The Shepherding Movement and UBF (Part 1)

sThere is a book making rounds among many churches by John Bevere called “Under Cover: The Promise of Protection Under His Authority.” It’s been some time since I left UBF, but I certainly do have heart for the many individuals that remain in this ministry, not to mention the many new believers whose first Bible study takes place in UBF. In this series I am simply going to present several short articles going through Allan Clare’s review of the “Shepherding Movement” from the 1970’s and its connection with John Bevere’s 2001 book “Under Cover.”

I hope this will help those who see this series understand some of the structural flaws that lead to spiritual abuse, and other issues in UBF.

In this first installment I will just highlight main points from Allan Clare’s review of the book, in particular the first two chapters. The full review John Bevere called “Under Cover: The Promise of Protection Under His Authority.” is relatively short:  Allan Clare Review (pdf)

I. A Little History: The Shepherding Movement

Anyone who has been in UBF for any time at all should feel there ears tingle when they hear something like “The Shepherding Movement.” It is a movement very similar to what is found in UBF. So similar that I’m amazed I haven’t seen UBF mentioned as a group that continues its practices. Hopefully we can learn from their mistakes. Here is some of the history that Clare provides:

The Shepherding Movement emerged as a nondenominational movement in 1974. Four Charismatic Bible teachers formed the movement, which spread and was taught by thousands all over the country.

The teachings of the Shepherding Movement emphasized: authority, submission, discipleship, commitment to covenant relationships, loyalty, pastoral care, and spiritual covering. One David Moore puts it, “…the need for discipleship through personal care or, as they termed it, ‘shepherding’ care… a believer was to submit to a ‘personal pastor’ [i.e. a shepherd] who would help the individual develop Christian maturity.”

The rise of the Shepherding Movement alarmed many, particularly because it produced stories of abusive authority, hyper-submission, and controlled lives.

The founders realized that their teaching produced problems and cases of spiritual abuse, and they openly repented and asked forgiveness from those harmed. Bob Mumford, one of the founders publically repented saying, “some families were split up and lives turned upside down. Some of these families are still not back together.” They admitted that the movement causes, “an unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders.”

Moore again says the Shepherding Movement, “…created a propensity toward an abuse of spiritual authority, especially among young immature leaders, or leaders who lacked character and integrity… the emphasis on hierarchically oriented submission to God’s delegated authorities led to many cases of improper control and abusive authority throughout the movement.”

II. From Shepherding to “Under Cover”

[Still from Clare’s review]

Bob Mumford, one of the four Shepherding Movement founders, distributed his teachings through issues of New Wine magazine, which focused on the need for practical obedience to God and submission to his delegated authority in all spheres of life.

Despite the near history of the Shepherding Movement and all the issues it caused, in 2001 Thomas Nelson published John Bevere’s “Under Cover” a book which promotes Bevere’s own teaching on authority, submission, discipleship, commitment in covenant relationships, loyalty, pastoral care, and spiritual covering.

The book has spread through Charismatic churches and other church accustomed to top-down, hierarchical models of church leadership [i.e. UBF].

Mary Alice Chrnalogar writes: “…since many leaders in the Shepherding Movement admitted doing wrong, various people who continue to use the same methods have begun to give different labels for the same actions… The errors are covered in many different terms like delegated authority, covering, unquestioned submission, covenant, commitment to a fellowship, etc. Terms change from time to time. Submission may be called ‘commitment,’ ‘covenant relationship’ or ‘divine order’ [or ‘spiritual order’] in church government. Many times terms aren’t used at all; it is the actions that tell you what is going on.”

Although Bevere doesn’t use the term “Shepherding” in the book “Under Cover,” the main focus is obedience to delegated authority [i.e. church leadership].

These are the main points in the first two chapters of Clare’s short essay. Hopefully some interest was sparked about the Shepherding Movement and this book “Under Cover,” and how it relates to the methods practiced in UBF. We can learn much from other people’s mistakes. Sometimes our own errors are most obvious when someone else, like Bevere, promotes near identical teachings in a more direct way. This way we can see them as they are instead of in the hidden / subliminal forms they most often take. What do you think? Does the Shepherding Movement sound similar to church UBF style? Are you already familiar with Bevere’s book? If so, what can you share?


  1. Thanks, Tortilla Chip! Welcome. I look forward to reviews of subsequent chapters of the book.

    I think that to anyone who knows and honestly assesses UBF the answer to your question (Does the Shepherding Movement sound similar to church UBF style?) is quite obvious.

    As a UBF lifer, I know that I came to Christ through UBF. (Some of you might like to say, in spite of UBF.) I know I heard the gospel through UBF Bible study and teachings. I also know genuine and sincere Christians in UBF, even if some of them cling to the so-called UBF heritage unto death. By God’s grace and help, I now want to avoid (and continue to address) the clearly unhealthy and unbiblical aspects of UBF shepherding, which is quite well articulated in your article.

    But I do want to continue the positive aspects of UBF, which is an emphasis on Bible study, prayer and meditation of Scripture, vibrant community, honesty, transparency and confession of sin (especially by ME!), active discipleship, evangelism and mission, etc. I firmly believe that an active proactive emphasis on the Trinity and the gospel will remove, if not greatly minimize the unhealthy shepherding elements.

    • “I firmly believe that an active proactive emphasis on the Trinity and the gospel will remove, if not greatly minimize the unhealthy shepherding elements.”

      I disagree with you on this, Ben. The only way to really get rid of these unhealthy teachings is to reveal and expose them, to start a discussion about this issue with UBFers, so that they recognize the error in these teachings, repent and actively seek to fix all the problems that relate to these teachings, now knowing exactly what these problems are.

      After leaving UBF in 2001 and reading books and Internet articles, I soon started to see that the “UBF system” was indeed, as tortilla_chip says, a part of the sheperding/discipling movement, with just slight variations and additions and saltened with Confucianist ideas. I agree with Joe that Koreans are probably particularly susceptible to these wrong teachings because of their culture, and what’s even worse, they are particularly susceptible to never admit their failure because of their culture, because they think they would “lose face”. That’s why most American sheperding/discipling movements like the “Lauderdale 5” including Mumford, repented.

      And see, Ben, this happened because Mumford started a discussion about these issues. And this finally ended with an official admittance of the error, repentence and apology (you can read it here). This is exactly what needs to happen in UBF. The only thing that hinders UBF leaders to repent is their stupid pride and “saving face” mindset, and the only thing that hinders UBF members to discuss is that they have been indoctrinated to believe that discussion is always bad and dangerous, and they must continue with UBF style mission not looking left, right or back.

      As I said, I have been writing about this on the Internet since 2001 and trying to talk with UBF members, but to no avail. I never got a response from any UBF member whether they think shepherding/discipling is good, and what they think about why it failed and lead to abuse in all other groups, with only UBF being an exception. They don’t even talk about this. That’s the problem. If they were so sure that shepherding/discipling is the right thing, they would be willing and ready to defend it, but they don’t and they can’t. Nobody can defend it since it’s clearly unbiblical as any non-superficial Bible study shows.

  2. The biggest problem with UBF is it’s cover up of abuses by leaders and the unhealthy shepherding elements in the name of doing God’s work. I believe our recently released book will expose these practices in love but give hope to those who are still in UBF or left. “The Year the World Ended” will be of great help to this article and those who don’t understand the love of God does not equal abuse.

  3. Thank you for pointing out Bevere’s book. Sometime in 2005 or so, an ex-ubfer asked me to read that book. At the time, I said “no” and rejected any such book as heresy. Now I see it was foolish of me to do so. I will add this book to my growing list to read, along with Steve Hassan’s new book, “Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs“.

    Just about every ubfer will immmediately react to your article by quoting one of three bible verses, John 21:17, Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:2.

    They immediately will justify their shepherding ideology with the claim that Jesus mandated shepherding of one another “one to one” with these verses.

    But this is sheer shallow stupidity.

    When Jesus said “Feed my sheep”, how can you claim Jesus meant “go to campus and bind every major life decision of college students to UBF slogans”?

    In Acts 20:28 there is a command “Be shepherds”. Yet ubfers skip the sentence right before that command which says: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” This is a command to “overseers” who have been appointed by the Holy Spirit, not anyone randomly met on campus by UBF people.

    In 1 Peter 5:2-3 there is a command “Be shepherds”. Yet ubfers skip the verse right before this, in 1 Peter 5:1, which says: “to the elders among you”. This is a command to “elders”, not to every Christian.

    If ubfers really want to stick with their shepherding ideology, i have two suggestions:

    1. Read Jeremiah 23:1 and Ezekiel 34:2 when you think “I am a shepherd”.

    2. Document your shepherding ideology and enforce it among all ubf chapters.

    • tortilla_chip

      Bring I think you’re making a great point about those three verses. The only people commanded to be shepherds are elders / pastors / overseers. But we are also taught that these people hold the highest calling in all the church, and should meet certain qualifications.

      Further, the UBF method of 1 to 1 shepherding is nowhere found in Scripture. I’m all for 1 to 1 bible studies where there is equality among participants, and preferably without a set of pre-made questions. But the idea of 1 to 1 shepherding is foreign to Biblical teaching. Instead, even the Scriptures you mentioned points to the idea of Shepherding a flock, a congregation, and group of people. Never is it 1 to 1.

      When UBF suggests Shepherding should be 1 to 1. They create a demand for shepherds that can only be met if the assume that all people are called to be shepherds. This inevitably leads to unqualified people becoming shepherds, which in turns leads to cases to abusive shepherding.

    • tortilla_chip

      Obviously I meant “Brian” not “Bring”, apologies!

    • Thanks Chip! I’ve been called worse :)

      Your comment made me recall something that ubfers commonly overlook: “you” in the bible is not always singular but plural. The “overseers” and “elders” are groups of people, not individuals as ubf always claims. God is speaking to the group of overseers and elders in these parts of Scripture who all should acknowledge that there is one Shepherd, one Overseer and one Lord– that is Jesus.

      Yes Jesus spoke to Peter individually, but I for one cannot fathom any sense that Jesus was intending to atomize His followers into insular shepherd/sheep bondage.

      When we read Scripture we really ought to consider both a community narrative and an individual narrative, especially when it comes to commands.

      Welcome to the discussion chip, I look forward to your future articles and comments!

    • After reading some reviews of Bevere’s book, I am wondering why an ex-ubfer wanted me to read this back in 2005 when I was a staunch ubf defender?

      “Thank you for pointing out Bevere’s book. Sometime in 2005 or so, an ex-ubfer asked me to read that book. At the time, I said “no” and rejected any such book as heresy. Now I see it was foolish of me to do so.” – See more at:

      I suppose that person wanted to strick up a conversation about the dangers of shepherding ideology and the “Under Cover” book’s similar submission to authority problems. I suppose it was still foolish to reject such a book and discussion as it might have helped me see the problems of ubf sooner.

      In any case, if I would read this now, maybe I would still say the book is “heresy” :/

    • This page about “Biblical Eldership” phrases it very weill:

      “As numerous passages in the New Testament indicate, the words “elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (“shepherd”)(poim¯en) all refer to the same office. In other words, overseers and pastors (shepherds) are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people.”

      In UBF, they distinguish between a shepherd and and elder, and make them different offices. Elders exist only pro forma or they don’t even exist at all, as in my chapter, and they have no importance at all in the UBF universe. Shepherds are always “personal”, “1:1” shepherds, and the word “shepherd” is also used as a title, and they build a hiearchy of shepherds with the general director and founder at the top. It is a completely different concept of shepherding from what we can find in the Bible.

  4. Joe Schafer

    Dear Chip,

    Thank you for submitting this article. I didn’t know much about the Shepherding Movement or the teachings of Bevere. But I skimmed over Allan Clare’s document and it sounds rather familiar; there are many similarities to what I’ve experienced in ubf.

    The shepherding movement and Bevere developed their teachings very explicitly. In UBF it was more implicit. Leaders did use certain terms like “keep spiritual order” and used a stories from the Bible to warn members of the dangers of disobedience. But they never developed an explicit theology about this. They didn’t have to. The idea that you had to “keep spiritual order,” and the sense of hierarchy based on age and credentials, were already ingrained in the Korean mind. The Confucian culture provided a ready-made framework of hierarchy, the hooks on which ubf leaders could hang their ideas.

    • tortilla_chip

      I think you’re bring up a good point Joe. I hope that the fact that UBF introduces this ideology implicitly wouldn’t hinder readers from making the connection.

  5. This is why UBF escapes being counted as a shepherding movement group:

    “Many times terms aren’t used at all; it is the actions that tell you what is going on.”

    Outsiders are easily fooled by the ubf leaders who are steeped in deception and manipulation. And then of course nothing is documented. ubf shepherds have a power superiority position over their sheep, so sheep are easily persuaded by ad hominem replies, love-bombing and “immitate me” teachings.

    For more information on ubf shepherding, see my exposure of the UBF shepherding ideology on my blog and the Ohio group page that still lists UBF in their shepherding section:

    “While Christian Growth Ministries, Crossroads, and Maranatha are among the most prominent of the shepherding organizations, there are many others. Most of these are self-contained; that is, they retain the internal sheep-shepherd structure, but may or may not include the pyramidal hierarchy that culminates in a nationwide or international organization. Among these groups are “Gathering of Believers,” led by Larry Tomczak; Carl Stevens’ “The Bible Speaks,” Hobart Freeman’s “Faith Assembly;” “Last Days Ministries,” founded by the late Keith Green; “University Bible Fellowship;” and “Champaign-Urbana Ministries.”

    • Yes, UBF uses different wordings. For instance, they don’t speak about “covering”. But I believe the UBF concept of “spiritual order” is actually the same as the shepherding/discipling concept of “covering”.

  6. Hi Chris, I fully agree with you here: “(Since 2001) I never got a response from any UBF member whether they think shepherding/discipling is good, and what they think about why it failed and lead to abuse in all other groups, with only UBF being an exception. They don’t even talk about this. That’s the problem.” – See more at:

    But, imho, fwiw, trying to badger, blog, bombast, blast and bash UBF until they admit and change will not work either. Also, I do not believe that this is the gospel way to effect gospel change.

    So while I fully agree with your assessment of UBF’s unhealthy and unbiblical shepherding practices, I cannot say that your method of an unrelenting frontal attack will ever work.

    It is like trying to force a Christian to not marry a non-Christian with whom they are already madly in love with. But just because they disobey Scripture in being yoked with an unbeliever does not mean that they are no longer Christians.

    Without in anyway justifying UBF’s errors, all of us Christians, churches and ministries, to whatever degree or proportion are a varying mixture of both good and bad, right and wrong. This obviously includes UBF, even if they will never ever admit it.

    • Also, Chris, I hope I’m wrong, but barring a miracle from heaven, in my lifetime, I really can’t see UBF doing what Mumford did when he said, “Discipleship was wrong. I repent. I ask forgiveness.”

    • Ben, why does it take a miracle to say “I am wrong”?

      I listened to a few criticisms of my message, did some research on my own, and admitted “I am wrong”. I’m not say this was easy, but ti was not a miracle of miracles.

      I think you are wrong. I do not think it will take a miracle. UBF leaders just need to open their heart and take 1 small step toward me or bigbear or Chris or any other former UBF leader.

      This is indeed possible as you and I both witnessed this past Monday with AS. Did he not take a step toward reconcilng with me on Monday? I think so. And it was not a miracle, it was a change of mind (repentance) on both of our parts.

    • I agree with Brian when he said it is not fundamentally impossible for UBF leaders to repent and admit that the UBF discipleship model was wrong. I have two reasons to believe they are able to do that: 1) Just have a look at the first three reform movements. They were all driven by Korean UBF members, despite of their natural tendency to avoid rebellion. Obviously they were able to see something was wrong. 2) If you assume that UBF leaders are Christians, then this means they must have repented from their sins and accepted Jesus once long ago in their life, right? Why do you think that now, after being Christians for many years, and reading the Bible for many years, they stopped being able to repent? Sounds strange to me.

  7. So where does this leave us Ben?

    “Also, Chris, I hope I’m wrong, but barring a miracle from heaven, in my lifetime, I really can’t see UBF doing what Mumford did when he said, “Discipleship was wrong. I repent. I ask forgiveness.” – See more at:

    While I agree with you that “…just because they disobey Scripture in being yoked with an unbeliever does not mean that they are no longer Christians.”

    However, if someone will never repent and never ask forgiveness and never reconcile with ex-ubfers, never include Jesus in their mission statements, then HOW THE HECK can we consider such a person/group as Christian? Are they not denying the very core of Christ-likeness? If we remove the core of Christianity what are we left with?

    We former ubf leaders can live with any sin or issue but we cannot deal with the rejection of the core of Christianity by ubf leaders.

    You may call what Chris and I are doing as a “frontal attack” but that matters not to me. We will continously call out the abuse and the bad shepherding ideology in UBF as long as the Lord allows us the means to do so. We DO NOT DO THIS for the sake of UBF leaders, but FOR THE SAKE of the “sheep”.

    We are creating a space for the Christain gosepl to advance, and for that we are crucified, facing “death” (consequences) each day.

    • Thanks Brian. That’s basically what I wanted to answer Ben.

      What is the gospel? When Jesus started to preach, he said “The time has come, The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” Without repentance, there is no gospel, no Christianity.

      Ben, I understand you want to say, they are just too blind or stupid to see their sins. But these people are not stupid. All the top leaders have been students from elite universities, many take pride in Ph.D. titles. They are not Bible illiterates either because they take pride in making more Bible study than anybody else. Is it really so difficult to see that something went wrong? When you read the 1976 letter and all the other letters and articles, is it so difficult to see that Samuel Lee’s practices and methods were wrong and sinful? Can anybody be so stupid not to recognize that is awfully wrong if a church leader pushes a church member to have an abortion, even accompanying her to an abortion clinic? Can anybody be so stupid or have so distorted ethical norms?

      And if they are blind, then it’s a wilful blindness. The bible is all about the willingness to open your eyes. “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” People who don’t want to see, don’t want to hear, don’t want to speak, they are not like Christians, they are more like the three famous apes.

  8. So in my observation, there is no theology or ideology change that could ever truly change UBF or address any of their problems.

    There is only one thing that would prove the UBF leaders “get it” — reconcile with me or bigbear or Chris. When they do that, then they will demonstrate that they are obeying my two demands: 1. admit abuse 2. release the shepherd/sheep bonds.

    These demands of mine have not changed in 3 years. And my 2 demands will remain for the rest of my life, Lord willing, the next 40 or 50 years. Nothing else matters.

  9. Chris…the hardest thing for a UBF Leader to do is admit that they are is all about pride…Dr Samuel Lee did some horrible things in the name of being a spiritual leader and many in UBF have done such abuses..they feel that if they don’t admit to them that they can carry on and continue in such practices in the name of the greater good of raising disciples..the problem is that the abusive practices are carried on to others in the leadership and is acceptable…they justify such things as we all our “sinners” but this does not bring healing and a healthy environment for the body of Christ..yet they will point out your sins and throw them in your face..thank God there is a righteous God who knows the truth and is merciful even to the unrepentant..

  10. You may be right, Chris, that some UBFers may be willfully blind. But are you not judging them and judging the inner state and motives of their heart, which only God truly sees? If you are indeed judging them, then are you not doing the same thing that you accuse them of doing when they evaluated your “poor spiritual condition as a sheep” and gave you and others horrible inhumane and unbiblical humiliating “training”?

    Our sin is the result of our broken relationship with God and others. Thus, sin can be solved only through restoring relationships. God paid the price to restore relationships with us sinners through the blood of his Son. We can restore relationships with each other when we learn God’s humility, incarnation and condescension.

    But if we constantly judge them, caricature them, accuse them, etc, then I really don’t see how any meaningful relationship can ever happen, from which some resolution and reconciliation may happen by the Spirit.

    • Hey Ben, I might be able to shed some light on the dislikes on this comment (since I also clicked dislike :)

      I generally see Chris’ comments as helpful and rather detailed insight into the ideological fabric behind the topics we discuss. I don’t see Chris as “constantly judging them, caricaturizing them, accusing them, etc” and his comments generally have quite a few “likes”. Chris is sharing his perspective, and whether people regard his perspective as mere subjective musings or not, his perspective is highly valuable. Right now ubf leaders have a treasure trove of helpful perspective from me, bigbear and Chris. But what happens when each of us actually do leave the ubf conversation?

      I suspect you already know this but we former ubf leaders aren’t really seeking a “meaningful relationship”. It is rather clear that Chris and I won’t be able to share in any kind of ministry with ubf people any time soon.

      I for one do not want a relationship but reconciliation. Does reconciliation require restoration of relationship? I don’t think so, especially in that case of some kind of abuse.

      We former leaders experience some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after leaving ubf. I and my friends from Toledo certainly experienced psychological abuse, spiritual abuse and financial abuse to varying degrees. Bigbear can tell of sexual abuse. Just as the first 3 groups of reformers confirmed abuse stories, so have we.

      The point is not to delve into every story but to see our perspective. And our perspective, while edgy, is exactly the perspective existing ubf leaders need to pay attention to, not to form a new relationship with us, but to find out how to begin reconciling and seeking healing in ubf ministry.

      If they refuse this 4th reform movement, I wonder how much longer God will put up with them?

    • Ben, we discussed these questions at length already.
      First, I am not really interested in judging these leaders, i.e. their inner motives and sins like pride which are quite obvious through their behavior, but still not directly visible. I’m primarily judging what they did and still do, i.e. their established methods and practices, the “UBF system” which causes so much harm to young students, but also to these leaders themselves.
      Second, as I often explained, it is totally ok and even required to judge people in the church if they keep sinning without listening to others. Pauls says in 1 Cor 5 “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.'” This means we shall not only judge, but even expel such unrepentant sinners from the church. This is also what Jesus taught in Mt 18:15ff. We should be very mild, tolerant and forgiving to people who don’t know Jesus yet. But we should measure people more strictly who claim to know Jesus. And we should certainly measure people even more strictly who even claim to be teachers of others and claim to have spiritual authority over others, who claim to be “shepherds” and “general directors” of what they call “God’s” work. Not only using common sense, but also from a Biblical point of view, it is totally adequate and even required to judge them, and I don’t understand why you don’t want to see this point and keep repeating “you shall not judge” over and over again like a mantra. The question is not whether Christians should judge or not but only when, why and how to judge.
      You said “sin can only solved through restoring relationships”. If this is true, why do you think Jesus and Paul told to exclude certain unrepentant people from the fellowship? Isn’t that cutting the relationship with them? But it’s sometimes necessary as the last measure and last option to keep us free from sharing in their sin, and helping them to see the seriousness of their sin and maybe repent one day (and then be welcomed again, of course). Why do you think John wrote in 2Jo 1 “If anyone comes to you but does not present his teachings, do not receive him into your house or even welcome him”? Again, isn’t this the opposite of creating a relationship? I agree that we need to keep a good relationship and try to talk openly as long as possible, but keeping a relationship is not the ultimate cure for sin. To help people repent, all the prophets needed to be very harsh and clear in their words, not trying to seek “relationships” with them.
      Lev 19 says “love your neighbor as yourself”. But it also says (and this is not a contradiction) “Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” The top Chicago UBF leaders are your neighbors, Ben. Actually it’s your task to rebuke them frankly. Honestly, I mean it. If you don’t try to rebuke them frankly and clearly you will share in their guilt and you will be guilty of not having helped them to repent if they die without repentance. I think that’s so much worse than having made a mistake and spoken to them too harshly where they wouldn’t have deserved it (if that would be the case). Personally, I won’t shy away from doing that. I have written a letter to Sarah Barry (which she never answered) and if I ever get the opportunity I will continue to speak harshly to her, for being an enabler for the abuse by Samuel Lee, covering things up, and defeating three reform movements, no matter how old she is. If I would meet her on her death bed, I would still rebuke her. Fully knowing that if she repents only one minute before her death, she will go to heaven. In the other case, I would be not so sure and that would worry me more than some disharmony in a relationship.
      The second point you’re repeating is how we constantly judge them. But what’s wrong with that? The problem of UBF has not been solved, nothing has changed. The opening of the UBF museum shows that they still take pride in their work instead of honestly starting to address the sins of the past and the errors of their doctrines and practices. So why should anybody stop judging? The judging will only stop when the reasons for judging have stopped to exist, i.e. when they either admit their error and repent or UBF finally ceases to exist and is no potential source of harm for young students entering the ministry and falling into the hands of an abusive UBF director.
      The third thing you’re doing again is ranking solid judgment based on facts that sadly happened with “caricaturing”. Please comment directly when I or somebody else “caricatured” something, in the concrete case, instead of making such sweeping statements. The things that I wrote all happened in real life, they were my real experience with UBF, not some caricature that I’m drawing.
      Ben, UBF believes that if they keep ignoring us, that the criticism will stop some day because it will become boring to us, and we will look silly to repeat the same old issues. But they err, these things are not solved through the passing of time and keeping relationships by all means. This will make things only worse. The deafening silence makes people even more angry and judgmental. People like us will not go away. What good would it be if ex UBFers became silent? I feel the stones would start to cry out in that case. Aren’t there enough people who already try to keep good relationship with the leaders, always trying to be understanding, always trying to defend them? Haven’t even most ex UBFers like me tried to have months or years of talks before finally leaving, frustrated?

  11. A thousand likes Chris, for that last comment. Indeed the strategy of many ubf leaders is to outlast their critics. As long as I have breath from the Lord, that won’t happen. And for me, this only gets more fun and it is never boring to listen to the Spirit.

    “UBF believes that if they keep ignoring us, that the criticism will stop some day because it will become boring to us, and we will look silly to repeat the same old issues.” – See more at:

  12. Chris, I am not saying to be silent. I am anything but silent (much to the chagrin of many UBFers!). Yes we must speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and our conversation (blogging) must be full of grace and seasoned with salt (Col 4:6).

    I know that you do not care (and really, neither do I), but might it be that our blogging contains more truth and salt than it contains love and full of grace?

    The offensive and abusive leaders that you are targeting will not (maybe never) read whatever you or I write. But others will. If our blogging on UBFriends is primarily a full frontal attack against a few bad leaders, it just creates a negative distasteful tone, especially to younger UBFers, who may benefit and be enlightened by our comments. So by our relentless full frontal assault, it becomes a turn off, even to current younger UBFers.

    Excessive negativity (even if true), which UBFriends is now being accused of, does not promote or encourage anyone to come and read, comment and discuss, primarily because of fear of being “attacked” by us if they ever dare to say anything good about UBF.

    • That’s now a somewhat better line of argumentation, Ben, and a different one.

      In your last comment you wrote that our judging or rebuke was wrong or problematic because judging or rebuke itself is always wrong, and trying to keep a relationship at all cost is the way to go, which is simply not the case. This is a very important point, and I really want us to agree on that point before we can continue the discussion, and I also want us to agree on not always restarting discussion on that fundamental level again.

      You say “If our blogging on UBFriends is primarily a full frontal attack against a few bad leaders”. Ben, the leaders I criticize most are not “a few bad leaders”, but the founder, general directors and Eurpopean directors, i.e. those who influenced the whole organization and created the “UBF system” and “UBF heritage”, who implanted their ideas, teachings and practices into the minds of everyone through the hierarchical pyramid of influence and manipulation. We are not talking about a few bad apples, but about the core teachings of UBF, the teachings that even the nicest and well-meaning UBFers are subconciously following to at least some extend, because nobody can be free from their teachings and influence in the UBF universe, since the indoctrination is so intense, repetitive and long-running and using mind-control methods. So I think it’s really fair and appropriate to criticize these “few leaders”, and at the same time the UBF system, because the UBF system consist of the things these leaders did and taught. It is not a set of rules written on paper, it is the behavior of these leaders that has been copied.

      Concerning the “UBF system” or more generally the “shepherding/discipling” system I can only be negative, because it is harmful and wrong in so many ways.

      The only way for me to be less negative would be to talk about something different than the UBF system and shepherding/discipling. I’m not sure if this will be really helpful and if I could do that, because to me it will always feel like overlooking the elephant in the room. To me it also has a smell of Dennis Rodman going to North Korea to play baseball and be good friends with Kim Jong-un and even singing “happy birthday” to him.

      “I know that you do not care (and really, neither do I), but might it be that our blogging contains more truth and salt than it contains love and full of grace?”

      That might well be, but when I’m talking about certain things, I need to send an unambiguous message and make it fully clear that I’m not talking about a side issue that can be solved or cannot be solved, but about a crucial issue that must be solved. When Jesus said “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” you could also blame him for speaking with more truth and salt than with love and grace. There is a time for everything, there is time for love and grace, but there is also time for truth and salt. Sometimes you just can’t wrap your salt in love and grace because it would stop being salty. Or with the words of some prophet, you can’t talk about “peace, peace”, when there is no peace.

      Concerning the young UBFers, I’m not really sure whether they don’t understand when I speak very clearly. One problem is that the elder UBFers are always mudding the waters by telling them we are just bitter people, they don’t need to listen to us, what we tell them about our experience and the sins of the former leadership is not true etc. As I said, there is a willful blindness in UBF, on all levels. There are the top leaders like Sarah Barry who, as she admitted herself, simply deleted all email coming from people who were said to belong to the “R-group”. This is willful blindness because it means she was unwilling to see the points of the other side. Her image as the mother who has an open ear for everyone is not true to reality. Then there is the middle tier of members who always appease, deny, downplay, cover up, and refuse to get informed themselves. One of them wrote here he never read the 1976 letter and will never read it. I call this willful blindness as well. And then there are the immature young members who are just too happy about the freedom they got in Christ (that will gradually be taken away from them) and are so over-enthusiastic, naive and trusting that they cannot imagine any UBF leader could have done anything bad. They are the most innocent. Yes, it’s hard to reach these groups. But still, there are always some who can be reached. Brian is an example. I am an example. I read the articles of the reformers with an open mind, and started to see the problems, not caring about the tone of the articles. There just need to be enough people who see the problems and really start to talk about the problems, with urgency and repetition, without stopping to talk until the problems are solved, with the same obtrusiveness and stubbornness and repetitiveness as the Korean leaders when they are indoctrinating us with the UBF system ideology. That’s my opinion.

      Ben, do you know how the unjust east German system has been overcome? Did it happen by people discussing the many good sides of the GDR (which also existed)? No. It happened when enough people were fed up with the dictatorship, bondage and injustice, left the country and went on the street shouting “we are the people”.

    • Ben, you asked via FB: “Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. – Might this be good advice for blogging?” I think that question actually also belongs here.

      In principle, I agree. However, in reality you can’t speak (write) in a way that pleases all others. Unless you write about trivialities and that would be boring. A blog becomes interesting if it presents a strong opinion, maybe even in a provocative way. And that will always displease some of the readers.

      Also, I don’t think this website should be only a blog. It should be a platform for discussion among Christians. And I don’t think that speaking in a way that others love to listen to you is the ultimate guideline for a Christian. Sometimes you need to address stuff that nobody wants to hear. Ideall this should not happen so often and should be settled quickly. Our problem exists only because UBF is so stubbornly avoiding the discussion and therefore unnecessarily dragging it on, for decades now.

  13. Chris and Ben..I read and tried to follow both of your sides…I feel again the biggest problem in UBF is that they are taught in a way like Chris brought out that everything that opposes their Bible interpretation or system is wrong and evil…it is indoctrinated in you as soon as you join to the point that you become enslaved to the ideology and the system that you no longer have the ability to have an open mind to the whole body of Christ…the way out of this kind of life is hard unless you suffer some major trauma like I did or you wake up by the grace of God…it is healthy to explore deeper what you think and believe..the UBF system is flawed and I believe is doing more harm than good to the body of Christ and our young people..they are not trained to be open to the Holy Spirit and to think and love people of all churches and respect all Christians..I been there and I was so ingrained in pride and prejudice that it took some major events to wake me I am free to follow Christ and learn from all Christians and appreciate all Christians..UBF needs to wake up before more families are hurt and more lives are destroyed and more suicides happen…I applaud Chris and Brian for their relentless shepherd hearts for this cause and fully support them and others including the reformers…the system will not listen because it is ingrained in UBF pride and a narrow minded view of God…everything is not black and white…I pray that love will win over many to see the flawed system…Ben I know you are still in UBF and I see you are making changes and I applaud you as well…but it is not enough to say that I got saved and I got my wife in UBF to justify the abuses and the wrong that is going on…you must speak out from within…I was asked to leave because my former Pastor mentor wanted to shut me up…this is a big cannot shut up the voice of truth and the voice of the abused…even the rocks will cry out for the blood of the martyrs…it takes courageous men and women to make a stand against the injustices and bad teachings…watch the movie “the book thief” I saw so much of UBF in it…burning the books so that only their system remains…their way…this is wrong…when I was in Cinti UBF I was told not to read books of great Christian thinkers or to share anything related to them in my preaching…UBF was King not Jesus and surely not the whole body of Christ…my chapter director for many years never preached a message of his own…he just printed out Dr. Samuel Lee messages and shared them word for word for over 10 years…he never knew what he was talking about in true sense…

  14. forestsfailyou

    What is interesting to me is that my previous ubf chapter displayed none of the characteristics of anything that could ever be construed as spiritual abuse. That chapter operated nearly identically to other church youth groups I had been in throughout my youth. We had group bible study, social activities and Sunday service. But the group I am in know does 1-1 bible study, daily bread at 6 am, Friday prayer meeting which has an expectation of attendance, special music on sundays you are asked to participate in, testimony writing and sharing after lunch and message training for the potential ‘native’ leaders. It feel much more centered around works. I believe this is because the former group I was in was headed by a second gen, and this one is ran by a native Korean trained in his own words “as a right hand man of Samuel Lee.” The reason is unclear to me. Perhaps it has to deal with what each of them perceive as a measure of their ministry. Perhaps the native korean has a goal of creating native leaders and sees this as a measure of how much God is using him. Perhaps the second gen leader measures the strength of his ministry based on his sunday attendance. I am unsure, perhaps this is a topic for another article: How does one measure the effectiveness of his or her ministry.

  15. dear forestsfailyou…the second gens are much better leaders because they are not so ingrained in the UBF works system. There are many sincere Christians in UBF but this does not excuse the abuse of the leaders or the history…yes you are right that UBF is about works not grace and love…I like your last question: How does one measure the effectiveness of his or her ministry. I will let others on this site answer that question who are more qualified to give better answer. Pray much and read much of the stories of those who left. I hope you read my book, “The year the world ended” maybe it may shed some light on some of your concerns. In the end, we all have to answer to God. Keep seeking the truth, you will find it.