The following letter was written by Jürgen D., a longtime member of Bonn UBF, one year after his leaving the group, to Peter Chang, his former leader. It has to be noted that Jürgen D. had some years earlier written the official counterstatement of UBF regarding the reproaches made by the cult expert Pastor Keden in Bonn. Meanwhile Jürgen himself is strongly warning of UBF and explains in this letter how he had become a victim of the psychological “mechanisms of denial, defense and interpretation” which are so typical for UBF members.
July 19, 1996
Dear Dr. Dae-Won [Peter] Chang,
One year has passed since I decisively seceded from UBF. My disentanglement was marked by my delivering a UBF “Sunday message” for the last time at the end of June 1995, but the whole process had of course started much earlier. It was only that I needed some time until I could definitely take that final step. Up to this day, I could hardly overcome my speechlessness regarding my disengagement from UBF. This may be interpreted as a weakness or even as an indication of indecisiveness or regret. But I do not regret my silence.
To this day it has been mainly one question which always hindered my speaking about my nine-year experience with (the people in) UBF. The question was: What use is it, why should I say anything about this if they do not want to listen to it anyway? Having used them myself for years, I know the UBF defense mechanisms and ways of interpreting criticism all too well, defense mechanisms that kick in as soon as “the work of God” is questioned. Has not a “backslider” disqualified himself by his leaving and, therefore, should not be taken seriously (!) any more? The pattern of thinking is roughly this: “Why, he (or she) has never really repented. He (she) still has an unsolved sin problem. Of course he (she) speaks/thinks like that now.”
Clear and easy, is it not? I admit that by such quick dismissals I spared myself much (uncomfortable) thinking, when I had been a UBF member. And I know from conversations after the departure of others before me that the above way of thinking is prevalent among the vast majority in UBF. So, why speak out about UBF? Only to provide ammunition to the unbelievers for their little helpful anti-UBF publications? No. If I ever comment on UBF, then I will do it from a Bible-believing perspective. When I continued to think about this, I recognized that through this attitude in UBF towards dissidents, something emerges which brings UBF into a dangerous contradiction to the Bible’s message. For this reason I write this letter to you.
No, I would never have made such a statement earlier. “UBF in contradiction with the Bible? Whoever claims something like that does not know (the people in) UBF and their motives. He also does not know the Bible, the Spirit of God, and he cannot know anything of Jesus Christ either!” That is what I had been convinced of. And this is exactly the great danger which is coming from UBF! Of course, the individual UBF member will never claim that only his “church” is in possession of the biblical truth. However, it does not matter at all what the individual member is claiming about the existence of other Christian churches. The intellectual climate in which a UBF member is actually living is the thing which matters. And in that climate, it looks exactly like this: UBF above all!
Of course, UBF is “the work of God.” But everybody who takes a closer look (“looking closer” in this sense is not possible due to one’s membership in UBF!) will notice that between the highest authority to whom they defer and the individual believer there is a kind of “intermediate level.” This “intermediate level” consists of an unmanageable collection of “obligations.” These have no “Christian” or biblical foundation at all. Rather, they consist of tradition, culture, habit, organization/hierarchy and even power politics. Only human things. Although these circumstances and obligations may not be written down or declared in other ways, nevertheless, a member cannot circumvent them: Without accepting these obligations “by faith” and approving them without further questions, the individual cannot be part of “the work of God.”
The result of this is a glaring separation between those “inside” and those “outside,” between those who are fulfilling the specific obligations that the “work of God” requires and those who do not abide by them. In fulfilling these “obligations,” it is not even so important whether I do it voluntarily or not, as I assured myself again and again. The main problem is the very fact that this “intermediate level” exists at all! For it puts everybody who wants to belong to UBF under heavy pressure either to adapt to the system by just taking part in it, or to disqualify himself. Indeed, there was no point in time where I was able to distinguish between my inner desire to serve God and the desire to belong to those who are serving God in such an exemplary way, namely by regularly writing and sharing their testimonies, conforming to the prescribed Bible studies, prayer meetings and other meetings, performing various “ministries” and successfully coping with miscellaneous “trainings.” Under all circumstances I wanted to avoid showing signs of “unbelief” or inability to do the „work of God“ by not fulfilling those obligations!
In such a system of “faith,” whoever claims of himself (or herself) that he is serving God is actually fooling himself. Anyway, the lines are already blurred between what God wants of me and what I have imposed on myself in order to be sure not to miss the will of God, in order to be one of those doing the “work of God.” Remember that membership in UBF is equivalent to fulfilling the will of God. When I had finally taken this in, I had already “turned myself over” to UBF, believing that this was the best way to do the will of God, in the best work of God. The formula, “UBF faith = Bible faith”, is not true however (and fortunately so)! But I did not recognize this until I thought more deeply about the background problems that I have described above. Admittedly, there seem to be intersections between what UBF teaches and the Bible. But UBF has already left the basis of faith according to the Holy Bible far behind. Admittedly, it took a long time until I woke up. Even when I was asked to “send away” people who were definitely interested in faith just because they did not fit the UBF model of a suitable member, I could not come out of my blindness.
As soon I had accepted the UBF measuring stick as the measuring stick of faith, I sensed that every criticism from “outside” was a threat to my own faith, and this automatically launched the “mechanisms of defense and interpretation” mentioned above. It was not that my putative faith status could have really been “threatened.” It was, however, clear to me that the adversary tries everything to attack me and also “the work of God.” Since these “attacks” could come from anywhere and at any time, I counted the critical remarks of outsiders as “attacks,” as a precaution.
In this way, I have forbidden myself to do any critical analysis of UBF for years, even when there were extremely doubtful interpretations and inconsistencies in UBF teaching. I would never have agreed if anybody had described my faith in doing the work of God with words like those in the above paragraphs. No, shouldn’t I know the best why I was leading my life of faith in the way I was doing it? The fact that I incidentally was doing this exactly in compliance with what was defined as the proper way of practicing faith by the UBF leadership only confirmed to me that I was going the right way.
A determining factor was my conviction that all this must come from God. If it was the will of God that I should spend my new life in exactly this way after my conversion, then I also wanted to do this with great gratitude. If something did not seem right in this way of faith, it could only be due to my own sin. I would never have simply left UBF because of this fact: I had burned all bridges out of UBF for myself anyway. This was because leaving UBF for me was the same as leaving the faith and the will of God for my life. On no account did I want to allow this to happen. God would take care of all other things. He would even use the faults or failings of other believers for my best and for the whole “work of God!” Soon I needed no more justification for my own situation at all. Everything was so crystal clear, anyway!
With such a conviction, of course there is no room to go another way. Also, why should I ever want to do this, if everything was seemingly “all right” anyway, spiritually and biblically speaking. In a climate of self-certainty about a way of life, which I was in, believing that I was in an organization that was used by God and lead by Him (it being the “work of God”), by no means could I allow any self-criticism. But what if I see myself being led clearly another way, such as I experienced in the last year? What if He shows me patiently and firmly that I shall go exactly this way now, and even more, what if He shows me that continuing in the previous way is wrong, and it is He who is leading me out of it just in time? What if this opens a completely new vision for me, one which I never would have allowed before (see above), but one which is not worth less because of this? What then?
It needs to be clearly said: I am not entitled to condemn anybody. But the Holy Bible (and my sense of responsibility) clearly calls me to prove and test all things, and to form an opinion about them in accordance with what I have learned, if necessary even in opposition to my feelings. Fraternal community just does not stand above the truth. [According to UBF, it is most important that members obey the leaders and work together in the fellowship, even if they feel the teachings or practices may not be right and in line with the Bible. The “organization” always comes first, even before truth. Therefore, in order to save the reputation, lying is allowed in UBF.] Rather, I have to risk suffering the consequences [leave UBF] if truth is not put first, but instead feelings (of fellowship and membership) are put first at all costs. This is painful. Also, some things break [such as relationships]. But even more things will be destroyed if everything remains the same.
Am I ungrateful because of my speaking truthfully about these problems? Am I forgetting in all this what God has done in my life, how He led me and even used my stay in a “ministry” which I now call an instrument of seduction? Isn’t the remembrance of this enough for me to say, “God has put me here. Therefore I will stay! No matter what happens?” An immense moral pressure weighs heavily on anybody who wants to turn his back on the UBF community. This pressure has nothing to do with divine calling based on the Bible. Consciously binding yourself to the word of God through voluntary obedience is something completely different! Is this the freedom of the children of God? Keep going in a way which has proven to be highly dubious and finally wrong because my UBF-led conscience is telling me, “Clench your teeth ‘by faith’ and ‘keep going on?’” No!
After thorough examination I am convinced of this: Where the already mentioned “intermediate level” has already shaped and defined (often in a very subtle way) the relationship of a believer to his savior, there UBF – and everybody who is supporting and backing this “ministry” – has left the foundation of the Bible. I had to experience it myself and put the rule to the test when after a time of UBF abstinence I started to doubt my salvation. The spiritual triad of “salvation-calling-faith” so strongly occupies UBF members that when you are not in the group anymore, everything [even one’s identify as a Christian] seems to fall apart. And there is not the slightest basis for this in the Bible! Once again, innumerable traditional, cultural, organizational, hierarchical and politically determined “obligations” for the life of faith direct where UBF members go. Because it is like this, nobody can distinguish – in all that is believed, demanded and obeyed in UBF – between those things which are in accord with the will of God and those things which are only traditions of men and man-made regulations.
Anybody who claims, “There is no such thing as a perfect church, all of us are unsatisfactory people, but God uses our weakness to glorify his name.” reveals himself to be a hypocrite. In reality, UBF (openly and subliminally) has the self-conception that they are a divine elite troop fulfilling God’s will to a very special degree. Every UBF member will strongly deny that they are guilty of such elitist thinking. But the point is that the idea that UBF is elite is planted into individual UBF members and is part of the climate in which newcomers “grow up.” Therefore, any step taken to reflect honestly about UBF (and to leave UBF as a consequence) cannot really be tolerated, being interpreted as high-handed behavior. According to the UBF mindset, somebody who acts like that cannot be doing the will of God because by his negative conclusions about UBF he is contradicting the revealed will of God and His calling. Therefore, anything outside of UBF is seen inevitably as a kind of life of faith at a “much lower standard,” only a little better than completely falling away from the faith.
Do I not know what I am talking about? Wasn’t I myself guilty of the same insane self-overestimation that a real life of faith could only exist in UBF (“if these are not children of God, then there is no God”). To this day, the above considerations are suggested to me as a UBF defense mechanism in this way or another: “Remember your calling. As long as you are living outside this calling, you can say what you want, but it never corresponds to the will of God.” I have only mentioned a small part of the reasons why faith (as an expression of trust and obedience toward the God of the Bible) is impossible in UBF. I have to go a step further now because the “message” has not arrived yet. Therefore, I absolutely and strongly warn everyone in UBF who has submitted his life to Jesus Christ! I know that you cannot take the step I have taken. It was impossible for me, too. It was only by God’s grace. May the Lord help many more who want to follow Him in real freedom. Please send me no more UBF messages.