It’s more fun in the Philippines – Part 3

jIn part 2 of my report of the Philippines, I mentioned some initial impressions of my time. I now want to speak of the actual content of the conference, and the success of UBF in the Philippines.

Being a missionary

I did not feel like a missionary, as I said in part 1. But while I was there I made sure that I did not try to impose my culture on the students. For me this meant first and foremost that I did not insist on English only. I was assigned a translator. In some bible studies she requested that the students speak in English but I had to be very insistent in telling them to speak freely. Many students were very shy to meet me. I could not understand the tone of the Tagalog but my translator informed me that the presiders were shy to introduce me. I tried to be as open as possible and to speak with all of them. One student refused to look at me as I tried to introduce myself. In America I would have taken this as a call to forcefully introduce myself, possibly with a lot of sarcasm. In this case I didn’t say anything. Later the girl approached me and introduced herself. She was very open in speaking with me for the duration of the conference. The first message was given in English, but the second one was mostly in Tagalog.


The message in English was given by Timothy. His spoke on John 17, Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. The primary message was Jesus prays for us, and his intercession brings about joy. The sermon was given extemporaneously. He used notes and cited Old Testament verses as needed. It differed from Easter conference in major ways.

The messages given by Americans at Camp Joatta for my conference were very analytical. They were rooted in explanation and argumentation. The message was essentially an appeal to logic; it was a sermon from logos. The messages given by native Koreans were rooted in obedience, loyalty, and discipleship. The message was essentially an appeal to authority of the speaker as a elder messenger of God; it was sermon from ethos. But the message I heard was rooted in emotion; it was a sermon from pathos. His main message can be summarized by the psalmist “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” This was the same thing I thought as I saw the earth depart from me as I flew to the Philippines. From the sky you could not even tell that people existed, they were too small. Who am I that the creator of the heavens and the earth became man so that I might become like God?

He spoke that the “J” in “Joy” stood for Jesus. Indeed Jesus brings Joy and the joy of the students and people there was contagious. There was no excessive feeling of guilt that many Easter celebrations bring with it. He said that sin destroys the joy that Christ gives us. The message was very inspiring because the modern world has nearly equated sin with virtue. They speak of “forbidden fruit” as though it is something that we ought to have. Sin, rather than bring us joy, actively destroys it!

The success of the Philippines UBF

The Easter Conference had 93 in attendance. I wondered openly how this had happened. Why was it that the Philippines UBF so successful. My chapter has in St. Louis has produced 1 long staying disciple in 7 years. My chapter in Springfield has, by my count, 3 three in the past 4 years. But the Philippines had dozens. Most of the members in attendance had been in the Philippines UBF for more than 2 years. I discovered that the UBF chapter didn’t use the UBF daily bread book. They said to use it was to “put God in a box”. This sentiment was expressed equally about nearly every “rule” that UBF has. Dr. William said that it was our job to guide people and let God choose for them their role in the church. Students wanted to take an active part in the church and there were facilitated by the leadership there. Your role was never chosen for you.

That being said there were very typical UBF influences. “Shepherd” and “shepherdess” were common. Interestingly these were not titles that were required to be used such as in traditional UBF chapters. However, they were still used even though some current UBF chapters don’t use them at all such as Springfield UBF. For various reasons I determined the title was honorary, it was not “earned”. In this way UBF Philippines was not stratified and competitive in nature. It was not a competitive discipleship ministry. Dr. William explained he did not want a mega church. He said he was soon sending out a family of 8 to start a new chapter.

I have observed that some UBF chapters are unsuccessful for 2 reasons. First they are very legalistic, and manipulative. They only present one option for people in the church and therefore exert a lot of control over their members. This was not present in the Philippines UBF; everything was done with grace, love and freedom. The second way I have observed them fail is with regards to the policy on marriage by faith. It seems that traditional Korean marriage practices of arranged marriage were brought with UBF and justified with certain proof texts taken out of context. Korean leaders therefore see their cultural norm as a divine imperative. This shotgun style engagement and forceful nature is not present here. Traditional Filipino courtship is the norm. Courtship usually takes at least a few years. Marriage is not seen as a tool to build missionaries either. Students are free to date, but it is usually discouraged. The traditional courtship is modified in a Christian light. People who are considering being married are introduced in a similar manner as traditional UBF chapters. But then the leaders are mostly absent for the rest of the period. The courtship period is a testing ground to decide if it is God’s will to be married. Leaders do not cancel weddings and families are very involved. Because of an absence of law in favor of grace, and an absence of the UBF marriage by faith policy, UBF Philippines has been very successful.

Closing remarks

I will not go into every detail of my trip. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. Maybe one day I will include a part 4, it is possible I will write a follow up. God’s work in the Philippines has changed my life in remarkable ways. I have decided I will go back as soon as I can, even at the expense of going to Europe. As one student told me “God is good…All the time.”


  1. Thanks, Forests! My subjective sense is that UBF Philippines is well balanced in:

    * Orthodoxy: Right beliefs. Grounded and rooted in Scripture.
    * Orthopraxy: Right practices. Repentance, faith and obedience.
    * Orthopathy: Right emotions. Love, joy, peace, etc.

    Some churches that emphasize Bible study and obedience might come across (without realizing it) as believing in the Father, Son and Holy Bible.

    Worse yet, they might even disparage anyone who seems to show excessive emotion of joy and public expressions of worship, thus inadvertently despising the Holy Spirit and accusing such Christians as being steeped in empty emotionalism, while not realizing that they might be communicating a dead orthodoxy.

  2. forestsfailyou

    I should be clear about this “In some bible studies she requested that the students speak in English but I had to be very insistent in telling them to speak freely.”

    In part 2 I mentioned 1-1 bible studies. But after the message there was a group bible study/ testimony meeting. It was somewhere in between, and seemed to vary from group to group how it was done. In my group the leader asked each person 3 questions. I don’t remember exactly, but they were related to the message. It turned into a discussion. When one student began answering in Tagalog the leader said “English, english” I stopped her and told him to speak in Tagalog. After he finished she translated. Then he asked me about a confusing issue he had the the second coming. I tried to answer his question but I had a distinct impression I did not understand what he was asking. He said I had answered his question, but I felt like he was just saying this. If anyone from Philippines UBF sees the very tall student David. Ask him about his question. I would like to see it answered.

  3. big bear

    Forests…how has the trip changed your life…be more specific….I can sense joy in your writings….are you going to share report to your chapter director

    • forestsfailyou

      Some events will be left for a further report. My chapter director will get a copy of this. In time he will know of all the events in the Philippines, some of them after I move out of common life in August :)

  4. Okay, I can’t resist. You studied what passage in English???

    You studied John 17. Remember our concerns about the 2013 ISBC?
    No John 17:

    Any thoughts?

    • Good catch gc!

      Yet another glaring example of the difference between a Christian ministry like Philippines ubf seems to be and the cult-like new religious movements most other ubf chapters propagate. Christians exalt Jesus; cults exalt themselves.

      When my home ubf chapter studied John 17 our main messenger at the conference taught us to replace “Jesus” with “your name”, and shout “God, glorify ME! God, glorify ME!”.

      That was the last ubf conference I ever attended. That message woke me up and I suddenly saw that I had become a nostalgic hagiographer, misusing the name of Jesus to defend and enable an abusive religious system.

    • forestsfailyou

      I encourage you read this. Cs Lewis says that God wants to glorify us.

      This sermon brought me back from years of stagnation. I had not attended church and I felt that God was very far away. Then at once I felt him close again with this sermon. I cannot recommend it enough. I brought it to the Philippines.

      He says this
      “I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse. Apparently what I had mistaken for
      humility had, all these years. prevented me from understanding what is in fact the humblest, the most childlike, the most
      creaturely of pleasures—nay, the specific pleasure of the inferior: the pleasure a beast before men, a child before its father, a pupil before his teacher, a creature before its Creator. I am not forgetting how horribly this most innocent desire is parodied in our human ambitions, or how very quickly, in my own experience, the lawful pleasure of praise from those whom it was my duty to please turns into the deadly poison of self-admiration. But I thought I could detect a moment—a very, very short moment—before this happened, during which the satisfaction of having pleased those whom I rightly loved and rightly feared was pure. And that is enough to raise our thoughts to what may happen when the redeemed soul, beyond all hope and nearly beyond belief, learns at last that she has pleased Him whom she was created to please. There will be no room for vanity then. She will be free from the miserable illusion that it is her doing. With no taint of what we should now call self-approval she will most innocently rejoice in the
      thing that God has made her to be, and the moment which heals her old inferiority complex for ever will also drown her pride deeper than Prospero’s book. Perfect humility dispenses with modesty. If God is satisfied with the work, the work may be satisfied with itself.”

    • Yes, what C.S. Lewis writes is quite good, thanks :) Perhaps ubf messengers at conferences should read more of such people’s writings.

    • forestsfailyou

      That is incredible. Thanks for pointing this out.

  5. You nailed it, forests:

    “I have observed that some UBF chapters are unsuccessful for 2 reasons.”

    > Yes there are indeed just 2 areas to change for a ubf chapter to begin transforming out of their cultic cocoon and into a new life Christian ministry. You give two good examples, and there are numerous ways to say the same two things.

    “First they are very legalistic, and manipulative.”

    > Yes the first category of change needed is what I call “face the facts”. Legalism and manipulation are two facts that need to be faced head on. I understand that Korean culture beats around the bush and does not enjoy directness. But the gospel persuades us to do so. Abraham faced the facts about his life and his wife. Are we any different?

    “The second way I have observed them fail is with regards to the policy on marriage by faith.”

    > Yes the second category of change needed is what I call “release the bonds”. The marry-within-ubf-by-obeying-your-shepherd just has to end. Such bondage is unhealthy and produces people like myself and Andrew who write books about undue religious influence. There are many other layers of bondage, and I explore those in my second book.

  6. big bear

    Forests…”It is more fun living outside of UBF” You dont need the manipulation and the control and the legalism or the “marriage by faith.” All these things could be avoided if UBF would let go of the deep religious pride that came with its founders. It is a blessing to connect with healthy churches. This week prayed with a baptist pastor and have lunch engagement with Pastor from a new church called the movement. Read John Armstrong book…your church is to small. UBF is very small and its vision is small. This is why they are afraid to work with other healthy churches. They keep members by force and guilt and shame not with love and grace