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In 2019, the new General Director will take charge of UBF. These questions from 2011, for the current General Director, still appear quite relevant. Perhaps there will be a good answer this time?


A new General Director of UBF is going to be elected this year. If I had the opportunity to interview candidates ahead of time, these are some of the questions that I would ask.


These are genuine questions for which I do not yet have answers. I hope that these do not sound like leading questions. A leading question is a question that presupposes what the correct answer should be. Of course, I do have some opinions of my own about how I would answer them. But I am willing to keep an open mind, and I am ready to hear the opinions of others and be swayed by them. I do not think that any of these questions has a single, correct answer, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with one another or with me. But I believe that the leaders of an organization like ours ought to be willing to consider and discuss hard questions like these. Or at least let us know where they stand.

1. On our official website, UBF is described as “a non-denominational, evangelistic campus organization.” But in most places, it has taken on the characteristics of a church. Members stay involved beyond their student years; they tithe; they do not attend other churches; they marry, have children, and bring their children to UBF; and so on. Yet campus ministry is at the front and center of our meetings, worship services, conferences, etc. to the extent that many members feel that, if they are not students or actively serving in campus ministry, UBF is not the right place for them. Is that the message that we should continue to send our members? Should that message be refined or modified in any way?

2. On a related theme: The sign above the main Chicago center says that UBF is “A Missionary Church.” It seems to me that this might be a reasonable way to describe who and what we are. But if so, what exactly does it mean? Does this mean that we are

a) a church planted by missionaries and run by missionaries?

b) a church that serves missionaries and their children?

c) a church in which many or most of the members are expected to become missionaries?

d) a church whose purpose is to train and send missionaries to other places?

If the answer is c), then is that a reasonable expectation? If the answer is d), then what is the relationship of the church to the community in which it sits? Does the church mainly draw resources (people, funds, etc.) out of the local community and use them for mission somewhere else? If so, will the attention of the church ever be focused on serving the local community, or will it always be looking elsewhere?

3. Consider a campus ministry started by Christians in their own country, and then consider a campus ministry started by missionaries in a foreign land. Should there be any significant differences between these two types of campus ministries? If so, what are the differences, and how should those differences be reflected in the qualifications and training expected of ministry leaders?

4. If missionaries plant a church in a foreign land, should the missionaries automatically become the leaders and managers of that church? If so, for how long?

5. If missionaries raise disciples in a foreign land whose culture is significantly different from their own, to what extent should the disciples be expected to adopt the lifestyle, attitudes, and values of the missionaries? For example, should they be expected to speak, dress and act as the missionaries do? Evangelize as they do? Marry as they do? Raise children as they do? Relate to the broader culture as they do? Attend meetings and events whose time, format and agenda are determined by the missionaries? Who should decide such issues, and how should they get decided?

6. If missionaries come to a nation, community, or campus that already has a Christian heritage and a significant number of Christian churches and organizations, what should the missionaries be doing? Should they be setting up their own independent ministries? If so, how should the leaders of existing churches and organizations feel about this? What is the benefit of having a ministry run by foreign missionaries operating independently of domestic churches rather than partnering with them?

7. Is it reasonable to expect that most or all of the committed members of a UBF chapter will be actively engaged in campus evangelism, fishing, Bible teaching, etc.? If so, then how can that be reconciled with the teachings of the New Testament about the variety of roles and spiritual gifts within the Body of Christ? If not, then what should our members be doing, and how will the value of their work be acknowledged?

8. UBF in Uganda has been operating a medical mission. Lately, some have been suggesting that UBF take new initiatives to build schools, training institutes, and so on. How does that work fit in to our understanding of the Great Commission? Are works of compassion to serve the local community something that we want to encourage because they have intrinsic value? Are they important only if they somehow contribute to our work of campus evangelism? Or are they seen as a potential distraction and hindrance to campus evangelism?

9. Most UBF chapters are financially self-supporting and autonomous; major decisions are often made by a single chapter director. How should a chapter director be held accountable to his members and to the larger organization? When conflicts arise between members and their director, how should those conflicts be resolved? When conflicts arise between local chapters, or between a local chapter and a national or regional director, how should those conflicts be resolved?

10. Does UBF have any accountability to the greater Body of Christ? If so, how should that accountability be implemented and realized?

11. What are the criteria by which the success of a ministry is judged? Are we mostly concerned about size and growth in numbers? What metrics should we use to evaluate the health of a UBF chapter?

12. What are we to conclude from the recent painful events in India? Were mistakes made? Are there lessons to be learned about leadership, conflict resolution, etc.?

13. Six years ago, we were given the prayer topic to double the ministry by 2010. With few exceptions, that has not happened in our North American chapters. Should this be regarded as a failure? If so, is it a failue of the leadership or the membership? Is it a sign that God is no longer blessing us? A sign that we need to rethink and retool? Or should we just ignore the fact and move on? (Memo to the next General Director: Ignoring this and moving on might be the easiest course of action. But it has a significant cost. It sends the message that the General Director’s prayer topics are just suggestions and don’t have to be taken seriously.)

14. As UBF approaches the 50 year mark, our attention has been turned to raising the next generation of leaders. Many have been talking about how to pass on the heritage, legacy and vision of UBF to the next generation. The term “pass on” suggests that the legacy is already fully understood, and the task is merely to educate, train and inspire the next generation with that legacy. Is it reasonable for one generation to decide what the direction and vision of the next generation ought to be? When, how and by whom should the direction of any given generation be decided?

15. UBF in Korea was not controlled, managed or funded by western missionaries. It was a self-supporting, independent and indigenous student gospel movement whose message and vision inspired Korean students. If we are to be faithful to the roots and heritage of UBF, shouldn’t we be making it our top priority to indigenize the UBF ministry in each nation, allowing the native leaders to find and develop the unique message that will inspire students? If so, what steps can be taken to move decisively in that direction?

16. If this is not the correct time, place or manner to raise difficult questions like these, then exactly when, where and how should they be raised?

Those are my questions for the next General Director. What are yours?

(original post: http://www.ubfriends.net/archive2015/2011/02/02/qu...)

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