Posts Tagged ‘shepherding’

"Systematic Obedience (to people) Training"

November 23, 2004

The following is an insightful post about how a person’s independent decision making, even if led by the Holy Spirit, is anathema in UBF. Notice during the narrative how a human leader subtly takes the place of God.

Date Posted: 21:11:16 10/14/04 Thu

Author: PECAS

Subject: Systematic Obedience Training

Systematic Obedience Training

I am a member of UBF who left this year. I have read much of the posting and testimonies on this site. This is my first post on the rsqubf forum. I was not certain whether this post should be a new thread or a reply. I decided to post as a new thread because I want to discuss a point that I do not recall reading on any recent or archived posts. Please forgive the length, but I wanted to be as clear as possible in discussing systematic obedience training.

I believe that UBF engages in what I call systematic obedience training towards growing sheep and young shepherds. If a growing sheep or young shepherd had some personal decision regarding their life, even if it would be acceptable to UBF, their shepherd woud automatically respond that this was ‘your own idea’ or ‘human thinking’. The shepherd would respond this way because the shepherd does not want the sheep to think that he or she came make personal decisions by simply praying to God and following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If the shepherd encourages the sheep that their personal decision is correct, then the sheep would develop a habit of personally praying/struggling with God rather than obeying the direction of their shepherd, fellowship leader, and chapter director. Thus, UBF shepherds would not be able to manipulate the sheep to absolutely obey their direction. One of the UBF heritages from Samuel Lee is spiritual order. The shepherd, fellowship director,and/or chapter director must give the direction and the sheep follows.

Therefore, I am arguing that in order to foster an environment in which sheep learn to absolutely obey their shepherds or follow the spiritual order, the shepherd will systematically rebuff any desire that sheep have regarding their life be it mission, family, career, or otherwise. The shepherd will then give their own direction and tell the sheep to deny his or her personal conviction as his or her ‘own idea.’ The next step is to follow this direction as God’s will by making a decision of faith.

Let me clarify this point with an example:

Let’s say there is a shepherd named Peter and a sheep named Bill. Also assume Shepherd Peter is the chapter director.

Bill begins Bible study with a Christian background. Bill tells Shepherd Peter that he wants to be an English teacher in China to serve as a short-term missionary after he leaves college, then come back to the USA to get a PhD and and then pray about whether he should be a long-term missionary. Bill would like to devote his life to mission, so he does not plan to marry. When Bill begins to share testimonies every week, Bill talks a lot about his prayer to be an English teacher in China and desire to get a PhD that God will use for long-term mission.

UBF wants to raise missionaries and PhD shepherds so Shepherd Peter, should be overjoyed about Bill’s future vision. However, there is one problem. As Bill continues to grow in UBF, he needs to be trained to absolutely obey his shepherds and follow spiritual order. The spiritual order dictates that Bill follow the direction of his shepherd. If Bill would follow this path, Bill would think that he can make decisions through the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer without following the direction of Peter. Bill might think that he can personal pray about whom to marry or where to live when he returns from China. Bill might pray and through the Holy Spirit decide to serve in another ministry.

In order to be raised as a good UBF shepherd, Bill cannot be allowed to follow through with his own personal decisions regarding his life. Therefore, Shepherd Peter will give a new direction for Bill. Instead of China, Peter will direct Bill to spend one year in Korea UBF to receive mission training. Peter will tell Bill that going to China was his own idea. To be a fruitful or great man of God, he must deny his own ideas and obey God through Peter’s direction. Bill accepts the direction and spends one year in Korea. Bill stills intends to come back to the USA to earn a PhD. However, when Bill returns from his one year mission training, Shepherd Peter directs Bill to deny his human ambition to acquire a PhD and marry by faith one of the Korean missionaries he met in Korea and then establish a house church. Bill would be directed to serve the thirsty harvest field at which he is located by coworking with Peter. Shepherd Peter will direct Bill to find a job to support his new family of mission rather than selfishly seeking a PhD. Bill repents of his ‘human idea’ of getting a PhD and not thinking of the thirsty sheep at his own university. Perhaps, Shepherd Peter reminds Bill of how Peter and other coworkers bore with his long self-centered testimonies about his own idea of going to China and then receiving a PhD.

Now, Bill is conditioned to obey Shepherd Peter’s direction for his life. When through personal prayer, Bill receives a direction regarding his life, Bill will reject it as ‘his own himan idea.’ Bill will only follow the direction of Shepherd Peter. Further, when Bill thinks that maybe Shepherd Peter’s direction is wrong, Bill will dismiss that as his own idea.

To me, UBF leaders make a conscience effort in the manner described above to manipulate sheep into obeying their shepherd. UBF leaders do this intentionally and engrain the disciples they raise to particpate in systematic obedience training as well. Any desires sheep display will be dismissed as ‘their own idea’ to foster an absolute obedience toward their shepherd. It does not matter what the sheep thinks, desires, prays about, or has as a future vision. The shepherd will manipulate the sheep by rebuffing them and providing a new direction.

Does anyone have an example of systematic obedience training such as this from their UBF experience or not?

Thank you for the opportunity to post about UBF on this forum.

In Christ,



Here’s part of my response:


Date Posted: 22:05:53 10/14/04 Thu

Author: Joe

Subject: Re: Systematic Obedience Training

In reply to: PECAS ‘s message, “Systematic Obedience Training” on 21:11:16 10/14/04 Thu

In my case, as a 2ndgen, the main factors that kept me in the systematic obedience training (SOT) program had to do with my parents, my innate desire to have at least a “harmonious” relationship with them.

I don’t think I was ever fully conditioned. Many formative years of observing what kinds of behaviors and directions and desires were acceptable in UBF gave me an ability to steer clear of any potential conflicts with my parents and shepherds. I knew how to act like a good and obedient UBF member. So I guess I was able to avoid most of the “electric shocks” of the SOT program that the willing fresh recruit would be given to bring about compliance. But the effect on my life was the same as if I had gone through the SOT program; I was obedient to a fault, I “bore with” abuses, certain personal ambitions and goals were off limits, the thought of living and working anywhere but in Chicago was off limits, the thought of being in any other church was off limits, even expressing certain emotions in the performance of music was off limits.

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

>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

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 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.

"Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep."

December 3, 2003

“Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep.” This seems to be how some in North American UBF try to mask UBF’s hierarchical authoritarianism, which begins, at its lowest level, with the one-to-one, shepherd-to-sheep relationship. The Hong brothers, the late Daniel Hong and now Paul Hong, seem to espouse this model for the relationship between “shepherds” and “sheep” in UBF. (Interesting that Paul Hong would be preaching this “sheep=God, shepherd=God” message. The stories of former Toledo UBFers would indicate that he most emphasizes the “Shepherd=God” portion, where “Shepherd=himself.”) Their biblical justification for this comes almost entirely from the Old Testament and focuses mainly on Moses “who spoke for God.” Any reputable Christian teacher or student of the Bible would look at a statement like “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” and reject it at face value as a dangerous teaching and would probably consider its source to be most likely a cult.

There are other problems. If “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep,” then by necessity, Sheep must be a “lesser God” than Shepherd in UBF. If Sheep=God wants to do A and Shepherd=God wants Sheep=God to do B, don’t you have quite a conundrum? After all, they are both “God” to each other. It’s even worse if Sheep=God wants to do A and Shepherd=God wants to do not-A, the opposite. Then what happens? We have “God” opposing “God.” Of course, then UBF “spiritual order” takes effect, and “Sheep is god to a Shepherd, but Shepherd is G-O-D to a sheep.” And if Sheep doesn’t meekly accept it, then “Sheep can just leave!” said the Shepherd. Why not just be honest and admit that the equality implied by “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” simply does not exist in UBF?

Another point: “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” is something that I can’t remember Samuel Lee or Sarah Barry ever saying. In fact, it was more common for Lee to say condescending things like “Sheep are sheep. They only like to eat, graze and mate. They never say thank you.” At least Lee/Barry never gave the illusion that a UBF sheep is “God to a shepherd” or to anyone else. The next generation of UBF leaders like Paul Hong may be even more gifted in the art of doublespeak than Lee/Barry.

See this archived RsqUBF discussion thread for an idea of how the UBF “Shepherd-Sheep” relationship works in reality.

Also see Joachim D.’s account of life in Bonn UBF at, in which we see the “Sheep is God to a Shepherd, and Shepherd is God to a sheep” principle taken to its ugly conclusion:

Once he (Peter Chang, Bonn UBF head) literally said at the announcements at the end of a meeting: “I am God.” He did not say that he was like God, or that he was God’s servant or God’s representative, but he said, he was God. That was not a slip of the tongue or attribute to his poor German, because right after this statement he deliberately paused, after which he let us decide either to accept this or “go out through the open door now”. At that time no one said a word; all was silent and just stared straight ahead, I did too. In my heart I was shocked and at the same time ashamed to be in a fellowship where the leaders magnifies himself so.