What is the Purpose of UBF Testimony Sharing?
Once a person becomes a member of a UBF chapter (or ‘church’), they will be required to write weekly testimonies along with everyone else. In simple terms, testimonies are long interpretations about the Bible passage that was studied during the week.
Most testimonies are 2-3 pages long, and they must be single spaced and written on a laptop computer. Testimony sharing is always held on Friday nights, and oftentimes lasts late into the evening [or early hours in the morning]. If the UBF chapter is small, then everyone will share their testimonies together collectively; if it is a larger chapter, then individual fellowships will share their testimonies together.
New members will be told that the purpose of testimony sharing is to allow them to reflect upon the Bible passage of the week, as well as to understand how it applies to their own life. Most members enjoy testimony sharing because they believe that it allows them to deepen their relationship with God.
However, the main reason that their church requires testimony sharing is so that it can learn all kinds of personal information about them. When someone is sharing their testimony, the senior leaders will be very alert and listening to everything that they say very carefully. They need to know as much about the new member as possible so that they can use this personal information against them in the future when they need them to make an important decision “for God” [UBF]. When it comes time for them to speak at a conference, or to make some other important decision requiring them to deepen their commitment to the group, they will suddenly and unexpectedly use past information that was used from old testimonies in order to to exert pressure upon them.
One shepherd from a California chapter (El Camino UBF) was even manipulated to use information that was taken out of context from a testimony he wrote over a year ago to use at a conference. In short, he was forced to lie and go against his conscience in order to make a more compelling message for a conference. When sharing testimonies, many people [initially] have no problem revealing deeply personal information about themselves to the group. The reason that they are able to do this is because their guard has been lowered substantially due to the supposed spiritual environment they are in. Most people would never assume that their deeply personal and private information will be used in the future to manipulate them into advancing the goals of the ministry. Also, since everyone else is doing the same thing, why should they do anything different? This is another reason behind testimony sharing: it promotes groupthink, in where everyone arrives at the exact same conclusion about the weekly passage. The goal of testimony sharing that UBF desires is for conformity among its members.
People who make all the “right” points while sharing their testimony will get a loud, “Amen” from the group. On the other hand, if a person strays from the official UBF interpretation or tries to implement outside perspectives into their testimony, they will be met with silence from the group [a.k.a the silent treatment].
Another reason that testimony sharing is done is to create guilt amongst their members. While sharing testimonies, people will describe their sin problems and how they failed God [UBF] during the week. People will usually describe how they did not perform enough spiritual activities such as fishing longer or teaching more students. One girl frequently referred to her habit of sleeping in as a way in which she was failing God and needed to change.
Finally, testimony sharing is a way in which to control member’s time. As it requires a time commitment of several hours during the week, it serves as a way for people not to focus on things that would distract them away from the ministry. A person will notice that if they fail to continually to write deep and personal testimonies, they will be rebuked or talked to about this by their Shepherd.
Not writing a weekly testimony is a serious offense [in UBF], and will definitely lead to a rebuke. If this pattern continues, the person’s commitment to God will be questioned. Since Shepherds [and the Chapter director a.k.a “missionary”] rely upon their sheep to bring themselves much honor in the ministry, they need to ensure that they are not doing anything that can bring down their own image and likeness as a sacrificial and effective servant of God.