Believe it or not, yes I was a UBF leader. I was a Shepherd, a Fellowship Leader and a Chapter Director over the course of two decades. I was an insider of insiders. I now realize one more reason why I participated so strongly–God had a plan to expose the UBF leadership through me. I knew KOPAHN theology very well. I understood the ins and outs of UBFism. I knew how to use the UBF-speak insider language well. I was “sold out for Jesus” and fully committed to making America a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Here are my confessions, which continues the confession series of articles on the old ubfriends site.
Susan’s recent testimony and off-line discussions with me reminded me of so many things I had buried in my mind, hoping to forget. I am prompted now to write to you to share my confessions. This is what I experienced as a leader at Toledo UBF. Chicago and other chapters may indeed have different behavoirs. I suspect that there are similarities. Maybe one day ubfriends will share many more confessions of UBF leaders?
These are the shameful practices I particpated in and/or enabled at Toledo UBF:
Tracking “sheep” information. We leaders met many times a week. As a fellowship leader, my weekly testimony was more of a fellowship report. At every meeting, I was charged with reporting the status of the members of my fellowship. Sometimes we did not report all the details but often enough was shared so that everyone knew each member’s current situation, week by week.
Manipulating situations to be miraculous. Because we knew the condition of each “sheep” and each fellowship member, as leaders we could begin to manipulate situations to our benefit. For example, one “sheep” really needed a job. One leader shared how they could get the “sheep” a job interview, and likely the job. Behind the scenes, the Shepherd would set things up so the “sheep” didn’t know what was going on. The “sheep” would then be so grateful to God who gave them a new job–a job magically so close to campus and was “God’s will” to stay in the city and remain in UBF. This did not always work out, and I think such things backfired sometimes. But we saw ourselves as grand blessing givers.
Arranging marriages. As a fellowship leader, I knew who was going to be married long before the two people knew. We sometimes help confirm “God’s will” as we discussed the two candidates for marriage as a group. Looking back, arranging marriages to be “house churches” consumed a majority of our time. That was why we had a “sister house” and a “brother house”. Those were the prime candiates for marriage.
Stupid training for obedience. We gave so many weird trainings. One time I was told to give “suit training” to one Shepherd who was about to be arranged married. I was supposed to take him shopping and train him to wear a very specific color and kind of suit. But he chose another suit. I failed at giving “suit training” but I am ashamed I agreed to attempt it. I was not good at such things.
Reviewing Offering Reports. I personally created and delivered offering reports every week to the chapter director for many years. We would read through everyone’s offering and find out whose offering had slipped, who had offered generously and whose name had a zero by it. This often factored into who would be blessed with various activities, such as a mission trip or a special role in an upcoming conference.
Fake fishing. I got so exhausted by the fishing quotas for fellowship leaders that I started wondering campus by myself. I never talked to anyone during my later “fishing times”. That didn’t seem to matter. As long as I went fishing on campus (i.e. recruiting for new members), I was off the hook. I also had 1:1 Bible study with stuffed animals to pad my numbers. These things kept me looking good on the oustide.
I helped remove negative UBF info from the internet. In early years at UBF, technology was taboo. Some told me my computer generated Bible study notes were evil and very unspiritual. But in later years, the attitudes changed among leaders. We embraced technology. What a find! You could text or follow up on “sheep” instantly! Cell phones and the internet made tracking “sheep” so much easier. I worked with Sarah Barry herself and a few people in Chicago to “cleanse the internet”. I foolishly thought we could control the UBF image by reporting various anti-ubf websites, manipulating the Wikipedia article and by clicking the “dislike” buttons on sites like Urban Dictionary. I told people to not read the anti-ubf websites.
I hated my UBF leadership life. Most importantly, I confess that I hated the life of a UBF leader. I hated sitting through the boring meetings. I hated the fear of that call from the chapter director to discuss the status of my fellowship members. I hated singing that God-forsaken hymn every Sunday. I hated staying up past midnight every Saturday for messenger training. As a leader, I had already exhausted all that UBF had to offer, including my own arranged marriage. Now I was supposed to find students and train them in the path I had taken. But the truth was that I hated that path. I rarely expressed this however.
If you are a UBF leader reading this, what are your confessions?