Shepherd Brian is Dead

rNow that I’ve got your attention… I’d like to share the last puzzle piece of my recovery from my twenty-four years in University Bible Fellowship. This is the holy grail of my recovery, the last piece that makes the entire picture clear, the piece of the puzzle that explains so many unanswered questions.

Why am I dead to UBF?

One of the first experiences a former member of ubf has is the feeling of being divorced from people in ubf. Friendships we thought we had and relationships we thought were so strong suddenly disappear. Overnight. People who we called our spiritual mothers and fathers and people who we called brothers and sisters suddenly go silent towards us. We become dead to them.

But why? Why does this happen almost universally to former ubf members?

The answer is obvious: former members allow their ubf-given identity to die. For example, “Shepherd Brian” is indeed dead. That identity does not exist and never will exist. The person named Brian however is alive and well. But ubf people find it impossible to address “Brian”. They only know how to interact with “Shepherd Brian”.

Why do I use the cult label?

As I have said repeatedly, my experiences in ubf were mostly good. I enjoyed the love-bombing and created a relatively safe place for my family by disobeying certain orders (like the demand to sleep in the center for months right after marriage). Some may point to an inter-personal conflict with my Korean shepherd. But that is not a true assessment. I showed my Korean shepherd double honor for over two decades. I brought nothing but joy to the leaders in ubf. It is true our relationship was broken near the end of my ubf commitment. Breaking this relationship felt like a divorce.

But why? Why do I claim University Bible Fellowship is a cult?

The answer is because ubf shepherds and missionaries are identity snatchers. They spiritually abused me and thousands others by stealing our identity and persuading us to adopt their identity. That identity was called “Shepherd Brian”. But that is not who I am. That was never who I was. That is not my authentic self. The main reason I am on a recovery from my commitment to University Bible Fellowship is because I am searching to re-connect with my authentic self, my pre-cult self, the self that my family knows.

The cognitive dissonance I used to sustain this false identity requires triggers to uphold that identity, and requires a lot of energy to maintain. That energy needed to be released. The sub-identities I adopted like a facade around my soul needed to crumble.  That is why I experienced a physical trauma trigger when I happened to meet some ubf people who wanted to take a group photo last year. My body literally began to shake and I had to run out of the building without saying good bye. I drove to a highway rest stop and just sat there for 15 minutes until the shakes left me and my heart stopped racing. Steve Hassan describes this phenomena in his book. It happened because I had been conditioned through ubf heritage indoctrination to adopt a false identity, and the group photo with ubfers triggered that memory of my cult-identity.

So yes, “Shepherd Brian” is dead. You won’t be able to talk to him. And that explains so very much of what happened to me and what continues to happen to me.


  1. Brian….Shepherd Point Andrew Joshua Michael Anthony Paul Martin is still alive…ubf gave me so many names to train me and to mold me in their image…but is not the title shepherd or the names that make our identity but the love of God. I had to discover that UBF lacks love for people, families, and even its leaders. I see life as a journey, my passion for Jesus was ignited in UBF and now out of UBF I feel free to live life in God love without the abuse and false teaching. YES the shepherd title has died but my love for Jesus is deeper and I am much healtier and balanced in God love and much better preacher. I am learning to embrace people in love not agendas and rules. I have no regrets but pray for the abuse to stop and the system to be reformed with healthy leadership.

  2. I am in the earlier stage of healing maybe when I get 5 years down the road I may share more your insights. I credit my wife much for my healing as well. It is nice she never spent a day in ubf…not encoraging divorce but her love for life and people and our children has helped me to bounce back quickly and to be healthy sooner…our children love her. We will celebrate our 1 year anniversary on the 28. LOVE WINS.

  3. Joe Schafer

    Thanks for this insightful article. I’d like to personally meet the newly resurrected real Brian.

    Question: What are the most visible changes that your wife and children have observed in you? For example, would they say that you speak differently? Do you have greater awareness of your emotions?

    • That would be valuable feedback to get, Joe. I think I’ll ask them.

      I’m sure they would mention something about some outward changes: The real Brian drinks beer/wine/rum and has a beard.

      I’ve discussed all these things at length with my mother-in-law over the past several years. Her comment about both my wife and I is that we are much more peaceful and at rest with ourselves, more comfortable “in our own skin”, she said.

      My observation is that my emotions are growing back, and my conscience is slowly being re-created. I have found an intense passion for reading and writing. One thing that has not changed my entire life, and still remains, is a strong sense of being called by God for some purpose, even though I don’t like much of Christianity.

    • Joe Schafer

      How much improvement have you seen in your relationships with your extended family?

    • Joe, my relationships with parents, brothers, sisters, and in-laws is in-process, and slowing getting better, but will take time. Those relationships never went away, but my wife and I were always the “estranged” ones. One uncle called us the Moonies. I am just grateful our bedrock of goodness and love was there without fail.

      Probably because my father-in-law and mother-in-law lived with us for a month every year for the past 19 years, that relationship is closest to being restored.

      I feel much closer to my mother, having freely visited her during her battle with cancer (as opposed to my not visiting my father during his battle with ALS in the 80’s).

      Facebook has helped significantly in this process of rebuilding. I think there is a long way to go. And most importantly, my wife and I are just now getting to know each other, after about 20 years of marriage. That relationship is my focus right now. (We finally went on an official date too!)

  4. So I want readers to understand one thing.

    The issue is not me forgiving my Korean shepherd, but me forgiving myself.

    One of the bible studies I had not too long ago was James MacDonald’s study on forgivenss called “Have the Funeral“. My article today is rooted in that study. I forgive myself for allowing my authentic self to be suppressed by a false identity. And I won’t let it happen again.

  5. Thanks, Brian. My thought upon reading your excellent post is that I wish that UBF lifers will read and try to understand with love and compassion what you wrote.

    Instead, I fear that they will refuse to read it, or they will read it very critically and judgmentally with a hardened heart, and then become angry, accusatory, demeaning, condescending, self-righteous, defensive, offensive and conjuring layer upon layer upon layer of ad hominems, etc. To my present frame of thought, such a response to your HOT post is childish and immature, unloving and unChrist-like, sad and sick.

    This is the key statement that I pray that UBF lifers may one day some day understand: “…ubf shepherds and missionaries are identity snatchers. They spiritually abused me and thousands others by stealing our identity and persuading us to adopt their identity. That identity was called “Shepherd Brian”. But that is not who I am. That was never who I was. That is not my authentic self. The main reason I am on a recovery from my commitment to University Bible Fellowship is because I am searching to re-connect with my authentic self…”

  6. I think that many shepherds and missionaries do not understand that in the process of “shepherding others,” they are still horrible sinners with blinders and blind spots, and with smugness, selfishness and self-centeredness.

    This 2 min video by Fr. Richard Rohr about why people suffer would certainly include shepherds and missionaries who impose themselves on their sheep, while insisting that they are serving God correctly according to the Bible:

  7. forestsfailyou

    The titles seem to be a reward for your commitment it seems. In capoeira you receive a nickname (aplilido) when you have trained sufficiently long to show that you are dedicated. Students eagerly await being renamed, as it is a sign of recognition that the academy feels you are serious.
    My pastor once called me shepherd, then in his message he mentioned that the apostle Paul could have commanded Philemon to do anything with regards to Onesimus, since he was his personal shepherd and an apostle, but chose to appeal on the basis of love. Afterwards I had a talk about how such a statement implied absolute obedience to a personal shepherd. He did damage control for about an hour and I told him never to call me a shepherd again.

  8. Forests, I have considered the Philemon passage and the illustration your pastor cited. My sense is that when Paul wrote what he did, he truly did not impose his “shepherd’s authority” on Philemon, so that Philemon could truly and freely act based on his own conscience, faith and decision.

    But my sense is that in a UBF context, and that when a UBF missionary quotes this exact passage, they implicitly expect “unquestioning absolute obedience and submission,” even if they do not say that, which they rarely ever do, except when they say, “Keep spiritual order. Just obey,” which I now suspect (and hope) is being uttered and communicated less and less.

  9. forestsfailyou

    He said that Paul DID NOT invoke this, with the implication that he could have. Now I think he could have, since he was an apostle anointed by Christ to start the church- so he is not wrong. What was concerning is that it seemed to imply that since he could have, so can other shepherds, including himself. He denied it, but gave what seems to me a common response “You are free to do anything.” my concern is that he is finishing the statement in his head “but it is not beneficial unless I approve.”

    I have challenged him more than once but he has always shown more concern than anger at this.

    • Joe Schafer

      In his estimation, you could be a “difficult” sheep, one who seems very unlikely to ever become a shepherd. He may be patiently enduring you, hoping against hope that someday you will be changed.

    • forests, it is odd that you use the title “pastor”. Recently there is a push to use more common Christain terms of “pastor” and “elder” in ubf. But this is a farce. The titles may be changing but the harmful re-birthing of a person’s identity into “shepherd” identity is still alive and well in 2014 in ubf. This process is not very different from the Cyberman process (for all you Whovians out there).

      The identity and title of “shepherd” or “shepherdess” is seen as a gift from a Korean missionary in the ubf context. Refusing that gift has many consequences, including marriage by faith consequences. In the 70’s and 80’s in ubf, if someone who refused the identity of shepherd, he was given dead dog training of some sort. Refusing the shepherd identity is a cardinal sin in ubf, and a sure indication that you are not “priestly nation” material. You’ll never become a leader in ubf without accepting that shepherd identity.

    • Yes, forests, you are certainly a “difficult sheep” right now. If you avoid marriage by faith and hang around you will get the title of “junk sheep”. And if you stay until you are middle-aged, you will earn the illustrious title of “uncle sheep”. And no, those are *not* good titles to have in ubfland.

  10. In my opinion, a significant problem that I have observed with some longstanding missionaries and senior leaders is that they view themselves as being in the upper untouchable unaccountable superior elite echelons of the human race.

    So whenever any “junior or sheep” (such as Forests) questions them or challenges them, they seriously have little clue as to how to handle it emotionally and practically as an authentic human being.

    • I would agree Ben. I think one reason is that ubf people are conditioned to interact only with the “shepherd” identity. Notice how polite and flattering the talk is in ubf circles, especially when congratulation someone on their message on Sunday. On the surface the interactions are like people at a masquerade ball, courteous and non-confrontational, void of emotion. But then behind closed doors there are often massive blowups and friction. ubf is one big facade. However, among some 2nd gen-led “reformed” ubf chapters, the masks are starting to come off.

  11. forestsfailyou

    As an aside my last name is an old french word for shepherd. I was really confused as to why everyone was so excited the first time I mentioned this.

    • One theme of the ubf group-think is sign-seeking. ubf people love to see “signs” that God is “working”. So to find someone who might be called “shepherd shepherd” is fascinating to them. And to them it is a sure sign that you are destined to wear the “shepherd” mask forever.

      btw, speaking of masks, a movie that had a therapeutic effect on me that helped me on my recovery was “The Man in the Iron Mask“.

  12. Forests, is this the word derivative?: French, Dutch, and English: occupational name for someone involved in the wool trade, from an agent derivative of Old French la(i)ne ‘wool’. DEB.French and Dutch: occupational name, with the definite article, for a pack driver, from French âne ‘ass’, ‘donkey’ (Latin asinus).

  13. forestsfailyou

    I am told it is so, (the guy who works with wool sheared the sheep, ie the shepherd). I think “shepherd” is of old English origin and “lana” is latin.

  14. Despite of the somewhat macabre title, I think this article is really hitting the crux of the matter.

    Though I still want to refrain from writing, let me just drop this one comment because it is so important and I can affirm everything Brian is saying here.

    The obsession with titles seems to be like a Korean quirk that can easily be accepted. But it is a very serious thing.

    1) It fosters elitism, pride, hierarchical thinking and authoritarianism and is completely opposite to the gospel and everything Jesus taught us (again, just read Mt 23).

    2) It deprives us of our own, real, God-given, authentic personality by reducing us to our group-given, contrived “cult identity” or “cult self”: “Shepherd X” or “Missionary Y”.

    The latter point is just as serious as the former. Maybe it is the one thing that bothers all of us ex UBFers more than any other abuse we experienced.

    The whole point of UBF was to transform a individual person X to a conforming “shepherd X”. You were never accepted in the group if you did not make this step. In my chapter, the wife of the leader expelled several of her sheep after 3 years just because they were not willing to become shepherds. They really like the Bible study and the fellowship, they believed in God and they were nice and friendly, but it did not help them. That missionary was not willing to “waste” more time with them, because they “did not bring fruit” (she used to quote Lk 13:6-9 as an explanation why she dismissed people from UBF). Some other missionaries tolerated their “junk sheep” much longer, because they were happy to have at least one sheep. Without any sheep they would be considered a complete failure as a missionary. And some also held the vague hope that some day their sheep would be “converted” to shepherds and give them some “ROI”.

    Just read any UBF life testimony to understand the clear separation UBF is making between your former identity (the “pre-cult self” as Hassan would say) and the new identity as a UBF shepherd (the “cult self”). You were pressed hard to deliver this testimony in front of many people. Convertion to God and calling to be a shepherd were considered one and the same thing, they were unseparable in UBF. You need to become a shepherd to be accepted as a group member and believer. From then on, whenever people inside the group talk to you, they will call you “shepherd X”. Not using the title would be a severe, unacceptable faux pax and since UBF members are harmony addicted they would never make such a faux pax. I remember how we prayed on our kneees against the “ungodly individualism” and “ungodly humanism”. We stopped being X, we became “shepherd X”.

    In fact it was even worse for most Korean members and several Non-Koreans who had to even change their name. Instead of being “Yoonsun” you suddenly became “Missionary Esther” or even “Missionary Work-Hard”.

    I thank God that the real and authentic Brian is well and alive again and writing insightful articles.

    I just wished some UBFers would chime in here, but the article also gives an explanation why they can’t.

  15. Thanks for your comments everyone. Chris’ last comment jarred loose two more memories from the 80’s that are quite revealing. This is what I was hoping for in writing this article, to find ways to re-connect with my pre-cult self.

    I’ve already discovered last year that I was a Christian before coming to ubf bible study. This was a shocking revelation to me, but it is true.

    The two memories I just recalled today help me see more clearly how my ubf shepherds de-constructed my Chritian identity, rooted in the Roman Catholic tradition.

    1. In my life testimony, I wanted to say “Jesus is Lord”. I was told we must say “Jesus is our Savior”. I even had a “Jesus is Lord” sign on my car, and was asked to remove it. [I think this speaks to the Lordship of Jesus teachings that are typically missing from ubf bible study and messages.]

    2. I also wanted to describe my spiritual encounter while praying after learning about my father’s fatal diagnosis, and my sense that I was called to be a Catholic priest. But this too was downplayed in my life testimony as irrelevant to “spiritual life”. [We studied the “let the dead bury their dead” several times during my father’s passing away. This speaks to the elitism added to the ubf bible studies and messages, the thinking that your life could not possibly have been Christian before that chance meeting with a ubf recruiter on campus.]

    Even though ubf de-constructed my prior Christian identity, they could not change the bedrock of goodness and love that my family showed me unconditionally. And that it was I seek to re-connect with now.

  16. Joe Schafer

    Chris and Brian, thank you for your insightful comments.

    Faith is a lifelong journey of dual discovery. Discovering who God is, and dicovering who I am. The two are closely related. But UBF has consistently short-circuited the process of self-discovery by handing young people a prefabricated model of who they ought to be. It seems expedient. If your goal is to evangelize the world in one generation, then there is no time for self discovery; you just have to get going with the mission program!

    I hope that more current and ex-members will begin to realize how damaging this is. Halting the process of self-discovery makes it almost impossible for the disciple to have any intimacy with God or with people. While the false self (Shepherd Brian) is diligently trying to pray, worship, study the Bible, and interact with the community, the true self (Real Brian) has been pushed aside; he sits in the corner all alone, growing increasingly isolated. Bible study and prayer is all about Shepherd Brian. Everyone praises and rebukes Shepherd Brian. No one shows any love or concern for Real Brian.

    After 20 or 30 years of this, what happens?

    When we look at the people who have lived this way for so long, is it surprising that they look strange, talk strange, act strange? Is it surprising that they cannot have an honest conversation with you? Is it surprising that they find it impossible to deal maturely with conflict? Is it surprising that they seem unaware of their own emotions? Is it surprising that they cannot face even the most obvious of problems within their organization or their families?

    Not at all. They have no energy to deal with external conflict, because all their energy is being used to suppress the internal conflict caused by the disconnection of self. The surprising thing is not that they act so strange. The surprising thing is that they are not even stranger.

  17. Thanks, guys. For a quarter of a century I “cut off” my own family and friends back home because of the exclusivity and elitism I founded and grounded my (false) identity upon. They thought I was very strange and self-righteous. I thought they were hopelessly lost. (I condescendingly concluded that they were condemned as non-Christians or terribly secular.)

    Only by God’s grace, God helped me to find myself again. Today, my family and friends think I’m a nice and “normal” Christian. I think they are genuinely my family and friends whom I love dearly.

  18. “Shepherd Brian is dead” is rather simple and non-complex. In my case, it might be “Great, Exemplary, Famous Throughout the World, and Most Fruitful American Shepherd Dr. Ben Toh IS dead!!!” I hope this doesn’t sound like I am showing off. But I’ve unfortunately heard myself being embarrassingly referred to in such exaggerated language on more than one occasion. :-)

    But thank God that I am now simply a pariah, which is so much more fun!

    • Ben, I knew you simply as “Dr. Ban”. That named was feared far and wide in ubfland! So I too am glad that you are connecting with your authentic self, as is Joe. I like both your real selves much better!

  19. So now I can more clearly state my two demands to ubf leaders. It could be argued that I should not be *demanding* them to do anything. However, I contend that someone needs to stand up and make these demands due to the nature of what has transpired the past 50+ years, namely the 4 reform movements (if this 4th movement can even be called “reform”…)

    My two demands to ubf leaders are 1. admit abuse 2. release the bonds.

    Hassan’s book and model helps clarify what I demand on a deeper level.

    For #1, To admit abuse means more than acknowledging abusive acts have occurred. In fact, some ubf leaders already admit this. On a deeper level, this means to admit that ubf had created a shepherd identity and demanded everyone they recruit to adopt that identity, ignoring the autonomous self of each person. The goes far deeper than Korean cultural elements, and deeper than flawed theology. This cuts to the core of what it means to be human.

    For #2, To release the bonds means more than just ending the permanent requirement to have a personal shepherd overseeing your life. Indeed, some in ubf have already loosened this requirement. And this bondage does not apply well to some in ubf, such as Joe, since there are some who have not experienced the lording-over shepherding that many of us did experience. On a deeper level, to release the bonds means to help people find their authentic self and become the person God is calling them to be. It means to help people connect with their pre-cult self and find ways to unbind the cult self from their authentic self. Hassan uses the word “straightjacket” to describe the bondage of a cult identity to an authentic identity. So this is not easy, but I agree with Hassan that this is not only doable, but rewarding work.

  20. Brian…I agree with the two demands. I think you hit them right on the nose. Frankly, I experienced something quite different to many in UBF and my story is kind of abnormal to the pattern of UBF in the sense that I was headed to prison and even death if something did not change. UBF provided a needed change in the beginning and I came to know Christ personally but after that many of the things you say did affect me and made me to be somewhat disoriented to my true self. After leaving UBF, my struggle has been to restore my family in love and to discard all the false teachings and to understand that it is not ok to abuse people to raise disciples. I think two things that really help is for UBF people to get educated like you are in reading about such groups and you are teaching me and helping me much in reading your posts and I have bought many of the books that you recommended on this site and Joe, Ben, and others. I think it is important to understand God’s love and this is the starting point to recover and to have honest dialogue with those who want to talk. I think belonging to a healthy church helps much to see the difference between what God’s love is and what abusive ministry is and controlling. Even after leaving UBF, it takes much prayer and healing to see the truth about UBF. I hope our book and my story mostly is heard to show a human side to all of this and the destruction UBF does to families and peoples lives when things do go wrong and to open a window to healing. Writing my book has brought much peace and healing to me and my kids see that I am less controlling and more loving as a father. Brian, I am happy to have you as a friend and you have helped me much in your digging deeper in all this so that the truth may come to light. Praying for all on this site and hope you can be used by God to speak to UBF on the inside along with Joe, Ben, and even myself so that freedom and healing may come to all.

  21. And yet again the most damning evidence in support of my point is ubf’s own material. If anyone wants to criticize ubf, you don’t have to make anything up. Just read their own documents, testimonies and messages.

    For example, search for the phrase “be a shepherd“. Notice how many times and how many ways ubf people speak of wanting to “be a shepherd”. Every recruit into ubf must fit into this shepherd identity. Otherwise, there are problems.

    Over and over again, ubf people talk about this “shepherd X” identity:

    be a shepherd… in Montreal
    be a shepherd… in Zimbawe 1
    be a shepherd… in Zimbawe 2
    be a shepherd… in Juba

  22. Thanks, Brian. I want also to testify that shepherd Abraham, ( shepherd Humble, shepherd Timothy) is dead as well. Vitaly is alive.

    When the director called me after my leaving ubf he said, “shepherd Timothy…”, but I replied, “I am not shepherd Timothy”. – “And who are you?” – “I am Vitaly”. – “Oh, yes, of course, Vitaly”. And he laughed at my name, and actually at my identity.

    He also laughed every time I told him that I was going to leave ubf. He was sure that I was indoctrinated too well to leave. He also said that I won’t be able to live without ubf. When I had some doctrinal disagreements with him he said that I would be a heretic.

    After leaving ubf it was really difficult for me and my wife to call each other’s names. (We studied Daniels in ubf and were taught that the Babilonian king wanted to change the friends’ identities and so he changed their names! Why didn’t we see what ubf did to us at that time?!)

    Now it is more than 2 years that I left ubf. God started to bless my life from the very first step out. We had debts and God blessed us to pay them all after 2 months. I was able to think freely what I am created for in Jesus, what I really want to do when nobody curses me and nobody pushes and rebukes me on the daily basis in order to have more sheep. It was good to see that I love to prepare sermons and to preach and to teach and to talk to people. It was good to see that God gave me some gifts and my brothers and sisters confirmed that. God blessed us to meet at our home for one year as a true home church. Then I found a healthy church and we attended there. We were baptized last summer (and had The Lord’s Supper every month) in the church. From september I became a preacher and I preached actually almost every sunday. This year the church (which is the first protestant church in the city)chose me to be a pastor candidate (If everything is well then in some months I will officially become a pastor). That was a miracle from God! I am happy to be who I am and who I was created and called to be and to do what I want to do before God.

    Isn’t it fun that a man who was called “a devil” when leaving the ubf-cult is becoming a pastor in a healthy church?

    • This is wonderful to hear Vitaly! There are many rebellious, ungrateful, devils who left ubf and are doing amazingly well.

      On the other hand, there are far too many “shepherd X” people being indoctrinated. This 2012 India report shows the bonding of the “shepherd X” identity to the authentic self identity.

      One of the main methods ubf has for creating the “shepherd X” straightjacket is delivering conference messages, such as in Jitender’s case:

      “Sh. Jitender (a Hindu convert shepherd) delivered morning message with the title “A prophet to the nations”(Jeremiah 1:1-10). When God said to Jeremiah that God knew him before God formed him in the womb, and God set him apart before he was born, and God appointed him as a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah said “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.” But when God gave him assurance for his mission by God’s guidance, he accepted God’s calling as a prophet to the nations and he preached the message of repentance and God’s restoration powerfully. Actually Sh Jitender felt some burdensome feeling to be a shepherd, so he wanted to live as an evergreen sheep by receiving much love and concern continuously from shepherds. But through meditating Jeremiah 1:1-10, he repented his fear and unbelief and decided to live as a prophet to this nation. He stressed that now God is calling each of us too as a prophet to the nations. We prayed that God may raise many prophet- like shepherds in our country India and all the worlds.”

    • Note the age-regression method employed on this Indian person. The Jeremiah and Joshua and other passages about being a child are used heavily in the ubf indoctrination process. Regressing someone to a child-like mindset removes their critical thinking defenses. Then they willingly adopt the “shepherd X” identity. I delivered numerous messages and testimonies just like Jitender does below. Repeatedly teaching the child-mindset puts the person in a continual state of immaturity.

      Once this trigger back to childhood is implanted in an adult’s mind, with one word, the ubf missionary can snap a person back into that child-like state to teach obedience, or anything he wants, at any time. I find this trauma trigger was still in me after leaving, and I must dig it out.

  23. The Jeremiah passage applied to Shepherd Jitender might reveal an even greater underlying problem. It is the way the Bible is studied, understood and taught, which is to take it out of its context and historical setting and directly applying it to Christians today.

    This is my favorite quote about the wrong way to study the Bible: “A text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”

    Perhaps we Christians all do it to varying degrees. But to not even be aware at all that we are doing it, will only lead to ever increasing distortions of what the Bible is saying.

    That God called Jeremiah to be a prophet/shepherd to the nations does not teach, suggest, imply, insinuate, command that all Christians are to be a prophet to the nations. This is sheer butchery of the Bible.

  24. Yes indeed Ben I see that too.

    Note also the sly way in which this missionary who is training Jitender switches out the genuine Christian role of prophet with the ubf idealogy:

    “He stressed that now God is calling each of us too as a prophet to the nations. We prayed that God may raise many prophet- like shepherds in our country India and all the worlds.”

    Perhaps when this adult person read Jeremiah for this message, God genuinely inspired him to think about the role of a prophet. So he stresses this in his messsage.

    But what does the ubf missionary do? The ubf missionary swaps out “prophet” with “prophet-like shepherds”. The only identity ubf missionaries will accept is the ubf-styled “shepherd X”.

    As we have pointed out before, the problem with ubf missionaries is not that they fail to bear fruit, but that they confiscate God’s fruit for their own purpose.

  25. “After leaving ubf it was really difficult for me and my wife to call each other’s names.” – See more at:

    Yes Vitaly, my wife and I had the same problem. We always referred to each other as “my co-worker”.

    But I’m happy to regain my senses now and just say “my wife”. It now sounds soooo strange to say “shepherd X” or “missionary X” to anybody, and I won’t do it anymore.

    This all speaks to the fantasy world ubf missionaries like to create: new identities, new language, new behaviors and new names. But the human spirit cannot be bound forever. The human spirit will shine brightly and eventually people will see through all this.

  26. Hindu convert professor shepherd Abraham Nial of India is dead too!!

    But I have to admit one thing, although I don’t want to be called by that title and that name anymore, it has been hard for us easterners to drop the titles. My wife still calls me shepherd Abraham (especially in front of other former ubfers) and I feel strange to call my friend ‘Robert’ and feel more comfortable calling him Shep Robert, though we both and our families have left ubf. In our community, we even discussed to stop using the titles of shepherd and shepherdess, but it is just not working. Do we need more time to recover?

    But yes, as a person, I am more alive and aware of Jesus and his plans than before, more connected to my immediate and extended family than before, more concerned and committed to the world mission command than before, more informed and equipped to witness than before, more at peace with myself and wife, and oh yes I love weekend with family, movies, and occasionally beer :)

  27. Vitaly, Brian, Gajanan, Yes, I have to confess that my own dear wife still refers to me as Dr. Ben at West Loop. But thank God that at home or in private she calls me Ben. Maybe someday she might also call me “honey” or “yaboo.” But she is not that sort of touchy feely romantic kind of person. Sigh!

  28. Thanks for sharing AbNial! I think that titles are not as important as our authentic identity. If a certain title is part of the binding of our cult-self to our real-self, then the title becomes much more important. Vitaly gives an excellent insight into such a thing, when his former ubf missionary didn’t know how to react to using his real name “Vitaly”.

    In your case, AbNial, maybe the titles were never so bound, so now they don’t bother you, even though your real identity has now resurfaced.

    In any case, I’m really enjoying this discussion. I will share more refined thoughts about this topic in my book.

    • Gajanan Nial
      Gajanan Nial

      On a side note, Brian, I like the cemetery image in your article that highlights R I P. One thing is for sure, life is more at rest and peace after the “shepherd” position/identity as defined by ubf dies.

    • Thanks Gajanan. I chose it because the RIP related nicely to the book I’m writing, “Rest Unleashed“. I really believe that to enter into God’s rest is a comprehensive gospel theme that permeates the bible from Genesis to Revelation.

      So I ask everyone, why put a yoke on God’s rest? Why should the Sabbath be the busiest, most exhausting day of the week?

    • Gajanan Nial
      Gajanan Nial

      Your book writing on the theme of rest is heartening to hear, Brian. I fully agree that rest is the wonderful blessing that God wants to give us. Perhaps the Jewish greeting “shalom” is about peace with God and with one another and well-being, welfare and security. Isn’t what rest mean in the truest sense.

    • Gajanan, or anyone else, I would love to hear your thoughts on rest and especially your thoughts on these three questions:

      1. What is the gospel?
      2. Will God forgive His enemies?
      3. What is rest?

      If you want me to quote you in my book, send me your thoughts privately.

  29. big bear wrote, “I was headed to prison and even death if something did not change. UBF provided a needed change in the beginning and I came to know Christ personally…” – See more at:

    Unlike Brian, Joe, and others who were Catholics (or Christians) before coming to UBF, there are those like big bear whose lives were spiraling downhill until “rescued” by a UBFer.

    This is a wonderful story of God’s grace that we hear often at UBF conferences. I believe many such stories are authentic. But the problem, I perceive, is how some UBFers allow such stories of redemption and deliverance to arose in them some kind of superior righteousness.

    They “take credit” for such dramatic conversion stories (even if they say “God did it”), simply because God used them as his instruments. This causes a subtle (or blatant) sense of hubris and self-righteousness.

    Also, some leaders use such stories to bind their sheep to UBF for life with a debtor’s ethic, as though “they owe their salvation to UBF,” along with their loyalty, their family and their future.

    One shepherd supposedly said to his sheep of 35 years (who are now both in their 6th decade of life), “You must obey me because I’m your shepherd.” This is so funny and yet so very very sad.

    • “I believe many such stories are authentic.”

      Precisely Ben. There are authentic stories. The problem is as you point out, the harnassing of such authentic stories with the debtor’s ethic and then the spinning of such stories into fabricated identities that must fit the “ubf shepherd” mold.

    • “…there are those like big bear whose lives were spiraling downhill until “rescued” by a UBFer.”

      And yet what happened to bigbear’s life? When you read his new book, you’ll find out how his life spiraled out of control, perhaps in some respects worse than the previous spiral.

      So yes, his ubf Korean shepherd helped him early on, rescuing him in a sense. But then the downward spiral started all over and when bigbear and his family needed to be rescued again, his Korean shepherd turned a cold shoulder to him.

      After 29 years, bigbear no longer could fit into the “shepherd X” mold. So ubf cast him aside, blaming him for all the problems. I’ll be the first to point out that bigbear does indeed bear some of the blame, as he himself knows. But that second death spiral should not have happened.

  30. Brian, it is sad that some UBF leaders are totally unable to see (or refuse to see) the choke-hold, the strangle hold and the straightjacket they put of their members.

    It reminds me of an excellent quote by Richard Lovelace: “The culture (of the group or the church) is put on as if it were armor against self-doubt, but it becomes a mental straightjacket which cleaves to the flesh and can never be removed, except through comprehensive faith in the saving work of Christ.”

    • Love the quote Ben. And it explains more clearly what I mean when I say I had to leave Christianity to find Christ.

  31. Joe Schafer

    In my opinion, this is one of the best and most important discussions that has ever taken place on this website. But it will have no impact on the ubf culture unless a fundamental shift takes place in their understanding of the gospel.

    In the current understanding: The gospel is all about Real Brian changing into Shepherd Brian so that he can experience God’s love and the blessings of a life in Christ.

    That must change to: The gospel is all about Real Brian experiencing God’s love and the blessings of a life in Christ. Period.

    • Isn’t it like Gentiles (say, Real Brian) needing to become Jews (Shep. Brian) before he becomes a Christian (God’s love in Christ)?

    • Yes, yes, and more yes.

      So I can even now begin to explain my success/failure complex I experienced in ubf.

      On on hand I was told I was “the hope of ubf” and highly praised repeatedly for my obedience and loyalty. Almost nobody else in Toledo ubf could participate in the ubf heritage at my level. I was often the first one at all the meetings, and I made sure I was the last one to leave the meeting. I saw the whole picture.

      On the other hand, I was an almost complete failure at “raising sheep”. I almost always had to pray in the “zero sheep shepherd” prayer group. I always had names of sheep to pray for (and even made up names of stuffed animals at times to fill this name quota). But I never succeeded as a “fruitful shepherd” in terms of “passing on the ubf heritage”. My loyalty saved me though from many rebukes and looking back that loyalty seemed to count for more in ubf than the number of sheep I had.

      How could this be? Well we can see now that real Brian was not ambitious and did not fit into the ubf shepherd mold. So real Brian created a more and more obedient and loyal “Shepherd Brian” facade in order to create a bubble of protection.

      But something else is here too. Real Brian has been told by numerous people that he has real pastoral ability. So looking back I see that I was a pastor to three men (Ryan, Jerry and Aaron). All three are Christians. All three are still my friends. All three were helped in major ways, such as dealing with drug addiction, dealing with timidity, and dealing with adverse family situations. And all three left ubf way before me. One of them is now an ordained minister. I am friends with the mother of one of them.

      I always saw this as a failure to “make disciples” when in fact God made three disciples in front of my eyes. But I never had the ambition or courage to make them disciples of me or fit into ubf-shepherd identities. And for that I thank God.

      Anyway, not sure where I’m going with this… just random thoughts and memories…

  32. Gajanan Nial
    Gajanan Nial

    In my opinion, this is one of the best and most important discussions that has ever taken place on this website. – See more at:
    Yes it is one of the most important discussion, Joe.

    I don’t think any former ubfers would deny the help, love and blessings received. For me ubf bible studies certainly helped me to see Jesus beyond Hinduism and laid a foundation of the Christian faith. I was received a lot of opportunities to participate international conferences and opportunities to lead the main chapter of India ubf. I was blessed to marry a woman who I am deep in love with now and who understands better than anybody else.

    Having said that, demanding life long commitment to UBF because I was helped to meet Jesus there is the problem. Our only life long commitment is to Jesus and the kingdom and should not be to any leader or organization. The stories of sending away those who are not willing to become a shepherd are unfortunate and serious. Demand of such life long commitment to organization is not found in the Bible. Or is it the there?

    Similarly, the ways UBF tries to raise up native leaders should not be for show off. Do not raise native leaders to make him the prophet and mouthpiece of the Korean leader to deliver his messages, to announce his plans and ideas and so on. During my days in UBF, I was the one who stood at the pulpit to deliver messages and announcements, led conferences and so on, but my wife tells me that I was nothing more than a personal secretary to the Korean leader. If suppressing someone’s personality, creativity and natural talent and make him a clone, then such a way of raising of leaders does not look biblical. I was looking at a recent picture of the North American Sr Staff Conference. But it was hard to find native Americans in that picture. I am grateful for leaders’ role in my marriage, but to control my life through my marriage and demanding loyalty to mission and leaders more than my family is again not to be found in the bible.

    Sooner or later UBF has to realize that the demand of life long commitment from those they help to be “Shepherd X” for ubf is not biblical and does not glorify Jesus. Rather if they learn to help people and send them to other parts of the Body of Christ without any ubf tag attached will produce more fruit. At least many leaders will be at peace with God and with themselves and will do more good to all.
    The leader of India UBF was after a friend of mine who was a long time member trying to pursue his family to return. My friend suggested that he would not go back to ubf as a “shepherd”, but he would be willing to help ubf as a messenger in conferences etc. It was not acceptable, because either you are a “shepherd” or you are of no use. I too have desires to help ubf in many ways, but life-long commitment and the position of ubf shepherd, big NO. My only life long commitment is for Jesus, and him alone.
    Recently, I was invited as a speaker in a conference organized by a group who are doing campus mission. Unlike ubf, they value speakers from outside and do not demand life long commitment even from those they help. I did not have to agree with everything they do and they did not dictate about what I can preach and what not. I think such kind of mutual respect and open mindedness is the future of Christianity and christian organizations.
    I am reminded of a quote from John Wimber that says: “In the Kingdom, you only get to keep what you give away..”

    • Excellently put, Gajanan! I wish that many leaders may read what you shared and take this to heart. But for now, it might just remain an unfulfilled wish.

  33. forestsfailyou

    I spoke over the phone a few days ago with my pastor. Here is how the conversation went:

    Me-“Hey I was wondering why you call [roommate’s name] ‘shepherd’.”
    Pastor- “But not you?”
    me- “Yes, why is he a shepherd?”
    Pastor- “Because he feeds sheep. If you have regular bible study with your brother we will call you shepherd too.”
    (As an aside I started bible study with my brother, I feel it will be helpful, but the reasons are too numerous to list here although I suspect someone will accuse me of accepting the shepherd identity and I will have to list them anyways)
    Me-“Yes, yes. but Missionary Grace has bible study but is not called ‘shepherd’.”
    Pastor-“That is because she is a missionary. If you go to Korea you would also be called missionary.”
    (There is talk of me going to south korea to teach English next year, he said this would make me a full time missionary)
    Me-“So Missionary is a higher title”
    Pastor-“Yes. You have a ceremony to anoint you to go.”
    Me-“What if I do not want to be called shepherd.”
    Pastor-“Then we not call you that.”

    • Partly cultural, partly imperialistic, partly authoritarian, partly hubristic, mainly nauseatingly infuriating.

    • Partly condescending, partly discriminatory, partly partial, partly dualistic, partly dichotomous, mainly annoying.

    • Forest, if wonder how your pastor would have answered the question “What if I do not want to call others ‘shepherd’ or ‘missionary’, but just ‘brother’ or ‘sister’?”

      (A friend in UBF got the answer “Then you can leave UBF if you don’t like it.”)

    • “Then you can leave…” is just so troublesome and so so sad to hear.

    • Isn’t it flabbergasting how UBFers can read the Bible so diligently and not notice that in the Bible, nobody is called with the title “shepherd” or “missionary”. Not even the apostles are addressed with titles. Paul is not called “Missionary Paul” or “Apostle Paul” or “Saint Paul” or “Rabbi Paul” or “Dr. Paul” (Paul was a scholar) but just “our beloved brother Paul” (2 Peter 3:15). Even the two top pillars of the church were just “Paul” and “Peter” (Gal 2:7). How can you be so blind to read the Bible every day and not notice how different this is from the way people speak with each other in UBF? And how you can be so hypocritical claiming to follow the Bible literally as an absolute measuring stick and then completely ignore all of Jesus’ commandmends in Mt 23?

      And I fear it’s not just blindness, but sheer hybris. They believe that their Korean/UBF mindset and way of doing things are above anything that is written in the Bible including the words of the son of God himself.

  34. To be fair, Chris, regarding honorific titles, it is perhaps part of countless cultures. But I think that more than just insisting on titles, it is our attitude toward others that matters more.

    In Philippines UBF where there are no Korean missionaries, the Filipinos themselves address each other with “shepherd” and “shepherdess” before their names. They also use Tagalog titles for “older brother” and “older sister.” But there is little to no “power ranking” “power plays” with their titles. It is simply part of their Filipino culture where they show respect to one another.

    But in strongly authoritarian hierarchical societies, cultures and churches, even if you drop the titles, the implicit unspoken expectation is that you always absolutely must defer to the older.

    So, I would say that the weakness and fault and glaring blind spot (to everyone but themselves) is some older leader’s sheer inability or pride or refusal to “just obey” Jesus who says to NOT LORD OVER OTHERS.

    It’s like the rich man in hell who was still insisting on lording over Lazarus in heaven!

  35. Gajanan Nial
    Gajanan Nial

    1. What is the gospel?
    2. Will God forgive His enemies?
    3. What is rest? – See more at:

    Brian, the questions you raised are immensely profound for me to be able to answer, especially in a precise way through commenting on this blog. But I will try, and here are my random thoughts:

    1. The gospel is the complete reversal of everything that has gone wrong in God’s creation. And this reversal is possible in and because of Jesus, the God who became a man. These reversals include, but not limited to:

    Sin separates men from God, but finally God and men dwell together again: God receives for himself a big family with many sons and daughters, and a Bride that is equally yoked in love with His Son (Ge 1:27,28; Rev 19:7;21:3;22:3-4).
    Restoration of men’s position in God’s created order (Gen 1:26; Ps 115:16; Rev 3:21; 20:4)
    Reversal of death including absence of sickness and aging in the resurrected body (Ge 3:19;1Co 15:26, 42-44; Rev 20:14)
    The end of the age-old battle between good and evil, between God and Satan coming to and end with Satan and his army being thrown into eternal fire. (Ge 3:1; Isa 14:12; Rev 11:9;20:2,10)
    A new heaven and a new earth with Eden like conditions (Ge 2:8-10; Rev 22:1-2)

    These days it is difficult for me to think about the gospel, without the kingdom emphasis (Mt 3:2; 4:17; 6:10; 24:15). The kingdom is near and already here, but it is still to come and fully manifest. The coming kingdom is the real good news or the gospel where everything that went wrong from the beginning gets reversed. Recently I was pondering over why was Jesus selective about his miracles, for example why did Jesus not heal every sick? That would have been really good. If the miracles were meant to be signs, what those signs were pointing to? I discovered that all of Jesus’ miracles were a statement about his coming kingdom. Whenever Jesus healed a sick or a leper or restored the blind , he was demonstrating that in his kingdom there would be no sickness. He only raised a few dead, but he demonstrated that death will be reversed in his kingdom. By casting out demons and evil spirits he said that the earth will be some day completely free from those bad spirits including their leader as they will be captured and will be permanent thrown for eternal fire. So to me, the gospel is mostly about the coming kingdom, but for this life it gives enough strength and motivation to overcome and live with a hope (1Co 15:19). We will enjoy a limited foretaste of things to come in this present life, but though limited it is glorious.

    2. God will not forgive all his enemies (Lk 12:10; Rev 19:20; 21:7).

    3. Rest is not the absence of work. Sometime we think that after completing all the hardwork and mission in this life and age, in heaven we will have nothing to do other than singing and worshiping with a guitar, sitting somewhere in the cloud. But that is not what our life will be like. We will have bigger assignments, meaning more work to do in the life to come (Mt 25:21,23; Lk 19:17). Even the mission of the twelve apostles are not over yet (Mt 19:28). I take these verses quite literally. Then what is the difference between working for greater and bigger assignments then and working now? I think that the major difference is we will have resurrected bodies with tremendous increase in our emotional and intellectual capacity perceive, plan and execute things. We will enjoy food, however we will not work for food, but for pleasure and purpose. Even while serving God’s work in this life we struggle to be yoked with Jesus but the yoke is not perfect yet. We enjoy rest to the degree of the yoke. However in spite of more works, and bigger and greater assignments at hand we will enjoy perfect rest because we will be equally and perfectly yoked in love with Jesus. So I try to enjoy my present mission (family, job and ministry) which I think of as internship, with the hope of my glorious mission yet to be revealed in the age to come.

  36. Thanks Gajanan. I appreciate your insight.

    I’m not convinced #2 is so clear. And I admit my question is a loaded question, “Will God forgive His enemies?”.

    My thoughts on this at the moment:

    a. There are indeed consequences for being an enemy of God.

    b. I reject a God who demands me to forgive my enemies and won’t do so him/her self.

    c. I won’t pretend to know what God will do or think.

    d. There are passages in Scripture such as Isaiah 63:1-6. I read that this passage is not easily tied to an actual event. Couldn’t this point to the Messiah forgiving the Edomites? Also Romans 9 makes a strong case for God forgiving enemies.

  37. forestsfailyou

    I have a question Brian. What does UBF stand to gain from “identity snatching”? This seems to be a critical question, because if it cannot be answered I have no reason to believe it to be true.

    I found a book written by Mark Yang called “Jesus’ Discipleship Training.” The book seemed to indicate to me that the formation of a “shepherd” from a disciple, was needed because this is was jesus’ goal. (Bonhoffer agrees in the cost of discipleship)Assuming this is true, the claim of identity snatching may be true, but concludes nothing sinister.

    The only purpose I could reasonably contrive is perhaps that identity snatched people are better donors, and there is a financial gain to be made.

    • forests,

      It’s unfortunate that you see a sinister intention. I suppose I imply that with the provocative term “identity snatchers”. The intention of most ubf shepherds is good at first. But when they realize they are causing harm, do they change? No, most do not. So then the only pretend to have a good intention. They realize the shepherding ideology is harmful, but they still try to employ the ideology, hoping it will turn out good.

      Also, you mention money as a motive. That is a Western way of thinking. Easterners generally don’t care about money as a motive. But just as strongly they care about loyalty and honor.

      Snatching the identity of a college student and conforming them into a “ubf shepherd” means everything to the Korean missionaries. It is their “holy grail”. They won’t give up trying this “grand experiment”, no matter how many guinea pigs they ruin or harm.

      They must have young adults conform to the “ubf shepherd” identity because they have an intense fear of their “lineage” being cut off. They are desperate to pass on the ubf heritage, especially to their children.

    • “What does UBF stand to gain from “identity snatching”?”

      So not only do ubfers stand to lose their heritage, they stand to gain much. They gain the following…

      1. a world-wide network of people absolutely loyal to their cause

      2. the fame and glory of being a #1 missionary sending organization (this may be their great prize actually)

      3. a very good life for the upper echelon leaders (assets are involved here even if money is not a prime motive: life insurance, retirement plans, houses, etc)

    • “I found a book written by Mark Yang called “Jesus’ Discipleship Training.” The book seemed to indicate to me that the formation of a “shepherd” from a disciple, was needed because this is was jesus’ goal”

      I have that book too, and signed by Mark Yang himself :)

      And it is blasphemy to say that Jesus practiced “ubf shepherding”.

    • forestsfailyou

      It seems to me then that the problem is intractable. You admit their intention is good. It is good because they believe that the correct path to God is through discipleship. If this is a biblical approach (which they hold is) then there are only two possibilities for why it won’t work: either unfaithfulness or Satan’s work (his relation to you has become confused in some circles, to the point of identification I fear)- because them being wrong is ruled out by the assumption. They can never see shepherding ideology as harmful. In fact, there is literally no point in arguing with them. Its like arguing that addition ought not to be commutative.

    • Forests,

      You are displaying the classic cult-like thinking here: loaded language and false dichotomy:

      “…they believe that the correct path to God is through discipleship. If this is a biblical approach (which they hold is) then there are only two possibilities for why it won’t work: either unfaithfulness or Satan’s work”

      Indeed, discipleship is a biblical approach, if we are talking about disciples of Jesus. But “ubf shepherding” is not the same as “discipleship”. ubf shepherding is a program to bind “sheep” to human shepherds. That is not biblical in the least.

      To say “ubf shepherding” fails only because either someone was unfaithful or Satan attacked is simply foolish and unintelligent.

    • forestsfailyou

      Brian. You are making a classic mistake here. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

      I am entertaining it without accepting it. Further I have not answered if UBF shepherding is biblical, this was an assumption to understand their intent. These are different questions. Can you explain what the other logically exhaustive possibility their are with a premise “Ubf shepherding is biblical” and “This person is reacting badly to ubf shepherding” other than “Satan or the world has caused this. CS Lewis gives these are the two primary warnings of the gospal. The world and Satan, is there anything besides heaven, hell and the world?

    • forestsfailyou

      I think it is more likely that UBF has come to a logically correct conclusion holding a fault assumption (making their conclusion wrong) than they hold correct assumption and came to a false conclusion (by wrong reasoning).

      It is also recommended that you refrain from accusing someone of “cult like thinking”. Attacking someones ability to reason is akin to calling someone Satan. If it’s true their words are of no consequence and you should not have said it and if it’s false you should not have said it.

    • Forests,

      As I mentioned privately, I am not going to spend time trying to decipher the intent behind your words. In written communication, I can really only take your words at face value. So I cannot tell if your mind is merely entertaining a thought or accepting that thought. All I can react to is what you write, unless you give us some clue such as “I don’t believe this, but here is what ubfers might be thinking…”.

      In any case, I’ll overlook your statements and attempt to answer your questions.

      So you asked: “Can you explain what the other logically exhaustive possibility their are with a premise “Ubf shepherding is biblical” and “This person is reacting badly to ubf shepherding” other than “Satan or the world has caused this?”

      The other possibility is that the ubf system itself is flawed. Using the logic you present, the three possibilities are that there is an inside force, an outside force or the system itself is not strong enough to work:

      1. some force inside the ubf system is causing the failure (i.e. the person is causing the flaw, such as a sheep or shepherd is a failure)

      2. some force outside the ubf system is causing the failure (i.e. Satan is causing the failure or some bitter former members are attacking the system)

      3. the ubf system itself has flaws such that the system breaks down and does not work after a certain time (i.e. the ubf system cannot sustain continued success).

    • And to be clear, my claim is that #3 is true. People do have failures, but I reject any notion that flawed sheep or shepherds could cause enough problems to warrant 4 reform movements and 50+ years of cult allegations. I reject any notion that that Satan is “attacking” ubf or that former members could have such massive influence as to cause the ubf system to collapse every 3 to 7 years. This collapse is a documented reality around the world. We can see ubf chapters imploding every several years, and I believe I have examined ubf enough to be able to explain why.

    • So to use an analogy, if someone builds a house and it collapses every few years, there are 3 possible reasons why: 1) someone or something living in the house causes the collapse 2) someone or something outside the house destroys it or 3) the house was build in a flawed or weak manner or perhaps on a shaky foundation.

  38. Forests, If I may respond, I agree with you that “identity snatching” is not carried out with sinister intent. It is far more likely to be due to ignorance, not in the sense of stupidity, but that many traditional longstanding UBFers know “only the UBF way of doing things” though out the bulk of their Christian lives. So, I believe that most of them really know of “no other way” to do ministry, other than our so-called “core values,” which oftentimes feels like it is held higher than the gospel itself.

    That’s why they are not entirely pleased that you will not accept or embrace the term “shepherd,” which honestly is really no big deal at all. But it might be to some who have deeply and intricately formed their own self identity with UBF’s core identity.

  39. Forests, “They can never see shepherding ideology as harmful. In fact, there is literally no point in arguing with them.” – See more at:

    I personally love and embrace the shepherding ideology, but no longer in the way I used to for the first 25 years of my UBF life. In the past, my shepherding was more or less “lording over” and “exercising authority over” my sheep with varying degrees of intensity based on how much the sheep is willing to comply. But now I am intentionally no longer doing so to the best of my ability, because I believe that it is unhealthy, unbiblical and unChrist-like.

    But in my opinion, many older leaders may be “loosening a bit,” but for the most part, it is hard for many of them to truly not “lord over” or “exercise their shepherd’s or missionaries’ authority over” their sheep. This is what has caused “identity snatching,” which is why “UBF shepherds” throughout the world act, talk, pray, dress, write testimonies, and carry out the Sun services, prayer meetings and conferences in virtually the same way, with but subtle differences. It is almost formulaic and predictable, which basically disallows or disapproves or “tolerates” aberrations of any sort, such as “no need to write testimonies.” If this is not identity snatching, then I wonder what is?

    • forestsfailyou

      I’m not claiming it isn’t identity snatching Ben. I am simply saying that it is done out of love. They view the creation of shepherd as a fulfillment of Christ’s love, for the shepherd does as Jesus did: he teaches the word of God. He sacrifices his time to do as Jesus did by following his command in Mat 29.

      Now maybe the methods of which they go about this are wrong, but as someone said “The aim of education is to make the pupil like the teacher.”

      Paul said that not everyone should be a teacher however, so the UBFer needs to realize that if you are not called to be a bible teacher then you ought not to be. That is my best friends position on the group as a whole(he is totally outside UBF so I value his opinion highly). The issue is here that Jesus made disciples but Paul says not everyone is a teacher; so there is a contradiction in their methodology to be sure. But they would probably counter that if they are not to meant to be teachers that are free to leave, and I see little reason why they wouldn’t. One long standing member took this approach years ago with no ill effects.

  40. So I’ll take the bait.. :)

    Forests, you wrote:

    “I think it is more likely that UBF has come to a logically correct conclusion holding a fault assumption (making their conclusion wrong) than they hold correct assumption and came to a false conclusion (by wrong reasoning).”

    > YES! I agree.

    “It is also recommended that you refrain from accusing someone of “cult like thinking”.”

    > This was not an accusation, but an observation. As I mentioned, I cannot read your intentions, but only your words. I honestly cannot tell if you have bought into cult thinking or not, but I do observe such thinking in your words.

    “Attacking someones ability to reason is akin to calling someone Satan.”

    > I don’t see these two being equal. We need to learn how to communicate and feedback helps us do that. Why do you tie “critical feedback” with “calling someone Satan”? I don’t understand this linkage.

  41. forestsfailyou

    They are both ad hominum arguments, and therefore disallowed in critical thinking. We *can* use them, but then we are doing something besides critical thinking. I doubt anyone wants to argue that critical thinking is no value.

    • Fair enough. Indeed certain circles of people in ubf probably should not equate vocal former members with Satan :)

    • But then again, what would my day be like without a good ol’ bashing from ubf people calling me Satan or saying I am doing Satan’s work? :?

  42. forestsfailyou

    I was reading a book recently. It talked about how the ultimate goal of gift love is to put someone is the position that they no longer need it. We feed children so that they may eventually feed themselves.”

    Assuming that shepherding is biblical. It could simply be that the shepherd never feels his task is over.

    Gift love must work for its abdication. “The hour when we can say ‘They need me no longer’ should be our reward… A much higher love- a love which desires the good of the object as such, from whatever source that good comes- must step in and help or tame the instinct before it can make the abdication. And of course it often does. But where it does not, the ravenous need to be needed will gratify itself either by keeping its objects needy or by inventing for them imaginary needs. It will do this all the more ruthlessly because it thinks (in one sense truly) that it is a Gift- love and therefore regards itself as ‘unselfish'”

    He goes on to speak of a professor that would invite his students over for discussions. The professor was the “most effective and devoted teacher”. They would continue this even after they graduated. But it was never long, because at some point “they had rebelled. They had asserted they independence- differed from the master and supported they own view, perhaps not without success…Woton had toiled to create a free Siegfried; presented with the free Siegfried, he was enraged.” He concludes that the professor was a very unhappy man.