UBF 50th Anniversary Book: “Terrible Times”

The UBF Blue Book is a UBFPress publication released in 2011. The title of the book is: “UBF spirit | ministry | vision”. The book is composed of lectures from the 2011 UBF Shepherd Missionary Seminar and consists of 174 pages, 28 lectures by 28 senior UBF leaders.

I begin my review of the UBF Blue Book with the last lecture, which is entitled: “Shepherd-Missionary Seminar 2011 Closing Message: Terrible Times and the Bible”. The lecture has 2 Timthy 3:1-17 as its Bible passage. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the key verse of the lecture.

Part 1: “Have nothing to do with them” (verses 1-9). 

In Part 1, the lecture begins with an overview of the text, mentioning verse 1, verses 2-5a. The lecture leads us to think there is a crisis facing Timothy, known as terrible times. Then a declaration is made:

“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.”

The following quotes from Part 1 summarize what the author is communicating:

  • “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.”
  • “Paul strongly urges Timothy to “having nothing to do with them”.
  • “But the women are never able to acknowledge the truth even though they are always learning.”
  • “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.”

Part 2: “Continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of” (10-17).

Part 1 was only two pages long. Part 2 is eight pages long. Much time is spent in Part 2 declaring how some chapters in UBF have failed to continue in what they have learned. The application of verses 10-17 begins with the words

“I believe that this is also what God says to us. We are living in a world which changes rapidly.”

The author acknowledges that UBF is having difficulty serving the new generation of young people, who are very different from the young people UBF encountered in the 1960’s and 1970’s:

“We encounter difficulties and limits in serving the new generation who follow the popular trend of life infected with sin and go with the mainstream of sin. For this reason, we began to wonder if we should look for alternatives and changes different from what we had in the past.”

The author then goes on to rebuke chapters in UBF:

“Some chapters tried to implement the spiritual movement, giving up raising disciples through one-to-one Bible study because it was so difficult. Other chapters tried to live a religious life without the burdens of sharing Daily Bread and writing testimonies. There were also some chapters that tried to attract the attention of the young through singspiration, rather than focusing on profound Bible studies or testimony training.”

The author then simply concludes that the UBF activities are the “best ways to raise disciples” and “nobody can deny” that such ways are the best ways.

Then we have the ultimate teaching, the heart of what the author seems to want to declare:

“If the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years came from human efforts or ideas, we don’t need to continue in them. Those that come from human thoughts and ideas are limited and will change or disappear someday in the future. However, the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years didn’t come from the ideas of Dr. Samuel Lee or Mother Barry. It was not a typical UBF spirit, but the eternal truth of God’s words.”

This is a new teaching. When I came to UBF in 1987, everyone was clear: UBF spirit came from Sarah Barry and Samuel Lee. Now UBF spirit came from God? The thinking that UBF is the “best ways” and the “truth of God’s words” was always an unspoken rule that I thought people didn’t really believe. But the teaching is now described clearly in this Blue Book lecture.

The “Terrible Times” lecture continues with expounding on the 2 Timothy verses. And then the lecture concludes with a brief summary of the last 50 years of UBF history, weaving 2 Timothy verses into the stories of Samuel Lee and other UBF missionaries.

The lecture concludes with the following statements:

“We will bear much fruit in season. I earnestly pray that we may give our whole heart to love the word of God so that we can be filled with the breath of God all the time and become men of God who can breathe his Spirit to move hearts. May we be able to serve the great and heart-moving work of God in our own mission fields.”

From this  conclusion it is easy to see the UBF teaching here:

  • Be ambitious and work hard (but is there room for God to work?)
  • Love the word of God (but what about loving people?)
  • Be filled with the breathe of God (but what about being filled with the Holy Spirit?)
  • Become men of God (but what about the women of God?)
  • Be men of God who breathe his Spirit to move hearts (but isn’t God in control of that?)
  • Serve the work of God in our own mission fields (but doesn’t God own all the earth?)
  • Have nothing to do with former UBF members (but shouldn’t we love others?)

From this lecture it is clear the Korean UBF leaders think UBF is facing a crisis. It is clear that the crisis is co-workers  leaving  the ministry and UBF chapters not following the UBF ways as they had in the past.

Is this lecture a proper, Godly, Biblical response to the crisis?

6 thoughts on “UBF 50th Anniversary Book: “Terrible Times”

  1. The author of the lecture entitled “Terrible Times and the Bible” is David Kim, the new Korean UBF Director.

  2. The attitude displayed in the lecture is not that far from Rehoboam’s attitude after he took over from Solomon as king:

    1 Kings 12:6-11 “6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. 7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” 8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “Tell these people who have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter’–tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'”

  3. What’s going on in UBF amazes me. It seems more cult-like than ever with this Blue Book.

    It’s as if they have a new scripture based on UBF. Apparently, the focus of UBF is not on living with a relationship with God, but doing acts of UBF.

    Also, the arrogance and judgmental attitude of most UBF leaders is repulsive. They say that the hierarchy nature of UBF stems from Korean culture. That means that this aspect of Korean culture should be changed, no? I think an abusive hierarchy format shouldn’t exist for Christians. No person should “be in a higher position” than another.

    Jesus was humble and did not exert his dominance. He preached about being honest, non-judgmental, loving others as if they were yourself, having faith, being authentic, being child-like, etc. Sadly, I have not seen these characteristics from many so-called leaders in UBF.

    Brian, I think you made a great decision to leave. I assume it was difficult after so many years of investing your life in UBF, but you probably learned and grew so much from this experience. I’m very happy for you that you found a new supportive community.

  4. Hi jae,

    Yes, it was the most painful decision I’ve ever made. It is not easy to admit when you are wrong, especially about something you love and devoted 24 years of your life to. Yet I would make the same decision a thousand times if necessary.