Posts Tagged ‘numbers-obsession’

Sam Lee in heaven humor

January 8, 2005

Some old posts speculating about Sam Lee in heaven including a “skit,” something I was known for in Chicago UBF:

Date Posted: 08:19:34 04/01/04 Thu
Author: rsqarchive
Subject: April Fools repost: Samuel Lee in heaven
In reply to: rsqarchive ‘s message, “Statement of apology, repentence
and resignation from Barry” on 07:11:47 04/01/04 Thu

Date Posted: 19:06:46 04/10/02 Wed
Author: Etaoin Shrdlu
Subject: Samuel Lee in Heaven

What did Samuel Lee say to God when he reached Heaven?
“Get out of my chair!

Date Posted: 07:37:53 04/11/02 Thu
Author: Friend
Subject: Re: Samuel Lee in Heaven
In reply to: Etaoin Shrdlu ‘s message, “Samuel Lee in Heaven” on
07:37:53 04/11/02 Thu

To Apostle Paul:
“You have a severe marriage problem!”

Date Posted: 09:08:07 04/11/02 Thu
Author: Yul Brenner
Subject: Re: Samuel Lee in Heaven
In reply to: Friend ‘s message, “Re: Samuel Lee in Heaven” on 09:08:07
04/11/02 Thu

Apostle Paul in a Konglish accent:
“When God’s servant prayed for me, my hair remarkably grew back.”

>To Apostle Paul:
>
>”You have a severe marriage problem!”

Date Posted: 10:21:15 04/11/02 Thu
Author: Gadfly
Subject: Samuel Lee in Hell
In reply to: Yul Brenner ‘s message, “Re: Samuel Lee in Heaven” on
10:21:15 04/11/02 Thu

To Judas: “Why did you give the thirty silver pieces back to the priests? You should have deposited them in a nice CD at Foster Bank.”

[Comment: Judas belongs in heaven as much as Sam Lee does.]

Date Posted: 11:38:16 04/12/02 Fri
Author: retired fellowship leader [Yes, that’s me.]
Subject: Samuel Lee’s vision of heaven
In reply to: Etaoin Shrdlu ‘s message, “Samuel Lee in Heaven” on
11:38:16 04/12/02 Fri

Samuel Lee’s vision of heaven:

Samuel Lee (St. Sam):

(sitting at head of large rectangular, gray table that used to be a ping pong table)
Peter! How many you going to bring this Sunday?!

St. Peter:

(trembling with fear)
Um…um…19?

St. Sam:

Whaaaaat!? You better bring 30 by any means! John! How many you going to bring this Sunday?!

St. John:

(trembling with fear)
Um…15?

St. Sam:

Whaaaat!? You are idle! You daydream too much! You better bring 25 by any means! Any fellowship with less than 10 will be merged with bigger fellowships! Any fellowship leader with less than 10 is a God damn son of bitch and better commit suicide by cutting their stomach in Japanese samurai style! Bartholomew, why you make 2 minus last week!? Defend yourself!

St. Bart:

(boldly)
Jesus is my defender.

St. Sam:

O! Now you have committed blasphemy! You cannot talk back to God’s servant like that. You better go to purgatory! Wesley! (That’s St. Wesley Jun.) Drive him to purgatory and dump him!

The lines uttered by “St. Sam” are based on actual things that Sam Lee said during most fellowship leaders’ meetings every week and every day during conference and UBF X-Mas “registration battles.” During one such meeting in a “registration battle” in the 90s, each fellowship leader was to give to Sam Lee an hour by hour description of their weekend activities for the “registration battle” on a Saturday to demonstrate that they spent all their time trying to get more precious registrations.

 

If their activities did not result in getting some number of conference registrations, Sam Lee would tell them to “defend themselves” during the meeting. At one point Sam Lee told Joe C. to “defend yourself!” Joe C. must have been pretty fed up at this point because he told Sam Lee politely, “Jesus is my defender.” This led to him being berated for “talking back” to “God’s servant” and being given some kind of punishment, probably being driven to Skokie and “dumped” for “Skokie training.” I was there, quietly watching.

But what if Sam Lee does end up in heaven? What if I and his numerous victims should meet him there? Here’s part of a post from an important discussion thread that reflects what I think:

Date Posted: 11:31:18 10/07/02 Mon
Author: Jacob’s hip
Subject: Re: I am crucified with Christ…
In reply to: FYI ‘s message, “Re: I am crucified with Christ…” on
11:31:18 10/07/02 Mon [FYI being a young man firmly stuck in the works righteousness and ends-justify-the-means teachings of UBF]

Here’s what I would do if I met Samuel Lee in heaven. I would shed tears of joy and praise God for his incomprehensible grace which is sufficient to cover and wash away all our sins, no matter how great, with the blood of the Lamb if we depend only on the blood of the Lamb. And Samuel Lee and all his victims and all the victims of the UBF system and the thief on the cross next to Jesus would praise God alongside me, and all sins would be remembered no more. This message of grace is why I became a Christian. There is no message like it in all the earth or in all the history of the earth.

Shortly after Sam Lee’s death, I heard some interesting stories from inside UBF. One was that on the day of or after Lee’s death, Sarah Barry went to the YMCA or somewhere and took a nice, relaxing swim. Other stories consisted of people, like my mother, expressing relief that Lee had died. Or the story of Ron Ward who was so battered after being under Lee’s direct daily manipulation for years that he was ready to go “pioneer” another chapter. His death was apparently one that many people–in and out of UBF–were looking forward to. Such is often the case with tyrants. As is also the case with many tyrants, even while many secretly express relief that he is finally dead, UBF tries to put the best face on Lee and continue to pay tribute to him and his twisted legacy.

Speaking of Lee’s twisted legacy, there were some UBF defenders who expressed hope (anonymously, of course) back in 2001 that UBF would naturally undergo some reforms after Lee died. No one knew at that time that his death was imminent. So, these people’s approach to bringing about needed reforms was to wait for someone to die. Isn’t that the approach to reform in places like N. Korea and Cuba, totalitarian regimes? But “wait-for-someone-to-die” has to continue to be their approach because Barry and her successors are committed to continuing in the ways of Sam Lee. Thus far, all my requests to describe specific changes in UBF since Sam Lee’s death have been met with silence.

 

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"Church Displays Members’ Individual Tithe Amounts…"

September 22, 2004

This “story” at The Holy Observer–the Christian equivalent of The Onion–is a funny fabrication of course:

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Have you ever seen your church’s income figures and casually estimated how much each attendee would have to tithe to reach the total? Have you ever looked around during a Sunday morning service and wondered who specifically is giving how much? Well in a time when privacy is regarded as highly as autonomy, Pastor Regan Miller of First Baptist Church in New Braunfels decided it is time to urge his congregation into a deeper level of financial accountability. For six weeks now, First Baptist’s pre-service PowerPoint announcements include a chart with each member’s tithe amount from the prior week.

This story from my personal story is too true, unfortunately:

As far back as I can remember, Chicago UBF has maintained a publicly viewable offering chart on a wall of the Chicago UBF church building. On this chart are written the names of all Chicago UBF members who offer a monthly tithe, the so-called “World Mission Offering,” which is compulsory for all “committed” members of the group. This chart tracks each person’s tithing month-by-month. Therefore, if someone fails to tithe for a given month, no matter what the reason, a blank space is there on the chart for all to see. If someone offers less than their normal amount for a month, no matter what the reason, a partially blank space is there on the chart for all to see. [Not only is it reflected on the chart, but the person who offers less than their usual amount will be pressured and guilted and sometimes publically berated for it.]

At least the fictional church in San Antone has the fictional integrity to disclose to its fictional members how much money they take in.

John Engler resignation letter

August 6, 2004

The following are parts of a recent resignation letter written by a sometime defender of the International Church of Christ (ICC) and maintainer of the excellent Barnabas Ministry site. I include it here because of its relevance to current UBF problems:

Performance-Oriented Theology

http://web.archive.org/web/20070212214924/http://ubf-info.de/cts/icc/kriete2003.en.htmIn my perspective, the DCC has long practiced a performance-oriented theology, driven by its historic reactions against the “traditional” churches of Christ and centered around what I consider to be a well-intentioned but distorted concept of discipleship.

In this theology, man’s purpose in life is to please God with his works. Discipleship is the price of salvation. Yet, there are always more works to do, and man is never, ever good enough. The DCC would not explicitly teach that man is saved by works because the concept is patently absurd, but this is pretty much what is practiced. For example, conversion (as taught in First Principles) focuses almost exclusively on human performance with scant mention of the notion of grace or salvation. The ministry focuses on what we are “supposed to do,” as though that were the essence of the Christian experience. In our preaching, Jesus is rarely presented as a Divine Savior; far more frequently he is presented as a “perfect disciple.” The idea is advanced that if we just tried hard enough, we too could be perfect just like Jesus. Righteousness is something that is attained by trying harder, not the result of salvation. In my opinion, such a philosophy is at odds with passages such as 1 John 1:8 and Romans 7:21-25.

Performance-oriented theology brings a host of unhealthy side effects, most notably the pride and boasting in what one does, especially in favorite areas of religious performance. It makes certain works better than others, certain people better than others. It creates a false sense of entitlement and spiritual security for those who play the game well, and a corresponding false sense of guilt for those who don’t play the game quite so well.

Performance-oriented theology produces nice results for a short time, but it robs the cross of its power and meaning. In the end, it leaves people destroyed spiritually. (Not surprisingly, we then turn around and blame them for being destroyed. That’s like murdering someone and then blaming them for being dead.) I am persuaded that people don’t need to be told how they constantly fall short of perfection and God’s standards; they face this every day. What they need to know is that God wants a relationship with them and that he can work through their imperfections by his Spirit to accomplish his works in their lives anyway.

In my opinion, this performance-orientation issue permeates the DCC culture like toxic waste oozing from beneath the surface. It is everywhere, and it is insidious. Getting rid of it will not be easy for those who have lived under it and perpetuated it for many years. How much harder it will be for those who do not see its shortcomings or are enthralled with its short-term results.

Leader-Centric Ministry Approach

In my perspective, the DCC ministry model is fundamentally leader-centric. Things revolve around a leader, especially region-leader evangelists. I believe the http://web.archive.org/web/20070212214924/http://ubf-info.de/cts/icc/kriete2003.en.htmScriptures testify more to a Jesus-centered and body-centered (or sheep-centered) model.

In a leader-centered model, things are seen from a leadership point of view, and the leader must make things happen. Along with this come the undesirable side effects of control, favoritism, reliance upon personality and hype to extend the abilities and limits of leadership. Under such a model, the members never really mature but remain spiritual children to the leadership. In the end, the sheep end up serving the leaders. Then the leaders are expected to live up to the position they’re in, and resent it when people expect them to be perfect.

A sheep-centered model looks at things from the point of view of the sheep and how to develop and mobilize church resources for the benefit of the sheep. The ministry serves the sheep, for their benefit—just like Jesus who came for our benefit, not for his. A Jesus-centered model looks to him to make things happforceden. It is willing to accept his agenda, his timing, his working, and not the arbitrary goals of leaders who are eager to make a name for themselves or prove themselves worthy of greater roles in the church. A great example of this sort of a ministry is Paul’s summary of his ministry in Colossians 1:24-2:3.

We’ve seen the failings of a leader-centric approach first-hand, yet the DCC still seems entrenched in a leader-centric ministry approach. Leaders are important, but we would do well to remember that they are usually referred to in Scripture as “servants.” Does the name itself not suggest the model that should be used?

More bad memories of UBF international conferences past

July 27, 2004

As previously mentioned, I had to be in a fellowship leadership position in Chicago during the preparation for several of these past UBF international conferences at Michigan State University. Of course, this was not by choice. (I can say this with the utmost confidence: Hardly anything in my UBF life was by choice.) It was during these conference times that Sam Lee became most like the Pharaoh of Exodus 5 in his demand for numbers performance. The leaders would be made to meet every night around 7:30pm with Sam Lee and be made to “promise” to bring a certain number of conference “registrations” by 10-11pm the same night. The fear of the consequences for breaking one’s “promise” (usually getting “dumped” in Skokie for a walk back, i.e. “Skokie training”) was so great that there was no choice but to “register” anyone “by faith,” i.e. pay part of the registration fee out of one’s own pocket.

Funnier things happened. On some days, a certain fellowship leader would have a “good day” because his fellowship brought in, say, five conference registrations that day. Then, said fellowship leader would put two of the five conference registrations in his pocket, saving it up for the next day so he would have a better chance of keeping his forced “promise” the next day, a way of “lowering Sam Lee’s expectations.” Every fellowship leader did this at some point, and they did similar things week to week to cope with the pressure for Sunday meeting attendance numbers. (See also Henry Kriete’s account of the effects of another group’s obsession with numbers.) When it comes down to it, UBF is all about fear and shame because fear and shame become one’s primary motivation for doing anything (or for not doing something).

Another bad memory: Yvonne T. just losing it in an almost nervous breakdown after a international conference, right in front of “foreign guests” whom she was supposed to be busily chaperoning.

Bad memories of UBF conference preparation past

July 20, 2004

This is related to the last post about UBF international conferences.

During the preparation for the last UBF international conference in 2000, one of those Chicago UBF “supplementary worship services” was held on a weekday. The purpose of these “supplementary worship services” was to “supplement” the Chicago UBF Sunday meeting attendance numbers if the numbers on Sunday didn’t meet Samuel Lee’s standards. (See “Abuses related to recruiting numbers and quotas” in my personal story) These “supplementary” meetings happened quite frequently. If a Wednesday “supplementary” meeting didn’t “supplement” the Sunday numbers enough, then a Thursday or Friday “supplementary” meeting would be called in addition. At these “supplementary” meetings, it was customary for Samuel Lee’s “message” (sermon) performer to “rebuke” the attendants at the end of the meeting by reading Exodus 20:8-11 and lecturing them about “keeping the Sabbath holy”, where “keeping the Sabbath holy” means attending a UBF Sunday meeting on Sunday. The funny thing about this is that the poor people who were practically dragged to these all-important supplementary numbers-generating meetings were usually people who weren’t all that “committed” to UBF; they had done maybe a handful of Bible studies with a UBF member. Sometimes they were dragged in from the street with the promise of food after the meeting.

At the aforementioned “supplementary worship service” before the UBF international conference, Kevin A. (mentioned in a past post about UBF institutional racism) happened to be the message performer. After the mandatory lecturing of the attendants about keeping UBF’s Sabbath holy, Kevin A. launched into a “rebuke” against those attendants who had still dared not to “register” for the all-important international conference. It went something like this: “Who here has not registered for the summer conference yet? Raise your hands. For those who have not registered yet, what’s the matter with you!!!??? (*)” [This was followed by some diatribe about how all-important this conference was for the nation and for the whole world.] The absurdity and abusiveness of UBF for me was at its height during these conference preparation times.

I had the “pleasure” of being in a fellowship leadership position during a few of these international conference preparations. More on this later.


(*) I clearly remember that Kevin A.’s “what’s the matter with you!!!???” was done in the usual strange Konglish accent that non-Korean members would sometimes use. The accent was firmly placed on the “you.” Kevin A.’s “what’s the matter with you!!!???” sort of sounded like Fred Flinstone’s “Yabba-Dabba-Dooooo!” or Scooby-Doo’s “Rooby-Rooby-Rooooo!”

"UBF international conferences: prime time for abuse"

July 16, 2004

Something that was posted recently:

Date Posted: 21:45:25 07/15/04 Thu
Author: Noony Moose
Subject: UBF international conferences: prime time for abuse

These UBF international conferences are prime times when it comes to spiritual abuse in UBF. This is the time when UBF leaders and members won’t take no for an answer. The “registration battle” is in full tilt. People have to pay out of their own pockets to register their “sheep” who may not even plan to attend or who have little interest in attending despite UBF members’ assurances that the conference is like a “preview of the kingdom of God”. The registration charts showing who is “working hard” and who is “lazy” cover large sections of UBF center walls.

People are being forced to take time off from their jobs to attend this conference, even if their bosses have already said no, even if they could jeopardize their jobs, to attend this conference to “encourage” someone; for people overseas, this time off could be a week or two weeks. People overseas who have been turned down for visas repeatedly are being ordered to apply again and again at their own monetary expense to attend this conference to “encourage” someone. Basically, sacrifice everything to go to this conference by any means. For what? To “encourage” whom? Isn’t it to “encourage” the UBF bosses who seem to have a pathological need to congratulate themselves through artifically generated numbers? This is a definition of spiritual abuse from the book, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse”, and it applies to these UBF bosses:

“There are spiritual systems in which. . .the members are there to meet the needs of the leaders. . . These leaders attempt to find fulfillment through the religious performance of the very people whom they are there to serve and build. This is an inversion of the body of Christ. It is spiritual abuse.”

These are times when the spiritual abuse in UBF really stands out. I hope the people who are forced, coerced, guilted and deceived into attending this conference can see that.

Date Posted: 21:54:11 07/15/04 Thu
Author: Nonny Moose
Subject: Re: UBF international conferences: prime time for abuse
In reply to: Noony Moose ‘s message, “UBF international conferences: prime time for abuse” on 21:45:25 07/15/04 Thu

Of course, there is always a numbers goal driving all this pressure and abuse. What would UBF be without numbers goals? For the “overseas guests” the goal is to bring 1,000 people total to this conference at MSU. To pad the numbers and fill the seats, as they did in 2000 at ISU, Korean UBF will be sending 300 (!) people.

Origins of UBF’s obsession with numeric goals

February 14, 2004

Samuel Lee’s admiration for certain communist leaders is well known. He particularly admired Ho Chi Minh. It should be no surprise that Lee was influenced by the communist penchant for setting numeric goals in their 5 year and 10 year plans. It’s also no surprise that Lee adopted certain communist methods for enforcing his numeric goals which led to unbelievable levels of oppression, oppression reminiscent of that in certain communist states (but of course, to a much lesser degree). This is an excerpt from a summary of Stalin’s 5 year plans:

The first Five Year Plan introduced in 1928, concentrated on the development of iron and steel, machine-tools, electric power and transport. Joseph Stalin set the workers high targets. He demanded a 111% increase in coal production, 200% increase in iron production and 335% increase in electric power. He justified these demands by claiming that if rapid industrialization did not take place, the Soviet Union would not be able to defend itself against an invasion from capitalist countries in the west.

Every factory had large display boards erected that showed the output of workers. Those that failed to reach the required targets were publically criticized and humiliated. Some workers could not cope with this pressure and absenteeism increased. This led to even more repressive measures being introduced. Records were kept of workers’ lateness, absenteeism and bad workmanship. If the worker’s record was poor, he was accused of trying to sabotage the Five Year Plan and if found guilty could be shot or sent to work as forced labour on the Baltic Sea Canal or the Siberian Railway.

A survivor of these 5 year plans who saw Lee’s methods in action would immediately recognize the influence of Stalin’s methods. Ho Chi Minh also had his 5 year plans.

Here’s a very recent post by a UIC UBF recruit about the continuing numbers obsession in Chicago UBF:

Date Posted: 17:00:07 02/11/04 Wed
Author:
Subject: Re: obsession with numbers
In reply to: Joe ‘s message, “Re: obsession with numbers” on 10:36:31 02/07/04 Sat

hello,

numbers are still a very big part of ubf. in the 2003 Christmas worship service prayer meetings, ron ward continually streesed regestrations to be at least one, but preferably five per person. i participated in the dances for the service, and i as well as all of those who were going to perform in any way were told that if we did not have at least one person regestered by a deadline then we would not be able to perform and possibly not attend the service at all. I know that fellowship leaders are praised for having many members and are called “A” list fellowships and the fellowships that have few members are scowlded and called “C” list fellowships or lower. This idea of always thinking about the numbers more than spiritual well being is being perpetuated to the younger members of UBF. one case was of a secondgen discussing with another secondgen the fact that one of his “sheep” wanted to go to their own churche’s Christmas service instead of ubf’s in an angry tone. He said that this particular person should be fully in ubf or not at all, that he should choose where his responsibility and loyalties are, as if recruiting to ubf was the point of Bible study. Numbers are very much a part of ubf and one’s place and prestige within it. I think it probably will not change. in ubf, numbers, for some reason, seems to represent one’s level of commitment to Christ and spititual maturity. I think we all know how ridiculous this is.

Hm, it all sounds so familiar. And it sounds familiar to people who left UBF 20 years ago and 30 years ago, too. In UBF they’re living the fetid “spiritual” legacy of Samuel Lee to this day. Well actually, no. They’re living the fetid legacy of Stalin and Minh to this day.

Numbers don’t matter?

February 7, 2004

I’ve written before about Samuel Lee’s obsession with performance-oriented numbers and the effect that this obsession had on members and especially fellowship leaders. From communicating with recently exited members from Chicago and other UBF chapters, it would seem that UBF is determined to preserve Lee’s “spiritual legacy” of numbers obsession.

The only “biblical” justification that I ever heard Lee give for his obsession with numbers was “Well, you know, there is a book in the Bible called Numbers.” There is no biblical justification for UBF’s obsession with numbers. There is no justification at all.

A common UBF defense of the numbers obsession when a young recruit gets bothered by it is “Numbers don’t matter, blah, blah.” Numbers don’t matter? Then why obsess with numbers, keep track of numbers, think of ministerial progress only in terms of numbers, have “prayer topics” that consist only of numbers, threaten punishments if a numbers goal is not reached and judge members’ spiritual health by their performance numbers. In other words, if “numbers don’t matter,” then why act as if numbers are everything?!

The proudest parents in UBF are those whose children “feed [insert number here] sheep.”

The thing is, I think most UBF members hate this ministry of numbers and know that it is wrong, counter-productive and self-defeating, but for various dysfunctional reasons they and especially their leaders work to preserve this “spiritual legacy” of Lee. Henry Kriete, who seems to have touched off much soul searching and reform within the International Church of Christ wrote in his now famous February 2003 letter:

In my experience many of you, if not most, will agree with what I am saying. Perhaps every last one of you. But why have we not stopped this madness? Why does it go on and on when most of us hate it so? And in our hearts feel guilt, if not shame? Because ‘that’s just the way it is’? No – but because it’s another systemic evil, another pillar in our belief system that must be smashed.

Kriete also wrote extensively about the ICC’s own brand of obsession with numbers.