Tired of Talking About UBF

bNote: this article is for those who have decided to remain in UBF but are endlessly frustrated. It is not for everyone to remain in UBF, so I understand and sympathize with those who have been wounded deeply and have left to find greener pastures. I am mainly addressing this article to myself: my hope is that I will continually turn my gaze from people to the triune and amazing God… and then eventually back to people in the context of being in God.

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This is probably one of the most condescending quotes I have ever read because it makes me feel small-minded and petty and it makes people like the late Mrs. Roosevelt seem as though, through some kind of innate or perhaps cultivated superiority, they are above the rest of us slobbering, half-witted plebes. Here’s an idea Eleanor, why don’t you take your high-mindedness and shove it? I mean, how can I not be focused on that irritating wretch who is making my life a living hell? I know I’m a wretch, but does that give any license to others to be so? And after all, what about my feelings? Well, apparently Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t give a rip about my future feelings when she uttered this. And for good reason; I mean for one, she didn’t even know that I would exist and secondly she’s kind of right. God is in the business of saving people, but he does so by drawing us out of ourselves and out of our disillusioned view of people into his loving presence. When we allow Him to superimpose His divine ideas on our feeble ones (the definition of repentance, or at least mine anyway), then we can wade through the undulating mess we call human relationships which at times cause us to pull our hair out and at other times give us reason to hug each other. When we are in Him and He in us then we can rightly view our relationships with one another.

Just to realistically frame this train wreck that we are all a part of, it has been repeatedly proven that UBF’s leaders are not willing to consider (that is, without a great degree of defensiveness, skepticism and ad hominem attacks) any of the well-thought-out large-scale suggestions that have been presented to them in person or posted here; akin to the existence of gravity, it’s essentially an empirical truth at this point. Yes, it’s absolutely tragic and disheartening, but what’s more unfortunate is that we often allow ourselves to become jaded and cynical due to this. Eventually, one has to allow the cold and insensitive advice of Winston Churchill to warm their hearts. These cherished words once bellowed from the depths of his oft-inebriated gullet:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

To undertake an enterprise such as this, we frankly need balls (or if you’re female, you’ll need chutzpah instead) or put less frankly we need grit. Not only this, but we need a generation which will think in new and fresh ways, continually educating themselves and dialoguing so as to mutually edify one another as well as keep each other from veering off into heresy, or what I call Rob-Bellism (notice here I’m not merely speaking pejoratively about a person, but rather an idea about a person; see the difference, hm? Ah, I knew you’d eventually get it). My brother from another mother, Ian Turner, recently dropped a sick article in this vein; I won’t link to this though because I want as much traffic as possible to come to my article, thanks.

In my opinion, UBF will not change through directly railing against the leadership and their paradigms. As Friend intimated, it most likely will come through a bottom-up, subversive kind of approach. We have to not only push to make big ideas like the cross, the trinity, christotelic preaching and all of the other ideas that personally appeal to me (but not speaking in tongues because John MacArthur or uh, MacArthurism states that this is from the devil) front and center but we also have to develop genuine relationships with older, hard-lining missionaries and leaders. This may seem impossible, but it’s not. You have to keep prodding and poking until they open up; you have to get so uncomfortably close to them that they will eventually become comfortable enough to share with you their own life stories and current agonies as well as joys.

Ultimately, you want to see them not as an actual person, but as a figment of your imagination that will go away with time. No wait, let me try this again. Ultimately, you want them to see just how utterly wrong they are and how right your theological positions and ideas about ministry are. Ok, this isn’t working correctly for some reason. So ultimately, you don’t want to communicate in a self-righteous tone or manner, even if you know that you are right. Instead, you have to communicate in such a way that says that you care about them; you care enough to enter into their life stories and pray for them accordingly. You have to care enough to lose sleep and sanity over the numbing illogicalities that often result in human and cross-cultural relationships. That’s what this whole Christian enterprise is about. That’s the big idea, from my perhaps myopic vantage point (I say perhaps because chances are that I’m totally right).

Continuing on with my irrefutable wisdom, at some point, you have to attempt to implement your neat and inspiring ideas on a local level. I don’t know how this looks in your particular chapter, but pray and talk to others about what is needed, both inside and outside of the ministry. For instance, if you think that UBF leaders need remediation in terms of learning basic communication skills, then implement this in your local chapter as a pilot program. Will you face some pushback and potential demonization? Probably, but that’s what makes life fun. As long as you are not driven out of the ministry, keep pushing the envelope. Some of the most awesome church stuff (I don’t have a lot time to be my normal, articulate self, right now) and historical change have been borne out of stubborn and gritty (and in our case hopefully Spirit-led) people hanging in there for something that they were deeply convicted about.

So why don’t we use this forum to talk about big ideas which will help us to frame our entire Christian experience in a better light? Taking a page from John Y’s book of self-serving chicanery*, you can check out some of my awesome comments in this vein here and here (and for the love of God please give me a thumbs up; I so desperately need your validation). And I get that we want to protect young students from falling into the multiple quagmires presented by the UBF paradigm, so maybe we could leave it up to Chris Z to post all of the hidden UBF history that no one knows about or we could continue to hock the books that are being promoted here. Or we could take a positive approach and post things about the importance of critical thinking and seeking out multiple sources of input through books and other ministries.

What say you ubfriends, shall we discuss ideas or people?

*You may remember his ground-breaking, seminal (and only) article, that he wrote with some other guy. Even though I’ve currently one-upped him in the article writing department, John happens to be one of my favorite persons to call a brother and converse with these days.

29 comments

  1. Admin, you find great pics for the articles!

    DavidW, you have been able to put words to my very thoughts which is very helpful. I hope and pray that many more will want to continue this conversation.

    Joe, if someone were given the opportunity to speak about ubfriends at the nh staff conference would you be willing or would that be kind of ridiculous?

    • Joe Schafer

      At this point, I’m quite certain anything that I could say would make very little difference. I’ve said enough. And based on what I’ve heard, the program has already been filled up with Bible study sessions. I believe that would be wrong for me to sacrifice any more of my family’s time, energy or resources to attend these events to do UBF leaders’ bidding. If anyone wants to know about UBFriends, all they have to do is visit http://www.ubfriends.org. It’s all right here.

    • Thanks friend. After I became a dreaded univeraslist humanist filled with satanic ideas (otherwise known as “ubfriends admin”), my creativity came alive!

      You asked, “if someone were given the opportunity to speak about ubfriends at the nh staff conference would you be willing or would that be kind of ridiculous?”

      It would be ridiculous. I already did that by the way:

      North American UBF staff presentation by Brian Karcher

      And like Joe and Sharon and about 50 other former ubf leaders I know, my wife and I are exhausted and do not want to talk about ubf anymore, I don’t care about ubf people, I don’t care about ubf ideas and I f’n don’t care about ubf events anymore.

      If ubf people can’t smell the stench by now, there’s nothing I can do. So I will enjoy my life, my wife, my family, my job, my new church and new friends. I am happy now. I love life. I am a family-centered man. I am my own man. :)

      I love what the Spirit has been teaching me about Scripture and the rejuvenated relationship I have with Jesus who lives inside me, even if it earns me the heretic label and even if people see me as some evil pirate. I love pirates so I’m ok with any perception people have of me.

      No longer do I care about “sin management” or “perception management” or “reputation management”. What matters to me is what I think of myself, what my wife and children and family think of me and what my God thinks of me.

    • I hear you loud and clear. Youre right, youve done all you could and it’s time for others to continue what you’ve started. When we headed a local chapter we gave ourselves permission not to attend because it was beyond our capacity and we didn’t know how it would be helpful.

  2. @David W – holla!

    Ah, yes, another non-vain man after my unfortunately vain heart. Where shall I mail you the check for agreeing to say this for me?

    Yes, in case people already forgot where to click after reading above, click here:
    http://www.ubfriends.org/2010/10/19/a-discussion-stuck-in-limbo/

    And don’t forget this too (below):
    http://www.ubfriends.org/2012/03/12/thoughts-on-christian-friendship/

    You might have to click the above link 100 times to get the link to work correctly

    • Oh, I stand corrected! You have another article buried deep in the nether regions of the ubfriends archives. But wait, you co-authored one of your articles so technically that puts your total at 1.5 to my 2.0. Ah, there’s a real but statistically improbable chance that you’ll reach my level someday, John.

  3. Just want to clarify that Joe and I did not “leave” because we were deeply wounded, nor because our efforts to change UBF were futile. We didn’t “leave” because we lacked insight about change being subversive and local, etc. etc. We “left” because it was the best choice for a myriad of reasons for our local chapter to do so. It was time for us to redefine our relationship to UBF, and to our local community. We just didn’t have the time to continue pouring our lives into the UBF project according to the intense UBF schedule and demands. Please remember that the perspective of those outside of large chapters is very different. We are geographically isolated. We wanted to spend our remaining years giving our lives at the local level, according to our own rhythms and the leading of the Spirit. We could not allow ourselves to be pulled away continously to participate in UBF at large by attending your schedule of meetings and programs.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes. We gradually woke up to the fact that the organization and its problems had been sucking life out of us. God wanted us to be rooted in a home, in a church, in a neighborhood, in a town. He wanted us to participate in real life, having real interactions with real people, learning how to live out our faith in the actual contexts where God has placed us.

  4. A big part of this decision was a realization that we should not be planting a UBF church. We recognized that at best our function was as a parachurch. But we all know very well that UBF is unclear about it’s role. This is felt most strongly by those of us in small chapters. So we redefined ourselves. We just had to.

  5. Joe and Sharon, I didn’t mean to insinuate anything as to why you all made the decisions that you did. I’m actually very impressed by your resolve to still serve in UBF in the capacity that you do, especially given the nature of the negative things that you all have experienced in the ministry.

    I mainly wrote this article because as an irreverent cynic at heart, I needed to motivate myself to continue living out my Christian life in the context of UBF. Secondarily, I wrote this to people who are in a similar position as I; that is, those who are in chapters where change is possible but for whatever reason they have become totally disillusioned, burned out or just have run out of ideas as to how to continue to participate in and further advocate for change. Maybe that didn’t come across so well in this article; perhaps I stuck my tongue a bit too far into my cheek and plus I’m not always the best communicator.

    As I said in my note at the beginning, I truly sympathize with you all. I can’t begin to know what you have gone through but in some sense my heart goes out to you and I wish all the best for you. I tend to be a bit self-focused at times, so perhaps I need to be quiet and listen to you all’s story with a bit more empathy. I’m very sorry if I came across as unsympathetic or ungraceful.

    Another hope in writing this article was to promote dialogue concerning big ideas within Christianity, something I thought that would help us to move past what UBF has done to us. And I understand that trauma must be unpacked in a very cautious manner and in an intimate setting. At the same time, digging deeper into those big ideas in a forum like this has done a great deal for me as of late. For instance, I loved talking about christotelic and trinitarian hermenteutics with Joe; it brought me outside of myself for a minute and for a split second I felt as though some of my trauma was being tended to through encountering God in this way. Anyway, I hope that we can all continue such dialogues and not let UBF dominate our psyches (again, not insinuating that this is the case for you all, perhaps more so for me if anything). I’ll try to be more empathetic in any future write-ups. Peace and love in Christ to you both.

    • David, thank you. I don’t mean to sound defensive. I just want people to really understand. I have a lot of respect for you and find you to be such a reasoned and engaging writer and thinker and person of faith. Keep it up and I hope we can keep in touch, if only via the internet!

    • Man, you two totally know how to make my day :)

  6. Of course, our doors are always open to you all if you are ever in the neighborhood, too. My husband is a fantastic cook!

  7. Thanks, Dave for your article. Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote simply exposed what a small mind I have, and also how much I desperately desperately need Jesus!

    This past week has simply been exceptional and exhilarating for me in that God seemingly answered my prayers that current UBFers would freely speak up and express themselves boldly without fear–even before “potentially threatening UBFriends sympathizers” who might pounce on any UBF favorable comment until blood is drawn!

    My praise and thanks be to God for David, Friend and Forests!

    May there be many more like you “out there,” who would come out of the woodwork and boldly declare your love and sole allegiance to Christ and for the glory of God. But if you are just a silent reader, that’s fine too, for God does not show favoritism toward those who publicly share and those who silently read and reflect. God bless you all.

    • Hi dr Ben, I’ve been a secret admirer from a distance. I’m not sure why people were afraid of you but maybe it’s bc I’ve had no personal contact with you. Haha. Your strong vocal rejection of certain UBF principles while still maintaining a sense of humor and positive outlook have helped create a paradigm shift for me. I thought I was open but I realized part of me was afraid to go too far in. I really want to make a presentation on ubfriends, going through the material in detail and making it easy for people to see what this website is really about. But I foresee at least 5 people are needed, maybe one person to cover each year? more would be better. I’m thinking something like data compilation. Do you know anyone who is willing and available? It’s probably hard to find a combination. If so, I can contact you directly. What am I getting myself into? Hehe…. Do you think it would only fall on deaf ears?

    • Friend, you just “made my day,” and I don’t even have to say “Go ahead!” I (and I’m sure others too) would fully support your efforts to make sense of the mess we, particularly I, created on this website! Please contact me. (Warning, I think more than I do, which drives my wife nuts!) Perhaps Forests and Charles Wilson might be willing to help. Sorry for volunteering you :-)

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      Yes. I would be willing to help. Feel free to contact me at mlanier131@gmail.com

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      I know at least for me, my trip to the Philippines would not have happened without ubfriends. God truly used ubfriends to change my life. I wonder how many other stories like mine are out there.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Ben, no thanks! If I had the audience of all those people, I would have other words to say–not that I want to say anything in that capacity anyway. :)

    • Joe Schafer

      Two ideas for describing UBFriends.

      1. Create some word clouds as we did here
      http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/01/23/what-are-we-talking-about/

      2. Measure traffic on UBFriends for a period of time and compare it to traffic on ubf.org over the same period. You may be surprised at what you find.

    • Joe Schafer

      Alexa says that UBFriends.org is more popular than ubf.org.

    • Joe/anyone, How do u find out such information from Alexa? Can anyone retrieve such stats?

    • Joe Schafer

      I know almost nothing about how to measure traffic on someone else’s website. There are some free tools for doing it, and others that you have to pay for. I just went to alexa.com and entered the url for each website and looked at the global ranking, which is very crude.

  8. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    David, let’s discuss people! :) William Carlos Williams coined the term: “No ideas but in things.” But, really, I think it would be dangerous to separate a discussion of ideas and people. Your quote from Roosevelt is a good example. I think that the direction is important. What I mean is that looking up and then down might be problematic in the sense that God is looking down to us. Jesus came down to us and became flesh. Although he ascended, he gave the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us. Jesus’ person is the perfect combination of both: he is the Word who became flesh. The very word of God, divine in nature, becoming flesh. The equal coexistence of the word of God and people. So that it was something that could be touched, heard, and seen (1 john 1:1-4), and then shared with others. I think this encapsulates the fellowship John wrote about. So when we talk about God we can’t help but talk about people, and vice versa. At times, it’d be nice to imagine away people or troubles. I do find myself putting things out of my mind more often to avoid the negativity.

    But I guess one thing you’re getting at is the way in which we look at people? Philippians 2:1-11 continues to surprise and amaze me in this regard. There is unity with God through the Spirit who gives the things of God to us, and by this unity and fellowship with God we have relationships with others, even having the same attitude or mindset, as Christ. There is always a third party. Psalm 8:4 also comes to mind. God’s looking at us and work for fellowship with us, in spite of our troubles, is graceful and exciting.

    • Thanks for this comment, Charles. I didn’t necessarily mean to pit ideas against people, but for sure the quote I used certainly presents a sort of dichotomy (or even a trichotomy).

      Your words here and Ian’s article on the church have made me realize the profound nature of the church’s relationship with the triune God. Because we are united to Him through the Holy Spirit, we would be egregiously remiss to neglect people when discussing ideas about God. My prayer is that I would so rightly understand God and his love for the bride of Christ that when I speak or think or carry out actions toward her I would do so in a manner that reflects an acurrate knowledge of Him.

  9. David, I really appretiate the recent contributions made by you, Charles, Ian, friend, forest and others.

    In your current article you ask several similar questions, giving us the choice between discussing either people or ideas, or between posting either negative experiences from real-life or postive inspirations or ideas. This is a false dichotomy, for me. Sayings like “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people” sound profound, but I don’t think they are. I bleive great minds discuss all of these.

    For instance, you can talk about the idea of fascism in theory, but you won’t be able to understand it without also discussing events like WW2 or persons like Hitler.

    We can talk about christotelic and trinitarian hermenteutics, ecclesiology and missiology, and try to understand the gospel better and better.

    But on the other hand we have some huge elephants in the room. There have been wrongdoings that are so wrong that it does not even matter which hermeneutics understanding of trinity and the gospel you have, not even whether you are Christian, Muslim or Atheist, it does not matter whether you are Korean or American, uneducated or university professor. I am talking about wrongdoings that any of these immediately would understand as horrible wrongdoings that need corporate confession and apology and explanations what will be done to avoid such things happening in the future.

    In the spirit of your current article, I don’t want to name these wrongdoings or give examples, I just hope you know what I’m talking about.

    So the question is for me, how can ubfriends have these profound ivory tower discussions about gospel and trinity and other heavenly things far from real life and real people down on earth, while at the same time a herd of elephants is in the room and a pack of skeletons drumming against the door of the cupboard?

    Please understand me correctly, I don’t want to belittle your discussions and your desire for deeper understanding of God and the gospel. After UBF, I myself had several years of intense theological studies and searching for answers.

    But somehow I feel by feel that by resorting to such discussions only, we give UBF people the impressions that we do not have real burning issues and sin problems, only a few theological nuances or cultural misunderstandings that need to be straigthened out.

    Again, I do not want to stifle or discourage theological discussion, it needs to take place and it may be a way to get people involved and open their minds for the practical issues by talking about the theoretical ideas first. I’m just saying that you should not make it a dichotomy. If this discussion does not help people to ultimately open their eyes for the blatant injustice and sin and demand and execute reform and corporate repentance, but rather helps them to be distracted away from the real issues and processing the past, then it seems rather futile and counterproductive to me.

    • Well said, Chris. As I said at the beginning of the article:

      “I am mainly addressing this article to myself: my hope is that I will continually turn my gaze from people to the triune and amazing God… and then eventually back to people in the context of being in God.”

      I don’t want to put a stop to any discussions about people per se, but I want to take a step back for a moment so that before God’s presence, I may view them rightly. Though Roosevelt’s quote is a classic example of dichotomous thinking, I’m not really trying to promote that kind of thought pattern here. That kind of black and white thinking usually serves as a good rhetorical device; just wanted to get you all’s attention :)