Six Stages of Training

cBen’s excellent article, “Good Teachers Make Themselves Unneeded“, which was inspired by a friend’s C.S. Lewis quotes, inspired me to expound on a topic I wrote about in my second book. That topic is the ubf discipleship training cycle. In stark contrast to C.S. Lewis’ thoughts, the ubf model of teaching is a system designed to make people co-dependent on one another. The ubf sheep is trained to depend on the ubf shepherd for spiritual direction and life decision guidance. And the ubf shepherd then becomes dependent on the ubf sheep for affirmation of their spiritual value before God. Can you imagine the condition of a sheepless shepherd at ubf? In short, the ubf model of training is to make the teachers needed.

Director Training Material

As a director at ubf, I expected to be invited to director meetings. I was not however. Not once was I ever invited to attend a director’s conference or even told what a director should do. It’s probably for the best however, because we all know that ubf director’s conferences are held in the Korean language and attended by Korean ubf people. So right away it became clear to me that I was not really a director, but just a figurehead. In Detroit ubf, it became clear to me that ubf HQ (as we called Chicago ubf) only wanted two things: 1) Weekly stats reporting 2) Staff conference attendance. I was rather surprised when no one cared about our $0 offering year after year. Stats and attendance seemed to be vastly more important to the leaders in HQ.

Still as a director I got on some high level email lists (which came in handy :) and was able to obtain some director training material. This material is not much, and mostly just the typical ubf nostalgic hagiography. But one presentation stood out. It described the ubf discipleship training model in stunning clarity. I suddenly began to understand what had been going on all those years at ubf. Why had I felt so much friction? What standard was I being held to? All the undocumented teachings I had vaguely bumped into became clear.

2010 UBF Directors’ Conference: Fishing and Outreach

The title of the teaching presentation I obtained is Fishing and Outreach. Note: This slide is publicly available, so contact me if you want the public link or search for yourself. This presentation is a prime example of how ubf directors are taught and trained.

The slides are grouped into four sections. Most of the slides are odd diagrams and goofy pictures.

  1. UBF Growth Principles (slides 3 to 5)
  2. Natural Principles (slide 6 to 8)
  3. Fishing and Outreach (slides 9 to 21)
  4. Motivation (slide 22)

The first group of slides presents various principles of growth. There is mention of “releasing the divine growth forces which God himself grows his church”. The apparent claim is that natural growth is the best way to grow, and that ubf has grown naturally so far. This section contains a confusing slide with a lot of world flags mentioning something written by Christian A. Schwarz from Germany.

High Quality

The second group of slides attempts to explain the natural principles behind natural growth. One slide lists 8 “quality characteristics”, such as “inspiring worship service”, “need oriented evangelism” and “loving relationship”. This section presents the infamous “minimum barrel” principle. So sheep in ubf had better make sure you are not the shortest plank in the barrel…

Disciple Products

This third group seems to start abruptly at slide 9 which is just labeled “UBF Ministry”. No I’m not mocking ubf here. Slide 12 literally shows the ubf process of ministry with the outcome labelled “Disciple Products”. All the normal activities ubf folks know about are listed, such as Summer Bible Conference. Apparently outreach is supposed to be just a lot of ubf activity, which makes up the largest section of this presentation. You have to see these slides, 9 to 21, for yourself. It’s a wild trip through ubf-land.

Shepherds Falling in Love with Sheep

Slide 20 however stands out to me. The title is “Relationship Developing Steps”. The steps are exactly how two people fall in love (maybe). But don’t think this is about dating. No way. This is about how a shepherd is supposed to fall in love!

Now go do it!

The final group is just one slide: Motivation. Only two motivations are given:

1. Absolute Gospel Power
2. Gospel Vision

Summary of the ubf Training Model

The most useful slide in this presentation for me was slide 10, which is titled “Ministry System”.

The goal of this system is clearly to break you down, shredding your authentic identity and give you a new identity as a shepherd. This ministry process was detailed quite well in an old newspaper article.

This is how the model is supposed to work. Six stages and about 7 years and out comes a ubf shepherd or shepherdess. However, because this model is about psychological identity remaking, it has to be an endless cycle of re-orientation and re-building. The model does not always work and has been adjusted at each ubf chapter for each ubf sheep. How does this model compare to what happens in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, China, Mexico, Canada?

The first three stages of UBF training may be categorized as “sheep training”. The goal is to secure a person’s commitment to the UBF ways. The UBF leaders seek to produce a person committed to weekly UBF bible study (Stage 1: Birthing), a person willing to adopt the UBF worldview (Stage 2: Rooting) and a person willing to continue the training and become a UBF shepherd (Stage 3: Growing).

The second three stages of UBF training may be categorized as “shepherd training”. The goal is to secure a person’s resources for the rest of their life. UBF leaders want a person’s identity (Stage 4: Disciple Training), a person’s obedience (Stage 5: Soldier Training) and a person’s lifelong loyalty (Stage 6: Leader Training).

The content of these six stages may be adjusted for each student UBF encounters. The overall plan takes about 7 to 9 years and is practiced with some degree of consistency by UBF chapters around the world. One question though: What do you do after Stage 6? The expectation is that you live as a lifelong UBF loyalist and recruiter.

Based on this director training presentation and my own experience at ubf for 24 years, I came up with this matrix that explains the ubf discipleship training model. One problem (as Forests already pointed out) is that this model does not do well with independent, critical thinkers. So the stages sometimes get messed up. In the past, that is where dead dog training would kick in (sometimes with physical violence) to “produce” a more tame sheep who could then be trained more easily in this system.

The Six Stages of UBF Training
Sheep Training ~5 years Shepherd Training ~4 years
Stage 1: Birthing
Goal – commit to bible study
Starts after first bible study
Stage 4: Disciple Training
Goal – identity as Shepherd X
Starts after joining common life
Stage 2: Rooting
Goal – adopt the UBF worldview
Starts after Sunday service attendance
Stage 5: Soldier Training
Goal – obedience to UBF authority
Starts after college graduation
Stage 3: Growing
Goal – pursue more training
Starts after sharing Life Testimony
Stage 6: Leader Training
Goal – loyalty for life
Starts after Marriage by Faith



  1. bekamartin

    Thank you, Brian! I am literally sick to my stomach now after reading and rereading these last posts!! I didn’t know!! I didn’t see it!!

    Thank God for opening my eyes to my ex-husband’s ways (which were inspired by UBF training) so that I demanded him to change, and now we are out of UBF!!!

    I can now seek counseling and godly leadership and think clearly again!! Thank you, God!!

    • Yes, Beka, I felt sick to my stomach also when I first saw this presentation and others like it. I have more. But then later I became so happy and peaceful, finally knowing that it wasn’t “just me” and that although I do have problems, many of my problems were caused by this training system. Suddenly, it all made sense. I could begin repairing relationships that had long been overdue for attention.

      Yes your former husband was caught up in this KOPAHN worldview and shepherding theology. We made many mistakes and there is no excuse. I first told him I felt like beating him up behind the shed for the things he told me he did… For what it’s worth, in talking with your former husband further, his eyes are opened as well, to see how caught up we all were in this abusive system.

      We now have to take responsibility for our abusive actions yes. My hope however is that the abusive ubf training system will end and the people at ubf will redeem their ministry for the sake of the people there and because of the gospel Jesus preached.

    • bekamartin

      Thank you, Brian, and I hope he is changing, for the sake of his new family. As for me, I will no longer settle for anyone who doesn’t love God first and me second. I can live my whole life with only God’s love and my family and friends. And now I love myself as God loves me :)

      Thank you for following your calling from God, as we so need your help. Thank you!!

    • Amen! You have the right, healthy and Christ-like attitude!

    • The problem with UBF training was that it did not just “inspire” us, it really altered our minds and personality and made us do things that we never would have done in our normal state of mind.

      Steve Hassan’s book “Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves” or other books about mind control are very helpful to understand how these psychological mechanisms work and how dangerous they are.

  2. bekamartin

    Yes, and you don’t realize it unless someone you trust brings your attention to it and unless God opens your eyes. People need many many many godly teachers, not in their own church or family, to keep their eyes and ears opened to God’s leading.

    I always listened to radio preaching and read Christian books, even when in UBF. Maybe they didn’t know so they didn’t demand I stop it. I think this was one way God kept truth in me so that when my friends started telling me things then I listened. Also, my own personal sins kept me coming to God himself for help, so he did his work in me.

    Maybe I will write a book about what I have learned in the past 2-3 years.

    • A book is a great idea, Beka. Writing my books was a major part of my healing and recovery from ubf ideologies. I wrote for myself and gave away almost 80 books. There isn’t really a lot of money to be made, but the healing is worth it.

      By the way, anyone can publish for free at Create Space.

      If you or anyone wants to share their stories and don’t want to go through the publishing process, I now offer free Amazon publishing services. I’m not a great spelling/grammar editor but I am willing to publish someone’s book and tben mail you a money order of any profits each month, using my existing publishing account. Just send me a Word document or email with your text.

  3. bekamartin

    That’s great! I am a great proofreader and speller. I was the main proofreader on Andrew’s first book.

  4. BrianK, thanks for posting. Can you send me the slides too?

    Beka, I was so sorry to hear about everything you and your family has gone through. It seems God used it for good, and I’m glad.

    I was personally touched by AM’s recent book and I think his basic idea is right. That conviction is making me somewhat of a difficult case in KC.

    I have said this to Andrew and now I can say to you, I really apologize for not being in any way close, friendly, or supportive of you and your family. You are all loved by me, and I remember the time I spent with you (lol like 1 or 2 days?) when I visited Cincinnati. Please pray for me and my family, that I can be the man God needs me to be, and forgive me for being a non-friend.

  5. Brian, you asked, “One question though: What do you do after Stage 6? The expectation is that you live as a lifelong UBF loyalist and recruiter. – See more at:

    I think is a good question that isn’t answered satisfactorily. Are people being trained as leaders to end up only as life long recruiters? From what I’ve seen and heard recently, many do not want to accept this. They feel neglected or belittled by being relegated to a recruiter’s position only. So, some see the next stage as Sunday messenger and/or chapter director, as Elder or decision maker. Even among Korean missionaries there is supposedly discontent about this issue and so some have moved on to run their own chapters so as to go to that next level.

    I also am discovering that this is one reason why some missionaries are afraid of giving the leadership to Americans. At this point, they don’t know what they would do otherwise. Will Americans neglect them if put in charge? Who knows what new leadership, American or Korean, will do. They might neglect, they might not. Even under the apostles’ leadership, a group of Hellenistic Jews felt neglected. Anyway, it makes me think that this leadership focus and training is in many disingenuous and suffers from the lack of community focused building. Where is community / family building apart from fishing and 1:1 training?

    • Charles, you make an excellent point: “Even among Korean missionaries there is supposedly discontent about this issue and so some have moved on to run their own chapters so as to go to that next level.”

      KOPAHN theology is unfair and unjust not only to the “native shepherds” who have been trained, but also to the Korean missionaries who got caught up in giving the training. The inherent contradictions of KOPAHN theology create a cyclic, co-dependent system that is difficult to stop. When the dependency is broken finally, it is a painful experience on both sides.

      I hope no one is confused on this point: It is the KOPAHN theological system and authority structure that I rail against, not the individual people at ubf.

      So while it is probably true that my shepherd and I won’t have much of a relationship going forward, I have already demonstrated several times that my fight is not against him. I have met my shepherd 3 times after leaving ubf in 2011, and hugged him each time and spoke freely and friendly each time. That personal relationship is not the issue for me. We have both forgiven each other and both acknowledge that it’s best we don’t speak for a long while.

      The question, Charles, is just as you say: “Where is community / family building apart from fishing and 1:1 training?”

      After the six stages, there is nothing planned. Some, like me, take the “pioneering” route. Others become part of the Sunday lecturer rotation. In recent years, ubf leaders have been slapping the label “elder” onto those who already passed the 6 stage training many years ago.

      In my experience, your marriage-by-faith photo is the last glorious photo you will take with ubf people. Like the picture in Back to the Future, your life begins to fade away after reaching that glorious pinnacle. Your wedding day is the first day of your decline.

      For my wife and I, we pined away slowly facing one trauma after another as our status as absolute, faithful stewards of “God’s mission” decayed into the dreaded, supposedly evil and unspiritual life as “family centered” people.

      First came the trauma of my wife getting pregnant in the first few months of marriage. OMG. The shame and guilt my wife endured! My wife was asked “Is this a mistake? or was this planned?” The accusation against us was that we planned to have a child in order to avoid working hard for the upcoming conferences and activities.

      Then came the trauma of naming our children. We were already conditioned to get the approval for our life decisions from our shepherds, so we felt we had to get their approval.

      Then came the trauma of keeping up meeting attendance while somehow trying to build a family.

      Then came the trauma of the guilt-trip placed on us by one family who suddenly decided to “pioneer” another country as missionaries. I stupidly saw this as a chance to rejuvenate our glorious status as a mission-centered house church, so I convinced my wife to sell our house.

      Anyway, you get the idea. I suspect there are many reading this who can relate. Please share your story, won’t you?

    • Joe Schafer

      Charles, I believe your comment is very insightful.

      You wrote: “…this leadership focus and training is in many disingenuous and suffers from the lack of community focused building.”

      In ubf, I was taught to aspire to be a leader. Someone who has passion and conviction and discipline who can influence other people and moves them toward certain goals.

      But there was little or no understanding of community, of emotional health, of wholeness in interpersonal relationships, of honesty and decency, of friendship, and so on. Everyone just assumed that, if you dedicated yourself to Bible study and disciplemaking and ministry building etc. then everything else would naturally fall into place.

      Bad assumption.

      This system produces people who obsessively need to depict themselves as leaders, but who lack the character and understanding and relational skills and compelling vision that are necessary to lead.

      The result: Proliferation of tiny campus ministries and house churches that have little chance of growing. Hundreds of people who fancy themselves as leaders, with very disciples following them.

  6. “…the trauma of my wife getting pregnant in the first few months of marriage. OMG. The shame and guilt my wife endured! My wife was asked “Is this a mistake? or was this planned?” The accusation against us was that we planned to have a child in order to avoid working hard for the upcoming conferences and activities.” – See more at:

    I think Chris shared links to one newly wed woman in a ubf chapter in Korea who was told by the chapter director’s wife to have ABORTIONS TWICE because she should not let having a baby hinder her and her family from serving campus students after her marriage. And she did.

    I was told that having abortions in Korea (and likely other Asian countries as well) is “no big deal.” So even after becoming a Christian, having an abortion is “like nothing serious.” I can understand how culture affects our perspective.

    Such sins (asking a Christian to have an abortion) are forgivable. But what is much harder to digest is the refusal to publicly acknowledge that this is absolutely wrong, even after acknowledging that it is indeed unbiblical for any Christian to have an abortion.

    Forgiving the sins of certain leaders should be so for any and every Christian, which I believe many have already done. But if leaders refuse to acknowledge sin and wrongdoing out of pride, ego, honor and saving face, then it is quite disheartening and causes much disillusionment and discouragement for many.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, the continued refusal by ministry leaders to publicly acknowledge any sin or wrongdoing in ubf was very discouraging and disillusioning.

      Yet these same leaders have no qualms preaching about the sins of everyone on the outside. Here’s a creepy paragraph from a Chicago message on the Ten Commandments given last year.

      Sixth, “you shall not murder” (13). This commandment teaches us the sanctity of human life. Human life is valuable, for it is made in the image of God. Murder is motivated by hatred, anger, jealousy, and even immorality. Abortion is murder. This convicts our nation, as more than 40 million babies have been aborted since 1972.

  7. This makes me sick to my stomach. I am so sad that UBF refuses to confess the sins of it’s past.

  8. God gives grace to the humble.

  9. bekamartin

    I just looked at the timetable again for this “experiment”/ training. I realized that I was only a 2 year sheep when I was married by faith, so I wasn’t yet “done with my training.” Maybe that is why I never really behaved and acted like a UBF person, and why I was looked down upon. Hahahahahaha!!!!!!!!

    • forestsfailyou

      Sometimes if they observe you “growing” or they suddenly need someone for something they will skip you up a few levels.

    • Correct, forests and Beka. I tried to explain this further in my book, but the six stages became tools in the ubf Korean missionary’s training belt. He is free to adjust the training schedule as needed, usually according to the person’s degree of independent thinking. Displaying loyalty to the ubf authority or adopting the ubf worldview quickly makes things go better for you in the ubf system.

      As I’ve said before, this arranged marriage is the crown jewel and holy grail of the ubf system. As long as one partner has been trained sufficiently, it is seen as not necessary for the other partner to be fully trained. Sometimes the age of the couple causes the schedule to be adjusted.

      What happens then, when one person of the couple is “trained”, that person becomes the controlling factor. The ubf director will talk to the trained person only in regard to important matters. Regardless of the training however, the ubf director always has a favorite in the couple and will exert his will on the couple through whichever partner is deemed “strong and faithful and spiritual”. In that way the director becomes the third person in your marriage. One of the partners then becomes a “spiritual director”.

      Rebekah Kim mentions this in her tear-stained letter. Her letter is part of my inspiration for writing my books. Here is a quote where she begins to see trouble in her marriage and learns about the hidden spiritual director idea that is well known among ubf leaders:

      “M. James K. did anything and everything he could to earn money to support our family. He worked as a waiter, a janitor, a door-to-door salesman, etc. Meanwhile, our student ministry in Toledo was growing. It was the first American college student ministry in the history of UBF. In the winter of 1977, we held the first American UBF college students’ conference in Toledo. I cooked for three days for 30-40 attendants. At the time, I was four-month’ pregnant with my first child.

      After the conference, I was so tired that I felt as if I was going to lose the baby. But I was uneasy and could not rest because of what I had seen and heard days before the conference. In a Toledo Center living room, I had seen M. Samuel Lee looking at a female missionary, and calling her a “hidden spiritual director” with a smile on his face. The missionary smiled shyly in response. “What does ‘hidden spiritual director’ mean?” I wondered.

      This incident signified that M. Samuel Lee had a blueprint for the future of the Toledo ministry. Though I didn’t know what the plans were at the time, the ministry was slowly being fashioned according to his design.

      The “hidden spiritual director” turned out to be an active informant who functioned as Samuel Lee’s leash on M. James K.. I had to be ostracized.”

  10. So what happens after the six stages of ubf training? Well one answer is this: You can engage in godfather-like power struggles and join in the worldwide network of manipulation and deception that goes on behind the scenes at ubf conferences.

    The Christian parts of ubf are just a cover up, a mask for power mongers like PH and PC to build up a network of power and control and money and assets. The missionary work, for some ubf leaders, is just a facade.

    And yes I know this because I was invited to join this business mission network. I was offered a $20,000 limit Visa card, ubf insurance and an instant PhD level published paper on the topic of my choice. All I had to do was sit quietly in Detroit and report my numbers, even if those bible study numbers were with stuffed animals.

    I could have joined in this network and lived a good life. But I refused. And that is the story behind the story that sparked my leaving.

  11. So if you think I’ve been on a “holy war” campaign the last three years, you haven’t seen anything yet. As I write my third book, the fury invoked in me during Easter 2011 is coming back…

  12. bekamartin

    Wow! I’m speechless! Thank God he opened our eyes and helped us out! Things are starting to make sense now, all those years of unsettling responses to my growth in Christ and strangeness.

    • There is another twist here. What I speak about is what typically happens on the men’s side of the training. How the women in ubf are trained is a mystery to me, since we were kept apart absolutely. All I know is that the women at ubf cooked for us men and appeared to follow roughly the same training as us.

      We would really benefit from a women’s perspective here! Isabelle’s book was very helpful in that regard.