Why So Many Are Done With UBF

ChurchRefugeesScreen-ShotAdmin note: Committed Christians–including more and more 2nd gens–leaving UBF is a reality that some leaders do not wish to face, acknowledge, address or discuss. So I thought that Joe’s recent comment was a such a short, sweet and succinct as well as savory, succulent and scrumptious comment. I felt bad that this would so easily get lost in the thousands of comments that UBFriends has. So I decided to re-post it as a short lead article.

Done with the church. Sociologists list the reasons why some highly committed church members are deciding that they are done with church.

* They wanted community…..and got judgment.

* They wanted to affect the life of the church…..and got bureaucracy.

* They wanted conversation…..and got doctrine.

* They wanted meaningful engagement with the world…..and got moral prescription.

– See more at: comment-19077.

church-refugeesDone with UBF. This 4-point list does describe the experience that some of us have had with American evangelicalism. But it doesn’t explain why so many highly committed people decided that they were done with UBF. That list is more like this.

* They wanted to understand the gospel ….. and were told to go and preach the gospel.

* They wanted to understand why their relationships were so bad and getting worse ..… and were told to go back to the Bible.

* They wanted to understand why the atmosphere felt so dead ..… and were told to invite more people to double the ministry.

* They wanted to actually think about the meaning Scripture ..… and were told to put aside their own ideas and just believe.

* They wanted leaders to just be honest and admit that lots of abusive things have happened and do happen in UBF….. and were met with silence.

* They wanted friends ..… and got coworkers.

* They wanted to stop the insanity of doing the same thing over again at every conference year after year ..… and the result was more of the same.

* They brought serious problems to the attention of leaders in a gentle and respectful manner… and were told “your tone is not right” and “you have overstepped your authority.”

– See more at: comment-19078.

What are your thoughts about why so many bright and promising people are done with UBF ….. even after decades of committed involvement?


  1. Good question. Here is David Kim’s answer, from 2011. Mr. Kim is the director of Korean UBF. At the time of reflection on their 50 year ministry, and from the highest ubf authority in Korea, this is why people are leaving ubf:

    “This is the picture of the crisis that our church community confronts today. Nowadays, people love themselves and money. They love pleasure more than God. The waves of sin flow into the church community and infect our souls.”

    “Co-workers who were once great in their faith fall into the temptations of sin. Some become tempters to knock down the faith of others. Those who once stood firm on the gospel faith and were once a good influence for their faith are rather influenced by sin and the value system of the world.”

    “Many are losing their identity as a royal priesthood and a holy nation… They are not the ones who serve God with sincere faith, but those who live hypocritical and superficial lives before people… Their folly will be clear to everyone… Paul clearly warns Timothy to turn away from them.”

    Terrible Times lecture from UBF 50th Anniversary

    Free copy of the 50th Anniversary UBF blue book

    • My first response is, “Wow, double WOW, there is ZERO personal responsibility from the leader as to why people leave UBF!”

      My second response is, “Oops–for over 20 years from 1980 to the early 2000s–I myself gave those exact reasons as to why people left UBF!!”

    • Wow Brian. Can it get any clearer than that?

    • Indeed, Sharon, it cannot be any more clear.

      “If you grow a healthy tree, you’ll pick healthy fruit. If you grow a diseased tree, you’ll pick worm-eaten fruit. The fruit tells you about the tree.

      You have minds like a snake pit! How do you suppose what you say is worth anything when you are so foul-minded? It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words. A good person produces good deeds and words season after season. An evil person is a blight on the orchard. Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.” (source

  2. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    I received an e-mail from a 2nd gent telling me the sadness that she felt because 2 of her siblings have left the ministry. One of my good UBF friend told me when she brings new people to the ministry, she has to protect them from the other members. I remember going to one conference and one missionary was drilling one of the new student. Yes our church is bleeding and its not the fault of those who leave. The victims are not the ones to be blame. The older generations must step down. Let go of the power and empower the youth and natives and let them spread their wings. The Holy Spirit will help them as we pray for them and support them.

    • It is quite sad how poorly some missionaries were so-called “trained” before they went out as missionaries. It only embarrasses themselves, their ethnicity and their own nation by their elitist and condescending behavior.

      Even after decades of being so-called “missionaries” in the U.S. some of them have not learned much about humility or contextualization.

    • Do people fall down and not get up? Or take the wrong road and then just keep going? So why does this people go backward, and just keep on going—backward! They stubbornly hold on to their illusions, refuse to change direction. I listened carefully but heard not so much as a whisper. No one expressed one word of regret. Not a single “I’m sorry” did I hear. They just kept at it, blindly and stupidly banging their heads against a brick wall. Cranes know when it’s time to move south for winter. And robins, warblers, and bluebirds know when it’s time to come back again. But my people? My people know nothing, not the first thing of God and his rule. source

  3. Easier said than done, but Amen! Amen!! and Amen!!!: “The older generations must step down. Let go of the power and empower the youth and natives and let them spread their wings.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/08/26/why-so-many-are-done-with-ubf/#comment-19108

    • Philippines UBF is an excellent example of indigenous leaders thriving (without missionary interference or oversight). This post from 2012 is a little long: http://www.ubfriends.org/2012/07/31/let-local-leaders-lead/

    • Indeed, Philippines ubf knows the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the fullness of the freedom it brings!

      Entering into this fullness is not something you figure out or achieve. It’s not a matter of being circumcised or keeping a long list of laws. No, you’re already in—insiders—not through some secretive initiation rite but rather through what Christ has already gone through for you, destroying the power of sin. If it’s an initiation ritual you’re after, you’ve already been through it by submitting to baptism. Going under the water was a burial of your old life; coming up out of it was a resurrection, God raising you from the dead as he did Christ. When you were stuck in your old sin-dead life, you were incapable of responding to God. God brought you alive—right along with Christ! Think of it! All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to Christ’s cross. He stripped all the spiritual tyrants in the universe of their sham authority at the Cross and marched them naked through the streets. source

    • This reminds me, I need to add Philippines to my list of redeemed chapters (not the 2 Korean ubfers sitting there in the Philippines by themselves, but the massively thriving gospel-centered ministry WA and his family are facilitating)

    • Comprised entirely of indigenous natives, they have 5 chapters independently led by Filipinos:

      1) Valenzuela City (original chapter): Jimmon.
      2) Antipolo: Dr. John.
      3) Calaocan City, University of the East: Jonathan.
      4) University Belt: Timothy.
      5) Bulacan: Eddie.

    • Nice!

      So my official list of redeemed ubf chapters stands at 7:

      1) Westloop (Chicago USA): Rhoel
      2) Penn State (Penn. USA): JoeS
      3) Valenzuela City (Philippines): Jimmon
      4) Antipolo (Philippines) Dr. John
      5) Calaocan City (Philippines) Jonathan
      6) University Belt (Philippines) Timothy
      7) Bulacan (Philippines) Eddie

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      The former LA director, IK, visited the Philippines frequently to support them, but it was just for the Korean led chapters. The Filipino led chapters weren’t given mention except to imply that they were not really doing things the UBF way. It was sad that the congregation weren’t given the full picture of UBF there despite so many reports and updates.

    • Joe Schafer

      When John Jun visited the Philippines this year, he filed this report. Read the first two sentences. Stunning.


    • Yep, not surprising and par for the course. CME is the main mission of ubf. They don’t often define CME, it is more insider code language. So I call it for what it is: Cult Manipulation Enlistment.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      seems to also be a way for certain leaders to keep an authoritative and Korean influence and dominance. Continuing My Empowerment. I think this is probably in line with what you meant.

    • “Continuing My Empowerment” ah yep, better!

      JJ seems to be deluded. He thinks he is still the General Director. He thinks it is his duty to carry on the legacy of Lee and promote UBFism. And he calls it “preaching the gospel”.

    • Complete Mind Evaporation?

      Anyway, it’s their codeword for re-education in UBFism.

  4. Joe Schafer

    There’s no nicer way to say this. DK’s “terrible times” lecture is full of crap.

    Ruth Tucker wrote a book about Christians who walked away from their churches and their faith. She dispels many of the myths about them. I believe her observations also apply to people who walked away from UBFism and UBF.

    “They are angry and rebellious.” False. They experience a great deal of sorrow and pain, but most are not angry.

    “We can give them good arguments and convince them to come back.” False. These people thought through their decisions very carefully. They left in a state of knowledge, not ignorance.

    “The left because they wanted to freely commit sin.” False. After they leave, their lifestyle often becomes holier.

    “They were never deeply committed to begin with.” False. They were among the most devout and committed members.

  5. Totally agree, Joe. This classic paragraph by DK just shows how disconnected he is with himself, his church and the world: “This is the picture of the crisis that our church community confronts today. Nowadays, people love themselves and money. They love pleasure more than God. The waves of sin flow into the church community and infect our souls.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/08/26/why-so-many-are-done-with-ubf/#comment-19119

    He does not realize how much he himself loves the world: he loves his title, seniority, Korean GD status, position of authority perhaps even more than worldly people who love money.

    Because of his own blindness and denial, he is unable to address such self-evident sins that are common to man both in and outside the church.

    Thus, he can only come across to others as self-righteous, sanctimonious, elitist, superior and condescending, all of which are anti-Christ, anti-church and anti-gospel.

    …and he is a “top leader” in UBF, which means that he is basically untouchable and unaccountable. Also, no one close to him will ever dare to tell him the truth that others are able to see so clearly.

    Instead of saying that’s just a bunch of cr__, I’ll just say that’s cu__! It works better for my blood pressure. :)

    • I call it dogshit, and so does Paul.

      The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.


  6. It is perhaps an exegetical error when some leaders and Bible teachers in UBF see verses like “do not love the world or anything in the world” (1 Jn 2:15-17), or “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Ti 3:4), or “you cannot serve both God and money/mammon” (Mt 6:34; Lk 16:13).

    Their unfortunate error is simply that they think that such verses no longer ever applies to them, since they have been leaders in the church for 2, 3, 4 decades, and that they have already overcome such sins a long time ago. It simply shows that Scripture no longer speaks to their own soul. But the way Scripture is used by some of them is primarily to teach and train others, to correct and rebuke others, but not themselves (cf. Rom 2:21).

    They have little idea or hardly ever address sins that are so common in the church among Christians and Christian leaders: jealousy, envy, slander, gossip, one-upmanship, playing politics, not being transparent or entirely honest, etc.

  7. Joe Schafer

    In DK’s “terrible times” lecture, he seems to be denouncing unnamed people who gave up their mission, left UBF and became a bad influence.

    But those people were not his audience.

    His message was delivered to UBF insiders.

    So he is preaching vitriol against outsiders to those on the inside.

    Why would he do this?

    There is only one logical answer.

    The implicit message to his audience is this: “If ever you decide to leave, this is how you will be denounced and demonized.”

  8. I will give another reason for people to be done with UBF. I am not sure what was going on since I was out of North America. However, since my return, I have come to realize the change of groupings at gatherings. There always was a segregation, but now it appears more blatant in Canada at least. Several years ago, the pre-season leaders gathering mixed everyone up. But, as I understand this 2015 pre-semester leaders workshop (conference) in Canada has made three groupings for discussion / study outside of the lecture hall.

    1) Senior Korean Missionaries
    2) Young/Junior Korean Missionaries
    3) What I call – Everyone else

    If I am incorrect about this data before and after the fact, I hope someone can educate me. But, this basically sums up my several years in Korea as an English teacher – Korean teachers sit separately from Foreign(er) teachers…

    So, I suppose the older attendees can get nothing from the younger – when in fact this whole gathering has been designed to influence and encourage the introduction to many young 1st year freshmen. Moreover, I suppose that a superiority has arisen because the Koreans so humbly and sacrificially left their home country and the North American’s have not. I suppose everyone else cannot relate to the experience and many aspects of what it means to be a cult carrying Korean who is out of their so-called comfort zone and yet benefitting from the system and opportunities that North America has to offer them.

    Anyway, it is my rant for the moment, but I ask the question to any present members who are not Korean – Why do you still remain in a so-called church that has no hesitation to ostracize you in your own country? You have a choice to go here and there. Why have we allowed ourselves to be reduced, humiliated, undermined, abused and so on … in a church that clearly marginalizes us? We are in our own country of origin and yet we are compelled to attend a church gathering that shames us in a non-biblical manner through cultural standards that have clearly defined that (church) dogma, ritual, theology and grounds for social relations as well as many other areas of our lives and also basic areas of faith and understanding of our creator.

    • Joe Schafer

      In the past, any gathering of Everyone Else would always have one or more senior missionaries present to act as minders, babysitters, spies, or whatever, to make sure that nothing got out of control.

      What was the rationale for stratifying by age and ethnicity? Did they also stratify by sex?

    • Joe, I have no idea about the rationale. It had not previously been like this to my knowledge or experience. Everyone was usually mixed up with even younger people sometimes leading a group study. For me, this is a step backwards. I don’t think they have gone so far as to stratify by sex, but as you know the social setting naturally groups women and men separately – even separating husband and wife.

      I am not participating, so I cannot even report on it. But, the above is what I have heard about. It has become in itself a caricature of the gospel Jesus preached. For me, after several years in Korea, it just resembles a secular Korean social culture that demonstrates how many real situations are handled with the presence of non-Koreans.

      When I heard about the arrangements I told a Korean leader in UBF that “I am not a foreigner in this country, but I am a foreigner in UBF.”

    • “Why have we allowed ourselves to be reduced, humiliated, undermined, abused and so on …”

      Good question, gc. I think the answer is that we have been indoctrinated to believe that humbleness and obedience and compliance and subserviency and suffering and never criticizing or questioning spiritual authorities is good and spiritual, and we really wanted to be good and spiritual.

      By the way, this very problem already happened in the first churches:

      “In fact, you even put up with anyone who enslaves you or exploits you or takes advantage of you or puts on airs or slaps you in the face. To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that!” (Paul in 2 Cor 11:20-21a)

      Why did these people tolerate such abuse? I guess for the same reasons as we did: A false understanding of humility, and indoctrination and intimidation through the claimed authority of the “super-apostles”.

    • “In the past, any gathering of Everyone Else would always have one or more senior missionaries present to act as minders, babysitters, spies, or whatever, to make sure that nothing got out of control.”

      In Germany, we had a yearly so called “shepherds’ conference” in the early 1990s. And yes, every “German shepherd” was accompanied by a “Korean watchdog” (pun intended). I liked the conference because it was one of the few occasions where we could have some fellowship with Germans from other chapters. Of course not much, since we were kept busy with writing and sharing sogams. But even that was probably too much for them, they stopped having these conferences after some years. In general, UBF does not promote friendships in the horizontal layers of their hierarchical pyramid, they focus on the vertical shepherd/sheep relationships.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      gc, unless things have changed in the LA chapter in the year since I left, gatherings are still largely segregated and there are secret meetings. Can you imagine the anger I had when I found out that missionaries had been meeting secretly to discuss “the future of the ministry” without having invited or spoken with any of the American shepherds? What were we then? Just puppets and trophies? Why “raise” up shepherds as Sunday messengers and give some duties to? And then the Korean missionaries had the gall to say that I was being racist by calling this kind of behavior out. And yes, I also had called out what mentioned, that every meeting had to be chaperoned by a Korean missionary in order to “keep the spiritual environment.” Only ONE American shepherd could conduct meetings or events without a missionary involved. I mentioned this all, and the denials came flooding in like a river.

    • Charles Wilson
      Charles Wilson

      Why do people put up with it? Because they’re being led on and lied to. Even though people on the “inside” reveal what’s going, they don’t listen. Instead, they hear only the lies they’ve been fed by their senior missionaries who are servants of God and who loved them. :/

      The current LA director told me that one of the main considerations of him being chosen as the director was to consider the missionaries. For some reason, they would only listen to the next, most senior Korean missionary among them–certainly not any American shepherd. Outrageous, right? But when you poll the missionaries in the chapter, many were in agreement with this. Though I will say that many were not and did not know that it was for this reason the current director had been chosen.

  9. forestsfailyou

    Why is this written by the admin? Just curious?

  10. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    One of the recent Sunday messages from the LA chapter is based on Revelation 2 about the first love. Fill your time with meeting after meeting, early morning, late night, lose sleep, and neglect your children. You will be praised if you do so. I’m not making that up. it’s in the message. That’s how you love Jesus again as at first. I don’t know what any of that has to do with love.

  11. Hi gc and welcome back!

    “There always was a segregation, but now it appears more blatant in Canada at least. – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/08/26/why-so-many-are-done-with-ubf/#comment-19124

    In my experience, the segregation came and went but we always were separated by gender. Even on Sunday, married couples would rarely sit together.

    We always segregated, but in numerous ways. Don’t be fooled: there is always a Korean-only meeting every week, whether you know about it or not.

    Some groupings we experimented with:

    – Fellowship leaders/women missionaries/students
    – Those with no sheep/those with 1 sheep/those with 2 or more sheep
    – shepherd candidates/young mothers of prayer/everyone else
    – messengers/women leaders/everyone else
    – everyone by fellowship (this was always done on Sunday after services, rarely any other time)

  12. Guys, it was more a rant about the step backward that I see right here and now in a specific context. I am aware that the issues are broader and vary according to each chapter etc…whether people know or not and so on. My impulsive contribution was a result of the change in this one particular meeting and the new structure proposed and implemented. I just added a reason to be done with UBF. Anyway, I think we can all agree that it is un-Christ like to operate in this way. I also think that we can agree that there is no point in engaging in an unhealthy community like UBF.

  13. Some additional thoughts as to why some people are done (repeating what has been stated differently):

    * Some missionaries are more concerned about being “on top” than about building life long friendships and relationships.

    * Some older leaders are primarily interested in being obeyed and submitted to than in having differing opinions being equitably discussed.

    * Some missionaries are unable to genuinely respect and submit to an indigenous person or a younger person as a leader.

    * Some older leaders are virtually and practically unable to welcome any initiative coming from a younger person.

    * Some leaders are only interested in projects and people who are subordinate to them, but have little interest for what others have done and are doing apart from them.

    Maybe all of the above points are saying the same thing: Many people are done with UBF because some UBF leaders absolutely need to be in unquestioning control over others and over the ministry.

    • Indeed, but I think the problem is even more deep. The bottom line is that people are done with UBFism. Sure there are people who still believe ubf can be reformed or better yet redeemed. But no one outside of some Koreans believe UBFism is a healthy, viable Christian ideology.

      People can no longer be controlled, mostly due to the internet and the social reforms that have taken place. As mrkimmathclass lamented, we cannot control people so easily as in the past.

    • And forests nailed it in his last post. Why are people done with ubf and rejecting UBFism? They see the hypocrisy and reject it.

    • Yet I would venture to say that there are still a significant number (perhaps mostly among older individuals) who were taught to believe that “spiritual order absolutely must be kept.” You can interpret this in any way you want.

      It is the one simple reason why so many who are faithful to UBF categorically reject UBFriends without a second thought. They also believe what others tell them about UBFriends (UBF bashing, etc) without ever bothering to ever verify it for themselves.

  14. A very astute observation and comment indeed!: “…a way for certain leaders to keep an authoritative and Korean influence and dominance. Continuing My Empowerment.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/08/26/why-so-many-are-done-with-ubf/#comment-19152

    Of late, I’ve thought and taught that one of the happiest and most fulfilling and satisfying life is to invest and genuinely celebrate in the success of OTHERS.

    I’m sorry to say that some (not all) in UBF primarily celebrate the success of their own ministry and sphere of influence, and especially their own ethnicity and their own culture, but not those of other ethnicities and cultures. It’s actually rather sad and depressing.