My Letter to the Committee

lThis week I sent the following letter to the UBF Ethics & Accountability Committee. I received an acknowledgement from one committee member that they have received my letter. I am posting this publicly so that we can check back in a month or so after the committee meets and discuss any follow-up. Here is their email if anyone is looking for it: ubfethicscommittee @ gmail . com

Dear Ethics & Accountability Committee,

There was a problem with the formatting of yesterday’s email, so I’m reformatting it. As I indicated yesterday, I’m not interested in “normal” email interaction. I am seeking a thoughtful response in the coming weeks from the committee after you’ve had a chance to meet and discuss my three requests.

(I am copying some of my friends on this email; please read the public content disclaimer below)

As someone who spent 24 years committed to ubf ministry, who lead my family and fellowship at ubf faithfully and ethically for decades, and who is still highly invested in ubf ministry even after leaving in 2011, I am asking you as a committee to consider three requests seriously, honestly and openly.

1. Can you please make the Ethics & Accountability contact info public?

Some ubf members have asked me from time to time how to contact you. I am grateful that Alan posted a new email address on our blog recently, so I’m using that email. I will continue to give out your email addresses when asked. However, your own organization members are having difficulty understanding and finding your contact info. You might want to consider a phone number or TXT number also, since some of your members need some immediate help and cannot wait for email replies.

2. Will you please find a way to address people leaving your organization?

I just finished another coaching session for one of your student leaders. Over the course of the last 7 days, this person reached out to me daily as they left your ministry. In this case, they left peacefully. This process has happened numerous times over the past 3 years. It is painful for me to do this but I do it joyfully because people are eager to know the truth about various issues affecting your organization. And they are adults capable of making their own decisions. This particular person was amazed to find that there are good Christians outside your organization. I plan on continuing my exit counseling. But I hope you will intentionally and publicly open the door for people to leave and end the permanent shepherd/sheep relationships if they want.

3. Would you please read my 3 books?

The rumors about me and my family have been wild to say the least. Some have considered us the “anti-Christ” and “doing Satan’s work” or “possibly filled with an evil spirit”. Most have simply ignored us, dismissed us and act as though we are dead. But we are not dead. Please read my three books and consider my perspective on my life as having at least some validity. News media has contacted me about my books, and I will speak to them when they contact me again. I am willing to do an open book signing/Q&A any time you would like and that fits our schedules.

I love our Lord Jesus the same as you do. I love the Holy Scriptures as you do. And I am compelled to act by the Holy Spirit.

Grace and peace,

Brian Karcher

*** Disclaimer: The content of this email is intended to be public and anything written in this email or in reply to this may be used in public blogs.


  1. Joe Schafer

    Brian, this letter is polite and the requests are reasonable. In a month’s time, #1 is very do-able. (It should have been done years ago.) #3 is also easy, because your books are short; one can read them in an afternoon. #2 seems like a longer-term effort, but there are plenty of things that could be done to get started within a month’s time.

    Regarding #3, I suppose that the recipients could say, “I have better things to do than to read Brian’s garbage books.” I have had similar reactions to articles that I have written. Some refuse to read them, others glance at them and give no response, and others promise to respond in the future but never do. In your case, the request seems very reasonable, given that you were a loyal member and leader and chapter director for such a long time. You invested most of your adult life in ubf. You spent countless hours listening to ubf leaders’ messages and announcements, studying their manuscripts and writing testimonies based on them. The least that they could do is to invest a few hours listening to your words today.

    • “The least that they could do is to invest a few hours listening to your words today.”

      Great point Joe! And many are doing just that. I’ve given away or sold over 120 books/kindles in total so far.

    • The cynic/skeptic/sarcastic element from one who has UBF circulating in my blood for 34 years will say or think: “Oh, that’s so few…just 120 measly people. He can’t influence many people or cause UBF world wide that much trouble.”

    • Interestingly, I made a similar request to my chapter director 15 years ago. At that time, I did not fully understand the nature of the problems in my UBF chapter, but I had read the book(let) “To what should we be loyal” with 10 fundamental characteristics of the Christian church, which I found all to be somehow violated by my own UBF chapter and UBF in general. This worried me so much that I wanted my chapter director to discuss these issues with me. I even bought a copy of the book(let) for him. But when I gave him the booklet and asked to discuss the issues with me, he took it and laid it to the side with an expression on his face that showed me he would never even look into it. And so it was, I never got his feedback about this book.

      Your books should be a so much more interesting lecture for any UBF leader, because it sums up your positive and negative experience with UBF. They could learn so much from it, even if it only covers the perspective of a single member, because they never see UBF from the perspective of their “target audience”, they only look down to them from their “parenting perspective”, without understanding what’s really going on in their minds and how they feel. I hope many people in UBF start reading not only your books, but many other books on theology, cults and spiritual abuse to understand the theological and psychological dimension of the aberrance of the UBF “system”.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, about your books: Here’s a relevant quote that I just found.

      “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

      ― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

    • Thanks for that quote Joe. Indeed I feel very very comfortable and content in my own skin after writing the three books. I dedicated the third book to myself, because Jesus said love your enemy.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I read the third book. It was nice and short and to the point. The part that disturbed me most was the phone call you received from your chapter director, right after you wrote a report containing your honest thoughts about the spring conference. For the first time, you started to be honest with him. He should have said, “Hallelujah.” But he treated you like sh**. I understand that fallen human beings do such things to one another. Christians do such things to one another. But Christians must be different; they must learn to admit their failings and demonstrate repentance. Brian, thank you for telling your story.

    • Yes Chris the blindness I had and most ubfers have is the parenting idea… that they must become the spiritual fathers and mothers of our youth because our lands are so evil according to them. I believe the scales will fall from their eyes one day.

    • forestsfailyou

      I spoke with someone from the Philippines recently. She said when she started attending UBF she found your website. It shocked me to think that you are internationally recognized. We should never forget the power of a committed person to change the world. It is the only thing that ever has. As far as the letter went I assured people today that I was not the student leader mentioned. The letter was received.

    • I’m all over the world :)

      No forests, the student I mention is not you. This is someone who has never commented here.

  2. Thanks, Brian. #1 is “easy.” #2 is “tough.” #3, you might as well chuck it and forget about it!…for reasons Joe expressed: “I have better things to do than to read Brian’s garbage books.” – See more at:

    Let me try to be sympathetic, understanding and compassionate toward the UBF leaders who will not (never) ever read any of your books or blogs (or mine for that matter). Let me try to walk in their moccasins.

    My sense is that many of our older UBF leaders have literally given their entire adult lives to UBF, which to some would be 30 to 40 to 50 years and counting. Their lives are so deeply and fully invested and intertwined with UBF, such that their individual value/sense of their own person/being and UBF functionally amounts to the exact same thing.

    So even though you are just sharing your spiritual journey, any negative comment or emotion or critique of UBF (perceived or real) will feel to them as a “personal attack,” even if you are just sharing your own personal story and experience.

    If anyone seriously criticizes your children, family, parents, friends you love, you’ll likely feel offended and angry, and understandably so. Likewise, to those who will never read any of your books or blogs, it is simply because they absolutely refuse to feel slammed and hammered by you or by anyone else. I know it is not your intent to slam or hammer anyone, but that is how they will feel.

    Whether you agree or not, I hope I’m making sense in my attempt to explain why you might as well forget about #3. On top of that they have to pay for it, when they won’t read it even if it’s free!!

    • “My sense is that many of our older UBF leaders have literally given their entire adult lives to UBF, which to some would be 30 to 40 to 50 years and counting. Their lives are so deeply and fully invested and intertwined with UBF, such that their individual value/sense of their own person/being and UBF functionally amounts to the exact same thing.”

      I know that feeling :) You just described me in the past, Ben. I changed, so why can’t they?

    • Joe Schafer

      I changed as well. And Ben, so did you.

    • Joe Schafer

      Even if they don’t want to read Brian’s books, it would be to their advantage to do so. If they are contacted by news media, and are asked, “Have you read the books by Brian Karcher?” imagine the possible answers.

      “Never heard of those books.”

      “We don’t have time to read such things.”

      “We don’t want to read such things.”

      “We don’t care about such things.”

      “We’ll do it later.”

      Any of those answers would lead to followup questions that would be embarrassing, to say the least.

    • “I changed as well. And Ben, so did you.”

      And so did the majority of UBF chapter directors in Germany in 2001, they all sided with reform and changed. Many of them were over 20 or 30 years in UBF. It’s not impossible, not even for Koreans. Older people should actually become wiser, they should start to see the full picture. Also, Bible study should reveal that it’s never too late to repent or change.

    • Ben, mountains can be moved by faith, can they not?

    • The one point my chapter director kept trying to teach me was to “make a leap of faith”. This was usually illustrated with the stories of Abraham who was demanded to do or to believe something impossible. Like believing his descendants would become as many as stars in the sky, when he was very old and had no children. Or like sacrificing his son again after he finally had one. In a similar vain, we were told to make leaps of faith like sacrificing our study and carreer, trusting the director blindly, marrying someone we don’t know, leaving our children without proper care for the sake of mission etc.

      So I believe it’s not unfair to demand a similar leap of faith from those who tought that very thing for decades. This leap of faith would be to acknowledge the injust UBF has done and the errors and dangers of the “UBF system” that have become apparent. For them, it would mean to “sacrifice” their “face”. I know it’s a big step for them. On the other hand, their “face” is something that exists only in their imagination. In reality, their mask has fallen long ago already anway. The only way they could keep face and respect of me and many other would be to step forward and admit abuse, and deal with it in honesty. So in reality it would be a big win of them, both in recognition by all UBF, ex-UBF and non-UBF people, and most of all, in the spiritual dimension. “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Can you imagine replacing “sinner” with “UBF leader”? Or can it only be replaced with “college student”?

    • Chris, you comment here highlights a pattern for me… isn’t it odd that those who believe ubf leaders and organization can change are often us *former* leaders? And those who remain “in” often are the ones who claim nothing will ever change.

      This was made abundantly clear to me yet again this past week, as I heard the story about older American shepherds in one chapter who acknowledged in private that most of the issues we discuss here on ubfriends are valid, but they claim nothing will change. So they are just checked out of the ministry and coast alone day by day.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, one aspect of the organization definitely has changed. The crisis in leadership, lack of unified message, internal squabbles have become much more visible.

      At the recent European summer conference, some of the meetings began to spin out of control. As usual, each message was followed up by someone giving prayer topics and announcements. On one occasion, the person giving the announcements openly criticized and negated almost everything that the messenger said. On another occasion, the announcer was taken aside by a top leader and told to negate the message because it was terrible, but other leaders told him no, you can’t do that. The announcer was so confused that he didn’t know what to say. Incidents like this are becoming more common.

    • Joe, if those events are indeed widespread and more and more common, then I am convinced the Holy Spirit is present and working.

      I am no expert on pneumatology for sure. But I do know Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work as including the work of creating, revealing, confirming, regenerating and sanctifying. Some of these works come about only with a period of intense chaos and confusion, and even violence of some kind. To create something often requires destroying something else and to regenerate is not pain-free.

    • Joe, UBF might be becoming fun and exciting again!

    • Joe Schafer

      The Holy Spirit is the herald of Penetcost, building bridges of understanding and imparting wisdom. He is also the spirit of peace. These incidents are more like Babel.

    • Doesn’t Babel almost always precede Shalom? Death precede resurrection? Pain precede gain? Cross precede crown? Practice precede performance? Chaos precede peace? Sorry, I should stop.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, chaos precedes the work of the Spirit. Chaos is evidence of the need for renewal. But I don’t think it’s evidence that renewal is coming. More likely, it signals that there is greater chaos to come.

  3. Thanks Joe and Ben. I didn’t send this letter with naiive hopes of a utopian response :)

    I know how they will react already before sending the letter. My goals are not about compliance with my requests. I want to see, for example, if this committee can function ethically.

    Surely the ethics committee will have better success at ethics than their unity committee had with unity? (No i’m not holding my breath, but still…)

    Surely they could say “no, we’re not doing those things… and here is why…”. Surely they have a Christ-influence conscience that would behoove them to respond in some ethical way, regardless of whether they take action on my requests?

  4. Isn’t being in charge of ethics and accountability in UBF the equivalent of choosing wardrobe for Johnny Cash?

  5. “As someone . . . who is still highly invested in ubf ministry even after leaving in 2011.” I really respect you Brian. I think it takes vulnerability and courage to deal the way you do after what has happened. I’ve read 2 of your books and I’ll read the 3rd when I get a chance. People talk and people spread rumors. People misunderstand. I can’t say I fully understand your experience because I just had to deal with my 4 years. That’s nothing compared to the 24 you spent. But for some reason I also am “still highly invested in ubf.” I think it’s crazy that I’m still in ubf after it all. I find it inconsistent that I’m in a church that has done so much harm to me. And yet as I talk to my friends at seminary I see how so many of them have also been hurt by their own non-ubf churches. They tell me their stories with tears in there eyes even though the things happened years ago. In my own experience my wounds are still fresh, but I joined a small group at Moody in hopes of inner healing. It’s interesting how we both are still invested in this organization. Common sense tells me to forget it, but I haven’t yet. I love WL. Anyways, keep up the efforts for the ethics committee. One day people will realize that if they call something an ethics committee it should function as an ethics committee.

    • Thanks MJ!

      “Common sense tells me to forget it, but I haven’t yet. I love WL.”

      This is exactly how I feel. Every thread of my being sometimes tells me to just forget ubf and move on, do something else. But what else could I possibly ever do? My life choices have put me in this situation. And even though the ubf system enabled my choices to be influenced unduly, I believe it is the sovereign hand of God that put me in the perfect storm, and has been leading me for a good purpose.

      So I will not submit to the ubf authority, I not allow me or my family to be under the cover of a ubf shepherd, and I will not let my life become entangled by the KOPAHN brand of shepherding theology.

      But I will remain in the ubf conversation, and I will do so for 45 more years, Lord willing.

  6. “For them, it would mean to “sacrifice” their “face”. I know it’s a big step for them. On the other hand, their “face” is something that exists only in their imagination. In reality, their mask has fallen long ago already anyway.” – See more at:

    This “saving face” is a far far bigger deal than most of us in the West might realize. To save face, there have been tragic stories of suicide to save face, instead of facing the facts.

    • “To save face, there have been tragic stories of suicide to save face, instead of facing the facts.”

      Correct Ben. I think we should discuss suicide at some point here. But the implication you leave us with is that ALL ubf leaders would tend toward suicide instead of facing the facts. While we should be sensitive of those people, yes, that implication is false. Many ubf people are willing to face the facts, and have done so for over 50 years.

    • Those who are willing to “face the facts” have mostly either left ubf, or were “cast out,” or whose voices were/are being disparaged by the elite oligarchy.

  7. “I find it inconsistent that I’m in a church that has done so much harm to me. And yet as I talk to my friends at seminary I see how so many of them have also been hurt by their own non-ubf churches.” – See more at:

    The sad and painful truth is that Christians are also still sinners who will hurt others where they are at, which is the church!

    It is “understandable” (though not excusable) when Christians sin against other Christians. We all know that we do so all the time to each other in one form or another, including to our own families whom we love.

    But what is more difficult to understand or accept is the stubborn refusal to acknowledge one’s sin or wrongdoing when confronted. I guess that is still part of being a (holy, spiritual, mature, Christian) sinner!

    • “The sad and painful truth is that Christians are also still sinners who will hurt others where they are at, which is the church!”

      Need to chime in here. It’s one thing if Christians occasionally hurt each other by accident because they are sinners. But it’s another thing if Christians hurt each other systematically because they are in a spiritual abusive system that reinforces abusive behavior.

      I guess that’s what MJ wanted to say by emphasizing “the church” hurt them, not individual people in the church. A healthy church would help both the hurted and the hurting person to reconcile. And I can confirm MJ in the observation that sadly there are many unhealthy churches out there, not only UBF. But the spectrum between “healthy” and “cult-like/abusive” is continuous, and there are not so many churches who have such an extreme, long, systematic, consistent and global history of abuse as UBF, and at the same time managed for such a long time to never repent or acknoledge the problem or hold anybody accountable.

  8. This just sort of occurred to me.

    There are only a very few full time paid staff in UBF among the “top” leaders. Most so-called “full time ubf staff” are virtually and practically underpaid. The vast majority of other ubf leaders in top positions are basically bi-vocational lay leaders who work full time to support themselves, their families and UBF.

    Thus most UBF people are already swarmed, if not overwhelmed with full time work, serving their own families, preparing for the next UBF conference or event (Easter, Summer, X-mas, in virtually all chapters and countries), and attending (too many) weekly UBF meetings every week during the week.

    By my casual observation there are likely only a very few UBFers who are consistently successful in trying to “go fishing and feed new student sheep,” even though that is the explicit prayer topic before every new semester and new year.

    So, when there is any other problem or question or issue that requires some attention (such as Brian’s three relevant questions in this blog), it is basically, practically, virtually not possible to receive any type of prompt, satisfactory, well thought out response.

    It is not necessarily because they don’t want to or don’t care, but because they basically don’t have the time, energy or resources to do so.

    • Good observation Ben. You just described what I call “Layer 1 – The personal challenges layer”. I shared my thoughts on the multiple layers of burden that the KOPAHN shepherding system puts on participants in the My Journey article.

      And yes, I describe this a little more in my 2nd book, “Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives” :)

    • Joe Schafer

      Ben, you said that just occurred to you. The only thing I can say is, “Duh!”

    • Yeah, sometimes even I fail to see the forest among the trees :-)

    • Ben, I’d like to contest that. I would agree that among the lower level and medium level leaders, most don’t have time because they are busy with UBF activities and work. However, at the top level of leaders it’s different. My chapter director (who was not even a top leader at that time) for instance delegated everything to others. The only thing he did was write the Sunday message (but others had to type it in the computer, correct, print, xerox it etc.), and writing a UBF style Sunday message is not very hard, no matter whether the leaders try to give a different impression. He attended some of the weekly meetings as a listener. But most of the stuff others were kept busy with (cooking, grooming, music rehearsals, sogam writing, 1:1 with 4-12 sheep, 1:1 with shepherd, “fishing”, fellowhsip meetings etc.) he did not engage in. Also, he did not have a job outside UBF, he did not need to commute to the work place like everybody else because he “worked” in the UBF office close to his home, where UBF members would run all errands for him. Still, he was the only one of us who was paid with a proper salary including vacation bonus. For what he was doing, he was not underpaid, he was overpaid. His wife cared for the household and his family. He definitely had a lot of time at hands. much more than I ever had in my life until now. It was similar with other senior chapter directors in Germany, and national directors, and I assume it’s also the same with the top leaders in the US. Also, many of the top leaders are now retired. Even inside UBF, nobody expect these “silver missionaries” to work much. So no, “not enough time” may be an excuse for the rank and file, but not for the top leaders.

    • Chris, whenever I hear stories about your former director, I feel like your chapter was in some kind of weird Twilight Zone of UBF. I’m not discounting what you’re saying, it’s just that the situation sounds so bizarre. I’m sorry that you had to go through that.

    • David, what Chris described matches most of what I saw in my part of ubfland. Probably because PC and PH are very much a like in numerous ways.

      For example, “others had to type it in the computer, correct, print, xerox…”

      For years we had a Saturday night messenger meeting. One lucky “chosen” one would have to stay all night or at least until about 2:00 am typing in dictation from the chapter director.

      I remember working with others every Sunday night to making 50 or 60 copies of the Sunday message, staple each one, and place each on in each person’s mailbox. Yes we had a table at the center with a big shelving unit of sorts on it. Each shepherd/shepherdess had a mail slot/cubby hole a few inches tall and a little wider than a sheet of paper.

      This is where daily bread booklets were delivered to, as well as the question sheets each week and the Sunday messages each week. If I spent about 15,000 hours in bible “study”, then I spent thousands of hours at the copy machine in the center, making copies, distributing copies and tallying up various reports each and every Sunday (offering reports, Sunday attendance reports, etc).

    • As Chris and I already discussed before, this part is different from our parts of ubfland.

      “he did not have a job outside UBF, he did not need to commute to the work place like everybody else because he “worked” in the UBF office close to his home…”

      Yes in the us, everybody is expected to live near the “ubf center” and the chapter directors are often always at the center. But to my knowledge, they almost always do have full time jobs.

    • “Chris, whenever I hear stories about your former director, I feel like your chapter was in some kind of weird Twilight Zone of UBF.”

      You should keep in mind I’m recalling memories from the last century. At that time, when Samuel Lee was still alive, it was pretty much the same everywhere, and I know for sure there were chapters and directors that were far worse than mine. My chapter director was not really such a bad person. He sincerely believed it was ok to run a chapter like that, and he copied what he learned from Samuel Lee and his shepherds in Korea. What he did was considered acceptable and normal by nearly everyone in UBF at that time.

    • It’s true, the chapter directors of smaller chapters had to work, because the offering moneys was not enough to pay the rent for the center and a salary for the director. But the directors of the larger chapters such as Heidelberg, Cologne or Bonn did not need to work. Most of our Korean missionaries from Heidelberg needed to commute to Frankfurt since since they could not get a job in Heidelberg, but only in Frankfurt, where they have many Korean companies. Only the missionaries who had no job or were new and still learning German stayed in the center during the day.

    • Thanks for the context; it makes a bit more sense now.

    • “It is not necessarily because they don’t want to or don’t care, but because they basically don’t have the time, energy or resources to do so.” I see your point and it is a reality, but I think there is something wrong at the center of that. Sometimes in church people do busy work, but ignore the basic things. It is analogous to the Martha complex, she was worried about many things, one-to-ones, easter/summer conference preparation, Christmas dance, Friday testimony sharing meetings, Saturday preparation for SWS, Daily Bread, etc, but these things are not necessary and they are extra. It’s like using Corban as an excuse to not take care of your ailing parents. Actually, I probably would be out in the “mission field” preoccupied with these things, if I hadn’t been cut by the sharp end of the legalism. If you manage to look good, it’s fine; but if you can’t keep up with it, you get slammed. I got slammed because I didn’t measure up and so now I see the negative side of the ministry. It comes out subtly during wedding messages praising the spouses’ ministry work only, or life testimonies that completely demonify life before UBF and exaggerate life in UBF or during prayers that are about doing more and repenting more, but not asking the Holy Spirit to lead and question what we are doing. My professor mentioned today how the in conversations we usually have a sieve that questions information, but for some reason when the Pastor gets behind the pulpit that sieve disappears and we swallow up everything we hear. The church has a lot of authority to disabuse. This is why God’ work must be done with more integrity than our day job and even more reason why the ethics committee should be up and running. Churches deal with peoples’ souls.

    • I have to speak here, because this is a clear problem I see too. Though we were often taught to see mainline churches as people following “worldly business models,” the fact remains that UBF pastors and shepherds, do not have “the job” of overseeing, but it is a job on top of their actual paying job, in addition to family and other (God given) responsibilities.

      The problem deepens when we realize how few of the full time pastors have actually received formal education in this field. Bible study is good. Missionaries are trained in a large part by studying Acts and writing reflections on it, in addition to a few other things. However, in today’s world, it is abundantly clear that in order to be a good shepherd for a ministry, one needs to be available, reachable, and understand issues like conflict resolution and real cultural differences.

      there are times that the “get a phd and undergo intense bible study training” has been effective. There are people who have “Joseph” experiences which prepare them for aspects of ministry that we are talking about. But for a ministry to disregard the (easily anticipate-able) needs of young people and growing families in a multicultural mission is simply careless.

      Case in point–i have a number of concerns I shared with my wife. She listened humbly but told me, rightly, I ought to meet with my “shepherd” and discuss them clearly (though we’ve discussed them all at one point or another–I do see a need to sit down and say, here’s where I’m at, I want you to know, so I’m not surprising anyone with my words or behavior) but the person is simply too busy to meet with me. Oh yeah, and my own family and work life are so busy that it’s not easy for me to meet with him either.

      This makes me see the worth and value of other ministries who hire educated ministers for the purpose of being available and reaching out to people for the spiritual needs they see.

      The unfortunate result is that very often these people who are dealing with so many struggles in their life in addition to ministry become the ultimate pragmatists, who arrange their life along lines of necessity and convenience. then people who need spiritual love and understanding are bowled over and, since their “concerns” require more time and love than is practical or available, they are shunned and/or labeled.

      Not to say that voluntary, non paid service to the Lord has no value. But when we make an idol out of this way of life, many people get hurt.

  9. Darren Gruett

    Brian, I have to admit that sometimes it is hard for me to listen to your rhetoric and tone concerning the issues discussed out here. Yet I found your letter to be gracious, kind, and perfectly reasonable. I hope your suggestions are taken seriously.

    • Thanks Darren, I appreciate that. My wife reminds me every day that I use too much rhetoric!

    • Brian, I’ve been trying to say that for the longest time!, :-) even if I am not able to follow my own advice and sense of “too much rhetoric” :D))) And yes, my wife also says that your request is gracious…and she is a tough cookie to please. I should know.

  10. Very reasonable requests. I hope that something good comes of this.

  11. “The Holy Spirit is the herald of Penetcost, building bridges of understanding and imparting wisdom. He is also the spirit of peace. These incidents are more like Babel.” – See more at:

    I suppose I can see some Babel-like actions going on, Joe. I think it would be helpful to iron out some criteria around this. How do we recognize the Spirit’s presence/work? How do we identify Babel-building actions?

    In other words, I think your earlier article, “Is This An Authentic Work of the Holy Spirit?”, deserves more discussion:

    “So how can we test an activity to see whether it is the genuine work of the Spirit? The criteria that some Christians apply are rooted in sectarianism, prejudice and competition. We may be quick to assume that the Holy Spirit is with us in everything we do simply because our church is “biblically correct.” At the same time, we may dismiss what is happening in other communities because it doesn’t jibe with our own experiences and violates our assumptions about what the work of the Holy Spirit should look like.” – See more at:

    • Joe Schafer

      Great question. As I see it, the main work of the Holy Spirit (since Pentecost) is to build the church, is to gather diverse people and incorporate them into a fellowship of Trinitarian love, with a high degree of interconnectedness and interdependence. These people are limited and fallen and broken, but they can be assembled into such a community, provided that they are willing to understand and acknowledge their weaknesses.

      Here is one of my favorite quotes. I’ve posted it before, but here it is again. It’s from Thomas Merton.


      It is therefore of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves but for others. When we do this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations. As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement . But if we live for others, we will gradually discover that no one expects us to be “as gods.” We will see that we are human, like everyone else, that we all have weaknesses and deficiencies, and that these limitations of ours play a most important part in all our lives . It is because of them that we need others and others need us. We are not all weak in the same spots, and so we supplement and complete one another, each one making up in himself for the lack in another.

      Only when we see ourselves in our true human context, as members of a race which is intended to be one organism and “one body,” will we begin to understand the positive importance not only of the successes but of the failures and accidents in our lives. My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labors is not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from the failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. Therefore the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my own achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, and society, and time. It is seen, above all, in my integration in the mystery of Christ.

      If that sort of thing is happening in ubf, then praise God. But from my limited perspective, what I see is less communication, less self examination, less acknowledgment of mission failure, more implausible positive spin and pretending that all is well.

    • Joe Schafer

      So, Brian, to answer your question… When the ubf community openly acknowledges that they need Brian Karcher, that they value Brian Karcher, that they have to listen to Brian Karcher, that they need to incorporate his insights and will be better for it… That will be an astounding and authentic work of the Spirit.

    • Indeed, Joe, such a thing would be a clear sign of the work of the Holy Spirit.

      In your comment earlier, I thought I heard glimmers of 2 Corinthians 7:8-13, that you were describing the awakening of consciences at ubf and some indignation by certain ubf presiders. These kinds of things are chaotic and not so peaceful, but I think we can clearly count them as works of the Spirit as He works to bring about repentance.

      But maybe that’s not what you were describing. If not, then I agree, this sounds more like Genesis 11:1-9 where everyone was scattered and confused.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, that’s what I meant. I think the growing disharmony and confusion is a sign of the Spirit stepping back and withdrawing from the whole enterprise to see if anyone notices or misses him.

    • That’s more like what I’ve seen the past several years Joe. I guess I was hoping for something different, probably reading into your words what I hope and pray for.

    • Joe Schafer

      Of course, I could be wrong. I don’t keep close tabs on what is going on in ubf anymore. From time to time, people will tell me, “God is really working here…” but when I ask why the evidence, it seems to be either (a) the same old line that every message is wonderful, every conference is great, etc., or (b) some sign that a few younger people are breaking free of the control of elders, which means that they should prepare to get smacked down, or (c) an easing up of constraints leading to greater freedom in some local chapter, but without any admission that those constraints were wrong in the first place. From the outside, the enterprise resembles a ship drifting along without a rudder.

  12. Today I attended a lecture entitled “Faith and Work,” by Richard Warren, the CEO of Weldaloy Products Co. He shared his testimony of how God saved him from an adulterer who didn’t believe in Hell to a successful business man who holds Bible Studies and chapel at his company. 80% of his staff are Christian and 20% are not, but the 20% are aware that they are going to hear a lot about Jesus. And actually he prefers to hire non-believers. It was wonderful to see how he brought the church to the workplace. The reason I bring this up is because at the end I asked him, “What can we do to bring the workplace to the church?” I said this because in church leadership roles get muddled. He said in churches we tolerate a lot more than we would in business transactions. He also said that church discipline is declining. He also said that not telling the truth is a dis service to the community, like pretending everything is fine when it is not. My other professor also gave the analogy today of a restaurant. In Chicago there are hundreds of restaurants and new ones everyday. But next year, many of them will close. The difference between those who stay open and those who close is simple: a review sheet. The restaurants that evaluate themselves succeed. The ethics committee should work as a review sheet, so that UBF can honestly assess themselves. Is Andy Stumpf on the committee? I think his PhD is in ethics. The CEO also mentioned the importance of a vision statement and mission statement. UBF should make one, so it can decided what to focus and minister to its congregation.

  13. I have been reading all your posts but decided to stay away for a while in dialogue to continue to help my family. My children and wife are my main focus now. Recently, I got the opportunity to preach at a Baptist church and speak about Jesus in a new and exciting way. The ethics committee is so needed in UBF and agree with Matthew C. that families and students and many people are getting hurt in the UBF system in the name of love. This is not love Families need attention and thank God for all who speak out in love on this site. We are praying for UBF to get healed and now understand more deeply the lack of love for people. Brian, Joe, Ben, David, Matthew and others keep being a voice of change. It is time for an uprising in UBF for love, family, and the body of Christ.

  14. Thank you MattC and MJ! I sure hope people are paying attention to your clearheaded and perceptive comments.

  15. Everyone, these are precisely the kinds of conversations I wanted to spark. That’s mainly why I wrote this public letter. big bear is right–it’s about love.

    Someone created a shiny new website over at ubf, but the same depressing reports are published. The ubf internet committee claims they are publishing good news and encouraging reports about the work of God.

    But am I the only one who feels so discouraged by this new report? I think this chapter director needs help. He is living in a fantasy world. He keeps doing the same thing over and over with no results. Maybe the system is the problem? Maybe narcissism is the problem he is dealing with?

    “Personally, I was a man of inability and a lack of good talent. However, by the grace of God, I struggled each week to write Bible questions, Bible study materials, and message preparation. But there was no new visible fruit at the end of last year. While I was discouraged by seemingly invisible work of God, God provided me spiritual strength, hope, and vision to battle against the schemes of Satan.”

    “I began to think about the main reason why they would reject God’s word and why they didn’t want to commit themselves to the truth of God. Of course, they have their own perspectives and reasons, but in the light of the Bible, they are possessed by something else that hinders them from coming to God. Many people have Bible knowledge, but they lack God’s truth and don’t want to commit themselves to the truth of God. It is a serious spiritual sickness in our country. I was distraught to realize that America is a spiritually barren land. On the other hand, I was thankful that God has chosen me to love his word and pray for young college students even though I am rejected by them. It was also a privilege that God has given me an opportunity to learn the faith that Jesus wants me to have through disciple-making ministry.”

    And check out how the family is once again bashed by man’s report about one person:

    “Before Bible study, he was full of fear and stress because of his future. He also had a strong family centered heart and mentality. However, God encouraged him to challenge his academic courses so that he got all “A’s” last fall. He has been president of our student organization on campus.”

    Until such leaders are removed, challenged and/or helped, ubf ministry will continue to bump along in darkness. My #1 prayer is that ubf people will come into the light and begin loving families and people.

    • Here is the link I referenced: Work of God (which is ubf code for “Work of me”)

    • Joe Schafer

      That chapter is a rogue chapter, and not in a good way. For decades, they wouldn’t even go to regional conferences, because the chapter director felt that the other chapters around him were too liberal and easygoing, and he didn’t want his sheep to come under their bad influence. No one really knows what has been going on there. No one know they kind of theology he has been teaching or what kind of ‘training” he has giving students. As the report shows, the enterprise has been very unfruitful, yet he keeps going year after year. The guy needs serious help; he needs to be accountable to someone. The organization’s leaders should have intervened long ago and held him to account, but they don’t know how, because they themselves are not accountable to anyone. It’s very sad.

    • Yes, Brian, the “shiny new website” does look a lot better visually.

    • After 2-3 decades, he has 16 sws attendants. I have a pastor friend around UIC, whose church grew from 20 to 400 members in 2 years. He is speaking to the Well team on Sat tomorrow.

  16. Joe Schafer

    Among those 16 attendants, I suspect that virtually all Korean missionaries and their family members.

    If anyone thinks I am not following “biblical procedures” in talking about this rogue chapter director, consider this. I repeatedly expressed my concerns about that chapter to the regional coordinator, the North American coordinator, the GD, and members of the Ethics committee.

    About the Well… Did you notice this?
    Look at the picture. Virtually all these people were removed from the Well, resigned from the Well, left UBF, or are barely hanging on at the margins. And yet they are using this photo to advertise. It’s so strange.

    • Joe,

      That picture is a great example of what I call the KOPAHN fantasy. The ubf ideology leads people to live in a make-believe world where everyone outside the group is “spiritually starving” and everything in the group is so wonderful.

      KOPAHN fantasy theology ignores people’s personal self-narratives and imposes a shepherd narrative onto them, which does violence to their conscience.

      Take a look at this director’s narrative he imposes on the various people he talks about. How do those people feel? What is their genuine narrative about their life?

      We should photoshop that picture and write an article about the now infamous Well issues that went on behind the scenes. They are living in denial and need a wake-up call.

      As Robert Irvine says when he helps restaurant owners who are in denial about the sad state of their restaurant, people who live in denial need something shocking to bring the back to reality.

    • Interesting, the picture Joe referred to on the Well site was up this morning but now it’s gone.

  17. By the way, if you want a sampling of Robert Irvine helping restaurant owners in denial (they think their restaurant is perfect!), here is a sampling:

    Irvine sampling

    Someone needs to help ubf people who live in denial.

    • I wouldn’t say “live in denial” but that some have lived their entire Christian lives in virtual isolation and insulation (from the rest of Christendom) in a self-created bubble for 30 to 40 to 50 years and counting.

    • Ben,

      One common phrase among us former leaders is “a spade is a spade”. I do not have the mental capacity to do the gymnastics required to understand this:

      “virtual isolation and insulation (from the rest of Christendom) in a self-created bubble”

      That is simply denial in my book. Denial means simply “the action of declaring something to be untrue”. We have ample witnesses saying ubf is unhealthy and needs help.

      The leadership says “No that’s not true; we are healthy.” Or they admit some level of unhealthiness and then say “No we don’t need any help, leave us alone.”

  18. My favorite analogy which I have probably shared before is about a fish in a fish bowl who is unaware that there is a vast ocean out there.

    One day this fish happens to land in the ocean (Finding Nemo comes to mind). He was shocked to see how expansive and majestic and marvelous the immense ocean is.

    In his joy and excitement he returns to his fish bowl to share this gospel of good news with his fellow buddy fishes: “Hey, my dear fellow buddy fishes, there is an immense vast ocean out there!!!”

    But all of his buddy fellow fishes resolutely and decisively and unanimously concluded that he has gone crazy and can no longer be trusted.

    • Good analogy. My new favorite analogy comes from the show Restaurant Impossible. Robert Irvine coaches owners who think their restaurant is awesome (food is great, service is great, etc) BUT the owners have one big problem: no customers. They are losing money.

      The only reason they call Robert is because they cannot deny the lose of money. No customers in their restaurant is a shock to them but they deny that they are the problem. They deny that their food sucks and don’t see the dirt on their walls.

      In 2 days Robert shows them tough love and tender love and revamps their restaurant. It is so relevant to see how he does this. I have often patterned my actions off of Robert’s show because ubf leaders (like me in the past) are just like the restaurant owners in denial.

      ubf leaders can deny many things, but they cannot deny the fact of people leaving and loss of offering. Yes the total money numbers for ubf went up recently, but only because of some money-making venture. The ministry has been in decline for several years, since 2008 primarily.

    • We have similar shows in German TV, and I like them too. I thought we needed something like this at my workplace. They should extend the format from restaurants to other enterprises and churches.

    • Ben, the reformers used a similar analogy when they said Samuel Lee thought of UBF as the whole world when he was only a frog sitting in a very small pond (which I always visualized with the pictures of the Tijuana Toads, “Toro” being Samuel Lee).

    • I think my analogy is more elegant and not offensive. Of course, I’m biased.

    • Ben I would agree. Your analogy is nicer. I think it is also less effective.

    • Even if it may be true, it is surely humiliating and not easy for anyone to be regarded like a frog or a toad, even if the toad is a cute cartoon. God never treats us as our sins deserve (Ps 103:10).

      By God’s grace, we shouldn’t either. I do not mean we do not press and address issues. But that we do so with the utmost of kindness, patience and tolerance (like God), which has the greatest likelihood of promoting repentance (Rom 2:4).

    • Agreed Ben. But are you saying it is not humiliating to be compared to a fish?

    • The reason I like my analogy with Robert Irvine is because it is real and deals with real people and real situations and real solutions.

    • Ben, the point of the reformers was not the toads in it, but the size of the pond. Samuel Lee claimed his ministry was the largest campus mission in the whole world, and when we were in UBF, we never spoke about or prayed for anything that was going on outside, nicer in politics or in the Christian world. Therefore I think the analogy was very appropriate. The frogs in the pond also believe their pond is all that exists and matters in the world. Your fish analogy is essentially the same, that’s why I remembered the frog pond. And please don’t look down on frogs. Robin is at least as cute as Nemo. And Toro and Pancho always outsmarted Crazylegs Crane.

  19. Speaking of denial.

    The Message rendering of John 3:19-21 says everything I ever wanted to say to ubf people the past several years.

    “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”

    Can it be said that we have loved the light? Does ubf leadership love the light as Christians do?

    • Well I also think Jesus’ analogy about old wine is appropriate. When the wine was new, it was powerful, moving, energizing and fresh. The old wine is more mature, smoother, more calming and comforting. He warned the Pharisees about the old wine, because it tastes better.

      “And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.'”

      The old wine of legalism and careless self-righteousness tastes better, and you better not disrupt the flow!

      And thanks big bear, /bighug for you

    • forestsfailyou


  20. Hi Brian, thank you for your letter. And thanks to everyone here for your comments.

    The committee needs to discuss a few things and will get back to you one way or another.

    God bless you.

    • Thanks Alan. “one way or another” is really what my letter is about. If you don’t want to or can’t implement one or more of my requests, that’s fine with me. What matters more to me is that the committee heard me, processed my letter and responds at some point in the future.

      And yes, God has blessed me abundantly. If you read nothing in my books, I hope you at least read the acknowledgements section of book 1. God has blessed me with my family, my friends, my work, my neighbors and even with people who vehemently disagree with me.

      My wife is a blessing from God, and I now see this vastly more clearly, now that we talk to each other daily and go out on dates. Our first date after 18 years of marriage was eye-opening.

      I’ve been blessed with four amazing children. They bring joy and love into my life every day. They challenge me to go way beyond my comfort zone and give me reason to keep fighting to provide for them.

      God has blessed me with incredible parents, grandparents and in-laws who have given me a bedrock of goodness and a safety net of help year after year. I am so thankful for them.

      God has blessed me with so many friends who have reached out to me privately to thank me for being vocal about my life story, and for sharing publicly at great risk.

  21. Alan,

    My friends’ blog shows how one family is coping with life after ubf. If the committee will pay attention to such narratives, much can be changed:

    On Becoming Methodist

    • Here is a great comment to ponder…

      “Last sunday, my husband and I officially joined the Methodist church. Almost two years after moving to this city and about three years after leaving the abusive fundamentalist church in which we had spent the previous 10 years.

      Here’s what we thought would happen two years ago: we’d shop around a little, take our time visiting some churches, meet some people, and then carefully attend the one we like most, probably not officially ever joining and most likely not participating in much.

      Two years and seven denominations (and even more churches!) we have become Methodists.”

    • Brian, that comment from your friend reminds me of A lecture on Christian cults by Jacob Prasch. In one section he talks about the feelings and concerns of those who leave such cults.

      “The psychological bondage which happens has a demonic character. When the people leave they are automatically ostracized by the other people still in the cult. It is like Catholicism. You left the one true church so it is a mortal sin, go to hell, go directly to hell, do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200. That is it – the unpardonable sin. The other people will turn against those leaving because those leaving are free while those remaining are in bondage. But are they free? No they are not, not right away.
      A person can be taken out of the cult but they are so confused and have been so hurt and manipulated it takes a longer time to take the cult out of the person. It is like that rock songHotel California – “you can check out any time you want but you can never leave”. The person can be taken out of the cult but to take the cult out of them is not so easy. They remain in psychological and spiritual bondage to it, particularly if they were saved in it. And they cannot be accommodated in other churches because other churches cannot understand what they went through. There is a secret fear that they have, “What if they were right?” This battle takes place within and sometimes it goes on for years.
      Sometimes people have had nervous breakdowns and become mentally ill because of it. Some have turned to alcoholism and drugs. Some have committed suicide. Marriages have broken up because of it.
      Another common phenomena is they have been so hurt and so burned they can never trust another church or another leader again. The solution to a bad church then becomes no church. The solution to bad leadership becomes no leadership. Actually the right solution to wrong leadership is right leadership, and the solution to bad church is good church. But they cannot accept that. Others do not understand what they have been through. No one understands what is going on inside of them. They can come to a church but they do not fit in until something happens. It takes time for that to happen, but it eventually happens.”

      I think that whole lectures speaks to UBF and is worth a read, especially by the ethics committee.

      link to Christian Cults by Jacon Prasch

    • +1. Excellent, Charles! Prasch expressed clearly what I was hoping to address in

    • Charles, I can confirm this is very true. We left together with 2 Korean families, and one of the families was really struggling. Their fixed idea was “we are not going through the narrow door anymore, we left our mission, we may be doomed.” Rationally, they understood how corrupt and wrong the Samuel Lee centered system at that time was and experienced all the abuse in our chapter first hand, but these thoughts still kept nagging in their minds. Later, I met many other ex UBFers going through similar struggles. UBFers have been “conditioned” to believe that their salvation and purpose in life is in UBF, and their subconcious mind still clings to the idea, even after they left and when their ratio is already one step ahead and seeing through the deception.

    • Thanks Charles. Yes the red flags and similarities are obvious. People in denial, however, don’t see such things because they keep looking the other way, refusing to face the facts about themselves. That’s why we need mirrors, like this website, to reflect images back to those who may read.

    • The last part personally resonated with me. I recently have been thinking about how family could join with another church. I would feel that all of the bad experiences have spoiled trust in all other churches. I fear becoming a recluse. Not just UBF things, but most religious things now seem embarrassing and make me want to back away from it all, although I do enjoy reading a few blogs. How can we avoid the “wrong” solutions, as Prasch mentioned, of bad church > no church, and bad leader > no leader?

    • Charles, for starters you can join Brian’s beer church. That’s where I attend currently…

    • Ha! I’ve been moonlighting at Charles’s beer church.

    • Brian, thanks for the invitation. If I’m ever in the area, I’ll definitely attend.

  22. “What if they were right?”

    That is a haunting question. I don’t think there is a cookie cutter solution to people who have experienced this. Moreover, I don’t think it is a matter of right or wrong. Maybe they (my old chapter) did something bad to me, but I also know that I was not perfect in my relationship to them. It is not a scale; I didn’t do more sin than them and vice versa. Sin is sin. Both parties are guilty. But what I do know is that I am enjoying God right now. Before it was a paradigm of focusing on my sin that kept me from God. But now it is a paradigm of God on my side helping me. (The Cure, John Lynch) Sin is not keeping him away. No one is without sin; it is my self-reliance and doubt. Actually, I really don’t know what to call the thing that keeps me away from God, maybe it can be defined as forgetfulness of his presence, or not living by the spirit. But this is my personal experience. It is difficult to acknowledge that no human is completely bad or good. The person who caused my pain can still be used by God, and I pray for that. I pray for his family and kids.

    • MJ, those are all good and necessary. As individuals, we need to figure out how to “move on”. We find how to forgive, to pray, to love.

      My question, and I think that of many here, is this: How do we as a community put a stop to the abuse? How can we as a community ensure such things never. happen. again.? How can we fix the flawed system that perpetuates the pain?

      One of the most eye-opening things I’ve learned from Joe’s aarticles and ubfriends interacting is that we are not just individuals. We are a community. And Scripture is often speaking at the communal level.

    • Mark Mederich

      Collective responsibility is hard to find, but if we don’t it may happen anyway: for example an NIU student wanted to join a frat & was passed room to room for alcohol & died; I believe the courts decided the administration/frat/parents/students were all responsible…

    • Mark, I think a frat organization is a good example to consider. Imagine a fraternity or sorority whose members all look the other way when problems happen, claiming that everyone needs to be concerned with their own problems. The question that comes up is Who represents the frat organization?

      That is the kind of frustration when dealing with ubf as a former leader such as myself. Who represents ubf? ubf leaders are all about maintaining individual power and authority, but who can make decisions about the organization as a whole?

      There is no governing body.

  23. This is an excellent explanation as to why the church should listen to “angry, unpleasant, messy, distasteful” grievances of her members and why UBF NEEDS UBFRIENDS :-) (Interchange “Lisa” and “she” with UBFriends and “me” and “I” with UBF):

    “Say Lisa gets angry with me. She’s livid! Justifiably so. And she comes at me with it. What do I do? Do I say, “Ew, I’m uncomfortable! I don’t appreciate how your voice sounds! Do you have to do this here? Now? Can we get a neutral mediator? Calm down! Your feelings are too overwhelming for me! I want you to talk to me on my terms! Calm down!”

    I’ll tell you now, if I did anything like that, even remotely, it would send her through the roof! When she’s angry because of something I’ve done, I’ve lost my right to tell her how to talk to me… a right I never had to begin with. I have lost the right to tell her to leash her emotions and her mode of expression… a right I never had to begin with. It makes her angrier because it repeats the original offense, which is usually disrespect or disregard.

    I don’t like it when she’s angry, but when she can feel and express it naturally, the way she wants, directly, then this is the first step to repair. It’s always worked so far.”


  24. Now that I’ve told my story in 300+ pages and have had my say to the ubf committee…

    Any suggestions for the title/subject of my next book?

    (By the way if you’ve been waiting for a chance to take a jab at me, now’s the time to do it!)

  25. Alan,

    Maybe ubf would start publishing the NakedPastor’s cartoons in the newsletter?

    Maybe start with this one?

  26. “My question, and I think that of many here, is this: How do we as a community put a stop to the abuse? How can we as a community ensure such things never. happen. again.? How can we fix the flawed system that perpetuates the pain?”

    As a naive and idealistic 25-year-old, my answer is: community. The initial steps would be awareness of these issues, hence this website and maybe sometime in the near future face to face discussions (I know those are happening, but even more). The problem I see is that the culture of this organization has to change. My opinion is that decisions from the top will not change things because if the congregation isn’t ready for those changes it won’t change things. People need to get to know each other and actually like each other within UBF. (There’s a lot of people in UBF who don’t like each other, I see it all the time.)

    We had an event called “The Well-Chicago” on Sept. 27 and the speaker was David Choi from the Church of the Beloved. He shared that in his home life there was not even a space for him to acknowledge that he had been hurt by his Father. He was never allowed to think about it. He thought that’s the way it is supposed to be. There are a lot of issues, wounds and baggage on both sides. I’m about grass movements and climate change. I’m also about communal devotions and Bible studying. When I say communal, I mean with the universal body of Christ. If we dialogue with other believers and denominations we will learn a lot. When we live in community our blind sides are kept in check. Anyway, this is how I see it. This is my simple answer. Community is crucial to a healthy church. Once again, when I say community, I mean with the whole body of Christ, either that or you’re screwed and most likely spout out heresy and have no one to check up on you. But it takes courage and humility to be part of a community.

    • Hi MJ,

      I agree with you that the culture has to change, particularly, to be communal. As I see it, the focus and output in UBF is over-personalized. (Scot McKnight notes on <a href=""his blog that this “personal” aspect of faith is a rather recent thing.) There are 1:1’s, personal shepherding, and testimony writing. All personal activities. Conferences are mostly designed as personal activities, although people have traveled to gather together in a remote location (strange). Listen to a message. Write a personal testimony based on that message. Repeat. To become more communal, UBF ought to open up to its members and to outside ministries, the “whole of the body,” as you mentioned. There’s some weird thought that if you just get right with God personally, if you repent and believe and make a new decision to love God, then everything will be right with others as well. Recent reports on highlight this. <a href=""New international advisory board members are elected. The “community” at large is just told about a done decision via the website. But who was really involved with this decision? <a href=""New continental directors were appointed in S. America and Asia. Who appointed them? Where S. American or Asian disciples involved in appointing them? Why are the newly appointed continental directors Korean missionaries? Were there no disciples among students in those continents that could fulfill the duties? Hard to believe when the scope is the whole continent. And, if no one among the disciples really was able, then haven’t we failed somewhere and need to address our way of doing mission work?

      Each person is valuable and important. Each person’s faith in God is also so important. But it’s not everything. There’s a context of that individual as part of the people of God. We ought to move into a better understanding God’s work of making a people for himself, a nation, a community and the context of a believer in that community (which is not just further recruitment into this community). There’s no guarantee of stopping or fixing this or that problem. The churches we find in Paul’s letters were broken and in need in many ways. But surprisingly we find the issues being address in a most public way–we are even reading about them and discussing them 2,000 years later. But we find he addresses these issues, even personal ones, in a context of the community of God’s people.

  27. Good observations and valid questions, MJ and Charles.

    Here is an idea: Make Ben Toh the 2015 General Director, who then appoints BrianK, JoeS, CharlesW, MJ and four others ubfriends to the board.

    Einstein is quoted as saying, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.” and “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”

    Also, thanks for the link to the new appointments at ubf. You raise very valid questions which will go unanswered. The IEB article you linked to Charles is proof that ubf has no governing board. Yes they have a board, but look at their purpose:

    “This Board works in close coordination with the General Director to carry out under his direction the mission of the University Bible Fellowship. It reports to the IAM at regular meetings. (UBF International Bylaws Article 7.3)”

    This is clear, documented evidence that the ubf organization does not exist for people. Instead, the people exist for ubf, to propagate the ubf mission. They have completely ignored Jesus’ clear teaching in Mark 2:27.

    Whatever mission context we are carrying out, that mission needs to be for the benefit of people in order to be called a Christian church. When people exist to carry out the mission context, the organization is a cult.

    This point is made exceptionally well by the Naked pastor’s steamroller cartoon.

    • In other words, ubf leaders are going to carry out their mission whether there are people coming to ubf or not.

    • I think you rightly mention leadership. That is where I disagreed with MJ. I think the changes have to begin with the leadership because they are the ones leading! If they don’t say that something is wrong, the community at large will not call it as wrong. If this were all too obvious, then on the other side we wouldn’t need the continual affirmation ceremonies and training camps and people wouldn’t be marginalized or labeled for questioning practices and teachings.

    • I have heard the rationalization that it’s okay for people to leave because “God uses a remnant.”

    • “God uses a remnant”

      That is self-aggrandized, comforting, coded language for: “Just forget about people leaving and get back to doing the heritage.” And it one way many people get lulled to sleep…

    • When people left, the director told us that God “cleansed” us and uses as as a “remnant”. When many people came to a conference, the director told us that God “blessed” us. One way or the other, UBF was always God’s ministry and doing everything right.

    • Chris, such attempts at rationalization may be categorized as a logical fallacy known as “special pleading”:

  28. “In other words, ubf leaders are going to carry out their mission whether there are people coming to ubf or not.”

    I kind of agree with Brian on that one. It seems as if things will keep going as they’ve been going until the organization just dwindles away, because it’s not sustainable and does not value or invest into its human capital. But then again there is always Dr. Ben who used to be the most gong ho UBFer and also Brian, it seems like you were also very overly zealous about UBF at one point in your life. You two show that change is possible, but then again there are huge differences between Ben/Brian and current leaders (nationality, background, age, life experiences). We’ll see what happens. Maybe with a functioning ethics committee trained in intercultural communication and a new GD, things will change. Actually there are a few UBFers at seminary now (it used to be taboo and highly discouraged.) Maybe if they are invested into helping UBF out things will change. I think there are many people who notice things and hope for change, hence this site.

    • Good thoughts MJ. In the end, we all need to do what our conscience tells us. Leaving ubf does not automatically resolve the conflict; it just buys some breathing room. What does help resolve the conflict is dialogue and honestly expressing our thoughts.

      Hoping for change changes nothing. As Einstein said “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” Change changes everything. Do what you hope for. Be the change you want to see. Take action.

      Ok enough cliches for one comment :)

    • This is a good thought, MJ, but I’ve seen before where leaders are “supported” and honestly, surrounded, by the UBF support, as they are “given” opportunities to learn these new things. Whether intentional or unintentional, I wonder if it really helps people to see “outside of the box” or not.

      And unfortunately, a number of members of UBF seem to think that the people who are not 120% committed all the time (ie, people who are looking to wait things out and see what happens) are the problem. At least I fear this is so.

  29. Mark Mederich

    john the Baptist gave us enough ethics: repent & believe
    jesus gave us the golden rule: do unto others..
    our inner policeman/gut feeling guides us

    in other words we know what is ethical, but we either do it or not at any given moment based on motives/needs/etc

    so do we need a committee to figure out what is ethical?
    or do we just need to strive to act ethically..let’s get on with the show people-stop hiding behind the baggage like saul

  30. In case anyone wants to know, there is now some publicly posted info about contacting the wacky ubf “HQ Organization”. Nothing was communicated to me, of course, so now the ubf echelon can say “See, Brian is just a bitter complainer. We already have posted public contact info for the ethics committee.. what is he talking about?”

    The big question thought, is does someone contact the COMMITTEE for ethics or the DEPARTMENT for ethics?

    Oh wait, my bad, there isn’t much in the way of contact info for the “Healthy Community Department”… These are all blank, probably because such things are so unimportant and nonspiritual and non-mission focused…

    Marriage & Family Life
    Ethics & Accountability
    Women Leaders

    If you want a laugh, check out who some of the officers are and who is leading some of these departments and committees… no wonder people keep contacting me.

    • Joe Schafer

      Over the years, I was appointed to committees without my knowledge, and I was removed from committees without my knowledge. Some of the committees never met even a single time. On one occasion, I had my name attached to an offensive committee report that I had no knowledge of before it was published.

    • Without justifying or excusing anyone, this is just DBAU for a top down hierarchical authoritarian organization. I believe that some people know that this absolutely has to change. Unfortunately, some others still do not realize that this is simply unacceptable.

    • Yes, Ben, business as usual. That is a good way to express the ultimate goal of KOPAHN theology– just get back to sitting on your chair as a royal priesthood.

    • Joe, that’s what I too experienced when I gave my last presentation. I had no idea I was slotted to speak about the ubfriends website.

  31. Hey everyone, we are approaching the 3 month mark soon–zero response. I hope no one was holding their breath :)

    • Seems like posting on ubfriends triggers things…

      On 12/10/2014 12:35, Alan R Wolff wrote:

      Hi Brian,

      I saw your post. Here’s another update:

      More than just one person on the committee member has been reading your books and this is taking time. Also the committee has had a very hot case that we’ve been focused on and want to bring to closure quickly. I really do hope that we can bring yours to closure soon as well.


      From: Brian Karcher [mailto:–@–.com]
      Sent: Sunday, October 19, 2014 8:14 PM
      To: Alan R Wolff
      Subject: Re: Three requests – reformatted

      Thanks for the update Alan.


      Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE DROID

      On 10/19/2014 19:15, Alan R Wolff wrote:
      Hi Brian,

      Thanks for your patience. The official response has taken time mainly due to a very much busier than usual time for me over the last several weeks. You should be hearing from the committee soon.

      We also wanted to make sure that at least one of us has read all of your books. We have done so.

      May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ continue to be with you!


  32. Hey everyone, just letting you know the committee did finally get back to me. My letter sent on 9/24/14 was answered on 3/11/2015. The answers were brief and as expected. Nothing in their letter was particularly bad or good; it was a middle of the road response.

    • In case anyone is wondering here is the official response:


      Dear Brian,

      Thank you for your patience while we and our leaders attended to other pressing matters. Below are our responses to your questions.

      1. Can you please make the Ethics & Accountability contact info public?

      The information about the committee was made public in October, 2014 on the UBF website. Here is the link:

      2. Will you please find a way to address people leaving your organization?

      The most important goal UBF has is to help people know Christ and follow him by keeping his teachings. While our leaders desire to see people grow within our ministry, we rejoice if our Bible students serve Christ even if they do not remain in UBF. If a transition is needed, we want to make that process as smooth as possible. We are doing a survey of other ministries to find best practices for exit interviews/counseling.

      If someone is having difficulty with a leader in UBF, we hope they can have a frank conversation with that leader to understand why it is happening. In the vast majority of cases, the leader will try to understand the person with the best of intentions. Many chapters have elders who are also available to help. If that can’t happen, people can get in touch with Mark Vucekovich ( for pastoral counseling or the Ethics and Accountability Committee if there are issues with ministry practice.

      3. Would you please read my 3 books?

      Your three books, Rest Unleashed: The Raven Narratives, Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives and Unexpected Christianity: The Penguin Narratives are thoughtful and well written. You have chronicled your sometimes unpleasant journey of faith, sought to understand God’s purposes in the midst of your experiences and have come to a deeper understanding of God’s grace in the gospel. While many of our leaders would not agree with the conclusions you draw about UBF nor with the way you communicate them, we all acknowledge that God is good, that he is your Shepherd who is doing amazing work in your life, and that he will continue to carry to completion the good work he started.

      God bless you,

      The UBF Ethics and Accountability Committee

    • Darren Gruett

      I’m glad that you heard a response. I have to confess, I didn’t even know there was an ethics committee until reading about it here on UBFriends several months ago. It’s never been mentioned in any meetings that I have been a part of, and I don’t ever remember a public announcement about it back in October 2014, or anytime since then. Too bad I had to hear about it from a third party website instead of my own church.

  33. Mark Mederich

    “If someone is having difficulty with a leader in UBF, we hope they can have a frank conversation with that leader to understand why it is happening. In the vast majority of cases, the leader will try to understand the person with the best of intentions.” :)