1989 – James J. Kim’s Letter to Samuel Lee

Also see:
1993 followup letter from James Kim | 1994 letter from James Kim | 1990 letter from Peter Chang (Columbus) to Samuel Lee | 1991 letter from Peter Chang | 2001 commentary by Jacob Kim | 2001 commentary by James Kim | 2001 commentary by Rebecca Kim

(James J. Kim was the first director of the Toledo, OH chapter of UBF.)

Dear Missionary Samuel C. Lee!

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
(Eph. 4:15,16)

I praise God for having grown and be used by UBF ministry thus far as a great vessel of God. I personally thank God for using you as the founder, who laid the foundation work of the Korean UBF and American UBF. I believe that God used your absolute loyalty to Gods word, your indomitable spirit and strong leadership. Up to now, God has greatly used the strengths of our UBF ministry: relentless one-to-one Bible study, the ministry of God’s word and faithful prayer for world mission.

However, we cannot just dwell in self-contented thoughts such as, “How much I or we have accomplished!” or “How great we are!”, only expecting praise from each other. As I pray, ponder and review our 12 years of ministry in the USA, I sense that our UBF ministry is at the crossroads. It’s time for us to ask ourselves some questions, looking ahead at what Gods ministry will be like for at least the next one or two decades: Will our UBF ministry remain as merely another exclusive Christian organization in America, branded as an ultra-fringe, fundamentalist movement or an isolated, authoritarian, minority group? In that case, we will never be able to reach out to the very hearts of the majority of individualistic, proud and freedom-loving American young people. We will only bulldoze a small number of young people into our ways of thinking and practices and no more. Or can we really understand American young people and their society, and evangelize them, so that UBF USA may serve this generation and become a history-maker? Can we really grow to be a nationwide and worldwide revival movement that can change the course of history?

As for now, we suffer so much due to invisible, internal discord and disunity. We are in great danger of exhausting ourselves in subtle isolation. I am not talking about an external show of unity, such as many people from all over the world coming together with you at one place, at your command. Such external unity can collapse at any moment without internal binding and a supportive bond of love as indicated in Ephesians 4:15,16. If we really desire internal and external growth and to see a great revival movement throughout, then we must examine ourselves objectively, with a spirit of self-criticism. Before we try to change American students and the world, we ought to change ourselves. This letter is written to present my personal review of UBF USA and my proposal to you of what our future direction should be. It is intended for solving problems, rather than to offer criticism for the sake of criticism, or to make a personal attack on you or any other of Gods servants, or to side with some particular individual.

The area I mainly examined and found to be flawed is the organization of our American UBF. The present organization is bound to generate internal conflicts, discontentment and discord. For the initial period, when our ministry was small, it was ok. But as the ministry grows, there is an inevitable need to organize it into an effective body of Christ. When we see the first church in the Book of Acts, we learn how the apostles and the elders and the first believers organized the church as their ministry grew.

I. A Review of the UBF by-laws

As I had a sense of problem in this area, I came to review our by-laws carefully. I don’t know who wrote them. But I found that they are very scriptural. I found them to be very parallel to the principles and the practices of the apostolic ministry in the first church.

A. Membership Meeting

The membership meeting is to be a body of all the members of American UBF. Or it could be representative members. It is to be the governing body that has the ultimate authority in UBF. Article III, Section 8 outlines the various powers and rights of the members.

Abstract III 8:

(a) Elect the directors, the president and the secretary and treasurer.

(b) Remove from any office, any director or officer …

(c) Hear, consider, and approve or disapprove reports of the Board of Directors …

(d) … modify, suspend, or veto any decision of the Board of Directors by a majority vote of all the members present.

(e) Hear and act as final arbiter …

The body of members is also to be the policy-making body for the guidance and direction of UBF for the year.

B. It’s parallel in the Book of Acts

In the Book of Acts, we find a similar meeting. Once, a question arose in the church in Antioch concerning whether circumcision was to be a qualification for being accepted as a member of the Christian body (Ac. 15:1,2). Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem, and a special council meeting was called in Jerusalem. There the apostles, the elders and the brothers all met together. They received a full report from Paul and Barnabas. They seriously considered this issue and discussed it, in order to come to a conclusion (Ac. 15:6-12). After that procedure, James, the director of the Jerusalem church, made a final judgment on the issue on the basis of scripture, and drafted a resolution in the name of the council (Ac. 15:23-29). The problem of the strong opposition from the world, and the question over whether to admit Gentiles as members of the church were dealt with in a very similar way (Ac. 4:23-31; 11:1-3,17,18).

Although Peter was the top spiritual leader, and the twelve apostles were the founders of the Jerusalem church, and Paul and Barnabas were the founders of the Antioch church, all of them respected the governing body of the council meeting. Perhaps the elders, the brothers or even James, the director of the council meeting, may have at one time been sheep of Peter or the Apostles. But when they grew to be mature coworkers in Gods work, the apostles delegated and shared the responsibilities and powers with them. This created such an atmosphere of mutual respect that they shared their opinions freely and respected and considered them carefully. They all participated in the very important affairs of the church. Through the procedure of this meeting, they became more closely bound together in one mind and heart. This helped to establish an effective and powerful body of Christ. They never relied on the one and only spiritual mans discernment. Nor did Peter or James or any other apostle attempt to assert supreme authority over others like that of Jesus. In this way they allowed Christ Jesus to be the head of the church, and they all worked together with good teamwork.

We also see a good example in the officers. Initially, the twelve apostles took care of all the administrative affairs, including collecting the offering money when people sold their houses, buying food and distributing it to the members of the Christian community, etc. In addition to their ministry of preparing messages, preaching and raising up leaders, they had to handle the money. When the ministry grew big, they could no longer handle all of these areas. So the twelve presented this problem to the whole body of believers, and proposed a solution as well (Ac. 6:2-4). Their conclusion pleased the whole group (the membership meeting). The membership meeting recommended and chose the seven deacons, and the twelve apostles merely laid their hands on them and authorized them (Ac. 6:5-7). After that the twelve apostles completely entrusted the financial affairs to the seven deacons. And they received a fixed salary from them.

II. Our Practice of the By-laws and Our Way of Handling Our internal Affairs

I find in our practice of the by-laws that we have too many loopholes and too many errors that violate biblical principles.

A. The Membership Meeting

All the members were handpicked by you. Many of us don’t even know who they are. I know there are none from Toledo Chapter or from Washington Chapter. I heard that Sarah Chang and Theresa Kim were forced to resign for no other reason than that they are the wives of staff members. I find no biblical background for this. You appoint and dismiss the members of the membership meeting as you see fit. The members attend the membership meeting annually on the first Saturday of February without knowing why they are there. They are there only so UBF can comply with the formal requirements of tax-exempt status. (Actually the purpose of the by-laws is to govern internal affairs, rather than just to maintain tax-exempt status. So we can modify the by-laws according to the pattern that will best serve our ministry.) In content, you are the membership meeting, because you decide everything for the members and you wield all the powers enumerated in Article III, Section 8.

B. The Board of Directors

The Board of Directors is the executive meeting body that decides many practical, internal affairs according to the by-laws. Right now the local chapters are under the umbrella of the central UBF, incorporated in Mississippi. Therefore, the Board of Directors must also represent the local chapters and the whole American UBF. But all of the seven board members are from Chicago. I can understand your reason for this — that it is for convenience. But this convenience serves you and Chicago ministry, not the overall welfare of the whole American UBF. The way things were handled by the board really damaged a sense of fairness. I don’t find much of a consistent policy in our internal affairs. Most of our UBF policies are very much improvised, and sometimes very impulsive and hasty. And yet many times they are justified as the ever-changing wind of the Holy Spirit — and are expected to be believed. Here are several examples.

1. John Shin’s Salary Problem

For so many years John Shin worked as the full-time shepherd of the New York Chapter, after Paul Kim resigned. I understand his probationary status. But he has three children. The oldest one is in high school. And the rent on their two-bedroom apartment is $950/month. For a long time his salary was $800/month. And sometimes you changed it to $100 per sheep, according to the number of his one-to-one studies. If he had an average of 5 one-to-one studies per week, his salary was $500/month, and if 3, then $300/month. Even cruel and shrewd businessmen, in trying to pressure their employees to achieve success in their business goals, don’t tamper with their employees salaries in such a drastic way. I really resent this kind of human method of pressuring people to work hard. It might push people to work hard temporarily. But in the long run, it only builds up bitterness within them and tears them down. It’s an insult to their integrity.

(a) The Case of Dili Chung

Once you were angry with Dili Chung because Pittsburgh Chapter sent a stingy offering to the central UBF. If disciplinary action is warranted, the board must send a letter of warning that if such actions continue, it will affect the persons salary. But the way you handled that problem seemed to be a result of sheer impatience and anger. M. Grace Lee called me to have me stop payment on the check we send them every month. I couldn’t accept this. Matters like staff salaries must be carefully reviewed and determined by the Board members. If they have committed grave sin before God, the Board members can give them a warning by letter. If they keep on doing wrong, we can take disciplinary action against them. But controlling the staff with their salaries, or using it as a means of pressuring people only undermines the trust relationship.

That’s the reason why Jacob Lee didn’t want to quit his job, even though he really wants to devote himself to the work of God as a full time shepherd. He had seen too many of such examples in the past. So he does not believe your integrity no matter what you say. Salaries must be consistent so that Gods servants may pay attention to the work of God wholeheartedly.

(b) The Case of Gus Park

Gus Parks initial motivation for resigning was a grievance he had toward you. He began to doubt your integrity when he saw how you handled the offering money. In 1982 you raised an offering for Milwaukee from Korea of almost $100,000. And you raised $80,000 from American UBF on top of that. But only $30,000 was practically used for purchasing a center in Milwaukee. He began to question what M. Samuel Lee was trying to do with the funds. Not only that, he kept his eyes on your collection of the Christmas offering each year. Each year you collected an offering with the prayer topic of raising money to fund some specific center and relief fund: MSU (1980), Indiana (81), Minnesota (84), Oakton (85), Wright College (86), Bangladesh (88) … etc. But none of those offerings were used for the stated purpose. Not only that, he hardened his heart when he felt that he was being manipulated and controlled by you through message training. He also felt same way when you got information from Naomi Dang, and gave him directions through his coworkers. He felt that he could not serve Gods work in Milwaukee effectively in this kind of situation. So he decided to resign his position as director of Milwaukee chapter. But he couldn’t dare to tell you all this. So he made up the excuse that he wanted to quit because of his desire to study in school.

I don’t agree with Gus Park’s way of thinking 100%. And I agree that he has some spiritual problems. But the problem is that we have nobody in UBF to act as mediator or arbiter when a dispute arises between you — the general secretary, the founder, the chief shepherd, supreme and maximum leader of UBF — and any other member of UBF. Problems can arise at any time because we, imperfect men, are working together. If you assume that there should be no problem because you are so discerning and wise, and thus always right in your judgment in all matters — and thus you expect that everybody should be happy with you, and you expect that everyone in UBF should be on your side no matter what — then such ways of thinking are so unreasonable and unrealistic. They are merely illusion. We are full of contradictions, shortcomings and partialities. Peter and Paul were great, but they, too, had weaknesses, and fought on several occasions.

I know you are greater, wiser and more powerful than anybody in UBF. But that does not mean that you are always fair. Rather, you have proven to be very partial and unfair on many occasions. (People in Chicago really wonder why your daughter Little Sarah Lee remained engaged for so long and why you waited to build a glass arch for her, while other sister coworkers or some American shepherd who worked hard for the Lord often have to get married only four hours after hurriedly making the decision to marry. They don’t understand why you spent so much money on Sarah B. Choi’s wedding, while spending nothing on others. I understand your reasons for doing these things, and nobody blames you for them. But the fact of the matter is that you too are not free from favoritism and partiality and contradictions.) It is natural for us to love our children and favor those we like over others. So it specifies in Article III, Section 8(e) that the membership meeting must play the role of final arbiter. If not, then the staff meeting or some other governing body must fulfill that role in order to handle the problems in Gods way.

I know you tried very hard to solve the problem with Gus Park. It seemed to go nowhere. Two years ago you called me just I was about to leave for the Spring Conference. You also called Peter Chang. In content we became arbiters. But we found many problems, and we found that many factors were involved. We did our best to change the mind of Gus Park, and protect your integrity. But later, when Gus Park ran away, Peter Chang was blamed as the one who planted doubt and the human thinking. Peter Chang was hurt by this. I don’t assert that his way of helping him was perfect. But you bear 90% of the responsibility for Gus Park resigning. Yet Peter Chang was blamed! This didn’t make sense at all to him.

Later, I conversed with Gus Park and found out all these things. He said that he had had second thoughts, and that he would have reconsidered his resignation if you had really appealed to his integrity as a shepherd and exhorted him not to desert the flock of sheep. Instead, he said that you tried to appease him with money — offering to give him $30,000 by selling the Milwaukee center. When he refused, you doubted him and suspected that he had received more money from the deprogrammers. That was the last straw. From then on he completely distrusted you and left for Austin. Of course, we can simply say that this was all Satans attack, and that Gus Park or Peter Chang had human thinking. But that doesn’t solve the problem nor help our ministry to grow. My point is not just to dig up the past. But what I feel sad about is that no lessons were learned through these incidents, and we continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. And nobody is willing to offend you by telling you the facts as they are.

(c) The Excommunication of two board members — Jimmy Rhee and John Lee

I want to make it very clear that I don’t agree with tongue-speaking Christians or the Charismatic concept of Christianity. But I feel sad that we handled this problem very poorly and thus didn’t give glory to God at all. I know that at this point we have to protect you and say that those people had many faults. But their cause was never given a proper hearing, nor was it handled with prayer and understanding.

Initially, Jimmy Rhee’s grievance stemmed from the matter of Rebecca Yoon’s abortion. He couldn’t agree with you. You have instructed so many women to have abortions: Anna Park, Hannah S. Lee, Rebecca Yoon… on and on. I myself would have fiercely objected to this. Your motto, “The ends justify the means,” violates the very principles of the Bible. Jesus worked very hard for God and achieved great work for God. He thus gave glory to God. But he never violated the high moral standard that he taught in the Sermon on the Mount. In UBF, all ethics can be considered garbage and freely violated if you so choose, and provide a reasonable justification.

Jimmy Rhee was very angry and disappointed with you over the matter of Rebecca Yoons abortion. So he moved to the Wheaton area. Later, he moved back to Chicago, not because he had accepted your view, but because of pressure. But his grievances toward you persisted within him. Other grievances he had toward you were the way you wielded power without limit, and your messages being the same over the years. Of course, I don’t agree with all his views. But again, the problem was this: When these conflicts arose, no body existed among us to act as mediator or arbiter. So the final result was to come.

In Jimmy Rhee and John Lees case, it’s not just their dismissal from the Board of Directors, but their excommunication from UBF membership under pressure. If speaking in tongues is sufficient grounds for the excommunication of men who had been loyal members for 24 years, we’d better examine this issue and make some clear guidelines. If we don’t, this will be nothing more than yet another very costly mistake.

(d) Toledo’s new center purchase and remodeling problem

Last year, I went through too much hardship to purchase and remodel our Toledo center. When you bought the Chicago center and remodeled it, you could simply wield your power and drew $400,000 in funds from the central UBF, since you have the authority to freely use those funds. But to purchase a $30,000 center, and to raise the $70,000 it took to remodel it, we had to scrape every penny from our coworkers. We are still in a considerable amount of debt. Although I wanted to handle Toledo chapter independently, we felt a certain amount of bitterness and unreasonableness over the way it was handled.

Every month we send tithes to the central. For many years, we sent the Christmas offering to the central. We offered very sacrificially when you called for a special offering for the Milwaukee and Madison centers. So it was natural for us to expect some support from the central, or at least some understanding. That was part of my motivation in responding to your call to hold your staff meeting in Toledo last April. I hoped that you, the chapter directors and board of directors would understand our hardships and offer some support. I mentioned our troubles when you were in Toledo, but your mind was occupied with something else. We received not even one penny of support. Every time we send tithes and other offerings to the central, I cannot help feeling exploited and sacrificed for the Chicago ministry.

2. The Board of Directors doesn’t understand the other chapters, nor does it have any power to do anything for them, even if it wants to.

They too are all handpicked by you. You present the issue and conclusion, and all they do in the board meeting is just raise their hands and agree with you. The Board of Directors meeting is only a formality through which you wield your power. It has no real power, and does not play the role that it is supposed to.

C. The Handling of the Offering Money

Your handling of the offering money is one area where your integrity and leadership are questioned and challenged the most. First of all, M. Grace A. Lees being the treasurer of the central UBF violates the spirit of the conflict-of-interest laws. In any organization — not only in civil government but also in religious organizations — the chief executive cannot be treasurer.

Not only is the UBF general fund in your full control, but a lot of funds are diverted to your personal checking account in Benoit, Mississippi. This could be very dangerous, especially if any of our former UBF members have great bitterness against you and report it to the IRS. I don’t question your integrity and motivation. But I have great trouble with you putting funds in your own checking account and using them freely.

Whatever money you deposit in Benoit, Mississippi and write a check on is regarded as your income, and is supposed to be reported to IRS as income, and taxes must be paid on it. It doesn’t matter whether you used it for me or for other members of UBF. IRS will regard that as your income, and you have to pay taxes. If you pay taxes only on $1,500 per month, you will be regarded as a tax fraud. Mun Sun Myung’s case was very similar. I am very much afraid of the possible danger in this. I believe that God will protect us. But if, in fact, a scandal should arise out of this, UBF USA would have a very difficult time surviving. Since the amount of money we handle is around a million dollars, we are still regarded as a small organization in the USA. But if our holding fund grows to the ten-million-dollar level, then we will definitely be under the scrutiny of the IRS. Not only that, but it gives a chance for people to doubt your integrity. Some people even go to the extreme of suspecting that you are holding those funds for your retirement.

Since the offering money is from the USA as well as West Germany, Canada, and Korea, it is to be used fairly and squarely for the whole UBF. But practically, virtually 90% of it is used only for Chicago ministry, for purchasing houses around the center building, for tearing down and remodeling, as well as so much eating. Of course, you might have reasons in mind why you need to build the headquarters first. But no staff shepherds agree with your point of view. Not even Chicago members do. (Many of them really want to go out for pioneering. But they see that you make many excuses in order not to send them out.)

In the situation we faced in Korea, such a strategy worked, and it had to be that way. Seoul had one fifth or even one quarter of the population of South Korea. So we first had to centralize Seoul and build the chapters in Seoul. But the situation in America is very different. The population, the academic centers, the student population are all scattered throughout this great land.

Each state is almost equally developed, and there are equally strong centers of American culture and life in each state and region. Therefore, we ought to build several strong centers in the Midwest, East, West, South and here and there, from the first. Then we should start our pioneering with the universities closest to those regional headquarters. Looking 10, 20, 30, 40, even 100 years ahead, we ought to build strong centers now. We have to build and support those chapters with good leadership material, united prayer, as well as material support, if necessary. Right now we only see that you are making every effort to centralize UBF USA to Chicago, by bringing the most excellent people there and investing most of the money there. Initially, all our staff supported your directions. Whatever you judged or decided — whatever direction you gave — we followed and supported you with no questions asked. But more and more we see loopholes and problems. We see that your direction is getting more and more irrelevant to the American situation.

For instance, Peter Chang sent many excellent people to Chicago, as well as the offerings. But he had great trouble in his mind for two reasons. First of all, he doesn’t agree with your centralization direction at all. He was never persuaded by you in this matter, either. Everything in UBF is supposed to, or expected to. Secondly, he still has trouble in his heart over the way you dealt with him. While he was struggling inside about this matter, you rebuked him for falling into Judaism. He was incensed to hear that Hell was growing in Teddy’s mind when he was in Columbus, but that now the kingdom of God is growing in his heart, since he has received training in Chicago, etc. In this way problems have been building up in each of us, and we tear each other down. Internal unity is severely undermined.

I am not saying this simply because I am working in Toledo. The fact is that many Chicago elders feel the same way. There are too many missionaries who feel they are not needed. Many of them are, in fact, eager to pioneer. But if you hold onto them for one reason or another, problems will build up inside. The “Hallelujah Christian” problem is clear evidence of this. Your justification for this was that we are in a transitional period from a Korean-centered ministry to an American ministry. But this can only be interpreted as a message that the Korean missionaries are not needed, and such an implication makes many of them feel even more useless. All the missionaries came to the United States with a great vision and hope. When they came, they sacrificed everything for Gods great mission. But after staying in Chicago, their visions evaporate and many struggle just to cope with their feelings of uselessness. I believe that we have to send out half of the Chicago missionaries to pioneering chapters, to support them.

You gave them a direction to pioneer 12 chapters in Chicago within 3 years. But the majority of students in the community colleges are basically factory boys. Many of them have trouble just reading and writing. I taught 3 years in a community college, and I understand very well. I believe that putting an excellent leadership material like Mark Yoon in Wright College seems to be a waste.

III. Staff Meetings

According to the by-laws, the staff has no part in policy-making. They are completely out of the picture. They are just to follow the resolutions of the board of directors or of the membership. They are not part of the membership meeting either. But in reality, staff and local chapter shepherds are a very important part of the ministry of UBF USA. Peter Chang, Jacob Lee and I myself have been with you from 1977 — the time of pioneering American UBF — until now. It doesn’t make sense that we are not in the picture at all. But staff members have no rights or power — no role at all, at least according to the by-laws. In fact, many of them are under great stress because they feel they are treated like grade school kids.

A staff meeting can be a very good instrument, and can function as membership meeting. But we find no meaning in the staff meetings such as they are now. When a staff meeting is called, arbitrarily and all of a sudden, it forces many of the staff to become extremely busy, because they have to arrange their work schedules and airplane schedules on such short notice. Many of them have no idea why they are meeting. You just give the word, and they write testimonies all night and share on the basis your lecture. By the time they go back, they are totally exhausted. But then they still have to prepare the Sunday message. Instead of receiving encouragement, the staff meeting becomes just another burden. I don’t know why we are so hung up on writing “sogams”. The last staff meeting was the only meeting that has ever been a little bit relaxed, without much tension.

Many of the staff really want to share the problems and hardships they are facing in pioneering. They want to be understood, and understand other staff and learn from them. They want strong mutual support. For instance, problems like the deprogrammer problem or other important issues could be presented, reported on and prayed about on the basis of the Scriptures. But each staff meeting leaves them very much disappointed. You have no mind to listen to them. You just dictate everything, and there is no mutual communication. Everything is one-sided. (Many staffs feel that they are treated like grade school kids by you and they have great inner indignation to about this.)

For instance, we had the staff meeting last year in April in Toledo. You were concerned about the unity of American UBF and about your leadership. I was concerned about our financial problems in remodeling the Toledo Center. Each held his own issue in mind to discuss with you and the other staff, hoping to receive support. Sam Zun was really concerned about the troubles he was going through due to Sarah and the deprogrammers. That’s why he asked you to have a staff meeting in the first place. His idea was that he had obeyed your direction and sent Sarah to Chicago and had her married. Then the problem arose as a result, so he naturally expected support from you.

Although this might be a light problem to you, to him it was a big issue. He was really thrown off when you tried to brush him aside, saying that he had no soldier spirit, or that you were babysitting him. But he didn’t see it that way. He saw that your heart was more occupied with Chris Kelly and with how to protect him. It was a time when he needed understanding and support. But you one-sidedly gave him a direction to read a book about Ho Chi Min. Reading that book might have worked for you fifteen or twenty years ago, but it was totally irrelevant to him. So he became very rebellious at that point of time. He was really hurt that there was no support at the time when he practically needed support. That was why he was very rebellious and totally ignored your direction to read the book about Ho Chi Min. During and after the staff meeting, you were only angry with him over the fact that he didn’t obey your direction. I did not see any effort on your part to understand him or bear him.

Yet you were very much satisfied with the staff meeting, because you felt that there was unity and because the staff was very happy when you showed great mercy by not having them write long sogams. You simplified everything. But in reality, Sam Zun completely turned away from you through this. He totally closed his mind to you. He was really disappointed with you. Now I see that he tried to be independent, relying on nobody but God. That’s good in one sense — his depending on God alone. But its bad in another sense: The unity among us in Christ Jesus is degenerating more and more. Outwardly he may pretend to listen to you, but on the inside he is not listening. You really lost his respect through this event. If this keeps up, each chapter will have to survive on its own. Then isolation, misunderstanding, and mistrust will escalate, even though we don’t want it to. For instance, you think and say that the Columbus chapter is mysterious, and you don’t know what’s going on there. The people in Columbus will soon be feeling the same way about Chicago.

IV. My Proposal

A. Reorganization of the Body of Christ in UBF

1. Developing localism

Power and responsibility always go hand in hand. As the ministry grows, there is no way for you to continue take all the responsibilities upon yourself. Eventually you yourself will become exhausted, reach your limitation and stumble. You ought to trust God, and trust Gods people, too.

So this is my proposal: in each state we can organize a board of directors and hold membership meetings. Although this may be difficult in small, pioneering chapters, the established chapters in Washington, New York, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin are quite ready for this step. From there we can elect members to send to UBF USA. In these regional meetings, we can organize a governing body that can support and supervise each local chapter. Christ is the head of the church, and you are still the head of UBF. Although the responsibility and power will be distributed, you still will be respected and honored (actually much more), and you can be the final word, like James, the director of the Jerusalem church.

2. Electing new members and the Board members with fairness

Another way is to establish an annual membership meeting or staff meeting that can represent the whole UBF USA — international UBF — not just Chicago or any one chapter. We must make an atmosphere in which members problems can be discussed and understood, and biblical solutions offered. We ought to nominate and elect the board of directors from this meeting. And we ought to give real power and responsibility to the board of directors, so that they may not be just puppets governed by someone else’s will, but really trusted and respected positions. In the process, we can unite our hearts, and each one can feel a strong sense of participation, rather than feeling that they are always being railroaded in endorsing a direction they have no conviction about. In the annual meeting we ought to adopt resolutions that will be consistent with the new fiscal year. We ought to review the previous year, examining our results and learning from them, and find a new direction so that we can go further.

3. The problems of the treasurer and of deposits to the central chapter fund

The problem of the central UBF treasurer must be seriously considered and reviewed. We ought to elect a person who is not your coworker-wife and yet can represent the whole UBF.

All the offering money must be deposited in the name of UBF, as it is specified in the by-laws. And there should be no hidden darkness in handling the offering money. Like Billy Graham, you should receive a fixed salary of $50,000, $60,000 or $70,000 annually, or whatever the Board decides, without any money secretly held out. You should free from the controversial position of being able to freely use money without any constraints, as you now do. In this way we really protect your integrity. Then no one from outside or inside the circle will be able to challenge you in this matter.

B. Staff Training and Shepherd Training

I find that we face some serious problems in the spirit and the way training is handled. These are the two major points that we must really pray about.

1. The goal of training must be the development of personal and independent faith

I believe that spoon-feeding training or imitation training is necessary during the initial period of message training or other training of staff and shepherds. They need some kind of a model to start with, and on which to form and shape their own style of faith. From it they can further develop their faith and bring growth grow their ministry. But if we give them spoon-feeding training too long, it chokes the trainees personal faith and severely damages their capability of developing their own mature faith (Heb. 5:12-14).

Jesus trained his disciples intensively for three and a half years. After that he really entrusted them to the hand of God and to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:7). As the training period drew to a close, Jesus again and again taught them about the work of the Holy Spirit, whether or not they were ready, or understood it. Even though his disciples were reluctant to become independent, Jesus left them in the position of having to depend on the Holy Spirit (Ac. 1:8,11,14). We see that the aim of Jesus training was to lead his disciples to grow in independent faith and to become mature apostles. St. Paul always committed growing leaders to God and to the word of his grace (Ac. 20:32). Otherwise, they would have remained big spiritual babies.

I want to speak about the problem of our UBF training only through my own experience of training, rather than citing other peoples cases. As you know, I received message training from 1978 to 1987. Although I might not have satisfied your standard, for my part I tried to do my best. I really appreciated your shepherd heart and your eagerness to help me and stimulate me to grow as His servant. I also want you to know that I am very thankful for the opportunity I had to learn from you some very valuable lessons and principles. However, I also found many significant loopholes in your training.

In the initial training, I wholeheartedly accepted your motto, “Without Isaac Newton, there would be no Einstein.” I needed to humble myself and learn from you. I agree that I needed to go through a period of imitation. But the problem was that you wanted me to remain at the stage of imitation too long. Before 1980, I had written lectures on Genesis and on other books of the Bible. I know they were poor in quality. But they were mine, and I could build up my study of the Bible upon them, learning from my mistakes. But I had to totally discredit all of them and copy your lectures.

During a span of nine years, I went through more than three rounds of copying your Johns gospel lectures, which took me more than 4 years. During that time I saw that your training had only one method: digesting your messages and memorizing them. Even when the time came for me to develop my own style and depend on the Holy Spirit, you wouldn’t let me go. You constantly proffered such propaganda as Toledo grows when James Kim comes to Chicago, but the number of Sunday worship attendants drops when he stops coming to Chicago. Later, your style of working made me wonder if the ultimate purpose of your training is to make all the UBF staff members into your copy-cats — to put all the UBF staff under your subjection, in order to control them and receive glory through them.

When people don’t copy your messages, you rebuke them, saying that they have no learning mind. But people don’t understand why learning from your messages is recognized as the act of a learning mind, while learning from other great servants of God is not considered or acknowledged as evidence of a learning mind. For instance, when I read Martin Luther’s or Calvin’s or even Charles Spurgeon’s messages, they had completely different styles compared with yours.

I could gain freedom from you only because I fought for it in one way or another, not because you initiated it. Otherwise, I might still be going back and forth to Chicago to this very day, and my messages and Bible study would have sunk deeper and deeper into a state of regression and stagnation in spite the intensity of my struggle.

Later, I reviewed the situation and came to the conclusion that your message training has become very stagnant because you have lost the aim of training: to help growing servants of God to depend on the Holy Spirit and to help them develop their own, independent faith. You are so obsessed with giving training itself that you totally ignore or forget the significance of ones personal faith. You give the impression that everybody should become like little Samuel Lees, rather than becoming like little Jesuses, finding themselves in him (Phil. 3:9).

For instance, I can see that Peter Chang developed his own style of message writing from very early on. (I think it’s great that he could train himself before God and achieved the stage of independent faith. In that sense he is extraordinary like you, while I or others are ordinary in that we needed much help in the early stages.) But your constant, belittling remarks about the way he was doing Gods work or about writing messages in his own way made me wonder if you really want Gods people to be independent. I also saw that this kind of attitude from you really turned him off. I know I refused your training at a certain point of time, not because I don’t like you or don’t value Christian training as a whole, but because it simply doesn’t help me at this point, but rather moves me backward. I know that these days you try hard to help interns to grow independently. But I still see so much of your old style.

Like the Korean pattern of staff meetings and training, we ought to have a more mature way of supporting the staff. We ought to make an environment of respecting the work of the Holy Spirit in each chapter, rather than just emphasizing the superiority of your message, or of Chicago ministry. Without it we only foster an atmosphere of silent discord, mutual disrespect and broken spiritual order. With the present atmosphere, your leadership cannot stand, and you will become more and more irrelevant to the staff. We ought to positively encourage the staff to study the Bible independently, and read books and learn and grow in broad aspects. We must positively acknowledge their work and faith, and help them to develop their faith while struggling with the front-line work.

2. True obedience is obedience of the heart, rather than keeping the letter of the law

As we all know well, another goal of training is to bring people to obedience to the will of God (Mt. 28:20; Ro. 1:5). But our UBF training has a fundamental problem in its methodology. Many people sense that you employ all kinds of human methods in order to make people obey. These are just a few examples of your human methods: psychological methods of manipulation to insure loyalty; creating an atmosphere of gossip and slander in order to control would-be disobedient people; making use of a sense of human competition and jealousy; wielding unlimited power in order to pressure people humanly and materially… etc. Your motto, “The ends justify the means” or “Anything is acceptable as long as it for the glory of God” goes far beyond the bounds of Christian ethics.

Jesus never broke his own high ethical standards, even when he was training his disciples or working to achieve his high goal of redemption. For instance, when Jesus asked his disciples to bring the donkey for his triumphal entry, he was not ordering them to steal. He gave them clear instructions about what they were to say to persuade the owner of the donkey to let him go, and what truth they were to teach him in the process: “If anyone asks you, Why are you doing this? tell him, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.'” (Mk. 11:3).

Our noble task of world mission shouldn’t be tarnished by lowly human and worldly means. I understand that using these kinds of means may offer a quick solution to the dilemma of how to get people to obey. But there is a problem with this: They may obey, but not out of their true hearts, but rather out of fear or in order to please you. The result is mere external obedience.

Of course, I understand that there may occasionally be times when there is no other choice. But these should never be our major means of training people. Jesus always relied on the method of moving and winning the hearts of his people through the influence of the Holy Spirit, he always respected the individuals own decision of faith and free will. He taught his disciples with the word of God until their hearts were opened to obey God (Jn. 16:31). Jesus never violated his noble moral principle, the Golden Rule, even when he gave fierce training to his disciples: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

You use Jesus’ method only until people come under your control. After that you use all kinds of human methods. You take everything for granted once they are in your hands. I don’t know how many missionary coworkers and shepherds obey you because of fear and terror of your sudden anger or punishment. I don’t know how many coworkers obey you only because their spirits have been totally crushed, oppressed and intimidated by your strong will. Many of them seem to obey you just to please you, and you enjoy that too.

Many times you don’t give them enough time to digest the meaning of obedience or allow them to go through the procedure of learning through trial and error. You want people to be changed overnight or become like you within a short time — a matter of a day or several days. (Especially, I strongly object to your pressuring people to get married so hurriedly, without giving them enough time to learn about the noble meaning of marriage and obedience. Everything is success-oriented and “gospel-business-accomplishment” oriented.)

Such obedience leaves many scars in their hearts. In the long run it eventually tears them apart, and ruins the faith of those who submit. (You attributed Rebecca Yoon’s running away to Jimmy Rhee bringing her to a tongue-speaking church. But in truth, 80% of responsibility for that happening lies in your forceful method of obedience training. Whenever such an event has occurred, we have always protected your leadership and blamed others. But that doesn’t mean that you should take everything granted and do the same thing all over again, thinking whatever you do is right and is Gods will.)

These are the side effects that result from your forceful obedience training: The trainees can be tamed to obey your direction outwardly, like military soldiers. But you pay the heavy price of crushing their spirit, self-will and personality; and they really develop none; they gradually lose their ability to think and judge creatively and become yes men. In that way there is a danger that they eventually become religious zombies. Sometimes I wonder if many shepherds truly write sogams from their hearts or write it merely to please you. Recently Jacob Lee was really surprised to see how Bob Moss was so much intimidated after he went to Chicago. The only people who can survive under such training are strong people like Teddy Hembekides. (Of course, your family members are an exception, beyond any law.) The other high price is losing long-time coworkers overnight. When they rebel against you, realizing your flaws, they become very bitter and uncontrollably rebellious. There is a danger that they may eventually become your life-long enemies.

We really pray that we may positively adopt Jesus’ method. Jesus never regarded his disciples as objects to be manipulated for his own success, but rather as human beings to be inspired and developed by the power of Gods word. Of course, we believe the power of Gods word. But we believe in Gods word plus our own techniques. But Jesus purely and only believed in the power of Gods word and of the Holy Spirit. He prayed for them to the end. Of course, this is a very slow process. There are some dangers in it, too. For instance, Jesus himself faced the betrayal and denial of his most trusted disciples at the most crucial moment of his life. But he still did not give up his method of praying for his disciples with great patience and teaching the word of truth. In time the disciples were deeply touched, and convinced by the truth, and gave their loyalty to the Lord unto death. This is a very slow process. But in the long run this is really a winning strategy.

I pray that our UBF ministry may restore the integrity of it’s training in obedience. In that way we will truly be able to reach out and captivate the proud hearts of the majority of sinful, young, American people. If we really want this to happen, it’s the time for us to examine ourselves and our methodology before God. It’s time for us to first change ourselves before God, before we try to change America and the world.

We ought to avoid centralization. But we ought to centralize each regional center. I myself am praying that I can go out to Texas and pioneer from August of this year, 1990, in order to start the work of ministry from the fall term.

Paul Hong proved to be a leader this past year in the areas of teamwork, submission to the truth of Gods word and a life of shepherding and bearing fruit. From Toledo we can pioneer Wayne State Univ. (28,000) and Oakland Univ. (13,000) in Detroit, Eastern Michigan Univ. (17,000) in Ypsilanti and Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor (32,000). I want to take with me 10 strong American shepherds and build a strong center in Houston.

Originally, I wanted to pioneer Boston, but it has too many obstacles: High housing prices and a cost of $12,000/yr for tuition and fees. But Univ. of Houston has 35,000 students, and is the 9th largest university in the nation. Just two blocks from the Univ. of Houston there is Southern Texas Univ. (10,000). The total student population in Houston is 100,000. Other major institutions in Texas are Univ. of Texas at Austin (50,000) and Texas A&M (45,000). Dallas and Arlington together have a population of 2.4 million, and 30 universities. In the long run, I am praying to build centers down south. Housing prices in Houston (pop. 3 million) are the lowest among major cities. Tuition and fees are $1,000/yr. I believe that I can build a strong world mission center down there within 2 or 3 years.

The Univ. of Minnesota at Minneapolis has 45,000 students. We need to research other cities and campuses, instead of working at places near Chicago. We ought to find good candidates to be pioneers. We ought to build and support strong centers over long distances. We have to believe that God himself is training people for this work.

I believe that half of the Chicago missionaries must eventually be sent out to pioneering chapters. Especially, capable missionaries like Mark Yoon ought to be sent out to good pioneering fields like the University of Minnesota or the University of Arizona, together with several other missionary families. After receiving the proper training, they ought to be sent out, whether they are ready or not. I believe that God himself will grow them and protect them. We must also overcome the concept of distance in this big country.

V. Conclusion

I pray that we may look ahead and lay a strong foundation for the work of the gospel. Without it our efforts will be very ineffective. Without internal unity, external unity can collapse at any moment.

I pray that my letter and prayer and proposal may not be brushed aside as human thinking. I also deeply apologize if I have offended you personally in the process of reviewing our ministry in this way. As I said before, that is not my intention. I only want to bring these issues to your attention for constructive reasons. I also don’t expect our UBF or you or any of Gods servants to be reformed overnight. But I do hope and pray that our UBF ministry may find a clear direction with a spirit of self-criticism, and move toward maturity with long-range vision.

For this reason, I ask you to call for a staff meeting to consider these issues and find a new direction for the next decade, the 1990s, and for our immediate future in 1990. If we take the problems we have very lightly or simply brush them aside as human thinking, internal problems will build up. When these problems finally blow up, nobody can predict what will happen to the future of UBF. The results can only be destructive. We all want to see the work of God and the glory of God.

Your servant in the Lord,
Missionary James Kim from Toledo, Ohio