What Samuel Lee Taught – Part 2

fr“You are free from one man’s teachings.” I will forever remember those words. Those were the words spoken to me by Pastor Wayne, just before he dunked me under the baptism water in the full-immersion baptismal on April 29th, 2012. He was referring, of course, to Samuel Lee’s teachings. I had explained my ubf experience, both good and bad, to him and other Christian pastors. Their advice was of utmost value to my recovery from the undue religious influence I encountered at ubf. Pastor Wayne identified SL’s teachings as a binding force on my life. I believe he spoke those words to me by the inspiration of the Spirit, based on our coffee shop discussions. So here is another perspective about SL, the co-founder of ubf.

1. Mission above family

After more than 3 years of reflection, I would say the most harmful teaching I learned from Samuel Lee was to treat mission from God as more important than family and friends. More than anything else, this warped, non-Christian teaching influenced my life negatively. I am still dealing with the effects of over 20 years of this teaching. To teach that mission from God is more important than relationships with family and friends is to deny the very mission Jesus came to give us.

2. Fear of man

SL did influence people greatly, sometimes for good. But from a non-Chicago, non-Korean perspective the one word that describes SL is fear. We feared him. We were always on edge around him. When I visited his office and prayed with him for about half an hour once, I was highly fearful. This fear of him was intended to plant fear of God in people. But that logic doesn’t work out in the end. Such fear only creates a personality cult around you. And planting fear is not what Christ came for. The Messiah’s work is about liberation, as He declared wonderfully in His mission statement in Luke 4.

3. Contradictions

One of the best and most helpful things I learned from several Christian pastors the last few years is to identify contradictions. If someone says something, are they contradicting themselves? Are they contradicting the Scriptures? Are they contradicting my conscience? Are they contradicting the Spirit of God? Are their actions contradictory to their teaching? Do they contradict the greatest law, which is the law of love?  I can say clearly that when it comes to SL’s teachings, the answer to all these questions is “yes”. The ubf heritage that grew up around SL is so full of contradictions I would need an entire blog to explain them all (oh wait I already have one…)

One good example of contradictions in SL’s teachings is about pragmatism. I once ate a Big Mac on a bus in Moscow with Samuel Lee. He went on and on about how we should not be pragmatic, how such widespread pragmatism is the problem of Russian people. And yet SL taught us to make God into a vending machine by earning God’s blessings through “doing one-to-one” and “going back to the bible”. This is one of the most pragmatic things anyone could do.

So yes, there were good things SL did. He was passionate and influential. But my life stands as a representative of all the entanglements SL’s teaching placed on young people around the world for over 50 years. ubf ministry continues to be a ministry of yokes. So many yokes of burden are placed around people’s necks that they have no time to learn how to love the people closest to them.

May God set you free from such teachings. May many more come to see the liberating power of the gospel of Jesus Christ!


  1. Mark Mederich

    today daily bread: esther 1
    queen vashti bravely refused to parade her beauty before the extremely drunk king & nobles:)

  2. forestsfailyou

    I was reading an account of a 4th Century Coptic ascetic. He said “I don’t fear God because I love him, and love casts out fear.” I told this to someone in UBF. They laughed “haha that logic is funny. We must fear and respect God.” I was deeply troubled for the spirit of such a man.

    • Yes, the typical ubfer will laugh nervously when they hear statements from parts of the bible in everyday language (1 John 4:18).

      One of the odd things I noticed on my journey of recovery has been that the discovery that I had almost no idea about what the bible taught. Sure, I amassed over 15,000 hours of meditation and reading and writing about the bible. But such “bible study” using the ubf methods left me with only a superficial acquaintance with the text of the bible.

      Although such familiarity has some value, I have found that I had no idea of how powerful Scripture can be. I study the bible at least 10 times more effectively now that I stopped using the ubf methods.

      For example, it would behoove ubfers to stop and have some time to read 1 John without any ubf voices in their head.

      “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:13-21)

      So yes, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Psalm 111:10). But are we not to mature onward to love? If we begin with fear of God, should we not end with love? Is not love the fulfillment of the Law of God? Should we remain slaves and soldiers of the Lord forever and never move onward to become His friends?

      Proverbs 16:6 shows us a proper perspective about fear and love.

      On a side note, I no longer espouse the asceticism I once did. I now enjoy the purity of soul that comes from removing the secular/sacred divide and the effervescent joy of the new wine that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  3. forestsfailyou

    Exactly my thoughts Brian

  4. yes, the fact that someone believes (simply) in God means that God is in them in with them is our true power source and our true freedom. This allows us to appreciate those with real problems who don’t fit into the mold (ie 99% of people) and value their faith. This gives me peace that is unspeakable!

    Sorry Dr. Ben, in my messages I’m going to start talking about how God is not a vending machine–giving us blessing per 1:1 and reflection etc. It’s true but someone’s probly going to trace it back to you : )