Posts Tagged ‘discipling’

The Blurred Distinction Between God and "God’s servant" in UBF

January 7, 2004

There have been a couple of rather heated internet discussions lately initiated by one UBF person defending UBF’s “marriage by faith” practice and by another UBF person (apparently a German) defending the notion that one’s UBF shepherd should be allowed to “interfere” in ANY area of one’s life. A common thread in both discussions that I’ve latched onto is this muddling or blurring of the distinction between God’s will and “God’s servant’s” will in UBF. This blurring isn’t just something I’m pulling out of thin air, but it’s something I have personal experience of, and it’s also something that’s ever present in the writings of UBF defenders (though they inexplicably deny it). It could be that this blurred distinction between God’s will and a leader’s will is so ingrained in these UBF defenders that they don’t know even recognize it in their own arguments and defenses. After all, they do this sort of blurring in sogam after sogam after sogam. Possible scenario:

UBF defender writes: One who says to one’s UBF SHEPHERD, “I must obey God rather than men,” respects one’s own opinion more than GOD’S will.

You write: One’s UBF SHEPHERD should not interfere or meddle in certain areas of one’s life.
UBF defender responds: What areas of one’s life should one not surrender to GOD?

You write: What if one’s UBF SHEPHERD directs one to do something immoral or illegal or unethical?
UBF defender responds: GOD’s will and commands often seemed hard to understand and accept in the Bible. Isn’t everything that happens GOD’S will? Doesn’t everything that happens happen according to GOD’S will? Now then, is there any direction, from say a UBF SHEPHERD, that would make you say this CANNOT be GOD’S will?

Or you write: What if one’s UBF SHEPHERD directs one to do something immoral or illegal or unethical?
UBF defender responds: GOD is above mere morality and ethics.

You write: You know, you seem to blur the distinction between a UBF shepherd’s will and God’s will, between a UBF shepherd’s direction and God’s command. It’s a bit troubling.
UBF defender bristles: I did no such thing. Where did I write that?

Anyway, a couple of my replies in these discussions:

Author: Joe
Subject: Re: ubf marriage is about controlling and being controlled
In reply to: John ‘s message, “Re: ubf marriage is not what you think it is” on 03:43:06 12/28/03 Sun

>The
>choice of man is not always to be trusted. Adam chose
>to eat the forbidden fruit but he did not chose his
>wife, God did. “[T]he sons of God saw that the
>daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any
>of them they chose” (Gen. 6:2) and “[t]he LORD saw how
>great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and
>that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart
>was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that
>he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled
>with pain.” (Gen. 6:5-6)

With bits of scripture abuse and twisting like this, the UBF member arrives at the desired conclusion that people, even Christians, making their own life decisions and choices is a bad thing, and therefore, they need “help” and “shepherding.” The UBF member accepts and uses various euphemisms such as “finding God’s will for their life” or “obeying God” or “giving one’s marriage to God.” But it is another subtle twist; when they say “God,” they in actuality mean “servant of God,” which in turns means one’s UBF shepherd or UBF chapter director. It turns into a classic use of long-debunked and -rejected shepherding/discipling principles. And we all know that this control of people’s lives by their “spiritual superiors” in UBF is not limited to the realm of marriage.

Author: Joe
Subject: Re: Why mission?
In reply to: christian ‘s message, “Why mission?” on 05:09:37 01/06/04 Tue

>Of course a shepherd, or say, a teacher, should not be
>considered to be God. This is simply wrong and
>everyone believing this will be sooner or later
>disappointed.

A UBF “sheep” does not need to explicitly consider those above him to *BE* God. It’s enough for the UBF sheep to consider those above him to be “God’s servants” for the negative effects of excessive control to become manifest. Now, it should also be noted that the notion of “God’s servants” in UBF is different from what normal, healthy Christians would consider to be servants of God. Normal, healthy Christians, of which there are many, do recognize that there exist people who serve God, but they would never consider those ‘servants of God’ to be the arbiters of God’s will for their lives as UBF people do.

As has been repeated, what’s happened in UBF is really nothing new. There have been and still are abuses of shepherding/discipling, wherein teachers and disciplers don’t necessarily become God, but become so authoritarian that they might as well be God.

>But one should also not be tempted to say, that we
>need no gospel workers, no missionaries, no bible
>teachers. Yes, every one can have a direct
>relationship to God. But if this should mean, that he
>shouldn’t go to church and ignore teachings and even
>directives and rebukes from his pastor, saying “i do
>not obey men, i only obey God”,

What church do you go to where a pastor reserves the right give *directives* (orders) to parishoners and expect to be obeyed?

>then I would say this
>is simply hypocritical, such a christian thinks of his
>opinion to be more important than God’s will.

This is quite a stretch in a couple of ways:

(1) A believer who says, “I do not obey men, I obey God” has already stated that they assign great importance to God’s will (“I obey God”). Then who are you to say that they are assigning more importance to their own opinion than God’s will? I’ve seen this plenty of times in UBF, this automatic assumption that disobedience to a human “shepherd” in favor of God is actually rebellion against God and the rejection of God’s will. This is part of what is wrong with UBF.

(2) You’ve magically morphed a pastor’s directive to God’s will (“…ignore teachings…directives and rebukes from his pastor…such a Christian thinks of his opinion to be more important than God’s will”). As has been pointed out, that’s what’s wrong with UBF.

How Discipling/Shepherding Has Gone Awry in UBF

December 4, 2003

After reading a few old articles from ubfnet.com by an “anonymous USA missionary” (who is most probably Daniel Hong, based on the writing style) at escapeubf, I’m beginning to understand how discipling/shepherding has gone awry in UBF. Ask a UBF leader today why UBF puts such emphasis on obedience to a human shepherd. If they give you an honest answer (as the “anonymous USA missionary” did), they will say that UBF believes that obedience to one’s shepherd (and one’s shepherd’s shepherds) is the practical expression of one’s acceptance of Jesus’ lordship or the practical expression of “denying oneself.” You will sometimes hear from UBF leaders that “all we are doing is teaching students to have practical Christian faith.” That “practical” Christian faith by UBF standards is almost always measured by one’s obedience to one’s human shepherds, and probably the ultimate expression of “practical” faith in UBF is leaving one’s choice of marriage partner in the hands of one’s human shepherds.

So in UBF, one’s human shepherd is the proxy (I don’t know if that’s the right word) of Jesus’ lordship in one’s life. In UBF, the practical expression of Jesus’ lordship in one’s life is practically impossible (even unthinkable) without the interposing presence of one’s human shepherds (the so-called “servants of God”).

Getting back to the “anonymous USA missionary,” when he goes to the Bible to defend UBF’s understanding of Jesus’ lordship he begins with the example of Moses who, “practically” speaking, was to be obeyed as if he were God by the people and even by his older brother Aaron. So, the “anonymous USA missionary,” who I believe honestly expresses what’s in the “collective mind” of UBF, shows that he can’t understand Jesus’ lordship in a Christian’s life unless he thinks of Jesus’ lordship in terms of the requirement to obey a proxy lord, one’s human shepherd, one’s personal Moses.

If a UBF defender is honest, as the “anonymous USA missionary” was, they have to admit that UBF’s discipling/shepherding principles are very similar to those developed by the “Fort Lauderdale Five” and their “Shepherding Movement” of the 1970s-80s.