(Originally posted at xomba.com.)
Submitted by theSaint on Tue, 2007-08-28 20:22.
A letter to those investigating UBF for the first time.
I am not a grand orator or great wordsmith. My views are shaped largely by my experience with UBF and not by deep intellectual arguments or philosophical studies. I expect much of what I say will be refuted by some hardcore UBF-er and I'll be labeled as a "runaway sheep" or "cultural Christian" who "left the ministry to pursue fleshly desires." If you are a student who has been exposed to UBF on campus, you will certainly find a truckload of information on the internet both for and against UBF. I only write in the hopes that what I have to share may help you make a balanced assessment.
I first joined UBF as a freshman at a California university. I was far from home, had no other friends or relatives, and UBF became like a family to me. I studied the Bible once a week with my Bible teacher and attended meetings at the church twice a week. I grew up in a Christian home and attended a Christian high school, so the initial experience at UBF was merely an extension of the Christian study and discipline I had been accustomed to back home. As I discovered some years later, this particular chapter is a rather liberal one in comparison to many of the others across the United States.
After a year and a half of minor involvement, I moved into the UBF girls' "commonlife." The Lord taught me many lessons about self-sacrifice and accommodating others as I struggled through personality clashes and trekked the naturally craggy path of maturation from adolescence to adulthood. Looking back, I realize that many of my God-given personality traits and talents were squelched by the pressure to conform to the projected image of "shepherdess" and "mother of faith." For example, by my own convictions I only listened to Christian music, but in commonlife, Chrisian rock music was forbidden me. Also, my habit of wearing a headband or scarf in my hair was severely chastised as being an enticement to the boys. These are trivial things and only the strictest code of legalism as found (and, indeed, preached with utmost vehemence) in UBF would find them to be. I endured all these things as idiosyncrasies of the church – after all, you would be hard-pressed to find a perfect church anywhere in the world.
The people in UBF are very friendly and sincere of heart. None of the people with whom I had close contact were intentionally deceptive or manipulative. They merely had good intentions and were themselves dazzled and deceived by the cult of personality that grew up around the leader(s). Because the young people especially have such a strong desire to please the Lord, they easily reveal a great deal of zeal without exercising a whole lot of wisdom. This can be very dangerous and can lead unscrupulous ministers to meddle in areas that should be sacred to the family and to the Lord.
My chief objections during my years at UBF were with the way the ministry treated families, baptism/communion, and the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit. Let me say just a few words on each. Should the need arise, I will write on each separately at another time.
I observed that the sanctity of the family was compromised in UBF. A family with young children was encouraged to sacrifice quality family time by leaving their kids with babysitters or allowing them to run free on the church grounds for hours and hours each week while their parents served Bible students and campus ministry. I was increasingly appalled by the lack of discipline and poor behavior of the children. Every true Christian home I have known outside of UBF has had one thing in common: the children are secure and well-behaved, if rather boisterous on occasion! God established the institute of family and there are boundaries that ought not to be crossed by any type of ministry and which the Lord would never call to be broken by parents even for "the work of the Kingdom."
In my four years at UBF, I only experienced one baptism and one observation of communion. I was horribly shocked by the baptism since it tuned out to be baptism by sprinkling rather than by immersion. I was also highly disappointed by the communion and often felt it should be observed more frequently as the Lord commanded.
In my final year as a member of UBF, I grew spiritually dryer and dryer. Though the Holy Spirit was within me, I felt as though the work He sought to do was being strangled at every turn. I began to seek out extra time to pray and began avoiding some of the group prayer meetings that began to feel superfluous. Eventually I came to the realization that the Lord's time for me at UBF had come to an end and it was time to move on. I will not deny the work God did in and through me while at UBF, but I see clearly that the door is forever closed from ever returning back. Perhaps, had the parting been met with reason and benediction, things would have turned out differently. But since the call of the Holy Spirit on my life was not only rejected by the members of UBF but actually classified as rebellion and "the work of Satan," I am convinced that any further pleas for discussion or reform will only be met with deaf ears.
Is UBF a cult? Based on my experience there, I would say that overall UBF has sound basic theology, some semi-serious theological problems, and some extremely serious sociological and psychological problems and as such I would seriously advise anyone considering fellowship there to seek out a healthier, more balanced place to dedicate themselves to God.
May the Lord bless your desire to serve Him and provide you many opportunities to put all your skills and talents to work for His Kingdom!