We have loved the light

sRecently, Ben shared his thoughts on Mark Driscoll being removed from Acts 29. As I read more and more articles and comments, I am more and more amazed at how similar the Driscoll/Mars Hill situation is compared to our faith community at UBF. One recent letter stood out to me, and so I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

Come Into the Light

Several elders and pastors wrote a letter to Mars Hill church entitled “Concerns and Critical Information for the Elders of Mars Hill Church”. Theirs words struck a deep chord with me. Do we love the light? Are we willing to bring our church into the light? If there is any best way to describe one thing I want from UBF leadership, one way to summarize the thousands of emails and hundreds of blog articles I wrote the past 3 years, it would be this. Come into the light.

“Where there is nothing to hide, there is no fear of being exposed. But, rather than seeking clarity, we have cloaked ourselves in non-disclosure agreements. We have become masters of spin in how we communicate the transition of a high volume of people off staff. We have taken refuge behind official statements that might not technically be lies on the surface, but in truth are deeply misleading.

At the retreat this week, Pastor Dave spoke about our church’s credibility problem. Brothers, this credibility problem is directly linked to the fact that we have not loved the light.This is not the fault of one person, or even a just a small group of people. We all share in responsibility for this in one way or another, and we must all repent of it together, together calling for our church to step into the light.” (source)

Ethics Committee Contact Details?

e1Last week someone contacted me asking about the UBF Ethics and Accountability committee. They asked to remain anonymous for this person feared retaliation for asking about the committee, based on their experience in approaching UBF leaders. This person may submit an article with their suggestions for the committee, but for now I will just share some quotes sent to me. These quotes show me that as of 2014, UBF leadership still has qualms about the light, just like the Mars Hill leadership.

“I wanted to contact UBF Ethics committee but I could not easily find their contact information at ubf.org. If they are serious about making ethical reform they should make it easy to post suggestions for ethical reform in a way easily explained in the website via some form of contact listed on the website.”

I have to wonder the same thing. How ethical is it to not make the Ethics committee contact information available freely and publicly? The perception (and likely reality) is that UBF leadership wants to control who contacts the committee and what gets reported to the committee, thereby rendering the committee irrelevant. Am I right? I hope I am wrong.

What will be said of us?

Of course, John 3:18-20 comes to mind immediately. Will it be said that we loved the light? If there is nothing to hide, why don’t UBF leaders and members come into the light? In this internet age, there is really no place to hide. Publishing nostalgic hagiographies, traveling the world to do private “Continuous Missionary Education” and adding bureaucratic layers onto the ministry doesn’t do much to bring UBF ministry into the light. We all see you, by the way. There is no place to hide.

So no, I do not hate Koreans. I love kimchee! I do not consider Korean culture to be the main issue facing UBF ministry. I deeply respect the disciplined nature of many Koreans I have met, in UBF and out of UBF. But what do I want? I want UBF people to come into the light! Will you join me in the light? Will you discuss UBF ministry here on ubfriends, openly, freely and honestly? This won’t be easy. It won’t be “safe”. It will be like walking on the water. It will feel very uncomfortable. It will be messy. It may get ugly. But I stake my life on this, when we love the light, it will be glorious.


  1. Thanks for this article, Brian. When I read about Driscoll my thought was that he is a far larger “American version” of similar authoritarian abuse issues that have been encountered (and for the most part ignored) in UBF over the last many decades.

    • Yes indeed Ben. The issues are not American or Korean culture.. but a culture of fear, obedience and loyalty to the echelon.

  2. Thanks Brian. I must always think of Eph 5 in this context: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” I recommend re-reading the whole chapter, it’s one of those that was not on our regular Bible study plan in UBF.

    The point is that UBFers claim to be born again and have radically changed their life style – as expressed in the typical 2-part life testimonies: “Part 1: Life in darkness before UBF, Part 2: Life as a shepherd in UBF.” This is even true, but the dichtomy is not “darkness – light” as it should be, but “darkness – work for UBF in obedient self-denial”. Doing all these works in obedience, they continue to live in darkness in their fantasy world bubble and refuse to do reality checks. I remember how one missionary even tried to justify obvious lies by the director, saying that Rahab also lied in the Bible. Ultimately, I think that this was the reason why I left UBF. I did not leave my life of darkness to live in an organization that continues to live in darkness and does not want to come out into the light as requested by the reform movement at the time when I left.

    You also wrote “how similar the Driscoll/Mars Hill situation is compared to our faith community at UBF.” This is another observation that I made after leaving. This whole issue is not an issue of UBF alone. It’s a general phenomenon that can be seen in many high-pressure groups and cults, whether they are Christian or not. This is something people need to understand. We do not demonize UBF or Samuel Lee as the worst group or leader that ever existed, as sometimes is claimed. We know that there are many similar groups and leaders, and many are far worse. But they all have something in common. Therefore it helped me so much to read the stories of cult dropouts, even when the ideologies of these cults did not resemble UBF and were far more aberrant or not even Christian. But the psychological mechanisms how these groups worked and the damage they did to their followers were all extremely similar.

    Therefore I really urge UBF members to read such stories, even if you think “UBF is ‘studying the Bible’, so how can you compare it to, say, the ‘Moonies’?” Or “UBF is so different from Mark Driscoll’s movement, how can you compare these things?” Truth is, you can. The similarities are striking. Maybe not so much for people in some of today’s more free and liberal UBF chapters, but definitely 15 years ago in all UBF chapters around the world. And assumed that things are completely different in UBF today, coming into the light would still mean that UBF needs to admit and process its sins and wrongdoings of the past, rehabilitate the reformers of the past, and apologize to all victimes of abuse. As long as UBF refuses to do that, it is still not living in the light, no matter how much it has allegedly changed.

    But again, it’s not a problem of UBF alone. UBF is only a particular manifestiation of the phenomenon known as spiritual abuse that can be seen in many other Christian groups and movements following the shepherding/discipling paradigm and other doctrines and practices which superficially look Biblical, but maybe therefore are even more dangerous than groups that are obviously far aberrant from the Bible. A slight deviation from the gospel can sometimes be more harmful that complete ignorance.

    UBF members need to get educated about spiritual abuse, shepherding/discipling and mind control to see that it’s always the same theme pervading so many groups and movements, and obviously UBF is also deeply entangled with this.

    • Indeed, the entire book of Ephesians was an amazing study as I did my personal search for grace not too long ago. Ephesians 5:5 stands out to me today, for example: “5 You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.”

      As a ubf shepherd I always had this feeling that I was using sheep to fill my quota and remove the threat of rebuke from other leaders. Now I realize such things are called out as a form of idolatry in Scripture.

      You raise some excellent points Chris, namely, that we don’t view ubf as the worst organization. Surely there are far worse. That reminds me of the 2nd most common thing said to me during our exit: “We are the worst of sinners!” (the most common was of course “Go away and be quite!”.

      The ubf mind (me included in the past) views themselves in light of Paul’s words “I am the worst of sinners… least of the apostles… one abnormally born…” In Paul’s case, I would say he deserves such a title, given his serial killings of believers. But in all ubf people’s cases, they are really not the worst.

      So if Paul, who was the worst, could come into the light, it is surely possible for ubf people, who are not the worst.

  3. I think this is a good definition from Chris’ link about spiritual abuse:

    “Spiritual abuse occurs when someone in a position of spiritual authority—the purpose of which is to ‘come underneath’ and serve, build, equip and make God’s people MORE free—misuses that authority placing themselves over God’s people to control, coerce or manipulate them for seemingly Godly purposes which are really their own.”

    This explains well the reason why spiritual abuse “works” so well by being disguised under the radar. Thus, spiritual abuse can be very subtle, can be justified by the Bible, it’s purpose is expressed as being for God, and the leader can often be very friendly, gentle and charismatic at times. Under such circumstances the spiritual abuser imposes over time their own wish dream on their flock or congregation.

  4. Ok well there goes any hope of a good response from Mars Hill leadership…

    one of the pastors who signed letter is terminated

    “The letter describes a “lack of transparency” and creating a “culture of fear.” It also accuses Mark Driscoll of misrepresenting the condition of the church and his leadership.

    One of the pastors who signed the letter, Pastor Mark Dunford, was terminated on August 27, five days after the letter was submitted, sources tell KING 5. Dunford was an unpaid lay pastor at Mars Hill Portland.

    Sources tell KING 5 the reason for his termination was “rebellion against the church.”

    The other pastors who signed the letter were called into a meeting Thursday with Mars Hill leadership.”

    • I guess that even if MD is on leave for 6 weeks, he might still be “in charge” since he is alleged to have appointed his cheerleaders as his elders and accountability partners.

    • Indeed, Ben, that is how authority hierarchies work. You might be interested to read this blog. As to be expected, there is an “evil anti-Mars Hill” blog…


    • That Mars Hill blog is very helpful to me. I found this test to be very revealing. I think we should take this test and discuss it.

    • Mark Mederich

      when power & $ are at stake, meetings will be held..:)