The University Bible Fellowship 12 point Shepherding Heritage
The first part of the UBF heritage is what I call the “mindset section” or the “ideology section”. The first 7 points are concepts and ideas, describing the ubf idea of orthodoxy. The last 5 points however, describe specific actions and behaviors, and make up the ubf idea of orthopraxy. In some UBF chapters, the ideology is made very clear. But often the UBF heritage is presented with vague thoughts and often is open to individual interpretation as to what the slogans mean. The UBF heritage is a set of previously undocumented teachings that have guided UBF from its inception in 1961 to present day in 2013. I document the heritage teachings here in one place for the first time publicly.
Section I – Ideological slogans
the ubf mindset
1. Back to the Bible
2. World mission
3. Campus evangelism
4. Manger ministry
5. A spirit of giving
6. Spiritual order
7. Lay missionaries
“Go back to the bible” – The first and most obvious thing ubf taught me was to read the bible. I wasn’t taught to study the bible as in seminary school. It was more of a command to stop worrying about my problems and go seek answers in the bible. Don’t become defeated or fatalistic about your life. Don’t struggle with people or problems, wrestle with God through the bible with a holy struggle. Don’t spend too much time dealing with inter-personal conflict, but go and read your bible. Don’t engage in godless chatter. Be quiet and read the bible.
“Do world mission” – The second point in the ubf heritage is World Mission. I learned that World Mission is something you do however it was never clear just what to do about world mission, except maybe to eat Russian bread or pray. The idea is that people in the world are in terrible shape. The “world” was defined as everyone outside ubf. All those worldly people are from many different countries, and the worst of them are on 561 American campuses. [Note: The 561 number came from a old Navigator survey that found 561 major campuses in America at the time.]
“Campus Evangelism” – The third point in the ubf heritage is about college campus ministry. I normally combined “World Mission” and “Campus Evangelism” in to one slogan “World Campus Mission”. But really there are two slogans here. Campus evangelism refers to some specific lifestyle choices that are eventualy required of bible students in ubf (called “sheep”).
“Manger spirit” – The manger is perhaps the most recognizable Christian symbol, next to the cross. ubf taught me “manger spirit” and gave a whole new meaning to this symbol. Sometimes this was expressed as “manger ministry”. And the teaching is about the manger, literally. This teaching was not about Jesus directly, but about imitating what Jesus did. Jesus was born in a manger and became the Savoir of the world. Likewise, I was taught that I too could become a “savoir” and “be a blessing” only when I imitate the manger.
“A spirit of giving” – This means to support yourself. Be independent. Don’t look to other people for help. Don’t have a beggar mentality. Give, even when you are poor. Be a “tent-maker” like Apostle Paul. This heritage point is derived mostly from verses in the bible such as “You give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) and “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).
“Spiritual order” – This heritage point is one of the most vague, and perhaps the most misunderstood and misused. I was taught two meanings of this point, and I found a third meaning recently being taught at the Chicago headquarters chapter of ubf. If you want to find out what ubf is all about, start asking what “spiritual order” is. You’ll likely get multiple answers. This is one of the most used, least documented slogans of the ubf heritage. I believe we need to start sharing how this was used or misused, how it was taught and what to do about it.
“Lay Missionaries” – This is also known as “tentmaker missionaries” or “self-supporting missionaries”. The idea is that a missionary does not need to be officially ordained and should not be supported financially from a main sending organization. The idea stems mainly from Apostle Paul’s tent-making business, as in Acts 18:3.
See more explanations on the following blog posts:
Section II – Behavioral slogans
the ubf lifestyle
8. House churches
9. One to one Bible study
10. Disciple-making ministry
11. Daily Bread
12. Testimony writing & sharing
“House Churches” – A house church is a family who has gone through the arranged marriage process (marriage by faith), left their home ubf chapter, and gone out to another campus through the process called pioneering. A house church often refers to a ubf member’s dwelling that is used for UBF activities. Many small ubf chapters meet in leaders’ houses. Leaders often make analogies between this and the practice of the early Christian church meeting in members houses. Note that “house church” can sometimes have a more specific meaning, namely it can describe the union of those who are married in ubf and have not actually “pioneered” yet.
“One to One/1:1” – This is the core element of the UBF indoctrination and manipulation system. Bible study is always done in a hierarchical setting with one person acting as the Bible teacher (shepherd) and the other one as the Bible student (sheep). All initiates have to go through this one-to-one Bible study every week, often for many years, and often continuing with a senior missionary as teacher even after they have become shepherds themselves. In addition, there are also group Bible study where usually the chapter director acts as the Bible teacher. UBF Bible studies are always based on a questionnaire. UBF uses human effort (i.e prayers and repetition) instead of historical, intellectual or spiritual study of the Bible. In this way, Bible study often becomes an idol. After many years, a UBFer cannot stop Bible study even if a friend or loved one is in need.
“Disciple-making ministry” – The term “raising up disciples” is another term for what UBF considers to be their main task. This means parenting young converts like little children and giving them “obedience training” until they comply with how UBF expects them to behave. ubf shepherds and missionaries are taught to be the new parents of college students, often replacing the role of their natural parents.
“Daily Bread” – Daily Bread is the title of a UBF devotional that members are required to buy every quarter and that is used in UBF early morning prayer meetings. “To write daily bread” means writing a UBF type sogam based on a passage of the Daily Bread booklet. UBF likes to claim they have invented Daily Bread devotionals, but in fact the material was copied from the Scripture Union booklets, and even translated directly from the Scripture Union Daily Bread. Later, UBF replaced the Bible comments and prayers with their own Bible interpretations. UBF’s version of the booklets are sold to UBF members at a much higher price than the original booklets. Recently, UBF created UBF Press, a publication department, to publish and sell Daily Bread booklets and other material.
“Testimony/Sogam/Reflecting writing/sharing” – A sogam is a Korean term meaning one’s impressions, opinions, thoughts, feelings and sentiments about something. This term is used in UBF for the written statements based on Bible passages that UBF members are required to write and share every week (see testimony writing and sharing). The idea behind this practice is that members don’t just read a Bible passage, but interpret it in the sense of UBF and give a personal response in front of the group about how they intend to apply it to themselves. Usually this happens by repenting for not having done enough UBF activities or for not being obedient enough, and the promise to do better in the next week, often setting concrete targets. That way, members are able to indoctrinate each other, and leaders are able to closely monitor and control the spiritual growth of their members.
More explanations are on this blog post:
How the UBF heritage changes
This is what the shiny UBF heritage became to me after 25 years:
The wonderful bible became a binding chain.
The mission for the world became a black burden.
The beautiful campus became a dark lonely place.
The humble manger caught on fire and choked me.
The spirit of giving bled me dry.
The self-support/layman ministry made me crawl like a zombie.
The spiritual order ruled my life like a massive demon of authority.
Other undocumented UBF teachings
There are far too many undocumented teachings of UBF to list here. For example, most common Christian words have dual meaning in UBF-speak. That way UBF people can put on a good show to appear to be a Christian ministry while communicating in code to insiders who know the language.
1. Class system: sheep, shepherds, native leaders, Korean leaders
2. Directorship hierarchy: the idea of a tree structure of benevolent dictators.
3. Marriage by faith: Willingness to let a leader choose your future spouse.
4. Pioneering: Sending out one or more families to campuses around the world to setup a chapter of the organization, often without any valid support.
5. Covering: Willingness to cover all sins and not expose things that bother your conscience.
6. Loyalty to leaders: Willingness to obey and follow leaders above all other authority.
7. Separation: Willingness to be separated from friends, family and the world in order to join God’s true children.
8. Appeasement: Letting someone who speaks up have a task to do to keep them busy.
9. Propoganda: Speaking only positive things about leaders and the organization.
10. Duplicity: Willingness to ignore facts and adhere to double-standards, double-meanings and secret language.
11. Vertical communication: the idea that group discussion and communication methods (such as email) are bad.
12. Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation (KOPHN): This is the idea that all nations must submit to UBF authority and become UBF style “ministries”.
I share more here on this blog post:
UBF teaches the flawed Covering Theology
Here are some excerpts that are not written about UBF, but easily apply to what I was taught through the actions of UBF leaders:
Who is your covering? While many Christians have never heard that phrase a growing segment of the church knows exactly what it means. It means “which authority are you submitted to.” Among evangelicals there is a growing movement that teaches all people in the church need to be properly “covered” by God’s “delegated authority” in the church. The self-styled New Apostolic Reformation is a major component of this movement but doesn’t encompass all of it. Around the world “apostolic networks” are springing up heralding the return of God’s true authority to the church. While covering theology is more popular in non-denominational charismatic churches it is slowly gaining ground in more traditional evangelical circles.
More and more people are becoming concerned with the rise of this theology because it has led to spiritual abuse, controlling church leadership and spiritual shipwreck. The goal of this website is to examine covering theology from an evangelical perspective without resorting to personal attacks or underhanded tactics. If you believe I have misconstrued the facts I invite you to contact me through this website.
Covering theology is wrong on several levels. First and foremost it distorts the gospel of Jesus Christ. It redefines sin, grace and faith through an authoritarian lens. It takes the precious things the bible tells us are available to us solely through faith like God’s protection and provision and makes them conditional upon submission to a church leader. This is no different than the false teachers of Paul’s day who tried to teach that circumcision was necessary to have a complete relationship with God. Paul’s response? Gal 3:3 ”Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
Covering theology teaches that the kingdom of God operates like the Roman Empire with a clearly defined hierarchical order. The one verse that is used to support this notion is Romans 13:1-7 but the original context of the passage has to be ignored to make this fit. In this passage Paul wasn’t talking about the church, he was talking about the Roman Christians should relate to the Roman empire. Jesus makes it very clear in Mat 20:25-26 that the church should not operate like the Roman Empire.
UBF teaches the flawed Shepherding Movement Ideology
UBF is a Korean group that (in 2014) continues to propagate the flawed shepherding practices and ideology that began in some places in America in the 1970’s. The face of the failed Shepherding Movement was Bob Mumford, who became a sort of poster-boy of the movement. In 1989, Mr. Mumford offered a public apology to those hurt by the movement’s teachings and practices. In his formal statement of repentance Mumford said: Accountability, personal training under the guidance of another, and effective pastoral care are needed biblical concepts. True spiritual maturity will require that they be preserved. These biblical realities must also carry the limits indicated by the New Testament. However, to my personal pain and chagrin, these particular emphases very easily lent themselves to an unhealthy submission resulting in perverse and unbiblical obedience to human leaders. Many of these abuses occurred within the sphere of my own responsibility.