This is a long testimony… Just be forewarned.
It’s been about 5-6 months now since I left UBF. It’s taken me a long time to get over it. I still have a lot of anger and pain from my experiences. The question that I have asked God several times now is, what good came from this and why did you send me there. Thus so far, there has been no concrete answer. But, I believe that God has a plan for the lives of everyone and that UBF for whatever reason was part of his plan for me. Nothing happens without His knowing and consent. I am thankful to Jesus for his saving grace and for taking me out of UBF.
I do not want to unfairly criticize UBF either. I do not believe that my Bible teachers intentionally set out to manipulate and control their students. I do not think that they have evil motives. I believe they do everything with the best intentions. Many Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses also have good intentions, but none of these can save someone. It is said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions are not what is needed to found a healthy church. Being firmly rooted in Jesus and his saving power, his word, and a belief in his death for our sins and resurrection is a much better starting point. I cannot speak for others. So I will not talk about the experiences that I myself did not witness.
I started to attend UBF in the spring of 2007. I was approached by a very nice lady who asked me if I would like to study the Bible. I began talking to her about Jesus and about my walk with Him. She invited me to study the Bible with her. I agreed because I really wanted to be involved in a Bible study, I wanted to get my life on track. I was tired of a life without any real action, in terms of my spiritual well being. I believe that Jesus is the only answer to the emptiness and meaninglessness of life. I more than believe this, it’s everything to me; if it turns out to be false, there is no hope for mankind. So, I agreed to go to Bible study with her and I really enjoyed the 1 to 1 Bible study. After perhaps a month, she asked if I could come to the Sunday worship service and play guitar. So I decided to go. I told them I couldn’t commit to going every week because I already attend another church, but, I really didn’t mind serving them by playing guitar. I cannot remember the exact reason why, but I started playing guitar every week. At first I didn’t like it, because I told them I couldn’t, but eventually I realized that participating in church by serving was better than being a spectator, so I attended both churches (something they would latter reveal was unacceptable). UBF was great at first, I really felt like I was part of something and that I could contribute. I really liked the idea that they were missionaries to Canada (a nation which is apathetic, individualistic, and for the most part has rejected God). One thing I didn’t enjoy from the start, was that I was considered special. I was told that I was special on several occasions. I am no more special than anyone else, but they treated me like a first class human being, I even felt like I was treated as good as or better than their own children.
Slowly they started to ask more of me. I chose to participate because there were spiritual benefits. The more I was in God’s word, the better my overall wellbeing. At the same time, this is also when manipulation began. I got the feeling that not attending was not an option. If I missed a Sunday service (for good reason or not) or a Bible study, it was a really really big deal. This didn’t alarm me too much though at the time. One pivotal moment in my experience with UBF and one where the Holy Spirit literally comforted me was when I confessed during a group leaders meeting (since they considered me an upcoming leader) some sexual sin. They rebuked me (which was good) and made a big deal of it (which I believe it is). The problem came the next day during the Sunday worship service. The missionary began to rain fire and brimstone down on me (without mentioning my name), condemning me, explaining that people who do and think such things are garbage. How can God love such people? They are filthy. He wanted the sincere repentance of young people who do these things. I didn’t understand, wasn’t confessing and repenting exactly what I had done the night before? This went on and on for about five minutes. I was so hurt and angry that I wanted to get up and leave. At the same time I was confused… was this really what God thought of me? Was I really beyond salvation? I prayed, “God, I’m going to open my Bible, and I want you to reveal your truth to me.” I opened my Bible and the very first thing my eyes fell upon were Jesus words as he died on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I realized that God saw my suffering and agony. God knew my heart was sincere. Why would I confess my sin publicly if I was not disgusted with it? He wanted me to forgive the missionary. I encourage anyone who has been hurt by UBF to follow Jesus example. The people who abused you in UBF are no different than the Roman soldiers who tortured Jesus. Jesus loved those who crucified him; Jesus loves your UBF Bible teacher and desperately wants them to repent and believe in him as their saviour. I forgave him, but, I decided that I wanted to talk to him and his wife about it, because it was unacceptable and hurtful. I called a meeting, I could tell they were afraid (what was I coming to talk to them about?). But they came prepared. The missionary denied the event ever took place saying, “I don’t remember what I wrote in last week’s sermon, but I never have any individual in mind.” (His English was probably not the same, as English is his second language but the meaning hasn’t changed) I was angry that he denied it but the meeting became even stranger. He decided that the best defence was a good offence and came up with a baseless charge against me. He charged, “Chris, I noticed that you are not putting any money in the offering.” He then began to explain that it was my duty (I didn’t disagree). The problem is that, I attend another Church and choose to support missions work at that Church. This is where 100% of my offerings go. I will not say how much I give because that’s between Jesus and me. I had given money to UBF, but I refused to put my name on it because I don’t want to be recognized. So, his charge was a bit insulting. He insisted that I start putting money in the UBF offering with my name on it. I boil this down to distrust; something I soon realized was a major problem in UBF. But once again I decided to forgive him for it. After that things were more or less the same at UBF for some time.
Later there was my trip to California for the 2007 West Coast Summer Bible Conference. The conference was great and I met a lot of great people. I do not want to undermine or unduly criticize the conference because overall it was pretty good. People were very kind to me and treated me like I was an ambassador from Canada. I was the only non Korean Canadian at the conference, so I got a lot of attention. Actually, the trip down there was quite the miracle, which included getting on the plane about 1 minute before it took off. However, despite the overall positive experience I had, I noticed some strange things at the conference during the group Bible study meetings. I noticed that people were pretty perfect. No flaws, no sin, since they started attending UBF and became missionaries and shepherds. Their testimonies seemed unrealistic. I remember questioning them in my mind. Is it truly possible to rid myself of sin and become perfect? It was an attractive idea but one that I knew was impossible. Several times after the conference I mentioned this to my Bible teacher. She didn’t deny that it was possible I had interpreted their testimonies that way, she even said in some cases some “sheep” may think they do not have sin. My problem with her answer was that it was the missionaries who claimed to be without sin since attending UBF. The other strange thing was that I was assigned (at least this is my belief) someone to watch over me and “guide” me during the conference. He was a really nice guy and I felt that he was my friend. He is also the one who taught me about ‘proper’ testimony writing. Although a strange practice, having a watcher, I didn’t think much of it. But, it did make me feel like they were treating me like a child. Since leaving UBF I have not heard a word from anyone in California. (I posted something on their West Coast UBF network explaining the Gospel of Jesus Christ before I left, once I realized that many of them might not know that Jesus is the only way to salvation).
After the conference, things started to become a little darker for me. Several times during the group Bible studies I would hear something I knew was wrong. Most of the time it was about something trivial, but sometimes it concerned the nature of our Salvation. Works? Or Grace? Or Both? The answer according to Ephesians chapter 2 is that GRACE ALONE is our hope. Jesus said he is the way the truth and the life, the ONLY way to the Father is through him. Once saved, works should follow because faith without deeds is dead. I would argue this point to them. But, it was never clear to me at the time what exactly they believed, only that they came across as believing in a works centred salvation. Once I was asked to pick my key verse for the year. I picked, “who so ever would come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Later, when feeling a bit down and depressed and tired of the constant pressure of UBF, I told them that I was tired and depressed. Their response was very manipulative and evil. They said, “Chris… didn’t you say you would deny yourself and pick up your cross?” I didn’t respond… Jesus said, “my burden is light… come all who are tired and weary.” This is VERY DIFFERENT TO UBF’s PHILOSOPHY. Jesus wasn’t talking about laziness, he was talking about rest. Rest, which is something the Bible discusses a lot, is ignored in UBF. God doesn’t want us to be tired and weary all the time. He wants us to be full of energy and life. After all, if we are supposed to burn brightly and shine on this dark world, we are going to need a source of light to share. In UBF if you are not tired and weary, you are not working hard enough. And even if you are tired and weary, not having 12 disciples means you still are not working hard enough…
At Christmas the ‘minder’ from California came up to visit. (The use of the word ‘minder’ was intended to be sarcastic because it really wasn’t all that bad.) I didn’t see much of him, but I decided to take him on a tour of Vancouver, which is a dreadful place to visit in winter… just in case you ever wanted to come here at that time. (unless you enjoy skiing or snowboarding, in which case it’s probably #1 in North America). The visit was uneventful with the exception of one small portion of our conversation. He started talking about how faithful the missionaries in Vancouver were and how God wanted me to be like “His Jesus for Canada” and that Canada was my mission field. It was implied that leaving Canada was not in God’ plan. He told me I needed to be more obedient to my Bible teachers. My response was, “I don’t trust them,” “It takes time to earn my trust and they have not earned it yet.” I regret not telling him that I AM NOT JESUS. But he may have meant something else. I am an ambassador of Christ. I carry Christ with me. I am filled with his spirit. But I am not Jesus.
While at UBF I had an amazing work of the Holy Spirit in my life that was not related to UBF at all. While at my college, I saw a group of three Korean girls. Something inside of my told me, “they are Christians” “I want you to meet them” “Go, sit down on that bench over there and they will come and talk to you about Jesus.” So, I did as the voice said. Then, one of the girls crossed the room and sat down with me. She asked me if she could practice English with me. I obliged. Then she asked me if she could tell me about Jesus. She admitted her English was not very good and asked if she could read to me from a gospel tract. I realized at that moment that the Spirit of God had literally spoken to me. As a result I met Bo Ram, a 22 year old missionary from Korea who shares the gospel, not because she feels the need to earn her salvation, but because she loves Jesus and she loves the people of Canada. Today she is one of my best friends and a gift from God. When I told my Bible teachers about this, they appeared threatened and gave me the silent treatment. They didn’t know how to respond to this, the power of God for the salvation of mankind. It’s like they were hearing something new and impossible. I should have realized at this moment that UBF was not where I belonged. The Bible says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable; denying His power and denying Him access to the hearts of young people is blasphemy.
My exit from UBF was not what I had planned. After a Bible study on Luke Chapter 19, which they twisted to mean salvation comes though works; I realized that UBF believes that we are saved by doing lots and lots of good deeds. I planned on talking to them in private, like I had the first time. Hopefully, I thought I could convince them that this belief is not correct. I prayed with many people including my youth pastor, friends, and accountability partners before talking to them. I knew the Bible says that in the last days some evil minded people will worm their way into peoples’ lives and convince them that there is another way other than Jesus. The Bible says that such people are already amongst us. I know that my Bible teachers have been deceived by these people and have becomes slaves, not to righteousness or to Jesus, but to the higher ups in UBF. My hope was to convince them of this, and hopefully get them to leave with me and sever their ties with the UBF mother ship. After this we could all attend a healthy church (denomination didn’t matter to me) and everything would go on happily ever after. This didn’t happen. After the Sunday service the usual prayer and 1 to 1 discussion began. I was asked what I thought of the message. Instead of telling him what I thought of his message, I shared the gospel with the missionary. He rejected this and began trying to convince me that works are the key to our salvation. I stood up and said “NO.” I felt like I was stopping bullets with my hands and that everything was in slow motion. He continued… I said “NO,” He paused. I said, “NO.” “It is by grace we are saved.” His wife shouted at me, “REPENT.” I Shouted back, “REPENT FOR WHAT?” “REPENT FOR BELIEVING JESUS DIED FOR ME?” I opened my Bible and stumbled to find Ephesians chapter 2. I read it to them. They responded by telling me the book of James says we must earn our salvation, which is a lie and a misinterpretation. I told them that I had read some things about them on the internet, they denied all of it. I walked out and the missionary followed me saying “just one second Chris” “Chris I want to talk.” I didn’t turn around, comparing it to Lot returning to Sodom when the fire storm was beginning and after witnessing his wife turning to stone. I knew that all he wanted was more time to tell me I was a sinner and had no right to rebuke him for false teachings. After all, what do I know? By the way, I am a sinner, he is right; I am a disgusting sinner not worthy of a saviour like Jesus. But guess what? Jesus doesn’t think so; Jesus loves me so much he died on a cross for me. Jesus has a plan for my life and it is good! It may seem like a silly thing to say, but my Bible teacher literally rejected Jesus when I shared the gospel with him on that final day. Instead he continues to believe that by teaching 12 sheep he can erase his sin and earn Jesus saving grace…
Today I ask… If Jesus started to attend UBF would he be welcomed? My answer is probably not… Jesus turned water into wine (BIG NO NO IN UBF), Jesus hung out with sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors (also not acceptable in UBF), Jesus preached salvation and life, freedom from sin, repentance, and Gods love. Jesus taught his disciples to labour in love and obedience to God. UBF teaches labour in exchange for salvation and obedience to the missionaries and shepherds. Jesus message was for the whole world. UBF’s message is just for university students. Once, after telling them I bought some groceries for and shared the gospel with a homeless man, something I was very happy about, they gave me the silent treatment. Whereas when I told them about how I shared the gospel with my peers, they were overjoyed.
I received some nasty emails from him after leaving. I was told that maybe God could forgive me. Yes, the answer is Jesus death on a cross means God can forgive me. Adding the element of doubt isn’t going to work on me. I was told that I had a “weak and brittle faith” that I was a loser, washed up bum, a failure. According to them, I will become nothing. Thank God they are not the final authority on the outcome of my life. Jesus holds the pen UBF, not you, get it straight! By the way UBF, I still have those emails. This means I have evidence… Are you scared? You should be, but not of evidence, but of God who will hold all of us accountable for what we have done. God has all the evidence he needs.
I would like to highlight some other strange things I heard while attending UBF. My bible teacher told me on two occasions that she really respected Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses because of their hard working spirit, whereas their own brothers and sisters in Christ were condemned as lazy second class Christians. On a few occasions I was told to pick a church, the shepherd from California who came up to Canada at Christmas said this to me as well, they were offended by me attending another church besides theirs. On one occasion I told them about how I wanted to tutor English to make some extra money. My Bible teacher told me she thought it was a very bad idea. She thought that I would have a sexual relationship with one of my female students. She based this on past experience with another member (a sheep) of their group. Instead she insisted I work for a bank. I called her on this and told her that her worries were baseless. When I told them that I wanted to go to China to teach English, it suddenly became clear to them that this was not Gods plan for me. On one occasion it was even suggested to me that they believed my intentions were to go to China to have sexual relations. This because according to them many women would be attracted to me. The problem with this line of thinking is that, if I am actually so attractive, sexual relationships right here in Canada shouldn’t be too hard to find either. Which means, no matter where I am, temptation will always follow me. Testimony writing was also a major issue in UBF. They insisted I only study the passages of the Bible they were studying instead of my own pick-a-book-at-random-and-read-it-until-finished-strategy. The middle ground I reached with them was that I would study both, which takes twice as much time, but you cannot ever read too much of the Bible. I found that there was no freedom of expression in testimony writing. I had to write essentially the same thing as everyone else. I rebelled though, and started writing my testimony about whatever was on my heart. They eventually gave up on me and allowed me this freedom. I could tell it bothered them, but there was no Biblical premise for what they were asking me to do, something I would often remind them of. There were probably several other moments where I was completely dumbstruck by what they said or suggested, but these are the ones that stuck out the most to me.
I cannot come to a conclusion about UBF because after writing this I actually hope it’s not over. I pray that God would use me to tear down the stronghold that is UBF and in its place lift Jesus to his proper position. I will continue to pray for their salvation.
I also want to say that overall 90% of my experience with UBF was positive. One of the nicest things they did for me while I attended their Church was that while my mother was in the hospital they bought flowers and insisted on coming to visit her. Something no one in my other Canadian church ever did. They cooked a great meal every Sunday which I know is a huge financial burden. I found it so funny how they would load up my plate because they thought I was too skinny. (I don’t consider my situation as “eating training” as others have called it; I am also not denying that some may have been subjected to this). I really appreciate all the things they did for me while I attended. I really believe that they loved me. I shared many laughs with them and a lot of my time with them. I think the most hurtful thing for me, was that I knew I couldn’t remain friends with them after leaving. They have chosen their path and I have chosen mine. I have decided that Jesus is the best possible solution to my problems with sin. He is the only one who can save me at the last day.
“Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” – Jesus
I strongly encourage anyone who has been hurt by UBF to forgive them and continue praying for them. In the same way that only Jesus can save us from our sin, only Jesus can save them. It is your responsibility to pray for them and to love them.
(Posted in the discussion page of a UBF Wikipedia article, April 2008)
I agree, I have heard a few reports of “Business Missions” but was unsure of exactly what that meant. This is so Orwellian, making up these phrases, “Faith Marriage”, “Business Mission”, “World Mission”, “Sports Training”, “Bible Teacher Training”, “Fishing.” They imply that their interpretation of these words are Biblical. However, this may not be the case in every situation(especially “sports training”?). I dont think we can deny that “Fishing” or Evangelism (in common speach) is Biblical and is in fact our duty as believers. But in UBF “fishing” has a much more specific meaning, it means going to the local university campus and offering Bible study. Going to homeless people and telling them about Jesus is not considered “fishing.” UBF doesnt have a world mission, they have a campus mission. Jesus said “go into ALL the world and make disciples of ALL nations.” But I was told by UBF that my mission was in Vancouver Canada, and that if I went to China or Korea or Japan to share Gods word, I would be abandoning “World Mission”. In fact they went so far as to suggest that my real desire in wanting to go overseas was to defile myself by fulfilling lustful desires with prostitutes. It is such a contradiction. I never saw any evidence of the Holy Spirit during my stay with UBF(other than from Bible study students never from missionaries). Iam not saying that UBF missionaries do not have the Holy Spirit, only that the evidence was very slim. UBF seems to think that getting more Bible study students is equal to having the Holy Spirit. However, if that were the case, then the Mormons and Jehovah’s witnesses would be overflowing with the Spirit. I never had communion while in UBF(JESUS COMMANDED US TO DO IT IN REMEMBERANCE FOR WHAT HE DID FOR US). Praying in tongues was looked down upon (it is a gift from God, please read ACTS). Now they run my name through the mud. However, I am glad that I share in the sufferings of Jesus. To them I am on my way to hell, but Jesus has a plan for my life. IT IS WRITTEN, “THAT HE WHO BEGAN A GOOD WORK IN YOU WILL CARRY IT ON TO COMPLETION IN THE DAY OF CHRIST JESUS.” One of their own shephards prophesied about me saying that I would share the gospel with millions. Now they take those words back, but not God, what God has spoken no one can contradict. UBF’s legalistic righteousness by works will not get them very far. Abraham was justified by faith. David defeated Goliath by faith. Gideon cut down his fathers Asherah pole by faith. Paul shared the gospel with millions by faith and grace. Jesus said “the work of God is this, to believe in the one that He sent.” “EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE FOR HIM WHO BELIEVES.” I dont care what UBF says about me, I will do what God has asked me, by faith alone! I cannot do any work unless God enables me to do it. SO IT IS NO LONGER I WHO DO IT, but the Spirit of God working through me. I will not take credit for HIS work. I am only a willing unworthy servant, that is it. And God will use me, and anyone else who calls on his name. God asked me to rebuke UBF, I prayed and prayed about it and his words to me were, “FATHER FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.” UBF is so lost, they even call me, Gods unworthy servant “a follower of Satan” (they used to try and put me on a throne and said “you are sooo spiritual” “You will be a successful UBF Bible teacher.”) The Pharisees called Jesus a follower of Satan also and they also called him “good teacher”(Make up your minds UBF, what am I to you?). But how can they call me a follower of Satan now? I believe in Jesus, he is my Savior “The Savior of the world.” I forgive UBF church for its abuse and trying to lead me away from the plan that God has for my life. I am thankful for studying the Bible with them. But they told me that they didnt do it for me, but for themselves, they didnt teach me because they loved me, instead they taught me because they thought it would win them points with God. Since they do their works to be seen by men, they have already recieved their reward in full. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” and we know that only those who “please God” will appear in his Kingdom. That last sentence was a warning to everyone, both UBF and former UBF. If you are in UBF now, do not leave, instead pray for God’s truth (unless the abuse is unbearable, in that case leave). If you are outside UBF, pray! “Pray without ceasing.” PRAY PRAY PRAY AND THEN PRAY SOME MORE. Pray that God would restore UBF, that he would cleanse it of all unrighteousness, that they would know Gods grace and his true Gospel(That is “Christ and him crucified” and him risen from the dead). Pray on behalf of them if you truly love them. PRAY!
Can I hear an AMEN?
Chris and unworthy servant of Christ Jesus our Lord.