A Response to Joe’s Open Letter

As one who has been participating in University Bible Fellowship for many years, I’d like to offer my thoughts on some of the points in Joe’s recent open letter to the President of UBF.

Per the question about membership, it probably goes without saying that the most important membership we have is in the body of Christ. While it may be obvious, it is the starting point of any Christian church’s legitimacy and must be mentioned. Our fundamental identity comes from our relationship with God through Christ, not from an organization. By God’s grace in Jesus Christ we are part of the larger, invisible church of God (Eph 4:25, 1 Cor 12) that spans human organizations and carries out his will in the world. The head of that church is Christ himself (Col 1:18, Eph 1:22-23). The benefits of this membership are numerous. The Holy Spirit lives within us, we have been given diverse spiritual gifts to use for God’s glory, we are part of a supportive community, we can grow through being accountable to each other, and we have a context through which we can serve the Lord to bring the gospel to the ends of earth, among many other things. Our responsibility towards each other is to do everything in love (1 Cor 16:14, John 13:34) and to seek peace and reconciliation (Rom 12:18, Mt 5:23-24). Communion is a symbol of our corporate fellowship with Christ, based on his broken body and the shedding of his blood for our sins. As we examine ourselves and repent of sins before taking communion (1 Cor 12:27-33), so we have the responsibility to continually be cleansed of sin in our lives and grow as Christ’s unblemished bride (Ephesians 5:25-27). Any Christian organization or church, including UBF, is subject first and foremost to the expectations of behavior for a member of the Body of Christ.

The church is greatly beloved of Christ and is a glorious manifestation of his love and purpose in the world, but it is not without its issues. Christ knows the good deeds of the church (Rev 2:2-3, 2:9-10, 2:13, 2:19, 3:8, 3:13), but he is also critical of her (Rev 2:4, 2:16, 2:20, 3:1-2, 3;15). He says to one of the churches in Revelation, “Those who I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” (Rev 3:19) In the same way, while we may love the church we are realistic about it. She should not be an idol. We don’t serve an organization or a church in a vacuum; we serve the Lord himself through the church. We acknowledge that while our Lord is perfect, his church may have blemishes and stains that require cleansing and redemption.

UBF is one small part of the body of Christ. Samuel Lee was not the founder of UBF. He started the organization along with Sarah Barry in 1961. In fact, it is almost impossible to imagine UBF ministry without both Samuel Lee and Sarah Barry. Ultimately it is God who started a ministry through UBF. God has mysteriously chosen to use fragile human beings, who have both good points and sins, in his work.

I knew Samuel Lee for more than two decades and for most of those years I was around him at least 3-4 times per week. God taught me a lot of good things through him. Overall my experiences with him and my observations of him were and still are mostly positive, though not all of it was positive and some of it was odd.

Of the 17 bullet points Joe listed related to Samuel Lee, I personally witnessed or experienced 7 of them at some point in time, though they may not have applied to everyone all of the time as you implied for a few of them. I heard about the other 10 items you mentioned happening to people. I can’t independently verify that those 10 items actually happened, but am reasonably certain that they did happen though they may not have applied to everyone all of the time as you implied for a few of them.

What do you think of getting blasted by a high pressure water hose for punishment, being forced to spend hours crawling on your knees in cold water, carrying heavy loads, and going without sleep and food for extended periods of time all the while someone is yelling at you at the top of his lungs? It sounds pretty abusive if you don’t know the context. But this is exactly what they do in the training for the Special Forces in the Navy (the SEALs), and all of those men voluntarily go through this training in order to prepare to be leaders and prepared for the harshness of real combat. One of the more inspiring videos I have seen is the 2014 Commencement Address at the University of Texas by Admiral William H. McRaven, who headed up the US Special Forces Command at one time. If you haven’t seen the video and have a spare 20 minutes, please check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70.

What do you think of being required to take a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience to the hierarchy in order to serve the Lord Jesus? This also sounds pretty restrictive, legalistic, tough and contradictory to the love and grace of Jesus, but it is exactly what they do in the Jesuit Order of the Catholic Church, from which Pope Francis came. Jesuits are trained rigorously in many ways and can’t even own the shirt on their back, but they voluntarily submit to these to grow in their faith, and to mold their character to be more humble and obedient to the Lord.

For Lee and the people who went through the things you mentioned (and more), they had a similar motivation as those who go through the training in the above examples. I think that Samuel Lee wanted UBF to be something like a Christian Special Forces and a Jesuit-type organization. Since he and Sarah Barry took the Great Commission very seriously, the driving force was their zeal to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth and to make disciples in Christ’s name. Lots of people met Christ through their Bible teaching. Many were moved by the Holy Spirit to voluntarily go through various kinds of trainings at Lee’s direction in order to learn to rely on God, to be strong in harsh circumstances and to overcome in order to be Christ’s witness. It was good training for them, and many vigorously testify to that to this day. Many voluntarily became missionaries. God used them and is still using them to share his word and his love, and to in turn make more disciples of Jesus.

But Lee’s approach was not good for everyone. The Navy SEALs give each person the option of “ringing the bell” to quit at any time. The Jesuits also provide a path out if that is not God’s call in a person’s life. In UBF, Lee and others sometimes did not present a clear way to opt out. It was his way or the proverbial highway to hell sometimes. Some did not voluntarily sign up for “training” or were not ready for it but got that treatment anyway, and this caused unnecessary problems that look like abuse. Lee was given and exerted a great deal of control over the lives of a number of people. His zeal for God, genuine compassion for people, love of the Bible, wit and insight were remarkable. These qualities made him a benevolent dictator for many he was around for the vast majority of the time. But Lee had his shortcomings, as we all do, that had amplified effects because of his position of power. A dose of Confucian cultural norms, a pinch of Korean nationalism and a smidgen of Machiavellian turpitude made Lee’s mostly unchecked power problematic at times.

The strong emphasis on mission in UBF is a wonderful thing, but when misapplied it creates some knotty issues. For example, some people may not have met Christ deeply before earnestly participating in mission work. Thus, it could have come across that a message of salvation by works was being preached rather than salvation by faith in Christ alone, and it could have been inferred that service to the church or people in the church was most imperative. In other cases, mission was put above families, causing hurt, neglect and dysfunction. Only the Lord himself deserves first place in our lives, not an organization. And putting the Lord first is not inconsistent with loving our families and being a responsible person in the world. While our church and the students on the campus are important, our families, jobs, friendships and even our enemies are an integral part of our mission of making disciples of Jesus as well as of our witness for Christ.

The good qualities that Lee possessed and practiced consistently are elements that any ministry would want to maintain. We thank God for those positive legacies in our UBF ministry, and the work of the Holy Spirit through them. However, while it is necessary to have strong leaders, there has been work to remedy and redeem continuing authoritarianism in the ministry and its consequences. Leaders are being referred to more as “Pastor” rather than “Director”. More local chapters have bodies of elders so as to provide more shared leadership, and servant leadership is being emphasized more in staff interactions. There has been a gradual transition from Korean missionary leadership to native leadership. In parallel, I am aware of UBF reaching out to several people and families who have been adversely affected by ministry practices to apologize and promote reconciliation, and I foresee the possibility of this happening on a larger scale. The time frame for all of this is now and on a continuous basis going forward. Any attempt to address everything in one fell swoop at a particular point in time with one action or with one document would be a spurious exercise.

Having said the above, it is clear that any initiative or response in any amount of time is not good enough. A lot of the issues should have been dealt with long ago, or never even should have been allowed to happen in the first place. Many of us just may not fully understand yet about how we negatively impacted some people. We are all on our own spiritual journeys, dealing with our own personal issues, wounds and sins, and are still trying to process what God has been teaching us, but there are opportunities for frank and respectful interaction in many types of forums and contexts going forward. There is room for contrition, listening to narratives that may not be to our liking, and embracing people we misunderstood, disrespected, hurt and damaged in the past. Perhaps through this process God may help us to learn more and bring healing and blessing to those who have left, as well as to those who are in UBF.

As an additional note, there are numerous other ways we may not fully understand what we have done. I know some people who worked very hard to share Bible studies and sacrificed much to help others but are discouraged because they feel that they have little or nothing to show for their efforts. I’ve seen despair over what some consider to be “fruitless” ministry. But oftentimes our work in ministry cannot be accurately measured by numbers of people in a meeting, nor any other conventional metric. Some have come to faith in Christ through Bible study in the ministry and then have gone on to serve the Lord in other ways outside of UBF. Some may not have grown to be disciples in the sense UBF understands it but have been greatly encouraged by the Bible studies and the amazing acts of kindness by our missionaries and shepherds at critical times. The faithful everyday lives of God’s people in the world are a wonderful influence and testimony. God often works in ways we do not expect. I am blown away by the reaction of the “righteous” people in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46). They were surprised to hear that they had done anything of note, but the King saw it quite differently (Mt 12:40).

I am thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit through UBF as one small part of the body of Christ and pray that God may have mercy on us to repent where necessary and do what is right in his sight. Evangelism and discipleship is only strengthened, not hurt, when we are honest about our shortcomings in the process of striving to be even more authentic disciples of Jesus Christ.


  1. Hello anonymous. I see many assumptions wrongly put forth in your response. I’d rather than not go through each of them one by one, as you know, I am quite busy with my own spiritual journey to really do so. That being said, I respectfully ask you to consider the issues presented in Joe’s letter from a point of view other than your own. My impression is that you have not done that in honesty and sincerity.

    • crystal park

      Hi Charles,
      I did not know you left ubf until I came into this web site and read your comments.
      I just want to say thank you for what you have done so far in ubf. Whenever I saw you in conferences, you were always getting ready for all preps, music, serving, etc. that we should not take them for granted. Also I will pray for you and your family in a new journey of finding the grace Jesus has prepared for you.

      I recently realize that Salvation begins when we recognize sin as sin. Then we would be able to cry out for help and receive grace from him. In this process, what God is doing is not to cover our sin but to expose our sin until we realize how impossible, vulnerable and powerless we are. This helps me perceive problems in a different way. Problems in me or in our church are not meant to be hidden but to be exposed as they are. Then our problems could be means to go to the grace. But unfortunately, we ( I say we, because I am still in ubf) are still perceiving problems as if we should cover up or wrap it up with a big ribbon in the name of God’s glory. That might be a reason that ubf is not recognizing sin as sin. God is not blinded or fooled by our religious activities. He will more and more run against us if it is right that we are God’s church.

      Please let us know if you have a chance to come down San Diego.

    • +1 Crystal. Charles is the Bomb.

      When I attended the Staff Conference, he was one who was really actually giving his heart not expecting anything in return. I was blessed to be his roommate and was impressed at his sincerity.

      And you’re right, though UBF often wraps up all the mess as God’s Glory, God may discipline us and this ministry very severely (if he hasn’t already been disciplining, which I think he has).

      At least for my part, I join in these conversations with Charles and Joe and Ben and Brian because I know them and respect them as men of truth, and I pray God may somehow have mercy and soften many hearts in UBF and restore people . . . but it’s not really happening yet.

    • Hi Crystal. Thanks for your kind words and prayers. It’s nice to hear from you. Honestly, I’m still baffled at times as to the unwillingness of the leadership and some I thought were my friends to address the very real issues that are present in UBF. From the responses I received over a considerable amount of time, from LA and Chicago, I decided that I could no longer in good conscience participate in the ministry and raise a family there. You’re right in that God cannot be fooled. But people can and are being fooled, and I hope that one day soon it will be put to end. I have family in Oceanside. When we’re in the area, I’ll email and get in touch.

      Thanks too, Matt. I’ve had the benefit of being your roommate and spending time with you in different places of the world! I learn a lot from your comments here and am encouraged by them.

    • Welcome Crystal. I’m glad to read a truthful and insightful comment from inside UBF. Don’t you think it’s ironic that UBF who study the Bible day in and day out misses the core teaching in the Bible, namely that sin cannot be dealt with by hiding it, but only by repenting?

      Why do UBFers think that the sin of students on the campus is so huge that they need to go out and “rescue” them and imposing their own lifestyle onto them, but the sin of their own founder and organization, even when it comes to how he dealt with millions of offering money and forcing abortions, is considered just a minor “blemish or stain” that does not need to be addressed? Why do they consider themselves friends of the students when they tell them to repent, but do not consider us friends of UBF when we try to help UBF do the same?

    • Welcome Crystal! I appreciate your thoughtful comment. I hope that there are many places to ask such questions in the ubf chapters, and have discussions about such things.

    • crystal park

      Thanks Charles, Chris and Brian.

      Yes, it’s ironic that we do not see sin in us but make every effort to find sin in students as if their sins are huge that we should go out and help.
      Only sins we can think of as long time ubfers (korean missionaries) would be like being lazy, not going on campus for fishing, yelling at my kids, not loving husband or wife? if goes a little further, helping a bible student with a business mind?

      We think that we have given up the power the world defines long long time ago so we have nothing to repent. But I see that it is not we have given up the power the world defines. We just replaced it with another power our church defines. It is like changing to another token. Before understanding and recognizing this, it would be very hard to see sin in us and call that as sin.

      I wish I have better English to make my point clear but am sure that you guys are good at understanding Konglish.

    • Crystal, I fully understand and agree with what you write (don’t worry, your English is “crystal” clear ;)

      Yes, for UBFers, UBF is “by definition” “God’s ministry” or “the work of God”, and UBF leaders are “the servants of God.” Consequently, sin is defined as “not doing enough for UBF” or “not being obedient.” All other sins are considered minor (fellowshipbible gave the example of drowning yourself in a sea vs. stopping UBF mission).

      Certain things are unthinkable for long-time UBFers because their mind frameset and laguage has been reduced – and in my view that’s a side effect (if not the whole purpose of) the way how you live in UBF, listenting to UBF sogams, 1:1 teachers, lectures, messages, mission reports, prayers etc. day in and day out. Your mind learns a restricted language and frameset for thoughts. I’m not saying this because I see this clearly in the way UBF members express themselves, I’m saying this because I have experienced this in myself after a few years of UBF. The effect already kicks in after a few weeks or months. We liked the testimonies of newcomers so much because they were so fresh and frank and different, but after a few weeks, they started to conform and sound like everybody else in the group (because they want to belong to the “inner ring” as forestfailyou pointed out).

      Anyway, I think it’s possible to break out of this narrow box of thinking and start seeing clearly again and calling a spade a spade again. It’s a process. Some say it takes nearly as long to get out of as it takes to get in, and I would agree. I definitely needed several years, much reading and talking with people outside (former members and members of “ordinary” churches) to be able to see through all of it, think clearly again, and be myself again, not how cult experts would call it my “cult self.”

      All it needs I think is a love for the truth that goes beyond whatever group or ideology we’re currently in, and some remaining conscience. UBF has severly burned my conscience I must say, but there were still some sparkles of conscience alive. At the sunday assembly when my wife and I publicly announced that we would leave UBF, we could not sum up all our reasons very well, and it would have taken too long. All we said was that our conscience did not allow it any more. This was during the time of the 3rd reform movement, when around us we only saw lies, cover up, propaganda, play-acting, defamation of reformers – no Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth. If you love the truth, you will be willing to question and test everything, including your fundamental assumptions and loyalties.

  2. Anonymous,

    When I read your letter today I was so furious that I decided to hold off on commenting. I was going to wait until tomorrow and share a thoughtful, detailed reply to your letter.

    But then I asked myself, why? Your response is about as pathetic as the Toledo ubf “apology”. Such a response doesn’t deserve my thoughts, which you wouldn’t read or react to anyway.

    Maybe if you would consider what Joe actually wrote and have some courage to not be ashamed to post as your real name we could have some meaningful dialogue. If your Christian-sounding words are true, why would you be afraid to share your real identity with us? At least you could share with the admin team?

    Who cares how many abuses you personally witnessed? What matters is the processing of genuine self-narratives.

    • Happypinky

      This is what I mean.No matter what you say or what apology you offer, it will never be enough. If ubf brings forth official apology it will never be enough. There will always be something missing in that. right?

      I personally thought it was a great post. When Chris stated that his goal is to help ubf repent, and i tell him of the things we repented,reformed and etc. i did not see praise God statement or any of that. Bashing continued on. that proved to me, that you no longer care if ubf repents or not. That is what Brian you have said a while ago. am i right?

    • “If ubf brings forth official apology it will never be enough.”

      Enough for what?

      Can ubf apologize enough to make me shut down ubfriends?
      Can ubf apologize enough to make me stop writing books?
      Can ubf apologize enough to make me shut up and go away?
      Can ubf apologize enough to make me take down my priestlynation site?
      Can ubf apologize enough to praise ubf and submit to their authority?


      But we have already shared what an actual, genuine apology from ubf leaders would be accepted here. Read our open letters (there are many) and you will see what we want.

      Primarily the kind of apology we want is rather simple.

      We just want to see someone in the ubf echelon face the facts about their organization and theology, like Abraham:

      “Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.” Romans 4:19 NIV

      If ubf wants to survive this generation, they need to face the facts that 8 cult watching groups have files on them. They need to face the fact that KOPAHN shepherding theology has and is abusive.

      Westloop Church has done this, and they are amazing Christians!

    • happypinky,

      ” that proved to me, that you no longer care if ubf repents or not. That is what Brian you have said a while ago. am i right?”

      You are correct. As I said before I don’t give two sh–s about whether ubf repents or not because my life is far removed from their organization.

      Chris seems to still care that they repent, and I say kudos to him.

      But no I don’t care. I do care about the “sheep” of ubf who contact me and want to understand what they are experiencing. I write for them.

      I think every ubf Korean and every ubf “native shepherd” and “native shepherdess” ought to read Jeremiah 23:1-3.

      “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.”

    • “No matter what you say or what apology you offer, it will never be enough.”

      How do you know? There has not been any official, public apology and admission of guilt of UBF since over 50 years. And that’s exactly the problem. It’s sounds strange how you say “it will never be enough” in this situation.

  3. bekamartin

    Pathetic, at best, and typical apology from an abuser or his/her enabler. Not healing at all!

    • Yes beka, we should explore the enabler aspect of all this. I was an enabler for so many abuses toward my fellow Christians at ubf. If there is one way to describe my resignation it would be that I stopped enabling the “kingdom of priests and holy nation” shepherding narratives that get spun into glory-stories at ubf. I stopped enabling the directorship style of leadership. I stopped enabling the arranged “marriage by faith” ideology.

    • My experience was very similar. Although I was a vocal critic, I remained an enabler and it became too burdensome on my conscience. I couldn’t stomach being seen on the stage, or behind the podium or even in a folding chair at a service or conference or any other meeting. I felt that to do so would show that I still supported what the so-called ministry was doing. Finally, I knew that it was time to stop.

  4. I only want to focus on two points.

    First, of all there is perspective and perception. It is true anonymous what you say…but…all of us would then have to be enlightened to the gospels whereupon Jesus carried out such atrocities upon his disciples and all of the people he came into contact with. If UBF is really a part of the greater body of Christ, then I suppose the strong connection between cultural and generational mores and norms are supposed to be static.

    Second, there should be no comparisons to military training or the like. I actually would like to agree, that maybe fierce situations and training were in the best interest for people to persevere in faith and their life journey, but I just cannot. Korea as a nation has only just woken up to cultural and generational norms that no longer condone corporal punishment. It has not been that long at all since it was still in practice. I would say that tolerance for such abuse from SL came as a result of normalcy at the time and the primary generation of UBF understood it as normal. Most of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents could also agree that in a certain place and time such discipline would be normal and acceptable. I won’t be deceived to believe he was doing it for some greater purpose all of the time. His own imagination and tactics require examination and recognition for his motivations – a greater dependency on God or a greater obedience to him as a human leader?

  5. To be fair, and in keeping with my quest for a “gentler and kinder UBFriends,” I believe that anonymous was not offering an apology (though sorely needed and long overdue), but simply giving an explanation and a response to Joe’s pertinent questions.

  6. True, this is not an apology, but it comes across as highly apologetic. This person cannot reveal their identity for fear of retaliation or other bad consequences.

    I pray for a more honest, truthful and open-mic ubfriends. This person is not engaging in dialogue and has no intention of commenting here. This letter is just the same old crap that ubf members are fed. Any one of us could have written this half-hearted reply. What ubf people deserve is to know about their organization.

    Anon did not answer Joe’s questions, but used the question theme to grandstand his/her own ideas about ubf. The lack of acknowledgment of a person’s questions is highly demeaning. Whether anon knows it or not, he/she is employing several red flags of cult thinking in this letter.

    Question 1: What does it mean to be a member of UBF? Joe asked about the duties, responsibilities, and rules of conduct expected of members and the organization structure.

    Anonymous dodged the question and just said well we are part of the body of Christ. Then he/she went on to be a cheerleader for the ubf organization, claiming ubf is just a normal part of the body of Christ. If anon is such a long time member, doesn’t he/she know about the official membership of ubf? I found out that after 24 years I was never an actual member of ubf. This is one of the games that cults play.

    Question 2. Do you confirm or deny that Samuel Lee, the founder of UBF, engaged in practices similar to those I listed above? If you confirm, does UBF regard these as appropriate methods of Christian discipleship?

    Anonymous confirmed 7 of the 17. But added exception after exception as to why we might excuse SL. He went on to further explain how Navy Seals give training appropriate to soldiers. Anon does admit this was not good for everyone. But this round-about, beat around the bushes reply tells us that yes, anon thinks the SL training was appropriate. This is another game cults play: make false analogies to guilt trip you into allegiance. The thought anon presents is this: Well Navy seals can handle it, why can’t you? Well the church is not an actual army. Was SL intending to actually invade somewhere? WTF is a “Christian Special Forces” group? Was SL planning to literally arm people with guns?

    Question 3. Does UBF have any official policies or training on violence and sexual abuse? If not, what will the organization plan to do about this?

    Anon ignores the question 3 and goes on a wishy-washy explanation of why ubf and SL are so great and even though some bad things were done, ubf is really just serving God’s mission.

    Question 4: In the upcoming election for General Director, what does it mean to vote “Yes” or “No” when there is one candidate who has been preselected? And what information am I expected to use to make a rational choice in this matter?

    Anon ignores question 4 and just say “Thank God”.

    • It was Augustine that first asked Joe about membership, right? The spin in this response is sickening.

    • Correct Charles. Augustine asked Joe “Are you a member?” And Joe requested more details about what that means. It is a fair question. If someone is asked to be a member of something they deserve the right to know what membership entails.

      I love your “be honest” comment below, Charles. That is exactly why I exposed the ubf training model and ideology in my 2nd book, “Goodness Found”.

      Young adults (yes they are ADULTS) on campus need to be able to understand what “one hour of bible study” will get them into.

  7. “Having said the above, it is clear that any initiative or response in any amount of time is not good enough.”

    This is a complete lack of understanding of the gospel of Christ. There is one thing that would make all the difference in the world: If Sarah Barry comes here to this site and admits all the abuse happened, that no abuse is acceptable in a Christian church, and that shepherding ideology as practiced as ubf is flawed.

    One paragraph would spark change.

    Recently someone asked Matthew Vines what the straight white guys could do for the gay community. He replied: “Admit the oppression of gay people.”

    That’s it. Just admit what we all already know. Stop the denial of reality. Stop the skirting around questions. Stop the pain. Stop the self-justification.

    • I second this. I can’t count how many times I heard excuses for abuse using Sarah Barry as the foundation, “Mother Barry says…” Sarah told me last year that she won’t speak up but rather trust God to work through his servants. I still hold that if she would speak up it might help people to open their eyes to the abuse of the UBF shepherding model.

    • Why won’t UBF admit abuse? I don’t ‘know. Pride and delusion are surely reasons. If abuse was admitted, I suppose that the shepherding model would break down. It’s really the only logical and healthy thing to do. But what would UBF be without shepherding?

  8. I have done this already several times, but since people like the recent anonymous poster (I wished you had at least chosen a nickname) obviously still haven’t considered these things, I want to debunk two related fallacies about UBF training:

    Fallacy 1: UBF are the “Marines” of Christianity, so harsh “training” methods, including abusive and physical training, is ok.

    There are many flaws in this line of thinking. First, the problem is that UBF is deceptive about their self-understanding as “Marines” of Christianity. When they invite young students on the campus, they claim that UBF is just a normal, non-denominational student ministry that only wants to offer Bible study. When you look on the “about us” pages of UBF web sites, you will not see that claim either. In contrast, when you look on the “about us” page of the Marines, it clearly explains and admits what people can expect, and people know it anyway. They are not deceptive about it. This is what I found there: “All Marine Corps recruits undergo 12 weeks of Recruit Training … This training is an intense mental and physical process that shapes recruits against the core Marine Corps values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. Only the most elite make it through.” Has UBF any similar open statement on their web site? Nope. They’re deceptive about their true beliefs and methods, and this deceptiveness is the first hallmark of a cult, according to most books about cults I read.

    Second, the above quote from the Marines already shows that their training is limited to a certain well-defined time period of about 3 months. I also served in the army, and our training was also exactly 3 months. In contrast, in UBF the training is life-long, and there is no defined start and end.

    Third, the training in UBF is “personal” as it is carried out by a personal 1:1 shepherd, often in combination with the chapter director who is also considered your personal spiritual shepherd. The training in the army is not personal at all. You don’t have a personal relationship with your drill sergeant. The relationship with your UBF personal shepherd lasts your whole life, while in the army the relationship ends with the end of the training.

    Fourth, the training in the army is restricted to military aspects. In UBF, the training encompasses your whole life. It includes telling you where to live, when to marry, whom to marry etc. It includes your private life, and telling you about the purpose of your life. In UBF, membership is coupled tightly with your salvation and the whole meaning of your life. By leaving UBF, you will lose salvation and any purpose in life, God will curse you and punish you with an accident, illness, poverty or death (this is what the “witty” Samuel Lee literally preached, and I can quote him again on that from his sermons if you like). The army does not tell you that you are cursed if you ever leave and that there is no purpose in life outside the army.

    Fifth, the UBF trainer is considered a spiritual authority, a “servant of God”, a visible representative of God who is relaying the will of God to you. A drill sergeant does not have that authority and nimbus, his authority is limited to military things.

    Sixth, the training in the army does not undermine and damage your personality, to break and crush your soul. It is usually not abusive and humiliating. Today, “hazing” to create deeper bondage with your group, is not tolerated any more. Also, the army has a code of conduct and ethics and there are ways to report abuse.

    Seventh, the whole idea that Christian life should be like military drill, and that under the name of mission training, human rights and personal dignity can be violated, which was one of the core beliefs of Samuel Lee, is unbiblical (e.g. 2 Cor 11:20). Also, the idea that certain leaders or ministries should be considered “elite” is unbiblical (e.g. 1Cor 3:5).

    Fallacy 2: Many religious orders of Christianity like the Jesuits are strict as well, so it is ok for UBF to be strict like them.

    Again, this is a flawed comparison for several reasons. The first reason again has to do with the deceptive nature of UBF. A religious order is based on a well-defined rules and principles (as the name “order” already indicates). These rules are clearly written down, and you can look them up before joining an order. UBF has many rules, too, but in contrast to religious orders, they are not explicit and written down. People who join UBF know nothing about UBF rules like “marriage by faith” and “absolute obedience”, “obeying the spiritual order” etc. These rules are carefully hidden and have only become public through non-UBF websites like this. People in UBF are not told upfront what they can expect in UBF, unlike religious orders where people are told and know pretty well what they can expect. Again, this deceptiveness is a primary hallmarks of cults. The existence of “unspoken rules” is also a hallmark of spiritual abusive groups.

    Second, in a religious orders you usually make an explicit vow at some point in time, but not at the beginning. You have a certain phase where you learn to know the order and its rules and way of life, and only then you decide whether you want to stay or not. And you are not cursed if you decide not to stay and join. And in most religious orders, you first make a time-restricted vow for some years before you make a life-long vow. So you can try out whether the order is really how you want to live.

    Third, most orders do not consider it their main task to recruit new members. They also don’t think their way of living is the only Christian way of living, and need to make everybody else follow the same rules, like UBF does. In UBF, the only purpose in life for a Christian is mission, and mission in turn is equal to recruiting members of UBF. This is very different from what religious order believe and for what they live.

    I could go on debunking these fallacies. They are based on sloppy thinking, “whataboutism” and comparing things that are not comparable. Instead of pointing to Marines and Jesuits, why don’t you start thinking about how Christian fellowship really should look like? There is a ton of discussion about this on UBFriends. You can start by reading Ben’s article about Community. Even you Anonymous wrote that we should be accountable to each other. During the reform movement around 2001, I recognized that UBF and Samuel Lee in particular was the epitome of unaccountability. As Joe showed clearly, UBF has not substantially changed in that regard. That’s the very thing we’re complaining about, and you should be on our side instead of defending UBF for her behavior.

    In your “response” you write: “We acknowledge that while our Lord is perfect, his church may have blemishes and stains that require cleansing and redemption.” So, how do you think that required cleansing and redemption can happen? I have already answered that question: By corporate repentance. So what’s your answer? If you don’t answer, then your contribution is not a “response”, it is a white-wash and a confession and promise to do nothing.

    “I … pray that God may have mercy on us to repent where necessary” So where is it necessary? Can you answer that? Is it necessary for UBF to repent for the wrongdoings of its founder and decade-long general director or not? How is this repentance God’s sake? You are claiming that “we are waiting for God to make us repent”, while in reality it’s the other way around, God is waiting all the time that you repent. He is knocking all the time at the door, at the remaining conscience of UBF members. But all He gets as an answer is “it’s ok for us to have blemishes and stains for as long as we want, since we have done so much good.” It’s always the same unbiblical excuse not to repent and take the responsibility for the abuse of the past, clearly admit it, repent for it, and then take measures to prevent it in the future.

  9. Before anyone else answer’s Joe’s letter, please read this: Top 10 Things Not to Say to an Ex-UBFer

    Please realize that the community here is made up of many ex-ubf leaders and members who never got answers when they actually cared about getting answers.

    Anon gave us many things to add to this list. Here are some of anon’s words that the ubf people should never say in a response/apology letter:

    “I am blown away by the reaction of the “righteous” people in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Mt 25:31-46).”

    “They were surprised to hear that they had done anything of note, but the King saw it quite differently (Mt 12:40).”

    “I am thankful for the work of the Holy Spirit through UBF as one small part of the body of Christ”

    “I pray that God may have mercy on us to repent where necessary and do what is right in his sight.”

    These words are daggers stuck in the backs of so many abused people who were ironically actually listening to the Holy Spirit when they spoke up about the abuse and flawed shepherding ideologies at ubf.

  10. Wow, thanks for sharing anonymous. You can see that there is a lot of pain in the previous replies, in addition to strong opinions against you.

    I would like to make a response, and I hope that it somehow pricks your conscience.

    First, in regards to membership, you actually didn’t deal with Joe’s question. Your discussion about membership is completely divorced from the organization. Joe’s question was about the organization, and how its membership actually works. I’m guessing that you have accepted that it doesn’t need to be defined. So I’m not sure whether you realize that you didn’t actually respond to that point. Your discussion seems to suggest the highly popular idea of, “Go ahead, join another church, see if I care,” and ignoring any possible issue regarding it. Saying an issue is unimportant is not a step of healing, reconciliation, nor does it actually help the matter. It struck me as humorous, actually, to think that Joe hasn’t considered all those Bible verses before. But we are used to this.

    Second, in your discussion of Samuel Lee, you have taken a very popular but theologically and rationally unsound position. You acknowledge the problem that Dr. Lee thought UBF should be the Navy Seals of Christianity. This is a problem and you acknowledge one of the biggest problems, it’s not for everyone. (a very unpopular thing to say, probably one of the reasons to stay anonymous, no?) In fact, it’s abusive to many. Moreover, in Staff Conferences and Leadership Conferences, there is no acknowledgment of these facts, and directors and leaders are not taught how to treat people differently. The line of thinking you are suggesting is in fact what I have been repenting of, and praying to have actual compassion on people.

    Indeed, Seals are trained to endure great difficulties, but they are also educated on the greater picture. However, UBF Missionaries and shepherds, when they receive training, focus on suffering and loyalty, yet have little to no education in regards to communication, language proficiency, or intercultural communications (this is desperately needed). How can you send out missionaries without preparing them for the intercultural conflicts which are now so predictable?

    It reflects a desire to deny (yes, denial) that there are problems in the history of UBF. I suggest to you that you have also been in a state of denial. You are now in a state of trying to reconcile differences, but I hope and pray that one day you may see how incompatible and hurtful these ideas really are.

  11. “Samuel Lee was not the founder of UBF. He started the organization along with Sarah Barry in 1961. In fact, it is almost impossible to imagine UBF ministry without both Samuel Lee and Sarah Barry.”

    I dare to challenge this claim as well. Sarah Barry contributed very little to the “spiritual heritage” of UBF, to what really makes UBF so different from a real church and what also makes UBF so problematic. Barry came from a Presbyterian Church background and would have shaped UBF more or less like an ordinary student ministry, she did not develop the KOPAHN theology as Brian calls it. The one person who really shaped and formed UBF was Samuel Lee. He himself admitted in one of his letters how he was bothered in the beginning that a woman was his boss, how he vowed to himself that he would make her “his secretary” in 10 years, and bragged how he achieved this. He only tolerated himself as a boss. As the 1976 letter shows, Samuel Lee was the person in charge who defined the doctrine and methods and concentrated all power. He did not tolerate the authority of any other church or any other shepherd above him (as he claimed he took “Paul as his shepherd”) while subduing everybody else under his authority and a personal shepherd. He, not Sarah Barry, was the “General Director” of UBF. Sara Barry was only a legitimator, facilitator and enabler of abuse, nothing more, and Samuel Lee corrupted her soul until she even covered up things like forced abortions and helped Lee push out anybody who wanted reform.

    “Ultimately it is God who started a ministry through UBF.”

    How I hate such statements! What is the meaning of “God started UBF”? There can be only two meanings. Either, you mean it in a general sense, as God started everything in this world. What about Jehovah’s Witnesses? Didn’t God also start their ministry? Ultimately, yes. He allowed all of these groups and religions and cults to start. So what? What can we conclude from that if we give it this meaning? Nothing!

    Or, otherwise, you mean it in a special sense, i.e. while other groups like Jehovah’s witnesses “just started” on their own, UBF was “started by God”. UBF would then be something special and directly legitimated by God. Is it that what you want to indicate? Are there groups and ministries which have been started by God and others who not? If yes, where’s your proof? How do we discern them if a group can have arbitrary many “blemishes and stains”? What about the 1976 letter that shows so many indicators that UBF was a cult already then, not a church? How many “blemishes and stains” must a group have until you recognize that they are something intrinsic to the group, that they are indicators of deep spiritual problems that can only be solved by fundamental repentance and change, that they are more than just “blemishes and stains”? How can you find whether a group has been “started by God” if the way how they behave (unaccountable and abusive) and the beliefs they have (e.g. authoritarianism is good, while Jesus says it is bad) is no indicator?

    No matter how you interpret such sentences, they do not help anybody, so let’s please stop discussing on that level and make reality checks instead.

    “God has mysteriously chosen to use fragile human beings, who have both good points and sins, in his work.”

    Again, you claim that “God has chosen” Samuel Lee. Are you honest? Where is your proof? What about Kip McKean, the leader of the ICOC? Has God chosen him? What about Russel, the prophet of the JW? Did God choose him? What about Sun Myung Moon? Where is your line to distinguish which people have been “mysteriously chosen by God” and which are phonies who just started controlling other people on their own? How much wrongdoing, abuse, unbiblical acts and teachings can such a person do before you stop claiming they have been “chosen by God”?

    It is totally counterproductive to argue that way. Argue based on facts instead, on how people act and behave. Even if God “mysteriously chooses” certain people, these are things that happen in heaven and that we should not claim to know. Even if God chose certain people, how do you know that God not later regretted that he chose them, like Saul? That they did not deviate from God’s ways and by following them you are also deviating from God’s way? That you should not call them to repentance like Nathan did with David?

    Anyway, in my view, Samuel Lee had primarily chosen himself. He used his qualities of manipulating people, his big ego and narcissist power, his passive-aggressive skillset, the toolset of mind control, marriages and money as an instrument to steer people (he was the custodian of the millions of offering money), the right timing in Korea, the general Korean Confucian mindset, a twisted interpretation of the Bible as legitimation, and co-enablers like Sarah Barry to control a group of fragile people who were silly enough to follow him, tolerate and excuse his abuse, flatter him, recruit more followers, and prevent any reform attempt to succeed. He was a phony who usurped the authority and throne of God Himself claiming to be His “visible representative”. There is nothing to excuse about this. The people he controlled were indeed fragile human beings, and Lee exploited their fragility. But Lee himself was like God, he was in power, he did not behave like a “fragile human being” – he claimed to be the “commander” and that everybody was cursed who was not blessed by him (again, I can provide the quote). So everybody trembled with fear in front of him. Still, there were many occasions and people who called him to repent, but he never listened. Stop white-washing him and UBF’s disgusting behavior who made him an idol and feared men more than God.

  12. forestsfailyou

    I have yet to read responses here fully, but my overall impression is good. I do have major problems with this though:

    “For example, some people may not have met Christ deeply before earnestly participating in mission work.Thus, it could have come across that a message of salvation by works was being preached rather than salvation by faith in Christ alone, and it could have been inferred that service to the church or people in the church was most imperative. ”

    This implies that people who see this hammering of works first, are simply not spiritual or holy enough to see it for what it truly is. Let me just give a counterexample to show this really is. There is a girl who was in a ubf chapter and participated in bible studies for a while, but eventually the bible student was dropped since she didn’t like writing testimonies. However, when asked missionaries will say, “she wasn’t growing enough”. In another case a man was going to be married by faith to a woman in his chapter, but she posted a picture with a boyfriend on Facebook. the narrative later given was that she “wasn’t maturing in Christ as much as me”.

  13. “Evangelism and discipleship is only strengthened, not hurt, when we are honest about our shortcomings in the process of striving to be even more authentic disciples of Jesus Christ. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/23/a-response-to-joes-open-letter/#comment-17461

    Those who are still recruiting for UBF: take note of this anonymous response from a senior person who spent most of more than two decades with Samuel Lee: be honest.

    Be honest in your fishing and in your disciples. Be honest and let the busyness of your personal spiritual journey get in the way of listening to those who have been hurt by the UBF shepherding model. Be honest when approaching students on campus. Rather than ask, “Would you like to study the Bible?” Ask, “Would you like to join a life-long, harsh, militaristic, elite, special forces and Jesuit-like training? You will forfeit your life’s daily decisions to your superior missionary for UBF’s world mission and there’s no opt-out–for the glory of the legacy passed to us from Samuel Lee which is really from God.” Be honest in speaking about “leadership” and the roles of missionaries and their children. Be honest about the duration of a shepherd’s authority (oops, I mean “influence and love”) over a person’s life. Be honest about the expectations of Bible studies, testimony writing, recruitment and the giving up of your freedom and family. Be honest about the lasting authority of missionaries. Be honest that people will be thrown under the bus even if they participated in UBF for more than ten, twenty, or even thirty years if they start to ask questions and demand accountability. Be honest about your lack of training, because it’s done by faith and God is pleased with faith.

    Don’t worry about the pinch of abuse, or the dose of authoritarianism, or the smidgen of deception and manipulation. Those too are recognized from God and excused because he knows people are fragile and chosen leaders are without accountability. God will save a remnant and reveal his glory through UBF with increasing glory, right?

  14. mrkimmathclass


    Best post ever!!!!

    • Hi mrkimmathclass,

      Welcome to ubfriends! Praise-bombs are not so helpful here. Would you explain why you think this is the best post ever?

    • This looks like when someone is pranking somebody else and their friend starts snickering. Maybe anonymous is just trolling with this post. It’s so ridiculous yet believable as a genuine statement from someone in UBF.

  15. I’m not justifying, excusing or defending anyone, but a friend shared with me this article that may be surprising, but perhaps not surprising at all: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/frankviola/shockingbeliefsofjohncalvin/#ixzz3XDlgzVSh

    The point of the article is not to justify bad, abusive, horrible Christian behavior, but to realize and acknowledge that even the “best of Christians” have seriously flawed clay feet.

    Again, please understand that this is not a defense for behavior unbecoming of a Christian, and definitely not of any Christian leader.

    • Thanks, Ben. Yes I agree that article is actually very helpful. I think if I met Calvin himself I would be able to extend grace and mercy. The same goes for SL.

      But I would now tell both of them to their face (if they were here) exactly what bad fruit some of their ideas have born. I would hope they both would acknowledge the bad fruit and be able to take such feedback with mercy and grace… To me theology is not so much about being right or wrong, but about recognizing bad fruit and cultivating good fruit.

    • No, Ben, it’s not surprising at all. You can include Martin Luther in this list for his article about the “Jews and their lies.” That’s why we shouldn’t idolize any person and read their lectures and sermons as if they were straight from God, but should always have a critical mind. We shouldn’t judge Luther and Calvin too harshly though because they were clearly children of their times. They didn’t know many things better, they lived long before the enlightenment, they didn’t know about the revelations of modern science and the historical developments and how Jews would have to suffer in the Holocaust.

      We need to judge people in the context of their time and environment. I do this with Samuel Lee. He should have known that ordering abortions was not ok, he should have known that authoritarianism was against the Bible. And Sarah Barry, who had some basic theological education should have known even better. Heck, even Martin Luther knew it. Luther said: “I will preach it [the Bible], teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion.” He was far ahead of Lee, who used compulsion, coercion, manipulation and guilt-tripping.

  16. I would like to make a response and add on to the current responses to Anonymous. This is my first post here. I am kind of a long time reader of UBFriends but have never posted. I felt very much inclined to post this time. The original response is meant as a response to Joe Schafer post, but I will dress Anonymous’ points directly.

    I will mainly your point about the “context” of UBF practices. I think what you mean is that these harsh and seemingly abusive practices were done in the context of acting by faith. UBF leaders were trying to “by faith” advance God’s ministry and employ these harsh training methods, and to outside observers it seems crazy if you don’t see that context. Have you ever considered if God was the one leading these activities, and if these were practiced in line with faithfulness to Scripture, why do so many people get hurt from them? Were all of them just faithless or too weak? And why do people feel so shamed in their hearts by others around them when they decide to take no more part in it? Are you going to say it’s their fault and their problem? Will you close your heart to the idea their hurt is real and should be attended to? In the context of the Navy Seals, while I have never joined it, I would imagine if I quit, life would be back to normal. This is not so in UBF. As soon as you decide to stop the UBF traditions, you are pretty much ostracized from the community. There is a huge difference between the examples you gave and the cultural dynamics in UBF. Now that I am not in UBF, I realize that the gospel presented in it was very shallow. Some of these “harsh treatments done in the context of faith”, were actually actions acted out of a very shallow understanding of the gospel. I think that is why people were ultimately hurt. It is not that they were “too weak” and “not ready to be mature”. Such thinking shows a shallow understanding of God’s way of leading His people.

    You mention a lot of the positives of UBF, that “Thank God for all the positives”. But what about all the “negatives”? I don’t mean mistakes and shortfalls or “weaknesses” that you may have – like how we may get complacent at times. I mean all the people that left UBF and were seriously hurt. What is the story for them? How can you keep proclaiming the positives but not seriously stop to ask God about all those people who left in pain?

    One more thing, I very much emphasize and share the feeling some of the posters here about the emotional response to your original response. To myself, your response basically says “We are overall good, but with some shortfalls please forgive us”. If you want to understand, it really feels like a husband who has cheated on his wife, telling his wife “why won’t you stop being angry all the time, I already said that I was sorry”. I can’t deny that I feel unreached in my heart by what you say. Now while I was in UBF, they would probably tell me that this would be my fault. That is why I am a reader of this forum. People here will call out on that stuff very quickly and I realize that my feelings are shared by others.

    What you might want to consider is your personal identity in Christ. If you are a follower of Jesus, I hope you realize that UBF is not anything part of your identity. It’s just ultimately a place you are in, and who knows if you should leave tomorrow. Because identity comes from Christ’s death for me, and His death alone. Are you willing to talk to people who have left your ministry, stepping out of your UBF name, and talk to them at level ground as a follower of Christ? As long as you have this mindset of “I’m the UBF shepherd”, “they are the lost confused sheep”, you are almost unreachable for anyone. You will hear people’s words, but not really hear them. You can try and make small changes to ministry, like calling people pastor instead of director, but the overall thing is still the same.

    • Hi Peter,

      Welcome to ubfriends! Your thoughtful comment is the kind of dialogue we want here.

    • “Are you willing to talk to people who have left your ministry, stepping out of your UBF name, and talk to them at level ground as a follower of Christ? As long as you have this mindset of “I’m the UBF shepherd”, “they are the lost confused sheep”, you are almost unreachable for anyone.”

      Well-said. This summarizes quite well all of my 3 books.

    • Note that when I say “thoughtful comment” I mean just that. I do not mean that everyone must agree or that dissenting opinions are not welcome here. Anyone can easily see that many different opinions can be expressed here. The only catch is that this is a public open mic. So anyone can response in just about anyway they feel moved to comment.

  17. Just an admin note to new commenters: If you would like change your comment picture (called an avatar), then after logging in, just hover your mouse over the “Howdy,…” button in the top right corner. Then click “edit my profile”. There is a place at the bottom of that profile page to upload your own photo or picture.

    Thanks for joining in the discussions!

  18. Michael Lanier

    On the defense of Samuel Lee, I will say that anyone joining the Navy seals or Jesuit’s knows what they are getting into. By insisting that no one touch the Lord’s anointed you create a situation that is not at all analogous to the one you propose, and by doing so not only make yourself look foolish but truly show that you have no concrete understand of the problem. It is not simply that Anon cannot see the answer, it’s that he fails to even grasp the question. Furthermore, the statements on Church membership are totally avoided. It is true that the body of Christ is all believers, but when we say “UBF” we add distinctions. We have immediatly created a subgroup and the question is not who belongs to the whole group- but who belongs to the subgroup.

    So this author misses the questions not once, but twice.

    Beyond that we have what I must add is the most absurd statement I have seen in quite some time.

    “For example, some people may not have met Christ deeply before earnestly participating in mission work.Thus, it could have come across that a message of salvation by works was being preached rather than salvation by faith in Christ alone, and it could have been inferred that service to the church or people in the church was most imperative. ”

    It implies, very directly, that we are simply not holy enough to see that everything they are doing is ok. It is a statement that is falsifiable at best. I have heard testimony of a man waiting until Sunday Service was over before taking his wife to the hospital who was going into labor- in what sense does this NOT mean that “service to the church is most imperative”. This man bragged about such an action. Service is absolutely the most important thing in this ministry. It takes a fool or a blind man to say otherwise. The act of service is seen as faith itself.

  19. Michael,

    I also noticed we were asked to consider if people didn’t meet Christ “deeply” and carry out a mixed message.

    This entails a) lack of accountability from top to bottom, ie from the church to the servant, b) lack of awareness, which at this point is beyond carelessness and has become repeated negligence, and c) the assumption that people must endure the mistreatment of said people with no way to really address it besides, “You should forgive, think about all they have done for you.”

    When I actually write that out, it’s terrifying.

    • mrkimmathclass

      I think that only blind men cannot see what anonymous said. What he said is true and biblical while you guys are very emotional and exaggerating. Don’t try to force others believe what you said. You guys praise each other to criticize UBF and curse or discourage anyone who talks for UBF. That is why many true friends of UBF don’t write here.

    • Michael Lanier

      No problem. I will perform a google search for ‘modern argument techniques from 10 years old’ right away. The importance of determining which people are capable of providing contrived responses to even stupider responses cannot be overstated. It is essentially the key to getting on well with everyone here.
      It’s possible, however, more could learnt, and a greater ‘feel for fit’ obtained, through open discussion. Perhaps over a beer. I therefore suggest to meet you with Brian for a beer sometime.

    • “I therefore suggest to meet you with Brian for a beer sometime.”

      Anyone here is always welcome in Detroit for a beer on my porch. I have rum or wine also if you prefer.

  20. mrkimmathclass,

    Do you think you could stop telling me what to do and how to feel? Would you answer my question?

    Why do you think this article is the best ever? How would you answer Joe’s letter, which was a response to Augustine’s request to Joe?

    Joe did not ask about what is true and biblical. Joe asked about some specific events and characteristics of the ubf ministry. Don’t people have a right to know about the secret ubf membership club? Are you a member of ubf officially with voting powers?

    • mrkimmathclass

      You don’t need to tell me what to do or answer. Just read the article over and over again. That gives you guys the answer. Whatever good words and deeds UBF people do, you guys don’t care but just look down on it and say whatever you want to say. It seems that you guys have mouths but don’t have ears.

    • Good words and deeds don’t solve the problem. Only sincere repentance and apology does. We haven’t heard this from UBF for decades, though we have very good ears.

    • mrkimmathclass,

      I merely asked a question “Why do you think this article is the best ever?”

      Your interaction here is a great example of how Korean ubf missionaries spoke to me for decades. It still amazes me that I put up with such verbal abuse for so long.

    • Mr. Kim’s answer here shows me “the great divide.”

      God help us.

      God save us.

  21. Happypinky

    Great Post Anonymous

    Thanks for taking time and to write it. After years of antiubf sentiment, I begin to see ubf in better ways than before.
    It is truly a unique church and yet with its unique flaws.

    As for some critics here, I lost my appetite to enagage with them, since i got convinced that no matter what you say (unless you say brutal things about ubf) nothing good will come out of that. It utterly pointless, at least in my opinion. Editor, why not go head and change the name of site into UBF Enemies. Lets be honest, this site does not allow friendly view of ubf. The moment you try to be, you are torn apart.

    Today, we have individuals posting here about “gay Christians” tommorow we will talk about two husbands and one wife type of Christians” after that we will support why JEsus resurrection is not a literal historical fact but merely spiritual. What is next? maybe we can explore romantic relations between animals and humans? And proponents will assert that as long as its loving and commited it is fine, citing scientsists who assert that animals can have develop a bond for humans.

    • Yea things might get so bad that people will begin vandalizing Wikipedia articles about ubf…

    • “It is truly a unique church and yet with its unique flaws.”

      If that is your view of ubf as an organization, why can’t you see ubfriends as a website that is “truly a unique website and yet with its unique flaws.”?

  22. Authoritarianism is not a “flaw”, “blemish” or “stain.”

    It’s a very serious sin that has yielded grave and abhorrent subsequent sins such as spiritual abuse, division and discord, misappropriation of offering money and even forcing abortion. Do you think that the fact that Samuel Lee sent people to an abortion clinic is just a “flaw” or a sign of a deep underlying problem with UBF?

    I suggest you first deal with the sin of authoritarianism which has been explicitly mentioned and condemned by Jesus several times (e.g. Mt 23), before you start talking about gay people who have not been condemned or even mentioned by Jesus in my Bible.

    • mrkimmathclass

      That is why I say this site is full of garbage. I know a person whose life is full of lies. This person left UBF and criticized her with many lies. And then amazing thing happened. Many of you guys are supporting the person. You guys didn’t bother to figure out the truth. The guy became just a hero.

    • mrkimmathclass,

      You are referring to the darkness at New York UBF correct?

    • mrkimmathclass

      Sorry. Wrong.
      Long time ago.

    • So mrkim

      You are talking about something that happened a long time ago and yet ubfriends is wrongly making that person into a hero? Did ubfriends even exist back then? What are you talking about?

    • mrkimmathclass

      Think about what you guys are doing. I don’t want to specifically mention the person. You guys criticize entire ubf as if all ubf are the same. And I have never seen gou guys criticize your own churches. Is your church that perfect?
      Answer me how many ubf chapters are in the whole world? If you guys find out one problem from each chapter then how many problems you will find? And then you guys criticize entire ubf as if each individual church has all those problems? Don’t you think that is flaw?

    • “If you guys find out one problem from each chapter then how many problems you will find? And then you guys criticize entire ubf as if each individual church has all those problems? Don’t you think that is flaw?”

      No, that is not a flaw. What we claim is that UBF has at its root and core a certain set of mind control practices, and a set of unbiblical beliefs (essentially Shpherding/Discipling with a Confucianist flavor), invented and refined primarily by Samuel Lee. This has been coined UBFism, and it inevitably leads to spiritual abuse. The UBF system makes sure through weekly 1:1, sogam sharing, Sunday messages, conferences etc. that every member is deeply indoctrinated with UBFism. Therefore we see the same kind of spiritual abuse in every UBF chapter, though of course to various degrees. But no chapter is free from it. We are not talking about the individual sin of UBF leaders in individual chapters. We are talking about the whole system of UBF which is flawed. What needs to happen is that UBF repents for promoting cult-like practices and unbiblical teachings over 50 decades. The individual sins that happened, like the misappropriation of money by Samuel Lee, falsification of photos and history, and even enforced abortions, are only expressions of the flawedness of the system. They are only the symptoms of a deeper spiritual problem, namely spiritual pride and authoritarianism that has been driving UBF from the very beginnings. UBF has to repent for promoting and living UBFism, not the gospel.

      The symptoms make it very easy to see that there is a flaw in the system. This should motivate you to look for the roots of these problems. And no, the criticism will never end, until clearly admits that they have been following an unbiblical paradigm.

      Many who have followed this unbiblical paradigm have recognized this. They were able to repent, like Bob Mumford, one of the leaders of the movement in the 1980s. Why oh why is it so difficult for UBF? Yes, indeed, UBF is a very unique ministry in it’s stubborn unrepentance.

  23. “Think about what you guys are doing.”

    > Here are ubfriends we were all “in ubf” when we started this website. We agreed with Joe’s ideas about discussing Christian theology. Sarah Barry herself commented here. It seemed like a nice website. Then Toledo ubf fell apart, Taiwan ubf fell apart, Yekaterinburg ubf fell apart, Ukraine ubf fell apart– and a massive exodus of long time ubf leaders left ubf in protest; others left in shame; some were pushed out; and others just got fed up with dealing with silence and dismissal.

    How could we at ubfriends just keep talking about nice Christian theology and not feel the pain of parts of our ministries being cut off by Korean ubf missionaries? So we decided to let people process their own legitimate stories. This website became a virtual community, a safe place, to share and connect with our honest feelings about ideas. Sometimes we were bitter, but we gave people freedom to heal and be themselves, and rid themselves of the Korean culture and Confucianism that had smothered them for so long.

    At that point, yes all the ubf people stopped commenting. And many of us left ubf because those same leaders just covered up the abuses we all knew had happened and some of which we had witnessed in our own lives.

    “I don’t want to specifically mention the person.”

    > Good. This is not a gossip website. We talk pointedly about Samuel Lee and some other public leaders because they were/are public leaders. Our private conversations were dismissed so many of us came here to discuss. If you have something to say about us, then say it here or email us privately in the contact email for this website. Ben Toh, Joe Shafer and I are admins here, though we do not collaborate much. We just share what we feel compelled to share.

    “You guys criticize entire ubf as if all ubf are the same.”

    > This is a false statement. If you read here regularly you know that everyone of “us guys (and gals!)” freely admit there are good things about ubf and our time there. For example, I thank God that I spent over 15,000 hours reading the bible text at ubf. That is a good thing.

    Also if you read here you would know that I and other repeatedly point out that there are redeemed ubf chapters. Ben Toh and the Westloop chapters are amazing. I have worshipped with them several times after resigning from ubf in 2011. What has happened in Waterloo Canada seems very good to me. We all really liked the Well (until the Korean 1st gens nearly destroyed it).

    “And I have never seen gou guys criticize your own churches. Is your church that perfect?”

    > Some of us, like myself, did not have a church for several years. I had a toxic reaction due to the training ubf gave me (dead dog training, etc). It was only by worshipping with Matthew Vines and the Reformation Project did I have a new love for church.

    I don’t see ubf as a church. When I explained ubf to 9 Christian pastors, they told me ubf is a cult-like network. ubf does not operate like a church. It is at best a para-church organization. Of course no church is perfect. But my new Baptist church has nothing worth writing 3 books to tell my recovery journey! There is a huge difference from a Christian church in America (which ubf Koreans demean as “nominal”) and the loose network of mostly single family “house churches” at ubf.

    “Answer me how many ubf chapters are in the whole world?”

    > Well until recently that was a mystery. As a non-Korean ubf leader I was not privy to such data. But now that I am free of the ubf abusive authority, I can find out SO MUCH data! A better question is this: What is ubf Korean leadership going to do with the $13 million dollars they have collected? Here is the data I have obtained:

    323 total UBF chapters around the world as of 2014
    159 chapters consist of one family (49%)
    71 chapters consist of two families (22%)
    93 chapters consist of three or more families (29%)

    source: priestlynation.com ubf statistics

    “If you guys find out one problem from each chapter then how many problems you will find? And then you guys criticize entire ubf as if each individual church has all those problems? Don’t you think that is flaw?”

    > No this is not a flaw. I don’t think you understand what we are doing here. I apologize if you feel we attack all of ubf. What we are criticizing is not each chapter or the people specifically but Samuel Lee’s methods and the “kingdom of priests” ubf shepherding ideology. We are trying to figure out what happened to us.

    Why did I lose my American identity at ubf? Why did I hope to become a world-class leader but ended up after 24 years not able to speak normal American English? Why did I feel like committing suicide so many times at ubf and yet always had such great hope? Why did over 100 of my friends (including family) just dissapear with no explanation other than they were “unspiritual” or “deceived by Satan”?

    And one final question, why does someone need to be an exit counselor for ubf people? For the past 4 years, over 30 people have contacted me for help and some with dire stress due to the harmful aspects of the six-stage ubf shepherding model. Why is that? I answered every question of yours mrkim. Might you answer mine with some thought?

  24. To anyone reading this website who is dedicated in UBF, the stuff on this website will certainly look like nothing more than unending criticism. It is criticism to such a dear part of people’s lives, especially if you’ve been in it so long, and it is hard to have the patience to deal with this by being a regular participant. I admit that some Koreans have been in UBF their entire life, and I do not always internalize that when I think about UBF. I do see it that if you try to defend UBF as an organization in a right direction, you will not hear the words “I kind of agree with you”.

    To the other side, these posts are not meant to be simply “criticism”. These posts signify all the pain in our souls from experiences. It’s a deep pain that people who are still in UBF do not realize and who do not understand. Our experiences are real, not lies.
    The posts here are meant as a sincere, genuine attempt, that people in UBF will read them and see what needs to be changed. What is offered for them to see is the experience of our pain.

    What I’ve noticed therefore, especially so when I was in UBF, is a huge disconnect in communication. In a sense, people can’t seem to see the true meaning of the other person. It is almost like the Calvinist and Arminian debate. When I try to explain what I really see, my words get almost re-arranged so that the worst meaning, a sense that I had no intention in implying, is believed.

    What is perhaps the most fundamental difference, what could be at least in my opinion, is the understanding of the gospel between those in UBF and those who couldn’t stay anymore. Not just understand, but what is emphasized. I believe, based on my observations, in UBF, while every important doctrine about faith and Christ is upheld, the emphasis in personal practice is mission. While for those who have left, the emphasis in personal practice have become grace and its effect in our relationships with others.

    More than that, those who have left UBF no longer see UBF and its purpose as a treasured part of life. Therefore we are now free to be honest about what we believe and felt abut things that made us leave. To those who are still in UBF, this looks like unending criticism. But to those that left, we are making an honest attempt to express our feelings. I’ve done so with a close of my friend although not on this website. I find the amazing theme in the Bible to be true that you can’t really reach someone by pure argumentation, but there is a sense of love, patience, and emphathy that you need in order for them to truly see what you see. It may be frustrating for people in UBF to read this website. But it is also just as frustrating, and even more, for others to continue this website hoping that finally there will be some change – because to our observations things never seem to change no matter how much we hope. When I was in UBF, I read this website too and I was also pretty angry at some posters here. When I left, I was no longer angry at them. Why? There is a great sense of hypocrisy I suppose that I rarely stopped to think about.

    My hope is that those in UBF whom God knows will have a more profound understanding of the gospel. And as you do grow in that understanding, perhaps God will move your heart to see new ways in how to think about people who have left, and perhaps about a site like UBfriends.

  25. mrkim,

    Just a quick story about criticism and a proper Christian reaction. One reason we don’t criticize our churches is often because our churches are Christian and handle criticism well.

    For instance, our prior pastor preached at two Sunday service times. Often he received criticism in between services. What did he do? Well, sometimes he changed his sermon in between based on the new perspective he gained. Sometimes he did not change anything because while he understood the criticism, it didn’t change his sermon. Always he checked what was said with other elders/pastors. (Hint, yes a Christian church normally has a pastor team, not just one spiritual director)

    My point is that Christian pastors accept feedback, process it with independent thinking and prayer, check themselves with Scripture and other believers, and strive to discern what the Holy Spirit would have them say and do.

    These “nominal, Satanic” Christian pastors (as ubf Koreans call them) are highly compassionate, well-trained and very well versed in multiple theological constructs. They are keenly aware of how they differ from other Christians and work for unity (most of the time) and to offer their unique gifts to the body of Christ.

  26. Peter, you nailed it:

    “What is perhaps the most fundamental difference, what could be at least in my opinion, is the understanding of the gospel between those in UBF and those who couldn’t stay anymore.”

    I would love to discuss this question here: What is the gospel?

    mrkim, what is the gospel?

    • mrkimmathclass

      What is the gospel?
      Isn’t leaving ubf the gospel?
      Making fun of Koreans is gospel.
      Isn’t it giving you heavenly joy?
      It is funny that you talk about gospel.

    • mrkimmathclass

      And where should we talk about our pain which you guys bring?
      Even though we are not Dr. Samuel Lee or the top leaders but you guys keep hurting us. Have you ever thought about our pain when you guys do this. Of course not. You guys are not helping peole who got hurt and left ubf. Rather you guys hurt them again to satisfy your sense of revenge. I see many people who left ubf and do better serve God in the other church. But they later tell us that they also had good memories and learned a lot in ubf. Anyway it is another waste of time. Good luck to you all.

    • I sincerely hope, mrkim, that you do not consider yourself a pastor. You are behaving on this blog in a similar manner that Mark Driscoll behaved on one of the blogs talking about Mars Hill.

      I am not joking around mrkim. I would like to know what the gospel is?

      That question is also what sparked my leaving ubf. But no, leaving ubf is not the gospel. My leaving ubf caused me so much pain and heartache, and stirred up much controversy. It was painful because I left something I loved, a group of people who loved me and whom I loved dearly. I hurt many people by my leaving.

      But the separation had to happen so that I could find myself and breathe again. If there had been any way to stay at ubf and keep my conscience clean I would have.

      But the burden of my sin of breaking into James Kim’s house in 1990 and stealing his belongings was too much of a burden for my conscience. Everyone I spoke to at ubf about this, except for two people, dismissed me or laughed at me or condemned me for asking that very question: What is the gospel? If the gospel is Jesus should not I confess my sin of breaking into a family’s house in the winter? I was told to shut up and go away because I was possibly demon possessed.

      So in an ironic way yes it is indeed funny that I am now talking about the gospel and loving the Christian church and even in this silly conversation. But God does new things. God’s Spirit compels me to love you enough to keep talking and at times to be silent.

    • mrkimmathclass

      Did you know that when Jesus died on the cross, he forgave all the sinners, not only you but also those korean missionaries who couldn’t help you properly (I am not sure if they helped properly and you lie or they did wrong though)?
      That is the gospel you are talking about. But you don’t know how to forgive but just revenge and hurt more people.

    • mrkim,

      Your comments show two themes that were so distressing to me at ubf.

      1) You think in binary terms, either “all lies” or “all truth”. I am a critical thinker, and always have been. But the dichotomous thought fabric ubf teaches blurred my vision and stunted my growth for much of my adult years. Now I’ve abandoned binary thinking and embraced more of a triune thinking. Is there not a third way?

      2) You repeatedly dictate my narrative for me. Perhaps I am doing that to you as well, for that is how ubf trained me to be. In any case, you cannot impose your idea of what I’m doing onto me. Maybe you would dare to listen to some of the things I’ve said?

      “when Jesus died on the cross, he forgave all the sinners”

      This is worth exploring more. Yes the gospel is about forgiveness of sins. Does not that forgiveness compel us to godly sorrow and repentance? How is the gospel related to repentance? Shouldn’t we repent?

    • I would like to weigh in, Mr. Kim.

      You said, do you know that when Jesus died on the cross, he forgave all sinners?

      But does that justify Pilate? Does it justify the Romans who killed him?

      His death on the cross does not justify sin. It justifies all who renounce sinful ways and cling to Christ.

      You say you are not Dr. Lee, but we treat you like him. This can’t be factually true, but you can feel it.

      I did not abuse people, but people who were abused are persecuting me at my school. Not because of the gospel, but because some missionary or shepherd treated him/her as Dr. Lee has done.

      Shall I thank thee? I thank God.

      Shall I claim I suffer for the gospel? I suffer for Christ, but not because of the gospel yet.

      Shall I look past such actions (and there are so many)? My friend, they are nailed on the cross.

      So please don’t take them down again.

    • Unbelievable! You’re (you said “us”) hurt and Koreans are being made fun of? Americans, for example, did not ask any Koreans to come as missionaries and save them. And yet missionaries committed what is like cultural genocide, and many voices of pain and hurt are raised, and the response is that you think Koreans are being hurt and made fun of? Imagine if Americans went to Korea, promised leadership and greatness, promised a place in ministry for the Lord and Savior, and then never gave it, all the while removing the very essence of Korean culture and family life. What if these Americans defined what your values, legacies and heritage would be and that if you didn’t go along with it wrote you off as of the devil? What if Sunday messages were used to demonize your Korean culture like “wicked American individualism,” and then systematically cut you off from the contact with the most important people in your life, replacing them with American missionaries who came to save you, telling you where to live, who to to see and not see, where to work, what to name your children, changing even your own given name, and demanding you leave your family? What if you saw others being hurt and you tried to speak up, but were accused of seeking power? Isn’t it giving you heavenly joy?

    • I honestly don’t want to impose on what others. We are all working through what we hold as true and biblical. I understand that. But I cannot understand the backlash to openly addresses the issues of abuse. To date, UBF has not addressed the reports of abuse corporately, and it is a corporate issue, for it stems from corporate teachings and doctrine and approval.

      If this conversation causes hurt or pain, maybe it’s time to face that. Many of us here have had to do so in enabling and participating in UBF ministry for years. Just because you think this website is garbage doesn’t mean to treat others as such.

      Consider that the majority of those who speak up hear have at least a decade of service in UBF under their belts. The collective experience of the regular posters here spans decades and countries. We are not unfamiliar with the subject at hand. We are not speaking about gossip or hearsay. We have seen firsthand the issues presented here.

      Now you may have seen or experienced some kinds of reform at a chapter or individual level. But what is wrong in acknowledging the hurt of others beyond your own daily living sphere?

      Time doesn’t heal all wounds. But we know that by Jesus’ wounds there is healing. Therefore we have no reason to hide or close our eyes or turn our ears from what people have to say.

  27. “And where should we talk about our pain which you guys bring?”

    You are all free to share your pain here on ubfriends. If you do that, share your pain, we are ready to listen. If you just say “ubf is glorious!” then yes it is difficult for us to listen to you.

    By all means, share your pain with whatever raw emotion you have. I think in fact you are doing that now, and for that I am most thankful.

  28. I’m going on another guess here.

    I believe part of the pain that shepherds feel is that all their hard worked efforts were wasted. However there is another part of pain that I may not see, and that’s their own personal reflection between God on what happened. They might’ve lost their 100th sheep, whom they thought was the breakthrough in their ministry. Maybe they feel like their failure represents the failure of God’s plan for their life. Everyone has a great feel of failure, it’s maybe one of our biggest fears. However I will never know what shepherds really feel because my relationship with my shepherd was largely superficial. It was largely defined by the activities we did together. I suppose this is where the gospel comes in, and God lets us ask ourselves: is this all my life is? There has to be something more. This is how I try and imagine what UBF leaders feel. And of course, there’s so much they don’t know about their own sheep, just so much.

  29. fellowshipbible

    I am not saying that Samuel Lee did or did not order abortions but if he did order abortions that is not “training” to make people better disciples of Christ that is training people to disobey God’s word. That is like if someone signs up to join the army so the drill Sargent shoots their son or daughter so they will not worry about their child will going off to combat. It is one thing to neglect a child and yet another to commit murder of a child. You make it sound like these issues mentioned are much less serious than they are when you omit the accusation of murder.

    That being said I benefited greatly when I studied the Bible, I studied the Bible in UBF the credit goes to the Bible study not to Samuel Lee. Praise to God for blessing us with his word but may no glory go to Samuel Lee for misleading us with claims of his words having greater authority than the words “thous shalt not kill.”

  30. fellowshipbible

    When I said, “may no glory go to Samuel Lee for misleading us with claims of his words having greater authority than the words “thous shalt not kill.” ” I only meant if Samuel Lee actually taught that I think that is implied from my earlier statements but I am restating that just in case someone misunderstands because I realize it could be a little ambiguous. Although I personally know the Pastor at my Church said numerous statements that I understood as doing things in such and such a way is more important than doing what you think is the correct thing to do according to your conscience. I also heard numerous testimonies of people doing things that I felt were clearly against God’s will at the time in their personal testimonies that they shared in front of UBF members (these were not ex-members) but current members sharing things with other current members, how they struggled to obey their shepherds advice and then finally decided to obey in many cases they thought they were submitting to God but I think instead they struggled because they were resisting their conscience and then finally seared their conscience in obeying their shepherd. Now I am not so sure they were disobeying God when they obeyed their shepherd but I am very sure they would not have disobeyed God to disobey their shepherd. Either way if I was in the same position as them but with the same conscience that I had at the time I listened to them I would have gone against my conscience to do what they did. If it was something where they could obey God with either choice but the shepherd wants them to make a choice contrary to their choice so they have to struggle, do you think it is good for the consccience? If it is bad for the conscience maybe if they keep ignoring the conscience when they are warned about something that is truly unethical by their conscience like abortion but their shepherd says otherwise they will ignore the safeguard of their conscience listen to their shepherd and get the abortion. So even if Samuel Lee did not directly say do anything he says even if it contradicts the Bible I strongly suspect his principles were the same. Or his principles were that obedience to Samuel Lee is taught in the Bible and trumps all other Biblical commands. I heard the Pastor of my Chapter quote Samuel Lee (while saying Samuel Lee is great but misunderstood) that it is better to walk to a lake to drown oneself than not to teach Bible students (I do not remember the exact words) hence that murder is trivial compared with failure to serve UBF mission!

  31. To add on to fellowshipbible’s post, I do remember at one point confessing that some issues I experienced with my shepherd were mainly my pride problems. It was totally against my conscience to think that but I confessed anyway, because I actually thought that’s what humbling myself means. It was amazing for me to read on UBFriends people with that exact same experience. It showed me that my experience was no coincidence. Granted if I was the perfect Son of God I could probably have found a way out, and so you can say it’s in the end my fault. But nevertheless I didn’t do how to cope in that situation.

    A big part of the pain was equating approval of my shepherd with approval of God. I never decided that it was true, somehow it just formed the way I understood things. It caused me a lot of pain consequently.

    • “A big part of the pain was equating approval of my shepherd with approval of God.”

      Exactly. But this idea was not your own. UBF incessantly instilled this way of thinking deep into everyone of us. Your shepherd is the “servant of God”, the “visible representative of God”, who gives you “direction” or “orientation” in minor and major life decisions. You don’t need the Holy Spirit, you don’t need a conscience, and you don’t need to even think much if you have such a personal shepherd. You just need to obey. On the one side, it makes life easy. On the other hand, you need to totally give up your own personality and responsibility. UBF makes people think this is Biblical “self-denial”, so you even think you’re spiritual, but you’re just confused. After a while, I was totally unable to discern the motivation out of which I was doing things. I was totally unable to discern, was it my own idea, was it an idea that has been implanted into me by indoctrination, was it something the Holy Spirit or my conscience told me, was it something I did out of false fear of men or God, or just to avoid all the fuss that would be stirred up if I do not conform. I became totally immature and stopped reflecting what happened around me and with me. That’s also a fruit of UBF.

  32. I believe the pain of so many losses (i’ve seen them so intimately over the last 13 years) comes from deep cultural misunderstandings.

    In Korean culture, Buddhism and confucianism remain strong. According to this, if I do something (many thousands of things!) for you, you ought to have respect and listen to me. This way, children are indebted to their parents, communities are indebted toward each other. It is understood and responded to.

    Americans, on the other hand, want to know what they will owe before you give it. If you give it, you give it freely. This is painful and hurtful to every missionary I’ve met in UBF. A simple course in American culture or intercultural communication would have solved so many of the issues. (which leads many to the question, why didn’t this get figured out long ago?)

    Korean missionaries give freely, with an inescapable desire to see something good come in return. Not to themselves (hopefully), but to God. So very many Americans turn away from this, because the expectation is pretty obvious.

    Then the pain sets in. When the pain gets too great, a missionary ends up doing something hurtful to someone. Other Korean missionaries recognize the problem and give grace and acceptance. To Americans, though, this gives a public view of secrecy, covering up. To other Korean missionaries, this develops a sense of entitlement to inappropriate behavior, and even more, to ignore people who complain about this behavior, or labelling them as painful people.

    The good people get caught between the bad people and the people who wouldn’t touch all this with a ten foot pole.

    If you think about it, we can forgive everyone.

    But if I truly repent, I must stand against “business as usual.”

    • (which leads many to the question, why didn’t this get figured out long ago?) – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/23/a-response-to-joes-open-letter/#comment-17544

      I’m speaking very generally here, but my experience has been that many missionaries in leadership positions weren’t interested in discussing culture apart from Korean culture in terms of contextualizing the gospel. Whatever misgivings Americans might have with perceived Korean culture were brushed off as spiritual problems of American culture or individuals or shot down as potentially racist. So it wasn’t just cultural insensitivity, but denial of the incarnation of the Word and the example of his apostles.

      What I found painful was the dishonesty: to the “mission” of “serving” and raising disciples and leaders from native students. At critical times, it was the best interest of missionaries that was served first and foremost. It’s perfectly fine to demand sacrifice of natives–and nothing is sacred. But asking a missionary to consider changing something to fit the culture, to remove the awkwardness caused by doing things the way “it was done in [their] chapter in Korea,” and so on, is off-limits.

      The perception is that entitlement, cultural superiority (masked as the better, most holy way of doing things), and deception accompany the missionary to the mission field. Now, I saw a few Korean missionaries that were not like this at all. But from those in leadership positions, for the most part, this is what was seen. It was so sickening to hear how a missionary was always required at a meeting to “control the spiritual environment” no matter the seniority or experience of the American shepherd also assigned (if one was assigned at all). Add to this how many missionaries didn’t speak of sheep or shepherds as brothers or sisters, but as their spiritual children who need to be treated like actual children, rather than adults. I was even told that the next director was chosen in large part because only a senior Korean missionary could be received and listened to by the other missionaries in the chapter so an American director was out of the question. How then can there be communication, understanding and love?

  33. forestsfailyou

    I can honestly say James Kim of New York UBF, that I have never seen a more disrespectful, hypocritical, phassitical person in my life. May God have mercy on your soul. Because people certainly are not.

    • forestsfailyou

      To clarify, “mrkimmathclass” is James Kim, a math teacher from NY. He is currently upset because a member of his fellowship left after a sexual abuse incident that he wishes people would quit talking about. Since the incident has been mentioned here, he finds issue with this site. This follows a facebook comment where he lamented that we would go back to the old days where you could force arranged marriage on people. He said “Personally, I liked the old system of marriage by faith. But nowadays it doesn’t work well because we cannot control each person’s all the important matters. Somehow it was much more possible before.” This was then deleted.

    • You are correct forests.

      The hypocrisy runs deep. Like Driscoll, I think some ubf leaders may actually want to get caught in some twisted pain-of-conscience manner.

      The NY situation ought to be cleared up by a call to the local police. The pain and consequences of not doing this are more harmful than the superficial appeasement of covering up the sin.

  34. (I agree Charles.) Maybe if we said “The Bible smells like *** kimchi!” That would be offensive and out of line, but calling out the abuses that we have all felt and experienced is far from being insulting, disrespectful and hurtful.

    What I haven’t been able to comprehend with the recent burst of action here is exactly what you have hit on. All pro UBFers should realize that the severity of pain felt by people still in and certainly out of UBF was most likely not the abuses alone. However, waking up one day to realize that the people you made a priority for and grew to love and care, the only people you kept close to you…threw you out in more than a manner of silence. It’s worse than being put through training of any kind. How many people have shared stories of cutting off friendships or even family relationships for the misplaced importance of the UBF anti-“community”?

    I mean, what sort of comments are expected here anyway? I know people come and go from here – I am an example…but does every comment require a 2-3 sentence opening of how the person once loved the chapter they were at and the shepherd that taught them? Not only would that be sickening after 5 minutes, but it would undermine the point of website communities such as this one.

    While in UBF everyone in a public meeting must sit down and shut up lest they be looked upon as some crazy mental patient. Only in private meetings can speaking up be moderately effective at best, and even then you are only in a position to object to the situation. There is no change or problem solving to later take place to resolve an issue – that is of course unless I am forgetting the formally arranged meeting of leaders which leads to nothing but dissatisfaction with the people involved.

    Blogs such as this one do give a needed outlet for people to process what they experienced and also let out some steam. My first comments were full of uncontrolled emotion etc…and eventually, I needed to step away for over one year before even checking back in. I do apologize to Chris for losing it online some time ago. I mean that honestly, I had to consider Chris when I returned here one week ago and I can sincerely say sorry for the online exchange shortly before I dropped out. At that time I needed to stop seeing, thinking and talking UBF….

    But I will say, that indeed we do need to be a little more patient with those still in UBF who want to see the good things. I don’t fully disagree with a couple of comments made by the obvious Korean contributors online. It is not a friendly place, however, if you will engage with people here then you must play by the open rules and transparency. None of us are overpowered by the walls of a UBF building while on this blog. We don’t need to be nice to UBF people on account of fear for consequence. We lose nothing at all and for many our lives have already gone through so much change that it is unlikely anyone will feel any remorse for an honest or even harsh word said in an online exchange.

    If anyone has been rude and hurtful here I cannot see it. I can see raw emotion for sure – but that comes from abuse and continued denial and cover ups and silence, manipulation etc…I should not, nor should anyone else here be forced to repeat the good that they experienced at UBF, the time spent in UBF is a testimony to that alone. It led for many to become leaders and pseudo chapter directors in their own right. I will say that Pro UBF people are rude and hurtful online here because there seems to be a belief that you still maintain some superior authority over the readers here when you speak. It is not full of raw emotion, but a self-assured arrogance that you are God’s servant speaking to God’s people and/or unbelieving heathens and that all of the open sharing amongst the ex-ubfers is clearly against God and from the devil.

    • Thanks gc. And honestly I already had forgotten about our clash. This also affirms what you’re saying that nobody can be really hurt deeply by harsh words from people in an online forum with whom you do not have a deep personal relationship. This is on the other hand why the abuse in UBF hurts so much, because we were together in real life for so long and in such an intense and close relationship, believing our counterparts were brothers or spiritual parents.

  35. Thanks for all the comments. This post seems to bring out “both sides,” which I think is excellent!

    Thanks also for being charitable in your responses even when you disagree and are making a rebuttal and an opposing counter-point.

    Maybe UBFriends is inclining to being a gentler and kinder website… :)))

    I pray that God willing such discussions may be the norm and may happen in more and more UBF chapters openly and publicly, rather than just online here, or in “secret private conversations” that are not privy to others in the church.

    After all the Bible–both OT and NT–discusses and reports in detail about shameful stuff publicly for the entire church to read, and uses language that would even cause UBFriends to blush!

    Happy Sunday everyone!

    • Thanks Ben. There is zero anger in all of my comments in this recent dialogue. I know some of my words are easy to portray people’s own anger onto, but I was glad to have some interaction. We don’t dismiss differences of opinions here, but we do question them.

    • mrkimmathclass

      I admit that I used some bad languages out of anger and I apologize for it. If you guys don’t use terms such as cult or darkness in ubf whatever, I don’t need to react that way. I know that ubf is not perfect church but have many issues. However, there are many good things we are doing too.
      You can say what is wrong in some ubfs and give some rooms then others might come and discuss about it.
      If you guys want to use this website only among yourselves who left ubf, please make it clear that ubfers do not join. Otherwise, you guys also need to respect prople in ubf and make this site to be a good one to improve that many people can see and learn. So far, my impression is that no matter what we do, we are wrong because we are in ubf except westloop. I am saying this not to argue but to improve and learn each other.
      Actually, some of my friends are in westloop and speak well of Dr. Ben. But, if you guys keep doing this way, this website will turn into bad one and used only for anti-ubfers, not for friends of ubf.

    • mrkim,

      “Otherwise, you guys also need to respect prople in ubf and make this site to be a good one to improve that many people can see and learn.”

      “But, if you guys keep doing this way, this website will turn into bad one and used only for anti-ubfers, not for friends of ubf.”

      So the only way to be good and to learn is to respect ubf? And if we keep an open, honest, community where people can ask about the gospel and work out Christian theology and share their genuine viewpoints, we will just be a bad website run by unfriendly anti-ubers?

      Why is it that the only thing ubf missionaries care so deeply about is whether a person is loyal to ubf or not?

      Once I asked a Korean ubf missionary about the Calvin/Armenian debate. He said that debate doesn’t matter. What matters is to go fishing. What asked what do we discuss then? He said just be anything to everybody. Whatever someone believes, you believe the same thing. Just keep doing one-to-one bible study.

      What word would you use to describe such a thing? I use the word cult.

    • mrkimmathclass, despite what has been about UBF that you would prefer not to hear, I hope that you can look past that and see how respectful others have been to you in these comments. Please also keep in mind that we were all in UBF, some of us for a long time, most of us at least 10 years. We also were hurt by such words as “cult” and we defended UBF against it, asking people to look away from what we found uncomfortable. But the reality of that word being associated with UBF doesn’t originate with this website or with the commenters here. We also had to come to terms with it and all of the uncomfortable things we found ourselves and the UBF ministry doing. The dialogues here are part of that. It can be painful and uncomfortable, and yet very good and Christ-like for the benefit of many.

    • Mr. Kim, my wife used to attend NYUBF and she tells me that you are a very kind and compassionate man. I’m taking her words at face value and so I first want to say thank you for treating my wife with kindness and contributing positively to the environment that she loved so much while she was there.

      I want to ask you a couple of questions as respectfully as I can; my intention is not offend you, rather I want to understand where you are coming from.

      1. You don’t like the fact that some bad things are said about UBF on this site. I understand why you get emotional about this, but my question is, for the sake of understanding those who may have been legitimately hurt or turned-off by some in the ministry, why can’t you put aside your passion for defending UBF? The commenters here asked some very legitimate questions about why you liked this letter. Why can’t you just simply state what that was? Furthermore, if UBF is God’s enterprise, then why do feel so strongly that you need to defend it?

      2. Why the need to call people stupid, pigs and so forth? What on earth is that accomplishing? As gospel ministers, we are to accept all kinds of persecution and being reviled for the sake of reaching out to others in God’s love. You are actually behaving as the one who is persecuting here. Do you not realize this? It’s ironic that you are decrying this website as evil, but you are directly contributing to that through your tone and accusations.

      Why so much anger?

    • mrkimmathclass

      Thank you for your comment. To answer your questions,
      1.Some of our Bible students got influenced and said something which had nothing to do in our center and stopped studying Bible. That is the main reason I involved and became emotional.

      2. It is the continuation of #1 and mixed with many conversations before.
      I am sorry that I used such languages. I am not a great Bible teacher. But still, I have desire to serve God as much as I can. But when I experience these things, I determined to involve. And there are many things people misunderstand about us. Of course, I heard also about some bad things in ubfs. But I don’t agree with the method you guys are using here.

      I want to say that we are not loyal to the church building or organization but to Jesus, our Lord. As you are a critical and independent thinker, many of us are too. We are not following leaders blindly. We are not professional Bible scholars. But we try to study Bible, understand God’s will and follow His Spirit. I hope you may understand this too.

    • If it helps, my recommendation would be to talk to the students in your chapter about what they really feel. It is likely hard for them to concentrate on Bible study again now that they feel what they do. If you speak to them heart to heart, they can then see that you’re really trying to talk to them, and then you will have a dialogue. It is a very difficult time for someone to make a choice about stopping Bible study and activities in UBF. It’s a difficult decision to make for your students. It was difficult for me.

    • Thank you, Mr. Kim for your reply. It helps me a great deal to understand where you are coming from. It can be very difficult to see students who you’ve invested leave due to influences that you don’t agree with. Can I ask if they left without willing to discuss the matter? If not, is it possible to have an open and honest dialogue with them about the matter, as Peter spoke about?

      On this site, I fully believe that people are willing to listen to your pain and concerns, even if they seem to be the opposite of what many are talking about here. I think that many here would gladly welcome a wider diversity of opinions. But you have to express yourself in a manner that is not confrontational or adversarial. If you treat others as if you value what they have to say, then they will genuinely listen to your concerns as well and be more than willing to dialogue with you.

    • I second Peter’s recommendation but for all UBF bible teachers. Please don’t bind your relationship with a person just by interacting with a text. It betrays the very text you bind yourself to, and the central person of that text.

      Ben, I’m not sure about people being on sides, at least a perceived “anti” side. I think it might be better to say that there is a concern for others and for each other.

    • mrkimmathclass

      Thanks again for your concern. Of course we do heart to heart talk. But I believe that you will understand that all bible students are in the same level. For the beginners, before they know Jesus deeply, they hear about issues in the church. And most of them are actually not happening in our church. But it doesn’t matter. They are preoccupied by such things and we should struggle not with the gospel but with the issues which we don’t have. Don’t misunderstand me. It doesn’t mean that our ubf chapter doesn’t have any problem. What I mean is that we should struggle with the entire ubf’s problem. I hope you may understand what I am saying. You know how hard it is to serve one soul.

    • “But I believe that you will understand that all bible students are in the same level.”

      I’m not the sure that this is entirely true. I think that this kind of mindset leads to interactions with students that are unnecessarily top-down in nature. And if these students are distracted by other issues in UBF, it’s because UBF has refused to address said issues in an adequate manner. The solution to the problem you stated is contained in your statement:

      “What I mean is that we should struggle with the entire ubf’s problem.”

      The degree to which we can help students to meet Jesus is directly tied to the UBF’s willingness or unwillingness to talk about these problems. Jesus says that he is the light of the world and that anyone who believes in him shall not remain in darkness. I and others here have personally experienced UBF shutting out this light. It is indeed very difficult to help one soul, especially when there are other forces at play tying your hands behind your back.

    • “But I believe that you will understand that all bible students are in the same level.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/23/a-response-to-joes-open-letter/#sthash.7wddrEh3.dpuf

      I know this line of condescending thought very well. It is prevalent. And yet people think that students cut off the fellowship (stop having Bible study) because of this website. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  36. Mark Mederich

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” (Einstein; SMARTADABBADOOYAH!:)

  37. Joe Schafer

    Perhaps I should explain why I haven’t weighed in on this discussion yet. When I first saw this article, there were already more than 40 comments. Many excellent points were made by c, MattC, Brian, Chris, and Michael, and I didn’t have a great deal to add.

    I especially appreciated the thoughtful and articulate comments by peter and gc (welcome to peter, and welcome back to gc).

    At some point in the future, I may post a detailed response to anonymous and to Augustine Sohn. But I won’t hurry. It took almost two months for me to get responses from them, so I hope I can be forgiven for taking my time. It’s better for my emotional health not to be deeply involved in these discussions right now. It’s part of the necessary process of letting go.

  38. I fully and wholeheartedly agree with your comment, Charles: “Ben, I’m not sure about people being on sides, at least a perceived “anti” side. I think it might be better to say that there is a concern for others and for each other.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/23/a-response-to-joes-open-letter/#comment-17683

    That’s why I wrote “both sides” in quotes, which is expedient, though not prudent, as you correctly pointed out. Recently, I explained my stance and position to a friend, which involves embracing “both sides” as best I can:

    “Over the years I began loving differing and dissenting and opposing views and perspectives, welcoming critical thinking, and I especially wish to learn to live out and practice the position of tertium quid, which to be honest is tough and not easy. I believe that this tenuous position is necessary to keep in step or “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal 2:14).

  39. “Some of our Bible students got influenced and said something which had nothing to do in our center and stopped studying Bible. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/23/a-response-to-joes-open-letter/#comment-17685

    Praise God that some of these adults escaped. Yes they are adults and can make their own decision. You cannot control them.

    If you don’t like the cult accusation mrkim, then don’t act like a cult. Got talk to your ubf echelon and demand they do something about the cult label from more than 8 cult watching groups for the past 50 years.

    And maybe you should properly address the issues related to why leaders also left your ministry.

    Why care so much about a new bible student who has no commitment to your ministry when long-time leaders just left your ministry? Why don’t you listen to those people who just left? Then you will know the source of your problems.

    This website is nothing more than a mirror. Do you see garbage here? Do you see pigs here? Do you see stupid people here? Then you are looking in the mirror. Wake up.

    • mrkimmathclass

      David and Ben,

      How do you think of Brian’s comment?
      He has been talking this way all the time.

    • Yes and I will continue to talk this way for another 20 years, Lord willing. Your interaction here mrkim is a clear example of the verbal abuse and spiritual abuse that I express in my books cataloging my journey of recovery from the undue bondage at ubf ministry. Your interactions here only server to fuel the Twitter feeds confirming ubf is still a cult in 2015. Perhaps you should look up the word “cult” and stop acting like a cult.

    • Mr. Kim, believe it or not, a couple of years ago my initial comment to Brian on this site was not very nice, to say the least. I felt as though he was making unfair, blanket statements about UBF. I can say at that time though, my perception of the ministry was very limited. I struggled with some weird things that I had experienced through the ministry, but was more or less happy about my home chapter. But then I began to see some of my friends, who were very involved in the ministry at the time, treated horribly and when I spoke up about this I also began to be seen as a problem or in the words of some missionaries, I seemed to have “so much sense of problem” and “too many baggages” and I was accused of “so much complaining and negativity”. At that time, I began to understand so much of what Brian and others who had left were trying to communicate. They were not listened to and they were unfairly driven from the ministry. Honestly, I don’t know if UBF is a cult or not, but I do know that quite a few people have been hurt through the ministry. I have always maintained that I will forever be grateful for the good things that I have received through many people in the ministry, but I also can’t dismiss or minimize the very real pain that some of these people have caused as well.

    • “a couple of years ago my initial comment to Brian on this site was not very nice, to say the least.”

      :) Love you DavidW!

      Ben, I have 2 articles in mind. I want to first explain what I meant below in regard to Alan’s comment.

      Joe, you are very close to what I was thinking. Actually Joe your comment is better than mine and I want to process what you are saying about the psychological aspect of this. Such a thing is fascinating to me. For now I’ll share my thoughts in my first article about this.

      I’ll consider a second article later this week about the 5 qualities of ubf (which Westloop ubf has redeemed).

    • Ditto, Brian ;)

    • Joe Schafer

      I want beer.

    • Joe, the party’s in CA! Come on over.

  40. mrkim, if I could (and I might) I would send a copy of my 3 books to every bible student at ubf. They deserve to know what they are getting into. Do you teach “kingdom of priests” ideology? Do you pass on the SL 12 heritage slogans? Do you teach “feed my sheep” and shepherding theology? Then you are building a cult.

    • mrkimmathclass

      What do you teach?
      How do you help non-Christians?

    • mrkimmathclass

      Dr. Ben,

      Do you agree with him? Are we cult?
      I want to hear from you.

  41. mrkimmathclass

    You should know that we teach Bible. We introduce them to Jesus so that they can have faith in Jesus and have joy in Jesus. When I see that even in the same ubf, people have their own different teaching style. And you are stuck to Dr. Samuel Lee and cannot get out of it even after long years he passed away. How do you think that you are counselling others? You need help too. I didn’t see Dr. Samuel Lee face to face at all. I don’t know him much. But, at least I could feel that he had heart and love even though his character was very strong. You judge him as you wanted. But, I remember what you said that we shouldn’t ever judge any one. You don’t even follow your own principle which you told us to follow.

    • Pointing out errors and unhealthy practices is not judging, or so you said on the thread about homosexuality BrianK posted recently.

      At what point is a ministry immune to criticism? What is the formula?

      We have a term, “Constructive Criticism.” It is expected that some helpful comments will make a person better.

      The Bible says, Instruct a wise man, and he will thank you. Rebuke a fool, and he will hate you.

      The problem is that many here have experienced that members, leaders and directors in UBF have more often than not been offended and extremely angry at criticism. So at what point should we say this is a problem? Or should we just ignore it forever?

      Or, as many are trying to do, should we seek to be soooo goood that our own personal behavior will show everyone that ubf does not have problems (even though it does)? The flow chart or calculation for that point escapes me.

  42. MrKim,

    You say this doesn’t happen at your chapter (from what I can tell, your chapter has had issues, though)

    You say you just teach the Bible and introduce to Jesus.

    However, I know, personally, a number of people whom I trust in Jesus. At six specific chapters they have encountered the problems we discuss in this website.

    I have heard their stories of how they tried to deal with the problems they encountered.

    What they related to me sounds exactly the way you are talking to the ubfriends community.

    UBF is sick. It needs help. It has hemorrhaged an entire generation of people about my age because of extremely combative reactions to reasonable criticism.

    All of the ones I knew, I heard it was because of their lack of faith. However, when I actually talk to them, in their words, they have very real issues with how they were treated, but were not allowed to discuss it.

    I’ve experienced this same treatment in my chapter, seen it at regular conferences, and experienced it as well national staff conferences. I’ve seen tinges of it in Africa, Europe and Asia.

    And still you keep redoubling your efforts to make a fool of yourself by insulting everyone whose opinion disagrees with you.

    You may not have met Dr. Lee, but the way you are discussing things is extreme and full of anger and judgment. I’m sure you learned this was ok from someone. It’s not really. At all. Then I hear stories that this kind of thing was also happening around him. From people who saw it.

    If I tell you the truth, it’s because I love you.

    If I stop telling you the truth, it means I’m praying for you but you lost me.

  43. I apologize for triple posting! After this I will take a break and try to listen more.

    Seriously, I have lost nearly 15 people that I respected in the Lord. When I hear many Korean missionaries talking about their situation, none of them have ever said, awww, that is too bad. It didn’t need to happen that way. All of them have either ignored or “whitewashed” the situation. I even heard the wife of the director at New York tell me, when I was feeling bad that a shepherd in our ministry was not really treated well, tell me, “Some people just aren’t called (or don’t have the heart) for campus ministry.” This is such an understatement as to appear a complete lie or delusion, or at the very least, a deep disconnect.

    And my friend, these were people I shared the truth of the Bible. They knew how to study it, and they could see that something was not right. And they’re gone. Many of them, through my personal relationship with them, I know to be more trustworthy than most “missionaries” i’ve met in this organization.

    You seem to know math. In Math (or any research) if you ignore the data to suit your theory, you will be wrong. Any theory must come from the whole of data as much as possible.

    I hope you will forgive me if I’m wrong, but not only me but a number of senior leaders in UBF are very concerned about the fact that so many things are looked over.

    I urge you to try to listen carefully. Moreover, I fear that many are trying to keep you and anyone else from hearing.

  44. mrkimmathclass

    Dr. Ben,
    How about you? I want to hear from you.
    Do you also say that ubf is cult?
    When do you say that a church is cult?
    Is it a cult or a church but has problems or issues in her?

  45. Joe Schafer

    This discussion is fascinating because it is so predictable.

    This is what I see happening.

    Brian says, “UBF is a cult.”

    mrkimmathclass thinks that what Brain says is too extreme. Brian must be too angry, too emotional, too biased. mrkimmathclass is willing to admit that UBF has some problems (without saying precisely what they are) but he thinks that Brian’s claim is so outrageous that it must be dismissed. After all, mrkimmathclass has been in NYUBF for a long time, he knows UBF from the inside, he knows that there are good people in UBF, so anyone who calls UBF a cult is not seeing things objectively and must be badly biased. mrkimmathclass is on the verge of leaving the conversation because Brian is so unreasonable and talking to him is like casting pearls to swine. But before mrkimmathclass leaves, he wants to know what Ben Toh thinks, because Ben Toh is still in UBF and has some credibility.

    My question is:

    Why does mrkimmatchclass think/know that he is more objective than Brian?

    • Joe Schafer

      mrkimmathclass, would you be willing to read this article about perceptions of bias?


      If not, please try to read and understand the abstract from the article. It’s not too difficult to understand.


      Human judgment and decision making is distorted by an array of cognitive, perceptual and motivational biases. Recent evidence suggests that people tend to recognize (and even overestimate) the operation of bias in human judgment – except when that bias is their own. Aside from the general motive to self-enhance, two primary sources of this ‘bias blind spot’ have been identified. One involves people’s heavy weighting of introspective evidence when assessing their own bias, despite the tendency for bias to occur nonconsciously. The other involves people’s conviction that their perceptions directly reflect reality, and that those who see things differently are therefore biased. People’s tendency to deny their own bias, even while recognizing bias in others, reveals a profound shortcoming in self-awareness, with important consequences for interpersonal and intergroup conflict.

    • Mark Mederich

      hey anybody casting pearls, i’m glad be called “succulent bacon swine” (with pearls in mouth i’d laugh all way to bank:)

  46. mrkim,

    I hope you realize how ironic this discussion is given that Joe’s article here is asking some pointed questions. If ubf was not a cult, then we should be able to get answers to Joe’s questions.

    Your lack of concern for ubf as an organization is appalling, and one of the reasons I resigned in protest. Everyone at ubf just cared for themselves and their own chapter except for Ben and Westloop. and Joe and Sharon–they cared for me, they cared for the organization. But the organization leaders don’t want to change. Don’t like the cult label, then do something about it instead of criticizing us (the very people trying to do something abou the cult label).

    Do you think I enjoy the cult label? How demeaning is it to have to admit that I was a cult leader and stayed in a cult for 24 years? But I am happier and at peace now that I’ve come to terms with this.

    We already discussed this topic ad nauseam in Ben’s article:

    Are ubf Leaders Cult Leaders?

    There are many cult-watch groups that have files on ubf for decades:

    Information about ubf as a cult or a cult-like group

    This one is the most clear to me:

    “Shepherding/Discipleship teaching emphasizes the necessity of each “sheep,” or Christian disciple, submitting to a “shepherd,” or church elder charged by God with responsibility for the spiritual development of the sheep. The shepherd is in turn submitted to another spiritual elder, and so on up the chain of submissions to the “apostles” at the apex of the characteristic pyramidal structure that links both individuals and groups within the movement.

    While Christian Growth Ministries, Crossroads, and Maranatha are among the most prominent of the shepherding organizations, there are many others. Most of these are self-contained; that is, they retain the internal sheep-shepherd structure, but may or may not include the pyramidal hierarchy that culminates in a nationwide or international organization. Among these groups are “Gathering of Believers,” led by Larry Tomczak; Carl Stevens’ “The Bible Speaks,” Hobart Freeman’s “Faith Assembly;” “Last Days Ministries,” founded by the late Keith Green; “University Bible Fellowship;” and “Champaign-Urbana Ministries.”

    CIS of NorthEast Ohio – shepherding problems

    ubf has shown up in many newspapers and TV reports as well:

    ubf in the newspapers

    • mrkimmathclass

      Thanks Joe.
      Now I can say that it is useless to discuss here. Based on what I see, you guys are in darkness and practice cult. And you guys have no room to talk openly and just blame ubf leaders for not responding. I know some of you were mistreated by some immature people but also there are people who lie and exaggerate. Now I understand why they don’t answer you. It is pointless. Their answer will be another food for your dark scheme. I believe that many people already talked to you before and felt the same I do. Only one-sided talking and criticizing is not discussion.

      Dr. Ben,
      I am disappointed with you. Some of my friends spoke well of you but I believe that they don’t know you enough. You could point out my language but cannot see your team members’ behavior. I don’t understand why you use the name UBF for your church. Isn’t it deceiving innocent people? You should change the name if you think that UBF is cult.

    • Joe Schafer

      “And you guys have no room to talk openly and just blame ubf leaders for not responding.”

      Hmm… I guess I need to go directly to UBF leaders and talk to them privately and respectfully about the problems I have seen and experienced.

      Never thought of that before.

      Thanks for the helpful tip!

    • “you guys have no room to talk openly and just blame ubf leaders for not responding.”

      Yea our 17,451 comments, 571 articles by 46 authors over 5 years equates to not being open to talk… our allowing you to come here anc call us blind, foolish pigs means and respond with you means we are not open to talk… good grief mrkim!

      “I believe that many people already talked to you before and felt the same I do. Only one-sided talking and criticizing is not discussion.”

      BINGO! Yep, the Korean ubf missionaries are SO predictable. They talked to me the same way you speak here. And yes it is only one-sided talking — YOUR side! ubf Koreans always say “There are 2 sides to every story.” And yet they are unwilling to hear our side. What they mean is there is the praise-ubf/good/godly side and the dark/anti-ubf/evil side.

    • However it is done, labeling people or groups of people is often not useful in discussion or in understanding others. See https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/alternative-truths/201005/why-its-dangerous-label-people. “Categorical labeling is a tool that humans use to resolve the impossible complexity of the environments we grapple to perceive. Like so many human faculties, it’s adaptive and miraculous, but it also contributes to some of the deepest problems that face our species.”

      Aside from what we are calling each other, from what I know pretty much everyone commenting here is, by the grace of God, quite a decent person.

      I empathize deeply with Mr. Kim, but Joe, Brian, Chris, Charles, Matt and others who have spoken out here are not wrong. And some of us, while genuinely trying to serve Jesus in UBF, are profoundly ashamed of some things that have been done in the name of UBF and really want to do something constructive about it.

    • You raise a valid point, aw. Categorical labeling is not always helpful. The counterpoint though is we need correct labels in order to understand our world around us.

      You are a high-profile leader of a high-pressure, authoritarian Korean-led group like ubf. AW, you are someone who can make great impact to this organization. So for you to say “labels don’t help” is a slap in the face.

      I’ve learned so much from the gay and lesbian community in this matter:

      What you are doing when you take labels away

      1) making it harder to combat oppression
      2) inhibiting communication, in the most basic sense
      3) helping the people who think we don’t exist
      4) contributing to heteronormativity (in our case ubf-normity)
      5) telling us that we don’t deserve things that make us feel good

    • Joe Schafer

      Labels are a mental shortcut that we use to make sense of a complex world. There are labels that I want to apply to myself (e.g. scientist, cautious thinker, Christian, …) and I am pleased if other people apply those labels to me. But I don’t like it when people reduce me to a label. For example, a member of the UBF senior staff once said that I was a typical Harvard graduate (by which he meant that I was a know-it-all, full of myself, etc.) He used that label to dismiss my concerns and avoid talking about the issues that I had raised. In another context, calling me a Harvard graduate would have been ok, but in that case it was a conversation stopper. I suspect that mrkimubf is sometimes happy to be called a Korean missionary, but he doesn’t like it when he feels that the label is being used to objectify or dismiss him.

      The United States has conducted a census every ten years since 1790. In every census, there has been a question about race, but the wording of the question has changed every time, because the meaning and perception of racial categories and labels is always in flux. One of the changes proposed for the 2020 census is the inclusion of a new racial category for Middle Eastern or North African (MENA). We published a notice about this in the Federal Register to elicit public comment. About 30,000 responses came in, with more than 96% in favor of adding MENA. This is a label that some people really want to apply to themselves, for good reasons.

    • Sorry Brian, what I said what was not meant to be a slap in the face.

      I didn’t say, “they don’t help” but they are “often not useful in discussion or understanding others.” But your counterpoint is well taken.

    • Fair enough Alan. I suppose we could drop the cult label from discussions here if a certain person would drop the stupid, foolish, blind, pig labels :)

    • Joe Schafer

      Brian wrote: “Yep, the Korean ubf missionaries are SO predictable. They talked to me the same way you speak here. And yes it is only one-sided talking — YOUR side! ubf Koreans always say “There are 2 sides to every story.” And yet they are unwilling to hear our side. What they mean is there is the praise-ubf/good/godly side and the dark/anti-ubf/evil side.”

      What Brian wrote probably sounds deeply offensive. It contains exaggeration and hyperbole, as human conversation often does. A Korean missionary could very well object to this, saying that Brian has exaggerated and because of that his comment should be dismissed and he should be ignored. A missionary could use this as justification for refusing to talk to Brian or to any vocal critic of UBF.

      But with some allowance for hyperbole, my observations and experiences agree with Brian’s statement. Some missionaries have been willing to listen and talk about these difficult subjects. But at the end of the day, their response (at best) is basically what Brian said: “There are two sides to that story…” I know one missionary who doesn’t do that, but he is no longer functioning as a ubf missionary. It might seem unfair to diss all Korean missionaries as acting like mrkimubf. But in my experience, his reactions are the prototypical, modal response (except for silence).

    • You are correct Joe. After swimming in the ubf hyperbole and exaggeration world, I find that I have adopted the same mechanisms as I was taught.

      If any ubf person does not like the way I interact, then you should probably not have trained me so well! I am the result of 24 years of ubf training with one exception–I am no longer loyal or obedient to the Korean ubf authorities.

      If anyone sees something inspiring or encouraging in my words, it is probably due to my connections with Christian pastors and my processing of my ubf training.

    • Mark Mederich

      “profoundly ashamed of some things that have been done in the name of UBF and really want to do something constructive”: let’s start by helping the injured recover, otherwise just trying to not damage more individuals (or even trying to buildup) is necessary but not sufficient modus operandi

  47. Mark Mederich

    does it really matter what something is called? does it really matter if it always is something?

    what matters is: at any moment &/or in any respects that something is wrong/unhealthy it damages people, so it must be corrected immediately as of first importance…(like it should have been decades ago) or decades from now, many more can have been damaged/unrecovered…impotent discussion without change would continue which is exactly what no-intention-to-change transgressors count on to continue enjoying/reaping benefits of business as usual..

    (applies not only to this, but generally to religio/educatio/politico/etcetero maladaptive operations)

    • Right, Mark. Instead of arguing about cult vs church or trying to erase information from Wikipedia, or obtaining stamps of approval from various Christian pastors, ubf people ought to just accept what the public has observed about their organization and go fix it.

      If ubf does not want to be labeled a cult then they should prove themselves to not be a cult. mrkim has only deepened the public perception that ubf is indeed a cult.

      The starting point for ubf leaders would be to accept my two demands I have made repeatedly for 4 years:

      1) Admit the abuse. Confess the wrongdoing that has happened in nearly all ubf chapters for decades.

      2) Release the bonds. Declare that sheep do not have to obey their personal shepherds.

      Then they should work on fixing the flawed un-Christian KOPAHN shepherding theology. Namely these 5 points to begin with:

      1) Family neglect.

      The first reason ubf is a cult is because they teach neglect of family. Using proof-texted ideas from the bible, they claim that it is more spiritual and pleasing to God to sacrifice your family and be mission-centered. ubf is now your family. Don’t believe me? Then try this. Share a testimony at ubf entitled “God’s will is to be family-centered. One word: I love my family.” And then skip a ubf meeting for a family event. You can expect to find many angry and sad faces when you return. To say you are “family-centered” at ubf means you are unspiritual, sinful and in danger of losing God’s approval according to ubf teaching. They further disrespect family by the requirement that every ubf shepherd must go through their arranged marriage process called “marriage by faith”.

      2) Identity breaking.

      The second reason ubf is a cult is because they are identity snatchers. They encourage you to adopt the viewpoint that your pre-ubf life is bad, sinful, unspiritual and the like. Your new ubf life is now good, holy and pleasing to God if you adopt the “Shepherd X” identity. To make a decision to be a ubf shepherd means everything to ubf people. Your pre-ubf identity is chipped away and cut out, meeting by meeting, until you lose touch with your authentic self. This is done in the name of self-denial and taking up your cross, strongly bound to more proof-texted ideas from bible verses. Dr. Hassan describes this as the cult identity, and it has just enough of “you” to make it seem real. ubf breaks you down through sleep deprivation at numerous conferences, continual indoctrination at daily meetings and repeated reminders of your shortcomings. Your identity becomes assimilated into the ubf community, as your life becomes intertwined with other members’ lives.

      3) Decision control.

      The third reason ubf is a cult is that the shepherds at ubf manipulate the members (called sheep) to control and check their life decisions, such as who to marry, when to marry, where to work, where to live, etc. The supreme values of most ubf people are loyalty and obedience to the ubf authorities. The leaders take control of people’s lives. Some leaders are called directors because they are charged with directing the affairs of their own chapter or sub-community within the ubf network. ubf leaders live a scripted life. Going “off script” is rarely tolerated, especially for repeated offenses. ubf leaders have a very difficult time in any situation where they cannot control the outcome.

      4) Culture destruction.

      The fourth reason ubf is a cult organization is that they destroy the culture of the host countries they send missionaries to. They consider American or German or Mexican culture to be bad or at best only useful for propagating the ubf culture. Being Korean is not bad. There are many good things about Koreans. But ubf missionaries from Korea have made the big mistake of imposing their own culture onto the countries where they go. A survey of people in ubf once asked people to describe their own ministry in one word. The most repeated word was simply “Korean”. ubf missionaries tend to ignore their host country culture and often speak of being “re-charged” by going back to Korea for a visit. After several years at ubf, a member discovers that they speak with Korean-english, eat Korean food and value the Korean Confucian ideas of loyalty, nobility, authority, etc. They also find a great disdain for their own culture.

      5) Abuse of all kinds.

      The final and most important reason why ubf is a harmful cult is because many incidents of abuse have been covered over since 1961 when ubf began in Korea. It is surprisingly well known among ubf leaders that there are incidents of sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse and authority abuse. ubf teaches “covering doctrine”, which means leaders’ sins cannot be discussed or challenged in any way. They teach the notion that it is your duty to hide the abuse or sin of a leader. This flawed theology is again proof-texted from the bible with almost no reality check with the thousands of Christian authors and preachers who would expose such teachings. ubf has created an environment where abuse is swept under the rug and corruption thrives under the pretty masks of the appearance of godliness.

    • Brian, I’m not trying to stir anything up here (maybe I am :D), but being the cheeky fellow that I am, your comment seems worthy of being a featured lead article.

      Also, Brian, you may want to consider officially making your two demands from four years ago to the Ethics Committee, similar to what Joe did with his open letter.

    • Joe Schafer

      Yes, Brian’s comment is well constructed and worthy of an article.

      And UBF leaders and committed members are likely to dismiss Brian’s comments as absurd.

      I’m halfway through this book http://www.amazon.com/Willful-Blindness-Ignore-Obvious-Peril/dp/0802777961 and it’s really helpful to explain why.

      For example, in response to Brian’s point #3, UBF leaders will say, “No one is manipulating me. Everything that I do in UBF, I do willingly, by my own decision.”

      From their perspective, that is true. They do not perceive themselves as being pressured or manipulated.

      Experimental psychology has demonstrated that people are notoriously unaware of how they are being influenced, both in their opinions and in their perceptions of physical reality.

      “The distinguishing feature of conformity is that it is implicit and feels voluntary.”

      “The scientists concluded that the areas of the brain responsible for perception are altered by social influences… When asked in a debriefing questionnaire how they explained their conforming errors, the participants had no sense of having conformed; they believed that they has all reached the same decisions purely serendipitously. They may have thought that they’d made a free choice where in fact, they had not.”

    • Mark Mederich

      “It is surprisingly well known among ubf leaders that there are incidents of sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse and authority abuse.”: it will no longer be tolerated (the injured deserve justice)/public forum will increasingly be sought, leading to world-wide investigation/consequence/necessary reparation.

  48. Wow! At this point I wanted to process more and reflect on David’s article, but alas this thread is spiraling out of control.

    Mr. Kim, it is not useless to discuss here on ubfriends, but, you cannot come here and demand that people not share their honest experience after being in and serving at a UBF chapter. If you wanted to know why people have called UBF a cult, just read the comments.

    Mr. Kim, you have failed to answer many questions and in fact you jumped out and over to this article instead of answering questions about sexuality and sin.

    People are giving you a lot of their time and energy – many of us are overlooking David’s article, which was actually his sermon!!!

    Why does the label of cult bother you so much? Who do you think of when you hear that word? Shinchonji?

    The fact is you keep emphasizing that UBF shepherds/missionaries teach the Bible. That may be so explicitly, but implicitly all UBF leaders teach their unwritten oral law and code. Most matters in life are met with imperatives and failure to comply with the story line results in shaming and/or training of some sort.

    People have already made clear that the UBF Bible study is not satisfactory because of the proof texting to support campus mission and the UBF life styled community.

    If you were going to ask, yes, I am in UBF, but I do see these issues as important and worth making a dialogue or because I too have experienced a lot of questionable things while in the ministry.

  49. mrkim, you wrote:

    “Now I can say that it is useless to discuss here.”

    Hasn’t that been your purpose all along? Your very first comment to us was a drive-by praise bomb on the first pro-ubf article we’ve had in awhile,and that is quite revealing. You steam-rolled the discussions into other articles just to show how anti-ubf some of us are here.

    • Mark Mederich

      it isn’t really a question of anti-ubf, but anti-wrongs in ubf or anywhere else in the world, that must be addressed in order to correct so as to save many from damaging ways:)

  50. aw

    “Sorry Brian, what I said what was not meant to be a slap in the face.”

    Please take a step back for a moment… this comment reveals the heart of my issues with ubf trained people and ubf leaders in the ubf echelon such as yourself. All that is wrong with ubf and the one thing ubf needs to change to become a Christian church is captured in this one snapshot. This is the seed of hypocrisy that needs changing.

    To our silent readers: Everything wrong with ubf and every single reason I say ubf is a harmful cult are summed up in that statement above made by the Vice President of UBF.

    Let that sink in. If some people process this thought, I’ll come back and explain what I mean by this.

    • Hint: If you watch the US TV show MythBusters you might be familiar with a quote by Adam Savage that begins to explain what I am talking about. The quote originated in a 1974 episode of Doctor Who entitled The Deadly Assassin. Free beer for the first person to correctly surmise what why I say all of ubf’s problems are contained in Alan’s one sentence above.

    • I reject your reality and substitute my own.

    • Kudos Charles! Looks like I’ll be making a trip to California to buy Charles a beer! I will share my detailed thoughts in an article.

    • :) you’re welcome any time! I’ll claim it if I happen to be in the Detroit area first

    • Joe Schafer

      My quick attempt, probably not worthy of free beer…

      I am not sure what the MythBusters/Dr Who quote is.

      Here is what I observed. Please make allowances for exaggeration and hyperbole.

      Alan (a UBF leader) suddenly jumped in to the conversation and began by saying, “However it is done, labeling people or groups of people is often not useful in discussion or in understanding others.”

      Later, Alan said that it was not meant to be “a slap in the face.”

      Alan’s original comment could have been meant as
      * a not-so-subtle rebuke of Brian for making offensive generalizations about Korean missionaries, or
      * a not-so-subtle rebuke of mrkimmathclass for any number of offensive things he said, or
      * both.

      We don’t know what Alan’s intent was, because Alan didn’t say what he meant clearly or directly. Rather, Alan tried to stand above the situation, making a general statement about principles that was intended to instruct and teach others. Thus Alan, perhaps unknowingly, placed himself into the role of a teacher/leader/expert/disciplemaker, casting Brian and mrkimubf and anyone else within earshot as the student/follower/novice/disciple.

      This is a technique that I recognize, because we typical Harvard graduates do it all the time. But if I learned it at Harvard, I perfected it in UBF.

      Ever since UBF missionaries landed on American soil, they cast themselves into the role of teachers/leaders/experts/disciplemakers who were going to save poor Americans from our worthless, namby-pamby, lazy-ass compromised cultural ChristianityLite with their potent, high-octane, ultra-disciplined, paramilitary version of ChristianityPlus and remake natives into their image as world class spiritual Marines and Green Berets. That attitude of superiority has never been put aside, and in one way or another, it still present almost in every interaction that UBF leaders have with their members, former members and nonmembers.

    • Joe Schafer

      OK, I got the MythBusters/Dr Who quote now.

    • Hi Brian,

      My comment about labels was meant to apply to Mr. Kim as much as anyone else. I was not denying your experiences or trying invalidate your conclusions about them but was trying to help the discussion itself to focus on the experiences. Please don’t try to label me because of your perception of what being in the “ubf echelon” means.

    • Joe Schafer

      For the record, I appreciate Alan and his willingness to listen and engage.

      I was trying to guess what Brian meant.

  51. Mark Mederich

    “student/follower/novice/disciple”: that was of God’s Law before Jesus & of Jesus while he walked earth but since then of Holy Spirit, never of mere man..that is mistake from pit of hell made by or perpetuated for benefit of Jew then Christian, imitating debased world:(
    Jesus WAS before Abraham, therefore thru Holy Spirit we ARE: so from now on I AM:>