Mark Driscoll Removed from Acts 29

Mark_DriscollWhat we can learn from Mark Driscoll’s removal from Acts 29?

The big news in Christendom today. Acts 29, a national church planting group with 500 churches cofounded by Mark Driscoll, has removed Driscoll, the senior pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle and the church from membership, with seven board members urging in a letter that Driscoll “step down” from ministry and “seek help.” The letter is here.

5,000 church members in 8 years. In the mid-1990s, at age 25 Driscoll started a church in his house in Seattle with a dozen people. In 8 years, his church grew to 5,000 members when he was only 33 years old. Today, his network of five local churches boasts 18,000 members. He founded Acts 29, a church planting network that grew to 500 churches, and a Bible seminary. He is said to read one book a day. His sermons are downloaded millions of times by Christians throughout the English speaking world. He has authored many Christian books, including the popular and controversial Real Marriage. He is famous throughout the world with invitations to preach and teach in churches from many countries.

How did Driscoll influence me? Once at a Gospel Coalition conference, I heard Driscoll preach a 40 point sermon. I didn’t like the sermon (it had too many points and I don’t remember what he said!), but I was impressed. Since then, I decided to preach extemporaneously, rather than preach from reading off a typed prepared manuscript, which I did for decades. It was not easy for me to learn new tricks in my 50s. But through Driscoll, Tim Keller and others who preach without notes, I was inspired to give extemporaneous preaching a shot. I guess I can be proud of myself in that I could be regarded as having a “humble learning mind.”

Would Driscoll be a good sheep in UBF? I also thought that if Driscoll, as brilliant, gifted and energetic as he was, was fished by UBF, he likely would have left, since he would not allow himself to be subject to the “discipleship training” of UBF. He is far too creative and fired up to follow some kind of scripted Christian program of being taught the Bible one on one week after week, or going fishing, or early morning daily bread, or weekly prayer meetings and testimony writing, or receive “message training” and the like. So, Driscoll would likely be regarded by UBF as a “very proud and rebellious no-good” sheep because he refuses to receive humbleness training and “just obey.” I don’t think he would “marry by faith” either.

No accountability. What happened to Driscoll? Lord Acton’s famous quote comes to mind: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Countless reports online over the years have accused Driscoll of authoritarian abuse, of centering virtually all power to himself, and surrounding himself with elders who will unconditionally support him and not question his authority, disagree with him, or challenge him. He also removed and dismissed several elders who would not agree with him. As his church and influence grew, so did his refusal to be truly accountable to others, even when he said that he would. My contention has been that every Christian, including every Christian leader regardless of their tenure, status and fruitfulness, absolutely needs to be accountable to others. Driscoll’s removal from Acts 29 reveals that he has refused to be accountable to others. Basically, he has called the shots throughout his ministry, as this short video/audio clip suggests.

The internet is not going away. Even just a few decades ago, Driscoll might have gotten away with his authoritarianism and abuse of his power. But today, with the advent and explosion of cyberspace, almost any news can become a major news story almost instantaneously. Yes, some Christian leaders simply loathe the fact that anyone’s dirty laundry can be aired publicly for all to see and read. Nonetheless, this is the reality that is not going to change until Jesus comes again. I often think that the internet is fulfilling Jesus’ promise that “what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!” (Lk 12:3, NLT)

Regardless of his many inappropriate off-handed comments and authoritarian abuse, I generally like Mark Driscoll’s fire, energy, spirit and passion for Christ and the proclamation of the gospel. Yet, it seems that he allowed his fame, popularity, gifting from God, influence and power to get to his head in some way. Satan is crafty. May God grant him this time to come to Jesus newly and find new life in him.

Thoughts and reflections? Can we apply any of this to UBF?


  1. This news doesn’t cause me any delight. So many high profile Christian leaders have fallen in recent years. Meanwhile, Christians are facing convert or die persecution in several places around the world. When will we learn that Christianity is not about avoiding the fall, but is rather an epic acknowledgment that we are already fallen?

    Since you asked, Ben, here are my reactions to your questions.

    How did Driscoll influence me? Well until a few years ago I had never heard of him, just like I never heard of Piper, Keller or any Christian pastor due to elitism and foolish arrogance. I thought all such pastors were just weak sinners who weren’t really Christians.

    Would Driscoll be a good sheep in UBF? At first, yes I think so. Have we forgotten how the ubf system begins? Driscoll was raised Catholic. He is the oldest child in his family. He has a problematic family history, and his immediate family moved to Seattle to get away from his past. Driscoll himself was a high-achiever, student body president, captain of the baseball team, editor of the school newspaper, and was voted “most likely to succeed” in his graduating class. All these things sound very similar to myself and so many ubf shepherds I knew (and still know though many are no longer at ubf). [I’m just taking the notes here about Driscoll as correct.]

    Driscoll would have been a good candidate for meeting a ubf shepherd on campus: a good kid with a sense of God at a low point in his life due to family issues. A ubf Korean would have seen him as a golden opportunity to pass on the ubf heritage (note: ubf Koreans never want to pass on the heritage to a non-Korean, but they make you think they will one day…over the rainbow…)

    What happened to Driscoll? In my observation: the same thing that happened to the Bakkers and to a long, long line of evangelicals. They got caught up in the OT obedience=blessing ideologies. They sought to obey the Law of God in a better way, believing that Jesus gives us new power to do what no one has ever done: obey the OT Law. Such tinker toy theology is rampant among many parts of Christendom, especially after the Protestant Reformation. When will we learn that Jesus’ gospel is not about reformation but about redemption? When will we accept that the Protest is over?

  2. Joe Schafer

    Ben, I don’t think that Mark Driscoll was a fine humble Christian man and great pastor until fame and popularity went to his head. He has natural talent and charisma. But from the many outrageous things he’s said over the years — not just offhanded private conversation, but in public venues — it seems obvious to me that Driscoll has always had some very unChristlike attitudes and serious character flaws. Those flaws alone don’t necessarily disqualify him from leadership, because all leaders are flawed. What disqualifies him is that, instead of acknowledging those flaws as flaws, he celebrated them as virtues and strengths, and his loyal followers cheered him on. Yes, Driscoll has done some good for some people. But he has also done real harm. While claiming to uphold the gospel, but he has been discrediting the gospel. Kudos to Acts 29 for finally recognizing this and taking decisive action.

    • Joe Schafer

      Rachel Held Evans has a long list of quotes by Mark Driscoll that reveal his ugly ways of thinking. She sums it up this way:

      “Listen up, Church: Misogyny is real. Homophobia is real. And a man this notorious for both, a man this severely disturbed, should not be in a position of leadership in a church. He needs counseling, not a pulpit. He needs discipline, not a megaphone.”

    • Joe Schafer

      And yes, the same should be said of many ubf leaders. I have personally witnessed many things they have said and done that are far worse than Driscoll. They need counseling, not a pulpit.

  3. I have always been turned off by Mark’s crude jokes, demeaning off-hand remarks, etc. At a church I attended last year we did his video series and I witnessed the effect of his ugly charisma firsthand. I watched as the young leaders of the church laughed along and followed his example. This woman’s comments describe what I saw well. “Actually, we attended Mars Hill for almost two years…. it was like Calvary Chapel all over again. Place a man on a pedestal and laude him without questioning the constant begging for money, the demeaning of what is written, crude jokes abound with laughter all around, false humility, entertainment for all who need a break from the week of work, hoping for refuge only to find demands and condemnation for not tithing enough, or being involved in the church enough, or attending services enough. No need to pay at the door for the entertainment of band and jokes by a man on stage, just text your tithe… for it is all about Jesus… all about a cause. Or, the disgusting and lewd remarks, changing scripture to fit his message… such as “A Princess Bride”, making our God to look like a pervert in what was God breathed and written down through the guiding of the Spirit.”

  4. I guess it is “amazing” to me that more often than not God, in his sovereignty, providence and wisdom, uses quite flawed people (Christian leaders) to advance his eternal gospel.

    Despite Driscoll’s quite obviously flawed personhood, God nonetheless used his life, preaching, books and influence to lead many to Christ.

    It is still quite baffling to me that he preaches to 18,000 people each Sun (multi-site), despite countless former leaders and members being badly hurt and wounded by him.

    All of this reminds me of the quote by Henri Nouwen: “Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire builders have been people unable to give and receive love.”

    • btw, I’m not advocating that the ends (thousands coming to Christ) can ever justify the means.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, I believe that Jesus has myriad ways of drawing people to himself. Yes, Mark Driscoll’s ministry has drawn some to Christ. But if Driscoll weren’t there, Jesus would find other ways to reach them. And Driscoll’s ministry has probably driven many people away from the gospel and from church. His offensive attitudes have done significant damage. There is a tipping point where the bad outweighs the good. Acts 29 believes that this tipping point has been reached, and they cannot in good conscience work with him anymore. They have called on him to step away from ministry for an extended period of time and seek counseling. I agree with that position. And I maintain the same position toward many ubf leaders. They ought to step away from ministry for an extended period of time and seek professional help. Year after year, their continued refusal to fess up to the bad things that ubf has done is pathological.

  5. Yeah, Joe, I believe that Acts 29 did the right thing. I also agree that God could have and would have found other ways to reach the people Driscoll did. But the fact remains that God, for reasons known only to Him, used Driscoll to reach the thousands (and hurt and wound thousands) that he did. His impact was indeed great, both for good and evil.

  6. Joe Schafer

    Ben, let me be honest. I find it odd that, whenever a discussion comes up about the bad behavior of religious leaders, your bottom line is usually a statement about God’s sovereignty: It was bad, but God allowed it to happen and will somehow use it for a good purpose.

    That same thing could be said of anything and everything that has ever happened in the history of the world. It’s so general that it becomes rather meaningless. It sounds like a platitude.

    I’m just wondering: Why you pepper these discussions with declarative statements about God’s sovereignty, especially when those kind of statements have so often been used to minimize the bad things that religious leaders have done? When Jesus talked about the sins of religious leaders, I don’t recall him doing that. Jesus’ bottom line toward unrepentant religious leaders was a severe warning of judgment against them, period.

  7. Thank you, Joe, so much. I felt just the same but I am poor in expressing it in English. I would add that Ben’s words are usually not the words a pastor should say. A pastor would care about the sheep, would lead them away from the wicked (ubf) religious leaders. Here are some quotes from Calvin on Mt23:

    “He breaks out into still stronger language of condemnation, and he does so not so much on their account, as for the purpose of withdrawing the common people and simple-minded men from their sect. f92 For though we see frequently in Scripture the judgment of God pronounced against the reprobate, so as to render them the more inexcusable, yet in their person the children of God receive a useful warning, not to involve themselves in the snares of the same crimes, but to guard against falling into similar destruction. Certainly, when the scribes, after overturning the worship of God and corrupting the doctrine of godliness, would endure no correction, and with desperate madness, to their own destruction and that of the whole nation, opposed the redemption which was offered to them, it was proper that they should be held up to the hatred and detestation of all. And yet Christ did not so much consider what they deserved, as what would be useful to the uneducated and ignorant; for he intended, towards the close of his life, to leave a solemn testimony, that no man might, except knowingly and willingly, be deceived by persons so base and wicked.

    We know how powerfully a foolish reverence for false teachers hinders simple people from getting clear of their erroneous views. The Jews were at that time deeply imbued with false doctrine, and had even imbibed from their earliest years many superstitions. While it was hard and difficult in itself to bring them back to the right path, the chief obstacle lay in the foolish opinion which they had formed about the false teachers, whom they regarded as the lawful prelates of the Church, the rulers of divine worship, and the pillars of religion. Besides, they were so strongly fascinated, that they could scarcely be drawn away from those teachers but by violent fear. It is not therefore for the purpose of cursing the scribes that Christ pronounces against them the dreadful vengeance of God, but to withdraw others from their impostures.”

  8. Joe, Vitaly, I believe you know that when I mention God’s sovereignty, I am NOT in any way minimizing, diminishing or ignoring the grave severity or gravity of what Driscoll had said and done over the years. I am also NOT being unsympathetic or uncaring of the countless people who were hurt, wounded and abused by him or by any “wicked (ubf) religious leaders,” as Vitaly puts it. Most of all I am also most definitely NOT saying that any perpetrator should ever be allowed to go unchallenged or to not be exposed and denounced for what they have done. So I am sorry and apologize if such sentiments were ever communicated by me when I mention God’s sovereignty.

    Are you then saying/suggesting that I should not/never mention God’s sovereignty whenever grievous sin is being perpetrated by some religious leader or by someone in a position of power and authority?

    Should I not ask why God would let a promising lovely innocent young daughter to be born to an incestuous father who would sexually abuse her for years while she was growing up which would wound her for the rest of her life? Should I not ask why God did not allow her to be born in the home of loving parents who love, cherish and treasure her and would never ever hurt her?

    Are you saying/suggesting that when I mention God’s sovereignty I am somehow either blaming God, or excusing the perpetrator, or minimizing the grievous, inexcusable, unjustifiable and reprehensible offenses of religious leaders?

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, I am not saying that you shouldn’t ever mention God’s sovereignty. But when you talk about God’s sovereignty in the context of abusive practices by religious leaders, I have an instinctive negative reaction. This is why.

      1. In my opinion, those kinds of statements can easily misrepresent the character of God. When bad things happen in the world, when innocent people are hurt, when religious leaders misuse their authority, I don’t believe that God engineered it. I don’t believe God is watching and smiling because he has some secret plan to use the evil for some greater purpose. I believe that God is horrified by evil, more so than we are, and that he has a burning desire to set things right. I believe that God has given people real (non illusory) choices, and for reasons known only to him, he often does not stop them from making very bad choices, and he reacts to those choices, but he does not engineer them. I know that you don’t believe that God is deliberately engineering evil. But unless you carefully qualify and finesse your statements, that is how some might interpret it. And I do think this is a problem with the way that some neo-Reformed preachers (John Piper comes to mind) talk about God’s sovereignty. They rub many people the wrong way because they talk about God’s sovereignty in ways that come very close to saying that God is engineering tragedy and sin.

      2. I also have a negative reaction because, like it or not, statements about God’s sovereignty have often been used to minimize and justify the bad things that religious leaders do. I’m not saying that you are minimizing or justifying wrongdoing by UBF leaders. But you and I have both done this in the past. And many are still doing it today. I do not want to see the holy name of God, or his good and noble purposes, or his gospel of grace, being invoked to minimize or justify the sin of religious leaders. I know that is not what you intend to do here. But in this context, that is how some people will still hear your words. Some ex-UBF members will think you are justifying and minimizing the wrongdoing of UBF leaders. And some current UBF members will hear you saying that the wrongdoing is all under God’s sovereignty so it’s okay. A statement that is perfectly true may, if uttered in the wrong context, be completely inappropriate and counterproductive, because it is not the message that God wants them to hear at that moment.

  9. This is perhaps a good thought to consider when posting and commenting on Christian leaders who “fail.” Regarding Driscoll, this is what blogger Rachel King Batson wrote (her father, a failed pastor, took his life after he was dismissed from his church):

    “I do not think that Facebook and Twitter timelines should be celebrating the failing of someone who has now lost it all, even if it’s his fault. He is still a person.

    I am NOT saying to be silent about what happened at the church. It’s important to be honest and open. My point is more not to attack him as a person because he has kids who can see that and will inevitably be hurt. He also has a church that will need healing, that will have to address the issues, move forward, and eventually forgive. There is a way we can talk about these issues and deal with them without completely ripping people to shreds. We can be a civilized society.

    I have read some great posts online that agree with Driscoll being asked to step down, but they do so in a way that does not completely disregard the positive things he has done or him as a human being, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate the people who have spoken with candor what they think about Driscoll’s ministry in the past (they didn’t like it) and have remained silent thus far, not gloating or saying “I told you so.” It is a beautiful display of love and self control.”

    (Source –

  10. I think this is an excellent post that perhaps well expresses the deep honest raw feelings and emotions and painful sentiments of some (or many) exUBFers who have been unjustifiably and inexcusably hurt and wounded by “church people”:

  11. Thanks, Joe, I agree and realize that “accepting God’s sovereignty” has been used in horribly unbiblical damaging and callous ways. I also agree that more qualifies need to be mentioned. I addressed this previously (which is your point #2): Thus, I fully echo and agree with both your points, especially #2:

    “…statements about God’s sovereignty have often been used to minimize and justify the bad things that religious leaders do. I’m not saying that you are minimizing or justifying wrongdoing by UBF leaders. But you and I have both done this in the past. And many are still doing it today. I do not want to see the holy name of God, or his good and noble purposes, or his gospel of grace, being invoked to minimize or justify the sin of religious leaders. I know that is not what you intend to do here. But in this context, that is how some people will still hear your words. Some ex-UBF members will think you are justifying and minimizing the wrongdoing of UBF leaders. And some current UBF members will hear you saying that the wrongdoing is all under God’s sovereignty so it’s okay. A statement that is perfectly true may, if uttered in the wrong context, be completely inappropriate and counterproductive, because it is not the message that God wants them to hear at that moment.” – See more at:

    I am inclined to write a post with the explicit title: “What Accepting God’s Sovereignty is NOT.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, have you seen this article by Roger Olson about the various views of God’s sovereignty?

    • Thanks for the link, Joe. It’s interesting that, according to a relational view, God’s sovereignty is not just something we accept over our lives but prompts us to move him and interact with him and others in meaningful ways. I think it is exactly what we see throughout the OT and NT, especially in the life and prayers of Jesus. It reminded me of Jesus’ baptism and the voice from heaven saying that he loved and was pleased with Jesus (Mark 1:11).

  12. Thanks, Joe for Olsen’s post on what he regards as a “relational view of God’s sovereignty,” which is perhaps an “Arminian” rather than a “Calvinist” view.

    I do find such phrases intriguing, captivating and appealing: God is, as Dutch theologian Hendrikus Berkhof said, the “defenseless superior power” within a genuine covenant relationship with us whose immutability is not impervious to influence but “changeable faithfulness.”

    Also, “God is Pinnock’s “Most Moved Mover”—the superior power who allows creatures to resist him and becomes vulnerable and open to harm as well as joy.”

    A “defenseless superpower” and “Most Moved Mover” reminds me of Christ who is both an invincible lion and a slain lamb (Rev 5:5-6) at the same time.

  13. To those interested, here is Adrian Warnock’s view of the Driscoll removal from Acts 29 that attempts to “cover all the bases”:

    Here is David Hayward’s (Naked Pastor) rebuttal response that critiques Warnock’s thoughts which echoes and mirrors numerous sentiments expressed on UBFriends:

    • Thanks for the links, Ben. From the NakedPastor post, these questions resonated with me:

      Why should we now trust the elders who have been with Driscoll for so long to accomplish the difficult but necessary task of resolving this when they’ve been his greatest supporters so far? Driscoll and the leaders of Mars Hill Church have used silence to protect themselves from criticism. Isn’t it strange that we’re now being asked to be quiet as well? – See more at:

      I understand that he asked those questions from the viewpoint of the abused. He also shows that he sees this as a Mars Hill Church issue as much as a Driscoll (personal) issue. The two shouldn’t be separated. I don’t have an answer, but it does make me question how healing and restoration could come about since what is exposed is not just an individual abuser, but a system that he built that allowed it. Is it enough for just the removal of the particular individual? How far do admissions of abuse go? How can a large church like Mars Hill begin to be healed even with a distanced (former) head?

      Of course, it makes me think then about the calls for UBF to admit past abuses. Although Lee died over 12 years ago, I haven’t seen official distancing from his abuses, either from admissions of guilt, acknowledging the abused, or elder resignations. I guess I’m just wondering about how an organization that was built on the practices and values of certain individuals can be transformed or healed, despite the distance from those particular individuals, without going beyond the individuals, deep into the organization and system itself.

      Instead, in UBF, I largely see the opposite of distancing. There are always efforts to couple closer to Lee and continual affirmations that UBF is doing the right thing, according to the Bible, and must keep doing so. It doesn’t give me much hope for the organization. I think this is what Brian’s demands have been about and Chris’s words about the system following the founder. Mars Hills needs more than Driscoll stepping back. And UBF needs more than a few rogue chapters.

  14. Thanks, Charles! Perhaps this excellently worded statement of yours best encapsulates the ongoing 53 year saga known as UBF:

    “Although Lee died over 12 years ago, I haven’t seen official distancing from his abuses, either from admissions of guilt, acknowledging the abused, or elder resignations. I guess I’m just wondering about how an organization that was built on the practices and values of certain individuals can be transformed or healed, despite the distance from those particular individuals, without going beyond the individuals, deep into the organization and system itself.” – See more at:

    Since you are still in UBF as I am, let’s see how God is going to work to begin healing and reconciliation, which I personally regard as UBF’s most urgent and important task. Without focusing on this, but to keep on trying to “invite new students” and to exhaust tremendous resources, financial and otherwise, for “the next big UBF conference” will be an endeavor that will not bear much fruit in the long or even short run. This is of course just my opinion.

    • I fully agree with that opinion, Ben. I honestly don’t have the conscience at this point to invite new students or encourage people to get hooked up with a UBF shepherd (although I am still in UBF), or even to participate in the next big conference.

      However, when read, “let’s see how God is going to work…” I feel uneasy in my stomach. A few people have told me already to be patient and to trust in God who is sovereign and who to “see” what will happen. I agree in theory, but I still feel uneasy. I want to do something more (yes, I’ve been told to pray, and I agree with that). It leaves me at a loss sometimes.

    • “I want to do something more (yes, I’ve been told to pray, and I agree with that). It leaves me at a loss sometimes.” Me too…

    • “let’s see how God is going to work to begin healing and reconciliation”

      Similar to Charles uneasy feelings, I too have big problems with such statements.

      What worries me is not only that again you promote that stance of “let’s wait” and “let’s not do anything, let God do everything”, even though we already waited for decades.

      Worse than thta, even after all of our discussions you still don’t seem to acknowledge the fact that healing and reconciliation can’t start before there is clear admittance of wrongdoing and repentance. Though God (the Spirit) is clearly involved when people repent, repenance and admittance of guilt is still something that must be actively and eagerly done by us. It even can be pushed and demanded by the church and by God Himself. It is something very urgent, it must never be postponed.

      “So, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”

      “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

      There is no time to wait here for something magic to happen. There is even a verse that says “be zealous and repent.” Actually this was said to a whole community of believers. Often if one person comes forward and repents, others will follow.

      Healing and reconciliation can only happen after this act of repentance, you should neither wish nor hope that it happens before. There is always this big “if” and “unless,” there is always this necessary pre-condition of repentance.

      “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

      “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

      “I tell you, unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

      So, my plea is: Instead of praying and hoping for healing and reconciliation, pray and push for admittance of sin and repentance. Everything else will automatically follow from that, I can promise you.

      Once UBF clearly and fully (not half-heartedly) admits their wrongdoings of the past, expect wonders to happen. But as long as UBF is trying to do the opposite by whitewashing and glorifying the past, don’t pray and hope for anything good to happen. The best you can pray for is that old people who commited or experienced abuse simply forget over time, stop to care or die. But that would not be a spiritual solution, and it makes no sense to stay in a ministry that solves problems this way, by sitting them out, by making gradual changes, by covering them with silence. That would not be a Christian or Bible-centered ministry, because it would not live the core message of the gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

      Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said ‘Poenitentiam agite,’ willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance. (Martin Luther, 1st of his 95 theses).

    • I’ve been hesitating to join this discussion because these conversations tend to go in unproductive circles, but these recent comments have struck a chord with me.

      I’ve emphasized, with a few leaders, that a public admission of wrong-doing needs to be made. While they agree, they are not confident that this will ever happen because the majority of the leaders do not want this.

      So an alternative is that indigenous UBF members could demand admission of wrong-doing through a collective petition or something of that sort, but again the majority within this demographic are content to remain silent in this particular arena. So people like Ben and I who are still in the ministry feel as though prayer and giving it time are the only options. I don’t see any other way other than leaving (which is actually not a viable option for me). It’s very difficult to keep your morale in such a situation. Praying and talking tends to get old after a while when obvious solutions are being ignored year after year.

      Though forgiveness and reconciliation are at the very heart of the gospel, Christians, including myself, poorly misunderstand these concepts. Instead we would rather focus on the problems “out there” through continual evangelism and so forth. How can you convince those who hold this view that they might be misguided and thus are doing unhealthy evangelism?

    • David, thanks for this comment and for coming up with productive ideas for resolving this dilemma. This is actually the discussion that needs to take place.

      Writing a petition is not a bad idea. Why not discuss how such a petition could concretely look like and be performed? I don’t understand why UBF members are so fatalistic about such ideas. Isn’t the spirit of UBF “let’s overcome fatalism and try anyway”? UBF members are trained in overcoming all kinds of real world obstacles. The only obstacle that seems to make them completely helpless is the stubbornness of their own leaders. But shouldn’t it be possible to fight and overcome that obstacle as well?

      I believe these leaders are only “illusionary giants” like Mr. Tur Tur in Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver. Don’t be so afraid of them. Also, keep in mind we’re really not fighting against them, but only helping them to be confronted with reality.

      Another obstacle you mention is that “the majority within this demographic are content to remain silent.” Here the question is: Why do they think it’s ok to remain silent? That would also be a fruitful discussion. Some reasons could be that

      (1) they don’t understand that admittance of guilt and repentance is really necessary or
      (2) they don’t understand the seriousness of the wrongdoings
      (3) they simply don’t care – the social aspect of living in UBF or getting praise, recognition or income from offering moneys is more important to them than reality checks, conscience, ethics, truthfulness, Biblical principles

      What do you think?

      Personally, because I don’t want to believe (3) is the case I keep repeating talking about (1), resulting in accusations of being boring and predictable, or (2), resulting in accusations of “bashing” UBF or Samuel Lee. But I’m not sure what else I can do to avoid coming to the conclusion that (3) is the case. In my view, as long as that elephant is in the room, discussing abstract theological questions and pretending the issues are already solved or will solve over time just to avoid tackling the real issue and the impression of getting stuck does not make sense.

    • Chris, I don’t want to pretend to know what goes on in people’s minds, but I do suspect that it could be loosely tied to all three of the reasons that you mentioned and maybe even more. Who knows what drives people to do what they do. I think that studying UBF would be a maverick sociologist’s dream job; it would be like exploring a fascinating magical wonderland to them. Just give him or her a big fat NIH grant a bit of free reign and let em’ have at it.

      No, but seriously a lot of moving parts here. I think one major reason is apathy; you just get tired of raging against the machine. And in addition most people are probably just struggling to survive with raising a family and working, so there’s just no energy left. Factor in that the ministry also has a weak concept of rest and you have lots of tired people who just can’t fight back or gather their wits about them.

      You also have to consider the fact that many members are conditioned to not question things or wrap their minds around what exactly UBF is. I credit this website with helping me to get a much more objective view of UBF simply through having raw, uncomfortable and honest dialogues (I’ve changed a great deal through this; remember my initial friendly greeting to Brian K?).

      I think that a petition would work, but to be honest I don’t have the time, energy or desire to twist people’s arms to get on board with something like that. What I am encouraging people to do is to respectfully and tactfully question things that are weird or objectionable. Also people should try to develop personal relationships with some of the leaders. I’ve had some pretty honest and surprisingly encouraging conversations with Ron Ward and James Kim, Sr. as of late; I honestly regard them as friends. I feel as though they genuinely want things to change although, in this regard, are in the minority of the upper echelon of UBF. Who knows, if enough people grow some balls and have some honest and respectful conversations with them, perhaps they’ll be persuaded to wield more of their influence among the elders for the betterment of the ministry.

      Honestly, harping on the ills of UBF makes me massively depressed, which is why I usually avoid these conversations. I have my own method of working through these issues that helps me to keep a modicum of sanity and optimism. Mainly what I’m doing now is focusing on my career, family and networking, building healthy relationships with willing people inside and outside of the ministry.

      If corporate repentance happens, that’s great but I’m not going to hold my breath and possibly lose my sanity while waiting for this to occur.

    • Joe Schafer

      I echo many of DavidW’s sentiments. Lately I haven’t been chiming in about the problems of UBF because
      * I find it depressing,
      * the discussions aren’t really going anywhere because UBF leaders have shown no commitment to dialogue about any of the issues raised on this blog.

      A few years ago, Sharon and I were willing to devote considerable energy to serving God within the ubf context. But time and time again, the leaders — Korean and American alike — have demonstrated that they didn’t want our service unless it was within the narrow box defined by them. They didn’t want our service unless it totally on their terms, promoting their agendas, stroking their egos, praising their efforts, upholding their heritage, saving their face.

      It became fruitless and wrong to keep our own lives on hold waiting for them to demonstrate a willingness to change.

      Privately, some leaders (DavidW mentioned some of them) have said that they want change but are unable to make it happen. At some level, I believe that do want change. But they certainly don’t want it enough to make the difficult choices needed to start the process. Each one has weighed the costs and decided not to rock the boat.

      At some level, many of them do love God. At some level, they want to do what is right. But their strongest commitment, the one that always prevails in the end, is to save face and avoid shame and avoid embarrassing one another. Ironically, in their quest to avoid embarrassment, the whole enterprise has become an embarrassment.

      Eventually, I realized that life was too precious to spend hanging around waiting for other people to change.

      And it was just too tiring, too wearisome, to continue to serve in a “church” (and I have to put quotes around it, because most of them don’t understand what church means) that was a perpetual source of embarrassment.

      I can forgive the leaders for wrongdoing. I can pray for them and try to love them at a personal level. But I won’t waste any more precious years of my life feeling embarrassed by them, enabling their bad behavior, or trying to help people who clearly don’t want to be helped.

  15. Here’s Paul Tripp’s excellent comment following Driscoll’s removal from Acts 29:

    “A pastoral culture of silence and separation simply can’t work. Is it workable for a pastor to live in isolation from the essential sanctifying ministry of the body of Christ?”

    • Yes, this is an excellent comment. I hope some people listen.

  16. Well said, Chris. This IS the discussion that needs to be had.

    “(1) they don’t understand that admittance of guilt and repentance is really necessary or (2) they don’t understand the seriousness of the wrongdoings (3) they simply don’t care” – See more at:

    #3 has been my experience. Apathy is rather rampant, and “I don’t care” was a common response I got in my discussions with “elders” and directors/leaders in ubf. Many of them really don’t care about the issues we discuss on ubfriends. They really believe in their fantasy KOPAHN theology, and think that reading the bible will solve all problems.

    Generally speaking, they did however care an awful lot about keeping the heritage intact. Most ubf leaders cared a lot about getting me to stop talking, stop emailing or stop blogging. Several of them tried to convince me that nobody in ubf wants to discuss the issues I brought up.

    In any case, the reality is surely a mixture of all 3 issues you present here, Chris. That is why I am writing my 3rd book, the book that tells my story most clearly.

    Perhaps one things ubf people can to is read my books and begin to understand what is so wrong with the ubf system, Rest Unleashed and Goodness Found.

    In case anyone is wondering, the first chapter in my third book begins with the words “Bulls**t! It’s all bulls**t!”. It is not for the faint of heart…

  17. redeemed1

    Hi –
    I’m a long-time reader of the site, and I just wanted to say that I find Ben’s comments about God’s sovereignty encouraging to me, and helpful to the website. I think we forget in these discussions what medium we are discussing them through. Ben has demonstrated through his commitment to this blog that he wants to have productive discussion with UBF leaders that does not shy away from the hard issues. The fact that this blog exists is a testament to that.

    If UBFriends becomes a one-sided “UBF & SL is all bad” conversation, a conversation that does not balance itself with “God is sovereign, let’s be gentle and let him work,” then it is highly likely that UBF leaders will add it to the list of the myriad of websites on the web that they ignore. Ben’s balance is keeping this blog as a website where hopefully leaders WILL see that redeeming discussion is taking place, and hopefully want to take part in it. It doesn’t have to mean that UBF & SL are even 50% good, only that there is 100% chance that God wants to and God can change and redeem them. So, I think there needs to be both. Discussion of God’s sovereignty, but also a severe call for action and accountability. I hope that this website leaves space for both parties.

    • Hi redeemed1. One one hand, I’d like to say thank you for sharing. On the other hand, you are the kind of read who makes me extremely angry and frustrated.

      You sit back and read all our articles and content, making no contribution. And then you sit back and judge us, hoping we leave space for both parties, hoping for some balance.

      Well if you want space, you’ll have to participate.

    • Joe Schafer

      Hi redeemed1, welcome and thanks for chiming in. How long have you been a regular reader of UBFriends? It’s likely that you are unaware of how long and hard we have worked to create space for dialogue with UBF leaders. To those of us who have been doing this for a long time, your comment might sound condescending, because over the years we have gone to great lengths to draw all kinds of people into these conversations, to no avail. But I trust that you mean well. If you would like to learn more about some of the things I have done to bring these issues to the attention of ubf leaders, I’ve written about it here:

    • Joe, I remember well your article and prior emails, which I felt precisely expressed the primary issues. I was waiting for Part 3, but somehow we got sidetracked in many directions. Sorry about that. If it is not too problematic for you, might you now share Part 3, as a sort of sequel one year and three months later?

  18. Hi Redeemed1, thanks for the encouragement!

    Someone might likely pick up on this statement: “…then it is highly likely that UBF leaders will add it to the list of the myriad of websites on the web that they ignore. Ben’s balance is keeping this blog as a website where hopefully leaders WILL see that redeeming discussion is taking place, and hopefully want to take part in it.” – See more at:

    Some might say that UBFriends is ALREADY on the list of websites they ignore and NEVER–or hardly ever–read. Also, some will say that though we hope they will take part in the discussion, it hasn’t really happened, and may never happen, if ever, with any consistency.

    Over the years some leaders have commented from time to time (basically rarely), but perhaps conclude that whatever they might say, they are going to get blasted or refuted. So they give up, and perhaps understandably so. Also, they likely lead very busy lives (like most of us), and ubfriends would understandably be very “LOW” on their priority list, with the myriad of ongoing throughout the year UBF activities, such as the presently ongoing European and CIS international conferences happening this month.

    As I’ve often expressed, my hope is that the “younger” or next generation of UBFers may begin to step up and speak up and not fear anyone who tries to silence them, or intimidate them, or “put them in their place.”

    This might take time, though, since ubf has been basically going in somewhat the same direction for 53 years and counting. For the tide to change or shift even slightly would understandably take much longer than some would hope or expect—unless some unexpected surprising supernatural miracle happens by the sovereignty of God! :-)

  19. “Eventually, I realized that life was too precious to spend hanging around waiting for other people to change.” – See more at:

    Exactly my sentiment. On this site, leaders have been chided and called out for trying to change the way that we think and behave at a time when we fully bought into their system. It would be highly misguided for me to turn around and attempt to do the same thing to them. I love many people in UBF, but I’m not going to spend the good years of my life agonizing over the fact that some will continue to strongly adhere to UBF tenets. At some point, I have to step back and respect people’s right to make their own decisions.

  20. This post shows how the internet no longer allows some church leaders to get away with their shenanigans:

    My FB friend says it best: “You can call this cynical if you like but I would call it prophetic, wise and very helpful. God help us to call out the faithful to follow the way of love, a way that does not simply cover up but one that is strong enough to call out and to confess sin in humiliation and repentance. How will people understand what love really is when we give them corporate models that are not authentic and true?”

    • I don’t want to come off as cynical either, but that blog articulates some of the same feelings I’ve had about Driscoll’s speech, which to me, came off as a very carefully crafted pr statement. I got the impression that he wanted to be seen more as a victim or to feel sorry for himself rather than own up to the reality that he is a domineering victimizer. It’s obvious that that he is still holding to a very defensive posture. I’m praying that in his six week leave, which is way too short imho, he’ll confront the true nature of the pathologies behind much of his behavior. This is also a wake up call for me to do a similar kind of painful self-assessment of my inherent “inner ugliness”. God be with us all in this regard.

    • I could care less if I come across as cynical :)

      Translating is an excellent practice for recovering from spiritual abuse. I started translating right away, without even knowing how helpful it would become.

      Translating allows your mind to undo the spin, to return to common definitions of words such as “love” and to begin to make sense of the b——-t. It is some sort of psychological adjustment mechanism that often just happens naturally.

      Maybe I should post some of my translations… Here is one I did back in 2012: A sickening cycle.

      I would encourage everyone to start translating, getting rid of the ubf-speak.

      Translating messages, reports and announcements will give you the real picture of ubf.

  21. Here is one of my translations of a ubf report: Completely missing the point.

    I found it very helpful to also compare versions of documents, such as the printed blue book edition of the 50th anniversary lecture, which ubf entitled “Terrible Times and the Bible”. Here is my comparison between the private, printed version and the public, online version: 2011 50th Anniversary deception.

    Watch for such things, translate and compare. And you’ll be amazed at what is really going on at ubf.

  22. Here is a post that more or less summarizes what has been going on:

    “Why have so many Christians — in so many different pockets of the church, for so long — defended him, enabled him, oozed gushy love statements about him and continued to prop him up, against all evidence, against clear biblical admonitions and against all common sense?

    Some did it, I am sure, because they value money more than ethics. Some did it because they value coolness more than godliness. Some did it because they value being part of the Evangelical Club more than being godly men. Some probably were clueless. And some just value celebrity over everything.

    But I think the real reason it’s happened is because much of the church today has just stopped caring what the Lord thinks.”

    • This PLEA to those who attend Mars Hill Church is perhaps true of ANY CHURCH which clearly has issues (usually at the top echelons) that it does not want to deal with or is not willing to be transparent about:

      “That’s why, Mars Hill friends, I am appealing now to you. Those of you who are true Christians, who understand the Word of God, who love the Lord Jesus, who have kept hoping in vain for change at the top for so long — it’s now your move.”

  23. Looks like this story is not going to go away anytime soon. The good Driscoll has done does not negate or excuse the bad he has done. Obviously, this is true for every Christian leader, shepherd, missionary, which some in the church seem to take the view that the good can cancel the bad.

    This is what a blogger wrote about Driscoll, which perhaps might resonate with many good things “sheep” have experienced from their shepherd/missionary (

    “I also experienced legitimate one-on-one pastoral care of myself and my family in my early years at Mars Hill directly from Mark and his wife. I grew from many of his sermons as well. I’ll never forget his “Ho, Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas” sermon, about the whores in Jesus’ lineage. Of course, that title draws attention and ire in a classic Mark Driscoll move. Yet the sermon was also beautiful and redemptive, as he brought out the former shame of those women’s stories and the dignity and worth God placed on them by naming them in Jesus’ lineage. It was not misogynistic, and it treated wounded women with respect. But it was taught with women in the room who had read his pussified nation rant just a year before, where apparently the worst criticism he can think of to aim at a man is that he acts like a woman. Just one more example of the dissonance that contributes to the tone of voice of those who have experienced both deeply good things along with deeply bad things under Mark’s ministry.”

  24. More MD: “Mark had personality traits that all of us saw even in 1998 that would lead him eventually to a very reified and right wing theology. He was also brilliant, hilarious, and an egomaniac. He loved the spotlight and hogged the mic. But he wasn’t evil. He was passionate. We all were.

    But somewhere it spun out of control.

    Cover articles on Christianity Today and Christian Century within a year of each other — that’s rare. Television coverage on ABC and PBS. Articles in the New York Times. Speaking gigs, book contracts, conferences. That shit can go to your head.

    Let’s be honest. It did.”


  25. forestsfailyou

    I am not sure specificlly what he did. Maybe someone can help me. I asked my pastor if he knew anything about the guy but he had never heard of him. We had a discussion on the difference between forgiveness and allowing abuse. A google search found this amazing quote I think all UBF leaders sorely need to hear. All others for that matter:

    Christian leaders, White asserts, should be “above reproach,” which he says “points to an absence of behavior in public settings that would harm the reputation and ministry of the church.”
    “As John Stott aptly noted, ‘This cannot mean ‘faultless,’ or no child of Adam would ever qualify,'” White adds. “Instead, he argues, it means ‘blameless reputation’ and has to do with ‘irreproachable observable conduct.’ In other words, above reproach in the most public aspects of daily life.”
    Christians should be far more concerned with a “watching world” and “not what your particular fan base may or may not find acceptable,” White says.
    “And sadly, while that lesson may have been learned on such glaring matters as sexual fidelity, it seems to be increasingly lost regarding such issues as pride, ego and greed,” he adds.”

  26. Forests, by “pastor” do you mean “ubf chapter director”? If so, then of course he never heard of Driscoll.

    Anyone who does even casual reading of various blogs or news sites like Christianity Today knows something about Driscoll and Mars Hill Church.

    Wikipedia does a decent job of highlighting some of the controversies.

    Wikipedia – Driscoll

    What has he done? Well he has done a LOT of apologizing. He has controversies about using church funds to get his book on the NYT Bestsellers list, for example.

    Basically he has done what ubf leaders have done: Questionable behavior and yet demanding to be treated as God’s anointed servant who has the authority and power to do what he wants. His church has hurt a lot of people and is rampant with spiritual abuse problems. The former member blogs of Mars Hill people are strikingly similar to our ubf “crisis” situations that occur every 10 years or so at ubf. [Note: I only use the word “crisis” because that is what ubf leaders call the reform movements, at least when they don’t use the R-Group term].

    • For example, here is a quote about picketing:

      “The following Sunday, “dozens of demonstrators”[89][91] organized and picketed the Mars Hill Church Bellevue campus (where Driscoll preaches live), calling for Driscoll’s resignation.”

      Anyone else besides me remember the former ubf member picketing at ubf conferences? I am glad they had the courage to do that. Maybe we should do that again…

    • “Demonstrators carried placards reading “We Are Not Anonymous” and “Question Mark”, and accused Driscoll of bullying, misogyny, inadequate transparency around church finances, and harsh discipline of members.”

    • An article describes what precipitated the public demonstration:

      But the real catalyst for the August 3 protest, the ex-members say, is a video Driscoll released last week talking about “this season” of the church’s life, which he describes as “a little overwhelming and a bit confusing.”

      He is talking about the recent unrest over various church controversies. “One of the things that’s been complex,” Driscoll says in the video, “is the fact that a lot of the people we are dealing with in this season remain anonymous—so we don’t know how to reconcile or how to work things out with people because we’re not entirely sure who they are.” –

    • continued:

      That is demonstrably untrue—former Mars Hill members have been writing about their experiences online and waiting for Driscoll to return their e-mails and phone calls for years. The “anonymous” comment inspired a flurry of Facebook and blog posts by people like Smith and Petry, saying they’ve never been anonymous and that to act like they have been anonymous is dishonest and a dodge.

      “I think when this video came out, it triggered something,” Petry says. “They’re looking at this guy who they trust, and he’s lying to their face. People know who has been hurt, they know they’re not anonymous. When you say you want to reconcile but you can’t because you don’t know who they are—that did it. The floodgates just blew open.”

    • Well, at least we have UBFriends, which is clearly NOT anonymous at all :)))))

    • Thanks for the further info David. One of my sub-goals for this 4th crisis/reform movement at ubf is to make this as NON-anonymous as possible.

      Everyone at ubf knows EXACTLY who to contact if they ever want to consider reconciliation. If someone does not know who, please let me know and I will send them an email :)

      And yes, ALL ubf leaders know THE place to begin any announcement or news item regarding reconciliation…UBFRIENDS!

    • Brian, while I am personally thankful for how the community here at ubfriends has played no small role in helping me to speak more honestly with leaders and thus engage in a process of ongoing reconciliation, don’t you think it’s a bit grandiose to say that ubfriends is THE place where UBF leaders should continue to address further efforts of reconciliation?

    • You’re probably right, David. Sorry, can’t help my self-aggrandized nature :)

      But seriously, this blog is THE one place were ubfers could reach out to in some way if they wanted. Where else could they contact many former members quickly? I’m not saying they have to post publicly here (though I would appreciate that). But maybe contact us somehow? Maybe share the results or news after the fact at least?

      And if they don’t reconcile with me, they will have to live with decades of my vocal criticism.

    • Joe Schafer

      On that point, I agree with Brian. If UBF leaders wanted too get serious about reconciliation, coming to this website and joining in the conversations here would be a great place to start.

  27. I’m sorry, I’m not trying to skewer someone while they’re down, but this is just to precious to pass up:

    “Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is meritious [sic]. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.” –

    • what the.. man this site doesn’t miss a beat. I recently went through some of the old articles here and all I can say is “gold, Jerry! gold!” (

    • Even listening to the entire clip, I would still say that I disagree with Driscoll’s presentation. Paul could have said something similar to the Athenians at the Areopagus (Greek for “Mars Hill”, which Driscoll named his church after), especially the godless (or deistic) Stoics and Epicureans, but instead he said,

      “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”

      This is quite beautiful and more accurately reflects the nature of God in that though we are marred by sin we rebel against him, he is seeking a relationship with us.

      Also, notice that Driscoll quotes the imprecatory prayers of David in making his case for a God who hates us. We had a discussion about the nature of these Psalms a while back too :)

    • Joe Schafer

      Yeah, there’s some good stuff in our archives. If ubf wants some good material for discussion and staff training, they ought to come here. I’m not joking.

    • God as a misanthrop. Sounds like Westboro Baptist Church.

  28. “If UBF leaders wanted too get serious about reconciliation, coming to this website and joining in the conversations here would be a great place to start.” – See more at:

    This likely won’t happen for too many reasons. Disagree if you must, but many/most traditional hardline UBFers find UBFriends:

    1) Too HOT – too much honesty, openness, transparency that is so unfamiliar in their own ubf experience.

    2) Too messy – unscripted, unregulated, unpredictable, unable to be controlled, which is actually very much like everyone’s life.

    3) Too loose – not top-down, agenda not coming from the top. You can’t say, “Keep spiritual order, just obey” without getting skewered.

    4) Too free – everyone is totally completely free to be themselves as long as you respectfully keep the commenting policy.

    5) Too distrusting – generally disliking social media, including emails and internet, unless it is positive propaganda about ubf.

    6) Too uncomfortable – for many it is a lack of fluency in English since it is not their primary language.

    5) Too hurt – for many older leaders, it is unfamiliarity and inability to take the heat of being criticized, challenged and disagreed with, since this is not encouraged in their ubf experience.

    6) Too equal – no one can elevate himself and expect special honorable deferential treatment, not even the admins!

    7) Too exposed and too shameful to air one’s dirty laundry, even though Jesus criticized most severely his own religion more than he criticized anything else.

    8) You can’t play the boss and the head honcho and call all the shots.

    9) You can’t use your seniority card.

    10) You can’t say, “I’m the servant of God, whom God chose to be the leader and not you.”

    I’m sure you can think of countless more reasons.

  29. I just thought of 2 more reasons:

    11) Too forthright. “Too much” truth, even if the truth is painful to hear or tell.

    12) You always get stabbed in the front, NEVER in the back.

    #12 may be my favorite. Oscar Wilde said, “True friends stab you in the front.” That’s what I tell everyone at church, “Please be my friend and stab me in the front.”

  30. Joe Schafer

    So, Ben, in a nutshell, you are saying that UBF leaders would never come here because they don’t want to be like Jesus.

    In order to reconcile with Israel and humanity, Jesus came into the world and willingly accepted all the conditions that you mentioned in #1 to #12. That is the essence of the gospel, and following Jesus in that manner is the essence of discipleship.

    So you are saying that UBF leaders’ unwillingness to dialogue with us, except under conditions that would cause them no discomfort, represents an epic failure of a church to actually follow Jesus and live out his gospel.

    So tell me — in what sense is the UBF organization upholding and serving the gospel, except with empty words?

  31. “So tell me — in what sense is the UBF organization upholding and serving the gospel…? – See more at:

    This is my somewhat veiled or indirect response: A few decades ago, a person asked me what I, as a learned person, a doctor no less, regarded as of utmost importance in life. My answer, which I was once very proud of, was:


    Though I still basically believe this, basing it off of Mt 28:19-20, I feel odd, awkward and somewhat embarrassed that I once articulated it with such words.

    Today, a few decades later, I might say, “live a life of loving God and others” based primarily from the two great commands of Christ (Mt 22:37-40; Mk 12:29-31).

    My thought and subjective sense is that for half a century, UBF has operated primarily out of Mt 28:19-20 and practically applied it with UBFisms and core values, which is not necessarily wrong in itself, but which can become rigid, narrow, exclusive, elitist, traditional, inflexible, and oppressive to anyone who might have a different opinion, perspective or paradigm.

    UBFriends is a completely off the charts paradigm and perspective from UBF. So that’s why UBF leaders would never come here (with any consistency, perseverance or faithfulness) for dialogue, conversation, friendship, reconciliation, building trust, understanding others with compassion, humility and deference, etc.

  32. Likely, many traditional loyal committed UBFers would prefer to be consistent, persevering, enduring, faithful even unto death with much disappointment and discouragement to “serving world campus mission through one to one Bible study and testimony writing” decade after decade, which truly is very very commendable.

    But it would be simply way too hard, if not humanly impossible, to apply the same undying spirit unto death—to come here for painful, messy, unpredictable, uneasy, embarrassing, humbling reconciliation.

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, why is it commendable to keep preaching and giving verbal testimonies about Jesus and the gospel decade after decade, as you say, without attending to these very serious problems? At some point, wouldn’t it be better for them to stop? Their actions (or stubborn refusal to act rightly, decade after decade) is a powerful counter-witness to the gospel.

  33. I maintain that it is commendable because many UBFers are doing one thing faithfully unto death as their personal expression of loving Jesus on the basis of their understanding and application of Mt 28:19-20.

    For this, almost all older leaders (except perhaps the preacher/messenger or chapter director) writes their testimony every week, almost without fail, as their prayer to love Jesus and for ubf world campus mission, for the next major conference (Easter, summer, X’mas) and be faithful to Mt 28:19 unto death.

    I’m not saying I agree with such practices. But I am saying that they are good people who genuinely and sincerely love Jesus (I believe) based on their own understanding of the Bible.

    Even if I do not entirely agree with their understanding and application of the Bible, I once did agree. For over a quarter of a century, I even practiced what they are still presently doing: writing testimonies every week (whether or I shared or not), and preparing for the next major ubf event or conference.

    I might say that I even commend myself for doing so for 27 years without fail! At the time I genuinely and sincerely believed that I was pleasing God, loving Jesus and doing what God created me to do all the days of my life.

    • Joe Schafer

      I also commended myself for doing that year after year, for 25 years. But I repented because I finally realized it was religious idolatry and it was wrong. If someone had kept praising me, telling me how commendable I was, building me up so that I could continue to do the very things that were keeping me from repenting, they wouldn’t have been helping me. Thank God my family and my friends didn’t commend me and urge me to keep marching on in such a dysfunctional Christian life.

  34. Dr. Ben, there are so many variations on the reasons why these older missionaries do what they do, so I don’t think that we can make a generalization and say that every one of their efforts are commendable. (Don’t misconstrue my words; I’m not saying that there are none whose efforts are motivated by the gospel.)

    Secondly, I would say that if one wants to focus on one thing to the death, as you illustrated, whether they do it poorly or well is totally fine with me as long as they do not try to impose their idea or system upon me. This is one of the big shortcomings of UBF; I have nothing whatsoever against campus ministry, but if you try to force me into the mold of a college student minister, bible teacher or what have you, then we’re going to have problems. Such an imposition has wounded scores of people and turned some away from the faith altogether. This kind of “faithfulness”, as you call it, ceases to be commendable in my eyes comes off as stubborn, unwise, unChrist-like, no-gospel-having, legalism.

    And I respect you deeply Dr. Ben, but I remember when you, at the tail end of your 27 years of “commendable faithfulness”, wounded others through these kinds of legalistic impositions. I’m thankful that you have changed dramatically, but when I recall those times before your change, in hindsight I seriously question why I stayed in the ministry as long as I did. I’m sorry if this comes off as raw emoting and you know that I love you Dr. Ben, but I feel as though this is something that needed to be said.

    • Joe Schafer

      David, you articulated it very well.

      Ben, your statements about Bible study and testimony writing made me cringe because, again and again, I saw ubf leaders refuse to dialogue or talk about difficult issues, saying that we had to get back to the Bible and study the Bible instead. It was what Peter Scazzero calls “using God to run from God.”

  35. Thanks, Joe, David. I say commendable only because those who faithfully do what they so doggedly do unto death genuinely think they are pleasing God and serving Christ with their own clear conscience. But of course our sincere conscience can be sincerely wrong and deceived.

    This is why we need to welcome perspectives that are different from ours. Otherwise, we will continue to think that we are so unique throughout human history that no one else can understand us. Therefore we don’t have to listen to anyone else’s critique.

    As you, I and countless others have pointed out (perhaps ad nauseam on this site), it has–and I myself have–hurt and wounded countless people. So to this day I still continue to apologize to those I see for “squeezing them into my image of what they should be according to my perception of ubf standards.”

    • Joe Schafer

      Thanks for listening and accepting our pushback.

    • Thanks, Dr. Ben. Among the senior leaders in UBF, I appreciate you most because you’re willing to discuss these things in an honest fashion.

  36. A post about Driscoll and Narcissistic Pastors resulted in 76 detailed and elaborate comments so far in 1 day! If you have a facebook account (and time to spare!), check it out:

  37. Joe Schafer

    Just when I thought that everything that could be said about Mark Driscoll has already been said, another interesting article comes along.

    The author wrote:

    “For about five months, we talked to Mark and other elders about our growing concerns. Then the church cancelled everyone’s membership, saying one could only renew their membership if they said they had no problems with the elders. So we felt released at that point.”

    In a strange, twisted sort of way, that was probably the best thing that Mars Hill ever did. A bold, gutsy move to make crystal clear what was needed to be “in” their church.

    I think it would be helpful for UBF to do the same. Tell everyone that they are now “out” of the ministry. Then readmit those who formally agree to core principles and state that they have no problem with the leadership. This would bring out into the open the fact that they already have been doing this for decades but have never yet admitted it.

  38. Real transformative change will be evident down the road, I’m sure. But this short clip of Driscoll speaking in public a few days ago (for the first time in a long time), sounds like coming from one who has been humbled and is contrite:

    It will likely not win him any support from those he has hurt and wounded in the past, but I think that if he persists in this route, healing will come and God will be glorified.

    Of course, I can also see how those who have been hurt by abusive leaders would read elements of playing the crowd and other subjective subtleties as well.

    I think, as I’ve repeatedly stated, that there is absolutely no place whatsoever for authoritarianism in the church. Where it exists, the Bridegroom weeps and the Bride languishes. Where Jesus, who is gentle and humble in heart (Mt 11:29), rules, the Bride flourishes and becomes a light to the Gentiles (Isa 49:6; Lk 2:32).

    In my perhaps naive and simplistic mind, it’s really that simple.

    • Joe Schafer

      Here’s a good opinion piece that makes a lot of sense.

      Yes, by all means, go ahead and restore Mark D. to fellowship in the church. But restoring him to leadership is an entirely different matter. Why welcome him back to a post that he abused?

    • Nice false dichotomy stated by the pastor who introduced Driscoll, i.e. crucify him or restore him (of course to a leadership position). Everyone who glazes over what Driscoll has done assumes that he should absolutely, in the long run, be restored to a position of leadership as if that is the only plausible option available to him within a church setting.

  39. Here’s the perspective that perhaps does not receive the amount of adequate attention that it deserves:

    • “If you don’t know Mark you have no right to address the issue.”

      When in 2001 Samuel Lee was criticized by the reformers in a similar way, I heard the same kind of statements. One Korean missionary woman in my chapter started to become critical of Samuel Lee as a result and spoke about the accusations with her Korean shepherd, a man loyal to Lee very high up in the hierarchy. She told me his response was “You don’t know Samuel Lee. But I have been close to him many years. I know him much better. So trust my judgment, he is such a good man, it is all slander.” Andrey from Moscow got a similar response from I think Mark Yang who visited him in Moscow when he became critical.

      The problem with this is, you nearness to a leader does not make your judgment less objective or truthful, quite to the contrary it makes you biased. Most leaders are charismatic people and do not appear as evil monsters to their close followers, but as their friends and benefactors. They also brainwash and manipulate their close followers so that they become unable to think clearly. They also become blind for the wrongdoings of the leader because they are too close and don’t see them. They don’t listen to critical information and if they accidentally hear them they don’t believe. They look with a close-up lense where a wide-angle lense would give them the full picture. This statement is a typical example of the kind of pseudo-logic and fallacy that is brought up when they are forced to defend the undefendable.

      You see the absurdity of this statement if you apply it to a person like Adolf Hitler. If the statement would be true, nobody would be allowed to judge him, except maybe his former personal secretary who was close to him all the time, even in the bunker where he committed suicide. Truth is, his personal secretary did not know who Hitler really was, she claimed ignorance about the Nazi atrocities – and this is very likely, because she was too close, too naive, too loyal, too young, too mindless in the time when she served Hitler who was always friendly to her. Only later she showed insight, saying “I could have known”, when she compared herself to another woman who knew, Sophie Scholl.

      If you’re interested in details, you can read the story of Hitler’s secretary in a book. One reviewer wrote: “Junge states that most of her time spent with Hitler was in the company of himself and the other secretaries. As a result, she indicated that he came across as a fatherly-type human; or a wise old uncle, so to speak. She talked about how boring life could be when there was no work and how she came to enjoy the nightly monologues by Hitler.”

    • Chris, Though I understand what you are trying to get at, and that you probably did not intend this, but to compare Lee with Hitler who killed 5 million Jews, is not going to be a persuasive argument and one that can be easily discarded, dismissed and rejected. In my opinion, using such an extreme analogy might even turn some skeptics and detractors of Lee into supporters and sympathizers.

      I know you’re stated that Lee is evil and that he is a non-Christian. I beg to disagree. I believe he is a Christian, with some issues that have hurt and wounded people, perhaps like Driscoll, and some/many others.

    • Please re-read what I have written. I didn’t compare Lee with Hitler, that was not my intention at all.

      My point was only the problematic kind of argumentation “in order to judge someone, you must have been close to him for years”. I was trying to point out that this argument is a fallacy, something that sounds true on the surface, but is not true at all.

      In order to demonstrate this more clearly, I simply applied that kind of argumentation to a person like Hitler. If the argument itself would be correct, it should be applicable to a person like Hitler as well, right? But as you see, it doesn’t hold.

    • I understand your argument and logic precisely. The fact remains that you used an illustration with Hitler and then connected it to Lee. Though your argument and logic is sound, comparing or connecting anyone with Hitler in whatever way is not going to win anyone over. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

    • “I believe he is a Christian, with some issues”

      On the other hand, this is something I disagree with. A Christian is someone who follows Christ, and repents for his sins, but Lee did neither follow Christ, nor did he ever repent for his obvious wrongdoings. This is my personal opinion, you have a different one, we know it’s fruitless to discuss about this.

      Also in my view reducing him to a private person with a few issues does not do justice to his role as a founder of the “UBF system” – a couple of beliefs and practices that are inherently harmful and that have been copied by many of his followers. If you act up as a big authority of God, then you must allow youself to be judged very strictly, not like the average Joe Christian who can have a few private issues. The problem with Lee was that he had “public issues” that were addressed by a lot of people in private and in public, but he never showed insight or remorse.

    • “he never showed insight or remorse”

      And in that point, he was worse than Drisdroll or Kip McKean (the founder of ICC, a group similar to UBF). Both of them showed at least some kind of remorse, even if some claim it was fake.

    • “comparing or connecting anyone with Hitler”

      Which I did not do. You are the one making this connection.

    • By virtue of simply mentioning Lee and Hitler in the same comment and in successive paragraphs, would anyone not see that you connected them, no matter how remotely?

    • “By virtue of simply mentioning Lee and Hitler in the same comment and in successive paragraphs, would anyone not see that you connected them,”

      You started complaining that I was comparing them which was not true. Now you shifted your argument and are complaining that I am connecting people. Ok, if you define “connecting” as “mentinoning people in the same text”, then you’re right, I was “connecting” them. But by virtue of that logic, you could also claim that UBF is connecting Adolf Hitler with Karl Barth, because they are mentioned in the same paragraph of the same UBF message.

      Also, Brian is right, it is legitimate to make comparisons between cult-like groups (to which UBF certainly belonged at the time of Lee) and the Nazis because they are both based on a charismatic leader with unrestricted power, propaganda, indoctrination and giving people a feelign of being something special. The movie The Wave has been used to explain both, Nazis and cults. So it’s making a connection. That does not mean that every cult-like group is as horrible as the Nazis were! It only means that certain aspects in how they operate and exploit psychological weeknesses are similar.

    • Mark Mederich

      I tend to agree with Chris, not because I’m half German:), but because I usually hear sincerity & openness regardless of consequence..

      (oops, I’m like Hitler-determined to the bitter end.. OR is that like Christ? HALLELUJAH!)

    • The topic I wanted to discuss here is the statement “you are not allowed to judge a person unless you know him personally”.

      This had nothing to do with UBF, except that the argument was also brought forth by UBF apologists. Why didn’t you respond to the actual argument and instead diverted the discussion into the direction “you are bashing UBF too much” again? As you may have noticed, you are achieving the direct opposite from what I guess you want to achieve by blaming me of comparing Lee with Hitler which I didn’t do and then complaining that UBF is bashed too much again. I find it sad that I didn’t get your opinion about whether the statement is a fallacy or not but.

      I discussed the question shortly with my wife and she pointed out that Jesus actually controverts the statement when He says: “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” Applied to UBF, I see the actions of Samuel Lee, how he abused people, how he did no deal properly with money, how he pushed a woman to have an abortion, how he refused taling with any reformers and critics, branding them as rebels, how he preached a distorted gospel, etc. That is enough for me to draw conclusions, I don’t need to know him personally.

      Concerning the other question when UBF bashing should stop, my only answer is: It should stop when they have admitted the abuse, repented and changed. And no, the Bible does not say a good word about the Pharisees. Mark is right. It’s just as one-sided about the Pharisees as we ex UBFers are about UBF. Please show me the passage where Jesus praises the good sides of the Pharisees in order to be more “balanced” towards them.

  40. “…comparing or connecting anyone with Hitler in whatever way…” – See more at:

    Speaking of Hitler, it has become an integral part of my conversion story, which is nothing but the sheer grace of God: At my mystical conversion in 1980, “I felt Hitler was a better man than I. I thought, “At least everyone knows how terrible Hitler was. But I pretended to be good in order to look good, while inside I was full of unspeakable, immoral, nasty, wicked, vicious ungodly thoughts” (Mt 15:18-19; Mk 7:20-22). – See more at:

    • “everyone knows how terrible Hitler was”

      Yes, looking back now, in hindsight which is usually 20/20 vision. Who could see such horror BEFORE hand, and while it was happening? Many even in the church missed it and/or ignored it. More importantly, who is willing to take a stand and put and end to harmful ideologies? Bonhoeffer did.

    • Hitler was SO appealing, and looked SO good to SO many people. The German nationalism was at a high, and they were one of the most, if not the most, educated nation in the world at the time.

  41. Any man’s sin affects his or her respective sphere of influence. A loner’s issues and sins affects fewer people, while Driscoll and Lee’s unresolved issues and sins obviously affected and influenced their respective spheres, which is obviously far larger, both for good and for bad. Similarly Adam’s sin affected all of humanity, while Christ’s righteousness has the power to reverse it.

  42. Chris is right, he is not saying SL=Hitler. Yes, people can make some kind of connection if they want to, but that’s not Chris’ point.

    However, I DO make a comparision between the SS and ubf, and between SL and Hitler, and between us shepherds and those who surrounded Hitler. Take away the guns and the killing, and replace them with the bible and spiritual abuse, and scale down 100 times and add some Korean culture…

    Has anyone watched the movie Downfall?

    SO MANY things that Goebles and Hitler and the SS did reflect VERY similar ideologies and behaviors as ubf.

    The SS wanted a superior German race; ubf wants a superior ubf-like society.

    The SS had many authors to write propaganda; ubf has many who write glory-stories.

    The SS got rid of critical thinkers and their books; ubf shames and shuns anyone who starts thinking critically or questioning problems.

    The list goes on and on. Surely SL was not Hitler, but surely they were born of the same zealous ambition that has nothing to do with Christ.

    • One big difference: Hitler and the SecretService ran out of people to write their glory-story ideologies and self-made history. ubf keeps finding new young people to do that for them.

  43. So one of the reasons that pushed me to leave ubf forever is because I watched Nazi propaganda clips. So many things the Nazi’s said and did reminded me of my time at ubf that I freaked out. Take the Nazi nationalism and add some Christian and Confucian words, and that’s pretty much ubf.

    Take a look at This propaganda film for women and children…

  44. Mentioning (comparing, connecting) Hitler with anyone is virtually always intended to demean and disparage in the most maximally derogatory, provocative and offensive way. Perhaps, that is your intent.

    Not that this matters, but by being so highly critical, it will simply turn people off from commenting, and perhaps from reading as well. Again, not that this matters.

    To make any argument, some good should be stated, before blasting off the bad. When the comment is just bad, bad, bad, with not a single mention or hint of any good whatsoever, then it really just comes across as simply wanting to vent or blast or diminish or disparage or demolish.

    Maybe I’m wrong but many/most negative comments about SL/UBF comes across as though there is not a single element of goodness or virtue at all. Also, all the bad about SL/UBF has already been minced and diced and dissected multiple times over from multiple angles and perspectives over and over and over again. As someone commented to me privately, “I GET IT ALREADY!” I tend to agree. If this is to be the primary and major reason for UBFriends existence then so be it.

    Jesus is gentle and humble in heart. Jesus is mild, meek and gracious, even toward Judas. As Christ followers and as representatives of Christ (flawed as we all are) do we communicate the gentleness, mildness, meekness of Christ in what we say?

    As I commented before, all that we will or are accomplishing is to turn skeptics and detractors into supporters and sympathizers.


      Well, not unless there is some action to remove the ubf heritage ideology and to remove the abusers from leadership. Someone can’t possibly “get it” until they do something about it. I’m not saying people should what I’m doing, but they should do something.

      “all that we will or are accomplishing is to turn skeptics and detractors into supporters and sympathizers.”

      Not sure I understand this last point. But I for one, am not interested in supporters or sympathizers for my cause. If I want to use over the top rhetoric or Nazi examples to bring ubf people and ideology into the light of public scrutiny, I will.

    • forestsfailyou

      I almost never agree with comparing someone to the Nazis, even if such a comparison is warranted. It always results in you appearing over the top, and even then it is incredulous to compare any group to a group that systematically killed 8 million people for no good reason.

    • Surely anyone who thinks critically understands that it would be difficult to find any group that has committed the atrocities of the Nazi’s on the scale they did.

      Yet, the best way to understand the Driscoll situation or the ubf crises that keep happening is indeed to understand the Nazi propaganda and rise to power.

      How did the Nazi’s persuade good, smart Germans to obey so well? How did one man Hitler influence even the church leaders? The answers have nothing to do with killing or guns. It is all about the power of ideologies.

      We must talk about the Nazi’s and their ideology so that we understand how to stop harmful ideologies. Surely they are the extreme example of authoritarianism. But putting an end to any kind of authoritarianism, such as found at ubf, can be accomplished only when we understand the psychological mechanisms at play.

  45. I fully understand what you are attempting to do.

    What I meant is that the strong, repeated, persistent, predictable, unrelenting, negative inflammatory rhetoric against SL/UBF is basically turning any UBF/SL skeptics and detractors into SL/UBF supporters and sympathizers.

    You keep bashing someone relentlessly and people will instinctively feel sorry for them (unless of course you’re a child molester, pimp, sex trafficker, serial rapist, serial killer, mass murderer, murderous dictator, etc).

    Again, a strong argument requires a balance of good and bad. Presenting bad all the time, every time, is a poor way of achieving your desired agenda.

    Not giving anyone any benefit of the doubt, is also not a gracious way to approach anyone.

    • “he strong, repeated, persistent, predictable, unrelenting, negative inflammatory rhetoric against SL/UBF is basically turning any UBF/SL skeptics and detractors into SL/UBF supporters and sympathizers.”

      That is a good thing, Ben. That means people are starting to wake up. That means people are starting to care. And for that I thank God.

      What happened when I first realized how wrong I was to believe and practice ubf KOPAHN shepherding theology? The first thing I did was to DEFEND ubf to the utmost. Chris can testify at how passionate I was to defend ubf. That is the way forward. Don’t like what I say about ubf? Then defend it!

      “Again, a strong argument requires a balance of good and bad.”

      I’m not still in these fustercluck conversations about a failing ministry to make a strong argument. I am here to make an impact.

      “Not giving anyone any benefit of the doubt, is also not a gracious way to approach anyone.”

      I agree. And I am not here to be gracious. I am here to be a thorn in the side of ubf.

    • Fair enough. I still personally believe that Prov 25:15, Mt 5:5; 11:29 works far better and is much more impactful than just repeatedly (and predictably) blasting away.

  46. Mark Mederich

    “Mentioning (comparing, connecting) Hitler with anyone is virtually always intended to demean and disparage in the most maximally derogatory, provocative and offensive way. Perhaps, that is your intent.”
    perhaps it should be or must be our intent if it is the only way to seek right..seems i remember holy Jesus having to spew: “Who to you..”
    NIV MATTHEW 23: 13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

    16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

    23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

    25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

    29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

    33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

    37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c]”


    • I get Mt 23:13-39. I even love those verses, especially when I see how easily I can be and am like that.

      But this is just 1 blistering chapter amidst 89 total chapters in all four gospels. If the four gospels followed the UBFriends themes and model, then it may be that 80 of the 89 chapters of the four gospels would follow the mood of Mt 23:13-39.

      I wonder how many people can bear reading about beautiful Jesus if 80% of the content of the story of Jesus in the four gospels is basically blasting you (correctly) for your sins as in Mt 23:13-39.

  47. Probably you may not care, but honestly anyone who blasts Pharisees for being Pharisees has some Pharisee in their own selves.

  48. A commendable apology:

    “Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.” –

  49. Those of you who have read what I have repeatedly written and commented since Nov 2010 know that I fully acknowledge that inexcusable, unjustifiable and reprehensible, abusive things have been carried out systematically by certain leaders for many years/decades.

    I say this publicly and unashamedly, much to the chagrin, even anger and indignation, of some of my own friends in UBF who have known me since my conversion in 1980. I myself have been accused of “UBF bashing” and have basically been marginalized. I am not saying this to generate any pity or sympathy, for I have never regarded myself as a victim. To me, this is just the nature of the beast.

    I am not saying that we should not speak up for those who have been abused and taken advantage of in the name and good intention of shepherding. I myself will continue to do so, and have been doing so. But if we just keep blasting away against SL/UBF, pointing out only the bad and horrible again and again and again, then this whole website will primarily be regarded as a Mt 23:13-39 website, even though there are 88 other chapters in the gospels, not to mention 23 other New Testament books besides the 4 gospels.

    Yes, Jesus blasted the Pharisees. But he was also gentle, meek, mild, kind, gracious, and even like a lamb led to the slaughter without opening his mouth. Jesus is our ultimate model of effecting godly transformation.

    Those who will never change will never change, no matter what is said or done. But a few hardcore Pharisees changed, not because Jesus blasted them, but because he was gentle, meek and mild toward them.

    Maybe this cannot happen or will never happen, but I’m just simply hoping for a gentler, kinder UBFriends.

    • “this whole website will primarily be regarded as a Mt 23:13-39 website, even though there are 88 other chapters in the gospels”

      So Jesus did not talk about the wrongs of the Pharisees and other similar minded people in any of the other 88 chapters?

      This is from Lk 20: “While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.””

      Jesus’ message and way to address people is consistent. When He addressed the Pharisees His message was clear and He never watered it down by saying some Pharisees sometimes did something good too, just to appear more gentle and balanced. Jesus knew when to be gentle and when to be strict. There is a time for everything, as the Bible says. To the unrepenants sinner and to those who claimed to be teachers but were wrong and authoritarian, he was strict and remained strict, and to those who were repentent humble, to those who knew and admitted they were sinners, to those who were marginalized, he was gentle and meek.

      The only way for UBF to reconcile with ex UBFers is for UBF (not only you) to admit the abuse of the past. Complaining about how UBF is bashed too much is the opposite of that mindset, so it is counterproductive.

      We have discussed this already at length, no need to rehash these things every month or so.

    • Mark Mederich

      seems Jesus didn’t wait for anyone to change but kept moving to do what he had to do, being nice when he could & unnice when he had to

      from an old song:
      “Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet,
      But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.”

      7up is the uncola

  50. Ben and Chris, both of you make some valid points. On the one hand, Jesus used a polemical style of communication with the religious order of his day. On the other hand, this was not his exclusive focus; he did many positive things, which focused on other demographic groups, throughout the course of his ministry. I’m not sure what the proper balance is between the two, but I’m certain that Jesus, guided by the Spirit, carried out his ministry in a way that maximized his progress in both areas.

    Perhaps where Ben is coming from, and similarly John Y, is that they sense that there is an unhealthy focus being placed on the polemical aspect of engaging with UBF. I don’t think that either of them are trying to mitigate the negative aspects of the ministry, but rather perhaps feeling led by the Spirit, they want to steer these discussions in a direction which is a bit more balanced and healthy for all involved.

    For me personally, I could say a lot of things both good and bad about UBF. I’ve used this site to vent about some negative things that I’ve experienced through the ministry and doing so as helped to a degree. But there’s a point when harping on those things has become for me an unhealthy endeavor. It has even served to overshadow some of the obviously good things that came by way of the ministry such as my wife, the opportunity to hone some legitimate ministerial skills, a very generous and caring community and so forth.

    This isn’t to say that continually highlighting the errors of UBF isn’t helpful to some, but I’m not sure that it is healthy for the one who is constantly doling out the critiques. So this is essentially my long winded way of saying to Chris that perhaps we should explore a different avenue as to how to engage UBF, if that is even the goal here (which it may not be).

    • Joe Schafer

      “…perhaps we should explore a different avenue as to how to engage UBF…”

      David, what did you have in mind? I tried many other avenues, and they went nowhere.

    • I suppose that’s the million dollar question, Joe. And I think that each person has to answer this in their own unique way.

      Personally, I have made it explicitly clear to the leaders in my locale what are, from my perspective, both good and bad aspects of UBF. You’ve seen the letters I’ve written and you most likely know the specific people whom I have spoken to.

      Also, lately I have begun to engage the ministry on my own terms; essentially I attend meetings and functions which I feel are healthy and productive for me (and this does not exclude Sunday service; I have not been attending lately because it doesn’t meet the aforementioned criteria). I offer my skills and help if there is a clear need. I try to make and maintain relationships with those who are willing to engage in a relationally healthy way. I’m struggling with whether or not my subjectively-based criteria is biblical however. I’m sure that there are some flaws in my reasoning, most obviously being that I am not in submission to a particular leader (or a plurality of leaders). But I also find that in not forcing myself to engage in ministry, I interact and worship with others in a more natural and organic way; this also fosters a healthy respect toward those who deem themselves as leaders. I suppose my modus operandi has been to break away from being forced into doing things, even if they are biblically mandated, while at the same time prayerfully following the dictates of my god-given conscience. After what I’ve been through this has proven to be a healthy and restorative course of action.

      So I suppose that my mode of communication with UBF has largely been through action rather than words. Blogs like this have served the purpose to expose the fact that most UBF leaders are not willing to publicly dialogue about the ministry’s issues; they simply are not ready for that yet. Just as their silence has spoken volumes, perhaps our absence of participation in key events and activities will send a message as well. However, whether or not they listen is not my concern anymore. Agonozing over their non-response has overshadowed many positive things in my life. I want to move forward in a healthy way from now on.

    • David, thanks for your viewpoint. We should all move forward in a healthy way.

      But what is a healthy way? If you’ve fallen into a pit, it’s not a healthy way to just move on without placing a warning sign in front of the pit, or covering the pit. In some way, we UBF survivors have a specific responsibility, because only we really understand what was wrong; we are the only people who are qualified to explain it appropriately and help those who are still inside and those who are coming after us, those invited to fill our seats after we left. I’m meeting this responsibility in my own way, the way I myself wished people had explained the problems to me while I was in UBF (following the golden rule here). My main worry is not whether current UBF apologists feel comfortable with this or not. Or rather, I hope they feel very uncomfortable, because people only move if they feel uncomfortable. My main worry is that people who are trapped in the UBF mindset or are in the process of being sucked into it wake up and hear about the issues loud and clear enough.

      Yes, there is a lot of sweet dough in UBF. But is it ok to praise that dough if it is spoiled and tainted with the proverbial little leaven? I always have the feeling that people don’t take that Biblical warning seriously and don’t understand that it doesn’t matter how large the percentage and quality of good dough is, if there is still the little leaven that spoils everything. To make matters worse, in my view that leaven is not even little, but already a large, tenacious cluster that has not been tackled in 55 years. It must become so obvious that everybody is appaled. The only point in time when we can stop talking about it is when that poisenous cluster has been removed. That’s my viewpoint, I hope you can understand.

    • Chris, I think that I understand where you are coming from. I will readily attest to the fact that the critiques of UBF and the broad historical view that you and others have provided have given me a better understanding of the ministry. This has led to a sort of demystification which has helped me to assess things with a bit more discernment and thus move forward in a healthy way. If continuing to do this is what you feel convicted to do, then I won’t stand in your way. I just know that for me personally, I can’t take on such a mantle in this current period of my life. Also, I have observed that my chapter is beginning to institute healthier practices, which is of course encouraging to me. This is remarkable given the fact that some of the head elders of Chicago UBF serve in my chapter. So could similar things be occurring in other chapters? Because I don’t keep up with other chapters, my position is that I don’t even want to say anything good or bad about the ministry as a whole. Like I said before, this ministry is not my main focus as it used to be. I’m connecting with other ministries and meeting other healthy Christians. This is how I feel led at this current juncture. God speed, my friend.

    • David, on the one hand it’s good to hear that there is some change going on in your chapter. I know that many UBF chapters are already different from the more homogeneous UBF under Samuel Lee that I have experienced. On the other hand, what should come first it clear admittance of the unhealthy practices in the past. If leaders start to institute healthier practice this shows that they understand their former practices were unhealthy. And if they know it, they should also admit it, otherwise they are dishonest. And starting with dishonesty can never lead to a healthy church. Particularly, they should rehabilitate the reformers of the past who demanded these same changes and were branded as rebels and slanderers.

      God speed is fast, not slow. If the holy spirit comes over you, you feel a Godly sorrow, repent and change things radically, you don’t make slow political changes. So far I haven’t seen any sign of this sorrow. Otherwise UBF would reform in Korea speed.

    • If leaders start to institute healthier practice this shows that they understand their former practices were unhealthy. And if they know it, they should also admit it, otherwise they are dishonest. And starting with dishonesty can never lead to a healthy church. – See more at:

      I agree one hundred percent with you here. This is one of the main motivating factors that has led me to engage the ministry strictly on my own terms. It’s nearly impossible for me to remain in an environment where cognitive dissonance is endemic. God be with these people to help them come around.

  51. Ben, on Facebook you recently quoted this section from an article about Mars Hill.

    “… people will sell their soul (falsely calling it submission to leadership) to a person who gives them a false sense of significance, placement, power, status, and success. The unholy deal is: you make something big and successful that we can belong to, give us a successful identity (we are of Cephas, we are of Apollos, etc.) and we will let you be king … until you embarrass us, then we will kill you. Hosanna on one day. Crucify him the next.”

    Sometimes you made similar comments about UBF. Let me explain why they always make me angry, even though they also contain and admit some valid points:

    1) They use false dichotomies. Nobody wanted to “crucify” Mark Driscoll. People wanted to see him repent, admit the problems, and step down from leadership. Is this a bad thing for Mark? No, it’s the best thing that can happen to him. Same can be applied to the UBF leader Samuel Lee. The reformers certainly did not want to “crucify” him.

    Another example of a false dichotomy in the article: “Getting rid of the king, just to set up another king, …” Yes, that would be bad, but did the Mars Hill critics really want that, did they really just look for “another king”? I don’t believe so. I remember that the reform movement of UBF discussed about making UBF more democratic and removing the hierarchical structure and mindset in different way, with concrete suggestions. It was not about setting up another “king”. They definitely were not so superficial to only criticize he person of Samuel Lee; they criticized the whole system, the way of thinking etc. Just read the reform documents. And I’m pretty sure the Mars Hill critics also do understand the root cause of the problem.

    2) The article employs a false premise. “People will sell their soul (falsely calling it submission to leadership) to a person who gives them a false sense of significance, …” He is claiming that people actively searched for such leaders and willfully submitted under them. At least in the case of UBF, we know very well that this is not true at all. People are not flocking to UBF on their own will because they love to be commanded. No, it needs much invitation, love bombing and years of indoctrination until people start to believe that their shepherds are really the servants of God whom they must obey absolutely. It’s really blaming the victims again if someone claims people “wanted” to be subdued and begged to be abused.

    3) The article fails to see that those who are in leadership and those who claim to have authority have more responsibility than those who follow them – they are the ones who are accountable and must be held accountable. It’s not fair to blame the sheep for following a shepherd who is leading them astray. The blame must go to the shepherd. At least the largest part of the blame. Don’t try to reverse that principle and put more blame on the sheep than on the shepherd.

    Ez 34 puts it very clearly: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, … because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, … I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock.”

    • I may have missed your comment earlier, but Chris, you’re right. I read this post quickly without proper reflection as to its rather subtle implications of blaming the sheep, as though it is their fault that they were abused. It’s akin to blaming the rape victim for inviting the rapist to rape her.

      But my thought is that those in positions of power and leadership often fail to see or recognize this (or simply refuse to see it), which really then discredits their leadership, as Driscoll has done to himself.

  52. I just saw this article that says that Driscoll resigned rather than undergo a process of restoration:

    It suggests that his resignation was not for the good of the church, but simply for him to “save face.” This is sad and unfortunate.

  53. He’s back with a brand new website:

    • We all know some facts about the events that happened with Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill church. Sure, we may not have all the details (and certainly don’t), but there is enough public information to warrant a public response. When you are a public figure and have a ministry claiming to be a Christian ministry, your witness is critical. Here is how I see things.

      There are three ways to handle the aftermath of the Mars Hill chaos.

      1. Publicly process the events.

      This shows the world that you understand something significant of one or more of the gospel messages presented in the bible— the message of the kingdom (more important than your ministry), the message of grace (full surrender to facts), the message of Christ’s glory (not yours), the message of salvation (purpose of healing not gaining profit) and the message of peace (promoting reconciliation over proving yourself right). This is the path of transparency, authenticity and honesty. It is the path love calls us to. You are acting like the woman from Samaria in John 4:31-42. I call this the explicit biblical gospel. This way almost always produces good fruit.

      2. Publicly acknowledge the events.

      This shows the world that even though you can’t process things openly right now, at least you understand humility. This goes a long way and demonstrates wisdom, even though it’s not far enough and not transparent enough for some people. This way shows that your journey is most likely on the right path, but there is quite a lot about the gospel Jesus preached that you need to understand. This shows the world that you are near the kingdom of God. You are acting like the people who asked Jesus a question in Mark 12:28-34. I call this the “politeness gospel” that sends confusing messages of humility mixed with pretense and righteousness mixed with preservation. This way could grow into something good, but more often than not yields bad fruit.

      3. Publicly ignore the events.

      This shows the world that you cannot process the events (maybe it is too soon?) and you cannot acknowledge the events. This reeks of hypocrisy, falsehood and shallowness. This way shows the world that you believe the gospel of Jesus saves us from the consequences of our sin. This shows the world that you don’t understand the difference between covering up sin (condemned by the bible) and covering over sin (encouraged by the bible). You are acting like the Roman ruler Pilate in Matthew 27:24-26. I call this the “clean slate gospel” that sends false, harmful messages of removing consequences and ignoring facts. This way almost never produces good fruit.

    • That website, Ben, has SO many RED FLAGS of spiritual abuse.

      For example,

      “Our prayer is that these resources will help non-Christians meet Jesus and help Christians become more like Jesus – because as Pastor Mark says, “It’s all about Jesus!”

      I no longer trust anyone who repeatedly says “it’s all about Jesus”. It is not all about Jesus. It is about Jesus and a whole lot more, namely human beings. We show our love for God best when we love our neighbor.

    • After all of what has come out in public how can he possibly stand by statements like ‘I’m just proud to be a nobody who’s trying to tell everybody about a Somebody.’? His entire bio statement almost reads like a parody. And how can he still hold the title of pastor, like pastor of exactly who or what? Didn’t he walk away/resign rather than subject himself to a process of restoration to become pastor of MH again? And the timing; it’s just so unbelievable that he would launch something like that so soon.

      I’m fairly certain that someone will pay for him to give lectures, talks, etc. at their church or conferences. Heck, I would be willing to bet that someone would even be willing to allow him to come on staff as a pastor in their church. Before anyone does so, they should be advised to read either the full version or at least an executive summary of the supposed investigative report that sought out to determine the veracity of the claims against Driscoll. Just unbelievable, what has American Christianity come to that we put up with stuff like this?

  54. Insightful article about the ‘New Calvanists’ movement of which Driscoll is/was a part of:

    To be sure, neo-calvinists don’t shy away from controversy and aren’t reticent to critique those outside of the movement. (One might refer to some Calvinist’s blistering responses to Donald Miller’s announcement that he doesn’t attend church.) Yet these same leaders are often resistant, delayed, and then tempered with their critiques of other Calvinists who seem to stray.

    An illuminating example of this might be the recent glut of Mark Driscoll controversies—from sexist comments to charges of plagiarism to proof that he bought his way onto the New York Times bestsellers list using ministry monies. Leaders in the movement were effectively mum until a select few broke the silence of late. The first accusations of Driscoll plagiarizing were revealed on November 21st, but the first truly critical response posted by neo-Calvinist mega-blog, The Gospel Coalition, trickles out on December 18th. One might compare this with the response to Rob Bell’s book “Love Wins” that was in full bloom before the YouTube trailer finished buffering.

    Even those who were brave enough to critique Driscoll were mostly moderate. And several Calvinists told me off-the-record that many who offered full-throated criticisms of Driscoll—like Carl Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary—have been relegated to the margins as a

  55. Great quote from a facebook thread today:

    I wouldn’t worry about the Driscoll come back. It nearly never happens. It took him 18 years to get to this level of visibility. And it’s a little like Mick Jaggar’s solo projects- no one gets him outside the Stones. He has lost his platform. He will not get people to give him money at any level. In three months it will be Mark who? And everyone will have moved on to the next spectacle. It’s time to think of the victims —- and millions of victims of smaller churches and other who have done equal damage. It’s not about Driscoll. It’s about a culture that is vulnerable to this kind of person. And no it’s not a large – box church issue — Driscoll just had better marketing skills than most….. trust me there are at least 40 other smaller churches in greater Seattle doing the same things…. how can we recover the wounded and design a culture based upon biblical values, honesty, character and empathetic concern for people… can we make the “familiy owned” business model a thing of the past….. Driscol smiscoll – what about my three friends in Lake Marry that were ripped apart by a money grabbing pastor of 100 people. It is a cultural issue — don’t be deceived and think Driscoll invented this. He is too old to establish another environment like MH to work in…. he will see this in two years…and then and only then start to look back reflectively —seen it numerous times… experienced it myself (read about it in our book)…..MD as you have known him is gone….. but we have a horrid culture that rewards marketers and

  56. Thanks for all these updates David! It is really astounding how many parallels we can draw between Dricsoll/MarsHill…

    • Brian, I’ve been following this mainly through Warren Throckmorton’s blog over at patheos. I think that we can relate to the Mark Driscoll story because he seemed to be theologically sound (at least he championed the Bible in his church) and additionally his church was centered around his brand or image (cult of personality, essentially). This is the bad yeast that is so prevalent today that can even damage a church that promotes studying the Bible. When one person or leader is exalted over others and cannot be questioned, then no matter how much Bible study is promoted, their narcissistic interpretation will prevail over what Scripture and other sound minds within the church say.

  57. Thanks, Dave. This is so sad (perhaps more sadly prevalent than we might expect) and so well articulated!:

    “When one person or leader is exalted over others and cannot be questioned, then no matter how much Bible study is promoted, their narcissistic interpretation (and practice, I might add) will prevail over what Scripture and other sound minds within the church say.” – See more at:

  58. Driscoll still apparently doesn’t get it. He does not address or acknowledge that he abused his spiritual authority as the lead pastor.

    He is on stage again at a conference and apparently still unrepentant by regarding himself as a “struck shepherd” and as a victim who needs to forgive those who exposed him:

  59. I know that some ubfers are very uncomfortable when a leader is called out for being evasive or secretive, or for abusing their spiritual authority. Thus, I’ve repeatedly heard that ubfriends is regarded as a “ubf bashing” website, simply because many are sharing stories of how some leader misused their authority and hurt the sheep they were supposed to serve.

    This article clearly articulates in detail how Driscoll has misused and abused his authority as a church leader:

  60. Driscoll reappears.

    From the article:
    Inside, lead pastor Dan Kellogg brought on Driscoll with the words: “He’s in the middle of re-purposing his life.” Kellogg claimed Driscoll was “unfairly treated by former staff and the media,” and exclaimed: “He’s baptized 10,000 people who found Christ.”

    “I would like to talk about Jesus instead of me: It would be much more pleasant and helpful,” Driscoll began.

    Sounds familiar. Throw numbers out about what _____ has done, and then divert the attention to being only about Jesus.

    • “He’s baptized 10,000 people who found Christ.”

      That’s probably why the Apostle Paul wrote: “I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name.”