What Samuel Lee Taught

After his passing in 2002, Lee is credited with 8 to 12 legacies that are being used as “core values” to define UBF throughout the world. But I’m wondering if these distinctives are the best descriptives of his legacy and teachings.

From 1980 (when I became a Christian and joined Chicago UBF) to 2002 (when Lee died), I witnessed firsthand what Lee said and taught. For the last 22 years of his life I listened to Lee’s preaching in Chicago UBF, and heard his prayer topics and announcements every week. He would be the final word at the Mon fellowship leader’s meeting, the Tue elder’s meeting, the Fri student leader’s meeting, on Sat when we met for prayer for the Sunday worship service, and also on Sun after the sermon.

There have been many negative accounts about Lee (which are credible accounts from credible people). But there are also Lee’s positive teachings, which I regard as the gist of his primary teachings and main emphasis for 22 years under his leadership. Many might insist that he did not practice what he preached. Nonetheless, this is what he said and emphasized repeatedly for the last 22 years of his life.

Humility. Lee said emphatically that humility is the first attribute of leadership. He would be even far more dramatic by saying, “The first attribute of leadership is humility. The second attribute of leadership is humility. The third attribute of leadership is humility.” He said this and similar statements regarding humility countless times on countless occasions over the years. For certain, UBF might be a different church if we sincerely took to heart the utmost importance of humility.

Influence. Lee said, “The water upstream flows downstream.” He meant that what happens in UBF at the ground level happens primarily because of the leader’s influence. He said very often that we should not blame our sheep, but take personal responsibility. He clearly articulated a culture of influence and responsibility that comes from the integrity of the leader. People have shared how their leader told them, “Our UBF chapter is not growing because of you.” Lee would not have been happy with that leader.

Jesus only. Lee said that whatever we write and share in both sermons and testimonies, 90% should be about Jesus and 10% about ourselves. He never deviated from consistently saying this for as long as I’ve known him for 22 years. If we practiced sharing primarily about Jesus (and not ourselves or UBF), issues with elitism and nationalism would dissipate.

Compassion. With an almost consistent and predictable regularity, Lee would emphasize in countless creative ways the compassion of God and Jesus for sinners. He encouraged UBFers to have a “shepherd’s heart” for others. He stressed that we should love our sheep like our children; that we should love and care for lost sheep with the heart of Christ and with the heart of a father and a mother. This is virtually an unchanging constant in his sermons and announcements throughout the 22 years that I‘ve known him.

Many people have shared with me their observation that they are treated differently from the children of missionaries and older leaders. They say that they often do not force their own children to feed sheep, attend meetings, write testimonies, or marry by faith. Perhaps, if we love others the same way we love our children such complaints would disappear.

Brokenness. Lee expressed it best when he said, “If one’s leg is broken we can fix their broken leg. But when one’s heart is broken, what can we do?” Many are emphatic about Lee’s motivation of primarily desiring to establish leaders for UBF. Yes, he was driven to make disciples the way he believed he should, which I do not always agree with. But I remember him expressing his compassion for broken students from dysfunctional families with genuine and heartfelt compassion countless times. I never doubted that he loved and cared for certain broken people, who will likely be ignored and discarded by a pragmatic leader.

Love one person. Related to compassion and brokenness, Lee emphasized ad nauseam about genuinely loving one person. In an attempt to help a college student, he said in the midst of a very hectic international summer Bible conference (ISBC) preparation, “Helping one person is more important than the entire UBF ISBC.”

Many people have complained about how UBF is far more concerned about the viability, success and reputation of UBF than about the welfare and well being of individual people, who have felt used, trampled upon, disregarded, unappreciated and disrespected. People felt conditional love: They are accepted and loved only if they are fully committed to serve UBF. But should they decide to leave UBF, they felt that they never had a true friend in UBF who loved them for who they were, but only for what they could contribute to UBF. If we took to heart Lee’s teaching about genuinely loving one person, then even if that person left UBF, the love would remain.

There are other repeated emphasis in Lee’s teaching. But I’ll stop here with humility, influence, Jesus only, compassion, brokenness, and loving one person. Could these six attributes be suitable replacements for some of the current 8 to 12 legacies attributed to him over the past dozen years?


  1. Joe Schafer

    Ben, I don’t think this is a fair summary of what SL “taught.”

    The most powerful and effective forms of teaching are not verbal instruction. They are the transmission of tacit knowledge through a variety of nonverbal means, especially how a person acts.

    SL said many things with his words. What those words meant to him was clarified by his actions. The words he used, in their best meaning, did not line up with the things that he did.

    For example, take your Point #1: Humility. Yes, SL said over and over that “a leader should be humble.” But what did he mean by “humble”? In many instances, he meant that a humble person was someone who was willing to sit under *his* teaching, to submit to *his* training, to obey *his* directions, to accept *his* vision for them. How do I know this? I know this because of the way he treated people. I know this from the observing the contexts in which he told people that they needed to be humble. Very often, it was a way of shutting down discussion or opposition, a way of manipulating people to submit to his authority and do his bidding. I can give countless examples of this. What he often meant by “humility” was an absolute, unthinking submission to his hierarchical authoritarian rule, a kind of humility that had essentially nothing to do with the gospel or Trinitarian theology.

    SL’s understanding of “humble” was demonstrated by the way he acted toward others. When he walked into a room, strutting around in his army fatigues, he expected everyone to constantly defer to him, while he deferred to no one. I can hardly think of a single time when SL entered into a true dialogue with anyone (a mark of humility) or showed willingness to be taught by anyone (another mark of humility). He told the elders and members of UBF what to do, and he never shared power or submitted himself to any oversight (another mark of humility). SL was humble only in the superficial sense that he drove an old car and sometimes ate Big Macs. In every other sense, in all the ways he acted toward people, he was constantly positioning himself as the teacher, the top guy, the authority figure, the head honcho. He knew that he could control people in all sorts of ways, and he used that to maximal advantage. When he encountered someone whom he could no longer control, he marginalized them and drove them away. Whatever he said in words, about the need to be humble, his own actions as a leader spoke volumes which nullified the true sense of that word.

    Now take your point #2: Influence. Yes, SL talked about influence. What kind of influence did he have? The people who were under SL the longest learned to behave pretty much as he did. They learned to boss other people around just as they had been bossed around. For example, when I wrote this report and shared it with the senior staff, JJ (who was General Director at the time) pulled me aside and said, “A leader should be humble.” What JJ meant was, “You have no right to raise any questions about what UBF is doing or why; your job is to keep quiet and follow orders.” JJ used the exact words and teachings of SL to try to shut me up, no doubt in the same way that SL had shut him up, by leveraging a distortion of Christian virtue (humility) to control someone else.

    Ben, rather than going through your remaining points, I will just share a passage from an article that I read today by Randall Rauser:

    “Consider an illustration. Your friend Dawn has a new boyfriend named Mark. While Dawn loves Mark you have some serious concerns and you set her down one day to enumerate them. “Mark hits you Dawn. I’ve seen it on several occasions.” What if Dawn were to reply by pointing out all the times when Mark was sweet, and all the gifts he bought her, and how he would be a good provider? That wouldn’t persuade you at all because the question is not whether Mark acts in a morally commendable way sometimes. Clearly he does. The real problem is that at other times he acts in a morally intolerable way. If Dawn is to defend Mark to you she shall have to provide an adequate explanation of why he sometimes beats her.”

    And Rauser continues:

    “It is not enough to note the moments when [SL] is patient and kind, loving and generous. One needs to explain the moments when [SL] appears to be unfair, inexplicably violent and terribly cruel.”

    Ben, I suppose you will say that SL was a fallen person just as we all are fallen people, that he was a terrible sinner marred by total depravity just as we are all terrible sinners marred by total depravity, and so on. As I read this article, I sensed that you were trying to do something like that.

    But I don’t buy that anymore.

    I don’t buy that because we never treated SL like one of us. We treated him as a divinely appointed authority figure, a special fount of wisdom who needed to be followed and obeyed at all costs, even when his demands were unreasonable, even when his teachings were bizarre. That was the kind authority that he claimed for himself. That was the kind of authority that we ascribed to him. So SL should have been held to a higher standard. But we didn’t hold him to that standard. We ignored his outrageous behavior and made excuses for him again and again, because he held power over us and because we were afraid of him.

    Frankly, I am deeply ashamed that I followed him and submitted to him as I did, for as long as I did. It was foolish and unChristian and wrong. Plain wrong.

    • Thanks, Joe, I think you know that I do not disagree with your comments, because what a person truly is is far more important than what a person simply says, and that actions speak louder than words.

      I think you also know that the fact that we are sinners also does not excuse anyone of their sins. So yes, without exception we are all under sin (Rom 3:9) and without excuse (Rom 1:21).

      Unfortunately (or maybe expectedly), some leaders did what he did rather than followed what he said. Again, we are without excuse.

  2. “As I read this article, I sensed that you were trying to do something like that.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/11/19/what-samuel-lee-taught/#comment-15864

    What I was primarily trying to say or do (I think) was to stir the pot and suggest that perhaps the 8 to 12 so-called “core values” might need some serious re-evaluation, since as mentioned previously they are really not values at all. They are also not the primary teachings of the founder, though they are all firmly and resolutely attributed to him.

    Worse yet, they have been regarded and implemented rather legalistically and functionally as non-negotiables, almost like the way Jewish Christians imposed circumcision and their Jewish tradition on Gentile Christians. Thus, these core values are almost hammered as polemics by some leaders, as if they are the primary ways one becomes a good Christian and wants to be regarded as a UBFer in good standing.

    • “the 8 to 12 so-called “core values” – they are also not the primary teachings of the founder”

      Sorry, I have to mention the expulsion of the reformers in 2001 again. Yes, people don’t like me to mention it, but I must put reality against your dreamworld fantasy of Samuel Lee’s teachings. Remember the expulsion happened while Samuel Lee was still general director of UBF. They were expelled because they allegegedly violated the traditions of UBF, which are exactly these 8-12 “UBF heritage” points. None of your core values were shown in this expulsion, but all of the “UBF heritage” values were enforced. This was the official reason and shows how serious these self-invented traditions were to Samuel Lee. He was by no means a humble man. He called himself “general directory” and signed his letters with “Dr. Samuel Lee Ph. D. Litt. D.”, which a humble person would never do, particularly if that Ph.D.s is from a known degree mill. He refused to talk to the reformers. A humble person would always talk. When he visited our European conference, he changed the complete program and replaced the messengers which had prepared for weeks with his own. A humble person would never do that. In my view, Samuel Lee was the exact opposite of a humble person. Sure, he tought everybody to be humble, i.e. accept his dominion without thinking. Concerning brokenness, yes, he loved to break others and loved when others were broken. I agree with Joe. Teaching is not only done by words, but also by behavior.

      The fact that Samuel Lee spoke about humility but then did not show what humility in practice makes things worse. Because now people think that what Samuel Lee did and how he behaved was humility. In my view, he did not teach these values, but emptied the words of their real meaning by doing the opposite of the 6 things you mentioned. So the current UBF can now proudly claim they are doing all these things, because they are doing them in the same way as Samuel Lee exemplified, and he is still praised for that.

      UBF has become what it is because the leaders copied the behavior and teachings of Samuel Lee, and his distortion of Christian core values.

      Let me tell you one thing about “loving one person”. I know a girl who left UBF because she was forced into a bad arranged marriage by Samuel Lee and then when she tried to leave UBF was divorced by order of Samuel Lee. Her conclusion about UBF was “there is no love in UBF.” These are not my words, Ben. These are the words of someone who experienced the “love” of Samuel Lee.

      The most evil thing Samuel Lee did was take the word “love” and make it mean the opposite: manipulate, train, humiliate, exploit, then shame and shun, and finally divorce or expel if they don’t comply.

      I’m sorry that I always write a litany where Joe is able to summarize in one sentence.

    • Ben..I did not know Dr. Samuel Lee that well but my chapter director was a miniature version of him…I did talk to him a few times…I never knew that he permitted abortions until after I was asked to leave UBF after 29 years of serving God’s work..if I would have known the truth about this…I would have left immediately..how can someone take an innocent life and even say they love God, people, and the church…this is truly against all that God teaches..it makes me sick that he did not even respect the life of the unborn…this truth in itself tells me UBF is founded on not true biblical principles and that Dr. Samuel Lee thought he was in the place of God…nobody who claims to be a believer especially a leader should ever permit someone to have an abortion…I rest my case..

  3. Joe Schafer

    OK, so as I understand it, you are saying this.

    If UBF leaders would put aside the core values they have articulated, and if they disregarded many of the (sometimes atrocious) things that SL did, and if they disavowed SL’s authoritarianism, and if they admitted that much of what SL did was wrong and that SL probably harmed at least as many people as he helped, and if they culled through all of the various things that SL taught verbally, cherry-picking the good and disregarding what was bizarre and unChristian, then the UBF ministry might get better.

    I can agree with that.

    • Yes, that would be a comprehensive and thorough way of putting it. Unfortunately (without saying this as an excuse), we might have to start small, initiate a change of thought and ideology, and maybe not expect any changes in our lifetimes, but hopefully creating a better foundation for our (my) children and grandchildren. At my age, as I am in retirement age, that is my hope.

    • Joe Schafer

      My life is too precious and too short to waste any more of it hanging around, waiting and hoping for some stubborn /old / out of touch people to change so that someday I can experience something like authentic Christian community.

    • I understand. Being primarily an autonomously driven person, I could care less if others care about what I have to say (to put it bluntly). But by God’s grace, I wish to initiate and create an authentic community by God’s help within my own small and insignificant sphere of influence. Like everyone else, I can’t do any more or receive any more than what God has granted me (Jn 3:27).

    • Ben,

      “we might have to start small, initiate a change of thought and ideology, and maybe not expect any changes in our lifetimes…”

      Changing the catechism of ubf won’t help much. We have a right to expect two changes in our lifetime. We deserve to see repentance on two terms: 1) admission of abuses and 2) liberation of people’s lives

      I agree with this comment about pope Francis regarding reform. What we need are safe zones, not merely a change in catechism.

      “This is among the least understood aspects of Francis’s revolution. “His path to reform is not changing the catechism,” said Allen. Instead, it is “creating a zone for the most merciful application of pastoral teaching.”


      And that, Ben, is exactly what you have done at West Loop Church. You have created a safe zone within the ubf ministry. And for that I am very grateful.

  4. Joe Schafer

    Ben, what UBF leaders are saying and doing today is the direct result and lasting influence of what SL taught them. They are his fruit. A tree is known by its fruit.

  5. Joe, thanks so much for sharing that report that you made. I could only read a few pages of it tonight. I realize you worked and agonized a long time in writing that.

    Ben, I also appreciate your effort. I like the idea of debunking some of the big rules that are attributed to SL. House church, one to one, self supporting and so on. And with a picture of SL in his camo.

    However, as much as the truism of “The water upstream flows downstream” is called “Influence,” this is still something that can be coveted. I was once wracked with a coughing cough. Terrible coughing, non stop hacking up. It seemed prudent to, for the first time in 10+ years, miss worship service, partly because of my infirmity, partly because of not wanting to give my germs to others (we have at least one family whose child has a severe immunity problem). I was visted by my bible teacher missionary shepherd doctor (are there more titles? I’ll edit if I remember them all). He told me I should come anyways. I told him politely more than 3 times I shouldn’t go and I hoped he could understand. He said my coming to worship service was important for the sake of “influence.”

    The water upstream flows downstream? I get the feeling I’m not the first person who heard that little bit about influence.

    Jesus said, he is the rock of stumbling, but woe to him on whom that rock falls. The word of God is a two edged sword and will expose all our nasty bits as it exposes others too.

    I respectfully chose to bear the “influence” of compassion and mercy, not subjecting people to my sickness, and not subjecting them to empty pride of bragging rights for showing up to church when very very sick. In fact, I am proud (as proud as a man may be before God) that I did indeed use my influence to show that one does not *have* to legalistically attend church to impress others, and that one *may* depend on the grace of God.

    What we need is a litany of brokenness, mercy, and redemption. “influence” as you wrote it is a warning, but it is also coveted by too many.

    And I have no doubt that if I had attended for the sake of “influence” that it would have been ultimate for the sake of my teacher’s desire to have “influence.”

    Makes me sick, it does. I feel like Joseph in Egypt or Jacob in Paddan Aram many times.

    • Samuel Lee taught “rules” not love for people, families, and the body of Christ…the no missing worship service rule in UBF can be an idol…often leaders want you to be there to show off their numbers and makes them feel like they are growing…being sick or having to take care of family or loving a friend in need are things that are important to grow in love…I have never missed worship service in UBF and since I left UBF…often I attend 2-3 churches on Sunday..but this is not done out of influence but because I desire to be at worship and to hear the word of God..but I do miss prayer meetings and other things when family needs me and if I got sick I would miss worship or if a friend needed me..I think UBF people need to wake up to love not rules..I pray you feel better and that you truly love your family and wife..this is the best way you can truly show God’s love to others…

    • Matt, you point to another core value of UBF that Ben has not mentioned: “absoluteness”. Contary to the other values, this seems to me a unique feature of UBF (at least when compared to churches, not to cults). I often heard the demand for “absolute obedience”. You gave a typical example where people are forced to attend the SWS even if they are ill and can infect others. I know of one such case in Germany where a Korean infant died, probably because of this very practice. I experienced many other very awkward situations where people were forced to do crazy things to prove their “absolute” obedience. Like one woman who came late from work and missed her train, so she called to say she couldn’t make it to a prayer meeting. Then her husband told her to pay a taxi and try to still come even if it wasn’t possible in time, just to show that she tried. Again, she had to “influence” the others with such absoluteness. The whole group always needed to be hysterical about mission, nobody was allowed to see things relaxed, because it could infect others. Several people in my chapter were expelled not because they sinned or did other bad things, but just because they were not “growing” quickly enough and did not take part in all activities and therefore were considered a “bad influence” to others. Somebody should write an article about the UBF core value of “absoluteness” and how it is interpreted and practiced, and what’s wrong about it. It’s a dangerous thing. UBF believes they are better than other churches, whose member practice only “ordinary obdience”, but UBF members practice “absolute obedience” towards God, therefore UBFers are the real Christians, while others are only Christians by name. That’s why UBFers have to proof and demonstrate their absolute obedience by things like never missing SWS or 1:1. That’s why my director tried to cancel my marriage when I did not obey his demand to attend a certain meeting. Even though I already attended the SWS and another meeting at the same day, that was not enough. I did not demonstrate enough of “absoluteness”.

  6. Here is an example of what Samuel Lee really taught, in a message delivered 4/18/1999 in the Chicago UBF Sunday service:

    “To obey God or not to obey God’s word determines our fate. There were three medical doctors. They came as UBF missionaries to Chicago. But when their commander arrived, they all ran away so as not to suffer in doing the work of God. The leader was unhappy about them and did not bless them. Then soon one of the doctors, who was an anaesthesiologist, overdosed a patient for an operation and the patient died. So he lost his medical doctor’s license. Now he is running a grocery store very poorly. Another one, influenced by American relativism, cursed the servant of God. Then he left UBF. After several years, he was in a severe car accident. His body was totally crushed and his hands and feet were paralyzed. The third one got a proper job. But he has rheumatism in his right leg and in his left hand. He suffers day and night. All these events happened when they took God’s word lightly. This is to say that when we obey God’s word, God blesses us; when we disobey, God does not bless us.”

    In this message, the “commander” was clearly Samuel Lee. Everybody in the room knew that. Note how in the course of that passage, the commander gets slowly equated with God Himself. This is exactly what Samuel Lee taught in reality: He was the commander, everybody had to obey him, in he (Samuel Lee) should be feared and obeyed in every sense as if he was God Himself. However, that Samuel Lee god was not a loving God. It was a God that would punish if somebody left UBF and bless only if somebody obeyed Samuel Lee.

    Don’t tell us that Lee taught all the right things and UBF only “misunderstood” him. You are falsifying history if you do that. Again, UBF is what is because it followed Samuel Lee very closely, and his teachings and practices from the very beginnings, not because they kind of “deviated” from some pure teachings he allegedly had. That’s exactly why I’m always picking on him or “bashing him” as you call it, because the chain of cause and effect needs to be crystal clear if you want to break that chain and change things. The cause that lead UBF to become a cult was pride and the harmful teachings and practices of a narcissit leader, and a wrong humility and blind submission of his followers. If that does not become clear to everybody, history will only repeat itself.

  7. Ben,

    “What I was primarily trying to say or do (I think) was to stir the pot and suggest that perhaps the 8 to 12 so-called “core values” might need some serious re-evaluation, since as mentioned previously they are really not values at all. They are also not the primary teachings of the founder, though they are all firmly and resolutely attributed to him.”

    That is a load of crap.

    We all heard SL say those slogans of the “spiritual legacy” many times. They are exactly what he taught. The 12 point heritage should be preserved in fact, so the world can see all the contradictions contained in them.

    What infuriates me the most about ubf people (and about my self in the past)? The fact the we keep translating the horrible, bad teachings of SL and attempting to make them palatable! I hate this. I hate seeing people refine and interpret what Korean ubfers say. That is most unhelpful. Let their words speak for themselves.

    As forests and others have told me repeatedly, my words, though harsh at times, were not what made them reject the ubf heritage: it was the words of ubfers themselves. ubf’s own PowerPoints and ubf’s own, self-published, self-glorification reports on ubf.org are the very thing that finally opened my own eyes to see the contradictions.

    ubf.org did far more to make me reject ubf ministry than any of the 200+ former member testimonies.

  8. Great comments everyone. When I think about SL, I often need a Katy Perry infusion…

  9. Joe Schafer

    Ben, have you seen today’s Daily Bread page? Ordinarily I don’t look at it. On a whim, I decided to check it out. To put it bluntly, this is one of the poorest, nuttiest, most ridiculous examples of exegesis that I have ever seen. The reason I’m drawing your attention to it is that it purports to teach the importance of humility and respect for authority as opposed to pride. This is so confused and so confusing and so strange, and it perfectly exemplifies the kind of teaching that SL gave. This, in a nutshell, displays the legacy of SL’s life and ministry. And it’s one of the best examples I have ever seen of how not to study the Bible.

    This DB page will disappear from the website by tomorrow. So I have copied and pasted it here, for all to see.


    And have a blessed day.

    UBF Daily Bread from 11/20/14

    Esther 1:1-22
    Key verse: Esther 1:20

    First, King Xerxes’ party (1-8). King Xerxes ruled the world. But he was a king who needed to impress others with his power, majesty and possessions. So he held a 6-month exposition of his greatness and glory for his military and political leaders. Then, he topped it off with a lavish banquet in his palace garden for all the men of Susa, from least to greatest, for one week. His lifestyle was excessively extravagant, even for a king. At the feast, wine flowed freely. When the guests and Xerxes were in high spirits, he sent for Queen Vashti. He was proud of her beauty and wanted to show her off. Yet it was inconsiderate of him to display his wife in front a party full of drunken men.

    Second, Queen Vashti’s mistake (9-22). Queen Vashti was having a banquet for the women. When the king sent for her, she refused to come. In her pride, Vashti forgot that she had to respect her husband. He is the king, after all. Xerxes’ pride was hurt in front of the men of his kingdom and he was furious. He consulted his advisors who knew the times. They saw this as a national problem. They urged Xerxes to depose Vashti. An announcement proclaimed that all women should respect their husbands! Even a king and queen cannot live together happily without love and respect.

    Prayer: Lord, pride still destroys homes and breaks relationships. Take foolish pride from my heart.

    One word: Pride goes before a fall


    Brian is exactly right. The most convincing anti-ubf material on the internet is found on ubf.org.

    • Joe Schafer

      For those of you who are not so fluent in UBF-ese, here is what the DB page actually means.

      One word: Obey your husband/leader absolutely at all times, even when he acts like a despotic a-hole.

    • This is a great point Joe. If someone has the stomach for it, they should submit some articles here reviewing the DB articles. That would be eye-opening for some I think.

      Esther should be a grand example of refusing to participate in something out of matters of conscience, as well as a magnificent example of how to react in light of authoritative and abusive leaders.

      Instead, the ubf db writers simply reflect subconsciously on this text in light of their Confucian values of loyalty, honor-at-any-cost and submission. They justify this subconsciously also by binding these values to the fundamentalist Christian ideology of women being shown godly by their submission to men.

      So even if ubf changes their ideology and theology, studies Galatians or any book of the bible or tries to add committees, etc. nothing will really change until the methodology changes. And that methodology can only really change when safe zones are created where people can being thinking according to their own consciences.

      The continual translating and interpretation of ubf leaders by ubf people robs those leaders of discovering their own faults and shortcomings. I say stand back and let them learn.

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian, I think the true teaching of the passage is marriage by faith. King Xerxes was not interested in marrying a humble woman who loved God and who had an obedient mind. When Xerxes had a marriage problem, he fell for Vashti, a high-nosed foxy woman (HNW) who was nothing more than a temptress. She cooked him and got him to marry her. After marriage, she displayed her proud mind and refused to obey him and became a bad influence on all the other women in her chapter. King Xerxes had no choice but to cast her out of the palace and marry Esther, a beautiful and pure and humble and well trained shepherdess who came from God’s people and who would not become spoiled by palace life but remain obedient after marriage and become a good influence.

      One word: Don’t get cooked by a foxy HNW; marry a beautiful and obedient shepherdess

      (Oops. In my crude attempt at satire, I accidentally came pretty close to predicting what tomorrow’s DB page actually says.)

    • Ah yes Joe. I forgot that every part of the bible teaches one of the heritage points… well except John 17 of course… that useless chapter should just be taken out of the bible because there is no world mission command in it. Clearly I need more CME training….

  10. Big bear

    The abortion incidents reveal more of what SL taught. He did not really order people to have abortions. Instead he gave them “spiritual direction” to “love Jesus more than their family”. Such teaching them makes it easy to justify all kinds of abuse such as breaking into a person’s house, committing abortion, and shunning anyone who questions the ubf heritage.

  11. Thanks, guys, for all of your comments, and for all the stories and accounts of which I am quite familiar with. I believe all of you know where I stand, as do all of the older UBF folk, many of whom I would still regard as my fellow Christian brothers and sisters, even if they disapprove of my public postings and comments. As I had responded to Joe, let me say so again: “I think you know that I do not disagree with your comments, because what a person truly is is far more important than what a person simply says, and that actions speak louder than words.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/11/19/what-samuel-lee-taught/#comment-15886

    I also fully agree that the fruit of ubf today is the fruit of the founder’s life, just as the fruit of Mars Hill is the fruit of Mark Driscoll’s life. Thus, I wrote: “…my favorite quote of his is #2: “The water upstream flows downstream.” No one can escape this truism. It’s similar to “a man reaps what he sows” (Gal 6:7), and “you can be sure that your sin will find you out” (Num 32:23b): http://www.ubfriends.org/2012/02/07/scary-bible-verse-your-sin-will-find-you-out/” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/11/19/what-samuel-lee-taught/#comment-15886

    That’s also why I titled this post What Lee Taught, and not What Lee Did. I understand that one’s influence comes primarily not just from words but from actions. So we can all witness (or deny or ignore) today the “absolute” truth that ubf is reaping what ubf sowed.

  12. Regarding the DB, it is a few unfortunate things:

    * Those who write the DB do not read scholarly theologically sound books and Bible commentaries, and if they do, they might not apply or learn from what they read as reflected in what they write. (Sorry for this broad sweeping generalization! It surely does not apply to everyone.)

    * Many think that they are “Bible only” people, while they primarily copy and “recycle” what their predecessors have written before them.

    * This account and this text in Esther (as with countless others) is used as and turned into an absolute dogmatic teaching point (and used as a hammer and a polemic and a law), rather than seeing it for what it is: It is simply a narrative, a story, that should point to what the sovereign God is doing in accomplishing his eternal redemptive plan and purpose by his mercy and grace.

    • “those who write the DB do not read scholarly theologically sound books and Bible commentaries”

      Instead, they project their UBF teachings onto the Bible and then let people read these teachings again out of it by reading the “explanations” and “prayer” in the DB. UBF members believe their DB study is a pure Bible study, but it isn’t, it is a study of UBFism. And so every element of UBF, from 1:1 Bible study with UBF questionnaires, to SWS, to group BS, to sogam sharing, to conferences, is in reality an indoctrination of UBFism. They are stewing in their own grease all the time.

      So maybe, as a constructive suggestion, people should stop reading UBF DB and start reading some serious devotional not tainted with UBFism. In fact, the UBF DB including it’s format and the 4 step instructions were copied 1:1 from Scripture Union.

      UBF people should ask themselves: Why had UBF to write their own DB when there was a perfect DB from Scripture Union already available, written by people with much better theological background? Isn’t it a sign of arrogance and pride when you think you can do everything better than others? Isn’t this the opposite of humbleness which some say is a “core value” of UBF?

      Also, this shows the big share of guilt that Sarah Barry had, who not only tolerated, but actively wrote these UBF DB booklets. She still knew the original Scripture Union DB, but decided to replace it with her own version. It’s not only Samuel Lee who made UBF what it is, but also “enablers” like Sarah Barry.

    • These are all excellent comments Chris. I’m glad we are able to capture such thoughts here on this blog. In a few years (around 2019) I suspect there will be a 5th reform movement, and they will need these thoughts to aid in their recovery (unless this 4th movement never ends…)

      “UBF members believe their DB study is a pure Bible study, but it isn’t, it is a study of UBFism”

      We should start using that word more often, “ubfism”. One of many contradictions at ubf is that they claim to “be like any other church” and at the same time claim to have a “unique spiritual heritage from God”. Clearly we all know ubf is a ministry very extremely different from any Christian church. They have indeed created their own ethos/pathos/logos and perhaps the best identifier of that ethos/pathos/logos is ubfism.

      ubfism is why ubers can study the entire book of Galatians in 3 days and yet not see how Galatians contradicts or nullifies or revamps every single one of their precious heritage slogans. Because of the lens of ubfism, they can read Esther and make absurd statements.

  13. Kudos, MattC: “I did indeed use my influence to show that one does not *have* to legalistically attend church to impress others, and that one *may* depend on the grace of God.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/11/19/what-samuel-lee-taught/#comment-15872

    For sure, any lovely truism/truth can be butchered, abused and misused.

    My hope and earnest desire is that more and more people speak up and take a stand without fear (Prov 29:25). Until this happens, nothing will really change significantly. This cannot be done by any person or any website, but only by the work of the Holy Spirit, who is like the wind that blows wherever it pleases (Jn 3:8), for God does whatever pleases Himself (Ps 115:3; 135:6).

    • “My hope and earnest desire is that more and more people speak up and take a stand without fear (Prov 29:25). Until this happens, nothing will really change significantly. This cannot be done by any person or any website, but only by the work of the Holy Spirit, …”

      I beg to differ. What makes people stand up is a combination of all these: Direct talks with persons, getting critical information (e.g. from a website), and the Holy Spirit. It’s not only the Holy Spirit. Don’t diminsh the importance of the former by pointing only to the latter.

      There are times and situations, if church members or church leaders do not listen to all of these, consequences must be drawn. The teaching of the Bible is not to just wait for the Holy Spirit forever if somebody does not repent. Such persons have to be removed from their church offices or in extreme cases from the church alltogether. Mt 18:15ff and 1Cor5 are very clear about that.

      I know you emphasize the importance of speaking up, and you are one of those few how do speak up, but you’re still sending a mixed message when you say that only the Holy Spirit can change things, and when you point to Jn 3:8 where the Spirit is said to be “like the wind that blows wherever it pleases” instead of pointing Mt 18:15ff which is the passage that directly applies and gives direct instructions what to do. This gives UBF people the excuse to just wait for that moment when the wind blows. And wait. And wait. We waited already more than 50 years and I know that the wind has already blown pretty often and pretty heavily in UBF. Don’t give people excuses for waiting even longer and ignoring even more storms of the Holy Spirit.

    • Chris, When I say that change only happens through the work of the Holy Spirit, my thought is NOT as an excuse for those who don’t speak up and take a stand. There is never ever an excuse for not doing what is right!

      Rather, I say this for myself to know that despite all of my persistent and rather intense ongoing efforts, I will not be discouraged if nothing seems to happen, or if people refuse to listen or change.

      As the saying goes, I wish to pray as though everything depends on me, and work as though everything depends on God. It feels like dying when nothing seems to happen despite your efforts. But after giving my best shot, I need to know that the result is still not my doing, but the work of the Holy Spirit.

      I hope this clarifies what I meant.

    • As the saying goes, I wish to pray as though everything depends on me, and work as though everything depends on God. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/11/19/what-samuel-lee-taught/#comment-15903

      I heard another version of the saying, “To pray as though everything depends on God, and to work as though everything depends on me”.

  14. forestsfailyou

    Can’t really speak to most of this. I will say that while “jesus only” seems axiomatic, in practice I have found it frustrating. Something being “jesus only” means it cannot cite anything other than the bible, if its a sermon it must come line by line. Be”more like jesus,” means to be more missional. Growing in jesus means more missional. No concern is given to anything else that jesus did, like flip some money changers tables. If this is brought up then suddenly only jesus could do that, its “controversial”. If you day jesus opposed religious leaders so that’s more like jesus you are told “he had authority to do that”. Jesus only most of the time means following the script. I prefer to let the bible reveal jesus to me. I don’t need a middle man.

  15. A few words regarding the alleged UBF core value of brokenness. I see 3 extremely problematic issues regarding the concept of brokenness in UBF:

    1) UBF exploits and preys on the brokenness of some people, because UBF leaders know this brokenness is also their weakness. In fact most of those who UBF is “fishing” on the campus are already broken in some way or the other. They are lonely, do not feel loved, do miss a meaning in life. This allows UBF leaders to manipulate and subordinate them and it allows them to show off as their healers, to give them the impression that without their help, and without the mission in UBF, they would be still broken, they would still have no meaning in life, and they should be eternally thankful and loyal to them. They don’t heal for free, but they heal at a cost, namely binding people to them and their organization.

    2) UBF also actively breaks people who are not yet broken, or not yet broken enough for their purposes. This was the primary goal of Samuel Lee’s various kinds of humiliating “trainings”. Again, the reason is that only broken people can be forced to absolute obedience and loyalty. “Break me and then remake me” – all this is good when God is the one who breaks you, not a person. If a person breaks another person, then this is spiritual abuse and leads to all the hurt and grief and all kinds of crooked, bloodless and spineless personalities who fear men, not God. That’s the thing I had already pointed out when I said that in the Bible, you will only find training done by God Himself, never training ordained or conducted by men. But UBF teaches that “divine training” can also be dispensed by men, one of the most serious of the wrong teachings in UBF.

    3) The third problem is that UBF is split in two “classes” of people. There are the ordinary members, who are all broken and because of this brokenness do not dare to stand up, and there are the leaders who are not broken at all and never listen to others. Samuel Lee surrounded himself with broken people and broke those who were not broken yet. But he himself was never broken and did not allow others to break him. The reform movevements were such opportunities where Samuel Lee should have also humbled himself and met the reformers with a broken heart. But he did the opposite, he rejected them, and finally expelled them. When some top leaders visited him from Korea in 2001 he refused to talk with them and sent them away with the words “God will punish me if I did anything wrong”. Is this the language of a broken person? A group where one half is broken and the other half isn’t broken can never be a healthy community. And the same is true for Sarah Barry who until today nevery admitted abuse. She didn’t even answer our open letter to her.

    These are the reasons why it is actually offending me and angering me when you say that “brokenness” was a core value of UBF or Samuel Lee. In fact brokenness is a core value of Christianity and it is good when people preach it correctly. It also was a core concept in UBF, but in a very crooked way. It angers me when you say that the misunderstanding and misuse of this concept happened after Samuel Lee when in fact Samuel Lee was the driving force behind the misuse and distortion of this core concept of Christianity. He used all the right words, like “shepherd”, “broken heart”, “love” etc. but he used them in a wrong way, filled them with a different or warped meaning and in fact abused and distorted all these good things often up to a point where they meant the opposite. This makes the whole matter even worse than if he hadn’t cared about these values at all.

  16. Speaking of daily bread… yep today’s db is chock full of ubfism. Let’s see how many ubfisms we can find in these classic statements:

    “When she was summoned to meet the king, Xerxes was drawn to her outer and inner beauty, and chose her to be his queen instead of Vashti. Becoming queen did not make Esther proud. She carefully obeyed and followed Mordecai, her shepherd. Because of their vessel of trust, they could save the king from an assassination plot.”

    • Esther 2:17 indicates king Xerxes was thinking with nothing other than the fire in his pants and had no interest in her “inner beauty”… He didn’t even know her family background or anything that would be described as “inner beauty”.

      “Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”

      I cannot wait to hear what the ubf db writers say about Esther 3! That chapter should be a massive rebuke to the abusive ubf echelon. Instead, I expect a masterful spinning of the passage to justify themselves.

    • forestsfailyou

      “Lord, raise up a people who love you and are willing to be different for your name’s sake.”

      Is the one word tomorrow. I’ll have to tell you what they say.

    • Esther was basically and functionally a sex concubine for the king to chose among his many “wives” according to his whim and fancy and “the fire in his pants.” But of course it would be too impolite and shameful to cast “pure-hearted” Esther as an object of sexual desire for the king’s pleasure, which she was. If we did, then we can no longer pray for our shepherdesses to “be like Esther.”

    • Mark Mederich

      Vashti sacrificed her queenship not to parade foolishly
      Mordecai risked his life not to bow falsely

    • Mark Mederich

      esther decides to risk her life to try to save her people

    • Mark Mederich

      we must either stand w/Haman the demander of self-exultation or w/Mordecai the refuser to exalt mere man…hallelujah!

  17. Joe Schafer

    Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t care what the ubf DB booklet says. Based on what I’ve heard in recent years, very few people in ubf (except old Korean missionaries) still do DB. Among those who still do, most of them pay no attention the DB booklet, because they find it unhelpful, uninspiring and irrelevant.

    In this case, however, I felt compelled to say something because this teaching from Esther chapter 1 (Queen Vashti should have submitted to the king even if he was wrong because he was the king) is particularly harmful. I know women in ubf who fled from their homes because their husbands were beating them, and ubf leaders told these women to humble themselves and go back home and submit to their husbands. I know of children who were beaten by their fathers, yet were told to submit to their fathers because they were God-appointed authority figures. This is not just a theoretical possibility. And while SL was alive, we were all told that we needed to obey his direction and submit to his training no matter how bizarre it was. Real people have been deeply hurt by the kind of ideology taught in yesterday’s DB. That’s why I was compelled to comment on it.

    • It is perpetuating the horrific “keep spiritual order, just obey” teaching that was probably more explicit in the past, while now it might be more subtle and implicit (because you now have to be more careful about what you say, since it might show up on ubfriends!).

  18. “Somebody should write an article about the UBF core value of “absoluteness” and how it is interpreted and practiced, and what’s wrong about it.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/11/19/what-samuel-lee-taught/#comment-15894

    Chris, Joe already did: http://www.ubfriends.org/2011/05/08/walking-in-the-light-of-absolute-honesty/

    Also, Wesley responded to Joe’s article: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/04/01/i-dream-of-absolute-honesty/

    • Thanks Ben, now I remember. I liked Henoch’s reply and his rejection of the idea that untruthfulness in UBF was a “cultural” thing – this is something that cannot be repeated often enough. Of course I “absolutely” disliked Wesley’s response where he downplayed the culture of untruthfulness in UBF as a form of “dreaming.”

      However, the article only talks about the fact that honesty is not included in UBF’s concept of “absoluteness” in UBF, but it does not talk about what is included in that concept and what serious harm that concept and requirement does.

      The thing that I have in mind is that if you tell people they have to absolutely love and obey God, then this can be easily used as an instrument to manipulate them and to always make them feel guilty. For whatever you do to please God, you can always do something more. So you never obey God absolutely, and you must always feel guilty and insecure about your salvation, because, according to UBF, only absolute faith is real faith, and only real faith can safe. The requirement of absoluteness in spiritual life is something that is very specific to UBF, it’s a core element abd the hook by which they are guilt-tripping and manipulating people. As such it deserves deeper attention and analysis. We should carefully look and understand and give examples how this demand of absoluteness manifests itself in UBF. As a small example, I sometimes wanted to skip a certain sogam sharing meeting on Sunday evenings when I had headache after a long Sunday in the center without sun and air. Then I was told I needed to attend anyway to show absolute obedience, to be a good “influence” and to show that I love my brothers. The rationale was that listening to others’ sogams meant showing interest in the others (even though the sogams rarely containedd any honest and personal statements about their real thoughts and the real issues they struggled with). Showing interest in others meant loving others. Not wanting to listen to their sogams therefore meant not loving them. So I felt very guilty when staying at home instead of coming to the meeting and so I attened even though I had terrible headaches. So it was with everything in UBF. So all members were in this never-ending circle of confessing in their sogams how they were unable to absolutely obey God, and promising they would try harder next week, only to admit defeat the next week again.

    • What you described is perhaps what Brian calls the “hamster wheel.” It stems really from bad theology, creating man-made dichotomies, propagating unhealthy practices, especially playing God over the lives of others in the name of shepherding. Then after expressing how control, manipulation and guilt tripping is spiritual abuse and godless, some justify themselves with the gospel of their sincere good intentions.

      “…according to UBF, only absolute faith is real faith, and only real faith can save.” Faith is taught primarily as a human action and responsibility (as a work that deserves credit and merit), and rarely expressed or taught as a gift from God. I shared this in Part II of my sermon on Rom 1:16 – http://westloop-church.org/index.php/messages/new-testament/28-romans-messages/382-gospel-power

  19. A few interesting comments I found about Esther that will not likely be in the DB:

    Esther does not resist being taken into Xerxes’s (a pagan king) harem and participating in his beauty contest (Es 2:8). This was held with the women being nude (before drunken men), which was surely the reason why his wife, Queen Vashti, refused the king’s invitation and command. This certainly paints a vastly different light about the queen, instead of simply caricaturing her as being “disobedient by breaking spiritual order.”

    The problem, as already stated, is that the DB writers do not make the effort to just read and do some research. This is really “so easy” today, since you can google anything. I found this short simple article about Esther in a few seconds: http://facultyblog.eternitybiblecollege.com/2012/03/esther-harlot-or-heroine/#.VG_f44uUcXw

    Esther not only spent the night with the king before they were married, but of all the virgins that did the same, Esther “pleased him the most” (Es 2:9, 16-17). I’ll let you do the exegesis on what went on that night, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t playing cards.

  20. Joe Schafer

    Another gem from yesterday’s DB. The vilification of women continues.


    Esther 5:1-14
    Key verse: Esther 5:2

    November 24, 2014

    First, Queen Esther’s invitation (1-8). When beautiful Queen Esther stood in the entrance of the king’s court, he held out his gold scepter to her. He was not angry, even though he had not summoned her. In fact, he was really glad to see her. It was an answer to prayer. He offered to give her whatever she asked. But God gave Queen Esther wisdom. She did not state her case immediately; rather, she invited the king and Haman to a small, intimate dinner party, and the next day, to a second one. When we wait and pray, God works.

    Second, Haman builds a gallows (9-14). Haman did not know that Queen Esther was Jewish. He was very happy to be invited to the queen’s banquet to dine with the king. His high spirits fell, however, when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate. He went home in a bad mood. When he told his wife about this, she suggested that he build a gallows and ask the king to hang Mordecai on it. She can be a representative of wicked, ambitious wives who push their husbands to commit sin. Haman followed her advice, built the gallows, and felt wickedly satisfied.

    Prayer: Lord, thank you for answering prayer. Give me courage, wisdom and patience like Esther’s.

    One word: Don’t give up; pray and act

    • Queen Vashti in Esther 1 was terrible because she dared to not obey her husband who commanded her to parade naked before drunken men. Haman’s wife was wicked because of her ambition to push her husband, who apparently had no resolve of his own. I wonder if any woman (or man) would welcome uncritically such an interpretation of Scripture?

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Came across this on twitter the other day and thought of this article.

  21. Mark Mederich

    haman seemed pretty ambitious for power/benefits on his own before he asked his wife & relatives advice..

    on the other hand everybody seemed kind of vindictive once they got the chance

  22. Mark Mederich

    the biggest mistake religions have made is advocating the wrong pursuits, like prestige or fortune, failing to realize that logical people must be consisten: if it is good in religion which is supposedly better than the world, then it must be good in the world..

    problem: when people, especially young people, apply it in the world it doesn’t work, leading to loss/distress; now their lives are damaged & they can’t be used by religion for it’s ends, so yes it now is truly a losing business all around..

    true religion is this: authentic/humble/realistic pursuit of God who alone can bless; so if religion is really a higher pursuit than the world, it better truly imitate God’s right simple ways (not man’s falsely elevated immature ways); if religion learns to really follow God, then it can be a good influence on our daily lives in the world..

    although man has grossly failed in collective religion to accurately guide seekers, the Lord Jesus Christ himself will reverse the process & restore individuals one at a time until their gathering redeems the collective..HALLELUJAH!