It is Very Good

bIn the last few weeks I have posted some content on this site that might be labeled as “critical” or “negative”. This obvious question I might get is “Why would you remain in UBF?”. I want to balance the claims and stories I have told with good things I have observed about UBF, and the grace that God has given to me here. I know that certain people will find what I say here to be offensive or maybe entirely false and I welcome them. I already know what you will say and I know what I am getting myself into here. I anticipate the common claim “You are being love bombed.” with the concession that this claim is unanswerable, because it is a claim about the motivations of people which I cannot know for sure. You are more than welcome to take this position, but I won’t answer it because I cannot.

The thing that stands out most to me is that UBF has given me more discipline. They are disciplined. Their methods of “training” do produce discipline. Now I will anticipate the obvious counter claim that this is terrible. There is a false dichotomy that discipline is negative or positive. Discipline is ambiguous. Discipline to a dictator is a travesty and discipline to a Christ is what we are called to do. I have lost 50 lbs since I joined UBF. A combination of things has led to this, but discipline gained here has been one of them. I am not become more “disciplined” to UBF. I have become more disciplined to God. I have given up lifelong sins here by the transformation of God. I have ceased lying for example. There can be no question that the discipline of UBF members has been abused in the past, but if we have virtue at all we must allow for the freedom for it to go wrong. We should expect as much. I am not defending them; I am merely remarking that the discipline that UBF has instilled in me is something I myself value.

Another major good point of UBF is its emphasis on bible reading. I have read all of the Old Testament and the gospels since I joined the St. Louis chapter. Many other churches and denominations take the bible as a tool to create doctrine. Then they forget about the bible itself. I think that creating a doctrine using the bible is something that any church cannot get away from. Scripture cleaves to doctrine. It happens whether they want it to or not, but UBF maintains a strong tradition of bible reading. Occasionally the text itself is misinterpreted because it is attempting to exist apart from solid theology but that is a topic for a longer easy than this.

Another thing I enjoy is the frequent use of prayer. My roommate in college always said “Prayer should be a comma, not a period.” I observed that in churches I would attend with my family and even in his own church this was the case. You would pray at the end of service and that was it. But at all the UBF chapters I have attended prayer has been integral. We pray before during and after the service. Before we drive anywhere, before we eat. Prayer is a very important aspect of the Christian experience that is lost many times. UBF, in my experience, keeps it a priority.

The last major point I will mention is UBF’s strong emphasis on community. In nearly all the churches I attended prior to UBF I never knew anyone. We all came in, heard the sermon and left. But in UBF the members get to know each other very well. I know details about all the families in my chapter that would not be known except by close family friends. I know if I was ever stuck in Springfield and needed anything John lee would be there in a moment. Sometimes this leads to gossiping, but I can see this is my own family as well. UBF chapters are truly a “family”. I have noted this across all three chapters I have attended. UBF leaders sacrifice a lot of time and truly take you in as their own. It is one reason why they are so vehemently opposed to anything that might bring you away from them. I read a note a few months back that came from Samuel Lee “Female sheep must be treated as your daughters.” I have enjoyed this strong community aspect, and I know that many issues with UBF stem from this exact positive aspect. If you need examples you aren’t looking hard enough.

These are the many positive things I have observed about UBF. This is not the full story; again I will say I mention only the positives. I feel that sometime we have a tendency to look only at what needs changed. I think most of the bad things in UBF come from sinful corruptions of the good things I mention above. But we should expect this, evil has no real material to work with it is just good gone astray. Our adversary took the good men God created and led them to rebel. This is not a defense, just an observation. I pray that the good of UBF would be evident and not overshadowed by the negative. I hope that we would have balanced dialog in this matter.


  1. big bear

    Forests…thanks for the positive post…I do not agree with this post but if you believe these things then more power to you…call me in about 20 years….I will be 71..,,and you should be close to my age..I was in UBF 29 years and saw no family or reading is good but only about UBF…not the body of Christ….narrowminded

  2. forestsfailyou

    Before its a question “Our adversary took the good men God created and led them to rebel.” is a reference to Genesis 3. Not anyone in particular.

  3. Love your points, Forest: discipline, Bible reading, prayer and community! I personally want to keep them dear to my own heart and for those in my sphere of influence.

    But as you said, any good thing can easily become corrupted and evil even through good Christian men and women through whom the goodness came. This is not an excuse or a justification, but a reality of life. Thus, always, always, always, we need God’s mercy and grace, especially yours truly.

  4. “I have posted some content on this site that might be labeled as “critical” or “negative”.”

    That’s putting it lightly, but yes you are correct. The good thing that might go unnoticed is that you will not be tagged for dead dog training. At most you will have to deal with some odd looks and minor annoyances from ubf loyalists. Thank God for the reform movements of 1976, 1989, 2000 and 2011. If not for those brave men and women speaking up, we’d all have red pepper in our eyes.

  5. This is an observation and a comment. Within 12 hours of this post being published there are Like 7 Dislike 1 but only 4 comments.

    So it seems that those who like pro-UBF articles like this one do not comment. As someone suggested, is it because if they say something positive about UBF, they get blasted?

    I can think of quite a few people who tried to engage and comment here, but as David said yesterday, they likely stopped doing so, because virtually all their comments favorable to UBF were simply ripped apart, sometimes with vitriolic sarcasm and condescending ridicule.

    Was this done perhaps as ruthlessly, mercilessly and condescendingly as some felt and expressed about their own experience from the way their respective UBF leaders/shepherds/chapter directors treated and abused them….all in the name of shepherding for their own good?

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, the social pressure not to comment on UBFriends comes from two directions.

      Yes, I would like this website to feel more kind, gentle and welcoming. There are some people out there who claim they don’t want to participate in these discussions because they are afraid that they will treated badly by us.

      But there are also many people out there who won’t ever post a comment because they are afraid of the fallout it will bring from friends, family members and leaders in UBF.

      Should we strive for a kinder, gentler, more welcoming atmosphere on UBFriends? Absolutely. We should do it because it’s the right thing to do.

      Would that result in more people coming into these discussions? Probably not.

    • Joe Schafer

      Another reason why longtime ubf members may never join these discussions.

      They just don’t feel comfortable forming and expressing their own opinions, except within certain narrow constraints sanctioned by their leaders and peers. The discussions here are too free, too wild, too unpredictable, too unsafe. They never learned how to swim in the waters of dialogue and don’t know how to handle the negative emotions that come up if someone openly disagrees with them. This is especially true of elders and leaders. They have so shielded themselves from disagreement, opposition, confrontation, etc. that if someone were to openly point out that they might be wrong, they wouldn’t know how to react. They fear that their own reactions would make them look foolish.

    • Joe, MJ is a “case in point”. After commenting here the first time on ubfriends, she ran into much trouble with her ubf leaders. THAT is why people do not comment here from ubf, for the most part.

    • Joe Schafer

      Here’s another way to put it.

      Participating in these discussions well requires high levels of creativity, independent thought, logical thinking, language proficiency, confidence, vocabulary, contextual knowledge, theological understanding and social skills that many do not have. They fear that, if they were to jump into these discussions, they would be at such a disadvantage that they would look foolish.

      I hate to say this, but I’ll just be honest. To bring lots of current ubf members into these discussions, we would literally have to re-adopt the ubf dialect. We would have to dumb down the use of language to the level of standard ubf reports and messages. We would have to fence in our discussions, observe the unwritten ubf customs and laws and taboos, use honorary titles, give preferential treatment and honorific salvos to elders, disagree with one another only in indirect ways, and so on. Only then would ubf members join the discussion in significant numbers, because only then would they feel safe.

  6. I think Ben, that the following observations might be more accurate:

    1. What conversation is there to be had when someone says something positive about ubf? How can we respond? The only answer is just “Amen” or “Ok that’s your experience.”. The bottom line is that there is not much to talk about when someone says something good about ubf. We all know and accept there are good things about ubf. We don’t need change or discussion on those points.

    2. People are drawn into conversations here because we are the only ones who actually spark dialogue about real issues, directly and head-on. People are fed up with the silence and the run-arounds. And the issues that need discussing are indeed negative in nature and often messy to discuss.

    3. We had a 40 day rest during Lent. Where were all those ubfers who are SO interested in dialogue? It was clear that Joe and I would not comment during Lent. Chris and Vitaly have been taking a break for the most part. Were were the ubf people? If anyone wanted a safe place to talk, that would have been the time. Heck I’ll take another 40 days off if someone wants to try that experiment again.

    4. What most ubf loyalists want is for us to go away and be silent. So the loyalists just want to click “like” and move on, hearing the same self-praise they always here in ubf to stroke their egos.

    5. The double-agents (perhaps JohnY and DavidW) who are in between ubf and ex-ubf seem to only comment when something blows up, then they say, Don’t blow up. Then they become silent again. So from my perspective, all I see from the in-betweeners are angry rebukes to be more “peaceful and safe”.

    6. Maybe we all could just continue the dialoge and make up some new ground rules?

    7. We know what invokes PTSD reactions here from former members. So maybe we can avoid those discussions.

    8. What would ubf people like to talk about? Where are all the topics?

  7. btw, I clicked dislike on this article. (When I click dislike my principle is to exaplain why)

    I don’t like this article because I hear self-justification. It’s like saying “I criticized ubf, now I have to say something good to get ubf people off my back”.

    I also don’t like it because it is entirely experience-based. We already know and agree there are pockets of the good things expressed here. Does reporting on such positive experience do much to move us toward reconciliation? I’m glad to get a glimpse into forests life, and so grateful that he is not experiencing the bad things most of us did, but beyond that, what response is there to this article?

    • forestsfailyou

      You misunderstand me greatly if you think for one moment that I give a single damn about what people think of me; especially people who tried slamming the topic of marriage on me with all the subtly of a drunken frat boy who was incidentally high on LSD. You hear this “now I have to say something good to get ubf people off my back” incorrectly. I also understand that you yourself said that when you entered UBF you were timid and eager to please. I am neither, so this misunderstanding was likely to occur. This article, would have been your response had you been in my situation here.

      My attempt here has been because as I mention
      “I want to balance the claims and stories I have told with good things I have observed about UBF, and the grace that God has given to me here.”

      I know that the dialog is usually negative. I wanted to change that by giving all the good things I have seen, since nobody from UBF really wants to give people the time of day here. I spoke with some students in the Philippines who said they disliked this site, NOT because it said negative things about UBF or what not. But that “I don’t like arguing and conflict.” That is what is many times presented here. Of course I am not trying to say that we should censor or even disallow topics. But maybe people need to write more neutral articles occasionally.

    • Forests, here is a difficult lesson I’ve had to learn: What I say is not what people hear. What I intend to happen isn’t what happens.

      So I expressed above what I heard you say. “I don’t like this article because I hear self-justification.”

      This doesn’t mean that you are self-justifying, just that is what I hear. That’s how this article comes across to me. Thanks for clarifying your actual position, because I did’t hear that in the article.

      We all need to learn how to see other people’s perspectives and adjust accordingly, because we won’t be putting our masks on again anytime soon.

    • forestsfailyou

      I understand. Sometimes I am not clear enough.

  8. Thanks Forests…geez…I know how John Y feels. I have very little time to come here nowadays, but when I do I try to read everything. I cannot contribute elsewhere, but I will here.

    UBF can be very good indeed. Your points are valid:
    >>Discipline , Bible Reading , Prayer , Community<<

    The first three points I will say help each one of us to take hold of our faith (or the Bible) and get to know it as best as we can. The last point is great, but it hits off all of the negative aspects of our experience.

    Discipline to God is important. We can only become disciplined to God when we come to God. By that we can only read our Bible and pray. Discipline in UBF takes the shape of your weekly routine: Bible study with your SHEPHERD, Bible study with your SHEEP, tesimony writing, meetings…how many times…the SWS and so on. It can be a rigourous engagement, but it can be beneficial in that you are no longer intimidated to simply read through the Bible. The intimacy between you, God and his word is the best discipline I could have taken from coming in to UBF.

    Bible reading gives us a sense of history, of law, of grace, of mercy, of sacrifce, of order….of God….of Jesus.

    Prayer helps us to depend on God and to know God. It helps us to control our impulsive nature and helps us to live by the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Yes, prayer in UBF is abundant. However, regulated and scripted prayer is unnatural. I have experienced more than once "so-called" prayer evenings whereupon we have been given pre-selected prayer topics and after several minutes we are frequently interrupted from our prayer so that we may listen to someone lecturing or even to engage some worship songs. Maybe this is my problem, but I have difficulty disconnecting with God in prayer to sing a song when everyone else wants to sing a song or to listen to that person just because they said it is time to listen to them. When I pray to God it can last a couple of moments or several hours – I never know. So, how sincere are we when we "pray" on command and in regulated intervals?

    Community is fantastic. There are many benefits, and indeed we are like family who do not always get along. BUT, I have stated this before. Many people are not so much interested in YOU, the once redeemed sinner. They are rather interested in your ability to increase the numbers and obey the weekly regulations. I wish I could say that I have close friends within UBF. I cannot really say that I do. In Korea, I am limited, because of time, status and language. Time because of my job and my family responsibilities. Status, because I am married with children and not single any longer. Language, because even though I am getting by, it can still be difficult even if I am comfortable in a situation.

    Don't get me wrong, community can help to build us up and it can help us to share Christian values. But in my years to date within UBF I have seen people leave and it is an ugly reality. It is like they had never been friends with the people there at all. So, are we really friends or not? I may be a stinker, but I have no desire to be friendly to people just because I can carry out a task in the church. I am friendly because Christ has worked in me and now I want to simply have Christian fellowship. Nothing more, nothing less.

    I want to add here about the hostility of ubfriends. Take a look around. Examine the articles. Many theological contributions have been made and are still being made. But, presently people are still looking for dialogue on UBF. It is not Joe, Ben and Brian and a few more who desire to talk about UBF, but it seems to return that way. The difficulty of theology is just that – theology. Not everyone reads or can comment much more than a simple agreement. However, everyone has an opinion and a comment about their experience in UBF. It is certainly something relatable. If ubfriends discussions are in fact negative then something must be done to change the atmosphere from inside UBF.

    If people want theology then contribute theology. If you want Christian living then contribute that. But, if we need to highlight some failings of UBFs shallow analysis of the Bible and screwy doctrine then we will do just that. UBF is not all bad, but for how long have we been discussing the same issues that are actually not very difficult to repair in principle? But, the people in the system are not so willing are they?

    At present, I can say many things in my heart that address observations and experiences in the context from non-Koreans. I have been surrounded by cultural aspects for more than a decade adn have been living here now several years. The latest in the news over here has been terrible. But, I will say plainly one thing. At the end of the winter I visited my family back home for about ten days. When I returned to Korea I knew I was returning home. Now, who is to say I am staying? Only God knows, but even as my family does prepare to return to my country in one year I face the ongoing reality that God has kept me here much longer than six months against the will of my previous chapter director.

    • Good thoughts gc, you’ve expressed much of what I wanted to say.

  9. Joe, Brian, gc, I agree with your comments. So many UBFers function within the rigid, inflexible, narrow and non-negotiable box of UBF that UBFriends is viewed and perceived horribly and negatively because there is “no box” here.

    I also realize it feels worse than death to get out of a box that you thought and believed was your shield, your rock, your fortress and your stronghold. I still remember the first time I decided that “I’m done writing testimonies” and done with everything thing else that I had never questioned for a quarter of a century.

    So I understand that it will be tough, if not impossible for some to ever get out of their comfort box.

    Is there a gentler, kinder, more gracious and less traumatic way to help them get out of the box? Perhaps not. That might be an adventure to attempt, even if it would only result in exasperating failure.

    Perhaps, like the ecumenical discussion (, we should always lean toward this: “Those hoping for a hard-hitting debate, or a quick and full resolution of the questions, were bound to be disappointed: the three interlocutors were much too patient, irenic, and thoughtful for that. No, it was a conversation, and like almost all good conversations, inconclusive, an invitation to further conversation.”

    • Good point Ben. So many ubf people told me in 2011 “I just want this to be over.” I don’t seek conclusion to any of these issues. I seek ongoing, continued dialogue, which is why I plan on publishing my second book this week sometime.

      I often seek tension because the absence of conflict is not necessarily peace and often closure is not the path to reconciliation.

  10. forestsfailyou

    I think sometimes people get me wrong. When I am willing to have open dialog about it an issue it is a sign that I love you and want to fix or at least think about things. I am silent if I dislike or want nothing to do with a topic or person. I don’t know if others hold this view point or its just me. Perhaps its a generational thing.

  11. Good morning, ubfriends! I disliked Joe’s and Brian’s comments above on why others do not join in the discussions here. If it is a failing of not being smart enough to join in the discussion (such that a person would fear being seen as foolish), it is a fault of the frequent commenters. I also don’t agree that opening up to “everyone” would require a dumbing down or reverting to ubf-speak. God chooses the foolish, etc. My point is that the name ubFRIENDS is kind of misnomer then as it can be not very friendly. The “safeness” that is lacking is not in ubf-speak or intelligence, but in being welcomed no matter if someone is a UBF loyalists or ex-ubf satanist. The anti-ubf filter is so strong at times. Even C.S. Lewis was considered as mixing Confucianism into his teaching on Christian obedience. The benefit of the doubt is lacking at crucial times. Not all who want to participate here are at the far ends of the spectrum on all things UBF, maybe on some things, which leads them here, but maybe not all. This is an exaggeration, but maybe the cord of whips doesn’t need to come every article. As has been noted here a few times, west coast USA UBF has not experienced UBF in the way most of the regular posters here have experienced it. We were in some ways removed from UBF at large (this is from my observation from comments posted from posters outside of the USA on this website, as well as the midwest and east coasters, and from interactions at staff conferences, overseas conferences, and a short time spent in Chicago). Simply, at times it’s difficult to join in a discussion here unless you’re thick skinned and have wits!

    If I misunderstood your comments, please correct me.

    That said, I do find the major commenters here, especially the admins, to be very friendly, genuine, and welcoming. I just started posting this week and do feel welcomed. I heard about ubfriends at a staff conference several years ago. It was actually presented during one of the breakout sessions. I have been a long time reader, but held off on joining the discussion till now. Not for the sake of advocating one side or other other, but just to join in the discussion and see where it goes and what I can hear from others.

    I was glad to get those comments on my daily bread article. I understand that when I publicly publish something it is fair game to the public. I also volunteered my co-authorship for the sake of further discussion and learning, although no one asked me to. I didn’t realize how things I had written in that article might be interpreted by the larger (ex)UBF audience, as I had written it expressly for my local chapter. But still it was good to get that feedback and consider how others might read it. It is a good learning opportunity for me.

    What topics would I like to discuss? One thing I’ve liked about ubfriends is that the discussion topics are set or narrowly kept to certain topics. The openness of it has been good. I have a few ideas on articles to contribute, but there’s still in the drafts pile.

    • Joe Schafer

      Charles, it’s ok that you disliked my comment. I didn’t like it either. But unfortunately I still believe it’s true. I’ve based it on numerous behind-the-scenes attempts to get people to participate back in the days when there was very little anti-ubf sentiment on UBFriends. And I base it on what I have been told by Korean missionaries themselves.

      Please see my long comment below on how to turn this website around.

    • forestsfailyou

      If you read the comments carefully, I said that Cs Lewis was “Confucian” without saying it was Cs Lewis. Someone immediately commented that this work for “pitiful” among other things. I then remarked that this was Cs Lewis and we should keep in mind that just because we have a obedience teaching does not make ti Confucian. I was actually making the opposite point.

    • Joe Schafer

      Charles, have you seen the articles that appeared on UBFriends in its first two years? Do you think the range of topics was narrow?

    • Joe, major typo on my part. I’m sorry. I meant to write in my unnecessarily long comment, “One thing I’ve liked about ubfriends is that the discussion topics are NOT set or narrowly kept to certain topics.” Forgive me. I’m typing without editing. I missed the first two years of this website. I’ve been reading the past couple of years and very much appreciate what you’ve done here which is why I felt it time now to try and begin to join the discussion.

    • Joe Schafer

      Charles, no offense taken whatsoever. Please take a look at the articles from the early days. You might find them illuminating.

  12. Thanks Charles.

    “It was actually presented during one of the breakout sessions.”

    Is this the presentation you are referring to?

    I share my “behind the scenes” look at that presentation I gave.

    • Brian, there’s no link ? ChrisK gave the presentation. I believe it was in a “networking / coworking” session? I honestly don’t remember.

    • I see the link now. The content of the slides look familiar, but as I said, ChrisK gave the presentation.

    • ChrisK? Who is that? This makes me wonder… why in the world would someone who knows nothing about this website, has never commented here and never submitted an article be presenting about ubfriends at a ubf staff conference? That is very odd.

      Maybe someone should setup a pro-ubf website to outline all the defenses of why ubf is a Christian organization. That would protect ubf from all those ex-ubf satanists :)

    • Chris Kelly (unless my memory is deceiving me). The website was presented as a good place to connect with people and have good discussions. I don’t recall any negative spin on it.

    • don’t know if you’re being facetious, but he submitted some good stuff in the past:

    • Charles, I’m not being facetious. I truly forget about ChrisK, probably because the other Chris comments a lot here.

      So ChrisK submitted 1 article and a few comments. Still I wonder, why is he presenting about ubfriends if he himself isn’t joining in the conversations? I know we tried to get him to contribute more, but not sure why nothing came of it.

  13. I pray that the good of UBF would be evident and not overshadowed by the negative. I hope that we would have balanced dialog in this matter. – See more at:

    I think this is an interesting perspective. I’m glad that you have received good benefits and have good experiences and trustworthy friends in UBF, such as John Lee. I have many good experiences, dear friends and family, and wonderful experiences. And I know so many who have such good things to share too. Although I have mixed feelings about why you would pray this. If there is bad things overshadowing the good things, then it tells me that those issues need to be addressed properly and with urgency. I don’t see the struggle for a balance, but to soberly look at who we are and what we’re doing before God and each other.

    As you have read, even the sweetest of memories can be turned bittersweet. People end up at a point of confusion and crisis. I also think about the environment in ways beyond just me now that I have kids and see much younger people coming into the fellowship.

    Your title is also interesting for this reason. “It is very good,” references the garden of Eden, when all was good, as seen by God himself. It says, “all that he had made.” At that time there was no issue of the bad overshadowing the good, for it was all very good. Of course, this is not the case now, and which sounds like bigbear was trying to warn of putting on Genesis 2 glasses in regards to the good you’re experiencing now. So, to be honest, I find it strange to have to reiterate the good things we do. It may just be my own strangeness. I was then reminded of Ecclesiastes 7:14,

    When times are good, be happy;
    but when times are bad, consider this:
    God has made the one
    as well as the other.
    Therefore, no one can discover
    anything about their future.

    Anyway, I don’t mean to take away from any of the good things you’ve shared. I’m genuinely glad to hear them and to see what is resonating with newer members so I can improve on for those in my own interactions with others.

    • forestsfailyou

      I remember Josuha Hong coming down to give a sermon in January. I remember I vividly felt the Holy Spirit. It was a very good experience and he was a great man.

  14. Joe Schafer

    If anyone out there wants to change the tone and content of this website to make it more welcoming to ubf members and supporters, then please go ahead and do it. This is what you will have to do.

    You will have to do what marketers call rebranding.

    People have already made up their minds about what UBFriends is about. Trying to change their opinions on this is a losing battle that isn’t worth fighting.

    Get a new name for the website, a new design, a new domain name, and redirect all traffic to that website.

    Then do the following.

    * Identify key people in ubf and get commitments from them to support this work by participating in discussions and writing articles. Line up support among the senior staff, elders and HQ.

    * Create a restrictive set of rules about content and comments and monitor the website day and night to enforce the policies. If negative comments about ubf are posted, push back against them with many more positive comments so that pro-ubf comments outweigh anti-ubf ones by a ratio of at least 10:1. Be prepared to do this around the clock.

    * When articles don’t come in, be prepared to write dozens of articles yourself. Bend over backwards to say positive things about ubf and its leaders. Refrain from open criticism and, if any ubf leader happens to join in the discussion, shower them with praise and approval no matter what they say.

    * Pour your whole heart and soul into this effort and expect that it will occupy all your thoughts and free time for at least a couple of years.

    * At the end of the day, be prepared for the vast majority of ubf members to criticize your efforts or simply ignore you and still not participate. Expect lots of 2nd gens to privately tell you that they like the website, but don’t expect them to participate. Know that, when they are around their parents and ubf leaders, many of them will not hesitate to throw you under the bus.

    These are the things that I did for years. If anyone wants to try it, go ahead. But count me out. I’ve got better things to do with my time than to keep trying to rescue the ubf organization from its folly.

    • Joe Schafer

      Perhaps I’m exaggerating about the 10:1 ratio of pro- to anti-ubf comments. But honestly: most current leaders and members will refuse to participate in any forum where the conditions are not stacked in their favor. And even then, they probably still won’t. I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to prove me wrong.

  15. Forests (btw, can I just call you Michael or Mike?), I second this comment. I think that the outspokenness of this generation is perceived as cynicism or rebellion by more conservative generations. That may be the case sometimes, but from my own experience I am most vocal and caustic when I truly care about something or someone. Over the years as I’ve matured though I’ve learned to temper this and thus my advocacy for a given issue might be more effective now than it would have been in the past.

    I liked your article, like literally. I also appreciated the scripture-orientation of UBF because I came from a church which did not emphasize scripture nearly as much. The joy that I received from finally confronting scripture in a contextual manner was indescribable when I began attending UBF. Something that dawned on me some time ago is that one of the key reasons behind my ability to critique UBF’s messages and doctrine is ironically because of my UBF training, namely the disciplines of reading the bible and writing reflectively on it. And you’re right about the community; for someone who has been raised in UBF or has attended it for most of their Christian life, they would be shocked by the lack of deeply-committed community in many churches.

    One thing I will add, just for food for thought, is that the notion of discipline within UBF, no matter how effective, can never replace or surpass the Spirit’s fruit of self-discipline. Thanks again for posting this.

  16. big bear

    West..I agree that the UBF community is deeply committed..this is true about many cults…this is why it is so hard to speak your own mind and why they are so anti body of Christ….I spent 29 years in the abuse and system…it can be unhealthy like communism…healthy churches in the long term are more beneficial


  17. Without denigrating anyone, I think that some older leaders are simply not able to fathom any paradigm or structure other than a top-down, authoritarian, hierarchical, patriarchal, paternalistic, primogeniture-insistent way of running UBF.

    Thus, the oldest, most senior, longest tenured members of UBF will invariably ALWAYS have the final say, and even “younger” members, even if they become the GD, will still honor those who came before them because they are unfamiliar with any other way, such as making a decision which the older person disapproves of or disagrees with or dislikes.

    I think that those who honor the hierarchical power ranking really do think that not honoring the most senior person is a sin against God. This has likely been deeply ingrained into the the very fabric and DNA of UBF from the earliest days from the 1960s and it has been perpetuated and upheld to this day, I believe.

    This C. S. Lewis quote speaks volumes: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    Can this ever change? What can anyone possibly do?

    • Joe Schafer

      Eventually there comes a point where love compels you to leave. If such people cannot change, if they cannot help but exploit those who are lower on the totem pole, then what choice do you have? It is not loving to enable someone else to forever treat you in an unloving manner, to allow them to forever lord it over you, because that behavior is not just harmful to you, it’s harmful to them. If that is how by nature they are destined to lead others, then it is better for them to be leading no one than to be leading someone. In an abusive marriage, sometimes the most loving and godly choice is separation or divorce.

  18. Joe, That’s why I am fully supportive and empathetic of probably everyone who leaves ubf. The saddest thing is that those who have been abusively authoritarian seemingly forever without repercussions and accountability (until UBFriends came on the scene!) are very likely clueless (intentionally or otherwise): “they cannot help but exploit those who are lower on the totem pole” – See more at:

    • Joe Schafer

      If someone belongs to an abusive church, and if there is little or no concrete evidence that significant change is forthcoming, then as a responsible pastor, I would have to counsel the person to leave. Even if the church is my own.

  19. As of mid-day, Fri, May 9, 2014, there are 13 Likes and 1 Dislike of this post. Doesn’t this suggest that “positive articles about UBF” are welcomed and liked by many who do not comment?

    I think I can safely say that saying positive things about UBF is clearly not a broad sweeping blanket endorsement of the ministry and that no changes and reform are necessary, which is clearly not the case. I agree with David that some changes are happening in Chicago HQ, however invisible or slow it may seem to be.

    It is my contention that it is “OK” to say positive and encouraging things about UBF that are true.

    I think it is correct to say that for whatever God’s reasons are, He used UBF to lead many to Himself, even if some (or many) were hurt, abused, stifled, constricted, and wounded in the process, which happens to all of us in all spheres of life and surely in all churches as well to varying degrees. (I’m really not sure that bad UBF experiences are the worst, after reading horrific experiences of others from different churches and ministries.)

    By saying this, I am NOT excusing or justifying UBF, but I am saying that good has come from UBF (which is nothing but God’s grace and sovereignty), amidst the bad and the abusive (which UBF should take responsibility for).

    So to you UBFers out there, DON’T BE AFRAID to say something positive about your church, and we (or at least I) promise to be gentle with your positive views and experiences about UBF. I have many positive experiences myself (of course, along with the bad).

    • Ben, ubfers are rarely afraid to say something good about their “church”. Just read for example and you will see no lack of good reporting about what is good in ubf.

    • This brings up a topic for discussion. Does positive always mean good? Does negative always mean bad?

      I remember the smothering environment in Toledo ubf created by so many of us who viewed all negative things as “bad”. We thought that only positive things are good, but that is simply not the reality we live in.

    • Brian, if I understand your question correctly, then I would have to answer, No and no. You mentioned, and it often seems that what is good/bad depends on how it is spun. If positive is always good, then there will be spinning.

      For example, the recent Jakarta conference report on demonstrates this well. I see many negative things spun as good. I find much of the activities reported questionable.

      Here’s a line that raised my eyebrows: “A brother who couldn’t leave his homosexuality became more masculine through this dance.” Ironic? The masking of negative things with a good spin seems so forced, unnecessary and unhealthy.

    • [Admin note: Charles, this comment was sent to our spam queue for some reason. I unflagged it.]

    • Charles, your comment invoked a vision of all gay people in ubf suddenly getting up and doing the “Gangnum style” dance! Now why didn’t Exodus International think of that!? Just “dance the gay away”! Eureka!

  20. joshua

    Regarding “discipline” I heartily disagree. UBF taught me how to be regimented, but not disciplined.

  21. friend

    Hello, this is my first comment here. To be fair, I thought I should read through all the articles first to get a better idea of topics being discussed, but it seems like more commentators are wanted, so I will comment. If I seem ignorant of what’s been discussed that’s because I am.

    First, I should let you know that although I am relatively young, I am not technologically savvy. Despite having a FB site for many years, I just recently felt comfortable posting on it. Now that I’ve become comfortable with that, I have started venturing into this webpage. Since I am not too comfortable yet posting my opinions for strangers to read, I would like to remain anonymous.

    Next I should say I am committed to UBF although not close-minded.

    Third, I am one of the people who secretly applauded Joe for this webpage. I didn’t know how much it meant to him for people to comment so I apologize for that. I think the idea behind this webpage is good, but as for commentators, you cannot expect people to comment when they do not feel ready, when they are not sure of where they stand, when they are not sure how their comments would be received or fit in here, when they do not feel commenting is a priority. A personal relationship and friendship takes years and years to cultivate trust before a person will reveal his inner thoughts. I think it would be harder and take longer for a webpage to cultivate that level of trust and friendship, not shorter.

    I think that overall UBF is trying to open itself and move forward. I don’t think anyone would want things to go back to the way they were originally. But it took 50 years to get here, it will not change in just a few years. We need to acknowledge baby steps.

    We also need forgiveness and patience in order to move toward reconciliation. As long as there is blame, I don’t see how reconciliation can take place. When I moved, everyone was broken and disillusioned. It took us almost 5 years just to know what it means to love each other in Christ despite personal pain or even anger. If a couple argues, can there be reconciliation when there is still blame? There must be forgiveness first, a commitment to treat the other with gentleness and respect, and then reconciliation. If we have an ideal of what people should look like in Christ, we must do that ourselves first. If we expect someone should apologize first before we can move forward I think that is mistaken. In essence, we are demanding the other side to change first.

    But what if that person cannot change himself? Then do we blame them? Do we blame God who is not changing that person or who is not listening to me? Do we decide we will takeover God’s role as Judge?

    I myself went through that when I found myself being unhappy with a person or not being able to understand that person’s actions. Ultimately, I felt my judgment was right and God was taking too long so I had to take things into my own hands. But there was no peace in my heart. I was robbed of my joy. It was only restored after acknowledging God as Creator and Author of my life and all people. Whether a person changes is between that person and God. That person has until his last breath to grow and be changed. Who knows what can happen? My part is to accept that God has allowed this person or situation to happen in my life. I must find how God wants me to grow through this and what he wants me to learn about myself. At the same time, my only job is to forgive and love that person. My only job is to give thanks in whatever situation God has given me.

    Lastly, I would say all people in UBF are wounded, because of their past or their experience in UBF or outside relationships/situations. But when this webpage makes judging remarks about UBF, how am I supposed to respond as a person who identifies myself with this group? Suddenly I become lumped under “UBF” and I cannot speak. By saying “UBF” you are giving one face to many different people in the same organization. I would like to stop referring to UBF and instead focus on how we need to grow spiritually as individuals and how we can support each other, whether they are inside, outside or non UBF.

    We have many families in small house churches who are crying for help and support. I’m wondering if we can brainstorm ways to reach out to them or reach out to people who feel unloved, unsupported in UBF so that they can experience God’s love for them personally. Maybe this may seem like a cop-out or covering past mistakes. Does God keep records? Personally I believe the way for real change is to demonstrate it in our lives and our community and others will see. God will see to it. But will it take a lifetime? Probably. Is it worth it?

    (Editorial note: Your comment was paragraphed.)

    • Hi friend your comment is indeed correct here: “We have many families in small house churches who are crying for help and support. I’m wondering if we can brainstorm ways to reach out to them or reach out to people who feel unloved, unsupported in UBF so that they can experience God’s love for them personally.”

      Why the focus on “personal identity”? What about community? My wife and I closed our “house church” to join a real community. Only then did we find “God’s love for us personally.”, something we had not experienced for a long, long time at ubf.

  22. Welcome, friend. Thanks for your well thought out comment. I resonate with most of what you say. I believe that you, being young, thoughtful, reflective, gracious and forgiving, are the bright and glorious hope for the future of UBF. I hope that by God’s help, you may gather your peers together in love, friendship, trust and unity to pray and work toward a better future, so that the next 50 years may be brighter than the past 50 years.

  23. Thank you for your graciousness although I do not deserve it. I read some past comments. I do not know how everyone seems to know each other’s identities. But my heart rips every time I hear someone’s painful experience, both native and missionary. Missionaries have been prejudiced toward Americans. I also believe Americans have been prejudiced toward missionaries. I remember thinking its easy for missionaries to adapt to America and learn English, and they should learn quickly, and it was natural for them to do menial labor around the center. I remember thinking they didn’t give up much because everyone wants to come to America. I respected them, but my prejudiced attitude was wrong. I also didn’t realize how hard it was to live in a foreign country until I had to for over 2 years. When Europeans went out as missionaries, they also instilled their values and culture upon natives. It was not right, but it’s the terrible truth of sin and its power when we give it reign in our hearts.

    • forestsfailyou

      Sometimes I honestly cannot help but laugh at the missionaries. I think that sometimes this is seen as prejudice. Today I asked a missionary if we wanted help sweeping the grass off the sidewalk. I asked if he knew where a broom was. He didn’t respond and I walked to look for one. As I was walking away he started speaking to another missionary in korean. I heard my name twice so I came back. He said “This is called a ‘broom’? I did not know name. Only my wife uses.” Sometimes I hope my intense hatred for korean food does not come off as prejudice. I have noting but love for them, even if occasionally they irritate me.

  24. Joe Schafer

    Friend, welcome to this website. Thank you for reading and for taking the bold step to begin commenting. And thank you for your gracious words to me personally.

    For the handful of us who have been heavily involved in this website from the beginning, it is hard for us to imagine the perspective of a younger person who visits UBFriends now and is trying to figure out what it’s all about. Your articulate comments made me realize how daunting it must have been for you to jump in to these conversations, even if you are sympathetic to much of what we say.

    And it made me realize how hard it must be for a present member of ubf to get useful insight and suggestions from this website on how to work for positive change in their own local contexts.

    Many of us who comment here have “been through the wringer.” We have belonged to ubf for 2-3 decades or more, serving as chapter directors, and unsuccessfully working for theological and ethical reform in personal relationship with the top leaders of the organization. Our experiences and observations might be interesting to you, but at the end of the day, you need to ask, “So what does this have to do with me?” You may not have many opportunities deal with leaders at headquarters. You may have not been involved in the planning and execution of large scale ubf conferences and events. So when we make grand, sweeping, general statements about what ubf has done and what should be done, much of what we say is probably lost on you because you, as a local chapter member, cannot deal in generalities but only in particularities.

    You wrote:

    “We have many families in small house churches who are crying for help and support. I’m wondering if we can brainstorm ways to reach out to them or reach out to people who feel unloved, unsupported in UBF so that they can experience God’s love for them personally.” – See more at:

    Amen to that.

    I have tried to do that in the past. I have made many practical, positive suggestions to leaders and, as a result, have been marginalized and branded as dangerous. But the things that I suggested to leaders years ago that were considered so outrageous might today seem like no-brainers.

    To start, I will try to dig up some of the practical suggestions I have made in the past and post them here. Perhaps that will give you some ideas of what you can do at the local level, despite the inertia that keeps large chapters and the top levels of the organization frozen in time.

    • Thank you. It would be great and helpful to hear what suggestions you’ve made. I think plugging into a local church is a great idea and I recommend it to anyone. I think there should be an option for people to plug into their local community and the UBF community at large. For me, God has provided life-changing books by wonderful american pastors and american missionaries. God has also provided a supportive local community around me when I needed and a closer walk with him in other times. My dilemma currently is with my limited time and resources, do I plug in locally or do I plug in to struggling local chapters? I guess I’m leaning toward the latter but my laziness shirks at the idea.

  25. Joe Schafer

    friend, you wrote:

    “Missionaries have been prejudiced toward Americans. I also believe Americans have been prejudiced toward missionaries.” – See more at:

    What you say is undoubtedly true. Ignorance, ethnocentrism, tribalism and racism are sad facts of life in the fallen world, and the gospel, when rightly understood and proclaimed, will challenge those at a very deep level.

    Yes, Korean missionaries to the west faced culture shock, unfriendliness, isolation and varying degrees of discrimination.

    But I will add one observation to the mix.

    Think about what it was like for Americans like me who came to ubf way back in the late 70’s and 80’s. At that time, Chicago ubf was a sea of Korean faces. Some of us can still remember how the Sunday messages were delivered both in Korean and in English. We grew up in the United States, arguably the most Christian nation on earth, with a well established Christian heritage, and most of us self-identified as Christians and had gone to church all our lives. Now we were being “evangelized” by self-proclaimed Korean “missionaries” — who had themselves only been converted a few years ago, who had no theological or missiological training and limited English proficiency, who used titles and bowed to one another and spoke in UBFisms — we were being told by them that we needed to be evangelized by them and come to their strange little Korean church because we weren’t real Christians yet, we had no mission, we were only “cultural Christians” and “Sunday Christians.”

    And guess what? We came to this strange, little Korean church. We accepted their very harsh critiques of our culture that came though loud and clear in their Bible studies and Sunday messages. We accepted them as our teachers and submitted to their training and obeyed their direction in outrageous ways, even to the point of allowing them to separate us from our own families and arrange and supervise our marriages. We allowed them to dictate our styles of dress, our daily and weekly schedules, basically everything we did. We spoke in their dialect, using their accents and mannerisms. Their collective identity became ours.

    Surely that counts for something.

    So when I hear some Korean missionaries suggest that some of my critiques of them are rooted in racism, my first reaction is to say, “Oh, really?”

  26. big bear

    Friend…thanks for your post and comments…can see you love God’s work in UBF and see the need for change and see the many hurting house churches and families..I was one of them and many on this site….after 29 years in UBF I lost my wife and family and house church…after being asked to leave UBF..God has been healing our family….I strongly agree with your post…your openness is what we pray for and for change…Big Bear

  27. Hi friend and welcome.

    I find your thoughts to be mature, reasoned and rooted in the gospel Jesus preached. So you have much to share that will be very helpful for other ubf people. Sounds like you have actual leadership qualities.

    Just 3 things I’d like to share further on:

    “I would like to stop referring to UBF and instead focus on how we need to grow spiritually as individuals and how we can support each other, whether they are inside, outside or non UBF.”

    This is a valid point. There are some redeemed ubf chapters (who don’t follow the ubf heritage “absolutely”). In my mind we need to distinguish between at least three things: ubf the heritage, ubf the people and ubf the corporation. When I rail on “ubf” I am referring to the ideologies and practices called “heritage”, summarized by the 8 or 9 or 12 slogans ubf leaders created. Mainly I have been exposing the harmful psychological elements of the heritage, which more and more ubf people are abandoning.

    It is unfair to lump ubf people into “ubf”. At the same time, that is what happens when you belong to an organization with leaders who refuse to take responsibility for the criticisms and try to keep face. It’s up to you to prove you are different from “ubf”, as Ben and Joe have done brilliantly. I can talk to them with no problem and never see them as “ubf”.

    “I do not know how everyone seems to know each other’s identities.”

    For myself, I know the people here mostly from Facebook. I am friends on Facebook with “gc” and “forests”, for example, so I know who they are. Others have interacted with me in email privately, such as bigbear, so I know who they are. In principle, I never reveal anyone’s identity if they wish to remain anonymous. As the tech Admin here, I promise not to reveal anything about your identity.

    Finally, you said we should offer suggestions for helping ubf chapters, especially the house churches scattered. My first reaction is: that’s not our job. I have only one suggestion for any house church: leave ubf and connect with a local church. That was the single best decision my wife and I ever made. As one other house church leader told me about ubf: The calvary ain’t coming! That’s true.

    ubf corporate leaders have no plan for the lone house churches who make up a large percentage (over 75%?) of the total chapter count of ubf. ubf appears to be a worldwide network, but without those single family pioneers, ubf is nothing but a Korean organization with outposts in Chicago and LA and Mexico.

    I discovered that these single families are nothing but pawns in the ubf heritage game, who exist to puff up the ubf numbers and help them keep up appearances of being a worldwide “Christian” network.

    I found that as Joe mentioned my family was part of the “lost generation”. ubf had no plans for my family. Samuel Lee used to use the phrase “fertilizer generation”. He explained this once when I had breakfast with Sarah Barry in her house in Chicago (when her mother was still alive). Samuel had been counselling a missionary and came over to visit our breakfast. He told the story of how some missionaries must become fertilizer with no real purpose other than to live out their calling (in ubf).

    SO the lost generation was not accidental. It was planned. It was intentional. If only the ubf heritage could be passed on to the 2nd generation, the 1st generation was willing to do just about anything.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian wrote, “Finally, you said we should offer suggestions for helping ubf chapters, especially the house churches scattered. My first reaction is: that’s not our job.” – See more at:

      Unfortunately, he’s right. To me, one of the saddest things about the current situation is that small chapters have little or no practical help or moral support or even a sympathetic ear. On the rare occasions that they are contacted by their regional directors or headquarters, the communication is almost always something like, “Please submit your annual reports by such and such a date” or “We are having a conference and you are going to have to do this and that.” Their motto is, “Ask not what UBF can do for you. We’ll tell you what you must do for UBF.” There is essentially no empathy, no helpfulness, no concern. As a small chapter, you are truly on your own, and the sooner you realize that, the better. Even the GD has privately admitted that this is true.

      Brian’s advice was to leave ubf and find a local church. If you do not want to leave ubf (and I can fully respect that choice) then at least take the second step. Start building real friendships and partnerships with non-ubf Christians in your area so that you and your family will have a local network of support. Because Brian is right; the cavalry isn’t coming. Headquarters is scrambling to deal with declining numbers and revenue, patch up feuds, put out political fires and minimize the ongoing damage caused by hardliners. Many leaders are burned out. They are barely treading water, and it will only get worse. You need fellowship and spiritual encouragement and real friends. And you need sound, thoughtful and mature Christian teaching; you need to identify streams of teaching from non-ubf sources. I can offer you suggestions there, if you don’t know where to turn.

  28. forestsfailyou

    I think one thing that helps is having chapters led by second gens. The chapter I was in in Springfield was led by a second gen. The one I am in now is led by a man trained under Samuel Lee. I think many of the issues are eliminated when there is very clear dialog. When someone reads that UBF is a cult, and then they attempt to discuss this with a Korean Missionary, many times the missionary cannot correct articulate why UBF isn’t. Sometimes they just use an appeal to their own authority. In the case of my pastor he said “It’s satans lie.” and rebuked me for talking to the second gen pastor in korea saying that he had been in UBF for 30 years so he could answer any questions.

    I think one thing that needs to happen is better communication between UBF members. I am personally connected with many commentators here. Knowing Ben Toh from this website was instrumental in my trip to the Philippines. I have spoken with people around the world, members, exmembers, and non members. I do think that the comments on this forum can come off wrong, because people are holding different definitions of “UBF”. For many its the UBF they left a long time ago, for others they mean the UBF created by SL. I am guilty too. Sometimes I mean UBF like how Springfield was, and other times how St. Louis is. UBF is a broad group with differing things working different ways in different places.

    Most of all I think dialog is important. I was recently told by someone that they comments here “are not good for your spiritual health because they discourage fishing, etc” This kind of “don’t talk to the devil” attitude makes change impossible, and it’s the same attitude that pushes away people.

    I think that many times people cannot relate to stories here. I am 23, many commentators here were in UBF before I was born. They married people that they were told to marry in some case. I can’t understand this at most levels. Many people who might comment just have nothing to say to this. I know in my case I don’t really respond to that and just respond to my personal experiences.

    I think the lack of places for former members who have experienced pain has led a lot to the negative comments. I think the articles content is rarely all negative. I think perhaps a first step is to have people write more neutral articles.

    • Good thoughts forests. You wrote: “For many its the UBF they left a long time ago, for others they mean the UBF created by SL.”

      And I would add, in my case and for the 1/2 of the Toledo ubf leaders who also left, “For many others it is the UBF they left in 2011”.

      Let’s not pretend all the “bad things” were just a characteristic of 1976 ubf. Some of us are talking about 2014 ubf in America, Germany, Taiwan, Russia, Ukraine, etc.

  29. friend, thank you for the pursuit to dialogue. I can relate to many things you say, because despite what some readers may believe I have been quite committed to UBF for more than a decade now. These days I cannot really say where my commitment lies, because I have been in Korea for several years and do not know what awaits me (in UBF) if I return to my home country. I will say one thing, however, my previous chapter director made sure that I helped build his status up (as a second established house church) while mine was kept the same. I was not staff, nor missionary candidate. However, by the grace of God I have become a missionary…or have I? For some who haven’t read my first article on ubfriends I had sobered my emotions as best as I could and made a summary:

    So many of us do know each other, but actually many do not as well. I actually know more people than might be thought. The point is I remember ‘you’ after attending many conferences or events, but do ‘you’ remember me. I’m not really anyone special outside of my home chapter so that’s why many people may not realize they know me. As for Brian – I remember well how we became facebook friends. After I made the analogy of a husband who abuses his wife you posted a comment suggesting you didn’t know who I was, but wanted to. So, I added you on facebook. =)

    I will say shortly on the forgiveness comment. It is true we do need to forgive (if we haven’t yet). But, forgiveness is not a one-sided application. Forgiveness also does not necessarily mean that we allow an ongoing conflict in relations to continue. It is not unforgiveness if we must step out of the relationship as a way of self defence. There aren’t just some people out there who are unable to change in the time that we hope. (Although, I know that many people are trying if they have had some failing and hurt someone along the way.) There are a number of people who actually believe their behaviour and actions are good and upright. They would do the same thing again if placed in the same situation. I do have a problem with this position.

    Many people are wounded and that’s exactly why they need to meet Christ for the first time or for the one hundredth time. We do need to speak in terms of Christian identity. It is possible that the use of finger waving at UBF is a result of the negative view that UBF people have against every other Christian who has a different calling or even the same calling. Unfortunately, UBF has an appearance of being exclusive and is often conditional in the love expressed to people. Anyway, it is a goal of most of us I believe to speak strictly for our Christian identity.

    Regarding prejudice I badly want to comment, but simply have to control myself. I am married to a Korean and have had relationships with Korean both outside and inside of UBF for more than a decade. There have been good and bad. There have been professional and social. There have been the ones in UBF. I will say that in Korea – if a Korean wants to be prejudiced, Go ahead, I am in your country. However, if a Korean ‘missionary’ is prejudiced against anyone in the country that they are God’s servants to, there is a problem. You are seeking converts to your church, faith whatever…for how long do people put up with the blatant prejudice? (…let native leaders lead…) It is not just about senior members, it is also part of the prejudice. I would say that many non-Koreans struggled hard against their prejudices if they stayed longer than a few months, years etc….

    • I’m sorry but I’m not sure of the reference of “husband who abuses his wife” and wanting to know who you were.

    • friend, I cannot even remember the article or at what point in the thread I said it. Early on one of my first comments on ubfriends was a reply because someone attempted to use the image of marriage in defending UBF, relationships and so on. I wanted to agree, but couldn’t because the shepherd-sheep relationship is vulnerable to the typical symptoms that occur with a woman who has become abused etc…My point had been that the relationship and grip is too strong that it becomes almost impossible to leave UBF or at least admit that there is something wrong. At times when I was much younger I felt that emotional pull to remain with my shepherd (UBF) hoping that the fine line between abuse and teaching would change. When I made my early remarks it caught Brian’s attention at that point.

  30. Joe Schafer

    Some of us here have never really met or, if we have, only spoke briefly in person. But because of the high levels of honesty in the communication on this website, and our mutual acceptance of one another, we seem to know one another well.

  31. Hi friend,

    Thank you for your posts and openness. I’m also new to commenting on this website. You mentioned many important things, a few of which I’d like to respond to.

    About knowing others:
    I have read the stories people have posted about themselves here on this website. I’ve also met a Brian, Joe, and Ben, and a few others in passing at staff conferences or in Chicago. I knew of them, but didn’t know them or was known by them. I began to join discussions here to begin get to know personally more of the community at large, especially outside of all of the positive events, such as conferences. It also helps that some here use their full name as their username (I’m not saying you should, only that this openness has helped me to know and identify with others in a more personal way). This is why I also chose to use my full name as my username.

    About reconciliation using the relationship of a couple:
    I fully understand your point about reconciliation and blame. Casting blame inhibits reconciliation. Personally, I’ve learned this to be true in my marriage which I could apply to other relationships. I think of 1 Corinthians 6:7 that asks, “Why not be wronged?” This question certainly helped me to accept that being “right” is not as important as reconciliation. Even Jesus made himself sin and was wronged for the sake of reconciling us to God.

    However, I believe using the relationship of a couple to describe the relationships in UBF, especially with those calling for reform or change, is problematic because not all members have been treated as if they were in a marriage relationship or like a couple, whether good or bad, but as a missionary / native, shepherd / sheep, teacher / student, servant of God / people of servant, kind of relationship. Generally speaking, there has always been a kind of distance in the relationship as defined by these roles. There are times of love and friendship, etc., but the distance is strongly felt. Therefore, we need a different approach.

    About prejudice:
    Yes, prejudice has gone both ways. But, again, the relationship was not established as an equal, two-way relationship. At this point in my life in UBF, I have found, and openly expressed, that I am prejudiced against Koreans. I am not saying that I am prejudiced in terms of hatred or dismissal of all Koreans. I do not disregard the people for who they are as people, and their love for God and others, their work for the ministry, their kindness and friendship and so on. But I am prejudiced in terms of the development of the ministry for the sake of such things mentioned here: forgiveness, reconciliation, discipleship, support. One way I expressed my prejudice in my chapter, for example, is by appointing native leadership and remove the Korean leadership. It is prejudiced because they are Korean. I expressed to the director how I feel this is a necessity at this point in our chapter. Do a big sweep.

    In many ways we became a ministry that prioritizes on serving the missionaries, honoring senior members and allowing them to retain positions and authority. This is also a kind of prejudice that is strongly felt and extremely frustrating. Some senior people who are not involved in the ministry except to demand to be honored with authority and titles.

    I also work at a Korean company. I am just tired of being controlled and pressured by Korean ways and people, which often comes across as always being right and with a sense of entitlement. I am so frustrated with seeing the preferential treatment given to the Korean members. It’s under the guise that they are “missionaries” but underneath that it comes across as really because they are Korean. Consider how numbers are recorded each week for Sunday worship attendance. There are two categories, World Mission and American Shepherd. We have a bona fide missionary from a far east asian country, though not Korea, who is categorized as American shepherd and largely treated as such. Yet there are immigrant Koreans who happened to join our ministry through a friendship with one of the missionaries who at times are called missionary and counted under the world mission category. Finally, it was admitted that we are really counting Koreans and Others.

    I also see the call for Americans, even well into their 30’s, to be “trained” over and over again. Americans in their 30’s are at times not even spoken to face to face, but decisions have to first be discussed with their shepherd. Why are people being treated like children? Why aren’t Koreans dealt with in this way? How long will they be treated like this? Even, I have heard it expressed as if Americans should be grateful for the favor of occasional permissions and allowances given to them. Personally, I don’t want permission or allowance, but the regard of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever country you’re from.

    I am not taking away from the challenges faced in living in another country. I haven’t experienced it personally. However, I do know that it is possible to live in LA, for example, and enjoy all things Korean, Korean companies, Korean town, Korean food markets, restaurants and banks, etc. Largely, you don’t even need to learn English to survive well here. There are large Korean immigrant communities and support avenues.

    So, Korean missionaries have asked me, “What’s the purpose of coming as a missionary then?” But they don’t understand that Americans are also asking the same question, “What’s the purpose of coming as a missionary then?” because they don’t see the Korean missionaries letting go and giving to the Americans. They don’t see the right prioritization in who we are “serving.” The target of campus students seems lost and we’ve turned inwardly by our prejudices. And we also have our own “lost generation” among us, as Joe and Brian mentioned.

    As mentioned above, there is a distance that is felt. In her message at the last staff conference on Ezra, Mother Barry subtly referenced marriage and “foreigners.” Many second gens are encouraged to marry someone from Korea although the second gens grew up in the mission land of their parents. How are the natives of that mission land supposed to see this except as prejudice and distance?

    Unfortunately, there are so many things to be said about prejudice. How many times have students or students’ families commented that they are at a Korean church? And we gave cause to that, not just because of the people, but our ways of doing things and presenting ourselves according to such prejudices.

    Therefore it’s difficult to accept the call for baby steps at this point. I think it is more urgent to be quick and full in the sweeping of our bad practices, similar to the actions of king Hezekiah found in 2 Kings 18:2-3.

    About support for scattered house churches:
    Do you have experience in a small ministry or in making efforts to network or support them? If so, how did it go?

    I am part of what has become a larger ministry in the US and have very limited interaction with such house churches. I have done visiting tours a few times with a regional or international coordinator. I have heard firsthand their complaints and cries for support during these visits. I saw their homes, sometimes their workplaces too, their children and neighborhood. They invited me to eat in their homes and sleep a night or two. My heart went out to them and I hear a little more clearly their cry for support and help. I’ve heard their stories at staff, regional, and international conferences too. Around the world I I heard the same thing: they need support but aren’t getting it; they are lonely. My observations lead me to agree with what Brian and Joe have mentioned about connecting with local churches in the community.

    Recently, a “world mission prayer vessel” was established among “key” members. There were talks of just collecting email addresses and prayer topics. In my opinion, that’s a waste of time and not helpful. I encouraged people to visit. Real, in-person communication, fellowship, and friendship are needed.

    There is major cognitive dissonance on our part regarding this issue of house churches. There are cries of loneliness and lack of support, yet the same people submit reports of praise for preaching a Sunday message to empty chairs for months on end. Our mission values are at conflict with the needs of the very people sent out to do the work. We want to hold to and promote these values at the risk of our very own people who are giving their lives. In my opinion, the “message” and the Sunday worship format has become a kind of idol among us.

    • Charles, you took the words out my mouth! (And made them more eloquent)

      Ditto, Amen, +1, Like, Share, and Yes!

    • Joe Schafer

      I agree. Charles, this is one of the best comments on UBFriends that I have ever read.

    • Charles, your comment reads like a gentle, yet accurate reflection of almost every frustration that has been experienced in UBF and expressed on UBFriends!

    • Charles, you won the internet with this comment:

  32. Charles your comment here sparked something that I’ve been experiencing after leaving ubf (my comment here is not a reflection or reaction to you or your comment, but just something I thought of)

    “I am part of what has become a larger ministry in the US and have very limited interaction with such house churches.”

    One of the reasons I stayed in ubf for 24 years is what I call the KOPHN Fantasy. Two parts of that fantasy are that ubf is large and ubf is multi-cultural.

    I prided myself being part of a large ministry that welcomed all cultures and was doing meaningful, large-scale cross-cultural work.

    After leaving ubf I got a dose of reality that shattered my previous perspective. ubf is small. ubf is Korean.

    For example how many people are at ubf worldwide? 3,000? 6,000? 8,000? My local church has 1,500 people attending services each week. The Catholic church has 1.1 billion adherents.

    ubf is clearly not building a kingdom of priests and holy nation by respecting each culture they encounter. Anyone reading the reports publicly available on can see the Koreanization of each country. Each nationality is only able to express their own culture if they also conform to some Korean values.

    Canada might be an exception (emphasis on *might*). The recent Canada night is interesting. At least ubf is starting to talk about Winnipeg, the massive failure of ubf missionaries. This doesn’t seem like a very honest report, but it might be a start of “facing the facts”.

    Looks like the museum attitude is continuing with this new ubf chapter history website.

    Think I’m lying about the ubf heritage slogans? Check this new website out: ubf Heritage

    • Brian, yes, “UBF is small. UBF is Korean.” I wrote “larger ministry” in relation to the size of other UBF chapters. But I know that we would be classified as small according to other established churches’ scales of growth and membership. Many in my chapter are well aware of our small size.

  33. Thank you everyone for your open and honest feedback. The idea of trying to change on such a large, wide-sweeping scale is quite daunting. That’s why I have thought that focusing on change and support at a local level might be more effective, more like down-up than up-down. I do feel we are each responsible for our brother and sister. As for my own contributions, most of my time in small chapters have been spent trying to navigate my spiritual life, raising young children and supporting my husband through his phd and postdoc years as well as supporting families who come across my path. It’s been hard but God has revealed himself in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to learn otherwise. Recently I found that God has been leading me to realize I am really nothing and I have nothing special to offer to God. Even if I attempt to offer my life to God it is only because God has made my life worth giving by redeeming me in Jesus Christ. Even then, what can I do? But God wants my heart. My contribution is not too small that God cannot use it and it is not too great that God needs me to do it. My attempt to usher in new attitudes and deeper love for one another is like a speck of dust. I hear your frustration and agony and a gamut of emotions run through me. I try not to get involved sometimes because I feel too deeply and it’s hard when there’s no clear cut answer. But I believe God knows your pain and accepts the genuine sacrifices you have made in his name. Maybe I can try to visit Abraham T Kim when I’m in town. Do you feel this has not gone well? Anyway, I need time to read more archives, process everything I’ve read here, and figure out what steps I would like to take next. Hopefully I can post an article next and engage in more discussion.

    • Friend, UBF needs more people like you. Sadly, many believe that they don’t have the right to demand or simply implement change “down-up”. The existence of this strong hierarchy with people being “up” and others being “down” should be questioned. People should not feel being at the “bottom” and have nothing to say and no responsibility. Everybody must be responsible and accountable.

  34. Dear Friend, I want to thank you for joining in and revealing your genuine struggle to understand and work toward reconciliation. It’s hard for me also to communicate because like you the emotions are very intense, and like you I recognize very well how daunting the task is. I believe that most who have chosen to “leave UBF” share these emotions and realizations. I finally concluded that to remain(to keep attending UBF events) was impossible because the wall and ceiling being maintained by UBF insiders was just too much. Yes, this includes Abraham T. Kim. I love and respect him, but cannot look to him to achieve the reconciliation that is called for. I could not imagine myself or my family remaining within this wall or under this ceiling indefinitely in order to implement change from the local or in “down-up” way. I do not accept that it is my failure at forgiveness or reconciliation that has caused this breakdown in relationship. I have a clear conscience. I know how bold this must sound but it is true. As many have already explained so well on this site, reconciliation is a two way street. Still, I hope to encourage those who remain in any way I can.

  35. I put the words leave UBF in quotations because of the massive confusion about what it actually means to be part of UBF. Glad to see this confusion addressed by Ian today.

  36. Joe Schafer

    Friend, thanks again for joining this discussion. Your perspectives are important and I hope that others read them and weigh them carefully.

    You wrote:

    “That’s why I have thought that focusing on change and support at a local level might be more effective, more like down-up than up-down. I do feel we are each responsible for our brother and sister.” – See more at:

    Yes, people at the local level need support. But what we need most of all, what he have desperately needed all along but couldn’t find, was friendship.

    I’m not talking about the kind of relationships that people call “coworking,” which are rooted in the idea that we stand by one another because we are fighting on the same side, working for a common cause and mission (i.e. pioneering and establishing ministries in the name of ubf). I’m talking about genuine friendship that listens, understands, and loves the person and places the person’s well being ahead of the cause.

    I hate to say this, but it’s true. For more than 2 decades, Sharon and I experienced many of those coworking relationships within ubf. They helped us and supported us as long as we obediently stayed with the program. As soon as we started to raise tough questions, those coworking relationships dissolved or became toxic. The turning point for us came when one couple reached out to us and showed us real friendship, friendship that was not dependent on our ubf status. With them, we were finally able to take off our masks and become honest. Since then, we have found friendship with several other couples that has nothing to do with the ubf mission. If mutual friendship and mutual support is what you are after, you may well find that the ubf identity and mission are a serious hindrance and barrier. It may be possible to overcome those barriers without formally leaving ubf, but it won’t be easy.

    • Fully agree with you, Joe. The ironic thing is that the “F” in “UBF” stands for “Freundschaft” = “friendship” in UBF’s official German name. The other ironic thing is that most of the people most of the time believe that their relationships are really “friendships”. The problem is, you only find out whether it’s real friendship when you stop being obedient or stop following the party line. And then it’s too late. For many, this delusion comes after years or even decades in which they believed to have friends, so the disappointment is huge.

    • I meant “disillusionment”, not “delusion”. Believing to have real friends when all you have is coworkers is really a bad delusion. The worst extreme must be when you find out that your own husband or wife has only been a “coworker”, and not a friend. Luckily, this is an experience I didn’t need to make, but I know enough of such cases where the husband divorced as soon as the wife left UBF, or vice versa. In UBF, “coworking” is considered the only real base for marriage, not friendship or love.

  37. “Maybe I can try to visit Abraham T Kim when I’m in town. Do you feel this has not gone well?” – See more at:

    Friend, My thoughts are that ATK is a good man and a God-fearing Christian. I know that he will gladly meet with you. I think that you might be quite happy to meet him, because his demeanor is gentle and soft-spoken. I also believe that he genuinely wants to please God in the complex “mess” that is UBF.

    At the same time, a positive definitive action (whatever that might be) requires something decisive that will likely upset and offend lots of people, especially older UBFers who have been in UBF for 3 to 4 decades or longer. So I understand that it is difficult for any GD to make any clear cut decision, since it would be embarking into an unknown with likely some undesirable results, such as UBF breaking up, or a major section of UBF leaving, such as has happened in prior years with the largest ex-UBF group being CMI (campus mission international).

    So even if I do not agree with him, I understand that ATK often says, as he did to Charles (and others) to “wait.”

    • “such as UBF breaking up, or a major section of UBF leaving, such as has happened in prior years with the largest ex-UBF group being CMI”

      Again, I insist we talk properly about this. They tried to keep unity; they did not leave, they were officialy expelled.

      The legal board meeting of Korea UBF on January 31, 2002 decided to deprive all reform oriented members, who were not already expelled at the foregoing board meeting of October 5, 2001, of their membership and their right to attend the general meeting of members of Korea UBF. This happened under the leadership of John Jun in Korea, and Sarah Barry in the US, after the death of Samuel Lee.

      We really need to keep the historical facts straight.

    • Chris, I totally agree and I want to thank you for keeping Ubfriends honest.

  38. Chris, I think this is the first time I ever knew or heard this stated as explicitly as you did: “The legal board meeting of Korea UBF on January 31, 2002 decided to deprive all reform oriented members, who were not already expelled at the foregoing board meeting of October 5, 2001, of their membership and their right to attend the general meeting of members of Korea UBF.” – See more at:

    I do not doubt that this is very likely true, since it is in keeping with my own experience of being in UBF for 34 years since 1980. But if you don’t mind me asking, Chris:

    * How do you know this, especially with the precise dates of Jan 31, 2002 and Oct 5, 2001?

    * Is there a link for this?

    • “How do you know this, especially with the precise dates of Jan 31, 2002 and Oct 5, 2001?”

      It was posted on the websites of the reformers, (Korea), (Germany) and (USA). It had even been reported by the Korean media such as NewsNJoy (a popular Korean web magazine) and CBS 98.1 (a Seoul radio station). I made a summary of what had been posted, and I still have it.

      The official statement given by the Korean leadership in Oct 2001 was this:

      “Since one and a half year the reformers have confused the community of UBF and pushed towards a division. We take a punitive measure, because the reformers
      – have destroyed the spiritual order in the church,
      – don’t send offering moneys to the headquarters any more and have organized themselves independently,
      – have attacked Samuel Lee and the leadership of UBF on internet pages and also published their own magazine “High School Mission 21” and their own “Daily Bread,”
      – have had their own Conference in July 2000 in Korea,
      – have written articles in the NewsNjoy magazine to justify themselves,
      – have hindered the members meeting to fulfill its legally defined task, because the reformers are more than one third of the board meetings’ members,
      – have confused many coworkers of UBF.
      We tried for unity. But now there is not any hope for unity with them any more.”

      As you see they tried to paint the opposite picture, as if they sought unity and the reformers tried to divide. But I can testify that this was not the case. Their motto was always “reform and unity”. They ignored the first expulsion as illegal and continued to operate under the name of UBF, until they were finally expelled completely in 2002.

      You must remember that at that time, there was no financial accountability in UBF, and no transparent accounting. One of the demands of the reform movement was to establish financial accountability, and they refused sending money to the headquarters until finanical accountability was established. I think this was legitimate.

      It makes me sad that today only UBF’s version of the history is told, with many important events completely removed and others twisted so much that they are far from reality. The 2001 reform movement was an important event, in which UBF I believe lost more than half of their membership (nobody knows for sure).