A Gentler and Kinder UBFriends

kindgentleGentle and kind. This follows my earlier comment to state again my simple (and perhaps naive) contention that the greatest likelihood of effecting positive change in the church is not by relentlessly blasting away and pummeling others (even if they deserve it), but ultimately through gentleness and kindness as exemplified by Christ (even if they don’t deserve it).

Boring and predictable. Many have stated that UBF tends to be boring and predictable in the way the Bible is taught and presented over the decades. I hope that UBFriends does not similarly become boring and predictable by unrelentingly blasting away against UBF.

Mission, mission, mission Vs. bashing, bashing, bashing. Many have said that virtually every UBF Bible study, sermon and postings on UBF websites is primarily mission, mission, mission. Such a repeated emphasis on mission cannot but overshadow or even obscure all the countless other (perhaps far more) important teachings of the Bible, such as the Trinity, reconciliation, unity, justice, equality, honesty, friendships, relationships, condescension (instead of being condescending), etc. Likewise, is UBFriends going to be primarily known as bashing, bashing, bashing, even though there are so many other excellent topics and themes that have been written?

While accusing UBF leaders of playing God, is UBFriends doing the same thing? Many have accused some UBF leaders and shepherds of acting and behaving as though they are the Holy Spirit, as though their knowledge and assessment of their sheep is perfect and correct. In the past they have made highly offensive and reprehensible statements like “selfish Americans,” “Polish pride,” “beggar mentality Filipinos,” etc. Obviously no American, Pole or Filipino likes this. Do we now do the same thing by slamming and bashing UBF?

God is omniscient, we are not. God’s (Jesus’) assessment and judgement of us is objective and correct, even perfect, because God sees and knows every heart perfectly. But our judgment of others, even when based on observable facts and evidences, has elements of subjectivity, bias and prejudices because we do not know the deep intricacy of the hearts of others, and not even our own hearts.

Endless proof-texting. We can quote endless verses about how Jesus blasted others, especially the crooked and malicious religious leaders. Others can also similarly quote countless verses about how Jesus was endlessly gentle, patient and kind toward the wicked (which is everyone). Quoting verses is perhaps a stalemate.

Gentle, meek, lowly, kind. Since I’m writing this, let me quote my preferred verses that I believe exemplify Christ. (Feel free to quote “opposite verses!”) “A gentle tongue can break a bone” (Prov 25:15, NIV). “A soft tongue will break a bone” (Prov 25:15, ESV). “Soft speech can break bones” (Prov 29:25, NLT). “Blessed are the gentle / the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5, NASB; Mt 5:5, ESV). “I am gentle and humble / lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29, NIV; Mt 11:29, ESV). “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Cor 13:4).

gentlekindDon’t stop speaking up. I am absolutely NOT saying that people should stop speaking up against authoritarianism, elitism, exclusivity, cultural imperialism, injustices, spiritual abuse and controlling others in the name of shepherding and discipleship, etc. In fact if you do not speak up when you hear or see something wrong, you are either indifferent or a wimp as a Christian. But for those who do speak up, is there a way to speak up online in a kinder and gentler way, and not predominantly with the predictable accusatory rhetoric and polemic attack of Mt 23:13-39?

What if UBF refuses to do any or all of the following? Be accountable? Genuinely apologize? Own up with contrition or take responsibility for spiritual abuse? Stop slandering and speaking ill of anyone who dares to critique UBF or who leaves UBF? Acknowledge that their shepherding, training methods and their implicit no dating and marriage by faith policies are unbiblical and controlling? Stop justifying itself by their (gospel of) good intentions (which excuses the abuse)? Then what?

Even if many are changing, some may never change. I personally believe that many are genuinely changing, albeit rather slowly, if not invisibly. But there is also a very distinct possibility that some others–perhaps in the absolute minority–who will never change. Then what? Do we thrash the whole orchard because of a few bad apples? Do we damage the whole field of wheat while trying to remove a few weeds? Do we wound and hurt the majority of “good” UBF people, just because we want to relentlessly call out the few “bad” people, who may never change no matter what is said or done?

At the end of the day is Jesus remembered for blasting sinners (which we all deserve without exception) or dying for sinners (which we do not deserve)? What is UBFriends, in her present state and form and emphasis, going to be remembered for?

Is it possible for UBFriends to be gentler, kinder, milder, meeker, more patient, more self-introspection, less accusatory, and not be a predominantly one message website of predictably bashing UBF as though our assessment and judgment of UBF is perfect like that of God’s?


  1. I just happened to read this quote in a book highly recommended by a friend: “Making Peace: A Guide to Overcoming Church Conflict.” I am not saying that this quote applies to anyone in particular (if anything, I know that it can very easily apply to me).

    “Few men do more harm than those who, taking the right side, dispute for personal victory, and argue, as they are then sure to do, ungenerously.” George MacDonald, 1879.

  2. Ben,

    How do you propose moving ubfriends to a gentler and kinder place? What would that look like to you?

    My thoughts are that no more articles should be submitted by the admins (you, me and Joe). Our articles are the most “bashing”. Then, we need other people to submit articles of a different nature. Any takers?

    I appreciate forests (a current ubf member) who submits articles. But they usually generate minimal conversation. Why? Because I think a lot of ubf people are not interested in any topic unless they have assurance that all people involved in the conversation are pro-ubf. And those not thinking like this are too fearful to post anything publicly lest they be deemed rebellious and have to undergo some sort of obedience training.

    Regardless of what happens here, my conclusion about ubf won’t change: ubf is a cult. Even JA admits this.

  3. By the way, I am being kind and gentle by not mentioning or repeating the horrible things I continue to learn about from current and former ubf members, even this week. I don’t share those things out of restraint by the Spirit. If you think I have been unkind so far, then you should thank God that the Spirit has often restrained me.

  4. “At the end of the day is Jesus remembered for blasting sinners (which we all deserve without exception) or dying for sinners (which we do not deserve)?”

    Both. Jesus is remembered as both the Lamb and the Lion. Jesus was filled with both a tender compassion and firm courage. Jesus was both the hope for the lost and the defender of the outcast.

    “What is UBFriends, in her present state and form and emphasis, going to be remembered for?”

    Who cares, honestly? We don’t get to decide that. Other people will decide that no matter what we do. What matters to me is the ongoing crisis– the 4th crisis in ubf’s very short history.

  5. My pushback:
    1.) I have never heard anyone talk about the “beggar mentality of Filipinos.” I would like to know who said that and what the circumstances were.

    2.) Your sentiments reminded me of a Yogic teaching, “Nish Kama Karma (no result action).” It means to do things without seeking a result; it should all come from interior motivation not exterior. Anyone who wants to stay sane in UBF, must do their actions not to change UBF, but because they think it’s the right thing to do. If UBF does change, it’s going to take decades, centuries… But there’s always 2 Peter 3:8, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one

    3.) I like Ben, Brian’s and Joe’s articles so don’t stop them.

    4.) Who is JA?

    • MJ,

      For #1, the phrase “beggar mentality” was common during most of my 24 years, especially during the “sheep” years. It is used as a guilt trip and seems to apply to all nationalities. Any time someone asked for help, it was called out as “being a beggar” and a bad thing to do.

      For #2, “Nish Kama Karma (no result action).” What comment or wording were you referring to? I don’t understand this one.

      For #3, well you probably are in the minority based on our prior “like/dislike” tracking.

      For #4, see this. A certain public letter of recommendation that ubf.org loves to proudly display really really needs to be updated. But I suspect it never will.

    • forestsfailyou

      ” For instance D. Lee would say to my wife, Rebecca B. Kim, that Filipinos were lazy, so he warned her not to co-work much with Miriam Chung, M. Jacob Chung’s wife. ”


      I think this is the type of thing Dr. Ben was referring to.

  6. How do you propose moving ubfriends to a gentler and kinder place? What would that look like to you? – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/10/27/a-gentler-and-kinder-ubfriends/#sthash.kO6h6ph4.dpuf

    It’s something clearly impossible. It’s to be more like Christ, which no one can be with any degree worth bragging about. (The moment you do, you just blew it!) It’s to have perhaps some degree of personal healthy introspection, because even while we address horrible wrong-doing, abuses, injustices in the church, we are not doing so from a perfect sinless place, unlike God and Christ.

    Who cares, anyway? I believe God cares. Also, those who love the church care.

    We are to love even ISIS members who would behead us if we are caught by them. How much more to treat a little more charitably, generously and graciously those who attend church, even if they might abuse their position(s) of authority and leadership.

    • Ben,

      Your philosophical fabric continues to confuse me.

      Your answer to “How do you propose moving ubfriends to a gentler and kinder place?” was “It’s something clearly impossible.” Why is that impossible? And if it is impossible, why try?

      “We are to love even ISIS members who would behead us if we are caught by them.”

      If I’m captured I would fight to the death. Such evil needs to be stamped out with a boot up the a**.

  7. My short and concise answer would be to: get more women involved in the discussion. Women are tactfully able to say their ideas in a much gentler and kinder way than men. Only publish articles written by women;)

  8. Ben, you made this comment in another thread:

    Similarly, Mohler (and others like him) firmly, strongly and resolutely believes that it is most loving to address and call out what they believe is a sin, punishable by eternal damnation, so that they might repent. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/10/25/why-christianity-needs-gay-people/#comment-15633

    Could we argue that comments like Chris’ are needed because all he is doing is calling UBF leaders to come into the light. Isn’t it most loving to call someone out that they may escape becoming eternally lost?

    • btw, not claiming that anyone is “eternally lost”, just using this phrase for the sake of argument.

  9. “I hope that UBFriends does not similarly become boring and predictable”

    Honestly, Ben, I find your constant bashing of predictability boring and predictable.

    God is faithful. Being predictable is a quality of a good, faithful and reliable Christian.

    Some issues may be boring for you. But I know there are many in UBF who never thought about these issues, and read about these for the first time when they stumble over the UBFriends. These people often usually don’t read the old discussions from years or months ago, but the current discussions. So it’s worthwile to repeat the same things every now and then.

    We want to educate people about certain issues. A math teacher doesn’t start teaching that 2 + 2 = 5 just because 2 + 2 = 4 is so predictable and boring. We don’t deal with mathematical truths, but with spiritual and psychological truth, and with the history of UBF, which stays the same. We also deal with always new people who are invited to UBF every year, just like new kids come into school every years.

    This website is actually not only for those who already understand the issues and know much of the past, but also for those who do not yet understand.

    “Do we now do the same thing [as UBF]”?

    No we don’t and we will never do, because we are not a church or ministry. We don’t claim spiritual authority over people. Also, we have diverse opinions (you and I are the best example). We don’t force anybody to visit us every week, to write sogams every week, to take part in activities every week. We don’t assign people personal shepherds. We don’t have direct 1:1 face to face sessions where we pressure and manipulate people. We don’t tell them what to do and what not to do, whom and when to marry. We are just providing our opinions and information that is not readily available in the world of UBF. UBFriends are just a hub of information advice, it’s just an offer that you can accept or ignore. Who else in the world would and could competently criticize UBF if not people on UBFriends? So it’s not only the task of UBFriends, but also the duty of UBFriends.

    “Soft speech can break bones”

    We already discussed this at length. There are situations in which you must speak softly, and situations in which you must speak or even act drastically. It has to do with time and recipient. In the beginning, and towards those who don’t know better, you start speaking softly. But if this goes on and people who should know better refuse to repent, you will become less and less soft. Mt 18:15ff shows this kind of escalation.

    “Soft speech can break bones” is certainly true. But the verse does not say that it is always right and appropriate to speak softly. Speaking softly can be appropriate and the right thing at times. But there are situations where it is wrong. Eli spoke too softly with his sons – that was a big failure. You take such a “can”-verse, absolutize it and apply it to a situation in which it is not appropriate.

    I think it’s obvious that regarding UBF, the time to speak softly is long over. UBF hasn’t shown any real sign of repentance since 55 years (political change is different from repentance). It’s time to speak louder, not more softly.

    “What if UBF refuses to do any or all of the following?”

    That’s very simple, as long as UBF refuses to do anything about it, I consider it a cult and treat it like a cult, not like a church. Particularly, I warn people of UBF, even though I know that some chapters like yours are not so bad, since UBF as a whole did not repent or officially distance itself from the past and the methods of its founder, but quite to the contrary, it is still officially praising him.

    This is similar to what is written in Mt 18:15 “treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”. In the context of that verse, it means, don’t consider them as a Christian. It does not mean that you should treat a pagan or a tax collector badly. In the context of Christian leadership and organizations that refuse to repent, it means I don’t consider them as a legitimate Christian church, but a cult or aberrant church. That’s my point of view. If you would still call UBF a church, then it’s one that needs severe rebuke as some of the 7 churches mentioned in Revelation, not one that needs “soft speech”.

    Finally, I don’t consider me or other ex UBFers as parties of a “conflict.” We have moved on. The conflict was 15 years ago when we tried to reform UBF. Now, I have accepted the fact that the UBF top leadership does not want reform, and the UBF membership does not care. I have accepted UBF for what it is, a cult-like group like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not in “conflict” with them, though I oppose their views and warn people of them. Of course, UBF is less aberrant – but in my view it can even make things worse because it’s harder for people to see through the doctrinal issues.

    I keep patiently explaining why exactly I consider a cult, though. Every UBFer has the possibility to read my arguments, reflect and think about whether I’m right or not. There is still hope that someday there may be a real reform, when the hardliners will be gone or a miracle happens. There is also hope that even if UBF as a whole refuses to acknowledge the problems, that at least individual members, understand the problems, and stop wasting their lives in UBF, stop destroying their families, stop hurting people under the name of shepherding, and start living a self-determined free life (Brian is a living example). This will happen as a result of clearly naming the problems, again and again, not as a result of downplaying them.

    Regarding the problem of this website being too boring, the solution is simple: Stop focusing only on UBF and post articles about other issues more often. But do not give the impression that the problems are “solved” or do not start to downplay the issues. Another solution: Start visualizing how a UBF with all the good elements, but without the abuse, doctrinal errors and authoritarianism could look like. Paint a vivid picture of how a reformed UBF could look like. Still, this will not work without clearly naming and exposing the errors and bad practices that tainted and spoiled UBF for decades.

    • forestsfailyou

      If I may, I think what is meant by “predictable”. Can be illustrated with this http://bit.ly/1rxJ1zn
      If you are going to say the same thing over and over again I suggest that you just write an article and make your point. I think by this point your point is well taken.

    • Well now, that’s snazzy, forests. If I was any older and of touch with how the interweb works, I’d have dubbed you some kind of internet sorcerer for that.

    • forestsfailyou

      It’s a part time job David. I do birthday parties too.

    • That’s really cool, Forests! Yes, snazzy too. This is probably a really stupid question to tekkies, but how was that done? Will it be easy for a non-tekkie like me to learn or do?

    • In the history of UBF, the 2001 reform was an event as important and dramatic as the 1990 reunification in the history of Germany, except that it achieved the opposite – expelling half of the UBF members as rebels. The fact that it’s only mentioned 11 times on the UBFriends blog that is sad. If you don’t analyze and talk about history, history is going to repeat itself (sigh).

      If pointing people to well-written articles would work, pastors could sit at home on Sundays and refer people to Mathew Henry’s Bible comments.

    • Let me give you another sad result: http://bit.ly/ZXsmil

      The only reform UBF knows is the one of Martin Luther, and it’s only mentioned 1 time. As long as UBF is silent about reform, we must be eloquent about reform.

    • Chris, please do write an article. I don’t think that I myself have heard well about the “2001 reform where half of UBF was expelled as rebels.” If you’d like anyone to check for grammar (not that you need it), etc, Brian (sorry for volunteering you), I’m sure will be happy to do so.

    • Yes, surely I will correct English though I’m not great at it and Chris needs no correction really. His English is very good in written form :)

    • Ben, yes, I should do this. However, it’s difficult and time-consuming to write a good summary. I would need to sift through all the testimonies and letters that I have collected and published partially on my old website. It’s easier to write a short comment every now and then when I get provoked by a posting on my UBFriends feed. Maybe I should simply disengage from the discussion and reappear only when I have written an article or book. After having been threatened UBF lawyers and met with indifference or accusations of being boring and repetitive, and after much time has passed, my motivation has become pretty low. But I will think about this over the weekend.

  10. Ben, not too long ago, you posted this:

    Can you understand why this is my “worst” infuriation? What might yours be? – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/02/09/my-worst-infuriation/#sthash.vZfAlZvP.dpuf

  11. Sorry for the bad speling and gramar, I always forget re-reading my comments before hitting the “enter” key.

    I also forgot to say that I really don’t feel people on UBFriends are “blasting away and pummeling others” when they address real-existing problems and when they call abuse what is abuse. Legitimate criticism is legitimate criticism, it is neither “bashing” nor is it “persecution” as some in UBF claim.

    Also, you asked for “opposite verses”. This is the passage that always comes into my mind when thinking about those who want to downplay the issues or ask for patience: “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace. Are they ashamed of their disgusting actions? Not at all—they don’t even know how to blush!” You as a doctor should know that it’s necessary to treat mortal wounds with urgency and priority, and that it’s important to make a clear diagnosis even if it doesn’t sound nice.

    • forestsfailyou

      Ben google search “let me google that for you.”
      As for Chris I am in no way opposed to hearing about that, but many times that exact topic seems (to me) to derail any constructive conversation. I am just trying to encourage you to explain those things in a better fitting forum. I think if we can limit reform talk, or criticism to articles concerning those things would make this site 100% better. For example I wrote an article about marriage, since I am not married I hoped I could hear some stories about how people had worked through multiple years of marriage. I almost parentheticaly added this bit about marriage by faith. But the whole conversation became dedicated to that tiny bit. Forgive me, but I could have written my (brutally honest) thoughts about that if I wanted. I think an examination of the content of articles would be advised.

    • “I almost parentheticaly added this bit about marriage by faith. But the whole conversation became dedicated to that tiny bit.”

      Forests, that is one of the problems: the people who comment here have little to offer to many conversations. What we really have a need for is to process the odd things that we experienced at ubf. I too would love to talk about anything besides ubf, anything for the love of Pete! But given the ubf-source of this website, we’re kind of stuck discussing things only in the ubf context.

      Marriage is one of the best examples. What can those who went through marriage by faith talk about in regard to marriage? Do you realize how painful it is to hear people speak so wonderfully of their engagement, their dating, how they met, etc. etc.? We didn’t even get to “kiss the bride” for crying out loud!

      So every topic here brings up new memories and surfaces more bad blood for many of us.

      If we want to discuss these things in non-ubf context, it will have to occur elsewhere. Like Facebook for example. Here is a bit of irony, just yesterday I found myself agreeing with a ubf person about the gospel :)

  12. I have read all of the comments here..I think like Ben that we should forgive and do everything in love..gentle and kind…I have to agree with Chris that this has not worked in UBF…this site has brought much healing to me and clarified what I knew in my heart but could not put in words about UBF…leadership needs to be replaced and the whole system changed to serve families, to love people, and to work in the body of Christ not at odds with the Church…I think UBF does more harm than good to peoples lives in the name of raising disciples…they need to build bridges to the whole body of Christ and change to be healthy and get rid of the spiritual heritage and replace it with gospel of Jesus and the love for people, families, and all Christians…UBF erects fences to keep families apart, students from their families, Bible students from other churches and other important teachings of the whole body of Christ…they are fence builders not bridge builders…the beast needs to die and reform needs to come swiftly…this will bring healing and prevent damage to future Bible students..so Chris I agree with you that whistle must be blown and the fences and control need to fall…this would require the leaders to become vulnerable and naked and repentant to the world…I pray for this and know only God can do it.,

  13. Great conversation everyone. And dare I say a gentle and kind one? :)

    Ben it is interesting to note your Anne Frank quote. I don’t see a gentle and kind spirit at odds with good debates and passionate exchanges. This website has been a huge benefit to me, to iron out my thoughts and see my ideas challenged and shaped. The interaction techniques I learned here has even helped me to win awards at work for excellent communication and clarity :)

    I think it was Anne Frank who also said or wrote this: “The only way to truly know a person is to argue with them. For when they argue in full swing, then they reveal their true character.”

    I for one have gotten to know all the commenters here much better through our interactions.

    And hey everyone, lets not forget this, in the end, just a blog.

  14. Ben, you asked:

    “But for those who do speak up, is there a way to speak up online in a kinder and gentler way, and not predominantly with the predictable accusatory rhetoric and polemic attack of Mt 23:13-39?”

    Yes. Read my books and then share quotes :)