My Concerns About The International Conference
(My original title was “Why I Won’t Attend the International Conference.” But I was persuaded to change it to a “less hostile” title.) Let me state that my prayer is for God’s abundant and overflowing blessing upon our conference and that Christ is truly honored and exalted through the conference. Everything henceforth should be understood with this prayer in mind.
UBF’s glory. This is my predominant major concern: There is an undertow and impression that the unspoken purpose of UBF conferences is to show the greatness of UBF, of UBF missionaries and of senior UBF leaders, rather than to display and declare the greatness and glory of Christ. This is subtle, subjective and subjunctive. This can be denied because no one ever says, “Our UBF conference is to show how great UBF is, or how great Korean missionaries are.” But my contention is that UBF palpably glorifies UBF, UBF missionaries, and senior UBF leaders rather than God Himself. This is a very very very serious charge. So, if this is incorrect, then please correct me.
Human elements. James Kim wrote that UBF has been “contaminated with many human elements like human pride, authoritarian leadership, impure motives, performance-oriented work, unhealthy competition, human glory seeking etc.” These “human elements” play out in significant force at the international conference: which UBF leader/chapter brought more attendants, which chapter was the main speaker from, who is more fruitful (Korea or USA?), who is honored, etc. It was expressed that Korea UBF is the host of the international conference held in the USA. Seriously?
Bring 3,500 people. A way to show UBF’s greatness is to bring many to the conference. This is good. But such (over)emphasis on bringing people is invariably to fulfill a number goal. People are invited not out of love for Jesus, but from the pressure by certain UBF leaders to keep one’s prayer goal.
Attendance to UBF conferences. This is regarded as a barometer of one’s spirituality, maturity and commitment to Christ. It has often been said, “You must show yourself to be a UBF missionary/UBF shepherd/UBF leader by attending the UBF conference.” Is this a biblical godly Christ-like motivation? Is it true that attendance to UBF conferences is a measure of one’s spirituality?
The theme and emphasis of every UBF conference is predictably the same: It is mission. This makes UBF conferences predictable. The same passages are repeated, primarily from the 4 gospels, with several favorite texts. The conclusion of every conference is the same: Obey the world mission command by feeding sheep. Are there not countless other biblical themes of beauty, majesty, mystery and glory besides mission, mission, mission, world mission?
The UBF conference schedule is hectic. Every moment of the conference must be filled with messages, reports, Bible study, testimony writing, testimony sharing, breakout sessions. Why? To make sure there is no time for attendants to hang out with others. UBF, a spiritual training academy, does not want lazy attendants who attend the conference for human fellowship.
Quality and cost. Today there are countless other Christian conferences that have gifted mature pastors and preachers, both older and younger. To compare any UBF conference in the world with them is like comparing a high school football team with any NFL team. Does UBF realize that we have a long way to catch up to improve the quality, content and spirituality of our UBF conferences? By comparison, UBF conference fees are also expensive. Other Christian conferences often has sponsors so that attendants receive free items, usually numerous Christian books that may even cover the cost of the conference fee.
Conference workers work like slaves and are not appreciated but taken for granted. Some years ago, countless unknown UBFers worked and served tirelessly for many months to prepare for a major UBF conference. Then the Sun sermon right after this conference was on Lk 17:7-10. I was floored. Of course, no one who served sacrificially and tirelessly expected to be specially honored or appreciated. But to hear from UBF leadership that “you have only done your duty” (Lk 17:10) is beyond belief. Also, conference workers have to pay their full conference fee even though they offer their services freely. It makes UBF seem like bossy unappreciative slave drivers, rather than like the God who is so generous that he pays you a full days wage for working just one hour (Mt 20:15).
To state again, my prayer is that God abundantly blesses our upcoming international conference to overflowing. Nonetheless, these are my (serious) concerns. Are there other concerns? Am I unnecessarily concerned? Off base? Too critical and picky?