Toledo UBF Message – Just Obey

c1Now it’s time for another Toledo UBF message review. This one is a doozy.

The Message

If you want to read the original message delivered in August 2014 at Toledo UBF, here is the link:

Jesus Christ is the Same Yesterday and Today and Forever
Hebrews 13:1-25

My Critique

“I’ve read through the messages you studied over the past five months, and have come to see two things: First, Jesus is better. Secondly, faith in Jesus is the secret of bridging the gap between what we know and how we live.”

I have read through those same messages. The thoughts that come to mind are that those messages are vague, full of ubf loaded language and pathetically void of the gospel messages. So this messenger noticed two things. Jesus is better. Better than what? The Hebrews author makes it very clear what is better and why it is better. And this messenger saw that the secret sauce is “faith in Jesus”. This secret sauce is supposedly what binds the ubf fantasy world (what we know) and the reality around us (how we live). “faith in Jesus” is loaded language for “just believe the ubf heritage without thinking critically”.

“How can we conclude today? Looking at chapter 13 there are many key verses. How can our hearts be strengthened? How can we live as salt and light in a dark and corrupt world? How can we work together with our leaders, and go back to the Bible? The answer is Jesus. Let’s think about him as we conclude this study today.”

Here we have the standard Evangelical thinking “Jesus is the one and only answer to everything and all life’s problems.” We also have more ubf code language. “go back to the bible”… “work together with our leaders”…

“Verse 1 reads, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.”  In this verse he is talking about Phileo love, or as C.S. Lewis defines it in his book “Four Loves”: Friendship. In Christ, a beautiful community of faith is established among those who believe. This produces an affection for one another. Out of this community of loving and sharing, real and genuine friendships should emerge. What is friendship? One brother in Chicago told me, “I can agape love people by bearing with them, but to actually love them as a brother requires that I like them, get along with them and enjoy being with them. That is much harder.”

This doesn’t smell right to me. C.S. Lewis seems far deeper and more profound than this simplistic idea presented here. We must “get along with them”? We have to enjoy them and like them? This just seems way too simple-minded for me. Lewis surely had a more robust thought in his book.

“I understand. There are many people whom I respect and would trust my life to, but we don’t really have a friendship. Who are your friends?”

At least here the messenger honestly communicates the reality around him. This is the norm for ubf people; they claim to “trust each other unto death” but don’t have even a beer-buddy level of friendship. The reality unspoken here is that ubf people will drop you like an anchor as soon as you question the ubf heritage or display “disloyalty”.

“In church we often put community above friendship, since community is inclusive, while friendship tends to be exclusive. In today’s world people have hundreds of Facebook friends but are so lonely. Some complain, “I don’t have any friends.” The trouble is, friendship isn’t about solving our needs or loneliness.”

Again, I appreciate the honesty here; ubf is a community that disparages actual friendships. Ubf is an environment where “community” comes first. I can hear the messenger’s lonely heart crying out here. “Some complain…” that is ubf messenger speak for “I complain… I am the one who is lonely…”

“Jesus loved us sacrificially and one-sidedly. But Jesus also had friends, his disciples. What was their friendship about? He tells them in John 15:14-15, “You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Jesus’ friends are those who share in his Father’s business. Who are your friends? To keep such love dynamically in our community, we take a risk to share our hearts.”

After a veiled expression of his own loneliness, the messenger now justifies his friendless and superficial life with the classic ubf verse John 15:14-15. Friendship cannot be separated from obedience in the ubf mind. In the ubf mind, we must imitate this—calling people our servants first and then hoping they obey us until we can break through and have friendship. But this path is not what Jesus is prescribing here. Jesus is teaching about His Lordship, something this messenger fails to grasp in the slightest.

“Verse 2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” What is hospitality? “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” In those days such hospitality carried great weight, as inns were few and far between, and generally houses of ill-repute. Welcoming a stranger may seem burdensome, especially to wives, who sometimes think there is an expectation to have a perfectly manicured home and deliciously extravagant meal. But fundamentally hospitality is a welcoming attitude. Jesus had no home. But Jesus had a spirit of hospitality, and taught his disciples to practice this: “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me (9:37).” When we invite a stranger into our home, we may be welcoming one of Jesus’ angels. He may send “secret strangers,” to see if we will welcome them. This gives a unique opportunity to reveal Jesus in our world today.”

Ugh… more ubf loaded language. Ubf makes a BIG DEAL about “welcoming strangers”. You must open your house after a conference to “welcome guests” and “show hospitality”. Otherwise you are disobeying Jesus and you won’t want to disobey Jesus right? The messenger now goes into what I call “drone mode”. He just repeatedly fires bible verses and a flippant, unthoughtful response to each verse. But one stands out:

“Verse 4 reads, Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” In that time, ascetics felt it was better not to marry, and that marriage was an unnecessary indulgence since Jesus would come back soon. But God created marriage before sin came into the world. Marriage supersedes the fall, and the law and the church. He who does not honor marriage does not honor God who created marriage. Jesus described his coming as a wedding banquet, and Paul said our marriage reflects the mystery of Christ’s union with the church. Do I honor my marriage? Since it is a private thing, we may not think it important. But God knows, and what he has joined together, man should not separate. Included in this is healthy sexual behavior. Society changes moral standards and even redefines marriage. But we honor our marriages, knowing that God’s standard and blessing in marriage does not change.”

Really??? You gotta be kidding me! ubf “honors marriage”? Not after you get married. After marriage you are expected to live like single college students! What about all the arranged marriages and threats of divorce or threats of not being able to marry someone you like? I’m so furious I will refrain from my litany of wrath since I’m posting this publicly…

“Second, spiritual leadership and the word of God (7-19). Verse 7 reads, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” This seems to indicate past leaders whose life of faith was now over and subject to examination. Their way of life led to a glorious outcome: a fruitful and victorious life resulting in the kingdom of God. Why was it so? They put their faith in Jesus Christ. The world changes all the time. Situations and methods change, but Jesus never changes. Verse 8 reads, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Faith in Jesus includes our faithful ancestors into the hallowed halls of the heroes of faith. The question is: how can we imitate their faith in unchanging Jesus, and pass that faith on to those who follow us?”

Can anyone say ancestor worship? Why in the world bring up “our faithful ancestors”? Why are we talking about dead people here? I can only guess.

“One thing that sticks out brightly in this verse is the word of God, which has power to change and give life. Through the teaching of God’s word the Hebrews accepted the gospel and were saved. Although the early apostles were not learned men of power and wealth, they were people of great influence who changed the world by teaching the word of God. Their spiritual leadership bears fruit through the ages. We need to remember these leaders, and all who followed them.”

Here we see the teachings of Samuel Lee shining brightly. Note the self-aggrandizing, self-comforting nature of this paragraph. Ah ubf bible teachers are SO important! Ah we may be labeled as a cult and maybe we hurt so many people and did so many bad things, but we are SO important. Sounds like the colonel in “A Few Good Men”… “you need me on that wall! You want me on that wall!”

“There are many kinds of leaders with many kinds of teachings competing for our attention. But verses 9-10 read, “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so. 10 We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.” The Jews had spiritual leaders, who emphasized ceremony and ritual.”

So now we are not talking about ubf leaders but Jewish leaders?

“Through the eating of certain foods you could be righteous or unclean. But these activities did not strengthen hearts in a good way. Rather, they led to self-righteousness when they did well and to utter despair when they failed. Strange teachings are contrary to the word of God.”

Indeed! Why doesn’t this messenger examine ubf’s strange teachings? Isn’t this the most hypocritical writing you’ve heard in a long time?

“When we read the word of God, we are pointed to Jesus. Jesus’ grace is what strengthens our hearts to bear with and obey all the exhortations of the word of God. Sometimes faith in the gospel of Jesus’ grace seems weak compared to self-righteousness, and we often feel harassed by guilt and shame. We need grace!”

Well maybe we are pointed to Jesus. I found that usually the word of God points me to another person—someone I need to apologize to or to befriend or to notice. Note the horrendous understanding of grace. Faith in the gospel seems weak?!? No way! Faith in the gospel ALWAYS is strong and powerful and mighty. Grace only seems weak if you have no idea what grace is. Grace is not simply power to obey better. If so, grace would not be grace.

“My eldest son is 10 years old. He is a soft-hearted and compassionate kid. From last year he started to give us attitude, and breaks down in angry, frustrated tears from time to time. I began to realize that in relating to him I’m full of expectations, and not grace. I never wanted to be the father who exasperates his children, but I did so. This is the difference between strange teachings and the gospel. What is the food you are trying to strengthen yourself with and take your stand on? Is it accomplishments, spiritual behaviors, relationships, other things? Our hearts are weak with pride and with sin. We need the grace of Jesus, the grace secured to us by a far superior altar, on which to stand (Ro 5:2).”

I find this vague and disturbing. I find the gospel messages absent here. Is it just me?

“To trust in Jesus and his grace alone will invite misunderstanding and disgrace from those who support a strange teaching, focused on legalistic righteousness in this world.”

Yes, and it will invoke the wrath of ubf leaders if you actually do trust in grace alone.

“The USA, once thought of as a Christian nation, is becoming increasingly hostile. But that is ok; our enduring city cannot be found on this world using google maps; yet we live in hope in the city that is to come. With this hope we live by faith in Jesus, who never changes, and we take our stand in his grace, not our righteousness.”

That is ok? Why is it ok and fine to become increasingly hostile? This is a clear expression of the ubf mindset which is living in a fantasy world and disconnected from reality. To say “peace, peace” or “safety, safety” when there is no peace or safety is a dangerous way to think. There are some freaky things going on right now, which the messenger mentions, but instead of allowing people to express their emotion, he just says “that’s ok”….

“In response to Jesus’ sacrifice, we are encouraged to offer two of our own: Verses 15-16 read, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  When we live by ceremonial foods, we praise ourselves. But when we live by faith, and our hearts are strengthened by grace, we praise God, not ourselves.”

So sacrifice is a two-for-one deal now? Jesus sacrificed once (and for all). But we have to sacrifice twice? I don’t think that is what God intended to teach here. And maybe the messenger should examine ubf’s self-praise here?

“How can we continually offer to God this sacrifice of praise? Only through Jesus, whose love and grace never changes. His forgiveness, love and direction are new each morning, and each generation. But as we continually offer to God this sacrifice, we must not forget to do good and share with others. Jesus’ love language is obedience, for he said, “If you love me, keep my commands (Jn 14:15).” What did Jesus command? Jesus said: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (Jn 15:12).”  These sacrifices are pleasing to God, and pleasing God makes his children happy.”

More circular logic that binds the audience back to obedience. Ugh.

“True spiritual leadership speaks the word of God and leaves a legacy of faith in Jesus. We see that example of faith in Jesus yesterday through those who came before: those who taught the word of God to us. But Jesus is the same today, and we therefore have leaders whose faith we are to imitate to day as well. Verse 17 reads, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” Jesus has appointed leaders and will call them to account for keeping watch over us. So we are exhorted to obey and submit to them.”

So because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, our LEADERS are also those from yesterday, today and forever? This is some of the worst Hebrews teaching I’ve read.

“Who are your leaders in Toledo UBF? Do you know who they are? They are the ones who speak the word of God to you. They are the ones who are accountable to God. Let’s decide to obey and submit to their authority, and work together in joy, not in burden. As we do so, we may experience Jesus Christ today, and leave an example of faith for those who follow to experience Jesus tomorrow and forever.”

OMG! WTF? Note the blatant disregard for Scripture here! The messenger just says “obey your leaders” and SKIPS the qualifying verses! The author of Hebrews qualifies such obedience, but this messenger intentionally SKIPS verses 18 and 19. And after this, the messenger just quickly ends the message by emphasizing the key verse he chose.

Let’s read those verses shall we? “18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.”

Is there any ubf leader who has a clean conscience? Do they lead with any kind of conscience at all? Do they desire to act honorably in ALL things or just ubf things?

My Rating

1 star – monkey (flawed, confusing, disheartening)






This messenger doesn’t know what he is doing. Or perhaps he does know, in which case he is highly deceptive and manipulative. They have major flaws in their understanding of the material they are presenting. They don’t speak or write well. Typically this kind of messenger is just putting on a show, trying to perform. These messages are just lectures giving information. This messenger has a lot of learning to do and really shouldn’t be in the pulpit.


  1. Thanks, Brian, for taking the time, effort and energy to critique this sermon. I am personally praying at some point to preach on Hebrews…maybe in a few years, God willing.

    I know the messenger fairly well from the first year that he came to Chicago UBF in the 1990s. I believe that he is a good man, who loves Jesus, loves Scripture, personally knows God’s love and grace, and who wants to please God and do what is right before God and man.

    As I skimmed through the message, I’m not as critical as you are, but I can see why you critiqued what you did. Also, most people who have been in ubf for decades (as many of the older leaders in Toledo have been) will likely find “nothing wrong” with the message.

    My primary thought is that there is perhaps TMI (and thus somewhat heavy and burdensome) for a half hour plus or 45 min sermon. Thus, it may not necessarily have implanted a single predominant memorable thought or theme that moves or touches our hearts because of the immeasurable love of God and the marvelous grace of Jesus.

    Then again, we are critiquing the sermon ONLY by reading it, without knowing how his delivery of it was. His preaching would surely be expressed through his personality and faith, which might come across to the audience quite differently from just reading the sermon.

  2. Yes I surely know this messenger Ben, and just recently spent a whole class together with him. I share this because I care about him.

    I also share because this yet another HQUBF messenger from Chicago UBF sweeping into Toledo UBF to deliver the message of “obey your leaders”. It really is not helpful to the situation. HQUBF wants to claim a “hands off approach”. What they really do is grab you by the you-know-whats when you aren’t looking.

  3. forestsfailyou

    I am most certain that this man, if as he is as I have heard him described by others, has never read the 4 loves. If he had he would have read this

    “It is therefore easy to see why Authority frowns on Friendship. Every real Friendship is a sort of secession, even a rebellion. It may be a rebellion of serious thinkers against accepted claptrap or of faddists against accepted good sense; of real artists against popular ugliness or of charlatans against civilised taste; of good men against the badness of society or of bad men against its goodness. Whichever it is, it will be unwelcome to Top People. In each knot of Friends there is a sectional “public opinion” which fortifies its members against the public opinion of the community in general. Each therefore is a pocket of potential resistance. Men who have real Friends are less easy to manage or “get at”; harder for good Authorities to correct or for bad Authorities to corrupt. Hence if our masters, by force or by propaganda about “Togetherness” or by unobtrusively making privacy and unplanned leisure impossible, ever succeed in producing a world where all are Companions and none are Friends, they will have removed certain dangers, and will also have taken from us what is almost our strongest safeguard against complete servitude.”

    • Thanks for sharing those quotes Forests. Indeed, sounds like C.S.Lewis should be studied in every ubf chapter! I think my friend (this messenger) either read this book with “ubf eyes” or was confusing the book about the love languages (which has been making ubf rounds lately). “ubf eyes” is kind of like “beer goggles”. Anything I read back “in ubf” I read only to seek affirmation of my own shepherding/ubf ideology.

    • “Anything I read back ‘in ubf’ I read only to seek affirmation of my own shepherding/ubf ideology”

      Yes, we all did this, and sadly, first and foremost we did this with the Bible, it was the exception. However, we lived in the delusion that we took the Bible “as it is”, contrary to all other Christians.

  4. forestsfailyou

    I will say that reading most of this I didn’t find too much that was outright offensive. I think some of this is correct, it is just in the usual narrowness of UBF. It’s the same stuff over and over again. This however, was actually insane:

    “Who are your leaders in Toledo UBF?…Let’s decide to obey and submit to their authority…”

    Yeah right.

  5. Brian, I’m having trouble seeing the purpose of posts like these. Right now it just feels like a back-handed way to “get back” at the community that still touches raw nerves within you. I just don’t think using UBFriends as a tool for a public “shaming” is a way to build friendship. This is not how I’d like to treat my friends, nor how I’d like my friends to treat me. Come on, Brian, I know you can rise above this kind of thing, bro. We’ve been through all this before.

    In contrast, I’d rather spend my time discussing messages that inspire, challenge us deeply, or bring healing to the soul.

    For example, take Tim Keller’s message on “Reconciliation.” I think it is TK at his absolute best.

    Or even let’s ruminate over Fr Robert Barron’s message on the “Kingdom.” Another gem of wisdom (and only in 15 minutes!).

    Wow, what kind of spiritual formation does it take to be able to give such messages packed with such wisdom and insight, and yet deliver it all in less than 15 minutes! Man, how I wish to be able to give messages that are on fire rather than ones that will likely come under fire.

    On a side note, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking…I’d love for UBFriends to move towards something like Relevant Magazine. I think we have the potential among thoughtful folks like you and everyone else on this community, and there’s a growing groundswell of young people in our UBF community that can really develop something awesome for the rest of us. How can we encourage this?

    I propose all of us someday work together to run a “UBFriends” fundraising campaign to raise funds that we could use to hire a full-time, UBFriends “editor” with the passion and giftings to develop UBFriends to be a slick, professional, and highly edifying and thought-provoking online magazine that is more relevant than Relevant. Just a crazy thought.

    Ah, glad to be back on UBFriends after a long hiatus…I’m sort of ashamed to admit, haha. Hope all of you are doing well.

  6. JohnY,

    I’m glad you finally broke your silence and shared your feelings again here. I share these critiques for two main reasons:

    1) No one in 50+ years has ever dared criticize ubf messengers. They have become “untouchable”. We became conditioned to just flattery ubf messengers and say “oh thank you soooo much for your message…” I aim to demonstrate that ubf messengers are not untouchable. We can critique ubf messages. If not, then how can the messages ever possibly improve? If we don’t know what’s wrong with the messages, how would Keller’s sermons be of any use, other than to affirm flawed theology (like SS did with C.S.Lewis)?

    2) The root cause of the massive leadership fallout in Toledo ubf was the Sunday messages. That was a common theme from all of us who resigned. We all gave many helpful ideas and suggestions in the years prior to 2011. But nothing changed. This harmful ubf ideology must be called out and exposed. How else could the ideology ever be redeemed? Redemption involves death, and the ubf shepherding ideology must die.

    You asked one question, so I’ll answer it:

    “I think we have the potential among thoughtful folks like you and everyone else on this community, and there’s a growing groundswell of young people in our UBF community that can really develop something awesome for the rest of us. How can we encourage this?”

    None of the admins for ubfriends, including myself, have an agenda. We are merely posting and commenting as we feel prompted. We don’t have the personal ambition that drives most ubfers. We just want a place to share and express what we are feeling, without any kind of pressure. If you want to change the nature of ubfriends, my only suggestion is to start submitting articles and comments.

    • The agenda of “a place to share and express what we are feeling, without any kind of pressure” though important, is not the primary purpose of this site. It may be appropriate for your personal blog, but not for this site.

      If you allow me to be an admin, then I would like to help steer this online community back to its original purpose.

    • That sounds like a threat to me.

    • It only feels like a threat because perhaps you feel entitled to full control of this website. Sorry, I just finally had to say it in public. This is not your website, Brian. It belongs to a community–one in which you have undue influence for a while. I will no longer remain silent. I’d like to request that folks like me and Sharon also have full admin of this site to help shape the direction of this site moving forward.

      Then you won’t see me as a drive-by commenter any longer. I will be a full-fledged contributor.

    • John,

      I do not feel entitled to “full control of this website”. I have backed away several times. Did any else step up?

      Well yes, Ben stepped up. We have 483 articles published. 182 were from Ben. I submitted 101 articles. Yes I have most comments but when I back off, the site goes silent.

      How many did you publish? The answer is 2. I will never be silent about the abuses I see at UBF, but I will certainly publish any article submitted with no filtering. Forests has an article in the queue that I will publish soon.

      And if we want to speak in terms of entitlement, then I should say that I am entitled to have some say here. I was one of the original founders (where’s my Founders day? :) and I pay monthly to keep this site hosted. I own the domain and I accept the responsibility if someone at UBF decides to take up the lawsuit approach again to silencing their critics. And that responsibility I will gladly bear.

    • John, I would have to side with Brian, here. The admins are willing to publish nearly anything we submit (e.g., Forests had a couple of good articles posted back-to-back).

      And for Brian’s part, I can attest that he was trying to steer the discussions away from UBF-related topics. He recently began publishing articles on 2 Corinthians and also one on whether or not we should obey the OT Law (a discussion which you would have thoroughly enjoyed). We engaged in lengthy dialogues about these topics without mentioning UBF, at least to my knowledge. It was very edifying. Somewhere along the way someone else veered back into the UBF lane. My point is that we have a lot of leeway here. You want relevant-esque content and articles, then you should start publishing some.

  7. My “cop out position” is that I actually like and agree with both JohnY and BrianK’s comment.

    I agree with JohnY when some articles or comments “just feels like a back-handed way to “get back” at the community that still touches raw nerves within you. I just don’t think using UBFriends as a tool for a public “shaming” is a way to build friendship.” – See more at: Still my push back and kick back to this comment is that each and every person who tries to “get back” at UBF for having “spiritually abused” them is at different stages on their own spiritual journey. Wish dreams of anyone cannot be imposed on others. UBF leaders who never read UBFriends cannot impose their wish dream that UBFriends be shut down. Neither can victims of the UBF system impose their wish dreams on the UBF hierarchy.

    Yet, I also agree with Brian K that “No one in 50+ years has ever dared criticize ubf messengers. They have become “untouchable”. We became conditioned to just flatter ubf messengers and say “oh thank you soooo much for your (wonderful) message…” – See more at: My thoughts from giving any critique of anything is also to try to see and state often the positives of the opposing perspective and state some (or a lot of) positives, rather than primarily hammering virtually the entire sermon from beginning to end as though it hardly has any positive or good points.

    My thoughts are an ongoing question that I personally have no answers for: “How do you/we reconcile both positions and postures and placate and pacify and bring peace to both parties?” Perhaps some have little to no desire to do so. Well, that I guess might be my own wish dream, which hopefully I do not try to impose on others.

    • “How do you/we reconcile both positions and postures and placate and pacify and bring peace to both parties?”

      As The Doctor says, “That’s not the question…”. I don’t see how placating and pacifying are healthy or Christ-like? Did I miss something?

      Your questions about reconciling and bringing peace, those are indeed valid and Christ-like. We should keep asking those questions, “How can ubf/ex-ubf reconcile? How can there be peace between the two sides?” Those are excellent questions!

      Also, what good is in this message that I critiqued? At best, as Forests says, it is just the standard ubf mantra. Where is the gospel in this message? Did I miss it?

  8. “Where is the gospel in this message? Did I miss it?” – See more at:

    I’ve made this general statement many times about ubf messages which is probably unfair, not helpful and anger inducing to many sincere ubf messengers who truly love Jesus: “UBF messages tend to be imperative driven messages (rather than indicative driven). Jesus and the gospel is never denied, but it is rarely central, because the take home point is often some imperative.”

    In the message being critiqued the key verse Heb 13:8 is a lovely and wonderful indicative, but the take home point might be the imperative Heb 13:17, which in my opinion might be overplayed and causes the listener to “forget Jesus and the gospel” and to remember “obey your leaders” as the central take home message.

    I am not against “obey your leaders.” In the UBF context it unfortunately often implicitly means, “don’t complain, don’t criticize, don’t disagree with your leader, because God appointed him and not you as the leader.” This has a tendency of producing timid clones who are not encouraged to develop critical thinking skills, and who think that their job/position is to primarily agree with and support their leader and their community. In my opinion, this inclines toward producing a homogenous unhealthy community, which is unappealing to most people.

  9. Thanks JohnY for Fr. Barron’s homily about allowing both good and evil to coexist, and to not too zealously remove the evil that God allows to coexist with the evil in the world (which obviously does not mean to accept evil, which is present even in us). I love this quote: “There would be no virtue of the martyr without the cruelty of the tyrant.” Thomas Aquinas.

    Some regard this as their favorite Andy Stanley sermon of all time: It’s well worth 35 min of your time.

    • Per Aquinas’s quote: If some victims of the ubf hierarchy think that some ubf leaders were or are like tyrants, then perhaps God is raising many virtuous martyrs BECAUSE of them. :D

    • Ben,

      I am not a virtuous martyr. It’s been proven that numerous ubf leaders are benevolent dictators, that’s not just “something I think”. It’s also been demonstrated that the ubf ideological system is what produces such a flawed directorship style of leadership.

      Also as Sharon correctly points out, I am not back handed, mean spirited, or otherwise defective. Nor am I still wounded or at a presumed lower stage in my spiritual journey.

      Was my critique over the top? Surely. And intentionally so. The wonderful, daisy-smelling discussions that JohnY hopes for just don’t happen. The only choices the ubf directorship has given us is silence or praise. Either “give glory to ubf” or shut up.

      My aim is to make a third way, the way of sparking discussions (like this one :) that need to occur. Ultimately my goal is to bring the ubf ideology and people into the light.

    • Ben, congratulations for making the 15000th comment!

      It needs an important clarification, though, since you recommend “not too zealously remove the evil that God allows to coexist with the evil in the world.” The emphasis here is on the word “world”. In the church however, the evil should not be tolerated. The obligatory “prooftexting”: Mt 5:48, Mt 18:17, 1 Cor 5:13, 2 Cor 6:14, Rev 2:20 and I can give you many more passages if you think these are not enough.

    • Chris, good point. And on a similar note, I don’t think that we can use the parable of the wheat and tares to justify keeping around abusive leaders or church culture. Of course, blemishes and flaws will exist in the church this side of heaven, but the church should be a community which expresses the kingdom of heaven on earth. This means that real expressions of honesty, grace, transparency, reconciliation, repentance, love and forgiveness should be inextricably woven into the character that it possesses.

  10. There is something that I always feel gets lost in discussions like these. Why do we assume that those who talk about abuse and spiritual malpractice are back handed, mean spirited, or otherwise defective in that they are still wounded, at a presumed lower stage in their spiritual journey? I’m not convinced of any of this. While I think Brian may have picked a little too hard at this message, I believe this scrutiny is worthwhile and must be discussed. I really don’t think that it is time to gloss over any of the malpractice that is still rampant in the ministry, and is still apparently off limits, still pushed under the rug and outright ignored in favor of moving on to the green pastures of a positive, fresh, young, new and hopeful younger generation? Sorry I just don’t think it’s time to set this all aside, John. For some of us it still burns in our hearts. And perhaps, just perhaps, it is more like the fire that burned in the heart of Jeremiah whenever he tried to keep silent.

    • +1. Fully agree. Personally I think that my own heart is burning (surely not quite enough!) BECAUSE of the negative and unpleasant experiences I’ve encountered.

  11. And I don’t think that attributing any of this to a conflict of wishdreams is helpful either. This has nothing to do with wish dreams. It has to do with the reality of gospel reconciliation that is impossible without truth. The hard truth.

    • Maybe I’m using Bonhoeffer’s “wish dream” loosely. But don’t we all have wish dreams that we wish others would embrace? By saying this I’m not minimizing the utmost importance of reconciliation, which again I think can easily be imposed on others based on our own expectations and “wish dreams” and even Bible proof texting!

  12. Yes, Ben. I still don’t see this calling out of injustice, an essential part of the reconciliation process, as an imposition of a wish dream. But I surely understand how it can be.

    • I agree with Sharon. I feel like I don’t have a good grasp of what Bonhoeffer actually meant by “wish-dream.” But I am haunted by his quote:

      “God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community (wish dream) demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren…”

  13. I would agree Sharon. An example of a wishdream would be wanting to see us former ubf leaders get back together and do ubf ministry alongside ubf missionaries. That is not my hope or desire in anyway.

    My hope and desire and work is to bring my ubf experience into the light–the light of history and the light of public scrutiny and the light of what I call “ubf sheep light”. I want ubf “sheep” to start realizing the oddities they see are not “just them”, but things many thousands of people have also seen for decades around the world.

    Speaking of coming into the light… my first two books are FREE on Amazon today and tomorrow.

    My third book, Unexpected Christianity: The Penguin Narratives, will be published tomorrow on Amazon, to be available this week.

    Do a search on for “ubf”, my books show up.

  14. JohnY, when you state “original purpose of this website” it is at the top right hand corner:

    “…diversity of opinion on many issues within the Body of Christ. As the gospel welcomes people of every tribe and tongue and nation, it also challenges us to stretch ourselves beyond what is comfortable. The degree to which we imitate Christ is not measured by how much we love those who are similar to us, but by how much we embrace those who are different.”

    The three main points that I see are:

    1) diversity of opinion.
    2) stretch ourselves beyond what is comfortable.
    3) loving, embracing those who are different from us.

    Do you think ubfriends has deviated from this “original purpose”?

    • Yes.

    • By the way, my face image for John Y sort of freaks me out.

    • John, everyone is free to change their profile pic. Hover your mouse over the “Howdy, JohnY” button and then click “Edit My profile”. We don’t choose any images; they just get assigned randomly by WordPress.

    • “Yes”

      …Would love to hear more of your thoughts on why, John. You’ve become a sort of drive-by stalker here. You drop by to say “Be gracious!”, crack a joke, and then disappear for two weeks.

      There are those of us who simply will never “give glory to God” in the ubf manner of thinking. And there are some of us who spark uncomfortable dialogues. That won’t change any time soon.

      By the way, if someone wanted nice comfy dialogues, I stepped away (and so did others) during Lent this past year. 40 days of no comments or articles from me. Did anyone start polite, nice, safe-for-ubf conversations?

  15. This quote expresses why I like this website: “Intimacy is the capacity to be rather weird with someone – and finding that that’s ok with them.” Alain de Botton.

    I know I’m weird. My own mom tells everyone that I am “odd.” So I love weird and odd and even messy, which might well describe this website. Actually, if I think about it, the Bible itself is rather messy!

    Isn’t the Bible a whole lot messier than ubfriends? (killing women, children, infants, whole communities, coitus interruptus, description of genitalia, graphic sexuality, adultery, incest, bestiality, political intrigue, etc?)

    • I don’t want UBFriends to be the Bible. I want it to be better than Relevant. ( I demand that my wish-dream be imposed on to this community! Now!

      Haha. bad joke.

    • John, I’m not a reader of “Relevant”. Judging from the name you want this website to have relevant content for the current and ex UBF community. But what could be more relevant in this context than talking about the obvious aberrancies in UBF doctrine and practice and the still outstanding corporate repentance and admittance of guilt of UBF for the wrongdoings of the past? Sure, you can find other more relevant issues for people in general, but this is a site specific for UBFers, not a general Christian website.

      The reason why people keep repeating the same issues is because they want to be relevant, instead of beating about the bush and not seeing the elephant in the room.

  16. Howdy, John Y. After I wrote the article, “Generation: Found” it became very apparent to me that I was clamoring after my own idea of what ubfriends should be (which was a noble idea and quite similar to yours). However noble my idea was, it was wrong for me to try and impose this on the community. I think that for some here, it is relevant to expose the ongoing misgivings of UBF and for others it is more relevant to create contemporary, fresh and encouraging content. This side of heaven, neither of these endeavors will be executed perfectly, but still, both have the potential to be helpful to the church community at large.

  17. JohnY,

    You are correct, this is not my website. It is a community website. I am a gatekeeper of sorts though.

    You mention that if you become an Admin, “Then you won’t see me as a drive-by commenter any longer. I will be a full-fledged contributor.” – See more at:

    Why can you only comment if you have some Admin authority? This makes me leery of including you in the Admins group. If you want to change the tone here, submit articles and comments. That is the only this we can do. I’m all for non-ubf discussions. I tried that (see my last articles prior to the message criticism). But what happened? Other people pulled the conversation back to ubf…

    The Admins group here at ubfriends, myself include, have chosen NOT to use our Admin privileges except for stepping in a few times since 2010. We do NOT filter comments or articles. We have published every article except for 1 which contained some personal references that the author then decided not to publish after our questions.

  18. Regarding God “allowing” wheat and weeds to coexist, it seems obvious that God is allowing good and evil to coexist in the world, and even in the church, even UBF, if I might so conjecture! As stated, this does not in any way mean to condone evil. Speaking for myself, the most difficult evil to deal with is within myself. Martin Luther, for all of his vicious attacks against the Pope and the Catholic church, regarded the greatest evil as being within himself.

    For instance, the public outcry is for Mark Driscoll to step down, even from among his own rank, a few current Mars Hill pastors. But hardly anyone believes or thinks that he will step down willingly or voluntarily. Why the heck wouldn’t God just forcibly remove him by some supernatural means?

    Those who want him to step down obviously believe that he is doing far more harm than good for Christ and the gospel and the church.

    But might not God be allowing him to remain as the head honcho because God still has his own purposes for him being the big stick that he is?

    Since Mars Hill began in 1995 God has obviously allowed him to thrive and grow from a small house church, perhaps only a little bigger than most UBF house churches, to 15 churches in 5 states boasting 13,000 members. Why would God “bless” him in such a way that would only make many mouths in ubf water (probably including mine!)?

    • > Why would God “bless” him?

      From where do you conclude that God “blessed” him (including his methods)? And even if he did, from where do you conclude that is He still “blessing” him? Maybe it’s God who wants to remove him from leadership?

      Why do you think it’s ok that he has been a “big stick”, but it’s not ok when his critics are a “big stick” now?

      The Bible is clear. If something is clearly and obviously sinful in the church, the church must take measures to ban these sinful things or persons unless they repent. I already quoted several Bible passages that are unmistakable clear about this, and you always just ignore them. Why do you call yourself an Evangelical Christian if you ignore these unequivocal New Testament teachings about the church?

    • Chris, that’s why I used the word “bless” in quotes…

      Chris, it also seems that you disregard things that affirm you: I’ve already stated repeatedly that I do not and have not ever supported authoritarian abuse, and that Driscoll and a whole bunch of church leaders throughout the ages should have stepped down and let go of their egomaniacal power and control.

    • “I’ve already stated repeatedly that I do not and have not ever supported authoritarian abuse, and that Driscoll and a whole bunch of church leaders throughout the ages should have stepped down and let go of their egomaniacal power and control.”

      Ben, I know and appreciate that, I don’t disregard it.

      You say MD should have stepped down. But the crucial question is: What when he should step down, but refuses to do it? Should the church have the right and duty to force him to step down or dismiss him in that case? What’s your opinion here? Your statements always sound to me as if you want to evade that question.

      Another crucial question is whether leaders who have huge outward success (great numbers of members/followers), who seem to be “blessed” and are considered shepherds and authorities “God’s servants”, “God’s speakers”, should such people be judged less strict because of all their success and their spiritual status/nimbus and maybe God is kind of always using/protecting them, or should they be judged stricter because they are shepherds and role models and God wants them to be held accountable? This is an important question where we always clash in discussions because we seem to have different opinions.

  19. Sorry, I guess I overreacted yet again. Pushing “buttons” on all my friends, I see.

    I will remain friends with all of you and will continue communication on the pressing issues of our community. Everyone here knows that I’m willing to talk and listen – even if I often don’t “get” it. But for now, even if it means irritating my friends, I must follow my conscience and finally take my leave of this online community for now. I’ve maintained my insistence on reading everything on this site out of pure loyalty to my friends. For now, I think to be a true friend is to no longer enable habits and patterns of thinking/communicating that I think is actually harming friendships in the long-term and inhibiting genuine healing and reconciliation for the community.

    My offer to be on admin team still stands. If I’m allowed to work with a balanced team of contributors to move this site back to how I perceive was its original purpose of Christian unity, then I will return as an active contributor. For now, I will take my “adieu.”

    No doubt I will make my return. :)

    • As you and I can contribute as much as we like without being admin, I really don’t understand what’s your point here. The only thing admins could do is censor or delete contributions. But since they haven’t abused that right, I don’t understand what’s wrong with the current admin team. Do you plan to introduce censoring or filtering content in order to steer the site into your direction? If not, for which other reason would you need admin rights?

      As Brian already said, if you want different content, then just contribute it and do not complain. Alternatively, criticize the content of Brian’s posting, just as Brian criticized the content of the UBF message. Nobody will censor your criticism here. I guess Brian will glad to get feedback and surely heed your advice when it’s good and legitimate.

  20. Mark Driscoll refusing to step down may or may not have anything to do with Gods favor and continued grace over his ministry. 13,000 members may or may not mean that he has been overall a positive piece of the Christian drama. I don’t understand your logic Ben.

  21. Dr. Ben, I wouldn’t necessarily ascribe his refusal to completely step down to the sovereignty of God. I would say it is more so a product of the spineless leadership that he has surrounded himself by as well as the parishioners who have bought into the idea of having a super star, celebrity pastor that they can claim allegiance to. As Paul says in Romans 1, God’s wrath is expressed through allowing us to fall headlong into sin and idol worship. There may be valid reasons for some to stay at MH, but if I was a leader or parishioner there, given the overwhelming amount of evidence against MD, I would most likely leave and God, in his sovereignty, would allow me to do so. I couldn’t imagine God wanting people to remain under leaders who are disqualified or unfit for service. Rather we choose to remain on our own volition.

    And I’m not sure that we can use numbers alone as a metric for authentic, gospel-originated fruit within a given ministry. In light of the parable of the wheat and tares, can we be certain that all of the 13,000 congregants are true converts? Certainly, there is abundant testimony of how people’s lives have been changed for the better through MH church. But at the same time, there are many, many testimonies of people who have been turned off to Christianity altogether because of the abuse that they have endured while there.

    • A good counter-example to MD is that of Ted Haggard’s dismissal. He actually had a leadership structure put in place in which power was shared equitably. When his scandal broke and an investigation was conducted, the leadership rightfully voted him out. And this was at a time when he was the president of the NAE. Obviously, God did not see it fit to use him any longer as a “big stick”.

      I am more inclined to believe that God gives us the proper protocol in the Bible as well as the mental, emotional and physical capacity to carry it out rather than ruling us by fiat.

  22. I’m not condoning Driscoll’s authoritarian abuse. I also think he should step down, which I believe Scripture supports. But if he doesn’t (as many “sub-par” questionable Christian leaders down through the ages have not who should have), God is still sovereign and God will still fulfill His good will, even through Driscoll’s adamant refusal to let go of his power and authority.

    • Joe Schafer

      “I also think he should step down…”

      Ben, the allegations against Mark Driscoll are serious. But there is plenty of evidence that many ubf leaders, past and present, have done things that are just as bad or worse. Do you think that some of our senior ubf leaders and chapter directors should step down as well? If not, why not?

    • Dr. Ben, I don’t understand what you’re trying to communicate here. Are you simply making a general statement about God’s ability to ultimately accomplish his perfect will? If so, then what does Driscoll have to do with this? We can replace his name with nearly that of anyone else in the world or in the history of the existence of mankind and the point would be the same. Why is Driscoll somehow special in your eyes?

    • Joe, in light of all of the recent MH revelations, I wanted to research and write an article about what kind of behavior precedes valid disqualification from ministerial duty. I used to narrowly think that it had something to do with sexual immorality or financial impropriety, but I’m beginning to realize that it’s much more than this.

      For instance, Driscoll boasts about his sexual purity, e.g. staying faithful to his wife amidst abundant temptation, never having watched pornography and being a father-like counselor to women who have been sexually abused. But it’s obvious that his pride has caused staggering damage, including the destruction of lives, which seems to be on par with some of the largest scandals among leaders who have given into temptation in the areas of money and sex.

      I also wanted to apply this question to our ministry, as you stated. One other question I wanted to ask is what are the guidelines for reinstatement or restoration to ministerial duty (if any such concept exists). I’ve never delved into this aspect of church governance, but I’m beginning to realize how utterly crucial it is to creating and sustaining a healthy and god-honoring congregational body.

  23. Ok, I’m in over my head. I’ll just say that I find this appeal to God’s soveriegnty unsatisfactory.

  24. I agree wholehearted with you David.

  25. Ben,

    You mentioned:

    “Those who want him to step down obviously believe that he is doing far more harm than good for Christ and the gospel and the church.” – See more at:

    For those of us who understand the gospel of grace, the amount of good vs. the amount of bad has nothing to do with it. One fly in the soup renders the soup unfit to eat.

  26. “Do you think that some of our senior ubf leaders and chapter directors should step down as well? If not, why not?” – See more at: I think you know my answer to the question. But good luck on that…

    It seems that people find my “Calvinistic” expression of God’s sovereignty confusing, confounding, exasperating, unpleasant and quite unsatisfactory.

    If anyone has read what I’ve written they should know that I have NEVER ever said, suggested or insinuated this: “Just pray quietly and accept abusive shaming hurtful horrible church leadership (like Driscoll or others) and let those leaders do whatever c_ap they want, because it is God’s sovereignty that they are leaders.”

    • “If anyone has read what I’ve written they should know that I have NEVER ever said, suggested or insinuated this:”

      Correct Ben. But your comments have been perceived to say things you didn’t say. And honestly, I’m confused by your comments, which imply all sorts of things.

      The hard lesson I have to keep learning is this: What I say is not what people hear.

      Case in point: I wanted to discuss N.T.Wrights’ 2 Corinthians study. I don’t really want to keep talking about ubf. But those articles about 2 Corinthians generated very little discussion (although a really good discussion did in fact break out finally, thanks David and others!)

      But my section 2 article generated ZERO comments. If people really don’t want to discuss ubf, then let’s talk about 2 Corinthians.

      But the reality is that our community of readership and commenters really really want to discuss ubf topics. So I indulged such desire, and look what happened… many good comments broke out on my message critique article… even JohnY appeared out of the woodwork!

  27. Dear all – I am deeply embarrassed by my recent rash postings. I did it out of an emotional state which I knew I would later regret. In short, I felt a friend was being attacked unfairly and so I reacted. In the end, I think I finally understand the perspective the rest of you were taking on the message. As usual, it is a disagreement not in goal but in approach. Brian, please accept my public apology for the uncharitable accusations I made against you on this posting, brother. I am deeply ashamed of my behavior.

    Nevertheless, after some thought, I will stand by my original decision. After 4-5 long years of being a faithful UBFriends community member, I think I must finally take my leave.

    Yes, as admin, I admit I would introduce filtering, in the same way that I would expect any sort of magazine like Christianity Today or First Things would do in an editorial community that considers its audience. What one person might call “filtering” I would call “editorial discernment.” But perhaps I’m too biased toward my own UBF community be able to serve such a role at this time. And perhaps I’m expecting too much from something like UBFriends. God in his loving sovereignty birthed this site for a reason, and I need to step out of it to allow God reveal to me what He has planned – rather than whining in my own periodic commenting temper-tantrums about how I wish this site was different. And perhaps UBFriends should not be going in the direction as I have so inarticulately communicated and it was wrong of me to impose my dream for it as David W noted.

    In any case, I’d like my final involvement in UBFriends to be an Open Letter to My UBFriends and a Proposal for a New Vision Forward For This Site which I presume will be published automatically since heck there really is no filtering, right? (sorry, couldn’t resist there!) In any case, I will wait a couple months to pray and deliberate but I will definitely formalize my farewell with this Open Letter. In the meantime, I will wait for the winds of change, and probably more accurately, the Wind of Holy Change to first occur in my own heart.

    I can’t believe I’m finally doing it. A farewell. Geez.

    I assure you, there will someday be a John Y “second coming!” Maybe in one month, one year, or 20 years, but I will be back!

    For now, I leave you all with my deep gratitude for the times we shared on this site and for the willingness of folks like Chris and Brian K to not dismiss me outright as a “UBF ideologue” (though my comments have been surely irritating and naive at times). You guys have treated me with genuine friendship. I really appreciate it.

    Ben, Joe and Sharon know that I deeply care about them, and in many ways I feel like they are my own family members, for I am truly myself when I’m around them. And I know they will not treat my absence from this site as a slight against them. I would never want to hurt them in a million years. Indeed, I confess that everything I’ve done in the past 2-3 years in some sort of public role in this UBF community I confess I was actually doing on behalf of them (long story here!).

    Rather, I hope all of you would treat my absence more as a recognition that I’m just not clearly strong enough to participate in a forum like this. I myself have not experienced the depths of pain that others have experienced, and I’ve finally come to realize that I’m not in a healthy position to help my fellow friends move forward from that pain. My contribution will not lead to healing at this time.

    Again, it is my love for the original vision of this site that kept me here for so long, and yet now it compels me to take my leave in hope and “necessary sorrow.” But I will be cheering for all of you in my own way toward that collective desire for an outpouring of God’s Love to make its way throughout our community from top to bottom. When that happens, UBF and UBFriends will truly be something to behold! (Lord, make your Bride beautiful with your deep abiding Love!)

    I’m deeply grateful to you all. My new home is welcome to any of you if you need a guest room to share with our family and chat about anything under the sun. Until then, farewell my UBFriends!

    • Thanks John. You are always welcome to share your thoughts here!

    • Just a few more thoughts John…

      In regard to being a “faithful UBFriends community member”… this is not an organization. We don’t have leaders. This is just a website, with 3 admins and a few readers and contributors.

      If you really want a “Christianity Today” type website, you will have to create something besides ubfriends. That is a noble desire and I respect that desire (part of me even wants the same thing!) But honestly, I am just not ready to do that kind of project. It seems none of us are… many of us just don’t have the capacity yet to discuss theology and other issues without the ubf context. That’s understandable. It may take 1 year of recovery for each of my 24 years dedicated to the ubf cause before I can think without the ubf context.

      Your apology is accepted, though you didn’t do anything worth apologizing for. You shared your emotions. You expressed your honest thoughts. And that is the kind of dialogue we are seeking here.

    • John, I hate to see you go, and I must admit I don’t understand why you think you need to, even after your attempts to explain. This site needs people like you to contribute. If you think it is a problem that people like Brian or me are overrepresented, your departure will only make the problem worse. So I hope you can rethink your decision.

      Maybe one reason for your dissatisfaction can be found in your side remark that you can’t “help your friends move forward from that pain.” I really think you misunderstand what these discussions are all about. We already have moved away from that pain. Most of us have already been healed from the abuse. It’s not we who need to move now, it’s UBF who needs to move to get healed as well. If UBF moves and admits the abuse, repents and apologizes (in that order), then again it will be exUBFers part to move and accept the apology if it’s serious. But unless that happens, don’t expect any exUBFer to move. The ball is now in the court of UBF, it is not in the court of exUBF. The goal of this website in my view is to help UBF make this move, by making them see the problems through open and frank discussions and removing the obstacles that hinder them from moving. And then when UBF starts moving, the other goal or reconciliation will likely be reached as well.

    • Joe Schafer

      John, we love you. Even though sometimes you’re weird.

      We are all going to forget what you said about not commenting here anymore. Saying goodbye is a decision and promise you didn’t need to make. If at any moment you want to say something, your comments will be welcome here, even if some of us disagree. And if at any moment, you would rather not say anything, that’s ok too. UBFriends may not appear to be a welcoming place. Sometimes it feels like a mosh pit. But it is actually a friendly mosh pit. the door is always open for people to come in and go out.

      Despite the heated-ness of some of the discussions here, I have found that this is actually a safe space. The people who comment here on a regular basis (Ben, Brian, Chris, …) are totally upfront and honest about what they think. They will openly disagree with you if they don’t like what you say. But they won’t stab you from behind. They won’t pretend to treat you nicely but then talk trash about you behind your back to undermine/ruin your relationships with other people.

    • John, I really wish that you wouldn’t go. I have always enjoyed your insightful comments and quips. The strength of this community is that while we are not always going to agree on how we see things, at the end of the day, at least we’ll know where we each stand; I respect that kind of community because it’s a more realistic depiction of communal life than what we’re accustomed to. Also, you said,

      “I myself have not experienced the depths of pain that others have experienced, and I’ve finally come to realize that I’m not in a healthy position to help my fellow friends move forward from that pain. My contribution will not lead to healing at this time.”

      While your sentiment is commendable and, I believe, comes from a place of genuine love and concern, to always view yourself as one who is obligated to help those who frequent this site to “recover” may not be truly helpful to any of us (including yourself) in the long run. As Chris pointed out, people have been able to recover in spite of and apart from the intervention of UBFers.

      If we would seek to help one another here, perhaps the best way is to walk side-by-side and exchange ideas, simply getting to know one another. We will never be able to fully understand each others’ pain, but at least we can dialogue and develop genuine friendships and maybe Jesus will do something with this that far exceeds our vision and expectations. In other words, just lending your honest thoughts and interaction here is actually a significantly helpful contribution in and of itself.

      Alright, enough of this formal talk, we gotta see each other in real life and get some Bridgeport coffee or a Pleasant House pot pie; we only live like five blocks apart from each other :)

  28. Per JohnY: “Until then, farewell my UBFriends!” Well, you are my daughter-in-law’s older sister’s husband. So, like it or not, you can’t really get away that easily, at least not from me. :D

    • Thank you all for the kind words. You all make great points and I’ll take it under consideration. My farewell is only to this site, not to our friendships. I know you all know that. I will continue conversations only offline from now on. And as Dr. Ben knows, I cannot avoid him even if I wanted to! :)

      I was weeping this morning trying to figure out why I had this feeling of loss in my heart. I guess this is what it feels like when you leave a church community after so long. I’ll miss you all. At least in this virtual sense. See you again soon in the flesh!

  29. “But the crucial question is: What when he should step down, but refuses to do it? Should the church have the right and duty to force him to step down or dismiss him in that case? What’s your opinion here? Your statements always sound to me as if you want to evade that question.” – See more at:

    I do not believe in being evasive. In my mind, I’m sure that I state my opinions clearly and unambiguously. Maybe some people just do not like it whenever I mention God’s sovereignty, because it seems to be interpreted as putting my hands up and singing “Que sera sera.” Being basically an activist, I’ve never been an advocate of equating God’s sovereignty with fatalism or apathy or resignation.

    Also, I have already answered your question in the Mark Driscoll post: “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.” – See more at:

    So it’s basically up to the 13,000 members of Mars Hill in 15 churches in 5 states to firmly decide and resolve what happens to MD. My thought is that some will likely leave, while some will continue to (blindly) support him, which means that he will quite likely be back, sorry to say.

    So if he comes back, is that not God’s sovereignty??

    • Ok, thanks for the clarification, Ben.

      “So if he comes back, is that not God’s sovereignty??”

      I hope the double quotes signal sarcasm ;-)

      My answer: No, that would not be God’s sovereignty but a sign that Mars Hill is already too dysfunctional to solve the problem from inside. We are facing a dilemma here: Aberrant and authoritarion leaders can corrupt and brainwash their church members so much that they virtually are unable to act and think appropriately. In a healtyh church, the rank and file should have the power (see Mt 18:15ff) but in an unhealthy authoritarian church, the ordinary members have not been trained to think and make decisions. A similar thing happened in the ICC where at least a part of the church allowed Kip McKean to have a comeback and continue in the same old ways. I fear you will be right with your prediction that some will leave, some will continue to support him no matter what. Maybe others will found a spin-off that tries to keep the good parts while removing the bad parts (like CMI tried to).

    • Joe Schafer

      I like the answer that Chris just gave.

      God wants people to repent and return to him. If a church is run by aberrant leaders and is full of aberrant practices, I believe that God would want the church members to take decisive action to get rid of those leaders and practices. If the members fail to do so because of their pride, unrepentant spirit, hardness of heart, etc. then God may allow them to remain as they are. But that is not want he wants.

      God, in his sovereignty, created a world in which people are truly free to sin. As a result, many things that happen in this world are not what God wants. I suppose that God decided to do this. God wanted to create a world in which he would not always get what he wanted, at least not in the short run. Because if he always got what he wanted, it would be a world without love.

    • Dr. Ben, I’m not sure if it’s helpful to frame this situation in the context of God’s sovereign will. Again, observations made using this paradigm reduce the thing in question to utter banality; for every single thing that happens under the sun, by the sheer fact that it comes to pass, I can always ascribe its occurrence to God’s sovereign will. Such an argument is so general that it does not help us to make any headway in deciphering what is actually going on in the world. For instance, I just ate a grape. Was this God’s sovereign will just because it occurred? Let’s say that it was. Still, I can’t qualitatively answer any questions about the meaning of this event if I simply chalk it up to God’s sovereign will.

      It may be more helpful to address something which is practical and concrete, which is God’s moral will. We can say with certainty that Driscoll has violated or failed to live up to the qualifications for an elder as per Titus 1:5-9. If he does not step down then he is guilty of further violating or ignoring God’s moral will or standard as spelled out in those verses or similarly in 1 Peter 5:3; we could even say that he is resisting the Spirit of God in this matter. Also, Chris mentioned God’s code of ethics as seen in Matthew 18. It then becomes obvious that it is much more instructive and practical too look at these situations in that light rather than ascribing them to God’s sovereign will.

      But let’s say, for the sake of argument that Driscoll’s refusal to step down is being orchestrated or allowed by God for some unknown purpose. Again, I think that it is helpful to look at some of the facts otherwise we might surmise some kooky things from him “being divinely held in office” as you might put it. (1) The church is not using biblically precribed guidelines to defrock him and (2) as was noted he is biblically disqualified from ministry. So I can only conclude in this situation that God is upholding him similar to how he allowed the disciples to desert Jesus (a violation of God’s moral will, yet he allowed it to happen) or to how in Romans 1 it is revealed that God gives people over to the idols that they worship, which in this case foolish Mar’s Hill congregants are keeping a clearly unfit leader on a pedestal in order to suit their own depraved desires. If anything, I would say that his continued occupancy of the top position in his church is a sign of God’s removal of his mercy and grace from them; he is giving the church over to it’s own folly.

      But who knows, maybe I’m going a bit off the deep end. Where is Joe S. with his timely articles to illuminate us theological Neanderthals?

    • Ben, “So if he comes back, is that not God’s sovereignty??”

      No, that just means he decided to come back and the Mars Hill church somehow allowed him to come back. Those are people’s decisions. The deeper question is this: Does Mark’s return fall under the umbrella of God’s will for us to love one another, to work out our understanding of the gospel and to be a witness of relational unity?

  30. Darren Gruett

    This whole topic of God’s will, as it relates to this conversation, is very interesting. Here are a few resources that I found that helped me understand different aspects of God’s will in light of man’s ability to make decisions that run contrary to it.

  31. Thanks, Darren. This quote is helpful, I think: “This understanding of His sovereign will does not imply that God causes everything to happen. Rather, it acknowledges that, because He is sovereign, He must at least permit or allow whatever happens to happen. This aspect of God’s will acknowledges that, even when God passively permits things to happen, He must choose to permit them, because He always has the power and right to intervene. God can always decide to either permit or stop the actions and events of this world. Therefore, as He allows things to happen, He has “willed” them in this sense of the word.”

    Read more:

    Have any of you read J.I. Packer’s “Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God”?

    The “misunderstanding” of God’s sovereignty seems to me to be that when I say that it is God’s sovereignty that God allowed MD (or any other abusive leader) to remain in power, or to refuse to step down, or to establish a mega-church, etc, I am not saying that it is God’s perfect or preferred will, but that He, in his wisdom, perfection, mystery, “predestination,” and sovereignty, allows it to happen. This also does not mean to become passive and fatalistic and to not fight against wrongdoing, evil, and injustice.

  32. Great discussion on God’s sovereignty! From another angle, might we ponder the topic of “my will”? Too often the “God’s will” card is played by religious leaders. Everyone wants to align themselves with God’s will and then they enforce the decision with the authority of God.

    Maybe we should start understanding “our will” and trust that God’s will is for us to love all people, to dig deeper into the gospel and to work out relational unity somehow.

    Not too long ago someone asked me “What do you want?” I was shocked because for decades I pretended to know only what God wants. I realized part of my conscience had been eroded away. So now I consider my will and decide what I want, trusting that God’s will simply means “go and learn how to love”.

    I now see “my will” in charge of the day by day tasks of living and “God’s will” or Sovereignty as an umbrella purpose of love.

    Yes, God knows the “hairs on our head” but I really don’t think this means God is so concerned with our minute-by-minute details (but ubf shepherds often are…)

  33. “So it’s basically up to the 13,000 members of Mars Hill in 15 churches in 5 states to firmly decide and resolve what happens to MD. – See more at:

    I’m coming to realize that the unhealthy church called Mars Hill is vastly more healthy than the ubf community. When is anything at ubf “up to the members”? Only the top echelon gets to make decisions at ubf. It is always up to the General Director and the top leaders. Among the “sheep” no one really knows who the actual members are. Who attends the “annual members meeting”? That was always a mystery. And it was infuriating to find out that after 20 years I was not officially a member of ubf! Only the official members get voting rights. But those votes seem to be a farce because the real power lies in the hands of the Korean chapter directors.

    • Yeah, leaders call the shots, but/yet if members begin to speak up (or stop tithing, or leave) things may begin to change…albeit gradually. No leader likes people leaving (or losing money), I don’t think, even if they pretend as though it doesn’t affect them or bother them.