About eighteen months ago I had a lovely married female graduate student, a mother of two young children, who took several of my classes at Wheaton Graduate School (apologetics and spiritual formation). She had grown up in a tent-making missionary family in the Hyde Park section of Chicago. She learned a missional lifestyle from her father and mother in their home. As she listened to my classes and read the assigned reading she came alive to the subjects and the impact of the ideas.
This student’s dad, a professionally trained man, felt a call to leave his native Korea many years ago in order to evangelize in the United States, especially at the University of Chicago. (He has recently uprooted himself to move to Boston to begin a new mission church work all over again. The courage and faith of this man humbles me to even think about this move.) My student did her B.A. at the University of Chicago before coming to Wheaton Graduate School. She will receive her M. A. in May. She had witnessed incarnational evangelism as practiced in her home from childhood. Through this relationship with this student I met her dad. Through this contact I was then invited to speak at the North American leadership gathering of University Bible Fellowship (UBF), held last February at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. This began a year-long process of learning about UBF and its varied ministries around the globe, all of which spring from the fruit of the Korean revival.
Shortly after I spoke for UBF for the first time I began to get some rather aggressive responses from a few former UBF members who insisted that this movement was a cult. They strongly warned me that I was being used by this group for very bad ends. Now I have been called a lot of things over the years, and made my share of enemies at times, but being charged with being used by a cult was a new one. My doctrinal convictions are so strongly orthodox, and most decidedly Reformed confessionally, that I wondered how I could have been so blind, at least according to the few people who wrote me (or wrote on this blog site). Some even made concerted efforts through other church leaders to stop my relationship with UBF. This seems especially odd given the fact that they have openly charged UBF with violating Scripture but then never made even the slightest overture to follow a biblical pattern for resolving the problems they sited to me, preferring to contact me and others through intermediaries.
As a result of all this fuss I read the statements of several of the critics very carefully, many of which can be found online via the usual search engines. I also read a lot about UBF from their own Web site. I had lengthy discussions with several seasoned and mature missiologists and devout Christian leaders who knew a great deal more about UBF first-hand than I did. I slowly became convinced that there were some problems in the past history of UBF with regard to how certain actions had been taken and how certain matters had been handled. A great deal of this was a result, in my view, of two factors: Korean culture and ingrown leadership. When I began to discuss these concerns with UBF leaders I found they were not defensive about these concerns at all. There was an honest recognition of the need to grow and to be more accountable. They admitted past mistakes. I then spoke to the large Chicago UBF "joint" congregation on a Sunday in the spring of 2006 and was also warmly received there. I shared a meal with the major leaders of the North American UBF team. Again, I asked honest questions and got very good answers. My friend Dr. Scott Moreau, the chairman of the missions department at Wheaton, spoke in Korea for the international UBF gathering in June. We have talked extensively about what he said there and how he was received. Dr. Robert Coleman, another friend, will speak to the same North American conference in February that I spoke at last year at the Graham Center. None of us feel the “cult” charges can be fairly and correctly applied to UBF. Look, real cults do not invite Scott Moreau, Robert Coleman and John Armstrong to be their plenary speakers. And no one at UBF had tied our hands or in any way hinders our freedom to speak as honestly as we desire.
Two things have totally convinced me of the credibility of UBF. First, my own personal relationships with UBF leaders. I have taken the time to get to know Pastor Ron Ward of the Chicago UBF very well. We have shared hours and hours of fellowship over the past twelve months. I know this man and I love his heart for God and for the gospel. He is a sound, humble, and Christ-centered servant. He is willing to admit his mistakes and is personally gracious almost to a fault. I have come to love him and I deeply admire him. When I pursued these charges with Ron he answered them in ways that I found convincing and credible. He admits that there were errors the group made in the past and more things will likely be discovered and need further correction in the future. But Ron seeks to grow and be faithful as a servant of the church. And he is both accountable and genuinely teachable.
The Chicago UBF church is not like most North American churches. The members are serious, reflective and deeply involved. (More than half of the members are Korean, though Ron Ward is not. He came to faith in Christ as a student at Oregon State University more than twenty-five years ago through an early UBF effort on that campus. He was mentored by the Korean leader of the North American work, who passed away several years ago in a tragic fire.) This unusual seriousness about the kingdom and world missions is where some of the problems arise in UBF, especially in an American culture that often treats individuality, and personal rights, as its highest ideals. UBF is focused on seeing Christ’s kingdom spread to every land and every UBF member is expected to engage in this goal. Some feel pressured and can’t live up to these group expectations. Sometimes UBF helps a young person to grow and then the person will feel the need to move on into a different ecclesiastical context in due time. Others, older and very well-educated in many instances, remain with the mission for decades. The group does practice church discipline and thus it treats relational sin seriously, qualities almost unseen in most American churches.
I spoke for the Chicago area UBF group leaders last Saturday evening. I was asked to speak on servant leadership. I openly addressed the types of dangers that cults, and strong leaders, can foster. UBF not only heard me but put the sermon on their Web site immediately. I spoke for a little over an hour and then took a Q & A time. They asked questions, very good ones and very tough ones, for well over 90 minutes. Some were not only difficult but quite refreshingly honest in a way that no cult would have ever allowed to happen with a guest speaker. The group is just different. They pray fervently, they talk passionately in one-to-one conversations about kingdom matters, they laugh at my remotely funny lines with real gusto, and they engage the speaker in ways more like an African-American congregation than a white suburban one. Frankly, I love preaching and teaching at UBF meetings. I feel “right at home.” I have rarely been shown such kindness anywhere in North America.
One of the consistent themes of UBF is the coming of Christ’s kingdom, or the already-but-not-yet nature of his kingdom. We sang a great song (Mercy/Vineyard music) last Saturday that reflects the real vision of UBF beautifully:
Father of creation, unfold your sovereign plan,
Raise up a chosen generation that will march through the land.
All of creation is longing for your unveiling of power.
Would you release your anointing? Oh God, let this be the hour.
Ruler of the nations, the world has yet to see
The full release of your promise, the church in victory.
Turn to us, Lord, and touch us, make us strong in your might.
Overcome our weakness, that we could stand up and fight.
Let your kingdom come (Let your kingdom come),
Let your will be done (Let your will be done),
Let us see on earth (Let us see on earth)
The glory of your Son.
I share that prayer, as expressed in this song, and I am thankful that God gave me friends like those I have made through UBF. These people do not do everything right but then what church really does? They are quite culturally formed by their past but they are learning how to better reach into the wider North American culture with greater and greater freedom. The main thing is this—these friends are hungry for God and for his kingdom and they are truly sold out to extending that kingdom to the ends of the earth. This ministry is the fruit of the Korean revival and I pray that the spirit of this type of ministry will touch many other churches and groups around the world. Such a movement of God’s Spirit is still our real hope for major change in America.
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I have to confess my ignorance: what is “UBF”? I’m not sure what the initials stand for.
UBF refers to University Bible Fellowship. I will edit this post tonight so that this becomes clear now.
to be honest, i don’t know as much as you do about UBF. but when i was young i met many sincere and honest UBF members because i went to a korean church in chicago with many family members of UBF. i don’t believe cultural issue has anything to do with the “cult” label. simply because it was widely accepted within the korean community that UBF is a cult. from what i understand, it wasn’t their theology but their abusive shepherding (discipling) practices.
I can certainly accept that no christian community (church) is perfect and many adjustments might have been made but perhaps that so many people still are so angry with the group should also raise a warning sign.
and i am afraid only the angry “aggressive” ones are approaching you and that there might be many more that might have just quietly faded away from God.
Praise God for His work! I am grateful to read a public posting of thoughts very similar to mine. I have been participating in UBF ministry since 1987 and thank God for those willing to stand up for Jesus in our post-modern generation.
I thank you for you honest assessment from personal experience. it is refreshing to my soul. How often our hearts are swayed by sensationalized second hand info. I first met Jesus through 1:1 Bible study with UBF 20 years ago and have been trying to reveal Jesus to college students ever since.
Thanks for a wonderful lecture and Q & A, and for taking the time to write this review. As a faithful and committed UBF member, it is well appreciated.
Thank you for your always gracious and powerful sermons/lectures. You really have an ability to connect personally with the congregation. I’m so encouraged. God bless you.
Thank you for sharing a very frank view. It is encouraging to read as we pray to make an impact in this generation so that young people will turn back to Jesus. God bless your work in the Lord’s vinyard!
Dr. Armstrong, thank you for this fair, encouraging and truthful
article. As a member of UBF for more than 25 years, I know that we
have made mistakes as individuals and as an organization.
But the premise of some detractors–that we are an evil cultlike
organization–is just silly.
I applaud your courage and intellectual honesty to see us
firsthand and make up your own mind. I wish that more Christians had
wisdom to discern where the Holy Spirit is truly working in their
times. More often than not, it is outside our comfort zone,
on the fringes of the Christian establishment. Can a truly missional
church ever come into existence without mistakes and growing pains?
Can it ever be non-controversial if it is surrounded by older, better
established and well heeled organizations? I think not.
We look forward to continuing an open, constructive dialogue
with you and other fair-minded servants of God about how we can
improve our ministry to better carry out the missional mandate of
Thanks for your extensive writing about your experience with UBF.
I have been in UBF more than 20 years, ten years in Korea and 14 years in Washington D.C.
I was an atheist. God called me through UBF and am serving campus mission teaching one to one to the students of University of Maryland. I believe God has used UBF to reach out many students in the US and many parts of the world.
I am thankful to your friendship and want to hear someday in our center in Maryland.
May God be with you and bless your work.
Thank you for your thoughts and experience of UBF. I was heartened to see that you went and investgated yourself. As a member of UBF for about 9 years my experience has been of people with a sincere desire to see God’s kingdom come and to exhalt Jesus. I have found the accusations of being a cult or engaged in cult like behaviour plain silly. Is UBF perfect? Of course not. Have mistakes been made? Of course. Your contribution opens up further dialogue and I thank God for your patient and thoughtful contribution.
Dear Dr. Armstrong,
I am very sorry to disagree with you about the credibility of UBF. I find it difficult to accept your argument. You say that you are convinced of the credibility of UBF through personal relationships with UBF leaders. I quote the following:
“Two things have totally convinced me of the credibility of UBF. First, my own personal relationships with UBF leaders. I have taken the time to get to know Pastor Ron Ward of the Chicago UBF very well. We have shared hours and hours of fellowship over the past twelve months. I know this man and I love his heart for God and for the gospel. He is a sound, humble, and Christ-centered servant.”
Please correct me if I am making a mistake here. But it seems that your conclusion about the credibility of UBF is mostly based on your acquaintance with Pastor Ron Ward. I am not sure if you have done extensive research on UBF power structure. It seems to me that your understanding of UBF power structure is based on your relationship with Pastor Ron Ward. But UBF power structure is more complicated than that. You should have tried to understand Pastor Ron Ward’s role and position in the context of the real UBF power structure. If one wants to understand the power structure of North Korea, he should look more carefully at Kim Jong Il and his devotees than Kim’s public relations officer. UBF power structure is more complicated than one person Pastor Ron Ward. Therefore your argument about the credibility of UBF doesn’t seem to be well grounded.
Hi Mr. Armstrong,
Did you ever meet with anyone who is against ubf?
I am former ubfin who would be glad to meet with you. Next time you are in Chicago, please advise and we can meet. I can bring many others who would also like to share their experiences with you.
I spent more than 10 years in ubf, took courses at Moody, and am personal friends with a Willow Creek fulltime staffer who knows ubf somewhat. You need to learn both sides of ubf, you may see that the bad outweighs the good.
Hint, the bad is found in the leadership, not the sincere recruits.
Le escribo desde México, tuve oportunidad de leer sus comentarios acerca de UBF, y probablemente como usted dice no sea una secta, pero personalmente el problema de UBF, no es su teología doctrinal y puntos centrales para ser llamados cristiano, sino sus convicciones como iglesia y los frutos que han mostrado en el tiempo de su existencia. En el capítulo mexicano al que pertenecí durante casi tres años, los misioneros coreanos y los líderes mexicanos siempre se caracterizaron por ser unos abusivos, justificando sus acciones con argumentos bíblicos, pero su conducta la cual no es reprochable moralmente, pero sí de tipo legalista, fariseica y por lo tanto sectaria, uno no tiene más que conocer superficialmente a UBF, y encontrará que muchas de sus prácticas coinciden con la de las sectas. El problema es que muchos se dejan engañar por su supuesta sana teología y doctrina cristiana, pero en ese caso hay que recordar que los fariseos en tiempos de Jesús también tenían un conocimiento supremo y excelente de la Biblia, moralmente no se les reprochaba nada, pero si usted revisa bien la Biblia, Jesús los llamo sepulcros blanqueados porque sólo vivían una ley como carga e impuesta al pueblo, suprimiendo las libertades fundamentales, eso mismo práctica UBF.
Soy de México y puedo dar testimonio que lo mismo que se les acusa en Corea, Estados Unidos y el resto del mundo, es cierto, también lo practican en México y son una secta, o probablemente un grupo fundamentalista cristiano, que te amarga la vida y presenta serias desviaciones.
Thanks for your love for the Lord and your great insight into the work of God in UBF. I heard you speak at Wheaton college and you truly inspired me to come back to the Bible. For those who are interested in reading my testimony with UBF, you can read it in a published book, “Crossing the Red Sea.” I thank and praise God for the sacrificial lives of UBF members to serve God’s world mission work despite the opposition that even Jesus our Lord had to face. The grace of Jesus came to change us. “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 18:3) Even Dwight L. Moody wrote: “The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives.” May Christ’s kingdom spread to every land and may God bless all churches to come together as one for the glory of God. May God continue to bless your family and ministry. We will keep you in our prayers. May God revive us and continue to change all of his people of every church. May his kingdom come. Amen.
It is strange that only current UBF members are appretiating your article, in the same way as they applaude UBF members if they share “gracious” (i.e. UBF compliant) “sogams” (testimonies). I think you are being used for giving UBF more credibility. That’s the exact reason why you were invited to conferences and why you are flattered and honored so much by UBF members that you start to become biased.
You never experienced UBF from the perspective of a young recruit who is being “trained” by UBF leaders, is not allowed to make own decisions including decisions about marriage partner, is spiritually abused in many way. You never will. They will treat you in a special way since they need you as an apologist to gain credibility. That’s their new strategy after being dismissed by the NAE.
You know literally nothing about the abusive dynamics going on in the authoritarian structures of UBF and you never will, since they will always treat you differently. They won’t rebuke you. They won’t let you run with naked feet to Skokie. They won’t question your salvation. They won’t tell you whom to marry, where to live etc. They won’t tell you not to visit your parents. They won’t ask you to attend dozends of meetings and Biblestudy a week and invite students on campus. But that’s the reality of the ordinary UBF member.
Do you think a ministry should be accountable? What do you think about UBF (Samuel Lee) not answering the letters by reform willing (Korean!) members in the year 2000? What do you think about UBF (Sarah Barry) not answering the letters of long-time former members with very simple questions after the death of Samuel Lee?
What do you think about Samuel Lee ordering an abortion to a Korean missionary? You may ask the UBF president Joseph Chung about that. He has even confirmed it is true, but does not consider it to be serious.
What do you think about UBF letting people divorce and remarry just because the partner wants to leave UBF?
What do you think about UBF never ever publicly admitting their very concrete sins of abuse, misappropriation of money etc. and covering up any criticism, and instead praising and celebrating themselves every year?
Did you ever take so much time as you took with Mr. Ward to speak with an UBF dropout? Did you ever really study the phenomena of spritual abuse, mind control and cult dynamics in general and the problems and history of UBF in particular?
Many questions. I am very disappointed since you brush away the experience of hundreds of UBF so easily (indirectly claiming they are liars or just the usual discontent). UBF has destroyed families and lives and brought disgrace onto the name of God. You are mocking these victims with your sweeping dismissal of all criticism just because of a few talks with one smart leader. Because of you, young students may believe UBF is a credible organization, and UBF will be enabled to do the same harm to young recruits as they did to so many of us already.
Mr. Armstrong, did Mr. Ward just admit “that there were errors the group made in the past” (now to which group would that not apply?) or did he name any errors *concretely*? Did he say whether he considered the errors to be *serious*? Did he say whether these errors were not just errors but *grave sins*? Did he mentioned whether some top leader repented for these errors? Did he say how UBF wants to make sure such members and leaders understand these “errors” and that these “errors” cannot happen again?
Since you have such a good connection with UBF, can you ask Ms. Barry to answer our very simple questions here: http://www.ubf-info.de/int/late/16questions2003.en.htm? Is UBF ever going to answer?
Sorry for the many typos. Usually my English is better, but when I read such blind praise of a cult group I get so discomposed that I cannot type calmly. Next time I’ll wait some time before answering. Anyway I stand to what I have written. I should have written more clearly even.
BTW, on your picture you are holding your pet dog. Do you think any ordinary UBF member would have even time for a dog? In many UBF chapters they do not even have time for their children. It’s very comfortable to praise UBF if you are not a subordinate in their unbiblical hierarchy.
Dear Dr. Armstrong,
I had the opportunity to read your unbiased opinion of the UBF ministry. As a former member of UBF what struck me most were these statements ‘Some feel pressured and can’t live up to these group expectations. Sometimes UBF helps a young person to grow and then the person will feel the need to move on into a different ecclesiastical context in due time.’ What is unclear is that you may be stating that it is ok for Christians to be pressured by men into loving and serving God whereas being compelled by the holy spirit I am a young ex ubfer and therefore I cannot even attest to having a full grasp of theology, that I know you possess but what I do know is what it is like to be a UBFer something you undoubtedly were not privy to see. Most ex members leave the ministry feeling that their faith was being stunted, some were burned out and others are still guilt ridden by their inability not to live up to being imitators of Christ but to the rules of an organization.
At some point Dr. Armstrong I and many were of the deep conviction that our faith was tied to an organization and not to the one who bore our sins on the cross. We devoted our lives and time to what we thought was the work of God, praying that all one to one bible students became UBF disciples. ‘Sometimes UBF helps a young person to grow and then the person will leave’ is the sugar coated version of the truth any other church in the eyes of UBF is not a true Christian church the hope (not the lip service) is that all follow the path of becoming a shepherd, fish on campus and raise a specified number of disciples on University campuses. Leaving UBF is not a welcomed option a good church will pray for their members and ask God to bless them wherever he leads them this is not the same of UBF. You also missed out on the over emphasis on numbers but that may easily go under the radar if you did not have the opportunity to meet the well intentioned rank and file member or ex member. These are not issues from ten years ago these are the problems that exist today. I think that maybe if you had stripped away all the titles and success and spent a day in the shoes of the lowly UBF member your opinion of the UBF ministry I pray would have been different.
Thank you for your time
Please take a close look at the following claim by Dr. Armstrong.
“This seems especially odd given the fact that they have openly charged UBF with violating Scripture but then never made even the slightest overture to follow a biblical pattern for resolving the problems they sited to me, preferring to contact me and others through intermediaries.”
What is he trying to say here? We who are trying to expose the problems in UBF are bad guys who “never made even the slightest overture to follow a biblical patter for resolving the problems”? This is literally a slap in our face! THIS IS NOT FAIR!
Dear Dr. Armstrong, I am so sorry that our experience with UBF did not prove to be as fortunate as yours. Was it because we were not good enough as you? Was it because we didn’t try hard enough as you?
What should we have done to resolve the problems following a biblical pattern? I wish you could tell us what to do. Why? Because when we tried to talk to the UBF leaders about the problems, they called “Satan” as many Korean pastors do in Korea; when we tried to talk to the UBF leaders about the problems, they called us “rebels”; wehn we tried to talk to the UBF leaders about the problems, they said “If you don’t like how we do it, you can go.” Then finally John Jun, one of the good UBF leaders Dr. Armstrong you refer to, expelled all reform-minded members which was almost the half of the total UBF members condemning them as second-class Christians who compromised their absolute faith in Jesus with their worldly desires.
So I am personally very curious to know how you maintain very good relationship with UBF leaders. Please give us some word of wisdom so that we can try to resolve the problems with the UBF leaders by following a biblical pattern.
I posted an article previously about how UBF leaders have tried to avoid their problmes by persecuting the members who raise questions about their abusive exercise of their authority. But unfortunately, the website links to the vaious documents I refer to do not show up. So I posted the same article on another webiste: http://community.livejournal.com/rsqubf/113607.html?thread=581319#t581319
Please go to the webiste above to see the related documents.
I think I the link in the previous posting is not right. Try this one:
Sorry about the confusion.
when kevin referred to my past comment with
“How often our hearts are swayed by sensationalized second hand info.”
i didn’t have much to say bec. it was second hand info. but after seeing all these other “first hand” posts, i would like his response.
however, to update my post, my second hand info was from grandparents of the leaders of chicago UBF. they came to our church because UBF leaders (their own children) would not allow them to be part of their services.
these were not parents of “sheeps” but headquarter leaders.
what really is the fruit of this ministry???
after reading so many posts, i can’t help but notice so much pain and anger from x-members and have to wonder why it is so …
are there any x-members praising UBF .. it would be nice to know.
John, I would like to know:
What have UBF leaders done to reconcile with those hurt by the past mistakes the leaders evidently have admitted to?
Clearly reconciliation was of the utmost importance to Jesus:
Matthew 5:23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.
This passage seems clear to me. If someone is upset with us it is our responsibility to go to them. It is not sufficient for us to wait until they come to us. So, what steps have UBF leaders take, in obedience to this passage, to go out to those who have something against them, seeking reconciliation?
Forgive me for posting an answer directed to John. I do not know who John is. I just happened to visit this website and read your comments.
UBF leaders didn’t do anything to reconcile with former members. All they have done is to villanize the former members as “enemies” of God or as “Satan”. The following link is a Sunday message by Pastor Ron Ward at Chicago UBF chapter delievered on 10/22/2006.
It is the message number 59 which was delivered on 10/22/2006 on this page (http://chicagoubf.org/view_updates.php?url=http://chicagoubf.org/bbs/zboard.php&id=recent_messages)
I quote the following from the message:
“Some of us have loved young people who turned out to be selfish pragmatists, and even enemies of the gospel. One shepherd sacrificed his family life to help a desperate young man. This young man received all the love and attention gladly and restored his spirit and ambition. However, when a young woman appealed to his romantic inclination, he ran off with her making many false charges against his shepherd and others. This wounds our hearts. We can understand why love grows cold. But it does not have to.”
This is completely false accusation. All UBF leaders employ this kind of bad strategy to villanize former members even though they claim that they admit their past mistakes.
A good example of UBF leaders’ villanizing former members can be found here: http://community.livejournal.com/rsqubf/112423.html
It seems to me that UBF leaders do not have any intention to reconcile with formeber members but to demonize them. Now they seem to plan improve public relations instead of addressing their abusive practices.
By the way, if you do not know who Pastor Ron Ward is, click on this link (http://www.ubf.org/messages/video_messages.php). Then choose the video message titled “Matthew 24:1-22 THIS GOSPEL WILL BE PREACHED TO ALL NATIONS” by clicking “Watch”.
I am sorry there was a problem with the link to video messages again. Really sorry about that. Try this one:
I would like to add that I talked about all these issues privately with my chapter leader during the time of reform, but he dismissed any of this and tried to manipulate me in many ways instaed. He completely refused any kind of reform.
Also, letters have been written to the leadership, privately and publicly, but they were never answered. The first such pulic letter to S.Lee is from 1976 by the 7 Korean top shepherds. Then there were the letters by James Kim and others in 1989. Then there was the letter to S.Lee with 15 questions by the Korean reformers in 2000. Then there was the letter with 16 questions to S.Barry in 2003. All of these letters were not even answered by the leadership. What else should we do? The UBF leadership has proven to be completely inaccountable, to anybody.
Please read Samuel Lee’s statement when a petition of reformers visited him 1 year before his death: “God will punish me if I did anything wrong.” What he wanted to say was: Nobody is allowed to criticize or judge me except God directly. What biblical pattern can you follow when a leader has such a stance?
This just a clarification. Again, I feel mocked when I hear that we did not try to follow biblical patterns and did not try to speak with the leaders directly. How do you know what efforts we already have taken? How do you even dare to say such things without knowning?
Hi ex UBF member, John is the person whose blog this is.
Thank you for the links and video links.
Thank you so much for your genuine interest in the problems related to UBF organization and its formber members.
I think that my response to Dr. Armstrong’s article was somewhat emotional one. For that I want to apologize to Dr. Armstrong and everyone who read my comments. But please try to understand that this matter is very emotional and sensitive one to those of us who felt systematically betrayed by UBF leadership. Please do know, however, that there are many many former members who are still recovering from the hurts and spiritual, emotioanl, financial, mental and physical damages done through UBF system.
If there is anyone who is offended by commnets posted here, please forgive me for that.
Dr. Armstrong, please forgive me for posting rude and emotional comments on your website. I am also very sorry for flooding my comments on your website. But I want you to know that I disagree with you only regarding your position on UBF system. I do like your other thought provoking articles. I especially enjoyed your article on Super Bowl. May God continue to give you spritual wisdom on many issues in the world and in this country! May God continue to use your hard work to bring the light of Godspel into this dark world!
May God forgive my sin of being rude to his servant!
In the previous comment by Chris, he mentioned a lot of steps taken by former UBF members
to address the problems in UBF. I thought it would be nice if there were links to
all the related documents. So here they are. They can be all found at http://ubf-info.de/index.en.htm
pulic letter to S.Lee is from 1976 by the 7 Korean top shepherds: http://ubf-info.de/int/ref1/openletter1976.en.htm
the letters by James Kim and others in 1989: http://ubf-info.de/int/ref2/jameskim1989.en.htm
the letter to S.Lee with 15 questions by the Korean reformers in 2000: http://ubf-info.de/int/ref3/15questions2000.en.htm
the letter with 16 questions to S.Barry in 2003: http://ubf-info.de/int/late/16questions2003.en.htm
Thank you so much for your article. I was so impressed how precisely you wrote about UBF. I totally agree with your article. UBF is not perfect. We made mistakes in the past. As you said “unusual seriousness about the kingdom and world missions” may led some immature behaviors.
and cultural matters were also involved. but, thank you again for that you saw UBF’s true motive and pure heart for God. Thank God for your wisdom and courage.
Hi ex ubf member,
I have had some difficult experiences with other Christians.
It helped me to realize that Jesus is very close to those who have suffered at the hands of people thinking they are doing God’s will. Because that’s exactly what Jesus went through. The Jewish religious leaders _thought_ they were doing what God wanted when they called for Jesus’ death.
One thing that has helped me Jesus’ prayer (from the cross!) “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”.
I think that is usually true when people who think they are doing God’s will hurt us.
When we forgive we are NOT saying “What you did was ok” – we are seeking freedom from the harm that the anger and bitterness does to US. To be free to serve Christ as he would have us free, we need to forgive and let go of past hurts.
Because people who are hurt by other Christians so often have their experiences denied and invalidated, I do think support groups of other people who have suffered the same way can be valuable. Some people are so confused that they need to start by hearing “No, it was not your fault; that was wrong”, so they can sort things out in their own minds.
But the danger of groups like that is that members don’t always challenge each other to forgive and move on.
Forgiveness is something you do in your heart, first. Whether you try to arrange a way to say “I forgive you” to the other person and possibly along with that seek reconciliation should be carefully thought through. It is much better to wait until you have let go of the anger so you can approach the other person in a way that is most likely to be constructive.
But even then it may not be a good idea. If what you have is a difference of opinion, that still exists: you were hurt but he/she sees nothing wrong with what they did – then it’s best not to get together with them because most likely you will only get angry and hurt all over again. Jesus said if we don’t forgive, God won’t forgive us. So that isn’t a choice we want to make. However Paul wrote “_as far as possible_ live at peace with others”. We can’t control others or make them agree with us. So, decide carefully whether to seek some sort of resolution/reconciliation with the other person. If they come to you then you should humbly receive them. But if not then it might be best to move on and be thankful every day for the freedom you now have – from oppressive leadership and also from your own temptation to be angry and bitter.
I hope this helps a bit.
May God set you free from anything which still binds you today.
Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging post. I thank God that there are still many good Christians like you who shows genuine concern for fellow Chrstians to pray for them to live according to God’s truth. May God use you to encourage many other who are hurt!
It was hard for me to forgive the UBF leaders for some time. Now I have forgiven them and pray for them to genuinely repent before God. This is all I can do on my persoanl level.
What I am more concerned than my forgiving them personally is this: The problems of UBF and the sin of its leaders are not on persoanl level any more but it is now on SYSTEM level.
What do I mean by this? Cosider the problem of slavery in early America; consider the sin of Nazis during WWII; consider the problem of N. Korea. These problems are all on system level rather than on personal level. The system must be changed or defeated. Solving a problem on personal level is not the same as solving it on system level. That is what we former UBF members are trying to do: Let the public know the problems in UBF system; point out the problems in UBF system to its leaders; investigate and document the cultic dynamics in UBF system to learn lessons for the future generation.
Dear Helen and Ex UBF,
the problems exist on both levels: personal *and* system. The system is laid-out in a way that is unbiblical (personal, hierarchical shepherding, arranged marriage, authoritarism, unaccountability of leaders, onesided and false teaching etc.) and inevitably leads to abuse. And then there are the many and severe concrete sins and cases of abuse, misappropriation of money, forced abortion etc. *Both* kinds of problems need to be dealt with. It does not suffice when leaders repent for their personal sins or simply die, if the whole system is not changed. And it does not suffice to change the system, if leaders do not repent for the harm and sins they committed in the past.
Concerning forgiveness, I also want to point out that it makes a huge difference whether the offender *ask* for forgiveness and whether they repent. Jesus said “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” No we are in the phase of “rebuke him”. The phase of “forgive him” comes usually only if the person/organization repents. Of course, we may let them know that we are pro-actively forgiving them anyway, but that will not help them in front of God. Forgiveness is only for those who admit and repent of their sins.
your excuse “UBF is not perfect” I have heard a thousand times by defenders of UBF and other cults. This is not the point. The point is that UBF does not at least *strive* for perfection by openly dealing with the mistakes and sins instead of covering them up. I haven’t heard a single public statement from UBF about any of the real problems. I haven’t read any public repentance or apology for the real, concrete issues at hand, or a statement how this will be prevented in the future. Why were the Korean reformers kicked out in 2000? I haven’t heard whether these brave people were rehabilitated or still considered as “rebels.”
What you write sounds like: “Everybody is a sinner, so let’s forget about the sin in the past and continue to sin.” Past sins must be repented of, and avoided in the future. I cannot see this happen in UBF.
This stereotypic excuse for everything of “no church is perfect” is a good indicator that UBF is not a church, but a cult.
By the way, in the many self-praise videos, conferences, sermons etc. of UBF, I do not even read the statement that UBF is not perfect and that mistakes have been made.
Another common excuse is that you claim that UBF has a “pure heart”. But who can make a judgment about that except God? I can see a lot of strange things, like dealing with money, or recently even an official strategy of “business mission” that does not look so pure. You are claiming that your “pure heart” or “motivation” (that nobody except God can really verifiy) and your goal “campus mission” justifies any means. The “end justifies the means” is a UBF mindset that has brought so much harm over so many people.
ex UBF member, thanks. I understand what you are saying. If I knew of a systemwide problem within an organization I’d want them to change the system. From what John Armstrong says, they might have made some changes. But perhaps those changes haven’t gone far enough. I really don’t know since I’ve never been in UBF nor do I know any leaders or ex-members personally.
Chris, it seems to me that the UBF leaders are believers and so are those people who have left UBF, upset about practices there.
The Bible tells us how believers should deal with one another, for example:
Eph 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5:1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Col 3:12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
I don’t sense kindness and compassion in what you write. I assume you want others to see what is good in you – yet you seem unwilling to see any good in UBF. How is that ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you’?
Surely it’s possible to be kind and compassionate AND to be honest about any serious problems that need addressing. Isn’t that how God is with us? Isn’t that ‘what Jesus would do’?
Helen, your comments are very gracious.
I met Jesus personally while in UBF. I am not saying that UBF is the only place I could have met Jesus. But through personal Bible study and Bible readings, I learned that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and that through His blood on the cross we are saved. I learned what Jesus’ unconditional, sacrifical love is for sinners such as me. When I experienced such joy in my heart, I couldn’t help but want to share it with others.
I am currently in UBF ministry to this day, although I am not bound to UBF, because my love relationship and commitment is to Jesus first and foremost. It’s not easy being in a ministry that people accuse of being a cult. I have prayed many times for spiritual discernment on this matter. But after much prayer and from my own personal experience, I truly believe that UBF ministry is a ministry that sincerely worships Jesus and prays for people all over the world to be saved. There are many wonderful ministries that God is using to bring people to Christ, and I believe UBF is one of them.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
May the love of Jesus dwell in our hearts.
ExUBFMember stated exactly the conclusion most of my discussions with the four people instigating the internet rally against UBF ministry. Yes, there are four people leading the effort to promote UBF as an evil cult that needs to be destroyed.
Quote from ExUBFMember: “…Cosider the problem of slavery in early America; consider the sin of Nazis during WWII; consider the problem of N. Korea. These problems are all on system level rather than on personal level. The system must be changed or defeated…”
I have been a Christian for nearly 20 years now (and yes a devoted member of UBF). I don’t see any way to make peace with those who hold firmly to the view ExUBFMember points out. To criticize, correct or rebuke is one thing. I have seen many, many examples of people being confronted and repenting humbly and making peace. In fact, rarely have I met more humble and repentant people willing to listen and change than I have in UBF ministry. But to cross the line and declare that a ministry needs to be defeated is quite another thing and quite un-Biblical. To go all the way to compare UBF ministry to Nazi’s or North Korea is simply absurd, and plants doubt in people who may be struggling.
One of my prayers is that these four people may find peace with God and peace with whomever they feel has offended them, rather than wildly proclaiming their grudge and false theology on the internet.
More than this, I pray that the kingdom of God may advance and that God may be gloried by our words and actions, and websites.
Thanks, ubf member.
It seems to me that the hurt on both sides is real.
It must hurt a lot to be accused of being a cult when it seems to you that all you are trying to do is serve God with your whole heart, mind, soul and strength, and to help others do that also.
And it must hurt a lot to reach a decision point that “I cannot stay in this group because where they want me to go and where I believe Jesus wants me to go are two different directions.” There is generally a huge sense of betrayal and disappointment accompanying that if you gave a lot of your time and energy serving with that group.
I do hope some sort of healing and reconciliation can take place. As Paul wrote in Galatians 5:14-15: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. ”
I think it is very sad when believers do this to one another. I expect Satan just watches and smiles, happy to see them doing his work for him. We are easily convinced that the biggest problem is that the other party does not see things as we do i.e. the biggest problem is that they are wrong.
But perhaps the biggest problem from God’s point of view is how believers treat each other when they disagree over what serving God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength looks like.
Thank you so much for your comment on my post. I read my post again and I agree with you that there is some room for
misunderstanding. I am sorry that my negligence has offended your feeling. I would be also very upset if anyone compare
my church to Nazi or to N. Korea. I am truly sorry.
What I was trying to say is not that UBF is like Nazi or N. Korea. I was just trying to illustrate that there is sin committed
through certain system and I was using them ONLY as examples rather than to say that UBF is like Nazi or N. Korea. Nontheless
if I have given you the impression that UBF is like Nazi, the fault is mine. Please forgive me.
I think Helen is right. We need to calm down instead of getting emotional over the issues of UBF. As Helen said, it only
benefits Satan when we accuse each other emotionally rather than try to focus on the real issues to bring about godly outcome.
I can clearly see that you have sincere and fervent desire to serve God. Praise God who has raised such a person as you in
this corrupt generation who wants to serve God with such great desire! May God continue to bless you in everything you do!
Such great desire to serve God must be directed toward God himself. Such great desire to serve God should not be directed
to achieve selfish ambition. Such great desire to serve God should not be locked into certain organization. Such great
desire to serve God should not be directed to praise Dr. Samuel Lee and UBF leaders. Please understand that I am not saying
this is happening to you. But it is happening in UBF organization in general systematically.
I am going to quote some excerpts from UBF messages, mission reports and testimonies. In October 2006, Dr. Joe Schafer
gave his testimony praising Dr. Samuel Lee: http://www.ubf.org/bbs/view.php?id=worldmission&no=602 Here is an excerpt:
“The vast majority of preachers today use topical Bible study, bringing together passages from here and there to make
a point. This method is popular, but it suffers from a severe drawback: the one preparing the message already has
a preconceived idea of what the main point must be, so he rarely learns much beyond what he already knows. This method
does not challenge one to deeply examine his own personal and cultural prejudices to see if they agree with the revealed
truth in God’s word. Instead of using topical Bible study, Dr. Lee always used expositional study. He covered each
chapter of the Bible in detail.”
Dr. Schafer is clearly making a mistake here. Commonsense tells us that both topical study
and expositional study will suffer from the same drawbacks unless the one who studies the Bible is open to comments from
other people. Dr. Schafer is praising Dr. Samuel Lee by criticizing topical Bible study which the vast majority of preachers
use today. In fact in UBF everyone is expected to study the Bible following Dr. Samuel Lee’s methodology. In this way,
other Bible study methodology in local churches are discredited intentionally. So the question is: Does UBF system direct
members to study the Bible itself or does it direct members to study the Bible only according to Dr. Samuel Lee’s methodology?
The following is an excerpt from 2006 Denmark mission report: http://www.ubf.org/bbs/view.php?id=worldmission&no=780
“But because of his marriage dream, Jakob left one week before the autumn Bible academy and went to a local church.”
The following is an excerpt from Pastor Ron Ward’s message as I quoted in the previous comment:
“One shepherd sacrificed his family life to help a desperate young man. This young man received all the love and
attention gladly and restored his spirit and ambition. However, when a young woman appealed to his romantic
inclination, he ran off with her making many false charges against his shepherd and others.”
This is a 2005 mission report in Lodon UBF: http://www.ubf.org/bbs/view.php?id=worldmission&page=1&sn1=&divpage=1&sn=off&ss=on&sc=on&select_arrange=headnum&desc=asc&no=298
“This year Satan has worked in this way and hindered the commitment of some students who stopped study. Stuart,
after 3.5 years of Bible study, of finding a faith and of common life, decided to move to another church.”
Why is it that a member’s leaving UBF is viewed as work of Satan in UBF? Why is it that it is always the person who
leaves UBF to be blamed with accusation like “marriage problem” when in fact there is no such problem like in this case
http://community.livejournal.com/rsqubf/112423.html ? Why do UBF pastors use their pulpit for
malicious talk and character assassination of the former members? Isn’t it obvious that UBF system directs the members to
commit to UBF itself than to God himself? God forbids this to happen but suppose BrianK you decides to leave UBF. How
would feel when you find out that your pastor talks maliciously about you? May this never happen to you!
This one is 2006 Turkey mission report: http://www.ubf.org/bbs/view.php?id=worldmission&page=2&sn1=&divpage=1&sn=off&ss=on&sc=on&select_arrange=headnum&desc=asc&no=764
“I rebuked D. for making compromises with her family and H. for not being willing to break up with her boy-friend
and for her arrogance. After that they started to complain and left. Our two Turkish brothers N. and Y. also left us
after I rebuked them.”
What does it mean to “compromise with family” in UBF? Why is it considered the same as “compromise with sin”? How does
UBF missionaries know when “compromise with family” is “compromise with sin”? Why do UBF leaders try to break up
relationship? Is breaking up the relationship the only godly option? How about helping the couple to develop godly
relationship instead of breaking it up? Is it less godly option? Or is it just that UBF leaders want a member to
marry only another UBF member so that they could settle down permanently in UBF? So is marriage in UBF directed to God or to making
couples to commit to UBF system? Why do UBF leaders rebuke members for arrogance when they disagree with them? Is it to
help them to direct their attention to God or to make them obey their own authority more?
If I have offended you in any way again, please forgive me. But I think these issues are not properly addressed in UBF.
Sometimes the leaders deliberately avoid addressing the issues. I was not trying to hurt your feeling. I am sure you
would agree with my on many points here. If you truly love your organization, you will do your best to make it better.
Defending it blindly (sorry, for the language, I am not using it with any bad intention, please take it as just a word)
wouldn’t make UBF better.
As it would be absurd to conclude that there is only one member in UBf who defends it because only he posts it here, it would be also absurd to conclude that there are only 4 people who are against UBF system.
This is going to be my last post. I hate to drain away resources from Dr. Armstrong’s website. If you have any comments or
questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading. God bless you!
You raise good questions. I would gladly discuss them with you, but I agree Dr.Armstrong’s blog is not the place. So I too will stop posting here.
I agree that it is absurd to think there are only 4 people who are against the UBF “system” as you say. That’s why I wrote above that “there are four people leading the effort to promote UBF as an evil cult that needs to be destroyed.” Certainly not everone who left our ministry is against the ministry to the point of condemning us on the internet. I know people who have left on good terms. But certainly there are 4 people leading the “cause”.
May God bless you and make you a blessing.
I am really sorry. But I had to post this one more comment because I think it helps us understand the dynamics going on in
UBF system. I was going to do it in my last post that was supposed to be last. But I think I forgot about it. I am really sorry. Anyway
this is my last post.
The following excerpt is from Dr. Samuel Lee’s message circa Oct. 1996: http://chicagoubf.org/bible_study_view.php?file=john/jn04a.txt
It is based on the passage where Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman in John 4.
“These days, many people never talk about others’ sin problem,
because they are afraid they would violate others’ human rights. But
Jesus endured the pain of exposing her inner sin problem so that he
might, by any means, help her solve her sin problem…
…”Go, call your husband!” Humanly speaking, this was interference
with her private life. However, Jesus did not mind violating her human
rights to talk about her sin problem in order to heal her sin-sick
Dr. Samuel Lee claims that “Jesus did not mind violating her human rights” to heal her. This is clearly false teaching.
Was there any case in which Jesus had to violate other’s human rights to help them in the Bible? Jesus could have never
violated anyone’s human rights. Otherwise he could not have become the Lamb of God.
Next is a Sunday message delivered by Pastor Ron Ward on 3/26/2006 in Chicago UBF chapter: http://chicagoubf.org/view_updates.php?url=http://chicagoubf.org/bbs/view.php&id=recent_messages&no=33
“This may bother our notion about human rights. We honor our American forefathers who threw off the bondage
of colonialism through bloody battle. We have since developed into people of the most sophisticated human rights.
There are so many rights in America, such as civil rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, voting rights, visitation
rights, students’ rights, criminals’ rights, and animal rights. We are very sensitive about rights. In politics,
we may have to talk about human rights. But we cannot talk about our human rights with Jesus…”
Pastor Ron Ward claims that “we cannot talk about our human rights with Jesus.” Why not? Since Pastor Ron was mentored
by Dr. Samuel Lee, it seems very clear that his theology on human rights has been influced by Dr. Samuel Lee’s theology
on human rights. So the UBF theology on human rights clearly shows that UBF people are serious about their mission,
serious enough even to violate human rights. If a Christian ministry tries to help others “by any means” even violating
human rights, I believe it ceases to be a christian ministry any more. What is it that UBF emphasizes “by any means” more
that “by right means”?
P.S.: Thanks BrianK!
ex ubf member, I think I understand what Pastor Ron Ward means.
I expect he means, let’s get beyond the selfishness of demanding our own rights. Our purpose is to glorify God not to demand our own rights.
Jesus, although equal with God, didn’t even demand his own rights.
I wouldn’t think UBF is in favor of violating basic human rights such as the right to freedom rather than being enslaved.
If UBF has mistreated people it’s probably resulted from well-intentioned attempts to encourage/challenge people to be fully devoted to God. In their zeal perhaps they went too far in trying to control people.
If you want to reason with people you need to listen and try to understand what they are saying and why. I am familiar with the ‘we have no rights’ statement, made by Christians. It does not mean they are in favor of slavery or torture or inappropriate emotional manipulation and control. It simply is a strong statement about the ramifications of belonging to Jesus. It’s simply a restatement of Paul saying “You are not your own; you are bought with a price” and saying “you are slaves to Christ”.
That’s how it seems to me, anyway.
Some ex-members already asked you several good questions.
I will ask you no more questions. I will tell you my story.
I spent in UBF 12 years. Last 8 years I was the right-hand-man of the Director of Moscow UBF, Russia. I was considered as native leader, read many messages in Moscow, at Bible conferences in various CIS UBF centers, such as Minsk, Kiev, Astana and so on. I read several messages on international UBF conferences in US. I did a lot of other things in UBF. You may see my picture on the 2006 UBF wall calendar somewhere in the top left corner.
I am saying all this to show that I was not sitting in the last raw all this time. I know the life of UBF from within.
I left UBF in the summer of 2006. I had only one reason – my conscience did not allow me to stay in the organization with the history, teachings and methods of UBF.
I was naïve for many years. I also thought that in UBF there is only one goal – to preach the Gospel. I could endure and overlooked many strange things for years (for example, Samuel Lee called my shepherd and *allowed*?! me to continue my Ph.D. studies). When I had too many questions I had to look into the Bible more carefully, compare critical stories with official history and read all UBF messages and reports I could find. It took about a year to realize that UBF has some systematic problems. (One more example: The letter written by 7 Korean leaders in 1976, one year after I was born, describes almost the same abuses I endured in Moscow UBF more than 20 years later. But UBF calls the authors of the letter rebellions to the very present day.) I know that there are individuals mistakes. But I saw the very same problems in different UBF chapters from Minsk to Mongolia.
At first I hoped to change anything in Moscow UBF. I saw that UBF missionaries are hurt by their shepherds in Korea, but they continue to hurt their Russian sheep in the same way they were hurt.
Very soon I’ve found that nobody wants to change anything that really matters.
I was talking with several UBF leaders at that time. Here what they said me about UBF problems:
“In Chicago UBF everything was more than good”.
“You are very important person. Keep silent [about UBF problems] to make good spiritual influence”.
But I could not be silent anymore. I saw the big difference between how Jesus or Apostle Paul treated people and how people are treated in UBF. My conscience did not allow me to be the part of the organization that values itself more than the Gospel, rewrites its own history, newer repents while not stopping call himself “Kingdom of priest and a holy nation”. I’ve spent my last six months in UBF to protect two sisters (my wife’s “sheep”) from UBF attempts to mold them into the system.
I forgave UBF people for any harm. I remember good things they did for me. I especially thankful to God that he used UBF as the platform to teach me what manipulation and mind control is and how to confront against it. But can a normal church be such a platform? But I see that they continue to deceive, harm and destroy themselves. Not much hypocrisy is needed to corrupt the soul. Most importantly I see they continue to harm young students thinking that they are “rising Jesus disciples”.
Should I be silent?
I did not know what mistakes UBF leaders had admitted before you. But I do see what “spiritual directions” they give to ordinary members these days:
“So we must have faith in God and challenge as Dr. Lee did”. Does it include forcing abortions or breaking the family in the name of training or “special love”?
“Double the number through disciple training ministry by 2010”. Is it official acknowledgment that numbers in UBF are more important than anything else?
Direction like these does not seem even to approach any of UBF system problems.
Now, after 12 years in UBF and a half a year in a normal church, I came to the conclusion that if UBF had no spiritual abuses and misappropriations of money, it would be better to leave it only for what they teach about God and relationship with him. But add abuses, add sexual scandals with UBF leaders that is covered with a silence or UBF (i.e. members) money, add Moon-like “business mission” what one will get?
I doubt that the sum can be called “the hope of America”.
I am very sorry for people who stays in UBF. They do not know what they are doing.
I wrote the comment earlier, and I want to comment one more time and this is my last post.
My heart goes out to those who have been hurt by UBF. I am close friends with some people who have left for various reasons, and we still love each other in Christ. I understand some of the problems they had with UBF.
UBF is not for everyone. It has weaknesses. But one of the accusations I cannot agree with are the forced abortions.
When I first read accusations of forced abortions many years ago, I was shocked because everything I know teaches me that abortion is not right. I prayed deeply about my decision whether to stay or leave UBF. But after much prayer, I was convicted not by people, but by the Holy Spirit, of my decision.
Several years ago, one woman I know confessed in her testimony that she had had an abortion secretly out of fear of her chapter director finding out. She wept and many people wept with her. However, she was not condemned or judged. Many shepherdesses prayed with her and told her about Jesus’ love and forgiveness. She met Christ personally and accepted His forgiveness of her sins through His death on the cross.
Several years ago, one of my dear friends, a single mother, became pregnant again. Her friends urged her to get an abortion because of the hardships of being a single mom, but her shepherdess and others prayed for her every day to keep the child. They supported her in many ways, as well as teaching her about Jesus’ unconditional love. At the same time, they had an uncompromising attitude towards sin, acknowledging that we are all sinners who must repent. I have seen and experienced firsthand the grace and compassion in UBF members. There are so many other examples that I can’t list them all.
Like I said, this is my last comment, so any comments directed towards this post will not be replied. I have conviction that UBF is one of many ministries that God is using for His redemptive glory. My prayer is that we can love each other in Christ and remember what He did for us.
Thanks for your coming and giving us spiritual insight for living. You bring fresh air to people. I am sorry that you almost your voice that day by answering many questions. I treasure your enthusiasm.
servant leadership…. I always find it hard. I hope to practice it at home, work and at the church.
If time permits next time, I hope to invite you for a coffee at my house. Who knows that my children will prepare several musics for you…
Here’s something I think no one’s provided yet: a link to John’s previous post about UBF:
Among the worst abuses I saw in the Chicago UBF happened in the 1990s. A man in the beginning stages of brain cancer was declared to be faking his physical suffering to avoid ministry work, and leaders in the ministry were made to make hours-long walks, sometimes in their bare feet in winter, for failing to meet Sunday worship attendance numeric goals and other petty reasons (See http://drchungj.blogspot.com/2003/12/finally-my-personal-story.html). And while this was going on, respected scholars like Robert Coleman and Ruth Tucker were occasionally guest speakers to UBF meetings. They were given places of honor. They were “love bombed” and made to feel oh so welcome, something that groups like UBF and the Unification Church are so good at. They saw the UBF that the leaders wanted them to see, while in the UBF they did not see, abusive “shepherding and discipling” were running rampant. We used their credentials as a defense of UBF (“Why, a cult would never invite Robert Coleman and Ruth Tucker to speak at their meetings”). We listened dutifully to their lectures. We “laughed at their remotely funny lines with real gusto.” After they left, we ignored anything they said.
John’s general tone of minimizing the years (sometimes decades) of suffering of former members in UBF is troubling. The unspecified and euphemistically admitted “mistakes” that have been made should outrage almost any Christian who reads about the specific and gross abuses that people have suffered in UBF, abuses that have broken minds and lives, shipwrecked faith, broken families and lead to reports in various publications and the media over the years about UBF being a cult (See http://rsqubf.fortunecity.net/documents/external/external.html). I’m sorry, but “cultural misunderstandings” did not lead to these gross abuses. (The fact is that all the major calls for reform and calls for change within UBF over the decades have come from first generation KOREAN members of UBF, even when UBF was a fledgling movement still confined to Korea in the 1970s.) Yes, the 40 years of totalitarian and “ingrown leadership” of Ron Ward’s “mentor” who died in that “tragic fire” did lead to those gross abuses, as Ron Enroth has described in “Churches That Abuse”.
Maybe things have changed in UBF to a degree, due in part to changes in leadership, and in part due to the exposure of the cultic nature of UBF’s practices by this most recent generation of “aggressive” former members (maybe they and past generations of UBF critics should be thanked, not dismissed as “silly”). Change was needed, and change is good. Yet, in spite of the claimed “changes,” even many current UBF members would wonder what UBF John is talking about. For instance, what John euphemistically calls “treating relational sin seriously,” they would recognize to be the continued UBF practice of “marriage by faith,” a practice of arranged and controlled marriage. I pray UBF will clean the inside of the cup as well. Maybe someday.
A couple of links:
* http://community.livejournal.com/rsqubf/87445.html – A young UBF member runs into the rigid brick wall of UBF’s “marriage by faith tradition” (secondary link: http://community.livejournal.com/rsqubf/87445.html)
* http://community.livejournal.com/rsqubf/104892.html – The Fifth Commandment gets all twisted up in a UBF sermon. (Abusive discipleship doesn’t come from nowhere.)
i read dr. armstrong’s first post about UBF just now and i had to post that a part of what UBF told dr. armstrong was an outright lie.
“Sadly, these two men told me that they have found almost no support or interest from traditional churches and missions. Even more shocking, but quite revealing, is the sad fact that Korean American churches think this particular mission is dangerous.”
as i posted before, i don’t know much about the inner workings of UBF but i did attend a church in chicago with parents of many UBF leaders who were not allowed participation at UBF services. it was always UBF that made sure they were separated from local churches …
so dr. armstrong, don’t be “sad” or “shocked” at korean churches in chicago. they have many faults but that isn’t one of them.
Hi, thank you for your article. I also believe UBF is making a conscious effort to grow and to resolve past problems and conflicts. I want to be a part of this work. I really believe the group is making great strides in changing for the better.
Also, concerning dogs. I have a dog and am in UBF. Plenty of our families have dogs. Also, the director has a dog. He appreciates the dog became it is the only one who does not complain to him!
I really appreciated your article, and for taking the time to come to our church and speak recently. I heard you speak last year as well, and it’s always a pleasure to have you.
Like any church, people will find one reason or another not to stay—some of those reasons being denominational while others being personal. I have a close friend who left UBF after a while, but he doesn’t despise the ministry or his shepherd. In fact, he openly confesses that it was his shepherd who helped him come to know the Lord. There have been many times I myself wanted to leave. In truth, it was always because of my own sin, and not because of UBF or some person that I didn’t like.
As Christians, we must become united, and stop seeing churches as these institutional organizations (e.g., UBF, Willowcreek, Harvest, etc.). We are all members of the body of Christ, which means that we are all going to the same heaven to be with the same God. Paul encourages this unity throughout the New Testament, and if we as the body of Christ are going to stem the tide of humanism that is sweeping our culture and nation, then we should wise up and see that we are all on the same side. Our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, which means it isn’t against other Christians. Divisions in the church are always the work of Satan.
I’m always grieved when I hear my Christian friends put down this church or that church because it doesn’t match their own ideas of what a church should be. Just because we may choose not to attend some church for whatever the reason is, doesn’t mean that they are any less the body of Christ.
All said, I’m glad that you came and spoke, and for your positive remarks about the ministry. It shows me that we are all one in Christ, and there is hope for the church in America to become united in the single most important task God has assigned to us: preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.
May God continue to bless you and keep you in his grace and peace, until the day of his glorious return.
Jp’s post remembered me one passage from Sarah Barry Biography published by
UBF in 2006.
The biography is called “My Grace is Sufficient for You” and written by
Mark Vucekovich and Ivonne Timlin.
On page 82 one can read: “Samuel [Lee] did not like it that Sarah [Barry]
brought her mother to Chicago. He felt that Sarah’s brother should have
taken care of her. But Sarah had been unable to work this out. Sarah and
Samuel could not reach an agreement about her mother. Sarah’s mother had
always been there for her, and she felt it important that she reciprocate.
She did not want to put her mother in a nursing home. At Samuel’s urging,
Sarah finally decided to send her mother to her brother. But before
she could so, God took her mother to heaven”.
Sarah Barry gave more than 30 years to UBF and then she had to fight for
her right to take care of her old mother, only because the leader has a
different “feeling“. Even Sarah Barry had finally to obey Samuel Lee’s
decision about her own mother! In the case of other UBF leaders Samuel Lee
simply did not allowed parents to attend UBF services, I think. It is not
difficult to imagine what is a life of an ordinary UBF member. I’ve spent
no single weekend with my mother during 12 years in UBF, even she lives 130
miles from Moscow. Last years in UBF I had to fight with my “shepherd” even
for my right to visit her on week days without his permission.
No matter his motives could be, Samuel Lee abused families. Now all UBF
members are challenged by current General Director: “So we must have faith
in God and challenge as Dr. Lee did”. Without repentance, without clear
statements what was wrong, these challenge also means: “Let us abuse
families as Dr. Lee did”.
All abuses that continue to happen in UBF right now could not be stopped
without public repentance.
PS Even proofread UBF publications contains a lot of passages like this
that shows the real life within UBF.
Concerning bruce’s statement about the dog. In Germany I know not a single UBFer who owns a dog or a cat. And yes, I believe you that your leader has time for his dog. Leaders are always exempt in UBF. They don’t go “fishing”, they don’t write “sogams”, they don’t need to make 1:1 Bible study with many students, they don’t need to clean the center building etc. etc. So they may have time for a dog. But the “shepherds” and rank-and-file “missionaries” are not supposed to have a dog. I know one American woman who was UBF-married to a “German shepherd” greatest wish it was to have dog, but she was not allowed to have one. Also my first-hand experience is that my wife was discouraged from breast-feeing by the leader’s wife so that she may have more time for UBF activities. Sorry, that’s the reality I experienced in UBF. And there was another chapter in Germany (Bonn) that was even more extreme about neglecting children. If you aren’t even allowed to spend the necessary time with your children, how can you even dare to talk of a dog. No matter what you experienced in your chapter, because your leader has a dog and therefore cannot prohibit it so easily, this is what I experienced. You know very well that your counterexample it is a complete exeption in UBF.
I am sorry for you Bruce that you started to defend these practices again and chose to become a supporter of abuse and unbiblical practices.
I should have added that my German UBF chapter was considered examplary so it was the European UBF HQ for the last years. And the even more extreme Bonn UBF is considered even more exemplary so that it is the current Europe UBF HQ.
Yes, I am familiar with the problems that UBF had and has. From my experience with other churches, I saw very similar things so I realized this is not a phenomenon unique to UBF. Regardless of the problems I think we need to work it out somehow, as in fact is being done. The ministry needs people who are willing and patient to work through issues and cultural stumbling blocks in order to make it work out. This is true of any church.
Concerning dogs, I said it was not just the director who has a dog. I can count at least 3 “ordinary” coworkers who have dogs now and in the past there were probably a half dozen or so more. Others have had other pets all with impunity. My point is that your characterization of UBF “policy” on dogs is way overstated as is much rhetoric about the group.
In any event, I do not believe this forum is the proper place to discuss these issues. If you want, you can email me or else you can open your own public forum up for discussion again.
Wonder why I have a dog pictured with me and my precious wife on ths blog spot? I love my dog and she makes me laugh and more deeply enjoy God’s good blessings. A healthy doctrine of creation is much needed among many Christians. Animals were made for our enjoyment and for our benefit, so long as we do not abuse them.
Get a dog if you like, it has even been proven to be a great way to help your heart be physically healthier. Mine brings me more joy than I can tell you. She is a part of the family, though she is definitely a dog, not a person. (My wife often treats her as a person and I tell her, “Just treat me like your dog,” knowing full well this means I would be treated very well, which, by the way, I am.
Dr. Armstrong, le doy gracias por su articulo, donde relata su experiencia con el ministerio de UBF, soy un miembro de UBF en Guadalajara, y el proposito de la organizacion esta centrado en crecer a los discipulos, en las universidades del mundo. He visto que en su sitio ha recibido muchos comentarios de exmiembros de UBF, y algunos de ellos han sido groseros, y lamento eso. Continuamente las personas critican la disciplina que se vive en UBF, y la encuentran diferente a las iglesias tradicionales en los estados unidos, y en eso basan sus criticas.
Gracias por ver la obra que se hacer por la gracia de Dios, para los jovenes universitarios.
Dios le bendiga siempre su trabajo.
hi, look this site.
abuse in UBF,
I was exposed to UBF for the first time when I was alittle lost at College. I actually went with this man and worked through a bible study with him. I gave him a fake phone number. I was scared it was a cult.
zooom to 2003 and I started to work in a job with Koreans of the UBF persuasion.
At first I did not understand these people. I thought they hated me. I thought they looked at me as the greatest sinner that ever existed at this job. I have beeen there for 3 years now. The Koreans are the most beautiful peple. I love my coworkers they are so modest and kind. I actually am thanking them for letting me work with them.
But it is all the employees that make up the whole. I have opened my heart to jesus . I have little faith but I can move mountains.
God bless everyone
“it’s the love of the common man”
Turn the world around
“UBF not only heard me but put the sermon on their Web site immediately”. …where??? …is necessary to talk with the common members, not only with the leaders. What would Jesus do?
…is good to talk about change the mistakes in USA… but, what about with the broken hearts in other countries? …Mexico, for example. People married “by faith” who not only is far of UBF now, but far from God. sorry, my english is so bad. (My heart is healing in Jesus)
I have visited your site 160-times
Your site found in Google: http://google.com/search?q=vff
I could not find this site in the Search Engines index
I believe that UBF it is one of the many places where people help you to strengthen your faith with God. Many people critisize their teachings and such but that is because they think it is too strict. Many people do have conflicts and leave UBF but saying it is a cult and writing up accounts on the bad things of ubf the internet is very silly. It only discourages people who are trying their best to serve people on campus ministry.
-North American HBF member
I am glad I found your article. I am a former member of UBF during its trying times. It is very refreshing to hear that UBF has openly admitted their mistakes, something that 8 years ago, they were not willing to admit. I am so glad for this. I raised these issues with my bible teacher, and I even sent letters to their pastor, who at that time was unapproachable about these same topics and concerns. I came across your article because I revisited some UBF sites and did notice this new openness that can only mean good things and allow them to grow. If only they would have done that years ago, I would have still been a member. As a result of these changes I also opened a new blog for those willing to reconcile:
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