Why UBF Should Read Brian’s Books and Know His Story Well

BrianI ended 2014 with The Secret of Happiness and I begin 2015 with my friend Brian Karcher.

Brian keeps UBF honest. Forests reviewed Brian’s first book and says, “I encourage everyone to buy and read Brian’s book. It contains much more than I have mentioned. I recently spoke to a UBF missionary from Chicago who said that Brian is good for UBF because he ‘keeps us honest.’” (Book Review: Rest Unleashed.)

Be loving: It is godly and loving to read and hear Brian’s story. Brian’s story is really a part of UBF’s big story. Brian devoted 24 years of the prime of his life to UBF until he decided to leave in 2011. He was fully committed and fully invested in UBF from 1987 to 2011. Literally, he “gave his life for UBF” without hesitation or reservation from his teenage years, perhaps even more than some missionaries did. Without question, he is a man of heart, a man of loyalty, a man of commitment, a man of integrity, and a man of passion and energy, which likely all UBF leaders encourage UBFers to be. In my opinion, to stop listening to Brian just because he left UBF reflects rather poorly and badly on UBF. It suggests and implies that UBF only loves those in UBF but not those who left UBF. Clearly, God does not love only those in UBF. Surely, God also loves those who have left UBF. So, should we not be loving by listening to people like Brian? You cannot love someone if you refuse to listen to what they have to say and share. Brian has a lot to share and say in his life story, and like it or not UBF will always be a significant part of his life story.

Be humble: It is a sign of godly humility to listen to detractors and painful critique. It is likely also the best way to change and improve. If we only listen to those who flatter us and tell us how wonderful and good we are, we will not likely improve or make much progress as a human being, nor as a church. Countless books and lectures and sermons on leadership have been written about how bad organizations or churches only surround themselves with like-minded people or so-called “Yes men,” because they do not challenge them to change or to get out of the proverbial box. Thus, genuinely listening to those who tell us how terrible or just how suboptimal or cult-like we are is very good for the soul…and for the church. It is a sign of humility, perhaps the most valued and desired attribute mentioned repeatedly throughout the Bible (Num 12:3; Zeph 2:3; 3:12; Mt 5:3; 1 Pet 5:6). Humility (by listening to honest critiques) helps us to truly change from the inside out to be more and more like humble Jesus.

Be inclusive and broad-minded like God who accepts all kinds of people. Every church tends to accept a particular type of person. After over three decades in UBF since 1980, my observation and opinion is that UBF has mainly attracted those who would listen to leaders without disagreeing, questioning or challenging them. Brian was once a person who would never question anything coming from a UBF leader (including breaking and entering the home of James and Rebekah Kim in 1990). That was likely why he was fully embraced and accepted in UBF and even “allowed” to be a UBF chapter director in Detroit. But the moment he began to question certain unhealthy UBF practices, he has been labeled as being Satan and the devil and someone to be avoided and not listened to. This is truly very sad and unfortunate and narrow-minded. If UBF learns to embrace anyone who dares to openly and publicly critique us for wrongdoing, we will become more of an inclusive and broad-minded church. In other words, by listening and accepting people like Brian, we will become more and more like Jesus and less and less like exclusive elitist Christians.

Be biblical by not shutting others out. I’ve likely heard all the reasons to not listen to Brian’s story or to not read Brian’s books. But all the reasons are primarily to justify shutting Brian out of our UBF consciousness and conversation, which is not possible, if not foolish and unbiblical. I welcome people like Brian, because he is my friend and my brother in Christ. We also share a common history in UBF for several decades. Just because he left UBF or critiques UBF (and disagrees with me regarding certain things) makes no difference.

In my opinion, it is loving, humble, inclusive, broad-minded, godly and biblical to listen to Brian’s story.

Is there any reason to not listen to Brian? Should UBF read Brian’s books and listen to Brian’s 24 year story and journey in UBF?


  1. I agree completely :) This is one of the few ubfriends articles where I agree 100%.

    I think there are many former leader stories to listen to and process. I highly recommend hearing what Isabelle has to say in her book “I Choose“.

    Her book description matches my purpose very well: “I wrote this book to explain how easily someone can get trapped in a controlling group or relationship. This book is not about religion, it is about the organizational structure and emotional manipulation. It is about finding yourself after losing yourself.”

  2. I saw this quote recently from Tim Keller. I think this speaks to the plight of all of us:

    “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

  3. Well said! Thank you, Ben!!

  4. Maybe this is an exaggerated extreme analogy or simply not a good analogy, but this is what came to my mind this morning:

    “Loving fresh new Bible students and disparaging long-standing UBF members like Brian and countless others is like a husband feeling excited about his new younger lover, because his old wife no longer meets his standards.”

    • That is a fair statement Ben. ubf Korean directors have been known to say “I will start all over with 1 student!”.

      The bigger issue this speaks to is one of corporate identity. The ubf echelon needs to decide who they are.. a campus ministry? a children’s ministry? a church? a parachurch? a network?

      Trying to serve all age groups and all kinds of ministry with the exact same program means you end up focusing only on what you love (freshmen in this case) and using everyone else as resources for what you love. Everyone who is not a freshman student at ubf becomes Soylent Green.

      Until this corporate identity and vision are made clear, ubf will continue to earn the cult label and stumble onward like a blind goat wearing a cone of silence, all the while thinking their empire-building KOPAHN ideology is creating utopia here on earth.

  5. Exciting day today for my 4th book!!!

    My paperback copy arrived and the cover turned out excellent.

    Amazon posted the Kindle edition links:

    The Lambhearted Lion – Kindle

    Now on to my 5th book…

  6. Mark Mederich

    because ubf & nu are birds of a feather flocking together which both sorely need reformation: prestige is false; have funds overly changed hands? have positions been overly granted? it is time for systems to get right with the Lord, or risk great loss

    decades of priest abuse came to light not thru voluntary repentance but thru public exposure, at quite a cost

    universities have become increasingly damaging to sincere young students whether it be extensive history of rape, illegal/damaging imposition of alcohol, hazing & hazarding, etc

    so yes systemic corruption will be continually exposed & brian’s story is illustrative of the good/bad of faith & practice in religion which impacts every area of life for a long time; those who can not sense it or are resistant to admit or do it ought to avail themselves of example stories to guide corrective action & avoid future travesties

    I’m afraid if they don’t only natural demise can continually ensue; the troubled are often the healthy on way to better while the untroubled are often the unhealthy on way to worse….

    • Mark Mederich

      we now realize that the environment created/fostered by an organization (whether it be in religion, education, government or whatever) is of critical importance: if it is legal/healthy/etc, members will tend to do good, benefit rightly, & have a positive public image-leading to loss; if it is illegal/unhealthy/etc, members will tend to do something bad, benefit wrongly, & have a negative public image-leading to loss

    • Mark Mederich

      (oops, correction: positive public image leads to gain:)

    • Mark Mederich

      for example, “prestigious” universities have been in the news lately for unprestigious issues (things they traditionally have managed to hide); perhaps greed-related sin has reached full measure/change is finally coming, propelled by public eye

    • Mark Mederich

      Dr. MLK,Jr.: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

  7. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    “Brian’s story is really a part of UBF’s big story,” is a major consideration for knowing Brian’s story and the many former members. UBF has made many efforts to write its own history, to define its heritage, and to establish systematic education of those particular points via 2nd gen education camps, training in Korea, “history” books, and museums. It’s so obvious how former members are completely erased from history and all they have experienced and had to say. It’s appalling that people like Brian who gave so much to UBF are demonized and erased from UBF history. Their stories matter to all, both in and out of UBF. For one, UBF has shown that ignoring such stories has lead to repeating the same abuses decade after decade. Honestly, it was hard getting through Brian’s second book, simply because I felt like I already knew what he was going to say and couldn’t stomach reading about the familiar UBF practices.

    I went along with the mainstream for a long time to ignore reading the stories of former members, always lumped together as “R-Group” (as if the word “reform” is a bad word only), and always associated with the work of Satan. I’m sorry to all former members for doing so for so long. I’m glad that in 2014 I had a chance to read Brian’s many of other former members’ stories and come to terms with what I had been supporting, encouraging, and even doing myself in terms of harming others in the name of serving them at Jesus’ command in UBF. I brought this up in my former chapter, how such stories are ignored, only to find that I became one of them and it’s business as usual after my departure. I hadn’t thought about it till it happened. It was shocking to find that some senior staff members don’t know about the reported abuses in other chapters, and yet continue to encourage members to pray for those very chapters with huge conferences and many SWS attendants.

  8. Thanks, Charles. You articulated in four simple sentences what I wanted to express!:

    “It’s so obvious how former members are completely erased from history and all they have experienced and had to say. It’s appalling that people like Brian who gave so much to UBF are demonized and erased from UBF history. Their stories matter to all, both in and out of UBF. For one, UBF has shown that ignoring such stories has lead to repeating the same abuses decade after decade.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/03/why-ubf-should-read-brians-books-and-know-his-story-well/#comment-16184

  9. Interesting story about Hippasus, Forests.

    Refusing to face the facts and the obvious glaring stark reality as well as censorship of truths that you disagree with or dislike is the surest sign of being driven by one’s ego and the guaranteed way to live in delusion and self-deception. It is also the way to never correct oneself, improve, make progress, or truly change for the betterment of our progeny and descendents.

  10. Great stories and comments!

    So let’s do something about the problems we see.

    I have had one goal the past 4 years, everything else I made up along the way. Yes I have shared many sub-goals and done all kinds of things, but here is the one and only goal that has been of utmost importance to me the entire time before, during and after my resignation from ubf: Bring ubf into the light.

    I share some thoughts on this recently, Have we loved the light?

    Here are some concrete actions I have taken to come into the light:

    1. I first contacted 2 news agencies, telling them my story. But they weren’t really interested. I had to repent my mindset after this. If I am to follow Christ, I learned that I really should not be pursuing legal or political means. This isn’t the best way. (Some people may have problems and circumstances that require such involvement but I don’t)

    2. I write my books. I became an author. Even though ubf wrote me out of their story the day I resigned, I decided to never write ubf out of my story. Like it or not, ubf is stuck with me.

    3. I blogged it out. If you are reading this then you know what I mean.

    4. I joined cohort groups. I am so excited to start my 3rd cohort group. Yes, all the people in the group know my story and know about ubf. Soon I will be in Washington DC, sharing my story about my faith and LGBTQA advocacy with national attention. I will not forget to share my story about ubf.

    5. I visited ubf people. Sure I left ubf, but I did not abandon ubf. I had dinner with ATK in Chicago. I worshipped with Westloopers and built new friendships with Joe, Ben, Forests, and numerous others.

    6. I became an exit counselor. I had to get a safe distance away from ubf, process my own story and reconnect with my own wife and family. But then I found that about once a month someone at ubf would contact me for help and advice. I tried to avoid giving advice. Instead I shared my story, pointed them to my books and gave them space to make their own decision. In 2015, might we have more people who are out of ubf, at a safe distance, and yet still in the conversation?

  11. Charles,

    THANK YOU for sharing! Feel free to submit an article or two if you want. We have some really great articles in the pipeline from DavidW as well. So it looks like we have some good food for thought in the new year.

  12. Charles,

    Your stories here are all too common. I am highly edified to see that you realize such things!

    Just one quick comment about the R-Group:

    ““R-Group” (as if the word “reform” is a bad word only), – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/01/03/why-ubf-should-read-brians-books-and-know-his-story-well/#comment-16199

    Just to be clear, the “R” has dual meaning, just as most words at ubf do. “R” means reform group as you said. But “R” typcially means rebel group among ubf leaders. As a leader myself, we always used the word rebel, not reform.