The Six Stage UBF Training Model


[This is a direct quote form my second book about my journey of recovery from ubf, “Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives” and further describes the ubf training model.]

The most important aspect everyone needs to understand about UBF ministry is the six-stage training process. When I joined in 1987, no one had ever documented such a thing. But as I look back, I can clearly see all six stages. Everyone’s experience is different. Yet all UBF people should readily recognize these six stages. The following slide describes the UBF training model, and has been shared publicly by UBF from their 2010 Fishing and Outreach Director’s Conference. This is the most accurate depiction of my 24 years at UBF I’ve ever seen.

It’s no surprise that the stages are presented in a circular pattern because every time the process fails, UBF missionaries just start all over with a new person. As I progressed through each of the six training stages, I had hoped to find the goodness UBF bible teachers promised. Instead, I found goodness re-defined. UBF became my “good”. And not only did I pass through all six stages of training, I then attempted to train other students in the UBF ways as a UBF shepherd.

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.

[Appendix D is added here for clarity]

Sheep Training (up to 5 years)

Stage 1: Birthing (1 to 9 months)

Goal – commit to bible study

Starts after first bible study

Stage 2: Rooting (1 to 2 years)

Goal – adopt the UBF worldview

Starts after Sunday service attendance

Stage 3: Growing (1 to 2 years)

Goal – pursue more training

Starts after sharing Life Testimony

Shepherd Training (2 to 4 years)

Stage 4: Disciple Training (about 1 year)

Goal – identity as “Shepherd X”

Starts after joining common life

Stage 5: Soldier Training (1 to 2 years)

Goal – obedience to UBF authorities

Starts after college graduation

Stage 6: Leader Training (about 1 year)

Goal – loyalty for life

Starts after Marriage by Faith

Stage 1, the “birthing” stage, is often rather enjoyable. This stage begins with a chance meeting on campus with a college student. It is important to note that in the UBF heritage, the person must be a college student to be considered for the six-stage training. Other non-college people may hang around UBF chapters for a while, but will likely be seen as a distraction to the UBF world campus mission.

The random invitation to bible study on campus between a UBF bible teacher and a new student is seen as a divine birth-moment. The person who invited the student becomes the personal, life-long moral supervisor for the student, who is now referred to as his or her “sheep”. This process is called “fishing for men on campus” and is the pivotal moment that will be used year after year to convince the student that their old life was bad and their new UBF life is blessed and good. I was already a Christian before my “birth-moment” but this did not matter to UBF shepherds. They see any pre-UBF life in a mostly-negative, unblessed light. This enhances the perspective that the student’s new life at UBF is good and blessed.

In this first stage, the training amounts to a once a week bible study with a self-appointed, personal shepherd. Much emphasis is placed on finding a new life and new relationships through bible study. Because the bible is the focus of this new UBF life, some actual transformation caused by the Christian faith will normally also be taking place at the same time the UBF training occurs. This dual nature of UBF training and Christian faith awakening makes for an extremely complex entanglement. How can you discern what good came from UBF training and what good came from faith in God? Over time, this line becomes so blurred that UBF becomes equal to God in your mind.

Any student who is “birthed” into UBF bible study is carefully watched. UBF shepherds look to see if there is any interest in bible study and will pursue a new student aggressively. The acceptance of UBF bible study (called one-to-one study) is seen as some divine intervention and a sign for the UBF bible teacher to initiate invitations to more meetings and activities. During this first stage, the student is offered much good food and flattered with many good words. Often this stage has many fun activities, such as playing soccer or basketball. All this is done as every event in the student’s life is given proof-texted value from the bible.

The goal of stage 1 is to birth a committed bible student. The primary sign that a committed bible student has been “raised” is Sunday service attendance. When a student regularly attends both weekly bible study and Sunday service, the student is now deemed “faithful” and has been birthed. UBF shepherds often refer to real birth, quoting fertility rates and making analogies to birthing pains and motherhood, to explain what happens during Stage 1 to get a random college student to become a committed Sunday attendee and bible student. Sometimes this first stage takes several months but rarely will a UBF bible teacher wait longer than a year for such a commitment. If a student has not committed to UBF bible study and Sunday service within a year, the bible teacher normally moves onto find someone else. Some UBF shepherds severely challenge the students after a year passes. They want students to make a clear decision: accept UBF blessing or leave. This is often also framed negatively: If you don’t commit to UBF, you will be cursed. I heard many tall tales of accidents, disease and horrible events that were supposed to happen if someone leaves UBF, which is often called “running away”. In my case, the “running away” was additionally framed as “losing your faith” and “going to hell”.

Stage 2, the “rooting” stage, begins when a new student demonstrates a commitment to UBF bible study and Sunday services regularly. Stage 2 can last between one and two years normally. When a student is found to be committed to UBF, the flattery and praise the student experienced in Stage 1 slowly disappears. Now the UBF bible teacher begins to insist on the student’s attendance at other meetings, such as a weekly testimony sharing meeting and often several other meetings held throughout the week. During this “rooting” students are pressured to take on additional duties and roles at their UBF chapter. One of the famous roles is bathroom cleaning servant. Many other kinds of servant roles are made up, such as parking lot servant, Sunday report servant and morning prayer servant. The students are taught the supreme UBF values of loyalty, sacrifice, service and obedience in this stage.

During the rooting stage, students are typically also taught to forget about their pre-UBF friends and family members, who may be “bad company” for their new life. Because the Stage 1 flattery taught the student that UBF has blessings for them, and new genuine spiritual awakening may also be taking place, the student is more open to attending the new meetings and adopting the UBF worldview.

This second stage is where intense personal interest is shown by the UBF members. The goal of Stage 2 is to produce a sheep who understands and adopts the UBF view of life. UBF shepherds understand that Stage 2 often takes several years, so they are patient and oscillate between periods of high-demand pressure and low-demand, cooling off periods. A student will be pushed as far as they can take, and then the shepherd will back off. And then later the pressure will start again. The student thinks they are taking root in the bible, but the reality is that UBF ideologies are also taking root in the student. Almost every detail of the student’s life becomes known through the weekly sharing. The students’ family situation, job situation, hobbies, interests, girlfriends/boyfriends, sins, talents—everything is asked about by inquisitive UBF members. All of this information is fed back to the chapter director and the student’s personal shepherd by means of prayer topics, which are always written down and often compiled electronically. As a side note, one story I love to tell is that I was the first UBF shepherd in my chapter to compile my weekly bible studies entirely on a computer. More than one Korean UBF missionary told me this was an unspiritual way to answer bible study question sheets. They said that Satan was ready to “sift me as wheat” because I did not sacrifice my time to prepare my notes by hand.

The rooting stage normally culminates in the sharing of what UBF calls a “life testimony”. This is a special kind of testimony shared at a weekend retreat or other gathering of many UBF people. Those who do not share such a testimony are not called shepherds and are not permitted to proceed on in the UBF training. Typically the life testimony is a binary format, with titles such as “From a lazy, no-good sinner to a faithful, fruitful shepherd!”. The main requirement is a bold declaration that the person wants to become a UBF shepherd. A stark contrast is drawn between the student’s former, non-UBF life and the student’s new, blessed, UBF life. Often the goal here is to break down a student’s defenses, requiring them to stay up all night or to get up very early in the morning, so that the teachings of the UBF shepherd can be instilled into the person’s life testimony. Portions of the life testimony are routinely re-written or dictated by the UBF shepherd or chapter director.

In addition, the bible’s Old Testament teachings are usually heavily emphasized during these first three stages, so much so that the “obedience equals blessing and disobedience equals curse” is deeply ingrained in the student’s thinking. One main problem that arises is that no distinction is made between God and UBF.

Stage 3, called “growing” is the most vague to me, as it seems the only purpose is to convince the new bible student (“sheep”) that it is necessary and good for them to continue growing and accept more UBF training as a “shepherd”. The word “growing” is used a lot during this period. Are you growing? Why are you not growing? When are you going to grow? The word is vague and thus allows room for some unusual and confusing experiences. This “growing” stage can be volatile as you start to be invited to more and more behind-the-scenes meetings. I noticed the more committed I was perceived to be, the more gossip and information would be shared with me. During this stage, I often was the first person to a meeting and the last person to leave. I wanted to know for myself what was going on.

One common trait of Stage 3 training, for “growing sheep” or sometimes “shepherd candidates”, is something called common life. Sheep are asked to move into a house or apartment with other UBF sheep and shepherds (if the student has not moved into common life by now), all of whom are “growing” in different stages of UBF training. Often the chapter director will gather similarly-ranked sheep into groups. One such group I was in was called “The Rocky’s of Faith”. Another group of young women was called “Mary’s of Faith”. All sheep and shepherds are ranked and tracked by the Korean chapter director.

Stage 4, called “disciple training” is where the real training starts. This is the beginning of shepherd life, to use a UBF phrase. [Stage 4 often begins after a sheep begins common life, but sometimes begins right away after the retreat or conference where a person had shared his or her life testimony.] This stage is normally when a person notices the vicious UBF rumor mill, which was most likely hidden from them during the “sheep” training years.

During stage 4, the student’s UBF shepherd will continue to spend much time with the student. Daily meetings are typical of this stage. Weekly trips to the local college campus associated with the UBF chapter will become mandatory. I saw much heartache in my friends during this state. One of my friends couldn’t take the intrusiveness of his shepherd. So one night he packed up his bags and climbed out the window at night. He just disappeared, never to be heard from again. This stage lasts usually about one or two years and is very intense. Much is demanded from the student at this point because he is a “UBF Shepherd” and expected to set the example.

One of the things that kept me going during stage 4 training was the thought that I would graduate, get a job and move on with my life. But always the question was posed during this time: Will you serve God for the rest of your life? At this point UBF=God, so I spent many nights in anguish, thinking I was engaging in a holy fight like Jacob who wrestled with God.

Stage 5 is called “Soldier Training”. Typically, Stage 5 begins soon after graduating from college. Sometimes, the first 3 stages of “Sheep Training” take all the time of the student’s college years, however. UBF shepherds really want a student “sheep” to become a UBF shepherd during college years. This is a rare occurrence in my observation. So college graduation becomes an intense time of coaxing a “shepherd declaration” from a student, if the training has progressed too slowly. If the first four stages progress as planned however, the new college graduate is ready for Soldier Training.

Stage 5 is marked by all kinds of made up training, at the discretion of the shepherd. A common training is called marriage training (although a marriage “problem” can result in training at any stage). The strict “no dating” policy is made clear at this point. UBF leaders know that they risk losing a student who graduates. So sometimes UBF offers a “staff internship” or other “full-time shepherd” position in Stage 5. This is normally not a paid position but sometimes is paid from UBF offering money. The goal of the UBF chapter director at this point is to keep the student in his own chapter at all costs. The exception is if the student is too independent and stubborn then the chapter director will allow the student to move to another UBF chapter, but usually only if there is some commitment to a marriage-by-faith arrangement. Stage 5 is similar to Stage 4, but more intense. I would call “soldier training” to be “disciple training” on steroids.

My “soldier training” consisted of a plethora of meetings, early in the morning and late at night, conference leadership preparation roles, and doing various duties for the the chapter director. I became an “offering servant”, “Sunday attendance servant” and “cleaning servant”. The pressure in stage 5 is extremely high to go to your local campus and recruit new bible students (called fishing). This involves weekly reporting of your fishing results. During all this you have no time to date, and wonder how you will be married. So after being broken down, you allow your shepherd to choose your wife (called co-worker in UBF). In my first book I shared how I beat this arranged marriage system to marry the woman I wanted.

The culmination of Soldier Training (Stage 5) is a successful arranged marriage, called “marriage by faith” in UBF terminology. Any real leadership position or missionary-sending work is done by married men. Rarely does UBF allow single adults or women to hold significant leadership positions with any kind of decision-making authority.

Stage 6, “Leader Training” begins after “marriage by faith” and is marked by slogans such as “learn a father-like heart”. At this point all flattery is gone. Severe criticism and harsh rebukes are commonplace. UBF missionaries often seem to forget that the shepherd is married and is building his own family at this point. One of my friends got a phone call the day after their first honeymoon night to come to the UBF center for some kind of meeting. After my own marriage, I was asked to sleep at the UBF bible center in order to set a good example to unmarried brothers who were “cleaning servants”. I was supposed to demonstrate that I was not a family-centered man but was a mission-centered man. I refused and slept with my wife at home instead.

What options exist after Stage 6? Not much is documented after Stage 6 of the UBF training. I passed through all six stages and can share what I experienced. In some sense, married couples in UBF are slowly forgotten, their needs marginalized and their loyalty and participation assumed. At this point, you are spending 40 to 60 hours per week with UBF activities and trying to build a family while keeping a full-time job.

One option after Stage 6 is to become and official UBF member. I was shocked to discover that after 20 years of UBF devotion, I was not actually a member! UBF has a set of corporate by-laws, with official offices of President, Treasurer, etc. Such by-laws provide for the establishment of a council with nominated members who can vote on various topics. I believe all this is for show however. Real decisions in UBF are made by Korean missionaries. But in order to retain membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), which the Chicago UBF chapter joined in 2007, UBF maintains a council of official members. At no time during the 24 years I committed to UBF was I asked to be a “member” at this council. So the qualifications to be a council member are vague and likely subjective. Perhaps I was deemed too rebellious, independent, or not loyal enough.


In summary, the UBF training system can be explained by the six stages: birthing, growing, rooting, disciple training, soldier training and leader training.

Because about 2,000 UBF Korean missionaries have gone to over 180 countries the past 50 years, there are many thousands of stories to tell about the training methods of UBF. And thus there are many variations to the training. However I have found that the six stages I describe are strikingly common among UBF chapters around the world.

Transitions between the stages occur when a college student attend Sunday services, shares his/her life testimony, moves into a common life house, graduates from college and accepts the arranged marriage process. The training ends there, as you are then expected to be eternally loyal as a supposed world-class UBF leader. I found that I was only “world-class” in one thing: in my ability to sit on a folding chair and listen to the same regurgitated messages year after year.


  1. Thanks, Brian, this is rather long and painful to read… The common key word of the stages is TRAINING, which, in my opinion, is a very sad and unfortunate key word and central thought and insistence in the UBF life and paradigm.

    According to the leader’s preference, which is often arbitrary and sometimes illogical and whimsical, people under him or her absolutely NEED “all kinds of training,” which NEVER ENDS as long as you have someone senior over you.

    Perhaps the numbers are closer to 1,500 missionaries to 80 countries, which was so some years ago. I may be wrong but I don’t think this has increased significantly in recent years, because fewer and fewer missionaries from Korea are going out each year.

    • “Perhaps the numbers are closer to 1,500 missionaries to 80 countries, which was so some years ago.”

      It is difficult to know. I read about that 1,500 number, and later a 3,000 number. The reality is that no one outside the ubf top echelon will know for sure, especially if the numbers dropped.

      The public claim is over 9,000 average Sunday attendants.

    • And the other difficulty with ubf numbers is how to count those Koreans who were officially excommunicated in 2000? What about those who were sent out and then left or resigned?

  2. Joe Schafer

    Some readers might object to Brian’s article, saying that these six stages of training are a caricature. They might say, “Most of the people in UBF whom I know haven’t followed this plan.

    Based on my observations of North Americsn ubf over three decades, I would say this:

    Yes, the number of people who have actually gone through these stages and remained in ubf is very small. Out of necessity, almost everyone deviates from this game plan. Then the missionaries see the person as problematic; they say that he or she has “become difficult.” They will probably still let the person hang around to keep their fellowship’s numbers up, but they no longer have aspirations for that person to grow as a leader and start to put their hope in someone else.

    • Joe Schafer

      And, out of necessity, many of the smaller local ubf chapters have abandoned many aspects of this training because in the North American context it’s culturally implausible.

    • “Yes, the number of people who have actually gone through these stages and remained in ubf is very small.”

      Good point Joe and I agree. The “training plan” is not very sophisticated and as Ben pointed out, is highly subjective by the shepherds. The big problem for ubf trainers is that the trainees keep messing things up.

      One Korean missionary told me the other week that “we don’t have any training plan, but we should adopt one.” That is true in the sense that there is no official documented training program at ubf. But this is also misleading because the six turning points or measurements of spiritual growth are almost universally applied in ubfland:

      1) accept 1:1 bible study, 2) attend Sunday services, 3) share his/her life testimony, 4) move into a common life house, 5) graduate from college and 6) accept the arranged marriage process.

      Regardless, here is the gift ubf leaders have given me: Because ubf leaders have remained silent all these years and refused to document their training, claiming to be spiritual mature servants of God, someone else gets to define their teaching. Someone like me.

    • I can confirm that I have gone through exactly these stages in this order. The Korean missionaries have to go through two more stages, 6) go through missionary trainign and 7) be sent out to a foreign country (similarly to MbF, it is usually the shepherd who decides to which country a person is sent).

      Note that the “missionary training” here is very different from any ordinary missionary training. It doesn’t prepare people for mission, you don’t learn missiology, counseling, foreign language and culture or anything like that. You just have to write and share UBF style sogams and show absolute obedience for a course of several weeks or months. Actually the same program as usual UBF training, only on a more intense level.

    • Good point, but these are definitely the unwritten rules, and by this I mean, they are the main concerns of missionaries for growing students, like a checklist, and all in order. Come to Bible study, come faithfully, come to sws, come faithfully, writing testimonies, sharing them in the conference (“so people can know who they are”), serving messages at conferences, leading 1:1’s, marrying by faith, but even then, it’s only the beginning. I did it all and still have not gained what I would consider “real” respect from others. Then comes participating in local and regional and staff conferences and so on. There is a real and “only one way” kind of progression everyone is afraid to abandon, though in most cases at one point or another it is abandoned, and then the growing believer is labeled . . .

  3. The bottom line is this: ubf will create any and all kind of training events to instill the 12 point ubf heritage slogans in college students.

  4. MJ Peace

    I’m glad I made it only up to step 5. I lucked out of step 6. I don’t have a positive opinion of marriage by faith, although my parents’ example is beautiful and I am a product of it (and many other commentors on this site have their own wonderful MBF’s.) I think there was a time for MBF, but not for me. I’m a “sentimental romantic” and actually want to marry someone I know and is my friend before the wedding. Also, I rather be married to someone who wants to marry me, instead of someone who has to wait for the direction of his Bible Teacher, but hey, that’s just me.

    I’m sill in UBF, but I’m not going through the sheep/shepherd training. And I think that’s why people think WL is a rogue chapter and not “truly” UBF. It’s an interesting comment, I hear all the time. West Loop is not UBF. Dr. Ben is not in UBF. Does UBF have something that the gospel does not? Does UBF add extra stipulations for a believer, because I’m pretty sure Galations has something to say about that.

    • Well-said MJ. We need more people like you to stay at ubf. And we need more redeemed ubf chapters at ubf who, like WL, reject the training methods and heritage slogans. Unfortunately, such things require far too much fight, pain and trouble for most people.

      At some point, probably in 2015 when a new general director is selected by the ubf echelon, that same ubf echelon will need to make some decisions regarding the redeemed, Christian chapters like WL. Because in reality the only reason WL is still a recognized ubf chapter is because of the fight and suffering taken on by Ben and a few others.

  5. MJ,

    “I think there was a time for MBF”

    No, there was never a time for MBF, at least in America. My wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last week. It was the first actual date trip we’ve ever had.

  6. I thought about this recently, the 6-stage training model. About 10 years ago, one of our shepherds (since departed) discovered a few blurbs that Dr. SL learned the “one to one” model from the Navigators, a ministry that thrived for a time and doesn’t make much news now.

    Well my old friend found a small handbook for leading 1 to 1 studies made by Navigators. If I can find a copy, I will try to share their “4 step” plan which was actually quite good.

    step one was like laying a foundation in a house, ie, laying a foundation in Christ. Compare to step one in UBF being “join Bible study”–a performative behavior, where the former is a decision of faith.

    step two was being rooted in the faith, ie, developing a godly walk. This seems to be where the 6 steps plan noted above gets really stuck in the mud.

    The third step was learning to share one’s faith, and the fourth was actually participating in discipleship ministry. If I recall correctly.

    The most jarring thing is, the six-step method mentioned here is entirely focused on the believer’s relationship with the UBF Church. The center is one’s commitment to UBF and NOT CHRIST. This seems to explain a number of “peculiar phenomena” I have seen and heard from others (being nice here, bear with me). The second most jarring thing (and the most unpopular theme people hear from me in my ministry) is that the outward action of sharing the gospel and raising disciples of all nation comes *at the end* after a person has a strong foundation in Christ and a genuine walk of faith. To often our ministry has it backwards–participate, commit, you will see fruit (and you don’t in most cases) and in the process you will eventually see Jesus and find out this is the right way.

    That being said, If I can find that handbook I will try to scan the diagram. It’s quite beautiful and really shows a reasonable path that Scripture attests to.

    *Side note* As I was driving home this afternoon these thoughts finally came together. In fact, it seems that I have inside me a well thought out presentation of the problems that UBF needs to face to preserve its credibility/integrity as a gospel organization. It’s too extensive for me to even think about all at once, and needs to be developed and perhaps written out to share. Why haven’t I developed it yet? Perhaps because of chronic busy-ness, which is quite frankly a convenient excuse for many (my family is guilty of this) to avoid the actual issues.

    • Matt,

      “About 10 years ago, one of our shepherds (since departed) discovered a few blurbs that Dr. SL learned the “one to one” model from the Navigators, a ministry that thrived for a time and doesn’t make much news now.”

      Yes several parts of ubf were copied from other student movements, including the Daily Bread format (which up until recent years had been plagirized from Scripture Union. Those drawings about praying, etc. are a direct copy from the older material:

      Daily Bread from Scripture Union

      Sample Daily Bread (check out page 3)

      In regard to Navigator’s, maybe you are referring to their “Discipleship Wheel” diagram?

      Imitating other ministries is not a problem for me. Imitating other ministries and then claiming you are the unique, elite inventors of such things is a big problem.

      ubf would fare much better if the let all the official/church/denomination/seminary talk just die off. Instead of creating those things, ubf would be far healthier if they would take the Navigator’s path and focus on being a Christian network with a small number of specific, well-documented, publicly available training sessions.

    • Oh and remember that “561 American campus” prayer topic? That was not invented by ubf either. Somewhere we already discussed this we some old links…

      Basically there is very little in the ubf heritage that is uniquely created by SL or SB. Take parts of the Student Volunteer Movement, the Navigators, Scripture Union and InterVarsity, add in a heavy does of Korean culture and Christianized-Confucianism, drop in a large portion of absolute authority, mix in significant amounts of weird, made up training exercises, top it off with fundamentalist Christianity and there you have the ubf cocktail. This cocktail is sweet at first, but watch out for that bitter aftertaste.

    • Wow, I can’t believe there are so many responses still. Anyhow, my source is the “Navigator Spiritual Growth Series”, the title of the booklet is “The Nuts and Bolts of One-to-One Discipling,” by Tom Yeakley. This was obtained when the “shepherds” in our ministry could all see the beauty of actually helping other people grow in their faith in Christ. It’s a nice booklet!

      Brian, you’re probly right. I think I collapsed two diagrams in my mind. the process of making disciples is 1) Evangelizing, 2) Establishing, 3) Equipping and 4)Sending. It’s very much in line with Robert Coleman’s Master Plan books.

      The Wheel is another diagram, The Obedient Christian in Action, Witnessing, Fellowship, The Word and Prayer are the 4 spokes of the wheel, and the center is CHRIST. That’s my favorite part.

      Follow up is a Building. The foundation is JESUS (1Cor 3:11), the walls are doctrine and ministry, the roof is character, and the top is Romans 15:14. Anyhow, the clear emphasis is building our life and ministry on Christ, something the 1 Timothy leadership conference helped me see (it was good for the most part), but which we, in UBF, often confuddle with other issues.

      The structure really is sound, but I feel we very often make a replica (since sheep cannot think for themselves?) to substitute and people often stop thinking and are satisfied by being in the process and having the approval of their shepherds.

  7. MattC, I can’t wait to read what you will write! This indictment, which seems obvious, yet oblivious to some/many, is most troubling and certainly needs to be most seriously addressed: “The center is one’s commitment to UBF and NOT CHRIST.” – See more at:

    • MJ Peace

      I also can’t wait to hear what you write MattC! Were you at the staff conference?

    • No, I declined. And you could hear the crickets chirping.

    • No I declined. In my funny mind, I imagine the crickets chirping. No one really asked me about that. However, I have been keeping my wife posted as to the reasons I am not that interested in taking more steps as a leader in UBF. Of course, part of it was shamefully “pragmatist,” my wife is super busy with study and not much time to help my two kids.

  8. Matt, perhaps ubf could learn from the Navigators one to one newsletter? ubf would be much healthier I think if they would actually imitate some of these other ministries more closely…

    Jim Downing is 100 years old (if he is still alive) and has been doing one to one since 1933.

  9. Joe Schafer

    As Brian’s links show, Navigators was started by men who served in the military. Their language and approach to discipleship drew heavily on military metaphors. Add to this the heavy militarization of South Korea in the post-war years. This explains a great deal of the military-style culture of ubf.

    • Yes the military layer… yet another oddity mixed into the ubf bag. I often forget about that one because I managed to avoid that, other than of course my KOPAHN theology was heavily influenced by the “holy soldier” mentality. Dressing up in army uniforms was not my cup of tea…those Koreans who did that freaked me out. One American in our chapter (now in Chicago) used to wear army fatigues during conference time.

    • Joe Schafer

      On a “Korean journey” he wore those army fatigues in Seoul and almost got arrested. Apparently it’s illegal to wear an army uniform in Korea, unless you are actually in the army.

    • Christy remembers this!

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      According to this report, even marriage is a tool to advance the military campaign.
      I was saddened that there were not any requests for prayers and blessings on the couple as a family, but only to be good soldiers.

    • Thanks for sharing that link Charles. That report is proof of all that I’ve been saying about the ubf KOPAHN theology. I found that I don’t need to mock ubf or make up anything; I just need to share ubf’s own material with people.

      This quote is a huge red flag, and explains why ubf has earned the cult label. People are not treated as human beings at ubf, but as inanimate products that exist solely for propagating the ubf heritage…

      “May God have mercy on Kiev UBF to repent our complacency and to stand firm as a missionary sending center through serving the discipleship ministry well all the more!”

    • Joe Schafer

      “May God have mercy on Kiev UBF to repent…” Something on with which I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Well yes I would say a hearty Amen to that truncated statement!

    • Joe Schafer

      The extreme dedication and sacrifice of hardline ubf chapters (like Kiev) doesn’t necessarily come from love for God. It is a kind of twisted passion for sacrifice itself.

      Another quote by Thomas Merton (No Man is an Island):

      “Next comes the temptation to destroy ourselves for love of the other. The only value is love of the other. Self-sacrifice is an absolute value in itself. And the desire of the other is also absolute in itself. No matter what the lover desires, we will give up our life or even our soul to please him. This is the asceticism of Eros, which makes it a point of honor to follow the beloved into hell. For what greater sacrifice could man offer on the altar of love than the sacrifice of his own immortal soul? Heroism in this sacrifice is measured precisely by madness: it is all the greater when it is offered for a more trivial motive.”

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      This is also evident when numbers are down as there are often calls for sacrifice and “challenge.” The first reaction is usually that people are not sacrificing enough. It’s the people, not the organization or the system, that is wrong and needs to find out where to repent and get away from “civilian affairs.” I don’t mean that people do not need to repent, be challenged, and so on, at the right times. But why is this usually the first call when numbers are down? I don’t see it coming from love at all. And to be fair, the Kiev report doesn’t mention love at all.

      I desire mercy, not sacrifice — Matthew 12:7, Hosea 6:6

    • Joe Schafer


    • forestsfailyou

      While I was preparing a message on Jesus’ anointing at Bethany the topic arose as to ask the congregation what their “purfume” was. In other words, what is so good that you can give it to Jesus. The man then asked me what the most important thing in my life was, at which point I wondered why I was asked such a thing, I paused and he said “is it a relationship or your marriage” and I laughed at him.

    • MJ Peace

      I know Natasha from Ukraine, who is being sent out to LA as a missionary and when I read the report I too was saddened. I don’t understand why there has to be so much UBF jargon like “faithful shepherdess” or “missionary sending center” or “serving discipleship ministry.” Maybe there is a language barrier? Most articles on are like that, though, and no one even knows what those terms mean specifically. Why can’t we just be honest and say she is going to get married, live her life in the states and we wish her all the best? I really do, she is a close friend of mine and moving to a new country is a big change and so is marrying a foreigner.

    • MJ Peace

      I know Natasha, who is being sent out as a missionary from Ukraine to LA. I also don’t understand why so much UBF jargon has to be used like “faithful shepherdess,” “missionary sending center” and “discipleship ministry.” Why can’t we just say she is going to the states to get married and we wish her all the best?

    • Maybe there is a fascination with the possibility that people can be used so amazingly. I think we all have that hope. At the same time, the level of preparation and training vs the desired fruit are often not the same.

      In language they call the sudden use of two separate terms/ideas interchangeably (and one always falls out of fashion) “flattening” and represents a social, linguistic and cognitive flattening of ideas for expediency. Joe Schafer’s comments are probably spot on.

      The scary part is when people in the “house churches” begin to see themselves in such a light (missionary, shepherd) that those roles take over priority in their lives over their true God-given roles (child of God, husband/wife/father/mother). I often remind people in my “reflections” and messages that God made people (aka child of God) first, then he made the family (Adam and Eve), and then the church grew out of that. We need balance and priority.

      And I do hope they have a lovely life together! I hope we can all enjoy the blessed family God has for us.

    • MJ Peace

      “I often remind people in my “reflections” and messages that God made people (aka child of God) first, then he made the family (Adam and Eve), and then the church grew out of that.”

      It’s a subtle difference, but it has huge implications. It’s like when you are sailing on a boat, if you are at the wrong angle from your destination, you won’t notice it in the beginning, but as time goes on, you will see how far you are.

      I feel like in UBF there were certain faults, like marriage by faith (only for mission), exaggerating numbers of attendants at conference, putting an unnecessary emphasis on ministry related activities over everything else, neglecting families for campus ministry, etc. At the time, they weren’t that big of a deal, but as time goes on those faults grow and get bigger and bigger. And the practices are repeated and exacerbated. It’s like with water, the farther you get from the source, the muddier the water gets. We are depending on methods that worked in the past, but don’t work now and we are just copying and pasting and ignoring the fact that now is a new time with a new generation and a new culture. We have to stop pushing the UBF agenda. It’s really suffocating and it tethers people down.

      My own opinion is that change won’t happen top-down. The culture of the organization has to change. I’m all about grass root movements;). Everybody has to do the best they can to follow the HS in whatever ministry, chapter, church, country they’re in.

    • Hi MJPeace and others, I really like a lot what you and others have recently posted here!

      Just one small statement bothered me: “We are depending on methods that worked in the past.” I have heard similar statements from 2nd and 3rd gen UBF members in the last years and frankly I don’t understand why such statements are made.

      As we know and understand pretty well, the methods of UBF provoke and facilitate spiritual abuse. This was exactly the same in the past, just read the 1976 letter. So these methods never “worked” – at least not when you define “work” as producing a healthy community with mature people and not a cult.

      So if you claim that things “worked” in the past, then it sounds to me as if you either do still not understand the degree of abuse in the past (which was higher than it is today), or you believe that this abuse was somehow tolerable for people in the past (like me), but not for people today. When I hear this from 2nd gens, I feel like mocked. Somehow like you’re saying: It was OK for Samuel Lee in the past to have people pull toenails out as a punishment, because they were silly, immature people who deserved such treatment and needed such training, it “worked” for them, but we in our modern generation do not accept such methods any more. This is nonsense. The treatment was just as abusive in the past as it is today. Even if it happened 2000 years ago, it was still abusive and not acceptable in the church.

    • Joe Schafer

      Hi Chris. Pulling out of toenails is not something I’ve heard of until now. When and where did that happen?

    • Joe Schafer

      ok, I now see it mentioned in the 1976 letter.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      MJ, you said, “Maybe there is a language barrier? Most articles on are like that, though, and no one even knows what those terms mean specifically. Why can’t we just be honest and say she is going to get married, live her life in the states and we wish her all the best? – See more at:

      I can only read that report for what it is. I don’t see it as being dishonest or suffering from a language barrier at all. I believe those words were carefully chosen and intended. I think we can only assume that the report said what it intended to say. That jargon is the measurement of her performance and they wished for continued performance “as a good soldier.” Interestingly, last Sunday she shared her life key verse in LA from that passage and prayed to be a good soldier.

  10. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    I recently read an article about the marks of a healthy parachurch mininstry (I don’t believe UBF has been a parachurch for decades, but I’ve heard the association made). Here’s a link to the article.

    One comment in the article reminded me of the article here on ubfriends on training, particularly the mention of missionary organizations becoming gyms:

    “The standard cliché for parachurch is that it’s not the church, but an arm of the church. Yet historically, that arm has shown a tendency to develop a mind of its own and crawl away from the body, which creates a mess. Given the grand scope and size of many parachurch ministries, those which go wayward can propagate error for years: missionary organizations become gyms, heretical seminaries pump out heretical pastors, and service organizations produce long-term confusion between the gospel and social action.”

    • That’s a great article Charles, thanks. This point stood out to me:

      “Mark 3: A healthy parachurch ministry avoids acting like the church. If a parachurch organization confuses the boundaries of church and parachurch it will begin to practice things best left to the church. When parachurch ministries begin to act like the church they often allow people involved in their ministries to substitute parachurch involvement for church involvement, which is an unhealthy exchange.”

      Many of the unhealthy and abusive aspects of many ubf chapters is a result of their intentional blurring of boundaries.

  11. Speaking of soldier training….

    “We are not regular ordinary civilians since we were bought by the blood of Jesus and became born again. We are disciples of Jesus. We are blessed to grow in Jesus and serve Him and His Kingdom. So we do not live like other regular civilians. How do other regular civilians live? Their first priority is family oriented life or their jobs or anything else they like to do in this world. But, the priority of Jesus’ disciples is to please our commanding officer, Jesus. So we focus on growing in the words of God and teaching his sheep and raising them up as his disciples. It is easy to say this, but this requires a lot of work and focus. If we do not focus on this, we are very distracted by so many things in this world, and at the end we can not see good results. We can not raise up even one disciple. We are living in very distracting generation with such as all kinds of media such as endless news daily through the internet. So we can waste our precious time at least a few hours per day easily watching over those things on the internet.”

    July 2014 blog article from a long-time ubf Korean missionary

    The red flags in this lecture are so many and so horrendous that I would just have to mark the entire lecture as a classic example of what I mean by the evangelicalism mixed in with the Christianized-Confucianism.

    • Maybe our problem is that we don’t have “true love”….

      “Also, we should have a right attitude. For example, one person said “See other missionaries, they don’t go fishing, they don’t raise any disciples, so what is a problem for me not to raise up even one disciple. This kind of attitude is not graceful. We must have a right attitude and live before God and live on this words. When we see other missionaries not being able to raise up disciples, we should think in a right attitude by making a decision to work even harder and pray harder in order to take care of my portion and plus other missionaries’ portions. This is true love toward other missionaries.”

    • Ah but SOCCER is OKAY apparently !?!?

      “I have about 15 soccer students. We started our soccer fellowship with them about one year ago.”

      Probably soccer is ok because it is not one of those EVIL sports from America like NBA or MLB or NFL or NHL….

    • Not just SOCCER, *SOCCER FELLOWSHIP* We used to joke a bit, when one of our “growing students” who was 1 of 4 students in our ministry preparing easter messages. The minivan was having a hard time to get situated in a small paralell parking spot, we were all looking around out the windows to help. She said, “This is parking fellowship.”

    • Ah yes, everything must be “fellowship”…. SO glad I got off that crazy train!

  12. Would anyone who has been in UBF for many years ever ask these simple questions?: “I also don’t understand why so much UBF jargon has to be used like “faithful shepherdess,” “missionary sending center” and “discipleship ministry.” Why can’t we just say she is going to the states to get married and we wish her all the best?” – See more at:

    • Joe Schafer

      MJ asks: “Why can’t we just say she is going to the states to get married and we wish her all the best?”

      A cynical but realistic answer: Because UBF wants to count her as a missionary.

      Since the earliest days of UBF, any member who has left his or her own country and gone to another country for any reason has been counted as a missionary.

      That practice started in the 1970s when Korean women received visas to go to West Germany and work as nurses. SL quickly “trained” them and commissioned them as missionaries. Since then, if you went to another country to get married, to study, to work, or for just about any reason (except to run away from UBF), you were counted as a missionary. Whether you actually had the calling or training or ability to do cross-cultural witness was irrelevant. To my knowledge, no reputable missionary-sending organization has such a broad definition of missionary. By any reasonable standard, most of the missionaries sent by ubf should just be called immigrants.

    • Might it be because UBF absolutely needs to link everything UBF does (say marriage) to UBF’s obsession and idolatry with UBF mission and core values in order to validate UBF as well as validate some UBF’s people identity and self worth? (Sorry for this long laborious tedious question that even sounds confounding and infuriating to me!)

    • “Since then, if you went to another country … for just about any reason, you were counted as a missionary.”

      In a similar vein, every journey to another country, even if only for attending a conference, was called a “missionary journey”, equating it with St. Paul’s journeys.

      But there was also a tendendy to reserve the title “missionary” to Koreans only. For instance, my wife who came to Germany from a non-Korean country was not addressed as “missionary” but as “shepherdess” only, while the Koreans who were married to Germans were addressed as “missionaries”.

    • MJ Peace

      Thank you for answering my question, Joe. I agree with your answer and it is something that I have seen in the UBF chapters I have visited around the world. Why is there such a broad definition of missionary? (And not only I ,but another Ukrainian sister from my church. When she visited other UBF chapters in Europe she asked, “why are there no locals?”) Honestly, I don’t want to be sent out as a missionary from UBF. I want to go to a ministry that provides practical education, support and training in cross-cultural witness. Frankly speaking, I think CME is a waste of time. I respect the good intentions, efforts and sacrifice UBF missionaries make, but a little more (useful) training in cross-cultural interaction could save so much time, money, effort and heart break, instead of all the “UBF Bible Studies”. I personally have seen the harm caused by missionaries imposing the UBF agenda instead of the gospel, (as BK always brings up on this site, KOPAHN theology should not replace the gospel.) Once again, not all UBF missionaries are like this. But I am speaking from my own experiences. Other people have had other types of experience. I speak from what I’ve personally seen and heard and lived.

    • forestsfailyou

      To support your claim Joe, all the women from the Philippines that have married Americans have all been counted as missionaries in the recent “God’s work in UBF in 2013”, yet none of them have that title. It seems to easy to point out that you can’t have it both ways. As always there is an unspoken division between “real (Christian/ missionary/ disciple)” and “countable (Christian/ missionary/ disciple)”.

  13. The 20 or so top ubf leaders and chapter directors should consider taking Matthew 23:15 as their key verse for 2015.

    Are not the seven woes Jesus pronounced precisely the summary of ubf leadership problems we’ve been discussing during each “crisis” every 10 years or so?

    Will ubf leadership listen to Jesus’ warnings in Matthew 23:13-39? Or will they continue to keep their arrogant silence and maintain their status as God’s anointed servants in our generation?

    • In case anyone is wondering, Matthew 23:15 is one of the verses that pierced my heart and shined light on my huge blind spot, and led to my shutting down Detroit ubf.

    • Please keep in mind that when I say such things I am echoing voices from the most recent 3 crisis events in ubf history, as well as the mini-crisis events that rocked Toledo UBF every 3 to 4 years.

      In the 1976 crisis I was in 2nd grade :)
      In the 1989 crisis I was a witness to the James Kim events.
      In the 2000 crisis I stood by idly, trying to be neutral.
      In the 2011 crisis I was the main voice of criticism.

    • I am also reminded of Matthew 23:15 often as I heard such determination to go to amazing lengths to reach out to people, while ignoring real issues at home and in the heart.

  14. I came across two things that reminded me of this 6 stage training article.

    1. The ubf mindset seems very similar to the 8 points of Buddhism: The eightfold path of Buddhism

    2. This post from 2003 by someone who left NYubf is spot on: Description of the ubf agenda

    • One of the 8 points of Buddhism is “Say nothing to hurt others.” I wonder if this is true of UBFers in general? (btw-the link does not work.)

  15. Another topic in my 7th book: Why the 6 stage training model developed at ubf is a failure.