Galatians Set Me Free From Legalism

freedomAre you free from legalism? Reading and studying Galatians in 2009 set me free—28 years after becoming a Christian. This freedom and exhilarating liberation came from reading John Stott’s excellent commentary on Galatians. I read Galatians dozens of times since 1980. I knew it was about freedom. I assumed it proclaimed freedom from sin. But I was stunned to discover that the freedom Paul spoke of was freedom from legalism–the idea that you must add or do something else in addition to believing in Jesus in order to be saved and to be regarded and welcomed as a complete Christian of good standing in the church.

legalismHow to make the apostle Paul very angry. All Christians say that faith in Jesus and the gospel is all we need for life and salvation. But practically some Christians and churches communicate–explicitly or implicitly–that faith in Christ is not quite enough. In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians (the Judaizers) taught the Gentile Christians that in addition to believing in Christ they must keep Jewish traditions–circumcision, dietary laws, special days–in order to become “fully Christian.” This so outraged Paul that he did not express any pleasantries or thanksgiving after his introduction (Gal 1:1-5), as he did in his other 12 epistles. Instead he immediately launched into them (Gal 1:6ff) by directly confronting and accusing them of deserting Christ and distorting, changing and perverting the gospel (Gal 1:6b-7). To those who taught that additions to the gospel were needed (which is no gospel at all), Paul cursed them with God’s curse…twice in two verses (Gal 1:8-9). Boy was he mad!

A junior rebuking a senior publicly. Compared to Peter, Paul was a “junior” apostle. Yet, in that orderly structured hierarchical Jewish culture, Paul rebuked Peter publicly (not privately). Then he openly shared and circulated this embarrassing and shameful account in a letter to be read in all the churches (Gal 2:11-14). Today it is like sending out a mass email to everyone in the church! Imagine Peter, the rock of the church (Mt 16:18), committing such a basic sin and getting publicly rebuked by a junior! Peter’s sin was “deviating from the truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:14) when he withdrew from eating together with Gentile Christians. By his behavior he was saying that Jewish Christians were better than Gentile Christians because they kept the tradition of Jewish dietary laws. By making this distinction Peter communicated that the gospel of God’s grace was insufficient for salvation and good standing as a Christian. He was stating by his action that justification was not just by faith, but also by the works of the law (Gal 2:16).

For over 25 years, without realizing it, I added to the gospel whenever I taught the Bible. Basically, I added (strictly enforced!) all the activities of the church to the gospel: marrying by faith, no dating without permission, writing out answers to Bible study questions, preparing Bible study binders, writing testimonies, going fishing, feeding sheep 1:1, never ever missing any church meetings (don’t you dare!), always wearing a tie in church, addressing other Christians with titles, etc. None of these “additions” were necessarily bad or wrong. In fact, I thought I was a “cut-above” Christian, not a nominal Christian. But I inadvertently communicated that Christ alone or the gospel alone was insufficient and inadequate to be regarded as a good Christian. So today, I’m done writing testimonies along with being done with…

I’m not opposed to any of the above and would encourage some people to seriously consider them, if they are so inclined. But I am convinced that putting any undue emphasis or pressure to conform to any church practices and traditions would invariably teach what Paul calls “a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all” (Gal 1:6-7). To Paul, such “Bible teachers” should castrate or emasculate themselves (Gal 5:12). Worse yet, it invites an eternal curse from God (Gal 1:8-9).

Are you free from legalism? Or do you feel that something else is required from you in addition to your faith in the gospel?

There are countless good commentaries on Galatians. The books I have read and do not hesitate recommending are:

  1. John R.W. Stott, The Message of Galatians: Only One Way, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1968).
  2. Timothy Keller, Galatians For You, God’s Word For You (Epsom, Surrey, England: The Good Book Company, 2013).
  3. Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians, Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2005).


  1. forestsfailyou

    I heard messages on this book for several weeks. I was shocked that its message was lost on a certain roommate who still narrowly defines “growth” in the manner given above. I talked to Paul and John Lee who both said he was wrong. In John Lee’s words “The Christian experience is different for different people. Maybe it worked for him but it is wrong and abusive to try to impose that on others.” My pastor said “If I have ever pressured people I was wrong. I try to guide them but if they are called elsewhere I can do nothing because that is God.”

  2. big bear

    Ben great post…there was so much legalism in Cinti UBF that love of God, people and families did not exist….it was replaced with religion and UBF rules….it is easy to live by rules but takes true faith to truly love as Christ loves and live in freedom…it has now been 2 years since our family been out of UBF….it takes time but happy I am beginning to live in love…I had to let go of legalism and accept that His grace is sufficient

  3. Galatians set me free from ubf.

    • And then Hebrews set me free from Evangelicalism.

    • And then I met Jesus living in me through His Spirit.

    • forestsfailyou

      i have a friend who will be a missionary to India thought CRU. He asked me what you mean by “Hebrews set me free from evangelism”

    • That’s an awesome question and deserves much attention. Here is my brief summary of what I mean.

      Evangelical Christianity taught me the following (of course this is my ubf-filtered view so it may not be an accurate representation of “evangelicalism”, but it seems to be correct the more I read and interact with “evangelicals”).

      1. The bible is the supreme authority.
      2. Marriage is the highest expression of love.
      3. The primary gospel articulation is substitutionary atonement.
      4. A right relationship with Jesus is found at church.
      5. Christians must obey the OT Law (in some way, not all of it)

      Hebrews taught me:

      1. Jesus is the supreme authority (Lordship)
      2. Reconciliation is the highest expression of love (Hebrews is a grand picture of what reconciliation with God and each other in community would look like)
      3. The primary gospel articulation is “entering into God’s rest”.
      4. A right relationship with Jesus is found “outside the camp”.
      5. Christians are set free from the OT Law in all ways.

      These are the truths the Spirit taught me as I studied the book of Hebrews and read many resources and sermons about Hebrews. This book is an ocean and this only scratches the surface.

      If you want to understand the bible properly, 1) begin with grace 2) cleave to love and 3) learn to let the Spirit teach you Hebrews, as well as all books of the bible.

      There is a rather extensive outline on Hebrews outline

    • Note: Please do not see a dichotomy here. I am not pitting this as an “either/or” situation. Evangelicalism has a lot correct in those 5 teachings. What I have learned is that the points of emphasis make all the difference. So I see the things evangelicalism teaches as an “and” in a lot of cases, except for point #5 perhaps. The Law is clearly an all or nothing situation.

    • Joe Schafer

      Note that Brian had said “Hebrews set me free from evangelicalism” but Forests read it as “Hebrews set me free from evangelism.”

      One of the hallmarks of evangelicalism is a commitment to evangelism or “sharing your faith” with others by preaching about Jesus. Evangelicals tend to assume that the more evangelism one does, the better. In my experience, however, this is not necessarily true. Attempts to evangelize others can have unintended negative consequences, pushing people away from faith and away from God. In my opinion, many self-styled evangelists do not understand the gospel very well. They misrepresent God and his character, both by their words and their actions. And their evangelistic activity may be driven by their own needs. Here is a sermon about what it means to do evangelism well.

    • Great point Joe. I am *not* against evangelism. I am however a recovering “evangelicaloholic” and also “formerly fundie” and also “recovering ex-ubfer”.

  4. Joe Schafer

    Ben, you defined legalism as “the idea that you must add or do something else in addition to believing in Jesus in order to be saved and to be regarded and welcomed as a complete Christian of good standing in the church.”

    I think that’s basically correct. The practical evidence of legalism is not merely what you teach about salvation, but how you treat Christ-followers who, for whatever reason, don’t want to conform to your patterns and rules of behavior. Do you regard them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, or as second-class people, bad influences, social pariahs, outcasts?

    In my experience, UBF leaders have always danced around this. They will say, “We’re not legalistic” because, in their messages and Bible study materials, they say that salvation comes through faith in Jesus. But in practice, your status in the fellowship has always been determined by (when SL was alive) whether you would obey SL, or (now that he is dead) whether you will endlessly affirm UBF’s heritage and values and identity and refrain from pointing out the organization’s longstanding history of authoritarianism.

    The recent material on Galatians produced by headquarters is a case in point. At the surface, it doesn’t seem objectionable. It appears to uphold a gospel that is about faith in Christ alone. But when you look at the attitudes, actions, decisions of those who produce the material, it is evident that they have countless litmus tests that go far beyond faith in Jesus to determine whether you are in or out. They always have, and it appears they always will.

    • Joe, do you know how the members of the education committee that produces these materials are established? Is it by assignment, volunteering, or someone else’s choosing? I’m curious if there have been recommendations to bring in younger American people to head such a committee. I’ve expressed this to other senior staff who are in agreement, but they could not get any positive feedback.

      I don’t mean that we can’t learn from those who are older and not American. However: 1) the same people doing the same things all the time don’t leave much room for expectation of new things or different results; 2) education, I’m discovering, is much more than knowledge, but involves being able to relate and present to the targeted audience well.

    • “Material on Galatians produced by headquarters” sounds like an attempt of squaring the circle. UBFism is fundamentally incompatible with Galatians. So this can only mean that they either give up or modify UBFism or try to twist Galatians into the frame of UBFism. That would not be anything new, by the way. Older Korean missionaries told me that in the beginnings of UBF, everything revolved around Genesis only. And later when they started to read the NT, then the focus was mainly the “world mission command”. That missionary told me that it took many years until SL finally managed to incorporated the message of the cross as part of the UBF theology and made it a central element of summer conferences. In my own chapter I can confirm that we also studied OT books at lengths, often many weeks only Genesis+Exodus or 1+2 Samuel, without any mention of Jesus. The 4 gospels were covered, but epistles much less and then only some of them or only certain chapters. Another missionary told me that in the first decade of my chapter, no epistle was studied at all, only OT and the 4 gospels.

  5. “Joe, do you know how the members of the education committee that produces these materials are established? Is it by assignment, volunteering, or someone else’s choosing?” – See more at:

    I apologize in advance Charles, but that has to be the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I can’t stop laughing! Thanks for making my morning.

    Perhaps you could express your concern to the Ethics Committee and get on their 20 year waiting list? Maybe the Unity Committee has something to say such as a wonderful letter of how all the ubf critics have been silenced? Maybe you could ask the Second Gen Empowerment/Education committee (which was led by a man once charged with child beating the last I heard).

    And now the Internet Committee has been alerted to more anti-ubf material on the darn inter-webs.

    • Maybe you should actually talk to the Networking/Coworking Committee, which used to be led by the man who has been called the “great reconcilier”.

    • Brian, I’m glad it brought you a laugh! :) I actually laughed to myself too after posting it. How did I not question yet how committee members were established? And yet, the answer should have been obvious.

  6. Charles, you state what should be obvious to many, except perhaps those who think they know better than others: “1) the same people doing the same things all the time don’t leave much room for expectation of new things or different results; 2) education, I’m discovering, is much more than knowledge, but involves being able to relate and present to the targeted audience well.” – See more at:

    In a hierarchical environment where tenure, unquestioning faithfulness to ministry values, and seniority are non-negotiables (which function as legalisms themselves), you have to “wait your turn” for a couple of decades! Though changes are being attempted, and a few select younger leaders are included and groomed for potential future leadership, the final say, the trump card, and the veto card is still held tightly by a few.

  7. Joe Schafer

    Charles, you asked a really good question.

    Committee assignments are announced by the General Director.

    The previous GD (JJ) used to appoint people to committees without ever consulting them, without ever asking whether they would or could serve. He would just issue a list of committees and assignments and everyone was supposed to say “Yes sir.” Many of those committees conducted no business and never even met a single time. Yet, every January, the committee chairs were asked to submit their annual reports for the UBF World Mission News. It is both funny and sad to see some of these reports that were written for committees that existed only in the GD’s mind. For example, in this newsletter from 2012:

    I can personally attest to the fact that the Unity Committee never met, never corresponded, never did anything at all. Yet a Unity Committee report (a very distasteful one, I might add) was submitted, and it had my name on it. The Future Development Committee never met either, and if you read the report from that committee, it’s funny to see the author (IK) verbally dancing around, reporting on something that does not exist.

    Under the current GD, things aren’t much different. He actually asked people to serve on committees before appointing them. (He asked me to serve on a committee or two, but later he removed me from the lists when certain people objected because of my disloyalty.) Still, some of these committees do not meet and don’t do anything. Their purpose is mainly to honor certain people, giving them titles and offices and honorary positions.

    On the other hand, the committee that produces Bible study materials actually does meet. Two years ago, the GD wanted to get some junior people on that committee, where “junior” meant someone who is in their 50’s rather than 60’s and/or who has been in UBF for only 20-35 years rather than 35+ years. But for various reasons, he found that it was politically impossible to retire the “senior” people. So he kept the senior people in place, designating them as the “A Team”, and created another team for the junior people, the “B Team.” Ben can fill you in on the details, because he was one of the B Teamers.

    • Joe, thanks for the explanation. Recently, the current GD visited our chapter. During my very short conversation with him, my concerns were basically reduced to the question: “How long will this go on?” I don’t see that he or other seniors are ignorant of what is going on. So I expressed my own growing frustrations. He asked me if other American leaders feel the same frustrations, to which I replied, yes. But still he asked me to wait longer. This is quite exaggerated, but at times I feel like one of those under the throne asking, “How long, Sovereign Lord?” (Revelation 6:10).

  8. Yes, Joe, I was on the B team (junior team) for about 6 months last year that met twice a month or every 2 weeks. The B team was preparing questions and Bible study summaries on Jesus’ upper room discourse from John 13-17 for the 2013 ISBC.

    Eventually, little to nothing from the B team was used (perhaps a few questions were used), and only the materials prepared and ultimately approved by the A team was used.

    After that, even that was modified and adjusted based on the demands of the Korean UBF senior staff. This so-called “chain of command” and “power ranking” and “pecking order” stuff is quite interesting to observe how it finally played itself out.

    The cutest thing that came out of these internal power plays between UBF USA and UBF Korea is when a senior missionary from the US declared that the 2013 International SBC (that was virtually entirely prepared by American UBFers) is said to be “hosted by Korean UBF.” The GD of Korea virtually insisted and demanded that the ISBC program cater to what they deem important and necessary. Instead of having an American close the conference on American soil, the “program committee” made the GD of Korea the Closing Messenger who spoke on the standard and predictable Matthew 28:19 verse that UBFers have heard ad nauseam dozens of times at virtually every other UBF conference.

    Sorry, but Joe, I guess you got me on a roll here!

    • Joe Schafer

      “The cutest thing that came out of these internal power plays…” Ben, in what sense is that cute?

      I’ve noticed that, when ubf leaders say and do things that are embarrassing and objectionable, longtime members have tended to laugh and view it as “cute.”

      A few years ago, the previous GD gave a message on Romans chapter 1 at a North American staff conference, titled “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Of course, he made everyone shout, “I am not ashamed of the gospel!” At one point, he was denouncing the sinfulness of postmodern America. He singled out homosexuals, and while he was speaking, they displayed a Powerpoint slide that said, “Homosex is sin!” When that slide appeared, an American UBF leader in the audience started to laugh hysterically, saying, “Homosex is sin! So cute!” It was truly surreal.

      Someday, perhaps an astute student of psychology will explain what is going on here.

    • Ben, “The B team was preparing questions and Bible study summaries on Jesus’ upper room discourse from John 13-17 for the 2013 ISBC.”

      You mean John 13-16 right? Because the committee made the incredible, earth-shaking discovery that John 17 was not “mission centered enough”…

    • BK, I think we did prepare Jn 13-17, but Jn 17 was removed because it was “not mission-centered enough” and replaced with Jn 20, I think, because Jn 20 is supposedly “more mission centered,” I guess. I’m sorry but this is also cute.

    • Hi Ben, if you were considered part of the B Team, then campus ministry is in big trouble, I think. My impression is that by strategies such as this, UBF is removing itself more and more from campus mission in effectiveness and relevancy. Not to say that you’re not relevant to campus students! But if those in more senior positions consider your stats as the “junior team,” whose materials were practically not used, who would be able to reach out to and fellowship with such young college students? The gap is too big.

      Interestingly, the word we heard often in our chapter regarding the ISBC was that America UBF was being pushed to take the responsibilities more from Korea UBF, so we should be mindful of this and give of our service more.

  9. Joe, I virtually always use the word “cute” facetiously, flippantly and mischieviously, in place of “infuriating,” “nauseating,” “exasperating,” “frustrating,” “annoying,” “anger-inducing,” “blood pressure increasing,” “joy dissipating,” “despair producing,” etc.

    I’m really not sure how I would respond to “Homosex is sin! So cute!”???

    I’m also sorry if my (over)use of the word “cute” might be offensive to some. But it is perhaps my odd and unique way of coping with (and even enjoying) life in UBF, where I believe God called me to be.

    • Joe Schafer

      My point, I guess, is that this way of coping is not unique to you. It’s something that many longtime members routinely do.

      The word “cute” brings to mind babies, pets and other little furry animals, and other things that seem immature and harmless but are attractive and make us smile.

      In general, if we call someone’s behavior “cute,” we are placing ourselves above them, the way an adult places himself above a baby or a pet owner places himself above a pet. We implicitly tell ourselves that we are wiser, smarter, more mature than they, that we would never do what they are doing because we know better, but we won’t judge them because they have inferior knowledge or intelligence; we will just accept them as they are.

      In the “Homosex is sin” incident, I believe the American was signaling that he regarded JJ’s presentation as naive or immature, that he himself would never would have said it in such a way, etc. But he also signaled his own affinity for JJ and his message, implying that he found it attractive. Playing the cute card allowed the American to simultaneously stand within the strange UBF culture while placing himself above the strange UBF culture. Basically, it’s a way of resolving the cognitive dissonance that comes from remaining in a group that you know is weird.

  10. Joe, if I might “defend myself,” perhaps a difference in the way I use the word “cute,” and the way some other UBFers might, is that they want to somehow embrace and reconcile UBF eccentricities/oddities as being acceptable, OK or justifiable, while I am clearly speaking out and calling out for some serious, significant and major reform.

    I just want work to bring forth changes (even if I know it is not welcomed by some/many) without letting it make me angry, upset and impatient, which is my natural spontaneous default. Using the word “cute” helps me to laugh with ongoing love, joy and peace, rather than cry, despair, loose hope, or become bitter, jaded or angst filled.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, I totally understand. There is no need to defend yourself. You understand why you use the word cute, and that’s what matters.

      I hope that other members who take this approach without explicitly calling for reform will stop for a moment and think about why. They need to become aware of their own cognitive dissonance, for the sake of their own health.

    • This also speaks to a Korean cultural phenomenon, what I call the “nervous laugh”. If ubf people laugh nervously at unexpected times, that means they are uncomfortable with what you said or did. I remember so many life testimony sharers who were distraught over the untimely laughter. No one would talk about this, so the Americans were left with our own interpretations of what the laughter meant.

      I am not alone in my observation of Korean laughter. ubf people who are not Korean really would be well-served by understanding these things.

      It is time for non-Koreans in ubf to preach the gospel of Jesus to the Koreans. Consider this: God may have called you to ubf not to learn but to teach. You may have been sent to ubf because you already know the gospel, and ubf missionaries are in desperate need of love and kindness and the gospel.

    • Joe Schafer

      That article about Korean laughter is illuminating. Yes, in many cases, it is a way of saving face.

      Some of my most vivid ubf memories are of SL giving announcements in front of Chicago UBF (usually after a Monday or Friday night meeting) with everyone constantly laughing. At first I thought it was strange, because many of the things being laughed at weren’t funny. The laughter was infectious. People told me that it was a sign that UBF members were “so joyful,” and for a long time I accepted that explanation.

      Almost every night, SL would use his announcements to “train” individual people. He would call people by name and rebuke them for various things. He would tell elaborate stories about them, making up all kinds of things that weren’t true. He would reveal embarrassing personal details about people, sometimes talking about their financial struggles, married couples’ sexual behavior, and so on. All the while, the audience would laugh. Those who were being “trained” in this way would smile and laugh, even though on the inside they felt like they were dying. To laugh while you were getting publicly humiliated was taken as a badge of honor.

    • Joe Schafer

      Basically, I think SL used his announcements as a very efficient way to observe and manage a large group of people. By standing in front of the group, he could see everyone and watch their reactions as they were being rebuked, and as people around them were being rebuked. If you didn’t smile or laugh, if you showed any resistance or anger or discomfort, he and everyone else would interpret it as a sign that you had become rebellious or difficult, and people would start to gossip about you and distance themselves from you until you fell back into line.

    • forestsfailyou

      I remember telling my pastor my mother had cancer. He laughed. I was very insulted by this, but later was told by someone I speak to from ubfriends that this was the nervous laugh. I wonder how many students have left ubf due to this cultural idiosyncrasy.

    • “If you didn’t smile or laugh, … he and everyone else would interpret it as a sign”

      Reminds me a bit of North Korea, were people must fear to be killed when they do not applaud loud enough or do not show enough enthusiasm when the dear leaders speaks or enters the room.

  11. Joe, I think that there are only two ways to resolve cognitive dissonance within oneself: rationalize it or reject/resist it.

    1) rationalize it by forcing yourself to accept such dissonance as “normal,” inevitable and one result of our sinful fallen humanity which affects everyone to varying degrees, including some legalistic leaders who are firmly and resolutely dead set in their ways, and who likely do not think they are legalistic but that they are pure and absolutely faithful to the cause of Christ.


    2) resist/reject it by clearly and repeatedly addressing it, articulating it, expressing it and speaking out against such dissonance that is becoming increasingly obvious to more and more people in UBF, especially among our younger generation, including our 2nd gens.

  12. I have been thinking of writing several more posts on Freedom based on Galatians:

    1) Freedom from the Fear of Man (Gal 1:10).

    2) Freedom from Racism, Nationalism, Tribalism (Gal 2:15).

    3) Freedom from Stressing Human Effort (Gal 3:3).

    4) Freedom from Conceit, Provoking and Envying Others (Gal 5:26).

    5) Freedom from Comparing Ourselves with Others (Gal 6:4).

    But Forest’s Galatians 6 testimony and our ongoing discussion is quite rich and illuminating that I am holding off from writing them.

    • Ben these are great topics to discuss. forests has submitted several articles to the admin account, so I plan on publishing those this week. I’m really enjoying all this discussion by the way.

  13. So this Korean cultural layer is something worth discussing if you have any hope of understanding ubf and what’s going on there. The ubf leaders have almost always readily admitted to this layer of problem, perhaps because it is the most obvious and easiest to admit, and perhaps the easiest to defend.

    I discussed the multiple layers of burden found in ubf communities in my Journey of recovery article. I address the topic of burden layer in my second book, but much more needs to be discussed.

    Korean culture being enforced onto Germans, Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, and every other culture ubf missionaries have gone is a big problem layer, but it is not the most problematic. There are other more serious burden layers to expose and explain.

    One hope I have for my second book is that it will give someone enough of a case study to be able to psycho-analyze what goes on at ubf, so that many others can recover in a healthy manner. Whether someone stays or not isn’t a concern of mine. Whether they can recover from UBFism is of utmost concern.

    My second book is nearing 100 pages, so I’m about ready to publish.

  14. To my list of freedoms, I could add:

    6) Freedom from Human and Cultural Distinctions (Gal 3:28).

    In UBF we could paraphrase Gal 3:28, “There is neither Korean missionary nor native leader, neither shepherd nor sheep…”

    But it seems that it has been hard, if not humanly impossible, for some missionaries to overcome their strong sense of superiority over indigenous shepherds and sheep, since they are the missionary, the pioneer, while all juniors and natives are simply beneficiaries and recipients of their sacrifice for world campus mission. I have found this most exasperating (OK, I won’t use the word “cute”!), because to paraphrase George Orwell, “All (men) are created equal but some (missionaries) are more equal than others.”

    This is understandable because the Jewish Christians also imposed their sense of morality, culture, nationalism and superiority over Gentile Christians.

    Nonetheless, until this is clearly addressed and overcome by God’s mercy, grace and Spirit, even studying Galatians is NOT going to resolve the obvious problem of inequality (and sense of injustice) in UBF, where older/senior missionaries and leaders are often giving priority, preference, deference and favoritism over indigenous leaders.

  15. To be fair, the laughter induced by SL is sometimes quite funny because despite his authoritarianism that promotes the very unhealthy fear of man (Prov 29:25), he does at times speak astutely to humanity in a frank and funny way, just as Chris Rock and presently Kevin Hart might come across as being very funny to his audience.

    That said, I am greatly opposed to using the podium for the public shaming and guilt tripping of others. The one I remember most vividly was when SL said in his announcements after the Sun sermon which was a clear reference to me. He said to the entire church of about 400+ people (paraphrasing), “I prayed for one shepherd to raise a 120 member fellowship (ME), but God answered my prayer in his own way when missionary Peter Park of Nigeria raised 120 members in his chapter. Praise God!” Of course, everyone laughed….except me.

    I do not know what to make of what he said. In some sense it is true. I did not raise a 120 member fellowship. I felt horrible when I heard him speak. But somehow this “helped me” in that I struggled with God and found deep comfort, solace and peace despite my very public shame and humiliation.

    Because of what and how I felt after what SL said, I vowed that, by God’s help, I would never ever do anything remotely similar to what SL said and did. So I am very very sorry when I hear of other UBF leaders who have continued such public shaming tactics.

    • Ben, I’m curious, do you give any kind of “closing announcements” after a Sunday message? I’ve raised objections to it numerous times in my chapter which were rejected by both Americans and Koreans. I can’t recall any time where closing announcements were used in the SL did for public shaming or training, as you mentioned. However, I don’t need a second message. I just heard the message in full, minutes ago. But I find that it is a staple of UBF practice that cannot be easily done away with. Something always has to be said, every Sunday or after every meeting, whether beneficial or not.

    • “However, I don’t need a second message.”

      In my chapter, we did not only have one repetition of the message (the “announcements”), but literally many dozens of times: After the service, we had to sit in groups with the “sheep”, and everyone in the group needed to share “what he/she learned from the message”. This was nothing but repetition of the core of the message just given. After the group meetings and eating fellowship, we had another staff meeting, where again, everybody had to tell “what he/she learned from the message”. This time the chapter leader was attendant and checked if everyone got the core of his message. And then, everybody got xerox copies of the message (then called the “lecture”) and had to write testimonies based on it. And then during the week, these testimonies, which in large parts also repeated the message, were shared in special testimony sharing meetings (often you had to attend several of them during one week – one session for the sheep, one for the aspiring “leadership material”, one for the married men, one for the women etc.) and fellowship meetings. That way, we really heard the message chapter leader wanted to teach repeated about a hundred times, until it became ingrained into our minds.

    • Chris, that sounds so terrible to go through each week–even one week. But it shows how worship services are not times of worship, of giving to God and adoring him in reverence, but in thinking about what I can receive. So much for getting rid of the “beggar’s mentality.”

  16. Joe Schafer

    Ben, here is something that you might want to classify as cute. It just appeared on, in a report on an Easter conference in Mexico:

    “On the fourth day the message on Matthew 15: 21 – 28 was given by C. Luis Angel. We recognized that we should be willing to become like dogs to serve the work of God.”

    Is there anyone left in ubf who would find this cringeworthy? Embarrassing? Unbiblical? Is this the kind of message that you want to broadcast to the world? Or will you just smile and say it’s cute?

    If I were still personally invested in the success of the organization, I would take this as a teaching moment and raise hell about this. If this is what passes for biblical teaching in a ministry that prides itself on Bible study, don’t you think there’s something wrong?

    Within a few hours, word of this might get around to headquarters and someone will probably edit the webpage. But the problem is not that the world can actually see how weird ubf’s Bible teaching is. The problem is that the teaching itself is so weird.

    • Apparently Mexico ubf did not get the memo that dead dog training is not a Christ-like thing to do. From what I’ve read, there is a strong Mexican ex-ubf and Mexico ubf may resemble Samuel Lee’s vision and methods more than any other place.

    • forestsfailyou

      The essence of the issue is self sacrifice at the expense of God’s grace. There is such a concern that we might become “do nothing” Christians we over emphasize and therefore add legalism the the bible. All of the weird practices stem from this idea that we must make disciples among all nations, and along with this the reasoning follows that everything else is a threat, or a compromise. Dating among singles, having ungodly friends, missing Sunday service, visiting a different church, etc etc. These are all “bad” or I have increasingly heard “not as good” as the prescribed UBF practices. I thank God for my roommate. His excessively narrow outlook of mission I think has been increasingly influenced by his fiance and not my pastor. But I have keenly noticed that my pastor, a supposedly anointed leader of God, is blind to his problems.

    • Joe Schafer

      If there is anyone left in ubf who sees this as a problem, I would urge you to NOT take this down from the website and pretend that it was never there. Rather, you should use this as a teaching moment, a case study on how not to preach the gospel.

      On the other hand, if you think this kind of teaching is healthy and good, then please make the most of it. Use it in slogans and promotional materials to advertise your next conference or outreach event. “UBF: Where we become like dogs to serve the work of God!”

  17. forestsfailyou

    I spoke again with my roommate. He said “we can discourage an activity without forbidding it.” I think this is a “cute” way a saying something totally false. If we discourage something we mean that it ought not to be done. This is the same as having a law against it. Silly examples are always best. For example, it’s discouraged as a teacher to suggest to a parent that she should put her child down.I discourage this (from personal experience), which is another way of saying they shouldn’t be done, which if I said this as a religious leader would be communicating a law.

  18. My thought about the “dogs” in the Mexico Easter Conf. report is that it is one short sentence in the last paragraph. This will likely get missed, be overlooked, or that most people will tire from reading the predictable formulaic standard report of the messengers giving “heart-moving,” “powerful” messages, so that the 119 readers (and counting) will suffer from mental fatigue and boredom before they can even get to the last paragraph!

    My prediction is that unless someone sounds the alarm or complains, that “cute doggy sentence” will not be removed and remain forever in cyberspace.

  19. Joe Schafer

    Ben, I’m sure that you are right. If I hadn’t pointed this out, I’m sure that it would have gone unnoticed. It may still go unnoticed. Probably no one will care.

    But seriously: Shouldn’t some leader, somewhere in the organization, be concerned about this?

    If something like this happened in a chapter of a reputable campus ministry (Navs, Cru, IV, etc.) and the headquarters found out about it, I’m quite sure that it would trigger an audit. Someone would take action to find out what kind of weird stuff is being taught in that chapter, and how it could have become so weird. Staff would be disciplined. Chapters might be de-credentialed. But in UBF no one will care, because they know that this kind of teaching (and even weirder stuff) goes on all the time in ubf chapters all over the world. Many will just think it’s normal. And the A Team will continue to churn out their high quality Bible study materials to raise world class shepherds and Bible teachers.

    After 50 years and countless man-hours of Bible study, testimony writing, message training, and so on, this is the kind of sickly fruit that the organization has born.

  20. Joe, I think you might agree that the “problem” is that UBF and her staff, including those responsible for approving and publishing UBF-centric, UBF-favorable and UBF-glorifying reports on her websites have never centered on and focused on Christ and the gospel, but on mission, commitment and loyalty to UBF. As long as one is a faithful, loyal, supportive, committed (non-critical) member of UBF, he/she can pretty must say, do, teach, or communicate anything they want to.

    This may sound extreme and even exaggerated, but am I way too far off base?

  21. Joe Schafer

    Ben, I disagree.

    Suppose there were leaders in UBF who actually cared about UBF. Suppose they actually agreed with the organization’s stated goals and purpose and really wanted to help UBF achieve long-term health and prosperity. They would be appalled by this sort of thing. They would want to fix it, to clean up the crazy and weird and unbiblical and twisted teaching and unhealthy practices. Because unless that stuff were cleaned up, UBF would have no chance whatsoever of succeeding, at least not in the United States of any western country.

    But suppose the leaders were not concerned about UBF’s long term health or prosperity. Suppose they were like hired hands, caring mainly about themselves, about maintaining their own reputations and positions of honor and security in the organization. Then I suppose they wouldn’t try to clean up the messes in the organization, because it would be too costly to them personally.

    For the last few years, people have been asking, “What happened to Joe Schafer? Why did he become so difficult? What is his problem?”

    The problem with Joe Schafer is that HE ACTUALLY CARED about UBF. He began to realize that, unless the garbage was cleaned up, that UBF had no future at Penn State or the midAtlantic region or anywhere else in the United States. He cared to the extent that he was willing to stop receiving accolades, to stop being a poster boy, to stop kissing the backsides of missionaries, and finally tell them the truth about what has been going on, about why UBF has been in crisis.

    Yes, he actually cared about UBF. He cared about it deeply.

    But now he doesn’t.

    He doesn’t care anymore, because it seems to him that essentially no one else does.

  22. Joe, certainly if you had not pointed out the “we should be willing to become like dogs to serve the work of God.” comment in this report, it would have gone unnoticed publicly, I agree.

    BUT, this might have been the infamous “one word” that EVERYONE learned at the Mexican conference. EVERY conference in ubf I attended over 24 years had a pre-determined theme and slogan that needed to be “learned” by every attender.

    In Toledo ubf, we always had a Monday or Tuesady special leader’s meeting where the success of the conference was guaged by how widespread the slogan was accepted. As a fellowship leader, I was judged on how well my fellowship members “accepted” the “one word.”

    So likely there are many Mexican people suffering the “post conference disorder” we previously discussed. My Mexican common life shepherd (Hugo) once told me Mexicans love dogs, so it is likely this is a very confusing conference for them to process. And so we may have a mix of Korean culture (who eat dogs treating them as nothing), ubf culture (where dead dog training has occurred) and Mexican culture (where dogs are loved).

    What is the message here? No one really knows. And it doesn’t matter to ubf leaders. All they want is your obedience to do the “work of God” which in ubf-speak just means “do more ubf work yourself”.

  23. Here are some interesting dog facts about Mexico, where dogs outnumber humans. Maybe the ubf prayer topic was heard and humans really became dogs…

    How dogs affect the Mexican culture

    Dog facts about Mexico

  24. Joe Schafer

    Here’s another gem among gems. Today’s Daily Bread. I’m posting it here because, after tomorrow, it won’t be visible on


    Today’s Daily Bread
    2 Kings 18:17-37 Tuesday, May 6
    Key Verse: 18:36

    But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king had commanded, “Do not answer him.”

    First, we are depending on the Lord our God (17-30). The king of Assyria sent his top commanders and a large army to besiege Jerusalem. The Assyrian field commander delivered a threatening message to King Hezekiah, challenging his confidence in God. He planted fear and doubt in the people, mocking their military strength and Hezekiah’s trust in God. He tried to confuse them into thinking that the Assyrians were doing God’s will. He repeatedly attacks their faith in God and their king, Hezekiah, who encouraged the people to depend on the Lord God. Likewise, the devil strikes fear in our hearts and attacks our faith in God and trust in our spiritual leaders. We must discern the devil’s attack, standing firm in the Lord our God.

    Second, the temptation to compromise and give up (31-37). The Assyrian field commander tempted the people to surrender and enjoy an easy life by promising them life, not death. The people did not answer him, as the king commanded them. We need wisdom and faith not to talk with the devil when he offers a sweet escape from fearful and trying situations.

    Prayer: Lord, thank you for leaders who encourage us to stand strong in our faith. Help me to keep my faith when the devil is planting fear and tempting me to take the easy way.

    One Word: Do not talk to the devil

    • Joe Schafer

      I wonder how often UBFriends has been mentioned today at DB sharing meetings around the world.

    • I suspect ubfriends was talked about just about as much as that evil BK dude and those new books written by bitter, wounded former members who couldn’t handle the stress of life….

    • forestsfailyou

      This is infuriating. This is why I don’t read the UBF daily bread material anymore. It was always this kinda of “true” but I understood the false implication. By the way, didn’t Jesus talk to the devil?

  25. Joe Schafer

    Hey Brian and Ben: Let’s have a UBFriends Daily Bread testimony / reflection contest!

    We can post today’s DB as an article on UBFriends. Add a picture of Brian, photoshopped to have a reddish hue and devil horns.

    Readers can post their own testimonies/reflections as comments. The one that gets the most “likes” wins. (Or the most “dislikes.”)

    Whayyda think?

    • The laughs just keep coming! :) Great idea actually. I would love to discuss the daily bread on a daily basis.

    • Joe Schafer

      I’m serious, at least about this one. I think it would be fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve written DB, and I’m out of practice. But it would come back pretty quickly.

    • Great, go ahead and start. I might have some PTSD spasms at first… and might need another Lent… but it would expose the theological flaws of ubf pretty well. And heck some fun-loving student somewhere might start using the ubfriends daily bread :)

  26. Gem among gems indeed! This is just too good not to be re-posted.: “Likewise, the devil strikes fear in our hearts and attacks our faith in God and trust in our spiritual leaders. We must discern the devil’s attack, standing firm in the Lord our God.” – See more at:

    It’s probably been almost a decade when I have entirely stopped reading our DB and manuscripts, partly because I’ve read them over and over for almost a quarter of a century, and probably because of the “gem among gems” that I might come across, and cause me NOT to see them as “cute”!

  27. Charles, this is “cute” and interesting: “the word we heard often in our chapter regarding the ISBC was that America UBF was being pushed to take the responsibilities more from Korea UBF.” – See more at:

    Honestly, the truth may be closer to this: that Korea UBF always wants and expects to be honored as the mother church and the sending church, and that all other countries where there is UBF must never ever forget that! and always always give the proper due and respect and honor to the mother church. So, Korea UBF is the one who decides if and when America UBF is to be independently responsible.

    • Another implication from this kind of mindset seems to be that they are the only (trustworthy) sending nation. Frankly, I’m ashamed of how low our sending numbers are.

  28. Joe, I am personally very very sorry that your earnest and sincere efforts to help UBF USA were not only ignored, but shunned and disregarded.

    It is extremely sad and tragic that some in the upper echelons of UBF leadership simply cannot accept and in fact absolutely refuse any initiative coming from anywhere else except from them.

    Because some of them refuse to listen to “Gentile Christian initiatives,” they themselves have caused this ministry to become more and more of a “Judaisistic culturally Korean missionary endeavor” with less and less relevance and connectivity to native indigenous ministry throughout the world.

    Sadly, many of the indigenous people who remain in UBF have been so culturally indoctrinated and ingrained with missionary values (such as the roommate of Forest) so as to no longer seem to their own native people as indigenous.

  29. “Ben, I’m curious, do you give any kind of “closing announcements” after a Sunday message?” – See more at:

    Charles, with West Loop (, we no longer give closing announcements, for the reason you mentioned: The congregation just heard the message, and they do not need to hear a 2nd message, reiterating the same point.

    Incidentally, I am no longer the WL chapter director. Rhoel has been the chapter director since Jan 2013.

    • Maybe you could share in another article the details of how Rhoel was established as the new chapter director?

  30. “Maybe you could share in another article the details of how Rhoel was established as the new chapter director?” – See more at:

    Charles, there’s really not much to share. When WL started in Jan 2008, I was the lead pastor/church planter (chap. director). But from the outset my goal was that WL should be able to function WITHOUT ME. If WL needed me to there to function then I failed.

    Each year for the past decade I am away for 1-2 months in Philippines UBF anyway, where our WL elders take over the preaching and run the ministry. So by God’s grace I am very confident that I really don’t need to be at WL for extended periods of time, or even indefinitely.

    Furthermore, from the outset Rhoel pretty much ran and oversaw the entire WL ministry in all its details. In 2012 I asked our elders at WL about Rhoel being the chapter director officially, which he basically already was unofficially. Since they were supportive of it, I proposed to Chicago HQ that the WL elders had decided for Rhoel to be the chapter director.

    That’s it.

  31. Charles, “…those in more senior positions consider your stats as the “junior team,” – See more at:

    Some reasons I am regarded as “junior” and “B” are that:

    * I write and comment on UBFriends.

    * My articles and comments are regarded by many leaders as “UBF bashing,” “slamming my shepherd,” and as negative, discouraging and critical.

    * I am very bitter because I did not become the UBF USA coordinator.

    * I started UBFriends (sorry Joe!).

    * My intent and motivation is to tear down and destroy UBF out of my bitterness.

    * I do not have the fear of God.

    * I lack a Christian conscience.

    * I am responsible for fewer ISBC attendents in 2013 (500 less than the last one 5 years ago) because I wrote this article (which generated over 350 comments):

    • So you’ve been relegated back to Stage 2 – the rooting stage, since you uprooted the ubf heritage in your life and your chapter :) Since ubf only has 6 stages of training, people just keep getting tossed about in circles like a clothes dryer.

      Forests is supposed to be a Stage 5 shepherd but hasn’t been properly rooted, so he is treated sometimes like a Stage 2 sheep.

    • forestsfailyou

      I think that I am unique in Paul’s eyes, for better or worse. He is unprepared for my directness and is left speechless or just nervously laughing a lot. Sometimes he sees me as being extremely obedient. For example I write testimonies on every chapter we study (All 50 chapters in genesis and 5 so far for John). I write these because I sincerely enjoy writing. Then other times he knows I speak with Brian and have read Andrew’s book. He hasn’t expressed displeasure with this, or concern. His primary concern seems to be that I do not accept what they say, which seems like what someone in his position would say. I tell him that I weigh their positions carefully and that if he is wondering if I don’t want to be here I will be gone. He understands that I very much dislike positions that my roommate takes. On the other hand he realizes I spent $1300 to go to an Easter conference on the other side of the world.

    • If you’re really the threat to the organization and its goals, as you’ve stated above, then you shouldn’t have been placed on any team! :)

  32. Thanks, Charles, for sharing this: “…my concerns were basically reduced to the question: “How long will this go on?” I don’t see that he or other seniors are ignorant of what is going on. So I expressed my own growing frustrations. He asked me if other American leaders feel the same frustrations, to which I replied, yes. But still he asked me to wait longer.” – See more at:

    Charles, what did you mean by “How long will this go on?” What exactly is “this”?

    • Most ubf missionaries I’ve met place primary importance on outlasting people. They fully intend to remain silent longer than I can remain vocal. But they fail to realize that if the Lord is willing my vocal criticism will be sustained far longer than their silence. I already spent all my adult years for ubf. I have no qualms about now spending the rest of my adult years against ubf. I was thinking of registering the 999 year domain special, if I can find it again.

      And they also forget that even if you have “staying power” to outlast someone, to win the game you must also outwit and outplay someone. Sorry for the Survivor tagline but we are indeed playing a survival game here. I intend to outlast, outwit and outplay all ubf missionaries.

    • Ben, “this” refers to the same people doing the same things in the same ways all the time–that is, having Korean dishes at all of our meals. :) I had been speaking with the GD about Americans take full charge. I am not saying that older Koreans do what is wrong and need to go. But there is a certain flavor when they lead and this flavor is increasingly uncomfortable and bad tasting, especially when there are long standing, proven and trustworthy Americans who can do the job and are available. When a visitor recently visited our chapter, his comment to me was, “I thought we were moving to American leadership?” I could only shrug my shoulders. But my conversation with the GD was so distasteful because it was like I’m waiting for the permission, the letting of the transfer, but there is a deep unwillingness and lack of trust. I told him that I cannot be at his or others mercy like this. Shall I keep waiting with hope till I’m an old man? I told the GD that if that was the case I would be too old to comfortable take the lead anyway. I’m at the age when Jesus began his ministry and died. I am past the age when King David became king. David was given a kingdom, but Americans in UBF are hard to get much.

    • Great observations Charles. That is what most of the American leadership families said in Toledo UBF when half the ministry left in 2011/2012. They were TIRED OF WAITING and being marginalized, patronized, ignored, appeased and discredited. Most of us felt we were wasting time with ubf, serving no purpose other than to be trophies on a shelf of Korean missionaries. Well now I’m just a picture on their shelf.

      This is one of the messages I delivered in person to the current GD, ATK in Chicago with Ben last year when I called him up and asked to have dinner together. He just shrugged his shoulders and said he feels stuck in a hard place, caught between Korean hardliners and American leaders. Essentially he seem to just be towing the line until his term is up in 2015. 2015 will be a tel-tale year for the future of ubf, if there is one.

  33. Charles, I like your spirit and your forthrightness with the GD. Like you I am NOT against our missionaries, MOST of whom, I believe, are really godly, gentle and gracious people.

    They should realize that when UBF started in the 1960s, those who took leadership did so in their mid to late 20s. SL started UBF when he was 25 years old. Mark Driscoll started Mars Hill Church when he was 25 years old, and in 8 years (at your present age), his church grew to 5,000 members. Charles Spurgeon started preaching and being the lead pastor and preacher of his church at 19 or 20 years old.

    A major weakness of our older missionaries is their sheer inability to “let go” of their position of seniority and authority, because their deeply imbedded cultural sense of honor and value and identity is so tightly bound up with their status, titles and tenure. So for them to pass on leadership to their sheep or junior is like feeling insignificant with no status or identity or sense of self-worth.

    It is like being “unemployed” (as an older missionary said to me when I encouraged him to turn over leadership to his very able and responsible American shepherd). He retorted and said, “Do you want me to be unemployed?”

    • He retorted and said, “Do you want me to be unemployed?”

      …Yes, yes I do.

    • “A major weakness of our older missionaries is their sheer inability to “let go” of their position of seniority and authority, because their deeply imbedded cultural sense of honor and value and identity is so tightly bound up with their status, titles and tenure. So for them to pass on leadership to their sheep or junior is like feeling insignificant with no status or identity or sense of self-worth.”

      Correct Ben. That is why they often teach Americans, Germans, Russians, Chinese, etc. to have a “waiting with an Oh how long Lord!” attitude. And that is precisely why no one should fall for that trap.

    • Joe Schafer

      One reason why it’s hard for older missionaries to let go is that many of them feel that they are now just getting started taking responsibility and being in charge. Under SL they were under him, taking his orders. It’s taken a decade or more for that sense of being under his thumb to slowly fade. Just as they are finally starting to feel free, they are being asked to step down.

      And the few Americans in my age group who are still around (most left long ago) have to accept the fact that we are already too old and essentially have to be passed over. We are the lost generation. We have to step away, figuratively or literally, and leave ubf in younger hands if it has any chance of becoming relevant.

  34. Another difficulty or impossibility is that if a senior passes on leadership to his junior, he will no longer be able to “call the shots” and God forbid, he will have to “absolutely obey” his junior!!!

    Obeying one’s junior might feel worse than death to someone deeply ingrained and indoctrinated in a rigid and inflexible hierarchical authoritarian structure. This is really the exact opposite of Jesus’ kingdom which is UPSIDE DOWN, where the top person is at the bottommost rung.

  35. Precisely, Joe!: “And the few Americans in my age group who are still around (most left long ago) … have to step away, figuratively or literally, and leave ubf in younger hands if it has any chance of becoming vital.” – See more at:

    A reason why Philippines UBF is thriving and flourishing is that the most senior person (WA) has basically empowered and entrusted leadership to those 10-20 years younger than he. When he turned over the main chapter to a young married couple in their 20s, the ministry began to take off from no student meetings a week to four!

    When he entrusted a young doctor (and his family) in his late 20s/early 30s to start a church plant (instead of holding him in his chapter), that church plant also began to flourish almost right away.

    The apostle Paul is the greatest missionary because he did not “train his junior disciples for decades (by copying his New Testament epistles)” but allowed them to be the leaders/elders of the church after at most 3 years of instruction and mentorship in Ephesus.

    Sometimes I wonder if senior leaders of UBF might learn something new from “going back to the Bible” other than “feed sheep,” “make disciples,” “obey your leaders,” “be thankful,” “humble yourselves,” “don’t be proud” (applying it to others), etc.

    • Joe Schafer

      The current leaders need to turn everything over to young people in their 20’s and 30’s. And then formally apologize to the lost generation, saying: “We promised you that, if you submitted to us and accepted our training, you would become great leaders. We lied. And we are sorry.”

  36. Joe Schafer

    Brian wrote: “2015 will be a tell-tale year for the future of ubf, if there is one.” – See more at:

    Actually, the telltale year is now.

    The next GD will take office in fall of 2015. But they want to announce who it is by late summer 2014 so that there can be a smoother transition over the next year. Which means that backroom negotiations are going on right now to decide who the next leader will be.

    A meeting just took place in Korea, where it was announced that DK has been divinely appointed to continue as Korean director. “God has elected him for another 3 years…”

    There’s little doubt that DK is angling to become the next GD, but there would be significant opposition to that idea, both in Korea and especially in the United States. Some in the U.S. were hoping that the next GD would be American. When ATK took office, many were thinking of his tenure as a transition to American leadership. But after last year’s ISBC, I can’t imagine that Korea would submit to an American director. Nor can I imagine the few independent-minded Americans who are left willingly submitting for another term to another Korean GD from Korea. A sensible solution would be a new organizational structure (essentially a split) in which North America becomes more autonomous. But there would be significant opposition to that as well, because many of the oldest Korean leaders in North America still rely on strong ties to Korea to maintain their influence. Whatever decisions are made, there will be significant fallout and potential for more factions and divisions.

    • Very well articulated Joe. I think we need a Pope Francis of UBF!

    • Joe Schafer

      I don’t know anyone in UBF who could do what he does. But actually we do have a Pope Francis. His name is Pope Francis. Why don’t we all just listen to him? Seriously.

    • I believe that this pandering to Korean members is detrimental to American campus ministry. Even in choosing leaders, I have heard firsthand that older Koreans were chosen for the sake of communicating well to the large missionary population in the chapter. As they are the larger population, they took a higher priority. I was floored. What about the Americans and the young students? Who will speak to them?

      I have also seen two things at staff conferences: 1) as mentioned above, missionaries feel that would be unemployed if they passed the leadership on; 2) a kind of dependency is created where even older Americans feel incapable of making decisions on their own and have to check everything with or get permission from their director.

      Totally backwards, in my opinion. I would think that the point of your employment, the proof that you did the job well, is that your disciples were able to take your place or even do better. Even Jesus said whoever believes would do greater things than what he had showed them (John 14:12). If your students cannot at least do what you are doing, it might be the failing of the teacher, not the students (though not in all cases).

      Since this is the case, what can members do? Is the option for people to leave?

    • Many Catholics and Protestants are listening to him. Perhaps, UBFers should too?

    • Joe Schafer

      Charles asked: “Is the option for people to leave?”

      When you spoke with the GD, you were basically given two options. (1) Stay put and wait, accepting the status quo for an indefinite period of time. (2) Go elsewhere.

      Those were essentially the same options that he communicated to me. He didn’t use those words. He spoke with gentleness and tact. But in effect, that’s what he said.

  37. Joe, surely, humility, the condescension of Christ, and child-like gospel faith can solve these two HUGE mountain-like obstacles that you mentioned: “I can’t imagine that Korea would submit to an American director.” AND “…many of the oldest Korean leaders in North America still rely on strong ties to Korea to maintain their influence.” – See more at:

  38. Charles, You have articulated quite precisely what I have termed a “sickly unhealthy dependency” over the past decade: “a kind of dependency is created where even older Americans feel incapable of making decisions on their own and have to check everything with or get permission from their director.” – See more at:

    Honestly, the “sicker aspect” is the reverse unhealthy dependency where that the director EXPECTS to be consulted by his junior for any major or even minor decision that he/she wants to make. Forests says it well: “running all major life choices through our personal shepherd and obeying his directive in all aspects” – See more at:

    • Yes, Ben. I think it is telling that in my chapter, all of the Americans who have remained and are in leadership roles do not have that single, 1:1 shepherd over them. Mostly, their shepherds left to pioneer or just left the ministry. We were greatly benefited by this freedom.

    • Charles, Were the shepherds who left to pioneer or just left the ministry Americans or missionaries?

    • Ben, both American and Korean missionary.

  39. I’m not sure if this is good (or right or worthwile) or not, but for my own clarification and understanding I’m always attempting to get as close to an ultimate explanation for why things in UBF are as dysfunctional as they seem to be (with insiders insisting that UBF has no weak point, and exUBFers calling it a cult).

    The most foundational reason (which may be hard to understand or apply) is that we are NOT rooted in the love of God through Christ and the Spirit and the gospel of God’s grace.

    As a result of not being rooted in the gospel, virtually the ego rules. In UBF, the most senior, usually missionaries are simply unable to or refuse to give up their control over UBF. Thus, they will NOT let an indigenous leader take independent leadership WIHTOUT being subject to some older missionary or staff.

    Because of such political powerplays at the upper echelons of UBF (mostly hidden from the UBF world at large), the trickle down effect is simply devastating the ministry world wide.

    Is this close to an ultimate reason for our seemingly incurable sickliness (that might implode in just a few years)?

    • Yes Ben you nailed it: “The most foundational reason (which may be hard to understand or apply) is that we are NOT rooted in the love of God through Christ and the Spirit and the gospel of God’s grace.”

      The solution then is to begin with the gospel. I really want us to not underestimate this. I am not talking only about teaching I am talking about the need for ubf people to see actual reconciliation and actual gospel-centered living.

      If anyone from Toledo ubf is listening, I am serious in my offer: 2 days, 2 books and 10 ubf people– and I’ll show you how to transform your failing ministry into a vibrant ministry students will want to attend.

  40. Joe Schafer

    Forgive me, Ben, but I am not so interested in that question. I’ve had fun for the last day or discussing the ins and outs of UBF, but I would prefer to move on to more general and positive questions such as:

    * What are the community dimensions/implications of the gospel? Have we tended to overlook them because we’ve focused so much on the message of individual salvation and individual discipleship?

    * What do healthy relationships within a church community look like? Where can you find bright spots (actual positive examples of healthy communities)? How did they form and develop over time? How do they handle leadership, intercultural and intergenerational conflicts, and so on? (These will have to be nonUBF examples.)

    * What spiritual disciplines and practices, both at an individual and group level, promote diverse and healthy Christian communities?

    • Yes indeed we must look outside of ubf. Toledo ubf, for example, continues to miss the gospel of Jesus entirely in their messages.

      For example, look at this rather incredible conclusion to the entire sermon on the mount, a study series they just finished in March 2014.

      “God’s heart, at least a portion of it, is one in a constant state of mourning due to his many sons and daughters living apart from his love and care. This mourning heart of God is overwhelmed with sadness, hurt, pain, brokenness, and indescribable wounds piercing bone and marrow and soul and spirit. The heart of God mourns like this every day and every hour over sons and daughters and all kinds of family members who have chosen to be beyond his present reach. There is always the deeply broken yet persistently hopeful heart of Jesus behind the presentation of all such choices. Each of us may really consider what Jesus is saying to us, what we are hearing from God’s word and the Holy Spirit—and how to put it into practice in a way that transforms our heart, our life, others’ lives and fundamentally our personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus wants each of to make the wise choice to know him, follow him, and secure our lives on the solid foundation of Jesus our rock of salvation.”

      THIS is the classic ubf-style Christianized Confucianism that is so very damaging to the human psyche. Confucianism by itself would be far better and healthier.

      Is anybody in ubf actually able to articulate the gospel of Jesus in a healthy manner????

    • forestsfailyou

      I recently heard this Brian. It reeked of Korean ideals of obedience

      “Jesus says give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”

    • @forests. So now C.S. Lewis is guilty of espousing Confucianism? I must have missed something.

    • forestsfailyou

      I was trying to draw a point. That just because we have a teaching of obedience does not necessarily make it bad.

  41. I SO want to go all Robert Irvine on these people! Give me 2 DAYS and 10 willing ubfers and I’ll transform their chapter.

    • Oh so now you’re the Holy Spirit, changing people’s hearts and lives? Please do tell me what is on the mind of God in regard to his will for my chapter. Or maybe you’re just shooting for behavior modification. either way, presumption seems to be your guiding ethic du jour.

  42. BK, Forests, I did not think of “Christianized Confucianism” or “Korean ideals of obedience” when I read your respective clips. Yes, they are both pitiful, piteous, pathetic and painful to read!

    There is NO GOSPEL, No Jesus, no grace, but primarily trying to attain Christ by “human effort” (Gal 3:3, NIV, 1984) or by “the flesh” (NIV 2011). It reeks of performance righteousness, salvation by works, self-salvation, pull yourself up by the bootstraps Christianity and classic semipellagianism, if not pelagianism.

    My advice/plea: Study Galatians! Read a well reviewed commentary. Choose from here: I have read the 4th and 5th on this list by Stott and Ryken.

    The shortest one which is very readable, understandable, practical, applicable and short (small book with < 200 pages) is Tim Keller’s Galatians For You (2013). Finally, if one is too lazy to read (or think it is a sin to read Bible commentaries), then attend the fall staff conference on Galatians. :-)

    • Forests, I didn’t realize that you quoted C.S. Lewis. I read your quote in the UBF context and just heard demanding authoritarian imperatives by a UBF shepherd telling their sheep to “just obey.”

    • could this perhaps be a product of ubfriends becoming insular and ingrown? everyone seems to have the same colored lenses on here.

    • I’m sure it must be, Dave. Just as UBF needs “objective outside influence,” so UBFriends does as well.

    • forestsfailyou

      I was pointing out that sometime we immediately view any teaching of obedience with suspicion. I did this by giving a Cs Lewis quote which emphasized obedience. So yes Ben you make my point “. I read your quote in the UBF context and just heard demanding authoritarian imperatives by a UBF shepherd telling their sheep to “just obey.””

      I am not sure if there is a way to fix this, but being mindful of it seems like a start.

  43. As evidenced by my two previous comments, the snark is strong with me today. fyi, don’t bother replying, it was just an itch I had to scratch. But on a more serious note, the question came up in my mind, if BK is keeping UBF honest, then who is keeping ubfriends honest?

  44. Great question, Dave! “who is keeping ubfriends honest?” Personally, I wish many who regard themselves as “good shepherds for God’s flock” would. I definitely would like someone/anyone to always keep me honest.

    • Dr. Ben, imo ubfriends has turned into the ultimate troll site. It’s as if people are being bated to come here and subsequently torn apart or dismissed if they disagree with anyone’s stance against UBF.

    • *baited. so what kind of pushback or honesty is ubfriends gunning for these days? doesn’t seem like that’s on the agenda; just take aim at bad UBF theology, fire away and laugh at the immediate and collateral damage.

    • Dave, Have I myself done this: baiting people to come to UBFriends to be torn apart?

    • I think everyone participated in tearing apart c’s DB lecture. It wasn’t until you all realized that you were tearing into an actual person, who ironically has been kind enough to post here, that the tune changed. He took it with exceptional humility though. Personally, I think he’s owed an apology.

    • Good point, Dave. Charles I’m sorry. I am NOT saying this flippantly.

    • forestsfailyou

      I am suppose to have an article on the good things I see in UBF coming out shorting, and some not really related to UBF at all, more so on general Christian topics.

  45. Dave, maybe my ideal is unattainable, but what I wish and hope for is to meet actual UBF people in person to talk man to man, heart to heart, with all cards on the table. Maybe my attempt and effort at this is insufficient or inadequate or not humble enough?

    I know this may be hard (impossible?) for those who grew up in a hierarchical authoritarian culture, since they may feel that this pulls them down to the level of their perceived antagonist.

    • It’s not that Dr. Ben. I’m largely venting but at the same time asking what the heck is the purpose of ubfriends at present? No one in UBF (save a select and brave few), even those who are working for positive change and who sympathize with the posters here, feels safe enough to hold any conversations in these forums. It’s become ridiculously vitriolic as of late and I’m not sure how this fact has flown over your heads.

    • Anyway, I’m guilty of this too. So before anyone pulls up my old comments, I’m saying it ahead of time: the pot is calling the kettle black.

  46. Dave, taking a step back and catching a breadth, I agree with your assessment: “No one in UBF (save a select and brave few), even those who are working for positive change and who sympathize with the posters here, feels safe enough to hold any conversations in these forums. It’s become ridiculously vitriolic as of late and I’m not sure how this fact has flown over your heads.” – See more at:

    If I may attempt some explanations, it may be that some of us do care, even if that may be buried under our messy vitriolic comments. Without justifying UBFriends, what meaningful, even loving relationship does not go through some ridiculously vitriolic exchanges?

    Also, have all proper channels of actually seriously engaging UBFers on an ongoing basis regarding real issues been exhausted? Perhaps some think so.

    Clearly, this website is messed up. I know I am messed up to the depths. Yet I also know that I am loved to the heights. It does not excuse me for not displaying the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

    Sorry for my random ramblings.

    Dave, I’m personally glad and thankful that you called me out on this. Please continue to do so. When you’re able to, let’s meet and catch up again.

    • I see where you coming from, Dr. Ben. Part of me wishes that ubfriends would reboot and somehow return to its original format. At first it was a forum in which rich theological and practical discussions could be held between fellow ubfers. Somewhere along the way the outlook shifted to promoting dialogue between ubfriends and senior leaders. When this failed, ubfriends became stuck in a limbo state, in my opinion. Now it seems like a shell of what it once was. Perhaps this is due to the demonization of the site by senior leaders in UBF. And maybe the users here allowed cynicism to take root. Anyway, on a lighter note, I’d love to catch up with you again too. We’ll talk soon.

  47. Forests, I agree that “a teaching of obedience does not necessarily make it bad.” – See more at:

    I think that the key is in how obedience is taught. In some churches, including UBF, the predominant teaching communicates that obedience precedes blessing. This, I believe, makes God dependent on our obedience before he extends to us his mercy, grace and blessing. (Over)emphasizing obedience puts us in the drivers seat, and God being dependent on our obedience before He can act.

    I believe that the gospel communicates the very opposite: It is because God has first blessed and accepted us in Christ, following which we obey Him out of grateful joy.

    Jesus puts it best in Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 15:9-10 that if we love God (because he loved us first – 1 Jn 4:19) then we will keep/obey his commands. God’s love, mercy, grace should always precede obedience. This is also evident in the OT (Ex 19:4-6), where grace (Ex 19:4) precedes obedience (Ex 19:5). The grace of deliverance (Ex 20:2) precedes the 10 Commandments (Ex 20:3ff).

    I am a firm proponent that (over)emphasizing obedience (which should always be penultimate) butchers and distorts the gospel, however subtly, or maybe not subtly.

  48. “I was pointing out that sometimes we immediately view any teaching of obedience with suspicion. I am not sure if there is a way to fix this, but being mindful of it seems like a start.
    – See more at: Forests, I agree.

    I think that it is of utmost importance that our primary communication to others as Christians should be love, grace, acceptance rather than communicating expectation or agenda.

    For instance, if we say to others in UBF, “It is better that you feed sheep” (Jn 21:15-17), we are basically saying that God’s love for you will be greater if you feed sheep, and less if you do not. It is like the Jewish Christians saying to the Gentile Christians, “You should be circumcised.”

    Unless we are constantly aware of this, we will be perverting and distorting the gospel (Gal 1:6-7) by promoting some agenda and expectation of the church upon her members.

  49. In light of our current discussion, I am just thinking of what Jn 3:16 might have or could have said: “For God so expects obedience from the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever obeys him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

    • forestsfailyou

      My initial impressions of this is it changes it from what God has done to what we should do. The emphasis is on the world and what it should do and not on God is and what God has done. It makes the center of the gospel us not God. It is the same concern with making self denial the message of the gospel not love; as if our personal sacrifice is what really matters.

  50. I love this explosion of comments everyone!

    @Charles: Thank you for your humility to participate here in this forum of unmasked people where we speak our minds freely.

    @DavidW: No I’m not the Holy Spirit :) But if you ever get a chance to watch Restaurant Impossible, you might understand my point. You will be surprised most likely at what Robert Irvine actually does. I know why ubf chapters are failing, and can show people why. If your chapter is not failing, then I just say Amen.

    Also if I had known the Daily Bread training article was Charles from the start, I would have ripped like you haven’t seen me rip. I am quite encouraged that Charles expressed agreement that some of that article is not good.

    We need episodes of vitriol from time to time and safe places to vent. Sometimes that’s just what the doctor ordered to jump start dead hearts and silent consciences. I for one don’t mind, and thanks for sharing everyone!

    p.s. Nobody can control ubfriends or “reboot” it or make it suit their own purpose, at least for very long. I think that is what scares the ubf mind more than anything.

  51. This has got to be the sickest, most reviling picture and writeup I have ever seen.

    Anyone still think ubf will change? Not on your life. If you knew what some of us knew about the backstories and people in this picture, you might understand. Most will not see anything wrong with this picture.

    • forestsfailyou

      I was impressed the key verse was 1Cor 13:13 and not Mat 28:19. lol

    • God help you if you marry-by-faith and then find out your wife is more loyal to ubf authority than you are…

    • Brian, I am surprised that you think that you are qualified to make a valid assessment of this, as if you know every detail about their lives both past and present. I personally regard these people as dear friends so I want to kindly ask that you refrain from making any further comments about them; I’m asking very nicely and politely that they be regarded as off limits. Thank you.

    • DavidW I am speaking about the entire picture. Take a look again. Now imagine this: What if every person in that picture stepped away from ubf? How much BETTER would ubf ministry be? How much EASIER would JohnY’s job be? How much PROGRESS could you yourself make with infusing healthy Christian theology into the ubf thought fabric?

      I am NOT commenting on the wedding itself; I suppose that is glorious (although all married families in ubf need to beware of their spouse turning into ultra-ubf loyalists. I’ll just say that and then drop it).

    • Well, that’s not a very realistic scenario and the last time I checked, the Christian enterprise is concerned with redeeming sinners not merely getting rid of them.

    • So what “redeeming effort” is being made in regard to any of those people? Why do you presume that redemption could not involve stepping down?

      Every Christian pastor I know realizes that redemption often includes stepping down, stepping away, stepping up or stepping aside. Any examples of that in ubf among those in the photo?

    • How do UBF leaders reconcile this with 1Cor 7:10-11? Doesn’t it clearly show that their ultimate authority of UBF is not the Bible, as they always claim?

    • forestsfailyou

      In my experience most 1Cor7 is ignored. Especially that part of singleness.

    • forestsfailyou

      In my experience most 1Cor7 is ignored. Especially that part of singleness. I remember I brought this passage to my pastor to discuss the possibility of celibacy at Brian’s suggestion to get him off my back with the “We want you to start a house church”. My roommate said “It is a gift. I don’t think we should seek it as a gift.” I asked him how it differed from UBF’s claim that we should be a missionary. He said with no amount of sarcasm “That’s a calling not a gift. It is different.” My key verse is 1 Cor 7:32 for 2014

    • Brian, I think that you’re the one that’s presuming to know the full details of what has transpired in the lives of these people and what ramifications they should incur as a way of remedying any past wrongs. How do you know that they are not grappling with issues of the past and how to address these? I do know that some are.

    • DavidW, I don’t claim to know all the details. I just know some of the details. And I don’t really care what happens to them, I was just posing the question: What if they all stepped away?

  52. John Y
    John Y

    BK, you know me enough to know by now what my reaction is in reply to this last post. Thanks for anticipating it and for responding appropriately. This site has been said to be a necessary but messy forum. Fair enough. But here: I’m handing you the mop.

    • Thanks JohnY. I’ll take that mop. For the past 3 years I’ve found myself talking with numerous ubf people who were being neglected or driven out or just plain fed up. I somehow became a sort of exit counselor for people hurting in ubf. When they find my priestly>nation website they finally find someone who makes sense of their messed up ubf fantasy world. I suppose then I am the “mop ministry” of ubf :(

    • John, what’s your job?

  53. These latest discussions brought back memories for me… Voy memories that is:

    “Karcher says “Either UBF is a dangerous cult or UBF is a Christian fellowship”

    This gives you an idea of Toledo UBF thought. Either it is great or it is terrible. Either it is everything or it is nothing. This is the black and white thinking of many UBF members, you are either for them or against them. If you have any criticisms you are automatically under the power of Satan as Brian Karcher points out on his website.

    In my opinion, Toledo UBF is not a Christian fellowship. A Christian fellowship recognizes that even its leaders are sinners and are in need of confession and repentance as well as Godly and Biblical church discipline. You will not find that in Toledo UBF. It is as authoritarian and top down as a cult can get. Just because you are love bombed and smiled at a whole lot does not mean it isn’t true.

    Ask the leadership if they have written by-laws and procedures to limit the authority of the pastor and leaders. Ask about the past alledged abuse of people in UBF. See if you don’t see squirming and shuffling.

    If it were truly a Christian fellowship, it would deal with all problems past and present in the light of Christ and his word instead of sweeping it all under rugs and denouncing people who speak up as under the power of Satan.”

    RSQubf discussion from 2004

  54. UBF IS messed up, just as we all are to varying degrees. In my opinion, a problem is not that she has messed up but her sheer inability or dogged persistent refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing, bad practices, sub-optimal theology, prior abuses, etc.

    Some say they are afraid of being sued. Others say they don’t want to hurt (offend) the older most tenured leaders who do not understand and are too old to change and should still be highly honored. Still others say that they acknowledge it privately but will not do so publicly, for fear of unknown repercussions. All virtually say or suggest that it will simply open up a can of worms. All also seem to believe that silence is the best course of action. All also hope that this will eventually blow over and disappear.

    Or is the inability to acknowledge wrongdoing simply because of pride and honor and the sense of losing face?

    • Joe Schafer

      Better to open the can of worms before someone opens the can of whoop ass.

      Luke 12:58

    • Ben, that’s good you’re trying to understand their reasoning, and we all should do that.

      I don’t think anybody can or will sue them. The worst abuse happened more than 15 years ago under the regiment of Samuel Lee, and even if there was still someone to be sued, it has probably become time-barred. Anyway, for us open critics suing anybody is the last thing we have in mind, particularly if they show signs of real repentance and remorse. We would be happy and give them a hand instead.

      I fear you are right with your last assumption. UBF was motivated and built on pride and honor from the beginnings. Another maybe even stronger reason may be the fear of having messed up their lives, having lived with the wrong ideas and for the wrong ideals, so they would have to declare “spiritual bancruptcy”. During the reform movement of 2000, my chapter leader promoted the idea that we needed to obey Samuel Lee “no matter what”, even if how he behaved was wrong and unethical. It was the idea that obedience and loyalty trumps integrity and conscience. Deep inside I’m sure he felt this was wrong, but somehow he had chosen to follow that road to the end, like a gambler putting everything on one card, just hoping to turn everything around after having invested and lost already so much money. This is the sunk cost effect, and the longer people are in UBF, the more effective it is. Maybe they interpret their own stabs of conscience as temptation which they have to withstand.

      Somehow they have lost Jesus, the Bible, the Spirit, their own conscience as their beacons, replacing them with the UBF heritage. They cling to that beacon of UBF heritage, in the hope that it shines in the same direction and will magically also make them obedient to God, when the opposite is the case. They don’t recognize that even if their whole life was a failure, Jesus will still love and forgive them. The only thing He wants to see is repentance, the admittance that we failed with our own ways, throwing us into his arms and trusting him. I believe if that happens, it will really open a whole can, not of worms or worse, but of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and joy. And then, in hindsight, their whole lives, even the failures of the past, will become meaningful again.

      Repentance is a simple thing, and yet so hard. Now I understand why it’s called the “narrow gate”.

  55. As you know, I’m all for opening the can of worms. Though this seems to really rub the wrong way and go frontally against the Asian Confucianistic psyche, I think it is crucially important that we continually attempt to be biblically, prayerfully, humbly and christianly HOT, which is honest, open and transparent, for those who are not familiar with being HOT.

  56. big bear

    Yes opening the can of worms will free UBF in grace and make families more healthy…and God will be placed on the throne..UBF can work with other churches and be more fruitful Nobody wants to sue UBF..leaders will b a blessing to the body of Christ..many churches I attend believe UBF is a cult…UBF left the body of Christ when they turned to abusive practices to grow numbers thru manipulation and control and is lost in their delusional vision rooted in the old testament..we live in grace and freedom..this is not the dark ages

  57. Chris, I agree that “repentance (and) the admittance that we failed…will really open a whole can, not of worms or worse, but of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and joy.” – See more at:

    FWIW, Chris, I like your recent comments better than some of your prior ones, for to my ears they seem to be far less critical and scathing and with some balance, graciousness and generosity. But of course, that’s just my opinion.

  58. Joe Schafer

    When I first read this article by Ben, there was something about it that didn’t seem right. I didn’t know how to articulate it.

    But last night, I was poking around the website of Jackson Wu, a bright young theologian who studies Chinese house churches, where the teaching and rigid organizational structure are deeply influenced by Confucianism.

    In an article titled Why Chinese Pastors Cheat, Jackson Wu says exactly what I was thinking. He says that, when western Christians look at Chinese churches, they will say that the Chinese churches are “legalistic” because of the rigid, extra-biblical expectations they impose on their members. But “legalistic” is not the right word for it. That word suggests that Chinese Christians feel justified before God if they do certain things. However, people from shame/honor cultures don’t really value doing those things. Rather, they care about maintaining the appearance of rightness (keeping face) before the group, and as long as that appearance is being maintained, what they actually do is irrelevant. Legalism is a western concept rooted in ideas of law and guilt, and it’s not easily grasped by someone in an eastern culture. The distortion of the gospel that is commonly seen in Confucian churches is


    In the latest round of Galatians material produced at ubf headquarters, they talk about the need to overcome legalism. In my opinion, the problem isn’t legalism per se, and calling it that will miss the mark. The problem is the false aura of righteousness and superiority that they maintain through keeping up appearances. Their unwillingness to take off their masks, to get real, to admit and embrace corporate weakness and failure and shame, is the thick wall that the gospel needs to penetrate.

    • Joe, I read a few articles on his site and it seems as though he has some thoughful and theologically grounded applications for eastern missions.

      After reading one of his articles on the concept of “face” in asian cultures, I was reminded of the paper you wrote with Scott M. My thought at that time was that this should have been required reading for everyone in UBF, especially those who were new to engaging easterners in a church setting. Jackson’s website has rekindled this sentiment. I felt unsettled as I read through his articles because I got the impression that I don’t understand how to engage my eastern brothers and sisters nearly as well as I thought I did. In this vein, at some point I would like to read his dissertation.

      It’s an understatement to say that UBF’s inability or unwillingness to foster an environment in which both easterners and westerners can truly understand each other’s respective cultures is a glaring weak spot within the ministry. In my opinion, doing so is perhaps more important or should take precedence over our efforts to evangelize college students; it gets at the heart of the gospel message which is reconciliation between all kinds of people before under one head, who is Jesus Christ.

      For whatever reason, we possess a kind of naivety which believes that God will magically work out our cross-cultural issues because he is more interested in us carrying out campus missions. But the fallout and anti-gospel fruit which has resulted from this negligence is painfully obvious in so many ways. The Americans (including myself) within the ministry willingly allowed themselves to be subsumed into the Korean culture with little resistance. Is it up to us to somehow change this tide or for that matter, is it even possible or worth it at this point? I feel as though we have missed out on a prime opportunity to participate in and experience what God really wanted to do through UBF in this regard. It’s through striving to reconcile with one another in informed and Spirit-led ways that we come to deeply understand the very heart and mission of God.

    • Joe Schafer

      David wrote: “I feel as though we have missed out on a prime opportunity to participate in and experience what God really wanted to do through UBF in this regard.” – See more at:

      Yes, precisely. Whenever I think about ubf leaders trying to describe their own heritage, the picture that comes to mind is Little Jack Horner.

      Little Jack Horner
      Sat in the corner,
      Eating a Christmas pie;
      He put in his thumb,
      And pulled out a plum,
      And said ‘What a good boy am I!’

      They had no idea what God was really trying to do in their midst.

    • Joe Schafer

      “Is it up to us to somehow change this tide or for that matter, is it even possible or worth it at this point?” – See more at:

      If you want to try, please do. My honest answer: No.

    • forestsfailyou

      These articles clearly articulate some issues I have noted. I think it is in essence the whole issue with UBF as a whole. It is why Americans in UBF long enough tend to become Confucian.

      It explains in some sense why Philippines UBF was so remarkably different. The Philippines culture is very western due to American influence in the last 2 centuries. The shame based society was not present.

    • David, you wrote, “In my opinion, doing so is perhaps more important or should take precedence over our efforts to evangelize college students – See more at:

      That may be, but I feel conflicted about this. How might this begin to be put into practice? I agree that we should understand and know how to engage each other. We have to start somewhere. I think we also have to go deeper to our missionary education. It’s messed up.

      When I speak with our Korean missionaries, some real feel bad about my suggestions to give the leadership and duties to Americans. Not because they don’t want to let go or that they want to retain power or honor, but because they don’t know what to do otherwise. Mostly, they were taught to have only one mission field, and it is there that your bones are buried. There is no freedom, such as Paul had to go around from place to place. Of course, they also have families and are heavily invested in this particular place. Some cannot imagine even to change their mission from campus to the next.

      You mentioned about being reconciled to each other, but your words recalled to mind Paul’s words about being Christ’s ambassadors with the message of being reconciled to God, because we are reconciled through Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:20). Somehow, it would be good to learn his attitude of mission, especially in regards to being an ambassador of Christ. As you know, Paul was free to change himself to match those he was serving. But he didn’t ask them to change for him.

      It just sounds backwards and a placing of more and unnecessary burdens on both sides because our mission education is not right. If we don’t address it at that level, isn’t UBF going to keep sending people and having culture conflicts without end? It’s two ways, but in my opinion there has to be a greater responsibility on the missionary. Jesus came to his people, becoming flesh. He made reconciliation possible through his own sacrifice. Paul changed himself accordingly. But to ask Americans (or natives) to further understand the missionaries in order to be reconciled? We lack proper mission education and perspective which results in these conflicts and lack of freedom. Maybe my own frustrations and feelings of being burned out are speaking up here.

    • Charles, I hear where you’re coming from. After re-reading what I wrote about losing sleep over the illogicalities and numbing effects that come with carrying out cross-cultural missions (at least the ones I’m familiar with in UBF vis a vis my own experience) I began to question the logic of that stance. As you said, the onus should be on the missionaries to understand our culture. My thing is that they are obviously not willing to do this to a degree that would help to remedy a lot of the issues in UBF, so someone should do it. But the more I think about what I have on my plate, e.g. establishing my own family, my carer, finally being able to help my family members encounter Christ through the scriptures and just being an American on American soil I realistically don’t have the time and energy to invest in laying the groundwork for continuing missionary education (isn’t there a committee within the church that goes by this exact name; interested to know what they’re actually teaching). It would be a beautiful thing to figure this out, but I’m not fully convinced that this is my life calling; and it would be a life-giving calling for the duration of your entire life because obviously this is not some kind of side project. We’re talking about years of remediation here.

    • Thank you for pointing to these articles by Jackson Wu which are really insightful and useful in our UBF context.

      “In traditional honor-shame cultures, “law” is of little importance. It’s all about relationships and “face.” – this corresponds with my UBF experience 100%. We talked a lot about “keeping face”, but the importance “having the right relationship” in this culture has not been discussed muched. It’s very difficult to understand for us. You would think that, if relationships are so important, they would do anything to reconcile with ex UBF and reform UBF, to re-establish our relationship again. But strangely, the opposite is the case. That’s something that is still confusing me.

      I also fully agree with you Joe: “legalistic” is not the right word for it (e.g. the demand to attend SWS absolutely). In Germany, UBF was often characterized by critics as being “Bible-fundametalist”, i.e. of taking the Bible too literally and being too strict about the Biblical rules. I never liked that characterization. If UBF really would be serious about the Bible, then they would not order people to divorce and re-marry just because the partner left UBF and do or tolerate many other unbiblical things (up to ordering abortions). It’s really not about any strict law or the Bible. Everything can be “bended” if only it helps keeping up the outward appearance. Even reality can be bended. A perfect example were the faked photographies by Samuel Lee.

      I often heard the term “absolute obedience” in UBF. What I now understand is that this absoluteness was always referring to a relationship, not to any law or principle. Loyality, obedience, tradition, appearance were considered much more important than following laws or principles, no matter how biblical and ethical they were.

  59. Joe Schafer

    By the way, they are dozens of fascinating articles of Jackson Wu’s website. Check out this one, about a riot that started at a Chinese university when teachers tried to stop students from cheating on an entrance exam. An angry mob of 2,000 threw rocks and smashed cars and shouted, “We want fairness! There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat!”

  60. Joe Schafer

    And this article made me think about dishonest church leaders who want you to treat them with “grace” by overlooking their misdeeds. They have confused grace and wrath.

  61. …what you mean by “Hebrews set me free from evangelism” – See more at:

    BK will surely articulate a more profound answer, but what I think he means is that from his study of Hebrews he found freedom from feeling like he has any worth before God unless he evangelizes others.

    I would also like to hear from BK what particular text, verse, or theme from Hebrews, if any, that enabled him to find such a “freedom from evangelism.”

  62. Just read Jackson Wu’s articles on honor/shame in Chinese (Asian) culture and context. It explains quite well what I and likely most if not all UBFers have experienced and encountered: “The problem is the false aura of righteousness and superiority that (leaders) maintain through keeping up appearances. Their unwillingness to take off their masks, to get real, to admit and embrace corporate weakness and failure and shame, is the thick wall that the gospel needs to penetrate.” – See more at:

    Face/honor/shame is so deeply embedded in our ubf culture and tradition for 50 years and counting. I’m sorry to say this, but I was so disheartened to hear a top leader say, “UBF Bible study is the best. It is better than going to a seminary.”

    He is a good man, but his need to promote how great and good UBF and UBF Bible study is is just so odd and so discordant for me to hear. Yet I cannot blame him because that is what he genuinely and truly believes.

    He does not realize that he is primarily promoting the face and honor of UBF and UBF Bible study, at the exclusion and implied denigration of other churches, ministries and even seminaries. I’m sure he does not consciously realize that he is doing that.

    Is it even possible to truly be set free from our need to save face and to promote our own honor and glory through UBF?

    • Joe Schafer

      “Is it even possible to truly be set free from our need to save face and to promote our own honor and glory through UBF?” – See more at:

      Of course it is possible. In fact, it is quite easy. All you have to do is step outside the UBF box for a while, develop significant friendships with Christians outside of UBF, and start to do serious reading and learning from non-UBF sources. Take a sabbatical, a rumspringa, from all things UBF.

    • Joe Schafer

      They’re getting too old NOT to go on rumspringa.

      If UBF continues on its present course, the organization will disintegrate, and then everyone will be on rumspringa permanently.

    • “Take a sabbatical, a rumspringa, from all things UBF.”

      In my time in UBF that’s something they would never allow to happen. It was important that you kept your connection with UBF continually, every week. Under no circumstance you were allowed to miss your BS or SWS, since this would “break the chain”. They would start to phone you, visit you, beseech you, threaten you, do everything so that you would not take a breath, get some time and distance to reflect what’s happening to you and what they are doing to you.

      But I think it’s the best advice you can give to a UBFer: Please take a sabattical, have some time alone for yourself or within another community to reflect about your experience in UBF from a distance.

      My chapter director told us that Christians are like glowing pieces of coal in an oven. If you separate one of them from the heap of coal (the church), then it would immediately cool down and stop glowing. With this picture he planted fear into us that as soon as we stopped attending UBF for a week, we would lose our faith. Most of the members really believed such ideas.

  63. I was wondering about Rom 12:3 and Phil 2:3. To varying degrees all of us have a sense of our own honor and an aversion toward shame and losing face.

    But how does a strong honor/shame/saving face ministry not think of ourselves so highly and genuinely consider others better than ourselves?

    • Joe Schafer

      Humble yourself and learn from people outside your tribe. Don’t just listen for what you want to hear.

  64. Joe Schafer

    Ben, I found your last two questions odd.

    “Is it even possible to truly be set free from our need to save face and to promote our own honor and glory through UBF?” – See more at:

    “But how does a strong honor/shame/saving face ministry not think of ourselves so highly and genuinely consider others better than ourselves?” – See more at:

    It seems that you are asking:
    * Is it possible for us to change without changing?
    * How can we give up the thing that we value most, without actually giving it up?

    All the leaders have to do is just openly admit what everyone already knows, that the organization has a long history of problematic behavior, and begin the process of recovery and reform by listening to knowledgeable people from the outside. If they are not willing to do it because it’s too hard, then just admit that this is the case. But don’t keep asking if there’s an easier way, because there isn’t.

  65. “All UBF leaders have to do is just openly admit what everyone already knows, that the organization has a long history of problematic behavior…” – See more at:

    Countless leaders in all spheres have virtually said the same thing: The starting point of change, reform and improvement is to acknowledge the current reality, whatever it is (usually something that is not optimal or good or right), which as you said “everyone already knows.” Barring this we’ll just be spinning our wheels.

    This may be sobering for Americans to hear, but this is regarded as one of the best TV speeches: first step in solving any problem is recognizing that there is one.” (I hope that when foreigners watch or hear this they do not gloat!)

  66. Joe said:

    “All the leaders have to do is just openly admit what everyone already knows, that the organization has a long history of problematic behavior…”

    Jackson Wu says that the eastern concept of “face” has to do with one’s identity; it is closely analogous to the expression, “the image of God”. If one brings dishonor upon themselves or is shamed in any way, it is seen as an act of denigrating this image or identity.

    At the heart of the gospel is this idea that the image of God within us has been marred by sin, therefore we need Christ’s work to restore this image. The early members of UBF, who are now the leaders that we’re speaking of, seemed to have accepted this aspect of Christianity, that they were indeed sinners and needed salvation. But somewhere along the way, they reverted back to the idea that face should not be dishonored for that would bring shame upon them all over again. Could it be that there is a fundamental flaw in how they process the gospel?

    In a sense, Christ restores our dignity and worth as human beings. For instance, Christ’s merciful work on the cross takes away the penalty of our sin and its associated guilt; the cross is also an expression of his divine love for us. Not only this, but through the work of the Son, God the Father adopts us as his very own children. In a way, he restores our “face”. But this process is never complete this side of heaven; God is seeking to renew us on a daily basis (2 Cor 4:16) so that we can progressively grow into the image of Christ. Thus repentance and transparency are continually needed. So the process of seeking God’s definition of face will inevitably reveal that many of our heart motives and actions are dishonorable and shameful, even until our dying days on this earth; so there is this continual denigration of face. But this constant revelation isn’t a negative thing at all for it drives us more toward the One who can remedy these issues. Furthermore, when we realize that God wants to commune with wretches like us, it magnifies his grace even more. Perhaps this idea of shame by way of the gospel is so at odds with the eastern idea of preserving face that it’s extremely difficult for an easterner to grapple with this on a continual basis.

    • You know, maybe the real stumbling block has not been their culture, but rather their willingness to assent to a sub-culture within the ministry that insulated itself from healthy criticism. So in a sense, they accepted an unrealistic and self-aggrandizing face or identity created or fostered by this sub-culture. Perhaps they did this long enough so that this image solidified in their minds. In contrast, those in the reform movements rejected this identity and sought to exclusively hold on to the gospel instead.

    • Joe Schafer

      Jackson Wu wrote a whole book on how to explain the gospel to people whose understanding of right and wrong is based on honor/shame rather than law/guilt. I haven’t read it.

      I’m not sure if the eastern “face” is close to what the Bible means when it speaks of the image of God. There are at least three different ways to explain what image of God is.

    • Joe, perhaps my analogy was a bit of a misunderstanding or a far-reaching interpolation. Wu is beginning a detailed series on the concept of face. At the end of the first article he states:

      Face is neither inherently good nor bad. It just is. To some degree, everyone is “inclined to pursue face and avoid shame” (趋荣避褥, qūróng bìrǔ). If you say that you don’t want face (不要脸, búyào liǎn), this conveys the idea that you have “no sense of shame.” So, “caring about face” (关心面子, guānxīn miànzi) is critical for being a moral person (

      To me, this gets at the fact that we, as humans made in God’s image, have an inherent desire to be honored and respected or at least acknowledged as valid entities. So, while some aspects of face come from the concept of the image of God, the cultural concept as a whole is perhaps more tied to our ego or pride.

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks for the clarification. I just wonder what he thinks the image of God means, in an overall sense. And I assume that he will talk at great length about shame and the desire to hide it, based on Gen 3.

    • It appears as though his series on face is a bit disjointed. I search for “face” on his site:

    • Joe Schafer

      Jackson Wu is Chinese, and he focuses on the Chinese understanding of face. I wonder if the connotations are different in Korean. Someone told me that the Korean word for face literally means “mask,” which suggests that saving face is mainly about pretending and hiding the truth. If face doesn’t have the same overtones in Chinese, then Wu’s explanations might not hold for Koreans.

    • Yeah, I’m not exactly sure what Wu believes in this regard. But the article from patheos states that the eastern view of the imago dei is largely one of function; we are ambassadors or representatives of God. This could explain the missionary zeal behind the mission movement of South Korea; they felt mandated to represent God’s face to the world. This isn’t necessarily a bad or sinful thing, but if taken to the extreme it could lead to abuses such as imposing not only the gospel but ones own culture onto another’s. Also, an ambassador-only type of view does not lend itself well to either self-deprecating representations of oneself or mutual growth between both parties.

    • I’ve asked myself the same question, Joe because obviously there are significant differences between the two cultures. But what Wu explains in one of his articles seems to resonate with my experiences in Korean Christian circles:

      In preaching the gospel, it is imperative we recognize that many professions of faith are nothing more than expression of face. How many people participate in church activities for no other reason than it gives them a social network? How many “conversions” have been listed on missionary reports because some national wanted to give the missionary face by not refusing his invitation to “accept Christ,” even though they actually have no faith at all.

      We are aware that money is a strong incentive for people to “profess faith.” However, how aware are we to the fact that face in certain circumstances can function in a similar way? In reality, as soon as the social group changes, those people who made professions will be silent just like Jesus’ brothers.

      We could go on with other questions. What are our motives in ministry? Do some missionaries and pastors make sacrifices because of their faith or merely because they want face? What are the reasons we don’t listen to the ideas of others? We need to search our hearts in order to discern whether we have faith or simply want face.

      Many “professions of faith” are nothing more than attempts to save face. If this is so, what are the implications for ministry in honor-shame cultures? (

  67. BREAKING NEWS UPDATES: FREEDOM IN CHRIST IS CATCHING FIRE (Bonn, Germany. Just posted on Facebook!):

    Bonn UBF Easter Bible Conference Report
    Bonn UBF, Germany May 13, 2014

    The conference title was “True Freedom in Christ.” It was held at Mueke with 95 attendants. The 2012 EC title was “New Life in Christ” and 2013 EC title was “Identity in Christ.” God raised eight messengers among shepherds and second gens. There were 18 testimony sharers and six life testimony sharers. John Park Jr. from New Jersey delivered a powerful message from John’s Gospel chapter 19. The Holy Spirit worked so mightily at this conference that all attendants accepted true freedom in Christ from the power of sin and death. We are praying for one to one Bible study and discipleship ministry this spring and summer! (Bold mine.)

    Peter Chang

    • Great. So should we expect a sudden influx of German ubfers sharing about their new freedom on ubfriends? Will PC send an apology letter to Chris? Should I look for an increase in sales of my books in Europe?

      btw, how can I get this “true freedom in Christ”? How does PC know that “all attendants” accepted such freedom? What has been set free? Are people now free to leave UBF without trauma? Are their minds free of ubf heritage entanglements?

      So many questions… :)

    • Translations:

      ubfism – “True Freedom in Christ” means “you are free to obey ubf leaders and demonstrate your loyalty to the ubf system”

      ubfism – “Identity in Christ” means “you must wear the Shepherd X mask and pretend to be a campus shepherd”

      ubfism – “all accepted” means “no one complained or spoke their mind and no criticism from exubfers was addressed”

    • Joe Schafer

      Someone should notify everyone in Bonn: Because PC says they are all truly free in Christ, conferences are now optional; 5am (or is it 4am?) Daily Bread and prayer meetings are now optional; staying at the center all night, every Sunday night, to write testimonies for sharing on Monday morning is now optional; obedience to PC is now optional. And they are free to read UBFriends and post comments here without any fear of retribution.

    • Joe Schafer

      This this is how it happened.

      Audience: “AMEN!”

    • And this is how the German messengers sounded: Korean accent

      (I apologize in advance…)

    • “Someone should notify everyone in Bonn: Because PC says they are all truly free in Christ, conferences are now optional; …”

      The invitation to the conference explains that you don’t understand what freedom means, young padawan. It says: “Many young people have a wrong concept of freedom believing it means to do or not to do what you want. … How can we fight and overcome the wrong idea of freedom in the hearts of young people?”

      So the purpose of the conference was to twist and redefine the meaning of the word “freedom” in the hearts of young people to mean “no freedom”. This new concept is then called “freedom in Christ”, so that it sounds like a Christian concept.

      The logic is this: Freedom in Christ is freedom from sin. Sin is not wanting to do what UBF wants you to do. So freedom in Christ is the same as bondage to do the things UBF wants you to do.

  68. Back to Regular Programming (after the breaking news update from Bonn): Regarding saving face/honor and shame, my simplistic thought is that we Christians need constant renewal in the gospel (NOT constant reminders about mission), what Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jeff Bridges and others have termed “preaching the gospel to ourselves” regularly/daily.

    When our joy and delight, our identity and value, is not centered and rooted in the gospel/Christ, it HAS to find it elsewhere.

    In the U.S. perhaps we might default to individualism and hedonism.

    In Asian cultures, the default is back to saving face, enhancing our own honor, and an avoidance of shame, resulting in an inability to acknowledge wrongdoing.

    Is this overly simplistic an explanation?

    • Dr. Ben, I think that this is a cursory, but beneficial distinction. My guess is that easterners who are evangelized by westerners accept a gospel presentation or definition that is mainly contextualized to westerners. If such an easterner does not go back and re-contextualize the gospel to the idols/misconceptions of their own culture (as Jackson Wu has done) then most likely this area of their lives will remain un-evangelized. What’s worse is that when evangelizing westerners, they will perhaps pass on an understanding of the gospel which may contain over-simplifications of the westerners main issues as well as impositions of their own eastern culture.

  69. This is from a review of Jackson Wu’s book “Saving God’s Face”: “Face” is social capital, a measure of one’s honor. Generally speaking, “face” manifests itself in the West in the prestige one accrues individually through achievements; therefore, the thought process of most Western evangelism consists in countering works-based righteousness. In contrast, in day-to-day life Chinese ascribe “face” in the context of maintaining social standing instead of amassing personal accomplishments…

    Based on this description, UBFriends would be regarded by UBF as the worst and most horrible and terrible website, because UBFriends completely disrupts and questions UBF’s social standing and credibility; the “face” of UBF is dishonored and shamed. Thus, UBF seems unable to view constructive critiques as anything but disparaging, humiliating and shameful criticisms.

  70. This picture from Jackson Wu is perhaps apt in showing the result of one trying to “save face”:

  71. In response to Joe’s question above about Wu’s stance on the imago dei, I would say from this excerpt he most likely holds a functional view:

    Honor and shame are central questions in the past and the present. To be human is to be care about one’s face. Even God cares about saving his face. That in part is why I named my book Saving God’s Face. God wants to manifest his glory so that he would be honored as Father and King in all the cosmos. As creatures made in his image, we are most fully human when we reflect his honor in the world. To the degree that we disregard the Creator’s worth, we are shameful. To use more familiar language, we fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23).

    Therefore, it’s a little too simple just to say that we should not seek face because that is “sin.” Likewise, we also can’t reduce the desire for honor/glory to sheer “pride.” With respect to God seeking honor, Piper has explained why God is not a “megalomaniac.” (

  72. Joe, what you wrote in 2009 (before UBFriends) with Yoon and Moreau is eerily still prophetic and playing itself out: “One implication is that when (UBF) deals with disagreement, it will largely be below the surface to the external observers. It will stay below the surface until it reaches a stage when it is either resolved or it becomes public. When the latter happens in a collective, it means that things are on the verge of going out of control and that a split is almost inevitable, as the very act of making disagreements public results in such a strong loss of face that only a split can resolve the tension.”

    “In 2001 such a split took place in which Campus Missions International ( was formed. While the story is complex, one element is that those who formed CMI made a conscious decision to see themselves as a church rather than just a campus ministry. The subsequent lack of growth of CMI resulted in leaving UBF members leery about broadening their vision beyond being a campus ministry dedicated to world mission. This continues to play a role in how UBF frames its thinking about its values and vision as an organization.”


    Perhaps your thoughts have changed somewhat since you wrote or co-wrote the above 5 years ago.

    • Joe Schafer

      As I recall, those words were penned by Scott Moreau.

  73. Just watched Greg Boyd’s excellent sermon on Good News-ing:

    “In evangelism it is important to be Jesus before trying to evangelize. This means that our lives should reflect the beauty and grace of Jesus’ message long before we try to bring someone to Christ. And when we finally do speak with others about Jesus, we should do it in a non-confrontational way. In Acts Paul shows us that finding how God is already working in the group is a lot better than pointing out the things that group of people does wrong. The most effective way to announce that the Kingdom of God is near is not through words but actions.”

    To learn to live out the above paradigm, I probably had to unlearn what I did the first quarter of a century of my Christian life.

  74. Thanks JohnY. This well articulates the frustrating conditional love of “easterners” and their “face” culture that suppresses “what’s really going on”:

    “Asians come from a culture with a higher group, family identity. Yet love often times comes conditionally to this culture. …love in an Asian context shows itself to be conditional. That is, love is withheld as a function of performance. It’s no wonder that legalism is one of Satan’s largest ploys against the Asian-cultured church.”

  75. fyi an interesting article on shame vs guilt:

    • Thanks for sharing this Sharon. This is an excellent article that gets to something highly important to me. Negative emotions are not automatically bad. And positive emotions are not automatically good.

      I love this quote:

      “To be clear, shame is not from God and should never be used in reconciliation contexts. We’re all created in the image of God, and we’re all embodied souls who were planted in physical bodies by God. No one should feel shame for being born privileged, white, male, attractive, wealthy, etc.

      But guilt? I can get behind guilt. Among other things, guilt is a wake-up call. Even God uses guilt to point out how much we needed Jesus to carry out the most costly rescue mission in history in order to save our guilty behinds. But God also distinguishes guilt from shame, pointing out that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us but rather to give us life.”

      We need to be careful I think. The job of convicting using guilt belongs to our Lord primarily, as in John 16:7-9 and Jude 1:14-16. So I do not apologize for talking “too much” about various ubf issues nor do I mind causing us all guilt. But I need to temper this with not usurping the Spirit’s role of “convicter”.

    • One more quick point that struck me: I’m not such a fan of the binary thinking, namely “guilt = good”. Guilt may be good and in some other contexts, guilt may be bad. I think guilt goes bad when we humans make it our mission to guilt-trip others.

    • Good points, Brian

    • Agreed. There is so much to be said about how good conversation comes about. I like the book Ethnography as Pastoral Practice by Moschella. So much good would come out of embracing this practice. To anyone serious about changing the tone of conversation, the real place to begin is with those in authority embracing this practice. Definitely not an easy task.

    • I agree with Brian. There is a lot of conviction of guilt in UBF already. The problem is that people feel guilty (or even worse, make others feel guilty) for things which they should not feel guilty about. The other problem is that do not feel guilty for things they should feel guilty about. Both problems exist in UBF, and maybe are the crux of all matters we are discussing here.

    • “Shame says, ‘I am wrong.'” (quote taken from the article).

      Interestingly, in German language you can’t even say “I am wrong” (“ich bin falsch”) or “you are wrong” (“du bist falsch”). You can only say “Ich habe Unrecht” or something like that. Of course I was often treated with “du bist falsch” by the UBF Koreans anyway.

    • The amazing thing is how easy it is for UBF leaders to induce feelings of guilt in the ordinary members, while it seems totally impossible to induce any visible feeling of guilt in the UBF leaders when ordinary members complain.

      My only explanation is that it has something to do with the different personality types of leaders and members in UBF, as explained in the book In Sheep’s Clothing:

      “Aggressive personalities of all types use guilt-tripping so frequently and effectively as a manipulative tactic, that I believe it illustrates how fundamentally different in character they are compared to other (especially neurotic) personalities. All a manipulator has to do is suggest to the conscientious person that they don’t care enough, are too selfish, etc., and that person immediately starts to feel bad. On the contrary, a conscientious person might try until they’re blue in the face to get a manipulator (or any other aggressive personality to feel badly about a hurtful behavior, acknowledge responsibility, or admit wrongdoing, to absolutely no avail.”

      The conclusion would be: Leaders must learn to feel guilty (guilt is good for them), sheep must unlearn to feel guilty (guilt is bad for them). Or maybe the sheep should start feeling guilty for other things, e.g. tolerating abuse and injustice, being too cowardly to speak up, or neglecting their families for the sake of mission.

  76. Joe Schafer

    That article by Christena Cleveland is well worth reading and pondering. Members of ubf who tell themselves, “I’ve never done anything wrong; I’ve never abused anyone; the problems in ubf have nothing to do with me” are deluding themselves. If you say this, you need to stop the Pilate hand-washing. YOU are guilty. If you are continuing to attend ubf events, continuing to support ubf leaders, continuing to prop up the organization, without doing anything tangible to promote repentance and reform and accountability, then YOU are part of the problem. I’m sorry to say this, but it’s true.

  77. “…conversations about inequality are often engineered to avoid making privileged people feel guilty. Inequality exists because guilty people have produced societal systems that accommodate some people and alienate others. And inequality exists because guilty people continue to benefit from these unjust societal systems. All privileged people participate in our unequal societal structure – some perpetuate it knowingly, some perpetuate it unknowingly, and others resist it as revolutionaries. All who have ever perpetuated it knowingly or unknowingly are guilty. For them, experiencing guilt is a crucial part of the reconciliation journey.”

    Donald Sterling, the owner of the Clippers, is getting thrown under the bus by everyone, perhaps because he articulated what many/some older priviledged white people feel, but which society today condemns outright, and rightly so. Probably this is an over-simplification.

    Sovereign Grace Ministries having to own up for prior abuses and cover-ups, but the leaders obviously have great difficulty doing so honestly, openly and transparently.

    In UBF it should be pretty obvious that the privileged class of people are the older missionaries and chapter directors. But now with the explosion of cyberspace they really cannot “hide” anymore. In my opinion, they have two choices:

    (1) Continue to ignore, deny or minimize prior (and ongoing) authoritarian abuses, legalistic practices, “saving face” measures, excusing themselves, playing innocent, remaining silent (except for lambasting UBFriends as evil in their inner circles, and guilt-tripping anyone who actively supports or participates on this website).

    (2) Face all those who are speaking up, sharing and expressing what they have experienced in UBF.

    The right choice is obvious. But often if not always it will be more painful, and it WILL involve dying to oneself, especially to one’s ego and (groundless) pride.

    A failure to chose #2 will NOT lead to reconciliation (healing, peace, being trinitarian), which is an ultimate expression of love and the cross of Christ.

  78. Ben you mentioned reconciliation. That word has surfaced in my heart and mind the past 3 years. Now that my story is told (book 1) and my analysis has been shared (book 2), I am compelled (by the Spirit I believe) to make reconciliation the theme of my 3rd book.

    I’m preparing a series of articles about reconciliation, especially the Catholic sacrament of reconciliation. There is much to learn in this regard am I am more convinced than ever that the ministry of reconciliation is our mission, the work Jesus left us to do. If the cross means anything, I am convicted that we must believe reconciliation is possible and work for it.

    I am searching for books and articles, like the article you wrote already: Is there glory and honor in reconciliation?

    Any and all thoughts on what reconciliation is/is not, what reconciliation looks like or how to go about this critical ministry we Christ-followers have been entrusted with, I’m all ears!

  79. Chris, this may be hard for some in UBF to hear/read: “The amazing thing is how easy it is for UBF leaders to induce feelings of guilt in the ordinary members, while it seems totally impossible to induce any visible feeling of guilt in the UBF leaders when ordinary members complain.” – See more at:

    I remember how easy it was for me to induce guilt in my Bible students and fellowship members if they missed worship services, or fellowship meetings, or failed to write a testimony, or to feed sheep. With guilt-tripping I was able to make others “improve their behavior outwardly” to act more in line with what I expected of them.

    But rarely was I able to seriously listen to others and take to heart when they had some complaints or grievances toward me. I would try to listen to it, but would want to quickly get over it, and just move on!

    Sharon, ethnography would certainly be the way to go to promote and improve relationships and understanding with one another, especially between missionaries and their “sheep” (indigenous friends). But it would require that UBF virtually does the exact opposite of what we have been doing for 50 years. We need to sit down and listen to each other painstakingly, instead of continually pressing to prepare for the next Bible conference and reaching the next target for our mission.

    The latter is “so much easier” to do, because it would seem that we are advancing and moving forward, while the former would mean that we have to hear each other share things that we would rather not hear, and become intimate with each others wounds, brokenness and messes. Yet, that seems to exactly be what Jesus did on the cross.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben wrote:

      “But it would require that UBF virtually does the exact opposite of what we have been doing for 50 years. We need to sit down and listen to each other painstakingly, instead of continually pressing to prepare for the next Bible conference and reaching the next target for our mission.” – See more at:

      If enough people decided that this had to take place, it would happen, regardless of what the leaders wanted. For example, at next month’s staff conference, people who cared could bring up these issues again and again during the Galatians group Bible study, until those present have no choice but to talk about it. It’s not disruptive to put aside superficial small talk and bring up the issues that truly matter.

  80. Joe, I wish that what you wrote would/could happen, but I foresee several problems: “…at next month’s staff conference, people who cared could bring up these issues again and again during the Galatians group Bible study, until those present have no choice but to talk about it.” – See more at:

    (1) the general atmosphere will not be one that encourages uncomfortable topics of discussion, but will likely be one of “humble yourself and learn from your leaders, who know more than you.”

    (2) it is never easy to be “one” against the majority, who are likely older than you, who would prefer that you don’t address problematic messy issues.

    (3) even if you did ask, it would very likely not lead to a satisfactory response, and even less likely for it to become an ongoing discussion and dialogue.

    (4) the group Bible study teachers/leaders are not going to be the most senior people, but junior leaders who have been taught and trained to lead the Galatians Bible study. I’m quite sure that most of the “trained” group Bible study leaders do not have the freedom to read UBFriends or the freedom to address and discuss “problematic issues.”

    • Yes Ben!

      “(2) it is never easy to be “one” against the majority, who are likely older than you, who would prefer that you don’t address problematic messy issues. – See more at:

      What ubf needs is many to just start talking to each other. We found this out in Toledo ubf when we leaders started talking to each other: We’re not alone! I’m not the only one who sees the problems.

      We actually were very united in Toledo ubf, the main disconnect and disunity was with the Korean director.

  81. You can download and read this excellent short summary of Moschella’s Ethnography as Pastoral Practice:,d.aWw

    If we would shepherd others according to this principle of ethnography (which is clearly biblical, humble and incarnational), tons of problems could be resolved and prevented.

  82. Ben, Joe, and any ubf person reading this:

    What we have here is a classic escalator problem.

    At the next staff conference, don’t ask permission. Just do it. ubf will only change when the enablers stop enabling.

    Just get off the escalator. You non-Koreans in ubf are just going to have to start talking to each other and pull the Koreans along. The alternative is to just keep submitting and suffering in silence.

    • Hint: Ask yourself, what can any Korean master in ubf really do to you? The answer is: nothing, unless you keep feeding their supply of obedience. Be yourself. Be American. Stop asking “Why am I not allowed to have a meeting to talk about prayer?” Jesus is Lord!.

    • Joe Schafer

      Everything changes when you are no longer afraid of them.

  83. Tsk, tsk, BK, you realize that this is called sinful human fellowship and human thinking, which is regarded as anathema by all leaders in charge!: “What ubf needs is many to just start talking to each other.” – See more at: When you do so you might be so guilt-tripped into feeling that you are doing something really really unspiritual, unholy, ungodly and useless, so much so that you might w_t your pants if you consider doing it again!

    • Yes Ben, in the twisted, loaded ubf-speak, you are correct :)

  84. What I’m trying to say is simply that I wish I will be totally proved wrong, but it just seems so unlikely that any serious ongoing meaningful discussion on uncomfortable messy issues will (be allowed to) occur at the upcoming staff conf. where the focus and agenda is Bible study followed by more Bible study. Why? Because Bible study will solve all your problems, while (ethnographic) discussions are simply a waste of time.

    • Ben, I will push back again… you just listed more escalator-like problems. The solution is so easy. Don’t go to the bible study. Skip the daily bread time. Heck meet during lunch or dinner if someone’s conscience is bothered.

      If people want to talk they can. The best part is this… hint #2: Koreans want to save face right? Well that means they will never ever make a scene! You can literally skip bible study with a group of people and discuss what needs happen in your ministry.

    • Joe Schafer

      Exactly. Just because the printed program sheet says that you are supposed to do something at a given time, that doesn’t mean that you have to do it. Suppose a significant number of people decided en masse to disobey the program schedule. Suppose they surround the room where the senior staff is going to meet and ask to talk about serious issues. What could they do? Somewhere, someday, there will be a tipping point. Perhaps the tipping point is nearer than everyone thinks.

    • Joe Schafer

      Before leaders try to make you feel guilty for not wanting to sit in one group Bible study after another, read this. More Bible study is not always better. If you are using Bible study to avoid reality, I believe that Jesus wants you to put down your Bibles and face reality.

    • Agreed. Following bible study after bible study, while ignoring issues, will not solve the problems or make them magically disappear. I was reminded of the recent passage in the daily bread schedule, 2 Kings 22-23, where Josiah’s reading of the law leads him to turn his heart and soul to the Lord and directly address the problems which the law exposed and had always been there.

      I have found the staff conference bible studies good opportunity for discussions because the very members to discuss issues with are there, gathered at that table, and most probably will not get up and leave early. Then I can hear what they say they’re doing in their chapters and ask questions face to face.

  85. So the problem is really a lot of “incurvatus in se”. We all unfairly leave the burden to one savior figure, such as you Joe. Why should all the change depend on one person? Hoping in some new GD won’t help either.

    Healthy change will only begin when people wake up and realize the escalator stopped and all they have to do is walk up or walk down the steps. In that sense, leaving or staying isn’t the issue; but getting off the “escalator” is.

    Corporate change is too much for 1 person. Joe and Sharon should not have had to bear that burden alone. Community change that is lasting will be most healthy when the entire community is involved, or at least a majority. If anyone isn’t onboard, let the chips fall where they may!

  86. “…where the focus and agenda is Bible study followed by more Bible study. Why? Because Bible study will solve all your problems, while (ethnographic) discussions are simply a waste of time.” – See more at: I hope this is understood to be tongue in cheek!

    I am in full agreement that healthy change will only occur corporately. I just don’t see that happening at the staff conf., for all the reasons stated above. But I hope I’m wrong.

    • Joe Schafer

      Prior to last year’s staff conference, Sharon — who was on the staff conference program committee — urged the leaders to read Moschella’s book and set aside some time at the staff conference for ethnographic listening. Her suggestion was ignored. Not just by Koreans, but by Americans. They laughed at her. They had no clue what she was saying, and they didn’t bother to find out.

    • This is quite sad, though “ethnography” is not a simple word that is easily understood!

    • Now that is an actual problem, Joe. Ignorance and arrogance are not escalator problems.

      This past weekend I heard a similar situation. A fellowship leader wanted to gather some people to discuss something about prayer. He was told “You are being divisive.”

      This is a trick ubfers like to use. It is called “turning the tables”.

    • Joe Schafer

      Another thing that they really don’t like: a group of Americans speaking to one another without a Korean missionary present to act as a babysitter. That makes them nervous.

    • “Another thing that they really don’t like: a group of Americans speaking to one another without a Korean missionary present”
      I remember in the early 1990s we had a yearly “shepherd’s conference” in Germany for those who were considered to be shepherds or “hope bearers” (shepherd candidates). It was great because we could meet with other people from all around Germany. But every participant had to be accompanied by a senior Korean missionary (usually the shepherd) who would supervise the participant and probably later report to the chapter director. Time was strictly regimented for Bible study, sogam writing, sogar sharing etc. So there was little opportunity to speak and discuss with others. Still, it was one of the few occasions where we could meet and talk with each other. But it was discontinued in the mid 1990s, probably because they didn’t like us natives to be too much connected and see the big picture.

      But I agree with Brian: It’s an escalator problem. However, we were all struggling with our real and imaginated “sin problems,” our minds were only busy with ourselves, “incurvatus per se” as you say, we did not even imagine we had the right or obligation to see or talk about the big picture.

    • “This past weekend I heard a similar situation. A fellowship leader wanted to gather some people to discuss something about prayer. He was told “You are being divisive.””

      My chapter leader said about the refomers “they are political”. Everybody who criticized the party line and obey Samuel Lee was considered to be “politically motivated”.

  87. I do truly hope this happens!!, but being a GHE pessimist, I just don’t see it happening: “Suppose a significant number of people decided en masse to disobey the program schedule. Suppose they surround the room where the senior staff is going to meet and ask to talk about serious issues. What could they do? Somewhere, someday, there will be a tipping point. Perhaps the tipping point is nearer than everyone thinks.” – See more at:

    The people who would pay a major fraction of $1,000 to attend the staff conf. (travel expenses + conf. fee) will unlikely do the above. I keep repeating my pessimism and realism hoping to be proven totally and completely wrong!

    • I fear you’re right, Ben. People don’t make this sudden moves from obedience to disobedience. When you’ve learned to be only obedient and huble for many years or decades, it’s difficult to suddenly engage in bold and courageous acts of disobedience. I remember that some who supported reform tried to subversively sneak in some non-conformant statements into their sermons or sogams, and they felt like rebels when daring to share these remarks publicly. But they were usually so weak or hidden between the lines or in parables that most listeners did not even notice or understand that the talker just wanted to say something rebellious.

      For anything of that kind to happen, like-minded people must first meet with each other, talk with and encourage each other, see that they are not alone, see that others think the same. It will not happen spontaneously at a conference. UBFriends is a good place for this kind of talk, but there must also be meetings and discussion in real life.

    • forestsfailyou

      I wonder if there is a way that a ubfriends representative position be made? Maybe friend? Not sure anyone could listen but it is a step.

  88. Charles, I agree with this and yet…: “I have found the staff conference bible studies good opportunity for discussions … and most probably will not get up and leave early. Then I can hear what they say they’re doing in their chapters and ask questions face to face.” – See more at:

    This may happen in one of countless dozens of Bible study groups at the conf. This happens on a very small scale. Some changes may happen at some small local chapter. But I don’t see this happening corporately anytime soon. Sorry for my ongoing GHE pessimism!

    It is also very likely that most who will (spend the time and money to) attend the staff conf. have already been indoctrinated to regard UBFriends material as bad, negative, discouraging and the work of the devil to plant doubt and discourage mission.

    Yet, Charles, do use your freedom to speak up, and I can’t wait to hear your report after the conf., which will likely be more objective than the official report.

    • Ben,

      “Some changes may happen at some small local chapter. But I don’t see this happening corporately anytime soon.”

      I completely disagree. How long does it take a fire to start? When the Spirit is ready, everything will be made new. The answer is not slow changes, but many submitting to and obeying our Lord all at once. Listen to whatever it is God is saying to each of us, and do it, however strange it may seem.

      We already have the work of the “Wilberforce“, so now is the time for the many to come together.

      You have to believe something if you want to see it. I believe it is possible for any and all ubf Koreans and non-Koreans to be irresistibly overcome by the Spirit of Jesus and usher in corporate repentance.

      As you point out, this will never happen by one person. A change in GD won’t do it. No program adjustment will accomplish it. Men and women and children who surrender to grace, learn to listen to the voice of the Spirit and begin acting in obedience to whatever it is Jesus it telling them to do now is the answer.

  89. big bear

    Charles agree with Ben Toh on this one..UBFriends or any outside influence is a distractor to mission….so untrue…loving people, families and the body of Christ is also a distraction from mission as well….it is all about UBF and their twisted programmed mind.. I pray for dialogue and healing of the top leaders….it begins when these walls of religion are broke down…sorta like the Berlin wall in Germany….then freedom and healing will flow like a river…pray for your efforts…

    • forestsfailyou

      My pastor received a call about some of my comments here. Interestingly he didn’t come read them for himself. The comment in question was were I quoted him in an article. I found this amusing since I felt like I have said much *worse* things here than simply quoting him.

  90. big bear

    Forests..welcome to the real a communist regime…they want to control your thinking and your everything that comes out of your mouth…freedom and prayerful critical thinking is discouraged…more is coming..
    Stand firm my friend

  91. This is an interesting proposition/question from Forests: “I wonder if there is a way that a ubfriends representative position be made?” – See more at:

    I am thinking about how to articulate a “representative position.” Then I also immediately start thinking of the likely responses (or reactions) from traditional UBFers, especially the hard-liners.

    In my simplistic mind, what is always needed (if we can ever get to it) is what I have termed an ongoing equitable dialogue. My favorite quote, which I have shared before, is by Pope Francis:

    “…we succumb to attitudes that do not permit us to dialogue: domination, not knowing how to listen, annoyance in our speech (or on UBFriends!), preconceived judgments and so many others. Dialogue is born from a respectful attitude toward the other person, from a conviction that the other person has something good to say. It supposes that we can make room in our heart for their point of view, their opinion and their proposals. Dialogue entails a warm reception and not a preemptive condemnation. To dialogue, one must know how to lower the defenses, to open the doors of one’s home, and to offer warmth.”

  92. Forests, what are you referring to when you say “representative position.”? Like Ben I am curious what your further thoughts are.

    Ben, in terms of dialogue, I am open to such dialogue. It won’t happen here publicly on a website, and I’m not interested in private, closed doors meetings. But face to face meeting is required I think.

    If someone has some bright ideas I’m more than willing to “represent”.

    • forestsfailyou

      Following the Plebeian wars in Rome a tribune position was created. it had the power to veto and no patrician could be a tribune. (in fact bribing the tribune became an issue later).

      I do not suppose that such a created position could be created with ‘veto’ power unless without war, and division, etc. What I mean is that there could be a person who attends staff conferences and acts as a bridge between older hard liners and the newer generation. I believe this was called by David w, the “lost” generation. For example there is a daily bread writers meets this weekend and there is a staff conference. Someone might act as a representative. Most if not all ubf leaders refuse to look at this site, even when they are quoted. If they won’t come to us then we should go to them.

  93. Forests, might you be able to present the “representative UBFriends position” locally in your chapter, and encourage an “ongoing equitable dialogue” rooted in love and respect for the other person’s position, which obviously needs to go both ways?

    • forestsfailyou

      Following recent events I might need to wait sometime for things to cool down. But yes in the future I would be happy to. Maybe Friend might, since she is in Chicago and closer to leadership.

    • forestsfailyou

      At least I think friend is in chicago. not sure why I thought that

  94. You may have already seen this, but I just saw the program for the Galatians staff conference: I don’t know about you, but it just seems quite exhausting to me. Maybe it’s just me.

    • Yes I saw that Ben. Sounds like this: “You are free to live in bondage to bible study”. I can predict the report already: “All North American staff deeply repented and fully accepted the true freedom in Christ. All participants wrote meaningful reflections on the entire book of Galatians. The Holy Spirit worked so mightily, giving us strength to sit on chairs and endure being bored to tears. Praise God for making us into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation for our generation!”

      The conference is setup for spiritual abuse, which I define as “over prescribing the bible as the sole answer to life’s problems or as the best way to enjoy life, as in drug or alcohol abuse”.

      But when you are trained and conditioned as a world-class chair sitter, you tend to go numb and just focus on self-preservation.

      This conference is also very expensive. I am SO GLAD I no longer feel coerced and guilt-ridden about attending such 3 day events. Note that this costs you 2 DAYS of vacation (Thursday and Friday), an entire Saturday, travel expenses and registration fee, and probably your own credit card/deposit for the hotel.

    • It is odd to note there is only 1 message, on Sunday.

      What everyone wants though is the “b” point on the Sunday plenary session. People likely want to know about 1) Chapter guidelines and 2) Staff education.

      But looks like the program already admits there won’t likely be time for the Staff education report (ah too bad, we can’t talk about that). Not that there would be any talking or honest discussion anyway. Why not make these two topics the discussion points of day 1 and day 2? Ah but we must “study” the bible and get re-charged with ubf ideology!

    • Joe Schafer

      Intentionally or not, this program is designed to prevent open-ended discussion and insulate the top leaders from difficult or embarrassing questions.

      Right now, secret back-room negotiations are going on to select the next General Director. That decision will be made within the next couple of months. Once again, the staff who attend this event and who will be expected to follow the next GD and continue to send in their tithes and offerings are NOT BEING CONSULTED about who the next GD ought to be. Even worse, they are NOT EVEN BEING TOLD that this process is going on. As if they don’t need to know. As if they don’t deserve to know. If I were still invested in the organization, I would be hopping mad about this. But of course, we all know that it is “unspiritual” to be upset at such things. The only “spiritual” course of action is to keep quiet and obey and give thanks for the privilege of propping up such wonderful leaders who deeply care about you, so much that they are taking care of all the business details (such as choosing the next GD) so that you don’t have to think about anything or worry about anything at all, because everything is under control.

    • “Boy, does this bring back memories. Of hour after hour of listening to such stuff. Worse, of writing it myself.” – See more at:

    • This program reminds me of another bad practice in UBF, namely trying to boil down every Bible section to exactly one “key verse” that can be used to reinforce UBFism. For instance, have a look at Galatians 5. Most Bible translations divide this into two subsections with the subheadings “Freedom in Christ” and “Life by the Spirit”. As was to be expected, UBF leaders chose the key verse from the second section. This immediately de-emphasizes the importance of the whole first section. Why not have Gal 5:1 as key verse: “Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery”?

      Similarly, the big crack in Galatians 2 is the part where Paul opposes Cephas. It is a great example where Paul shows how the truth of the gospel is more important than etiquette, politeness, keeping face, honoring elders etc. Of course, UBF leaders deliberately chose to de-emphasize this part. Why not have Gal 2:11 as key verse: “When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face?”

      As you see, the selection and emphasis of key verses is a big matter. Of course, the UBF leaders care about these things for you, so you don’t need to think any more. Just like the care about selecting the GD for you so you don’t need to worry.

      UBF members should really start to open their eyes to these details of how UBF does things and start questioning them instead of continuing these traditions because “we always did it like that”. These small peculiarities of UBF might seem harmless, and superficially they may even look good and Biblical. But if you look in detail, they are much more dangerous than they look, particularly, if all these practices are combined, because they reinforce and potentiate each other.

    • The program is confusing to me. It seems to lose the context. Saturday’s item B., in my opinion, should have been put front and center, with a study of Galatians in that context. Chapter guidelines should be distributed in advance and feedback collected and shared. Staff requirements, definitions, practices, education, penalties, term lengths, etc., should be clearly outlined and discussed.

    • Joe Schafer

      “Chapter guidelines should be distributed in advance and feedback collected and shared.” – See more at:

      In a sane world, that’s what would happen. A draft of the guidelines would be circulated to collect feedback from staff, and then your comments and concerns would be addressed. But that’s not what is happening. The chapter guidelines document is being finalized now, as we speak, with no input from you. The wise leaders and elders will simply present it to you next month, and you are to respond, “Thank you, oh, thank you soooo much.” Months ago, I saw where the process was going and I opted out, because in my opinion it was a waste of time. I can virtually guarantee that there will be nothing in the guidelines that will address any problems or correct any of the abusive practices of the past and present. Nothing in it will limit the power of elder Korean missionaries who will continue to do as they see fit. I predict that the document will be unsurprising, generic and bland, and it will have virtually no impact on how ubf chapters operate.

    • Joe Schafer

      That’s my honest prediction at this moment. If the document that you receive next month happens to be surprisingly good and useful, I will admit that I was wrong and immediately apologize for being too pessimistic.

  95. Well said Chris, and a hearty Amen. What ubf really needs is to have a staff conference with ZERO BIBLE STUDY. Put the bible down, walk away slowly and start repairing your relationships, surrendering to Jesus our Lord and working toward reconciliation. Believe me, this IS what the Holy Spirit is calling ubf members to do.

  96. I just shared this in my latest post: Last week a friend shared with me a “wish dream” by a top UBF leader who said (I’m paraphrasing), “Being a 1:1 Bible teacher and writing testimonies is absolute.” – See more at:

    This “absolute” requirement or expectation was supposedly mentioned at the last staff conf. last year. Perhaps this year, since the freedom of Galatians is the theme, the word “absolute” might be removed and changed to “optional.” :-)

    • forestsfailyou

      This might just be me, but it seems like the most prosperous ministries are those that gave up testimony writing, and the standard 1-1 bible study with questionnaire. I recently found out there is a korean UBF chapter in the Philippines. I didn’t know anything about them except that they didn’t come to the easter conference. I also noted that they have no “sheep”.
      What is interesting is that reading all the UBF literature there were reports from Korean missionaries from Philippines. I thought that they had left the Philippines, but it turns out that the main branch recognized them as “leadership” in the Philippines.

    • It’s not just you.

    • And yes, many of us are aware of the Korean authority in the Philippines ubf world. This is yet another laughable snapshot of the absurd ubf hierarchy.

      I once thought that ubf was a Christian missionary training and sending organization. I even had specific hopes to become a Christian missionary to Russia.

      What I discovered is that ubf “sends” loyalists out to various lands as squatters. The ubf missionaries just sit there, claiming they are the authoritative servants of God, waiting for some college student who happens to be at a low point in their life to come to 1:1 and submit to their authority. When they find such a student, they siphon off any energy the Holy Spirit might actual produce through genuine conversion, sapping the student of all life and joy and autonomy. Then they proclaim “glory to God” and report back to ubf HQ that the KOPHN fantasy is advancing so gloriously. And all the while people like WA in Philippines continues to expand an amazing, wonderful and impactful Christian ministry.

      This is not Christian ministry and has nothing to do with Jesus’ command to go into all the world. ubf is a cloning organization bent on establishing loyalists from among our youth.

    • And another bit of news… ubf is already establishing their own “ubf seminary”. Anyone want to sign up for a rich, dynamic, exciting experience?

    • forestsfailyou

      ‘when they find such a student, they siphon off any energy the Holy Spirit might actual produce through genuine conversion, sapping the student of all life and joy and autonomy. – See more at:

      You make them sound like some kind of monster from a Dungeons and dragons monster manual. It is probably unfair. Illithids have feelings too.

    • It would be unfair, forests, if I had not experienced it for 20+ years. It would be unfair if I was just an outside observer. It would be unfair if I had not witnesses such monstrosities happen to over 100 of my friends. It would be unfair if we didn’t have over 200 public testimonies of the exact same issues. It would be unfair if the ubf leadership actually started open, honest, transparent, safe conversations.

  97. “I recently found out there is a korean UBF chapter in the Philippines.” – See more at: According to a DB book I was shown there are supposedly three chapters headed by missionaries.

    I’m not sure whether or not they have sheep. But the sad fact is that none of the missionaries are joining, learning from, or supporting WA or the three church plants (Antipolo, Calaocan and University belt) that are thriving.

    The sad story of some (many?) of our UBF missionaries is that they leave Korea with a spirit of conquest and triumphalism, rather than with a spirit of humility and servitude. Their attitude is like that of a lord, a king or a top-down leader, rather than of a humble servant of the indigenous people.

    As a result, it would feel humiliating or shameful for the missionaries to accept WA as the Filipino UBF director, nor learn from him and from the fruitful Filipino UBF leaders, several of whom have served Bible students and raised many leaders for up to two decades.

    • Thanks Ben for this post. Hope I’m not necro-ing here. If I am apologize in advance.

      However, it’s indeed discouraging to hear that Filipino UBF looks like you have said. I remember after the Homecoming of SL I read the “World Mission Report” and was quite moved by his story of faithfulness and genuine-ness.

      If what you say is true, it’s quite different than what we see in Paul’s missionary work . . . and this from a “Bible-centered” ministry . . .

  98. And forests, I’m not saying they are Illithids. I am saying they are “the Silence” :)

    “The Silence was founded by Tasha Lem, Mother Superious of the Papal Mainframe, when she changed the core tenets of the Papal Mainframe to dedicate it to ensuring that “silence would fall” in response to the First Question, sent by the Time Lords to find the correct universe into which they could return. It was believed that the Time War would begin anew if the Time Lords returned, and so the Church of the Silence was created to prevent the Doctor from answering the First Question and telling the Time Lords that it was safe for them to return.”