Why I Say UBF is a Cult

cdAs promised, here is my third installment in my three part article series. I am well aware of the provocative title in this third article. This is intentional because as a non-Korean UBF shepherd for over 20 years, I found only two ways to share my perspectives with Korean missionaries at UBF and to raise issues and pains of conscience with them. Those two ways are to 1) use the cult label and 2) leave, or threaten to leave, UBF. Here is my attempt to comprehensively and concisely share my thoughts on this subject.

My Resistance to the Cult Label

It must be noted first that the term cult did not come from me. I resisted this label for decades. Even after leaving, I wrestled with whether to use this term or not. In the past, I was “Mr. UBF” and argued intensely to defend the UBF organization for many years (2002 to 2007). I worked with Sarah Barry and others to erase negative information about UBF on the internet. I called Mr. Fisk of the NAE to argue in favor of re-instating UBF to the NAE organization. So for most of my life I hated the cult label and fought hard to remove it.

In 2008 I met John Jun at a UBF staff conference breakfast and listened to him gleefully tell me how UBF lawyers had removed the threat of Chris and his ubf-hate website. My eyes began opening to the facts.

In 2009 or so I discovered that James Kim (of Toledo UBF) had died. I was furious that no one told me so that I could attend his funeral. I was told another James Kim drove Paul Hong and Mark Gamber to the funeral. After this I decided to read the entire letters of James Kim and Rebekah Kim. I highly recommend reading these and processing them. Charles recently posted the links in a comment here.

Where does the cult label come from?

I began researching the issue online in the following years. I have now built up my priestly>nation website as a resource for links to everything related to UBF. One major resource is my list of links to newspaper articles that mention UBF as a cult, most of which pre-date the widespread use of the internet. The cult label started being applied to UBF right away in Korea and later in 1977, after missionaries from Korea UBF went to Canada.


There are now many organizations that have files on UBF. The primary two, in the West at least, are from Rick Ross and Steven Hassan. Both websites have a wealth of information about undue religious influence and how to cope with such influence. Both have extensive documentation about UBF.

The cult label came from the public. That is the primary way the public still sees ubf in 2015.

Cult Education Institute

Freedom of Mind Resource Center

What does the term cult mean?

My first source is Merriam-Webster’s dictionary.

: a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion and that has beliefs regarded by many people as extreme or dangerous

: a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much

: a small group of very devoted supporters or fans


The cult label conjures up a lot of emotion and images but in itself, the word cult is not bad. For example, I am a full-fledged “member” of the Star Wars cult! I love all things Star Wars. In this sense, the term cult refers to the fanaticism that can surround many things. Some see a Jesus fan-club cult in the West. These things are not necessarily dangerous or harmful; just a phenomena.

Qualities of Cults in Religion

In the religious realm, the word cult takes on a different nuance. Lifton and Singer are two of the most robust thinkers in the use of the word cult in religion. In my 24 year experience at UBF and my 4 years experience outside UBF has given me thousands of examples of how Toledo UBF and UBF HQ fits into the realm of the religious use of the cult label.

Lifton’s Three Qualities of a Cult

  • A charismatic leader, who increasingly becomes an object of worship as the general principles that may have originally sustained the group lose power.
  • A process [is in use] call[ed] coercive persuasion or thought reform.
  • Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

Singer’s Three Qualities of a Destructive Cult

  • The origin of the group and role of the leader.
  • The power structure, or relationship between the leader[s] and the followers.
  • The use of a coordinated program of persuasion, which is called thought reform [or more commonly, ‘brainwashing'”].

I would urge everyone to read the material on the FAQ at the Cult Education Institute and make up your own mind. The six most liberating words ever spoken to me were from John Armstrong: “I will not bind your conscience”. So while I use the term cult, everyone here is free to disagree. I only ask that we are able to discuss reasons why we disagree.


What kind of cult is ubf?

Clearly ubf was a personality cult from 1961 to 2002, the span of Samuel Lee’s influence. There are still many pockets of personality cult life in various ubf chapters where there is a strongly narcissistic leader who needs some sort of narcissistic supply to function. My term for ubf is that the organization as a whole is a destructive ideology cult. Here are seven reasons why.

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 that is not acknowledged.

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. While most ubf chapters are free of the sexual or physical types of abuse, verbal abuse and financial abuse is widespread.

6) Glory story fabrication

The ubf mindset is prone to rejecting perspectives and valuing intention over facts. mrkimmathclass is correct in that I was foolish to break into James Kim’s house. Who would do such a thing? No one ordered us to do that with a direct command. The reason we did such a thing is that we were fed glory stories–we believed the narrative that James and his family had asked Toledo UBF for help to move while they were in Houston. We believed the glory story that we were blessing them to become missionaries. At the time we had no idea about the god-father power struggles with Samuel Lee. That is why we were so confused when James and Rebekah were SO furious when they returned. Didn’t they appreciate our help? Why are they so angry and unthankful? Well now I understand because I faced the facts of that situation.

7) KOPAHN/12 slogans/shepherding ideology

We’ve already discussed the “kingdom of priest and holy nation” shepherding flaws extensively here. I have no desire to talk about such things but you can read all about these teachings that are so highly prized and even guarded by a new ubf website. If your ubf chapter has not specifically addressed these ideological flaws, you are still in the cult.



Why did I join? Why did I stay? Why did I leave?

In my books (which are onsale now 3 for the price of 1!) I share all about these three questions. My second book, “Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives” is where I process these questions directly.

I joined because of the promise of goodness. ubf offered many low-commitment/high-reward promises. They offered a noble dream of being a shepherd, which I was keen to since I had wanted to be a Catholic priest since I was 16 years old. The poured on my much praise and flattery. Mixed in with all this was a genuine spiritual awakening due to my father’s death in 1989. I had joined ubf in 1987.

I stayed for 24 years, until 2011, because the ubf ideology redefined goodness. What is good? Well going to the ubf activities is good! Everything else is bad, even family. The ubf system is primarily what I rail against, all of which fed my own desire for glory:

  • Six Stages of Training
  • One Cult Identity
  • Three Layers of Burden
  • Four Elements of Control
  • Twelve Heritage Slogans

I left due to my discovery of goodness. I started reading about Spurgeon and the gospel of Christianity. The goodness of transformation by the Holy Spirit overcame me when I read Christian books. The goodness of a virtual community (like ubfriends) brought much peace and light and healing to my soul. And the goodness of LGBTQIA people who accepted me helped me re-connect with goodness again. Most importantly my wife and mother and all my family became my bedrock of goodness again.

Here is a quote from my second book:

“For the most part, I feel that I was drawn out of UBF. One could say the Holy Spirit lead me to UBF and lead me away from UBF in order to display God’s goodness. That drawing out began in 2003 when my family moved to Detroit as UBF pioneers. My time in Toledo UBF was intensely regulated the entire 16 years, being consumed by attending UBF meetings on a daily basis. But my time in Detroit was free of such meetings. For the most part, our family was left alone. The downside of this was that we felt abandoned and had no support to actually build up a Christian church. The upside was that we had no more direct supervision from UBF missionaries. We were free! I used this time at first to defend UBF ideologies on the internet. But it was quickly pointed out to me by former UBF members that my situation as a “pioneering” family was very different from normal a UBF experience. I could not but agree. And one by one, all my defenses of UBF fell apart. I desperately wanted to defend the organization that I had given my blood, sweat and tears for. As my defenses fell apart, I began seeking Christian writings and sermons. I fell in love with the work of Charles Spurgeon. I met my grandparents’ pastor several times and read some of the Christian books he gave me. All this lead me to have a strong desire for community.”

One final note

In the end it was and has been the gospel of Jesus Christ that set me free from UBF ideology and is breaking every chain!  Please read Isabelle’s book and process all these things:  “I Choose: Subtlety in Cults


  1. HappyPinnky

    Before you continue your list, I highly suggest you to travel around chapters, adopt pseudoname, and see if many of points you mentioned still happen.

    At least in my brief observations and conversations, they don’t always happen.

    Brian is this what you do all day? Sit in from of desktop write books about ubf and criticize it?

    Seriously, go out and meet some ubf people.

    Would you be kind to call upon all western churches who sent out missionaries to orient and east centuries ago and today to repent of hidden racism, cultural destruction, decision control of local groups, imposition of western style of doing thins, western styles of scriptural interpretation, and for many many other things?

    I suppose you are a member of Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Would you ask them to repent for tolerating rampant sexual promiscuity of its memebers? For the wrong ps their misionaries have done years ago in other countries?

    Because to my knowledge a lot of western churches did not officially repent of things I have mentioned.

    Maybe you should diversify your criticsm to include more groups. That way u will be more credible.

    • “Seriously, go out and meet some ubf people.”

      For the past 28 years I have met hundreds of ubf people. Every month ubf people call me or contact me and discuss ubf problems. I have read every one of the 153 ex-ubf testimonies on the internet. I have visited more than 30 ubf chapters in 7 countries. I have had dinner with Abraham T Kim and James Kim (former President of ubf). I have met for over 6 hours in one sitting with Sarah Barry herself. I have had hundreds of hours meeting with all levels of ubf people in the past 5 years. I have met Mark Yoon for 3 hours in a coffee shop in Detroit 2 years ago. I have spent thousands of hours the past 5 years discussing many things with ubf people via more than 3,000 emails.

      How many ubf people have you met and talked with?

    • yellowblossom

      I sincerely would like to thank you Brian. I am currently in what I would call the crossroads . I’ve been in a UBF chapter for 10 years. I was fished on the campus. This is my 11th year. To all who do not know about UBF and the intensity of the ideologies, the testimonies, the time commitment ….every word Brian says matches my experience and I am sure the experience of many others.

      I ve believed in this ideology for a decade and met Christ personally in this church. My bible teacher/ shepherd is like my own family to me. It is intensely painful to think about that a church that can bring people to the Bible and that I believe God IS using for His purpose of preaching the gospel, could also be so corrupt in the heart of its system.

      Yesterday , the same day when I read this article, I was suggested yet again to marry by faith. But see… To marry in UBF is not to just marry…it’s to support a mission life that is becoming less and less of an option for my spiritual health. I wish it wasn’t so…I wish I could convince myself that it’s all in my head…but it is not. My first proposed arrangement failed and I only can thank the Holy Spirit. Since then, the UBF activity only intensified. If I could describe how I am feeling…it is something as frightening as my heart being bruised over and over and over. I do not have peace about neither leaving or staying. For those of you who are not in UBF…and this has been revealed to me subtly over time…the leader of the chapter is equated with God..lntentionally or not.

      He is making the decisions, and we are all following the pyramid structure. Now you might ask …why is it that since I know this, I remain. The answer…I do not know. I still have hope it will change…but the hope is bleaker and bleaker. I pray to Jesus he will change this ministry or tear it down completely. There are so many lives in my chapter I care about,t hey r like my family….yet now I feel like leaving Maybe the only option.

      My eyes are being opened all throughout this year as I have been attending another church here and there, and reading christian books and making connections with other Christians and friends outside of UBF. There is much I am thankful for to my chapter, but my resolution remains….this system must change.

    • Hello yellowblossom and welcome! If you want to change your picture on your comments, click the “Howdy” button in the upper right corner after logging in, then click “Edit Profile”. There is a place to upload your own photo.

      The reason I speak and write is because time after time after time people have told me just what you say here. You are not alone; many people here share your exact experiences.

      It is uncanny how precisely exactly and perfectly similar hundreds of people’s experiences can be! This is because we are all trained by the same system. We were systematically conditioned and conformed to KOPAHN shepherding ideology.

      There is much to process here, and you are welcome to reach out to me for coffee or a Skype call if you want. Grace and peace.

    • Welcome yellowblossom.

      Only after ten years of UBF I found that I was not alone with my observerations about UBF. Thanks to websites like this one it’s much easier nowadays to find out that you’re not alone than it was in my time. And be assured you’re not alone. Like Brian, I read hundreds of testimonies and spoke directly with many dropouts (including many Korean dropouts) and all I heard was pretty similar, even though people came from different chapters and countries. Today I understand that this is because all the chapters and their directors operated based on a common set of practices and beliefs that has been set up and refined by Samuel Lee, imposed on UBF members via pyramid like authoritarian structure, information flow and manipulative methods. This is what I call the “UBF system”. I’m not a friend of the UBF system, but I’m a friend of UBF people since most of them are sincere and try to love God and their neigbours as best as they can. I believe that following the UBF system over several years hurts people, damages their souls, and displeases God – even if people have initially found peace and meaning in life through UBF. As you say, it’s difficult to reconcile these two things with each other. Naively you would think a ministry must be either “God’s work” or not. But in reality it’s not so easy.

      The phenomenon of spiritual abuse exists and is wide-spread in many Evangelical churches. However, there are churches in which spiritual abuse is really “baked into the system” and UBF is one of them. Ronald Enroth wrote about this in his book “churches that abuse” – UBF was in fact one of his examples. And this was long before Brian, Joe, I or other people on this site started to see it. It may be helpful for you to read such books, and books about cults and their methods in general. This will really open your eyes to discern what is healthy and what is not. You will also start to see that certain problems are not unique to UBF, but will inevitably happen if leaders establish systems with certain characteristics. I remember a testimony from a dropout of the ICoC (which is a group similar to UBF) in which he wrote “first they save you – then they enslave you.”

      It’s also helpful to see how even the Bible warns of these very things. For instance, Galatians 5 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” So here you have it, even in the early days of the church there were already people who wanted to enslave fellow believers. It’s nothing new. Even physical abuse happened, as you read in 2 Cor 11: “For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.” Understand that these people who “hit others in the face” were people inside the church, who claimed to be spiritual authorities, “super apostles”, maybe because they led many others to faith in God already. So these things do not contradict each other. Be thankful to God and to the missionaries who found and helped you intially, but don’t allow them to enslave your whole life under the name of thankfulness and needing to “pay back”. Jesus said “Freely you have received; freely give.”

    • forestsfailyou

      Thank you yellowblossum. Unfortunately I am some what at a crossroads too. Thank God that I no longer have to worry about what you say about marriage, but I am experiencing other difficulties that this article clearly points out. Generally speaking, Christians should not give other Christians ultimatums, leveraging their love and respect against their obedience. Generally speaking, Christians should not gossip about other Christians and refuse at all costs to take their issue to the person. Generally speaking, freedom means without cost- and to associate costs to action is an act that removes the freedom Christ sought to provide with his blood. Generally speaking, the ends do not justify the means.

  2. HappyPinnky

    And you are suggesting that those cult descriptions are still crystaly there?

    Maybe my perceptions and observations are wrong. :)

  3. HappyPinnky

    You ignored most of other sections that I wrote.

  4. mrkimmathclass


    1) wrong
    2) wrong
    3) wrong
    4) wrong
    5) wrong
    6) wrong
    7) wrong

    Personal experience doesn’t apply to the entire church, Brian.
    You had better listen to HappyPinnky and learn more.

    • Just a note to our readers: mrkim’s response is the only kind of response I ever got from Korean ubf missionaries any time I raised any matter of personal conscience while “in” ubf. The reaction was always simply “you are wrong”. No explanation of why I am wrong other than I am rebellious against the ubf authority.

      Only after my resignation did I find a couple Korean ubf missionaries who would talk to me. They would never have done so while “in” so I am so glad to be “out”.

      Thank you mrkim for confirming and validating everything I ever learned about Korean ubf missionaries. Over the past couple days you have proved all of my points with remarkable clarity. I almost thought you were joking but clearly you are not.

    • And due to the “you are wrong” response I got a couple times, I learned NOT to raise matters of conscience. That is why my conscience exploded in 2011!

    • mrkimmathclass

      And Brian, you show how anti-ubfers talk all the time.
      I really mean that what you said doesn’t apply to us.

    • yellowblossom

      You need to go through some of these things Brian speaks of to understand. Or if you have gotten through it and are in denial like I have been for many years…the holy sport is powerful and will work in you and reveal the truth

    • yellowblossom

      It is very difficult when the people you trusted and the faith you genuinely meant to grow…has been diminished to nothing more than manipulating and systematic control. I ve been told to share life testimonies as a means to receive marriage coworker. Is this what God wants for me ? Last night I felt like it was the final straw, I wanted out. The first marriage that failed was explained to me that the reason it failed was cause of my own lack of faith. I was guilt tripped in this.
      I was told I was greatly unthankful for all God has done. The truth was and is…I am so thankful to God. I believe He is the only one leading my life. In he past however…I allowed my shepherd to take on that role…and she reported back to the director. The director was the one controlling every one of us. Is this Christianity? After many battles in my heart, I ve come to the pt I am in now…to decide how to proceed. If I stay , I want to change the system but is that even possible? After reading countless testimonies on ubffriends and now joining in the discussion…I see how difficult change would be. But should I leave then is the question? I am still a young woman…but I devoted my collet years and post college years to the mission ….now my eyes are opened to all the unspoken rules and brokenness. If I am to marry, my whole future family will be subjected to this. Do I want that for my children? And yet I love the people in my chapter like family…I love my shepherd like my mom. What should I do? Abandon everything ? Maybe that’s the risk I should take for Christ…I want to reach out to the world, to really help people . I feel so small and limited in my chapter…I want to reach out and to also support other churches and missions. Am I crazy to think this?

      Brian, if possible could you provide your email address or skype address for me …I would like to reach out in person . I mcin severe need of advice right now because of all that has happened.

    • yellowblossom

      Also I would like to say…I live common life and attend church and testimony without fail. I am living with them. Does anyone have any advice on how I can leave and move out if I made the decision ? I feel so ill at this point …my heart feels like it’s breaking

    • yellowblossom, my email is brian@knet6.com my Skype is briankarcher

    • yellowblossom, you are not crazy. I am going to be out with my family for the next few hours. I have a midnight task for work, so I’ll be up around then. Also I am available in the morning. Grace and peace.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      yellowblossom, I agree with Brian, you’re not crazy! Many, if not most, also felt that sense of risk and heartbreak when making such a consideration to stay or leave. Honestly, I’d like to just come out and say to get out now. Maybe that’s not right of me to do, and surely I will be marked for it. But it’s my honest advice. I was particularly critical of how single people were treated. It was as if UBF owned them. A group of young women in their 20’s, some early and some late, were not allowed to freely go to their friend’s wedding because they might miss a Sunday service and being away might influence them to leave the ministry, or so the reasoning goes. Of course, that is one small example. But it is big. I raised hell for it. But I was a single voice and it troubled me deeply. I asked the director, “Will you also tell my daughter when she is in her 20’s if she can go to her friend’s wedding or not? I will not let you or anyone else in the ministry do that to my children.”

      I was 17 when I first came to UBF. I’m now 32. I spent my whole adult life in UBF and was with many of the same people in such close proximity for 15 years. I married in UBF and had 3 children as of the time I left (I now have another one on the way :D). It did feel quite risky at first. But the exit process wasn’t kind. However, I knew at the time that it was the only right thing I could do for my family and to lift the burden on my conscience.

      Of course, I can’t tell you what to do. That’s just my advice and story. And I do recommend further speaking with people and going through these questions with others who are not your shepherd, director, or even people in your chapter. Ask questions and listen to many people outside for a better perspective.

    • forestsfailyou

      Yellowblossum, thank you. I will pray for you. I thank God that ubfriends helped me to find a woman of God that was not tied to this unhealthy equation of God and Shepherd.

      I have felt many of the things you bring up recently. I believe this song helps my feeling of helplessness.

    • Forests, “ubfriends helped me to find a woman of God”

      This statement sounds really odd to me. ubfriends is a website. We don’t practice any of the harmful ubf methods such as arranged marriage. Would you explain further for our readers please? (I know you know but please let them know!) Thanks.

  5. HappyPinnky

    Thanks Brian for your loving engagement.

    After spending nearly 4 hours on this site today, I feel that I’m gonna go bit mental. As Joe said, I am not used to this stamina.

    • Mark Mederich

      soldier must be trained by hardship (just kidding:)

    • “Thanks Brian for your loving engagement.”

      You are welcome HappyPinnky. Please come back after your brain gets a good rest.

  6. Mark Mederich

    “UBF lawyers had removed the threat of Chris”: those who have removed, shall be removed..

    • Mark Mederich

      “no idea about the god-father power struggles with Samuel Lee”:
      deceivers ruin the earth, but truth shall prevail

    • Regarding Samuel Lee, I wrote this more than four years ago: http://www.ubfriends.org/2011/01/03/why-samuel-lee-was-deified-and-demonized/

      What is most interesting is that non-UBF Christians thought I wrote a very charitable and loving article about Lee, while some UBF Christians hated me for “slamming my shepherd.”

    • mrkimmathclass


      I read what you wrote about Dr. Samuel Lee and enjoyed much. I don’t know why but this is the first time I read about his life. I heard of him through many shepherds. Actually I couldn’t read his sermons either.
      I believe that he could be viewed both as a great Christian by ubfers and as a dicatator and cult leaeder by anti-ubfers. But, I don’t agree that he was viewed as flawless man. How could it be possible? We learned that even Father Abraham and King David were sinners who failed many times. We could respect him as our great leader but I have never seen anyone who viewed him that way.
      One thing I know is that he was very strong and powerful that many people couldn’t follow or bear what he wanted to show. Anyway, he was a founder of ubf and leader. And I know he was a sinner before God like us. And as you said, he was a great Christian.
      And as you said, nobody in ubf act like him any longer.

      Now, I see that most of the pastors go to seminaries and even non-pastors go too. I see that all the leaders are very different that they form very different environment for each ubf. Some are like maybe Dr. Samuel Lee while some are very meek leaders. And some are like you. And some could be very unique and immature. That is what I believe. And each year, ubf is changing and facing many challenges. I again admit that there could be people who got hurt by immature people or leaders. I also saw some people who said that they got hurt by my immaturity. Many of them, I reconciled and there are still some I couldn’t yet. But, these are due to my immaturity. Sometimes I see that those who people got hurt by our immaturity became bitter and talk about us badly. Still I understand that.

      I am writing too long and it is not organized. However, what I am saying is that we, you and us, are working for God, our Lord. We should try to understand and respect each other, not biting and hurting each other. I think we should be able to pray for each other regardless any one is in ubf or not. Aren’t we all children of God?
      I know that there are already deep wounds and hatred between both parties. There must be a peaceful way. Of course, I don’t know how.
      Some of you said that it was good that new Bible students left ubf. But, that was not good either, you know. When little soul lose faith because of our immature fighting, who is responsible for it? I don’t know about the politics much. But, I know that one soul is very precious and important to God and us.
      Thank you for reading this unorganized post.

      I am afraid of what you are going to say already. I know that I wrote down this only from my point of view. But, this is my heart.

    • James, your comment will go a long way here at ubfriends. We sincerely are not asking everyone to agree with us, but to do as you just did–share your heart. In my view, the “friends” in ubfriends does not mean we are all friendly toward ubf, but that we are learning how to be friendly with each other. We have a mandate from the cross to do that, even with people who disagree sharply with us.

      I am not here to change anyone’s mind or seduce anyone into “homo sex”…. To me the ex-ubf means not only former member, but to explain, the expose, to examine and to share our experience.

      My only response to what you wrote above is that there are indeed numerous people at ubf who are indeed trying to emulate SL. Maybe you have not met them but I have. These are the people who were taking pictures on SL’s gravesite until just this past year. They are the one’s jockeying for the positions of power over his grave. The one who sits on the head of SL’s grave wants a double-portion of his power and spirit.

    • Joe Schafer

      mrkimmathclass, many thanks to you for a thoughtful comment which provides an excellent basis for dialogue. I have many thoughts on what you wrote, which I will try to share soon.

  7. Joe Schafer

    Brian, this article is well written and well reasoned. I prefer to avoid discussing whether UBF is a cult because, as you point out, there is no universally agreed upon definition, and in the final analysis what matters is not what label you place on it but what actually has gone on and does go on.

    Regarding your points 1-7, I personally witnessed all of them going on. That doesn’t mean that they all happened all the time in every UBF chapter. I hope they didn’t go on too much in my chapter where I was the director. That doesn’t mean that they all continue now in every UBF chapter. One could argue over the extent to which they happen now. But it’s very hard to dispute that(a) these things did happen, (b) these were not isolated occurrences but a recurring pattern, and (c) the organization has never officially admitted that any of these things happened.

    Last week, I received a lengthy, detailed, private response to my open letter to the President (Augustine Sohn). I will honor his request and not publish his letter. I might publish my own response sometime. But after seeing that response, it’s clear to me that (d) the leaders of UBF do privately acknowledge that the kinds of things I listed in my letter did happen, and (e) although there are differences of opinion within the organization, the overall impression is that UBF leaders don’t want those practices to continue, but they don’t think that the effects were very harmful because the people who are presently in UBF don’t think they were harmed very much.

    Curiously, I found myself in agreement with this. The letter I received from the President was very honest, very sincere, and very truthful in the sense that he accurately represented his own personal viewpoint and accurately captured the sentiments of UBF leaders and members. That sentiment is, “Yes, these things happened, they are regrettable, but they are not such a big deal.”

    Therein lies the problem. UBF leaders (most of them) understand how they and their members feel about UBF’s past and present. But they do not yet empathize with ex-members, their families, and others who believe that UBF has harmed them significantly more than UBF believes. And, as far as I can tell, there is no widespread agreement within the organization that it is important to listen to ex-members’ stories and address those stories in a way that is not defensive.

    For what it’s worth, my advice to them now is
    * do not officially acknowledge wrongdoing, and
    * do not issue a mea culpa,
    because the organization is clearly not ready. There is no point in apologizing for something until your soul is convicted and your heart is truly broken for those whom you have hurt. If they try to do it now, it will sound like a classic political non-apology and it may do more harm than good. Some people within UBF who are more ready to apologize than others. But an apology, when it is made, needs to be real.

    • Yes, processing of the ex-members stories’ is something that would be very helpful to ubf people. The infuriating thing is that most of those ex members were LEADERS who gave SO much money, time and effort to the ubf cause. The backs of most of those ex-members is how many current members got where they are.

      “One could argue over the extent to which they happen now. But it’s very hard to dispute that(a) these things did happen, (b) these were not isolated occurrences but a recurring pattern, and (c) the organization has never officially admitted that any of these things happened.”

      Precisely my point. As long as the HQ does not address these things the whole organization suffers the cult label. It is unfair yes but that is how leadership works. If the leaders don’t take action, the whole team suffers.

      And I agree very much about not apologizing right now. I have had TOO MANY apologies from ubf people. I accept all of them. But apology and sadness are not what is helpful right now. Reacting like 2 Corinthians 7:1-16 is my prayer and hope.

    • Joe Schafer

      And I do understand why, as a UBF leader, it is extremely difficult to listen to ex-members and take their stories seriously. You need to be able to question the validity of your own self-narrative and your group’s self-narrative which you have held on to for decades. Questioning your own sense of self takes a huge amount of mental and emotional energy and even causes physical pain, because you have to step outside of yourself. To do so is literally like dying. The mind has instinctively trained itself not to go there, not to look at that evidence, not to hear those stories, because they appear to be an existential threat. The only people who seem to be able to do this are those who already have some personal experience of getting mauled and mangled by the system, and even for them it causes enormous distress.

    • Yes I know that pain of dying all to well. Perhaps in this sense SL was ironically prophetic by quoting John 12:24 so very much.

      The good news is that this is the Christian way– to deny your self and die– with hope of the resurrection! Those Korean ubf missionaries who have done this are amazing witnesses! (i.e. Mark Yoon, etc)

  8. Mark Mederich

    “don’t think that the effects were very harmful”: now there’s a get off the hook-easy definition of right/biblical/godly things (i don’t think it hurt anybody much, at least not anybody i care about much right now:) hellllloooooo! MACHIAVELLI, & it happen toward good so must be good (end justify mean? really done toward good?-or happy idea but really benefit-seeking at any cost:(

    • yellowblossom

      Yes, I completely agree with you Joe. To question any of these matters for a person who has been in it for decades is like dyng. I ve been in my chapter 10 years, and I am going up that structure. Another 10 years? Without any change? That would b hell on earth. Cit is the Holy Spirit that has prompted me to step out of myself and my chapter and their teachings…and to seek the truth and most importantly to seek the living God. Ignoring the truth is like a slap on the face to Jesus. Who should we support …our chapter or Christ and the truth ? It is this that has led me to accept that changes must be made …not only for my personal sake but for the sakes of all these people who I am sure feel just as spiritually choked and yet simply remain cause they invested their whole lives. Once they marry…it is almost like a no ticket out situation. But I know in Jesus exodus to the freedom of spirit is possible in any situation. That knowledge gives me peace and courage to keep going and to reflect and to reason…and finally if God calls, to leave

    • Joe Schafer

      yellowblossom, welcome and thank you for sharing your stories. I won’t try to give you on whether to stay in ubf or leave. In many cases, neither one is a good option. Marrying someone within ubf might be a good option, but it will require both you and your potential spouse to separate marriage from the ubf-centric ideas about mission, which may or may not be possible. Before agreeing to marry someone, I encourage you to ask yourself these questions.

      * If UBF did not exist, is this person someone I would want to marry?

      * Does this person feel the same about me?

      * Will my marriage commitment be a lifelong commitment to this person, rather than a commitment to an organization or ideology?

      * Does this person want to make the same commitment to me?

      * Do we like each other?

      If the answers to any of these questions is no, then it is a huge red flag.

      When Sharon and I met, we knew that we would want to marry even if there were no such thing as ubf. And early in the process, we had “the talk.” I specifically told her that my commitment to her would always come first, and if ubf fell apart it would have no bearing on our relationship. This July we will be celebrating our 25th anniversary. We love each other and the credit for our marriage goes to God, not to ubf. If ubf leaders want to call us unthankful, so be it. But ubf cannot establish a marriage or make it work. Only God can do that, with the full participation of you and your spouse. If ubf tries to take credit for this, it would be like Peter and John taking credit for the healing of the crippled man, which they did not (Acts 3:12).

  9. Welcome yellowblossom. This is not easy to do, but it is very sound advice from Chris:

    2 Cor 11:20: “For you tolerate it if anyone enslaves you, anyone devours you, anyone takes advantage of you, anyone exalts himself, anyone hits you in the face.” Understand that these people … were people inside the church, who claimed to be spiritual authorities… Be thankful to God and to the missionaries who found and helped you intially, but don’t allow them to enslave your whole life under the name of thankfulness and needing to “pay back”. Jesus said “Freely you have received; freely give.” (http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/30/why-i-say-ubf-is-a-cult/#comment-17883)

    As I’ve said before some leaders who led you to Christ have this unfortunate idea and mindset: “I own you and you owe me.” This is clearly not biblical.

    On another note, I’d like to thank Mr. Kim for participating and interacting with us. Though some initial exchanges were not very pleasant, it is nonetheless good that we began to communicate. In my opinion, I do not believe that he does any of the seven points that Brian states, which is why he says to each: WRONG. To be fair, he has also stated that there are some ubf leaders who are wrong and immature, who indeed practice those seven points.

  10. Mark Mederich

    “I pray to Jesus he will change this ministry or tear it down completely” HALLELUJAH (change is all any sought: I’m generally diehard to give-up/give-in, but whatever it takes..)

  11. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    Thanks for sharing this, Brian. It thought was objective and brought in resources for others to consider. And thanks to all those who have shared. It’s evident the we have had similar experiences and just being able to consider what Brian has shared can be so demanding on a person. It’s good to see the openness and support here. You find that the label does apply to UBF, then it can be indeed very difficult to process and take the appropriate next step.

    When I told my brother that I stopped going to UBF, he said, “I’m glad you’re out of that cult. You know it was a cult, right?” On another note, in my discussions with UBF people, it was always they who have brought up the cult label. I was asked, “So are you saying we’re a cult?” It was strange to me because I had not used the word “cult” at all. I can only think that it’s used as a kind of defense mechanism. If I say UBF is a cult, then I am dismissing all that has happened. If I say UBF is not a cult, then I need be quiet and move, because all is good. My reply each time has been, “If the boot fits…” But really having the outside, third party perspective, is important. I sometimes had to sprinkle a conversation with, “What if you asked a pastor from a church outside of UBF about this issue? What do you think he or she would say?”

    • ““I’m glad you’re out of that cult. You know it was a cult, right?” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/30/why-i-say-ubf-is-a-cult/#comment-17916

      Nearly the exact words my family said to me. We found out one family member had been referring to us a the “Moonies” for the prior 20 years!

      This is why Steven Hassan’s work is so very helpful and relevant to processing out situation: Hassan was a leader for about 19 years in the Korean-led Unification Church (aka Moonies). He knows what it is like for an American to be trained by Koreans using the bible. And I think the lessons apply for any non-Korean group (with nuances of course) as well.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      I owe a lot to my brother for his kindness and forgiveness. I left the house and moved into UBF common life when I was 18 and he was 16. When he didn’t have a relationship with me that fit the bible study / shepherd-sheep / UBF model, we didn’t have much of a relationship at all. It pains me to look back on see how I wasn’t there for him but I made efforts to be with sheep and UBF people. I’m sorry that what I perceived as a righteous zeal kept me away.

      I agree regarding Hassan’s work. Sometimes when you consider the stories of cults and the people who’ve left and written about it, it might sound so weird, ridiculous, and just out there. But when I remember that they’re people just like anyone else that got caught up in something they shouldn’t have, I can begin to take in and process what they have to say. We need a third party to help ground us in reality. I appreciate the advice I found from other pastors and writers who, when encouraging people to have mentors, don’t keep other bound to them. They recommend having multiple mentors from different places, like 5, for example, so that you don’t become a copy of the one mentor and that you can broaden your learning and understanding.

    • ” They recommend having multiple mentors from different places, like 5, for example, so that you don’t become a copy of the one mentor and that you can broaden your learning and understanding.”

      Excellent point Charles. And get this: when my wife and I went through a cohort study group at our church, we learned about mentoring. Mentoring is night and day different from shepherding that is taught at ubf.

      In fact, the most eye-opening things to me is that mentors do not choose students; students choose mentors!

      We don’t ubf “sheep” start suggesting that to the Ethics Committee? How much change would be realized at ubf if “sheep” chose “shepherds”?

    • I’m not at all defending UBF, but I can personally vouch for the fact that even from a few years back, I began approaching particular people in the ministry who I deemed as good mentors. It wasn’t seen as controversial at the time. This was one of the bright spots in the ministry for me, actually. But of course this was only in my particular locale; it may be vastly different in others where an old-style mentality predominates or where there are only a few families which comprise a chapter (hence they would be more “protective” or personally attached to the student).

      All this said, I would say that more than simply being allowed or even encouraged to choose a shepherd, relationships based on equality need to be fostered. A healthy mentor/protege relationship is based, in part, upon the principle that the mentor knows that they are to serve a temporary and needed role (which is often kairotic in nature) in the protege’s life. In this type of arrangement, there can exist a predetermined and respectful amount of distance in the relationship, i.e. the mentor does not overstep his/her bounds. And as a mentor, I don’t think that I would ever dub myself as someone’s “spiritual father”. I’m not sure where that line of thinking comes from; perhaps it’s cultural in nature.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      “relationships based on equality need to be fostered.” Absolutely, but I honestly can’t even begin imagine how this can be done as long as the shepherding model is in place. I saw a few people try to do what you described, David, and seek others as mentors and there was no lasting or positive case. As long as someone had a shepherd, that shepherd exerted control over them, even presuming to tell them who not to talk to in the church. And the inter-fellowship feelings–sheesh. You have to stay away from other people’s sheep and fellowship members. Mind your own flock.

      The current LA director, JK, once said to me, “Isn’t my favor enough?” No, it’s not. No one wants to be favored. We want to be equals.

    • I think that for sure, the shepherd-sheep construct is one of the big blindspots of the ministry. It’s probably one of the most unhealthiest models of growth/non-growth. I’ve experienced first-hand the things that you’ve mentioned, especially the interfellowship issue. To my chapter’s credit this began to change for the better, but it went without saying that each person should have a shepherd.

    • Those are good things to hear about, David. In my observation there are pockets of protection, bubbles of goodness if you will, all over the ubf landscape. I think this is a coping mechanism of the “native” shepherds and some Korean missionaries who don’t fully agree with the spiritual legacy of ubf. So we see glimpses of such things as actual mentoring or honest relationships.

      All these bubbles provide temporary relief from the sacrifice demanded by the ubf system, but they also seem to keep enabling the ubf system all the more.

  12. Yellowblossom, I am sorry to hear about this difficult time in your life. I remember too in that situation of thinking whether to leave or stay. I believe it is for the sake of people in these situations that this website is very important.

  13. bekamartin

    Yellowblossum, we are all here for you! I too was in UBF for 21 years and had no clue, until I finally had enough of my husband’s verbal, emotional, and spiritual abuse. I thought the problem was only him, until I realized that UBF never disciplined him or even believed me and even shunned me after I separated from him. BTW, my ex-husband is healing now, as am I.

    My opinion is that you need to just up an leave and not speak to them about it and find a good Bible teaching church in your neighborhood. But Brian Karcher will have some great advice for you, too.

  14. Hey everyone, while I am glad to see more discussion here lately, I notice that no one discussed my seven points in my article. Can anyone at ubf refute my seven points?

    I think we should talk about point #2 “Identity Breaking”. In the ubf mind, there is always one and only one application of the bible – to be a shepherd (or shepherdess) for “world campus mission”.

    Take a look at this presentation that Sarah Barry herself created. This is still publicly linked to on the Chicago main website. Is this the way we are to study the bible? Why is such weak hermeneutics and cultic binding not called out or questioned?

    Inductive bible study – ubf presentation

    After studying some pre-seminary courses, this presentation has got to be one of the weakest bible study approaches ever created. It may sound good, but notice the one and only application at the end. That’s really what ubf bible indoctrination is all about – conditioning you to break down your identity so you become convinced the only way to please God is to be a ubf shepherd.

    • I’ve never seen that ppt of inductive bible study before! Interestingly, my friend, Rhoel, is in one of the pictures, and so is Harvey and Samantha Siy.

      Though people could inject their own bias, preferences, prejudices, emphasis, imperatives, commands, politics, legalisms, etc onto it, I would think that most people would find it rather innocuous.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      I’ve seen all seven points working together in all of UBF I’ve seen, home and abroad. (I haven’t visited West Loop). Regarding #1-2, it’s no wonder why people have a hard time leaving despite all of the red flags in their minds.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      SMH. “Incarnational Principle” = having students do a cultural dance at a conference if a foreigner or senior missionary is visiting. I’ve seen it too often. How many times were students just told to do their “native dance”? How often did the missionaries in the chapter attempt to learn about the culture, even learning about the meanings and nuances of the cultural dances? It was all a show.

  15. Mr Kim, since this discussion has been somewhat unproductive, I want to try another approach to discussing the problems – by addressing very concrete issues. Let’s see where we get from there.

    For example, before I married, the UBF chapter director of my wife – who came from a different chapter to my chapter – let her promise that she would always obey my chapter director more than me.

    I will ask you a simple question: Do you think this orientation is good? Do you think it is Biblical?

    Can you answer this simple question?

    • I wonder if I will ever get an answer.

    • Maybe I should post the counters again? As soon as I posted the “Minutes since response” counter, we got a reply from UBF HQ :) Other than that I am going to bet on never hearing any response.

  16. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    I thought of this article again today. As Brian pointed out, the points listed in his article weren’t discussed. I suppose that was in part to the shock (?) of the use of the word “cult”. In my experience, I found that many people had a difficult time to consider the word “cult” and its implications for the organization because it was set in their minds that a cult was an extreme of extremes, and, especially, could not be a place where people heard the gospel message and/or had been born again.

    So, to add to Brian’s article, I’m sharing a link to a lecture by Jacob Prasch, titled, “Cultic Practices in the Evangelical Church.”


    I’ve shared this before, but it seems fitting to share again here.

    • You can also download it as a podcast.

      I like listening to podcasts while driving to work, or taking a walk in the forest.

    • Thanks Charles for the link. I’ll check it out.

      I just want to point out something, you wrote: “As Brian pointed out, the points listed in his article weren’t discussed.”

      I would nuance this by saying the points were not discussed publicly. Yes the cult label is strong and no ubfer would dare address my seven points publicly. There is no one as foolish or brainwashed as I was back in 2004 when I did challenge the cult label as a ubf defender :) There is no “Mr. ubf” publicly anymore.

      BUT mark my words– my article and my seven points were discussed privately. It is doubtful that anyone in the ubf echelon discussed the points. But I am sure that some rank-and-file members of ubf (i.e. sheep) did discuss the points. Some tried to find justifications as to why I am wrong. Others flat out denied my points.

      I am of course guessing, but I am guessing what is happening based on my real experience. For example, one time the Voy forum ex-ubf people said that me an my friend TP were just obedient zombies who checked our brains at the door to the center. We discussed this even though we didn’t reply publicly in detail about our discussions.

      So the shock effect is intentional–I expect ubf leaders to dismiss anything with my name on it, but I expect lower-level members will discuss what I say even though they likely would never comment publicly.

    • yellowblossom

      What is specifically sad is that many of the current members of UBF really are in denial. It’s hard to admit you are in a cult when ” it was set in their minds …could not be a place where people heard the gospel message and / or had been born again”.

      I personally understand because I did meet Jesus through UBF bible study. I did believe God sent me to UBF as shepherd. I did believe I should marry by faith. When someone teaches you testimony after testimony that this is God s calling it is hard to reverse that thinking. I was able to begin to reverse this thinking from last year. I thank God because he sent me people from the outside to help me open my eyes. He sent me amazing friends who wouldn’t give up on me. He sent me my parents and their support, and he sent me countless of comments on ubffriends, Brian’s amazing books, and finally God led me to a healthy church

      God is good and mighty and His word tears down man built strongholds…especially the strongholds in our minds

    • As I say clearly in my books, my answer to why did I join? why did I stay? why did I leave? is all the same: God lead me to join, to stay and to leave. All of these were the working of the Holy Spirit. I see at least one gem of wisdom in this: I was spared the baggage of Evangelical/American Christianity. Sure, that was a layer of issues I had to navigate, but that was rather easy.

      For example when it comes to marriage, I do not have the typical Evangelical baggage that comes with making marriage the foundation of my entire theology. To Evangelicals, the Bride narratives are primary and paramount to all their thinking. To me, marriage was just “co-working” :) Of course now I am learning a more healthy view of marriage than what I was taught by ubf arranged marriage. But I can do that without the sex-centric theology that plagues Evangelicals typically.

      Speaking of my books… the Kindle versions are still just 99 cents in May! Get ’em while they’re hot :)

      BOOK 1 – Rest Unleashed: The Raven Narratives

      BOOK 2 – Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives

      BOOK 3 – Unexpected Christianity: The Penguin Narratives

  17. forestsfailyou

    I read an article on the guardian about Capoeira earlier this year. It said capoeira is sometimes called a cult because of the intensity of its practitioners and the exclusiveness of clique like nature of the groups.

    My Mestre made his stance clear at our major yearly event last Sunday. He said

    “Tradition is Bs. Its belief system. You have your bs and I have my bs. Guys, I am skeptical of tradition. Some person comes and says to me “Its only capoeira if you have like a 1 drum only on the right side” and I am like “Why?” and they say “tradition” and I say “Whose tradition? I was around then and they don’t do that?” Guys, what happens is one guy does something and then people do that long enough and it becomes tradition. But that’s not the way it has to be. I can respect that tradition, but when your tradition starts to control you. Then you have a cult. It’s the same way with religion. People take like the best things of religion and use it to control people and then you have like a cult. Guys none of you had to be hear today. I didn’t force any of you to drive all those hours to be here. You are hear because you want to be. Don’t ever let anyone tell you “Oh this is tradition. You must like- do it this way.” Screw that. Anyone can make new “traditions”. Guys Capoeira is not the most important. It is God, family, and then if you want- capoeira.”

    • I for one won’t be signing up for Capoeira in my lifetime…There are numerous red flags in those words. Cultic or not, I see manipulation.

    • yellowblossom

      I agree with you Brian,

      I think that strangely God and family are both missing from UBF. Isn’t that strange? We are supposed to focus on God, and yet all I see is focus on heritage, mission, numbers.

      It’s just…well…dull. There is no life in the public prayers on Sundays. How do I know? Now I started attending another church…a lovely family centered, community serving church. Hey to do missions, they to pray for people. But the prayers …they are specific, and heart felt. There is no pressure to bring people in. There is no condemnation when you don’t attend a meeting.

      For the first time in years, I can breathe! I was so afraid, to leave UBF. And now that I am leaving…God! God is so good! How he never gave up on me and brought me out.

      What saddens me about the cult label, is that leaders in UBF had every opportunity to make changes. They simply let pride get in the way. Jesus is about change! Jesus changes us and makes us new. I want to always change and grow! This is why I am so thankful beyond words to God for the strength he is giving me.


    • “I think that strangely God and family are both missing from UBF. Isn’t that strange?”

      Yes it is strange. It is also un-Christian.

      “For the first time in years, I can breathe!”


      “What saddens me about the cult label, is that leaders in UBF had every opportunity to make changes.”

      My sorrow in that regard is deep. I have spent hour after hour after hour after hour after hour praying for gospel-induced change–to no avail :<

    • So my only conclusion is that the ubf echelon has chosen to go down with the ship. They have hedged their bets on passing on the ubf heritage and will die trying to do so regardless of any consequence. The gospel hope is that at any point we can repent and we can find the new wine life filled with forgiveness, freedom and fulfillment. That is what I found. The new wine life began by facing the facts about my life. This full surrender to grace led to an ongoing transformation and pathway into the righteousness that surpasses that of even the most religious person on earth.

    • forestsfailyou

      You may know a lot about UBF, and when it comes to that I listen to few others before you. But you would be wise to not speak of something you know nothing about.

    • Correct, forests, I know nothing about this Capoeira group you are participating in. All I know is from the few bits of information you’ve shared here from time to time, plus what I can read on the internet.

      This person says they respect tradition, but later disrespects tradition. My only point is that saying “tradition is BS” is a red flag that something’s not right. True, I don’t know what’s wrong and maybe nothing is wrong at Capoeira, but I’ve learned that no one can escape tradition because we make our own traditions. There was a time when I would have agreed that “tradition is BS” but now I’ve learned there is value in tradition, and even essential value to a community. Tradition can and should be questioned, even challenged, yes, but it has usefulness if made visible and public.

      I hear ubf missionaries saying the exact same words above. It would be normal for me to hear someone at ubf say “you are free to come, free to go” and “Guys none of you had to be hear today. I didn’t force any of you to drive all those hours to be here. You are hear because you want to be. Don’t ever let anyone tell you “Oh this is tradition. You must like- do it this way.” Screw that. Anyone can make new “traditions”. Guys ubf is not the most important. It is God, family, and then if you want- ubf.”

    • I don’t know Capoeira either, but I must agree with Brian, there are certainly some red flags. The existence of red flags does not necessarily mean that a group is a full-fledged cult, but it should make you cautious. It also could mean that a group could develop into a cult if nobody takes it seriously.

      The square refusal of tradition as BS is in fact suspicious. Traditions must not be overrated, but they have a value. Well, in one sentence he says “I can respect that tradition”, but then he should not say it is BS. It’s confusing.

      Another point where I agree with Brian is that UBFers would also say they do everything voluntarily and not out of tradition, and that they have the priorities “God, family, and then UBF” (well maybe some would put UBF in front of family, but they would surely all put God first). However, the crux of the matter is that in a group like UBF, there is no difference. Everything you do in a UBF context is what you do for God, and vice versa, since UBF is by definition “the work of God”. Whenever my chapter director wanted to pressure me to take part in a UBF activity that was conflicting with something different, he always said I must put God first. So, “we put God before our group” becomes a meaningless phrase in a cult and such a statement does not indicate that a group is not a cult (it does not indicate that it is a cult either, but it’s a warning sign if a group needs to emphasize such a matter of course).

  18. yellowblossom

    In God nothing is impossible. One missionary asked me…why are so many leaving? Maybe one day enough people will leave , so that a new beginning may commence. Let’s serve Jesus win our hearts. Who cares about some 10 pt heritage system? Let’s care about people, their lives, and their pains and sufferings …and really reach out and do something ! I’m tired of just sitting for three hours through a very very long service, walking away and then knowing I did nothing to practically help someone in their time of need. I want to preach the gospel yes and to help as many people as possible…not just sit around in a chair or getting up to testify ….testify but not share Jesus with others? I can’t live that way. I want to love others practically

    • “I’m tired of just sitting for three hours through a very very long service”

      ubf promised the high reward of being trained to be a world-class leader… I became only a world-class chair-sitter.

  19. yellowblossom

    We all have a choice. God gave us a choice and freedom. Let’s try to live to be molded into Jesus image and serve the living God and his people.

    I don’t want to serve a director of a chapter. I want to serve Jesus and his people with love.

  20. yellowblossom

    Something I read recently in a joyce meyer magazine

    “As Christians, the choice is up to us: we can either stand up and fight or lay down entirely. But we cent stay the same and expect the direction of our country to change”
    – Dave Meyer

  21. This comment is in response to some of mrkimmathclass’s comments.
    “Personal experience doesn’t apply to the entire church, Brian.
    You had better listen to HappyPinnky and learn more… And Brian, you show how anti-ubfers talk all the time.
    I really mean that what you said doesn’t apply to us.” Perhaps I may turn that around and say that your personal experience does not apply to all of us mrkimmathclass, as I am presently very active in UBF. There are many in UBF who have served for countless years who have some of the same concerns that Brian and others have. There are not UBFers and antiubfers. If we all believed the same thing we would be a cult. We should be able to have healthy dialogue and constructive criticism without being an anti-ubfer.Brian may have been in UBF longer than HappyPinnky has been alive! Perhaps we can listen and learn from each other. Mutual respect, which the Bible so emphasizes, begins with listening and learning from each other.

  22. Wow thank you Brian K for this article — God has really blessed you with the gift of writing clearly and insightfully. I can say truthfully that mostly everything you have written in this article I have experienced personally as a former member of the UBF cult organization.

    When we left UBF the organization we thought we were all alone (we had already alienated our friends and family) — we were branded “unfaithful” and our UBF “family” had shunned us for protecting their own children and exposing the darkness in the UBF leadership/cult… however Ben, Joe S, Brian K, Jennifer E and others really stepped up and became Christ “in flesh” for us just by listening and giving us words of comfort as well as advice.

    We are forever indebted to you guys and once again thank you because articles like these are so very important as many people who are abused sometimes have no voice nor do they have anyone else who is willing to relate to them because of fear.

    • cmdiaz,

      This comment you made is a great summary of why I’ve done what I’ve done the past 4 years:

      “we were branded “unfaithful” and our UBF “family” had shunned us for protecting their own children and exposing the darkness in the UBF leadership/cult – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/04/30/why-i-say-ubf-is-a-cult/#comment-18528

      We were told over and over at ubf “You are free to go, free to stay” But it was a lie. Many ubf chapter directors are narcissistic manipulators who need new recruits for their narcissistic supply. Challenge that supply, and you will find how downright evil they can become. They turn on you, showing their true wolf-nature.

      That is why I decided to become a lambhearted lion. I am cultivating the heart of a lamb and letting my lion-like nature tear apart the KOPAHN ideology. Lord willing, I will spend the rest of my life doing that.

  23. abepark

    Before I left UBF, I attended revival meetings with other UBF missionaries. Moses Chung reported after he attended 1 time, and Samuel Lee was mad and every one who attended the meetings were regarded as challenger of UBF system and he or she got red dots from conference chart. After meeting I had some different views of Samuel Lee’s message and I wrote sogams differently from previous ones not just following Samuel Lee’s message types. One time I was told to meet Samuel Lee at his office. There I talked with Samuel Lee more than 3 hours in English. I don’t remember details of talking, but I talked to him what I had in mind without fear. I was so free that Samuel Lee didn’t seem too big as I thought before. A few days before I met Samuel Lee, Moses Chung asked me to have interview with him for his doctor’s study. One thing I remember I said is that UBF didn’t actually believe and teach Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, Holy Spirit (not God the Holy Spirit. And I said to Moses Chung, ” Yes UBF believes Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Samuel Lee”. I think Moses Chung reported our conversation. One time I remember Samuel Lee’s message saying, “One insurance guy came to me and told me lie.” and warned about me. (I was an insurance agent at that time.) Later I was told through a missionary, I was going to be in probation. Since then I didn’t go back to UBF. This is just a fact I don’t want to criticize UBF or anything. I thank God that I came to know God through UBF, and I love UBF people, but I cannot follow their teachings if they are against authentic Christianity. UBF people should know that there is only 1 church under God with Jesus as the Head. They should recognize other organizations as a same body with different functions, then why they criticize those who leave UBF? even though they follow the same God? I know that many other churches have their own doctrines and do not follow authentic Christianity,too and need to be reformed to following to the basic Biblical teachings and principles. I am writing about a question, “should we follow church leaders? Yes we should, but as long as their teachings are based on Biblical principles. We should follow God, not men. UBF says Leaders are like Moses especially chief shepherd like Samuel Lee. But Moses was in the Old Testament days. Now we can come to God directly through Jesus, the intermediate. We also have intimate relationship with God through the Spirit,whom God the Father and God the Son give us. Thanks Ben, Joe and UBFriends. Abraham Park

    • Hi Abraham,

      Welcome and thank you for sharing your experience. Your Korean perspective is so very helpful for all of us. The claim by some outside letters of recommendation and the claim by some ubfers is that the problems are just cultural misunderstandings. Your comment is more evidence that this is just not true. The problems are theological and human in nature.

      I agree with this comment very much: “I thank God that I came to know God through UBF, and I love UBF people, but I cannot follow their teachings if they are against authentic Christianity. UBF people should know that there is only 1 church under God with Jesus as the Head”