Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chris J. (former Chicago UBF)

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(Original scanned copy can be found here. Letter written by Chris J., ex member of UBF. Chris is the daughter of the late Dwight J., a Swedish Covenant minister. Chris was the UBF sheep of Sarah Barry at the U. of Chicago. She was, at one time, arranged to marry a Columbus UBF member named John W. Her account of her "deprogramming" does not resemble the stories told about "deprogramming" by UBF's leaders at the time, as usual.)

I came to UBF in 1979 as a senior in high school. At a time in my life when I was questioning my faith, God used the Bible study I received in UBF to confirm in me the truth of His Word and of Jesus Christ. I continued studying with Sarah Barry throughout my freshman year at North Park College in Chicago. That year I grew much as she gave me the room to learn from God's Spirit personally. I also grew to love M. Sarah and our one-to-one study very much. However, there were a few things which prevented me from becoming fully involved in UBF and from encouraging my friends to do so. I saw the pressure that was put on the students to belong exclusively to UBF and the guilt it placed on them; I was wary of the attitude I sensed in the members towards other Christian ministries; and I was disturbed by the members' attitude toward Samuel Lee. At the end of my freshman year I left UBF because of these questions. I returned the following fall, however, because I missed the one-to-one Bible study and the zeal which I felt was lacking in my church. I was relieved to have returned. Yet I still did not have peace about the attitudes that were present in UBF. Throughout that sophomore year I struggled intensely with this problem. At the same time, I began to associate Jesus with the demand for exclusive allegiance to UBF, and I became afraid of Him. In my fear I ran from Him and opened myself up to Satan, who oppressed me with insecurity and guilt. That year was hellish for me because I allowed fear to separate me from my God. But Jesus, my beautiful Good Shepherd, stood by me until I could call out to him. When I cried out to Him in the spring He answered and drew me to Himself through His Word. Jesus used that year in my life to teach me His mercy and the danger of running away from Him for any reason. That summer He showed me that He was leading my life and that I was to keep my eyes On Him alone. However, while He gave me the increased assurance of His presence with me, I was never brought to rest about the attitudes present in UBF.

The next year I transferred from North Park to the University of Chicago. I learned a lot that year about the nonChristian world, and my desire to help the people around me in Christ grew as I studied the Bible with a number of students. However, at the same time I was burdened by two things which prevented me from living in the freedom of Jesus that I taught my Bible students about. First was a gnawing term of slavery to the sins which I continually tried to overcome. Second was the burden of unrest concerning the unchecked power of Samuel Lee in UBF. This had not left me, although by now I really wished it would.

During the winter and spring of 1983, Jesus showed me the cause of my inability to overcome my sins. It was because I was not remaining in Him like a branch to the Vine, and I was not claiming the victory over my sins that He won through His death and resurrection. Through John 15, Mark 16, and Romans 1-8, Jesus began to show me what it meant to live by faith in His power and that I was to live by His Spirit, not by my own strength or by the law. That spring I experienced freedom that I had not known before. I fell in love with Jesus all over again and my only desire was to please Him. During that time, however, in my new found joy and my desire to be open to God in everything, I also began to open myself up to attitudes which were not of Him. Because it had been through UBF that God's Word came to me, I reasoned that everything that UBF did must be alright. I become ready to do almost anything that my friends in UBF felt was God's will for me. This included cutting off all contact with my family, former church members, and many other Christians, for in interpreting Hebrews 11:24-26 I identified them with my life in sin, and identified only UBF as "God's people". I began to think that in God's eyes we were somewhat more special than other Christians because we were working harder and persecuted more. I began to suspect most other Christians and felt truly comfortable only around other UBF believers, putting full confidence only in the words of Sarah Barry and Samuel Lee. As time went on, although I believed I was following Jesus in these attitudes, I was moving away from Him.

But again, Jesus is my faithful Shepherd, and He would not allow me to do this. Toward the end of my junior year in 1983 I felt as though He were preparing me for something. On the day that I came home for summer break I found out what it was. I received a phone call from a Christian friend of mine who said that the Lord had been leading him all week to call me. The last I had heard of him, he had been studying the Bible with UBF, as well as going to his own church. When he told me he had stopped studying with UBF and I asked him why, he proceeded to tell me of God's work in his life which led him to make this decision. As he spoke of Jesus' work I began to sense Jesus' presence very strongly in our conversation, both confirming the words he spoke and also commanding me to pay close attention to what he was about to say. The phrase, "The strong hand of the Lord upon me" (Ezek. 3:14b) became a reality to me, for the Lord's Spirit surrounded me in peace, love and power. By the middle of our conversation I knew that Jesus had sent this servant to speak His words to me, and that I was to listen closely.

God had worked in this brother powerfully throughout 1982 through a personal study of His Word, bringing him into a new understanding of Jesus and the Person and work of His Spirit. In the fall of that year he began studying with UBF while continuing in his personal study and going to his church. While he liked the one-to-one study, at the same time there began growing in his spirit a sense of danger about what was going on in UBF as a whole. As this sense grew he cried out to God to know whether it was just his own feelings and fears or whether it was the Spirit warning him about something. In November, Jesus brought him to a complete surrender to His Spirit and He then slowly gave him the discernment he had prayed for. He allowed Jesus' Spirit to shepherd him daily, and as he did the Lord made it evident to him that the sense of danger which he had was not just his feelings, but the Holy Spirit's warning. He saw that Jesus' power to shepherd his people directly was not fully being acknowledged, and as a result the relationship which Jesus meant to have with His people -- their complete Shepherd through His Spirit -- was wrongly being held by the leaders In UBF. Through a study of Moses' call in Exodus, which included with it several times of 'being drawn out alone' with God to be taught by Him, the Lord called this brother to leave UBF and go on to the ministry He would have for him. Because UBF had persistently remained in her error, he was not to lead anyone back into UBF the way it stood. He obeyed and left, and that year the Lord used him powerfully in the lives of a number of people as he followed the leading of the Spirit.

Throughout the conversation I tried to justify all of UBF's practices both to the brother and to myself. I had heard all these words many times before, both from myself and other people, and had learned to pass them off as being human words from people who did not understand Samuel Lee or what went on in UBF. But this time the message came with a power and a conviction that was not of man, but of God. I struggled against the Spirit's conviction at length, but when I could no longer do this I fell at Jesus' feet and prayed, "Lord Jesus, help me! If what he is saying is from you, let me know, and give me the courage to obey you. If not, then protect my mind and heart from doubt. Just help me to obey you." As I kept my eyes on Jesus He filled me with His peace and also confirmed to me through His Spirit that what my friend said was from Him. That night after we had hung up the Lord spoke to me powerfully through Ezekiel chapters 1-3. I saw the absolute unity between the living creatures and the spirit that led them. As I read this passage God's Spirit overshadowed me with the holiness and love of God. With trembling I knew that the Lord was calling me into the same kind of oneness with His Spirit that the living creatures had with the spirit that led them (1:12, 19-21). In the passages that follow Ezekiel is called to speak God's Words to His people. However, they would not listen to him (2:4,7). Nonetheless, he was to speak the words God gave him (2:5,7-3:3). He was not to be afraid of them, no matter what they said or did to him, for God would make him as strong as they were (3:8-11). God's holiness and power had never been made so clear to me. I could sense in Him the tremendous love that He had for the people in UBF, and yet also a righteous hatred of sin. I could see that He wanted us to know we were sinning against Him in many of our attitudes and practices. He did not show the favoritism between His children that we thought He did; and He did not look with favor on the overuse of authority practiced by our leaders and ourselves. He wanted our relationships and the relationships of our sheep with Himself to be pure, mediated only by Jesus and His Spirit, not by other men. Like Ezekiel I was to open my heart to the Words His Spirit would give me, and as He opened up the way, I was to speak to Sarah Barry about what I had been told by this brother. I was simply to do this and to follow whatever His leading would be after that. The words of 3:20,21 were a warning to me, "…when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood, But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself."

As I kept my eyes on Jesus He gave me strength to accept His Words, and His Spirit enveloped me in peace. But soon I took my eyes off Him end became afraid that He would lead me out of UBF if Sarah Barry did not pay attention to what I would say. I then fell into doubt and fear and thought, "How can I do this? Sarah Barry and Sarah B. will be so hurt. They've heard all of this from me before; they'll just think it's from myself again. Can this really be from God?' He led me into UBF. Now He can't be leading me away!" I made the mistake of placing my security and life's direction in the ministry I was in rather than in God Himself and Jesus my risen Lord. Because of this sin I fought with God for two weeks. But His Spirit never left me alone. He haunted me day and night with His call and with Proverbs 3:5,6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." Despite His patience I let His Words drop to the ground. Finally I asked Him for proof that things in UBF were really as displeasing to Him as the brother had testified to, and that Sunday through His servant at my parents' church He gave it to me. In 1 Cor. 1 and 2 He showed me how displeasing it is for us to take pride in men rather than in Jesus alone, because it causes us to think like children and to divide off from other believers. I knew He was speaking directly to me concerning UBF. But as soon as I got into the UBF environment I shut my ears to His Words. Finally, when I could not stand the Spirit's haunting any longer I agreed to talk to Sarah Barry.

On the night that I was to talk to her, Jesus strengthened me through Genesis 22:8. In a very real way I was being called to offer up my Isaac, for I had grown to love Sarah Barry and UBF more than even my own family. However, the Lord's Word to me was "love the Lord more that the people you love, and He will provide.'' I was to keep my eyes on Jesus, and His Spirit would give me the words I was to say. His grace end peace surrounded me again when I looked to Him. However, I did not make a clear decision to keep my eyes on Him, and as a result, when I saw M. Sarah Barry, I watered down the message that the Lord had waited to give through me. I told her the brother's testimony apologetically, but asked her to seriously pray with me about why the Lord had led him away.

After I told her his testimony, she did not take seriously his reason for leaving. She seemed determined tied to defend UBF and Samuel Lee and unable to believe that God could have led someone away from UBF because there was something wrong in our ministry. Rather, she called into question the brother's real motives for leaving, stating that there was probably something that he did not want to give up which he knew he would have to if he remained in UBF.

Later that night I was rebuked by my Bible teacher for having hurt Sarah Barry by what I had said. After that night a battle began in my heart which lasted until the end of 1983. I knew that the call really had been from the Lord. Yet because I did not want to be rebuked again or try to go against the strong current of UBF's tide, I tried hard to deny that the phone call in June had ever taken place. I tried to convince myself that it was only my friend's human concern for me, and that Satan had used this call to plant doubt in me to slow me down in my mission. To combat this doubt I tried to take part in UBF's activities all the more vigorously, putting all my strength into conference preparations, etc.. I tried to put up a spiritual front around my sheep and other people in UBF. Yet the reality was that I was running away from Jesus' Spirit, and my spirit was dying. Sogams became increasingly harder to write, because in order to honestly accept God's Word I would have to repent and do what Jesus had called me to do: to clearly stand before M. Sarah Barry and state that UBF was sinning before Cod. Thus sogams became 'form sogams', written more in the exact pattern of the manuscripts, which may have pleased some others, but did not please God, as the sincere sogams of the spring before had. Periodically, I revealed to Sarah Barry or my Bible teacher what was bothering me. On those occasions my Bible teacher suggested that if I still had such problems with Samuel Lee, why didn't I go to another church? I couldn't accept the possibility of God calling me away from UBF, so I clung to the fact that God had led me to UBF over two years earlier and insisted, "No! God has called me here." By the end of 1983 my heart had become so wounded by my disobedience, doubt, fear and confusion that I experienced again what death it was to have cut myself off from God. After being raised up so high the spring before, this fall was harder and the hell I experienced again was deeper than anything I had ever been though in my lifetime. I again cried out for God's mercy, vowing never to allow myself to run so far from Jesus again. I made a decision to write sogams on Luke every week and to accept whatever point the Holy Spirit would give me from each passage. I also decided to talk to at least one person a day about Jesus and invite them to study the Bible in order to force myself to follow the Spirit's leading. I still was not ready to accept Jesus' call of the summer before, but I was stepping in the right direction.

My amazing and merciful God honored even this half obedient prayer and as I accepted His Word from His Spirit, He slowly restored my relationship with Him and my ministry. As I looked to the Holy Spirit for wisdom in teaching my Bible students, He gave it to me. Many of you in Chicago witnessed the fruit that was born in both their lives and mine.

Eventually, as I grew stronger, Jesus in his mercy again began showing me where my obedience to some of UBF's standards was causing me to look away from Him and His Word. This occurred first in the spring, when He made it clear to me that He wanted me to attend the graduation of my second brother, who had been questioning in his faith for a while. I was to go to encourage him in Jesus' love and speak the words the Holy Spirit would give me. However, to do so I would have to miss a Sunday worship service, which was virtually unthinkable for a shepherdess. As I prayed about the decision, Jesus spoke to me that morning through His Word. Through Mark 2:23-3:6 (which is Jesus' defense of His disciples' actions on the Sabbath and His healing of the man with a shriveled hand), He showed me that He was to be the Lord of my Sabbath, not the Sunday worship service. If He was calling me to see my brother in His Name in order to contribute to the saving of my brother's life, I was to go. However, rather than going through the struggle with my Bible teacher in trying to explain my reason for missing Sunday's service, I disobeyed the Spirit's leading and stayed home. My decision was seen as a spiritual one by those in UBF who knew about it, but in reality I had ignored the Holy Spirit's voice in order to submit to our UBF tradition of absolute attendance to the UBF Sunday worship service.

The second major case like this, when the strong pressure of UBF's traditions influenced me to disobey Jesus, came in the late summer. The previous November Samuel Lee had told me to pray about marriage with John W. from Columbus. In January of 1984 I told Samuel Lee that if it was the Lord's will, I would marry him. As I continued to pray about it throughout that year, however, I received no confirmation from God that this was His will. In fact, His Spirit seemed to put a sense of danger in my heart toward this arrangement. I wondered if this were only my feelings, or if I was placing expectations on John that he could not live up to. So I let go of all expectations that I had on him and decided to accept him without condition. When he came to Chicago in July for message preparation I began to like him. Despite all of this, however, the unrest in my spirit only grew. That week, through Genesis 21, God spoke to me concerning him. He forewarned me not to give my heart to the blessing which seemed good humanly but was not the blessing of His choosing. He gave me a sense that He was going to bring about a change in the marriage plans. I was to wait and see what He would do. In my desire to make some sense out of M. Samuel Lee's strong position in this arrangement, I grabbed on to the words in Genesis 21:12, "Listen to whatever Sarah tells you", applying "Sarah" to M. Samuel Lee, and I decided to watch closely to Samuel Lee's direction. Now, however, as I have since been learning how to discern and follow the Holy Spirit's leading, I have come to see that the spirit which led me to make that comparison was different than that of God.

A few weeks later, when John started talking about coming to my graduation, I cried out to the Lord because of my unrest, and He gave me the assurance that He had heard my cry and would do something about my situation. A few days later my Bible teacher made a deadline of that night for me to make a decision one way or the other concerning my engagement. I realized that if I had such severe unrest about it, it could not be God's will, and I should not let the engagement go on any farther. When I decided this, it was as if a veil which separated me from Jesus was lifted. It was more than just a burden lifted from me, but it was an overwhelming sense of His presence with me and a deep conviction of the truth of His gospel. I realized that this was the change in plans that He had given me a sense about. I knew that I had made the right decision before God.

That night, however, after I had told my Bible teacher of my decision, Sarah Barry, and then she, called me to persuade me to reconsider my decision. In the eyes of them both I was failing the test of faith and letting go of God's blessing. My Bible teacher emphasized obedience to Samuel Lee as showing my obedience to God. In my heart I knew that I was obeying God in my present decision. However, in my tiredness I took my eyes off of Jesus and again put them on the people around me. As I looked back at the passage in Genesis 21 without my spiritual eyes focused straight ahead on Jesus, I became scared that I had not completely followed through in watching for Samuel Lee's direction. Before I knew it, I had allowed myself to be talked into changing my decision back to the original one, not giving myself time to pray about it.

From that time on, the veil separating me from Jesus, which had been removed earlier that evening, was replaced by a thicker one. My soul could see no light from God before me, and my spirit felt lost and frightened. This decision was a very significant one for me; in it I had finally fully committed myself to UBF for life and submitted to Samuel Lee's authority in my life. But while I felt 'obedient', it was obedience to the wrong spirit. True obedience to God, although it may be hard, brings peace and confidence, for "the fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever" (Isaiah 32:16b). The kind of obedience I was experiencing brought only unrest, confusion, darkness and fear.

Strangely, this 'obedience' also brought with it the shut down of all compassion or understanding from my heart. The only thing I thought I should be concerned with was clarity, and so it was much easier to rebuke people without thinking or caring about them, and to do it with a feeling of authority. Tolerance for people who left UBF fled me and I began to despise them. I also began to despise other Christians who did not seem to have a 'specific mission' like mine. My heart grew stone cold, and I became like a machine.

While all of this was happening to me, I tried over and over to convince myself that I was in God's will, and that the spiritual blackness I was experiencing was just my feelings. However, I knew in my heart that this was not true. The truth was that the Lord had hidden His face from me to bring me to repentance, and like the Psalmist, I 'was totally dismayed (Ps. 30:7) Finally I cried out to God that if my misery was because I was disobeying His will in my engagement to John W., He would do something big to make it evident to all involved that it was not His will that we marry.

About five days later John was discovered missing. We later found out that he was being 'deprogrammed'. I was sad and worried for him, but I was also thankful because God had answered my prayer. He was getting me out of what I could not get myself out of. This was the reason why I baffled everyone by being so strong while John was missing.

After that, even though I was relieved, I still was not at rest with God because I had not repented of listening to my Bible teacher above the Holy Spirit. I did not because in doing so I would be acknowledging that unconditional submission to my leaders was not always the Lord's will for me and that in the future I would have to discern between the Spirit's leading and man's. The number of times that I had mentioned to M. Sarah Barry that I had not been in God's will she insisted that I should have no regrets about my decision to marry John. In her eyes I had fulfilled obedience to God's servant and thus had no more responsibility before God. She did not seem to take into consideration the fact that we are each responsible to seek out and obey God's will personally. The Israelites were not excused for disobeying God because they had followed their leaders' guidance (Isaiah 9:16,17). In my fear to disagree with M. Sarah I remained in my sin.

In His faithful love, Jesus would not leave me alone until I had fully repented, and He haunted me with my sin. At the same time He began showing me the direction in which we were leading our Bible students at U. of C.. We were slowly leading them to depend on us and our ministry rather than on Jesus alone. We had a fixed system of leadership training through which we were already starting to put a few of them, and if they could not conform to it they were subtly being made to feel guilty through our pressure. I was extremely disturbed over this because I did not believe that this pressure was from Jesus.

Personally, I also began to feel a bondage in my mind and soul which was not from Jesus, As I 'rose in rank', coworking with Mary Petti in heading the. U. of C. ministry, my dependence on Sarah Barry, on my Bible teacher, and on M. Samuel Lee also grew. Now, instead of looking to the Holy Spirit for words during my Bible studies, I was getting them from my Bible teacher. I became afraid to search the Holy Spirit's leading for myself because of the number of times that it had been different from hers. As a leader I also knew that my life and ministry were being watched by M. Samuel Lee and I found myself living before him more and more. His and Sarah Barry's opinions became the standard by which I judged whether something was spiritual or not; if they approved of it, I regarded it as spiritual, even if it went against the Word of God. If they did not regard it as spiritual, it was not. In nearly every area of my life they had become my standard, for I thought about their lives as much as and more than I thought about Jesus' life.

By the beginning of December, my spirit was almost completely suffocated because my relationship with Jesus was being mediated by men. The life commitment I had made to the UBF ministry did not bring a true commitment to Jesus and the Life found only in him, but a death to my spirit and a bondage to an organization and to a man. And I was leading my sheep into this same bondage. I began to see that this was not from the Spirit of the Lord. I had been afraid of knowing God's Spirit in his fullness because it reminded me of the brother's phone call in 1983. I had also been afraid of being drawn out alone with God, like Moses, for the same reason. But now I longed to be ruled by Jesus' Spirit, without the mediation of another person. So I cried out to the Lord to lead me into the desert, speak to me personally and let me be ruled by Him alone. I vowed to spend three days alone with Him and His Word after the Christmas worship service in order to choose a key verse for 1985. And this time, I decided, I would listen to whatever He was to tell me.

After the Christmas activities I kept this vow, and the Lord was completely faithful to help me. During my time alone with Him His Spirit taught me powerfully from His Word. The first thing I needed to do was to repent of looking at others rather than at Him. In the study of Jesus' genealogy, the message had talked about David, who, though he was a king, knew that he was not right with God. In David, Jesus showed me myself, and finally I repented of having listened to my Bible teacher above the Holy Spirit. For the first time, since that evening in the summer the veil separating me from Jesus was removed, and His peace enveloped me.

The next thing the Holy Spirit taught me was from Mark 7:8-13. This passage is Jesus' reply to the Pharisees who were judging the disciples according to their man made traditions rather than God's Word. He said, 'You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. ... You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that." As I studied this passage the Holy Spirit showed me that I, as well as most of us in UBF, were committing this same sin: we were letting go of the commands of God for the sake of our traditions. The Word of God says, "'Honor your father and mother' - which is the first commandment with a promise - 'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth'." (Ephesians 6:2,3), and, "Children obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord." (Colossians 3:20) His Word teaches that a disobedient or insolent attitude toward ones' parents is very displeasing to God (Lev. 20.9, Prov. 50:l7, Romans 1:30, 2 Timothy 3:2). Yet because of our 'absolute attitude' toward our traditions we were constantly pushing students to blatantly disobey their parents, even Christian parents, in order to attend our meetings, our practices, and our conferences. Thus we were reinforcing in them over and over again a disobedient spirit toward their parents. The Word of God says of believers who have widowed mothers, especially Christian widowed mothers, that "these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God .... If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (I Tim. 5:4,8; see also James 1:27) Yet because of our tradition that a servant of God in UBF must leave all family matters behind and serve God exclusively 'through one-to-one Bible study', many students were prevented from obeying this Word. Thus the gospel of Jesus was defamed in the eye of those family members on account of our traditions.

We based our actions in these matters on Abraham's and the disciples' calls to leave their families in order to follow God. But while we are called to leave the worldly attitudes and actions of our past lives behind to follow Jesus, it is not always true that we are called physically to leave our families behind. There are other cases in God's Word when following Jesus meant taking care of one's family (1 Tim. 5:4-8) or being with them to tell of God's grace in one's life (Mark 5:18-20, Luke 8:58,39), and we in UBF were completely ignoring these. We had made following Jesus synonymous to taking part in UBF activities, rather than daily living in obedience to His Spirit and word. Thus we were making students' relationships with us equivalent to their relationships with God. I began to realize in how many ways I had made following our traditions synonymous with following Jesus in my life and in the lives of my sheep. I began to repent of this attitude and prayed for God to show me other ways in which I was putting our tradition above His Word.

As I looked for my key verse He answered this prayer. I had thought of choosing I Cor. 4:2, and so I studied I Cor. 1-4 to get the context of this verse. As I did this I saw the attitude which Paul had toward himself and other servants of Jesus. The Corinthians had begun taking pride in the servants that led them to Christ rather than in Christ alone and they had begun to boast about which servant they followed. As a result, this caused divisions in the church. Rather than letting them continue in it, Paul spent the first four chapters of this letter rebuking them for their proud and divisive attitude and explaining to them why it was wrong. In chapter 3 Paul describes the people of God as a field or a building, and all of God's servants as fellow workers on the same project, each one having a different, but equally important function. God had used Paul to plant the seed in the Corinthians and Apollos to water it. The emphasis, however, was never to be on them, for "neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow" (3:7). In chapter 4 he shows the way for the Corinthians to guard against this divisive spirit. He says in verse 6, "Now, brothers, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, "Do not go beyond what is written. Then you will not take pride in one man over against another." It was hard for me to look at these passages honestly because in their light I saw that our ministry had strayed from the truth. First of all we, like the Corinthians, were putting so much emphasis on the servants who had led us to Christ that they had become just as important to us as Jesus. Although we taught that God was the only one who could make things grow, we did not fully encourage the attitude that "neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything" because to do so would put our leaders on the same level as all other Christians. Because of our desire to be the spiritual elite of this nation and the desire for our sheep to remain with us and eventually serve in UBF, we kept ourselves, as well as our sheep, from fully accepting this attitude.

Second, I painfully realized that we were going way "beyond what is written" in our method of sogam and message training. We were giving students M. Samuel Lee's messages, telling them to closely base all of their sogams on them, and in many cases to memorize them. If they did not do this, our attitude toward them was that they did not have a learning mind. After a period of time in UBF, just to relieve the pressure put on them by us, students began trusting Samuel Lee's interpretations above all others. Eventually, they felt that they could not properly interpret the Word of God without the assistance of the manuscripts. Thus, we made them as dependent on Samuel Lee's interpretations as they were on the Word of God, and as dependent on Samuel Lee for interpretation as they should be only on the Holy Spirit.

This severe dependence on Samuel Lee was also causing a great division between those of us in UBF and the rest of Jesus' Body. We were taking pride In Samuel Lee's wisdom and his shepherd's heart to such an extent that we looked down on many other servants who did not seem to have his qualities. Therefore we had no qualms about drawing people away from their own churches and subtly pressuring them to commit themselves exclusively to UBF. We had no sense of coworking with the rest of Jesus's Church to build God's Building. Instead, we were building our own monument of '56l fulltime American shepherds' to God, and how the things we did or the way we did them affected the rest of Jesus' people made no difference to us. As I realized these things the Holy Spirit cut my heart as with a knife, for his truth was circumcising sins which were deeply ingrained in me. I cried out and prayed for Jesus to help me to obey Him.

Later that same day, New Years Eve, God spoke to me again through the Book of Galatians while I was making a tape of this book for a friend. When I got to the third chapter, the Holy Spirit once more began circumcising my heart, particularly through verses 1-3: "You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very ages Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you. Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" As God's Spirit worked in me, I saw that we were doing exactly what Paul rebuked the Galatians for doing, we had started out with the Spirit, but we had turned to depending on human effort to sustain and increase our faith. The Galatians had turned to circumcision; we had turned to human forms of 'training' Teaching and training in the ways of God by older Christians is both good and necessary for young believers. However, our overemphasis on the training given by us and our shepherds was working against what we wanted to accomplish through them, for they led us to constantly focus in on our weaknesses, rather than on Jesus, who is the only one who can do any real changing in us. Therefore, instead of freeing us from our sins through Jesus' Spirit, our trainings in many cases became like laws which bound us to our sins.

As I tried to justify our emphasis on training to God in my mind, Jesus convicted me strongly with the words of Galatians 5:1-4, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves he burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all .... You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ, you have fallen away from grace." In these words God showed me why my inner person had been in such chaos that entire fall; I had been alienated from Jesus and had fallen away from His grace. I was not being ruled by His Spirit, but by meetings, trainings, activities and the opinions of other people; and this to such an extent that I had no ears to hear what Jesus had for me to do each day. In my mind the will of God for me had been portrayed as being a UBF one-to-one Bible teacher, which included, along with feeding sheep, being absolutely faithful to all the meetings, never choosing to be with non-UBF members over being at a prayer meeting or group Bible study, and never missing a Sunday service. But I had become so run by these man-made schedules and our fixed conception of what it meant to follow God's will, that when the Holy Spirit had tried to lead me otherwise, I brushed His voice away as being 'my feelings detering me from my mission'. As the Spirit now continued to cut through my sin I saw how deaf I really had become to Him. I made a decision that afternoon to be ruled by Jesus' Spirit only, despite what my peers in UBF might say. I also repented of my wrong attitude toward M. Samuel Lee, acknowledging that his manuscripts must be viewed with the same attitude that I viewed other commentaries on the Bible. I decided to stick closely to the Bible itself.

That evening I went to a Monday night leaders meeting. for the first time in a year and a half I was not holding the people around me back from God. The peace and presence of the Lord's love in me was overwhelming. As I allowed Jesus' Spirit to take more control of me, I began seeing through new eyes; and what I saw that night disturbed me. As the intern shepherds expounded (in speaking on Jesus' birth in Luke 2:1-14) on the misery of man being ruled by other men and the joy that only comes through being ruled by Jesus, my spirit soared with the truth of these words. Yet as I looked around me, I saw that this exact thing was happening in our midst, and we were totally unaware of it. We claimed to have the freedom of Jesus, but we were living under oppression; oppressed by our sins and oppressed by the spirit of another man, M. Samuel Lee. We feared him and lived before him. Our eyes were on him, not on Jesus. As a result we did not have the power we should have had to overcome our sins, and we were remaining oppressed by them.

I prayed to the Lord to know whether what I was seeing was from Him or from myself, and as I did, two passages which I had read years before suddenly became very clear in my mind. These were Acts l8:24-26 and Acts I9:1-7. I remembered Apollos and the disciples of John, both of whom had known only of John's baptism of repentance. In ApoIlos' case he knew the Scriptures and could teach many things about Jesus that were accurate. However, there was a very important part of the gospel that both he and John's disciples needed to know: the fulfillment of John's baptism, which is life through Jesus' Spirit, whom He sent to give the believers the power they needed to overcome their sins and to serve Him as He wanted them to.

We had not talked very much about the Holy Spirit in UBF, except periodically in prayers or when He happened to come up in the passages we studied. But now, as Jesus opened my eyes to the purpose and importance of His Spirit, the whole New Testament opened up to me in a new way. I realized that the Word of God gives a much more important position to the Spirit than we were giving Him. It was after receiving the Spirit's power that the disciples were changed into bold witnesses of Jesus, not simply after their meeting of the risen Christ, as we had so often taught. And from the time of Acts 2 onward everything the apostles and other believers did was guided directly by His Spirit. It was this power that counseled them, that trained them, that guided each step of their lives, that instilled in them a passion to preach the gospel, and that united them with all other believers. Jesus did all of these things directly through His Spirit; He did not need the mediation of another person to do them. While he used many servants to lead His people, they never held the same position as the Holy Spirit in their lives. I realized that we were not fully acknowledging the power of God's Spirit to train His sheep completely and directly. And consequently, in our desire to 'raise them up' according to our ambitions for them, we were usurping the Spirit's role in their lives. We had begun like Apollos and John's disciples, but we had remained in this state for twenty years, building a ministry on an incomplete gospel. And because we had closed ourselves off from the counsel of other Christians, when God had sent them to us to correct us, we had stubbornly refused to listen.

That night, I realized that all of this is what Jesus had been trying to tell me for a year and a half. I was ashamed of my disobedience and prayed that He would somehow use me to help bring His people in UBF back to direct shepherding by His Spirit and to restored fellowship with the rest of His people. In order to do this I knew that I would need to learn how to follow His Spirit very closely above all other influences around me.

As the week went on I found out how hard this was to do in the UBF environment, because the emphasis on unquestioning obedience to the leadership was so strong and any thought which ran contrary to the UBF way of thinking was quickly eliminated by peer pressure. I knew from past experience that If I told my Bible teachers what I was learning from Jesus, they would most likely try to discredit it as being 'old Christian' reactions to the Word of God. I was still very influenced by them, and I knew it, so I said nothing.

As the week progressed God's Spirit continued to fill me with more and more of Jesus' love and power, and to draw my mind into His way thinking. It scared me a little and I resisted at points because it was drawing me away from a likeness of mind with other UBF members. But Jesus' love compelled me forward. Through the announcement of Jesus' birth to Mary in Luke 1 that week, he renewed the calling He had given me a year and a half before, to help the people in UBF see what Satan was doing among them. Later that week, on Thursday night, as I was struggling with His call and slipping into doubts as to whether it was from Him, He again spoke to me powerfully through Psalm 32, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you, Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him." (Ps. 32:8-10)

The next morning, through Psalm 146, Jesus touched one of my deepest problems, my dependence on my Bible teachers, and my fear to disagree with M. Samuel Lee. Verses 3-5 say, "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God." I had always applied these verses to people such as my parents or a future husband, but had never allowed my self to fully apply them to Samuel Lee. Now I knew that God was calling me to do this. I repented of putting Samuel Lee and my other leaders on a level equal with Jesus.

That night I went to a Friday leaders meeting, and I could see even more clearly how far from Jesus' Spirit we had become. While we seemed to rejoice in Jesus' love, at the same time we continually praised the greatness of UBF and acted as if we were the only ones in Jesus Church truly obeying His call. We had cut ourselves off from the Body, like the eye saying to the hand, "I don't need you!" (1 Cor. 12: 21). While we said that our service was to Jesus, this once-pure service to Jesus was now being spiritually prostituted to a god named UBF. We actually reveled in this sin, and we were drawing young believers to do the same. That night it became evident to me that something was desperately wrong, and that we had been shutting our eyes to it for a long time. As a result, our sin had been silently eating away at the purity of Jesus' gospel in our midst. In the horror of what I saw, I didn't know what to do except to pray. I realized that we needed help from Jesus and the rest of His people.

The next day was a strange day for me. I had an indescribable peace and joy because of the presence of Jesus' Spirit in me, but at the same time I was disturbed at the things He was showing me. I felt as if He were leading me into something that I did not understand. That night, after music practice, my parents took me to see some Christian counselors, whom some people call "deprogrammers", although they themselves do not like to be called that. It was through this that the Lord 'drew me out into the desert' to be alone with Him, just as I had prayed. At first I was very angry with my parents, feeling that they had given in to the "deprogramming scare". But the more I prayed about it the more I saw that God had led this counseling and had been preparing me for it for two weeks. I was assured by His Spirit that the men who were to speak to me were His servants, and I was to pay close attention to the Words of God that we were to study in depth over the next several days. As I did I saw that Jesus is serious about many more things which we had consistently ignored in UBF. These include our relationship to the rest of His Body, the superiority of His new covenant over the old covenant, and what is required of a man or woman who wants to be a leader or a teacher. Whenever anyone before had tried to bring up these areas, I had brushed their words off as being irrelevant and I judged them as being 'old Christians'. But after the two weeks of the Lord's teaching I had been through before the counseling, I realized that Jesus had given these guidelines in His Word for a reason, and we were to obey them. By ignoring these areas of God's Word UBF had given Satan a foothold. And by continually ignoring the servants God had sent over many years to correct her, Satan's foothold had grown even stronger.

I had known since before the counseling that God was changing my relationship with UBF. In continuing to serve in her as if there was nothing wrong, I had been sharing in UBF's sins with her. I knew that I could not do this any more. After many days of prayer I made a very painful decision to leave UBF. When I called M. Sarah Barry a week after the counseling had ended I did not tell her that I was leaving UBF because I wanted to do this soon afterward in person, explaining in detail God's call to me in 1983 and His work since then. However, during our conversation the Lord showed me how deeply influenced I was by her, for just hearing M. Sarah's voice almost made me forget everything that He had taught me. I realized then that before I could talk to her at length again I would need ample time to grow strong in Jesus‘ Spirit so that I would not be drawn into UBF's influence above what His Word had shown me. For this reason I wrote only a letter to M. Sarah explaining that because of some powerful working of God in my life I could no longer serve Jesus from within UBF in good conscience. I promised that later, as the Lord led, I would explain to her in detail what this work had been.

After that I began working on this testimony. For the first two and a half months, before writing, I concentrated on prayer and studying God's Word so that I could get my guidance from Him rather than writing down my own ideas. During that time Jesus made it very evident to me that I needed a lot of healing and growth before I could say what needed to be said clearly. This is the reason it took me so long to complete this testimony.

In September of l985 I finished the testimony in the form of a letter to M. Sarah Barry. I had asked my pastor to be present with me to discuss the content of the letter with M. Sarah. I did this because of the Lord's command that "every matter must be established by two or three witnesses" (Deut 19:15), and also Jesus' command that after we have gone to a brother once alone and are not listened to, we should bring one or two witnesses (Matt. 18:15-17). I had gone to M. Sarah in 1983, and I knew that others from among Jesus' people had gone to her concerning the same matters and had not been listened to. Therefore I felt it was important to have a Christian witness present, and one whose intent was not to condemn M. Sarah but to seek the truth in Christ. This was the intent of my pastor. We both agreed that M. Sarah and he should have a chance to get to know each other first so that she would not feel uncomfortable or threatened in his presence. Early in October they met and talked, and M. Sarah agreed to meet with both of us. On the day after they had met, however, M. Sarah called and cancelled the agreement due to my not having shown up to sing on the Sunday that I went to see the counselors and because I "caused trouble" in UBF’s having to pay for the towing of Mary Petti's car. (We could not see the biblical basis or the reasoning behind this cancellation, for I could in no way have changed my situation at the time.) After much prayer for guidance after this cancellation, I have decided to send this testimony to you, for I feel it is important that each of you know why I left UBF.

Since I have left Jesus has been showing me what it means to submit to Him out of love, rather than fear of condemnation. He has been teaching me to follow the leading of His Spirit to help those who He sends to me. He has also been teaching me how to love and work together with others of His Body in humility. He is working powerfully throughout His Church these days, and I thank Him for the privilege of serving in Her. I praise Him for His mercy, and for His faithfulness. He is working to uphold David's kingdom with justice and righteoushess (Isaiah 9:7) May His Name be forever praised!

The defense that many UBF members have used for not taking seriously what other Christians have had to say concerning UBF's practices is the fact that Jesus has blessed UBF and therefore it cannot come under condemnation from others. The attitude among the leaders seems to be that if there is a problem within UBF, the only way God will solve it is to reveal it to Samuel Lee so that Samuel Lee will solve it. They do not seem to think it necessary for M. Samuel Lee to be accountable to other Christians for his actions. However, in my understanding this contradicts much of the Bible. As I read the New Testament I do not come across any servant of God who was above the correction of his fellow Christians. Jesus used all parts of the Church to correct each others' sins; He had to, because the people from within the same groups were often blind to the same sins. When Peter was in the wrong in Antioch, Paul rebuked him, not another Jewish Christian from Jerusalem, for it was the wrong attitude of many of the Jerusalem Christians that had influenced Peter to sin in the first place. (Gal. 2:11-21) Similarly, Paul did not consider himself above the counsel of the Jerusalem apostles and elders, nor did he consider his Gentile churches to be, even though the Jerusalem believers were not directly involved in their ministry. He submitted the to elders' direction to take part in the purification rites of some Jewish believers for the sake of keeping peace among the Household of God. (Acts 21:17-26) The Gentile Churches also obeyed the letter of counsel given to them from the elders in Jerusalem, even though they seemed to have had nothing directly to do with their own conversion. (Act 16:4,5)

I do not know how many servants the Lord has sent to UBF to correct the points brought up in this letter, but I suspect that over the last 10 years it has been many. But (and I say this with tears) I believe that the leaders have become so accustomed to ignoring the warnings in order not stop world mission expansion that it has become inconceivable in their minds that they are from the Lord. It is because other servants have experienced this deafness from UBF members for so long that they have felt it necessary to use such extreme measures as the counseling that I went through to get through to those in UBF.

UBF is assuming that it is for bearing the Name of Jesus that she has been suffering during the last few years, and therefore her attitude has been to 'tighten up the ranks' and work even harder at raising up UBF shepherds. However, it is not for bearing Jesus' Name that UBF has been having trouble. It is for planting attitudes and actions in young believers which are not of Him. UBF's 'tightening up of the ranks' and pushing forward without honest self examination in the light of God's whole Word and without acknowledgement of His Spirit working through other servants has become like the attitude of the Israelites in Isaiah 9:8-12. "The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars." (Isaiah 9:10) Based on what the Lord has shown me, as well as a number of other Christians, in His Word since the time of my leaving last year, I believe that if UBF does not begin to listen to the servants sent to her, He will be forced to exert the same kind of judgement on her as He did on Israel when she did not listen to those sent to her in Isaiah 30:9-14. "Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant." Isaiah 30:12, 13)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, for this reason I implore you to consider prayerfully before God alone the words of this testimony. I do not want to make any of you doubt the grace of Jesus you may have received during your time in UBF. I know that He used my time in UBF to expose me to His Word and to teach me some valuable lessons. If He has called you to Himself and you have received Him while you have been in UBF, do not doubt that salvation. But now continue in Him and learn how to distinguish between His voice and man's. He loves you too much to share His place in your life with anyone. If things seem confusing to you now, don't be afraid; call out to Jesus. He is your Shepherd, and He will lead you.

"Trust in the Lord with all you heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your path." Proverbs 3:6

In the love of Jesus Christ,

Chris J.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shannon M. (former Chicago UBF)

(May 2004 Xanga blog entry of a former member)

::UBF; What I Know Now, It was a Cult!::

(i'ma try to make this as short as possible)

UBF =University Bible Fellowship founded in the 1960's by Dr. Samuel Lee and Sarah Barry.

The University Bible Fellowship is an international evangelical student organization with emphasis on world mission. <--pulled directly from their home web page.

The UBF (University Bible Fellowship) is a little bit difficult to characterize, because hardly anything comparable exists. One might say that it is a centrally organized, international, fundamental-evangelistical ministry and mission movement, which targets on university students only. UBF itself uses the term world campus mission for that.

(This is something that has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind for quite a while now. Something that I believe has been the cause of many a thing that have gone on in my life in the past few years. This is a huge step that I am taking. There are many UBF Reformers out there who are trying to open the eyes of those still involved in UBF including it's leadership. There are many UBF members who have XANGA sites and I'm sure that eventually one if not all of them will stumble upon mine. I'm not sure how they will react since I have remained silent about this whole situation for the past 2 years...ah well here it goes.)er

I had never even heard of UBF which is strange I thought since I have always been active and in my church and was pretty knowledgeable about what was goin' in the circle of Christian churches located in Chicago, Untill I began to attend UIC.

My first Month at UIC I had been asked 5 times by little Korean women to study the bible. The first 3 times I said no staight away. The second time I said "yes" and gave Missionary P* my phone number but I never answered her calls and never attended bible study. The 4th time Missionary P* had asked me again, I think she had forgotten what I looked like cause she had no clue who I was it seemed and this time I said no again. The 5th time was different. This time I was laying on the lawn in front of Stevenson Hall listening to my headphones while catching a quick nap when a lil' Korean woman woke me up. She was all smiles and simply lovely. At first sight of her I knew what she wanted. I had been tryin to avoid all the people "fishing" as they called it on campus for the past month as much as I possibly could.... We talked for a good half hour. She filled me in on what UBF was and that they focused on bringing college students throughout the world to the bible. I proceeded to tell her how I know about that stuff cause I've grown up in church.... I felt comfortable with her so I said yes to bible study, this time with the intentions on acutally going...

So I went. It lasted an hour everything was cool. I enjoyed it. I met alot of great people a ton of new friends. So I continued to go once a week for the next 2 months. Then I was asked to come to a their Thursday meeting, kinda like a youth group thing, so I went. It was great. Each member of the fellowship shared testimony on what they were currently studyin in bible study or off of the previous Sunday's message. The singspiration was wonderful. The people again very friendly and inviting.... So I started to attend bible study once a week and then Thursday meetings. Before I knew It I was writing my testimony to share at the Thursday meetings. I even met a whole bunch of friends that I had in grade school etc that were also apart of UBF. Which made me more interested. After a while I was then asked to attend Sunday worship service and I did... So now I was having bible study once a week, attending Thursday meetings and Sunday's worship service.... I was in their Thanksgiving play. I attended their Christmas service in which over 5,000 people all over the world attended.... The more I studied the bible the more inviting they were the more time I spent with them the more I wanted and needed.... After a while I was asked to attend a Friday nite meeting and so I said yes then before ya know it I was having bible study on Tuesday, Thursday meetings, Friday meetings and Sunday service...

I have been asked now many times ? Didn't you know or don't you feel like it's a cult? The answer: No I didn't feel like that cause I was blind. They came into my life at the right time they were fullfilling the need I had in my heart. At the time they came in my life I had alot of spiritual questions, I was searching for a way to get out of my stagnant spirtiual state..... Now when I look back I wonder how I was so blind? What was I thinking?

So this went on for a year. In this time I was still attending 4 days a week, I went to all their retreats, I was having my own bible study with a fellow student, I had even been leading Singspiration on our Thursday meetings... Things were great. Not only had I found what I had been looking for spiritually but I also had found a whole bunch of great new friends. I was loving it. Soon I found myself always hanging out at the bible house inbetween classes, sometimes I would even miss class...

This continued into the summer where I was asked to give a message at our 4th of July service. In which I said yes. I prepared my message with all my heart working on it day and nite even over my homework. I had practiced it over and over with my bible teacher and had it down. Then when we submitted it to our fellowship leader he told me " it's good but you should use this instead" then he handed me a copy of the same topic written by Dr. Samuel Lee. I was told to humble myself and use his speech. I agreed but when time came to give my message I used my message. I worked hard on that message. I could tell he wasnt pleased but I didnt care. I didnt understand what was wrong with my message.

I got a probation notice saying that I needed to raise my GPA so I stopped going to friday meetings and switched my bible study to Thursday so I could just be there thursday for bible study and the Thursday meeting,.. In July my uncle and godfather passed away and my fellowship was great. They attended the wake services gave a generous donation to my family and had gotten together a sympathy card. They were great. But I was cold... I stopped attending for a while everything. I would get calls everyday wondering where I was why I was missing meetings etc.....

After a while I went back. But it wasnt the same it was like I got new eyes. I could finally see what everyone else was seeing. It was cultish....

Everyone looked the same, Everyone worship Samuel Lee as if he was God. Everyone looked the same, taught from the same bible study guides...Etc.....

It was at this time that I had decided to do an internet search on UBF I guess to prove that I along with everyone else was wrong...but I didn't get that.. Instead I got validation... I found tons of testimony from ex UBF members ...


I have been gone from UBF now for over 2 years and I still receive calls from my old fellowship leader and bible teacher. Until 8 months ago they were still showing up at my parents house sparatically. They were showing up at my work calling my work, sending me emails etc.... This is cause I just left without giving a reason.

I didn't like the person they were molding me into. They wanted everyone to be the same, think the same and do the same. They worshipped a MAN Dr. Lee over God.. They made me lose self-confidence and tried to make me think I didnt need my family and all I needed was them. They were emotionally, mentally and physically abusive. If u look under the sites I provided above you'll see examples.... I was living in fear and full of guilt and unfullfillment... I could write forever and tell you tons of my own examples but that wud take up to much time...So again if you' d like to know or you have ne questions contact me via email.... Please check out the sites above and more if you search for them if not for yourself, your own curiosity or maybe a UBF family member or friend....