UBF 50th Anniversary Book: Introduction

Finally, on page 31, we get to the Introduction, which is two lectures and goes on until page 39. So UBF spends 39 pages, out of 174, just for “orientation and introduction”. That is 22% of the book!

When I realized that over a fifth of the blue book is devoted to just introducing UBF, I realized that the blue book is a snapshot of my 24 years in UBF. Over the course of 24 years, UBF ideology was presented to me in almost the same manner as the blue book presents it. 22% of 24 years is about 5 years. That’s about how much time was spent “introducing” UBF to me, which corresponds to the time I spent in college. That is the way UBF disciples students: spend the college years in orientation and introduction. Then the challenges begin, after graduation.

Back to the book itself. The introduction is divided into two lectures:

1. spirit, ministry, vision by Heon-Il Jeong (pages 31-32)
2. A Biblically based Spirit by Elisha Ahn (pages 33-39)

First of all, even as a director in UBF and after 24 years in the ministry, I have no idea who Jeong and Ahn are. Who are they? Why are they introducing the blue book lectures? I have no clue. Secondly, why is “spirit” intentionally not capitalized in the title of the first introduction lecture?

1. spirit, ministry, vision by Heon-Il Jeong (pages 31-32)

“The word “spirit” refers to a fundamental concept, philosophy or idea. A “spirit” is not a concrete object, but a reaction; a strength that occurs within and among people. A “ministry” is spirit in visible form. Thus, it could be said that a ministry is the visible manifestation of an invisible spirit.”

“A “vision” is future circumstances foreseen, but based on reality. Thus, spirit, ministry, and vision cannot be viewed separately from each other.  There cannot be a ministry without a spirit, and a ministry’s spirit cannot exist without a ministry. A ministry can be shaped by its spirit, and at times, a ministry may create its own spirit. Here, a vision is the search for a better future based on the self-examination and reflection of a ministry and a spirit.”

Time out!!! Anybody confused? Are we supposed to be talking about the ministry from Jesus Christ? Is this Christianity? Could Apostle Paul please come back from the after-life and refute this? Ok hold on for the ride on page 32…

“We cannot reflect on our spirit and ministry without reflecting on Dr. Samuel Lee, the founder of UBF. This is because the spirit and ministry of UBF is closely connected to Lee.”

What a minute.. I thought a “spirit” is invisible? So how can a “spirit” be closely connected with a man? And since when was UBF founded by Samuel Lee alone? What about Sarah Barry? Why has she been written out as a founder?!?

“The spirit of UBF is, in short, “Living according to God’s word.”… “”We have organized UBF Spirit, Ministry, Vision into six parts:  Introduction, Campus Ministry for Discipleship, World Mission and Self-supporting Missionaries, the Power and Influence of a Believing Community, a Pioneering and Independent Spirit, and finally, To the Ends of the Earth: North Korea and beyond.”

Notice how “Introduction” is a “part”. Orientation and introduction are key concepts to understand in UBF. Those are normally “fed” to young students over the course of their college days, so they are “prepared” for the “greater” teachings.

2. A Biblically based Spirit by Elisha Ahn (pages 33-39)

This introduction lecture is based on John 8:31-32: ” 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'”

“UBF was first called University Bible Research Group. But since obeying the word of God was more important than researching it, the name changed to University Bible Fellowship.”

Time out!! So obedience is more important than researching? That explains the “accept absolutely” attitude displayed by UBF shepherds. Rarely is a student given enough time to properly think about a Bible passage for themselves. “Study” in UBF is redefined as “accept” and “trust and obey”. Thinking critically is highly discouraged, and now it is documented de-facto.

Based on that premise, the next several pages introduce how the Bible has become an idol in UBF. Let’s jump to the last paragraph on page 39:

“Therefore, we need to build a message research institute and establish it as a key ministry in UBF. At the same time, we need to raise specialists that can continue to develop the tradition of our inductive Bible studies through more research and study.”

Wow. Obedience is more important (supposedly) than research. But the conclusion of this lecture is: raise research specialists! What this means is (as I always suspected), UBF intends to let students just “accept and obey” the “tradition and research” of the Bible specialists.

This is quite sad to me. Koreans in UBF seem to have stolen the ministry away from what Sarah Barry had hoped. Clearly UBF is at a “fork in the road”. Does UBF choose the spirit of Lee or the heed the sound advice of Barry?

2 thoughts on “UBF 50th Anniversary Book: Introduction

  1. “We cannot reflect on our spirit and ministry without reflecting on Dr. Samuel Lee, the founder of UBF. This is because the spirit and ministry of UBF is closely connected to Lee.”

    Isn’t this contradicting their claim in the last lecture?

    “If the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years came from human efforts or ideas, we don’t need to continue in them. … the spirit that worked in the UBF ministry for the past 50 years didn’t come from the ideas of Dr. Samuel Lee …”

    I wished they would make up their minds and not weasel around what they really think all the time.

  2. Yes, Chris, I find multiple contradictions in the “blue book”. It is not a cohesive teaching manual, rather a collection of lectures. Clearly there was little or no collaboration in the lectures. I suspect such cohesion will come about in the next 2 to 5 years or so. That is roughly what the Catholic church did: formed councils and lectures until they “got it right” and formed their official positions.

    In fact, one lecture describes this process, explaining that UBF is a “progressive” ministry, constantly working to find the “best ways”. Really, this means, they will pick up new teaching and refine their ways as each wave of leaders leave. I wonder if any leaders will remain when they finally figure out what they want to do and why they are doing it?