college kids for a couple of decades I became a sort of poster boy and was a so-called “exemplary shepherd” of an “exemplary fellowship.”

treatyouSick caricature. My justification was that I wanted to raise future white young UBF leaders. The sad result of such a mentality is the caricature of other souls who were not white. Once I heard it said that one who is not white is worth one tenth of a white person. A few weeks ago I heard someone in the church being referred to as “a mental patient,” though she is a lovely young girl who was sadly physically abused as a child. A girl who is not white shared how some would move away from her after church, because they did not want to pray with her two by two. Such painful sentiments clouded my own perspective of people to the extent that I even ignored my own family. (Well, it is because they are not a white boy sheep or a HNW!)

Happy. Today, only by God’s mercy and grace, I am genuinely happy to meet anyone. I was happy to meet my Jewish patient. I am so happy to meet any non-Christian with no agenda other than to be friends. I do not wish to be an elitist church. As our West Loop UBF Church catchphrase says, we want to live out the gospel in life and community with no discrimination. Rather, we pray to especially welcome the less honorable and the unpresentable (1 Cor 12:23-24).

What has your experience been with welcoming the less honorable and the unpresentable?


  1. Mark Mederich

    someone invented the ideas so they/we have to ‘pony up’ & take responsibility inividually/collectively for influences, resultant developments: granted the body of Christ isn’t perfect but neither can we be entitled..we are forgiven but not exempt..

  2. So Ben, you have been in the general Chicago area. I have two things to ask our elders and patriarchs:

    1) If white students are the best, why was UBF headquarters in Chicago?

    Chicago has an enormous black community which can boast many generations of good American citizens who also need the gospel. Moreover, after being in Korea for a while, don’t make the blatant racism and envy corrupt the whole body – sorry I think I am too late – just look at the demographics for UBF international….hmmm……Korean.

    2) Chicago is historically one of America’s largest cosmopolitan cities. If white people were to be the exclusive focus y’all better go somewhere else…where they don’t like colour. But I guess that they would not have liked many Asians running around teaching THEM the Bible. Open your eyes when you are in Canada, USA, UK or Australia to name a few. The major English speaking countries have many ethnicities that in some cases have been there for several generations.

    Ben, once again thanks for the article. It is another important concern in addressing the difference between valued sheep and those sheep who help the numbers look good.

  3. gc, The UBF HQ is in the US because the US is the “center” of the world, and Chicago is geographically the center of the U.S.

    Though there was emphasis on fishing whites for a time, the actual reality is that those who came to UBF reflected more the racial mix and diversity of the city of Chicago.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes. And the “actual reality” is that, after all those decades of aggressive evangelizing, shepherding and discipling, the ministry is still run by old Korean people and a tiny handful of nonKoreans who acclimated themselves to the Korean culture. Despite all that effort to catch the elusive white boy sheep and HNWs, North American ubf is still a Korean church.

  4. Ben, it’s noble of you to blame yourself for the reprehensible mentality that you described. However, in my understanding, that mentality has been instilled into UBF people by Samuel Lee. You have been very close to him, and he was extremely manipulative, so for me it’s no wonder that you became somewhat similar and digested that mindset deeper than others who were more remote from Samuel Lee.

    And gc, in my opinion Samuel Lee was a “power monger in the church” as described in the book by Edin Lovas. He was interested in power and attracted by power. That explains his obsession with the US. Normal missionaries go to poor, powerless countries. But Samuel Lee went to the most powerful country. And of course, he did not go to Mississippi where Sarah Barry was coming from, but to the powerful city of Chicago (I think it is or was economically the most powerful city in the US, right?). To me it seems Samuel Lee was attracted by power and money.

    And yes, he also liked honor, that’s why he focused on the PhD members like you and Joe, and not on the less honored, and spared no cost and effort to get a PhD himseld to be called “Missionary Dr. Samuel Lee”. Of course his title had not real scientific value, actually it was a title bought from a degree mill. You all know it. He called UBF the largest movement of its kind, neglecting the existence of the ICC and other groups which were 100 times larger. It was all about honor and power and magnitude, and when he could not make it, he started to fake it. Just remember the faked photos of the SBC audience hall.

    Let’s really be honest here. It was our fault to adopt and follow that silly and unbiblical mindset. But the origins of this mindset were deeply rooted in UBF and its founder, from the very beginnings.

  5. @Joe,

    I think it is fair to say that after 2-3 decades of so-called raising white leaders for the US or any indigenous leader in any other country has basically “not worked,” or “outright failed.” The reasons are quite plainly obvious why. If UBF leadership does not want to clearly address why, then it will continue to be so.


    The “biblical” reason given for choosing Chicago was Paul who chose to go to Rome, since all roads lead to Rome, with Chicago being the modern day Rome, as the strategy for evangelizing the world.

    • “The “biblical” reason given for choosing Chicago was Paul who chose to go to Rome, since all roads lead to Rome”

      With the difference that 1) contrary to the Roman empire, the US was already evangelized, and 2) Samuel Lee was not Apostle Paul.

      Maybe that was part of his reasoning, but it does not contradict what I wrote about his love of power. Power mongers are often also megalomaniac. Samuel Lee’s world view was that every person needs a personal shepherd who would train him forever and who needs to be given credit to. Except for himself. He never accepted a shepherd above himself, and never gave credit to anybody for his own spiritual growth. He was a presumptuous person, believing to be like both Moses and Paul. The sad thing is that nobody saw it and corrected him and showed him his limits; instead they obeyed him as if he really was Moses.

    • “The “biblical” reason given for choosing Chicago was Paul who chose to go to Rome, since all roads lead to Rome, with Chicago being the modern day Rome, as the strategy for evangelizing the world.”

      By the way, Ben, even if Samuel Lee assumed he was like Apostle Paul (which was presumptuous to assume) – that reasoning does not hold. As we all know, Paul did not go to Rome to settle there and become the “general director” of a self-founded organization that should conquer the world from that strategic place. It was really very different. Paul was always on the move. He always entrusted the churches he founded to the local Christians, and never stayed for many years. To the Christians in Rome he wrote “I will go to Spain and visit you on the way.” Please note the words “visit” and “on the way”! It is not true that he chose Rome as some kind of mission headquarters. It’s good that you put “biblical” in quotes. There was no biblical reason for Samuel Lee to go to Chicago. It was just his human ambition.

    • One thing is very true and important from all of our observations is the misplaced symbolism in decisions made, thinking they are actually spiritual decisions.

      I am aware that Ben stated Chicago (USA) as the center of the world and made no comment about what I was actually saying. It is an important answer in itself. Samuel Lee was not really interested in USA as it was and is…he already had an image in mind.

      One must keep in mind the literary sentiment that “…all roads lead to Rome…” In this, Paul’s journey to Rome is symbolic indeed, but most importantly we were left with the book of Romans.

      Misunderstanding of the Bible is one thing, but what we are discussing now is a blatant choice to symbolize all of one’s decions and moves according to how that person perceives their life, the Bible (in application) and a romantic ideal of what it means to be a shepherd.

      In fact we have said before how dangerous it is to insert ourselves as one of the biblical heroes. So, where exactly is Jesus in all of this twisted pattern?

  6. Thanks guys, actually, I know why they picked the USA – because it is indeed as Ben replied. Also, of course SL chose USA because from there he had ample opportunity for such abuse and power – I mean the 70/80s was a great time for immigrants to go to the USA and propose their religion to people. I am happy to that Ben gets feedback this time around.

  7. Ben Toh…You are right on…I pray that UBf leadership may wake up like you have and many of us…I was forced to wake up…when I was in Cinti Ubf the chapter director always rebuked me for teaching street people for years….Often I was treated as a second class shepherd…..I KNEW THE attitude was not biblical…this elitism destroys families…..Ubf needs to focus on families and the poor……They are trying to make their own way……..I AM EXCITED TO FINISH MY BOOK…..I am crossing the jordan

  8. Thanks Ben, for reminding us of a dark part of our past which I remember well (though I guess not all of us experienced this to the same extent)

  9. Ben, I am glad for you being happy after realizing and getting rid of some of ubf heritage. But I wander how you can be happy when some people around you in ubf still live in the same heritage while others continue to teach it to them? How do you fill when you see new faces of newcomers?

  10. Great question, AndreyP!: “how you can be happy when some people around you in ubf still live in the same heritage while others continue to teach it to them?” – See more at:

    Almost everything that I am not happy about (because I believe they contradict the Bible), I articulate clearly in private face to face conversations, in emails, and on this blog.

    My primary danger and fear (since I am clearly also a sinner!) is that I do not express my thoughts and objections with the spirit of deadly self-righteousness, and that I express them with sufficient grace and graciousness (very hard to do!) and with the hope of promoting and spurring ongoing dialogue and meaningful conversation by the work of the Holy Spirit.

    After doing the above, what else can or should I do? I am all ears. Some have expressed to me that I have said enough (and made many people upset) and that I should therefore just stop and shut up! I do consider this from time to time.

  11. Ben, I do appreciate your honest answer. I would like to tell you what I see from outside perspective. You are still under the influence of ubf heritage. The ultimate fear of a Christian should be the fear of God expressed in the love for him, his children and his truth. And not in the fear of any particular sin. Ubf implanted in you the fear of “deadly self-righteousness” what in fact is the fear of your deep inability to question it’s teachings and it’s leaders. This fear is designed to conflict with the fear of God in one’s heart. And one of these two fears will surrender to another sooner or later.

    Leaving is not my point but growing. I am confident that it is impossible to be free from ubf heritage and be ubf member at the same time. It sounds too black-and-white but there is no example known till know. What I do know is how much grace, time and effort is needed to reconstruct one’s spiritual and psychological life after leaving ubf. Ubf antibodies kills the growth of this kind.

  12. Ben, one more thought. What does it mean “it was said enough”? If a ship is sinking you either shout and help the team to save it or get silen, sit down and sinks with it. The option for the second alternative is to convince yourself that sinking is a new speeding alone the waves.

    Let me repeat my favorite quote on this theme “No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.”

  13. Maybe I have an odd sense of humor, but this is a funny and cute comment from a Facebook friend: “Thank you for your Halloween present Dr. Ben. White boy sheep and HNWs sounds like Hitller’s favorite dream. A dream from the PIT of HELL!!!!!”

  14. Thanks AndreyP: “Ubf implanted in you the fear of “deadly self-righteousness” what in fact is the fear of your deep inability to question it’s teachings and it’s leaders. This fear is designed to conflict with the fear of God in one’s heart. And one of these two fears will surrender to another sooner or later.” – See more at:

    To some traditional older UBFers, I have no fear of God and that I am self-righteous. Also, as I address the issues of UBF, I find in myself the strong urge to blame, accuse and condemn, rather than to love, comprehend and understand. To some of them, I have already said enough, or more than enough, and should simply just SHUT UP (and leave it to them to take care of it!).

    So, no, UBF did not plant in me the fear of deadly self-righteousness. It was actually a very good advice from a UBF friend who also has similar issues about UBF that I have. In fact, UBF did the opposite: for decades it planted in me the fear of man (UBF leaders), which I eventually found that it greatly dishonors and insults God (Prov 29:25) who is above the head of every man!

  15. First of all Ben, for our ubfer readers, we need to point out that other definition of “HNW”. HNW stood for Holy Nation Women, and was invented by Samuel Lee, if I remember correctly. I remember his announcements once where he said there was another meaning: High Nosed Women. He said that American women were “high-nosed” (i.e. proud and arrogant and non-submissive) and needed ubf training to become “true HNW” women. After ubf training, he hoped to raise some number of Holy Nation Women. I think this merged into the “10,000 house churches” or the “10,000 PhD shepherds/esses” prayer topics.

    But in regard to your article, I find that it is easy to focus on the less honored. I have little problem loving the broken, the misfits, the rejected and the forsaken among us.

    What is difficult for me is to love Christians. How do I love those who condemn me to hell? How do I love those who insist we must submit to the Law as our supervisor? How can I love those who hold the world up to their tiny litmus tests of salvation and throw bible verses like daggers?

  16. Oh and for all you “white boy” shepherds out there, I just have one thing to say…. welcome to Detroit.

  17. Ben,

    It is very easy to stop ubf member mouth just by questioning his level of love and humbleness. Non of us was taught to deal with heresy and leaders sins in a proper way. But we were feed up with a lot of Confucian stuff like keeping spiritual order, etc. Therefore we may miss some situations when the best expression of God’s love is rebuking. Again if the ship is sinking and the crew is sleeping the constant loud voice is needed but not the respect to the captain and understanding of why he sleeps on the captain`s bridge.

    I did not meant that UBF plants the fear of inability to criticize it through direct way or some kind of torture. It is done indirectly for years. And even you respect your friend who gave you that advice, he also is a long term ubf member. He too was a subject of the same propaganda for years. He has the same kind of induced fears as any other long term member. Please consider discussing this issue with non ubf friends/counselors. It may give you another perspective.

    You wrote that “some traditional older UBFers” thinks you have no fear of God. I think it is not all they think about you and projects their views to the rest of members. This people are the leaders of ubf, who determines its policies, directions, etc. So you and any other critics live in a strong constant conflict. The whole group lead by traditional UBFers tries to impose its views on you. And we know what is this view – too proud, too lazy or even “mental patient”. This conflict is very hard – still we are social beings, we need to be respected, understood, etc. Just to sustain our own position in this conflict needs a lot of energy. But the conflict is not stable state (since its consumes energy and not gives it back). It is not the best place for growth and definitely not the place for being happy. To lower the pressure of the group either one will start to tolerate the group more and more or will leave it. The third option is the group change, but in the case of UBF I have no signs to consider this option for the next 10+ years.

    I think when it was said enough and the group did not change to the extent your conscience considers enough it is time to leave for two reasons. First, to avoid starting tolerating the group. I saw sad examples in Moscow UBF. Second, to use your time and energy for your growth and developing something new in the other place were major part of it will not be consumed by sustaining the conflict.

  18. I am posting a brief comment on my struggle with this unbiblical idea as I believe it requires a personal story. I’ll share my experience of being on the other side. Unlike the rest of you who have commented, I was not a “white American” or “native” or other favored status individual. I was a “yellow dot” on the Christmas registration chart. Everytime I passed that chart, it was a reminder that I was considered of less value than the others on that chart. There are so many other countless examples than the different colored dots on the registration chart and the counting of each type of color as a way of measuring success, of the discrimination that occurred and the deep times of struggle I went through. James ” 2 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” I am sorry but need to say this, so that those of you ( some who have commented above) who silently tolerated this practice, whether you believed it or not, and some who even benefitted from it because you were privileged to be born as white Americans ( and never experienced any kind of discrimination anywhere) , know how the other side felt. Thank Jesus who loves us ALL!!!

    • Thanks, anon123. Maybe someone can elaborate what the different colored dots meant, as this was not practiced in most UBF chapters outside Chicago as far as I know. Anyway, it confirms my opinion that all the evil practices were brought into UBF by Samuel Lee.

    • Hi anon123, and thanks for sharing how the “other side felt”. Would you explain more? I think stories like yours need to be heard publicly.

      Like Chris, I don’t recall multiple colors of dots. On our charts, we had stars or dots but just one color that I remember. We used to hang both Sunday attendance and one-to-one meeting numbers on big charts (in Toledo) but then we changed to just show the conference registration.

      Your point about discrimination is a valid one. I tracked Sunday numbers for at least 10 years, 52 Sundays every year, and sent the reports to Chicago headquarters… We were required by the directors to track 3 categories of people: (M) for missionaries, (A) for American students and (O) for others. We cared nothing for the “others”. Fellowship leaders like me would feel constant pressure to keep the “A” numbers high. God forbid if you had all “others” in your fellowship… and in ultimate irony, I remember being told to count myself and other older Americans as “others” because we were not “students”.