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News & Announcements


Sean Cho

A question

I came to the United States of America in 2013, so I cannot say that I know North America UBF ministry well and admit that what I am presenting may be my own misunderstanding. Living in the USA for the past four years, a question arose in my mind: “How can UBF chapters be a healthy Christian community, fulfilling Missio Dei (God’s Mission) in North America?”

Significance of UBF ministry in North America

UBF is the second largest evangelical missionary-sending agency in South Korea, which sent out more than 1,500 missionaries to 95 countries in the world.[1] A book entitled, The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America, which is about UBF missionaries in North America, was published by Rebecca Kim.[2] Also the Korean evangelical movement in USA was reported by Christianity Today in 2015.[3] The significance of UBF ministry in North American society is that it is a reverse mission, which means that Korea that received the gospel from North American missionaries and then became a nation that sends missionaries to the United States of America. There are other reverse mission models. A striking difference of UBF mission from them is that UBF missionaries have clear purpose of evangelizing North American college students, while missionaries from other organizations mostly work for immigrant churches and their own ethnical groups. Therefore, UBF’s cross-cultural college campus mission can be said to be a special calling of God.  

Controversies about UBF ministry in North America

Even though UBF has sound evangelical doctrines based on the Bible, sometimes it is misunderstood as a Korean cult and criticized by some people.[4] Why do we face these controversies? John Armstrong pointed out that it is mainly due to two factors: Korean culture and ingrown leadership.[5] These two factors cannot explain the complexity of the problem, but I agree that the cultural disparities between North America and Korea have been a major cause of our missional difficulties. Some may say that if we obey God’s word, we can overcome cultural conflicts. I admit that it is true. Nevertheless, it is very necessary that Korean missionaries make efforts to understand American culture, and American members do the same to understand Korean culture for the purpose of building up the body of Christ through genuine Christian unity in diversity.

Identity as a multicultural church

Some people ask, “Is UBF a Korean church?” None of UBF’s Korean missionaries would agree that UBF is a Korean church, because they came to America not to establish an immigrant church, but to establish an American church. Then, my question is: “Is UBF an American church?” I dare to say that our reality is not an American church, because most of our chapters have 60 percent or more of Koreans. Then, how do we identify ourselves? There is a twenty percent rule that says that it takes 20 percent or more of another group to have their voices heard and affect cultural changes on an organization.[6] Thus, if any single ethnical group is not more than 80 percent of their members, it is defined as a multi-ethnic congregation.[7] If we have an expectation of establishing an American church, then American members need to be more than 80 percent according to the 20 percent rule. But in reality it may not be possible. I think that we have to find out an alternative identity of our ministry. I did a case study about LA UBF, which is composed of 66 percent Koreans, 19 percent white Americans, 7 percent Hispanic Americans, and 8 percent other ethnical groups. No single ethnical group is more than 80 percent, which means that UBF is a multi-ethnic or multi-cultural congregation. Therefore, our current identity is not a Korean church, nor an American church, but a multi-cultural church.

A vision of a multicultural church

The United States of America is a multicultural society, but at the same time it is a very segregated society. Martin Luther King Jr. claimed that the most segregated hour in America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning, because most Christians go to their ethnic churches.[8] This reality has not changed yet. A research from 2015 reveals that 86 percent of Christians in America go to churches with one predominant racial group.[9] Pastor Ron Ward said that when a seminary professor visited Chicago UBF, he was very impressed by multiethnicity of our church. I think that a multicultural church is a part of God’s vision for UBF ministry in North America. God’s vision is revealed in Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” God’s vision is that every nation, tribe, people and language come to his temple and worship together the Triune God in the Spirit and in truth. God is fulfilling his vision through UBF ministry in North America.

Building up a genuine multicultural church

However, a genuine multicultural church does not depend on the racial composition of its members, but on the real transformation of its culture. We need true humility, gentleness, patience, and love (Eph 4:2). We have to throw out a sense of racial superiority and discrimination. We have to welcome all college students no matter what their ethnicity is. The majority group has to respect the minority groups in making decisions and participating in service. I think that we have many advantages to be a multicultural church as we serve college ministry. First, college students are very familiar with a multicultural environment. Colleges in America are multicultural. For example, the demography of UCLA is 32 percent Asian, 26 percent non-Hispanic white, 21 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent Afro-Americans.[10] Second, college students do not have a language problem. One of the big difficulties of multicultural ministry is the language barrier. But college students do not have any problem with speaking in English. Third, our majority group constituting of Korean missionaries has an attitude to serve other minority groups, for they came to America not to dominate, but to serve. 

UBF’s influence on American society

I have a dream for a genuine multicultural church that manifests the multiformity and diversity of God. My desire in God is that multicultural UBF community may be true agents of racial reconciliation and authentic diversity by showing unity in cultural diversity to North American society. It can be fulfilled only through the work of the Holy Spirit who is the main agent of God’s mission. 

By Juan Seo

[1] Sang-ch ’ŏl Mun, “The Protestant Missionary Movement and Korea: Current Growth and Development,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 32, no. 2 (2008): 59, accessed March 11, 2017, (Publisher’s URL:);

[2] Kim, Rebecca Y., The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[3] Rob Moll, "Korean Evangelicals on Steroids," Christianity Today  (June, 2015).

[4] “Cult Thrown Out of National Association of Evangelicals,” Cult News, last modified April 2, 2004, accessed March 11, 2017,

[5] John Armstrong, “The Korean Revival and the Ministry of UBF,” John H. Armstrong, last modified January 27, 2007, accessed March 11, 2017,

[6] Michael O. Emerson, “A New Day for Multiracial Congregations”, Yale University,

[7] Mark Lau Branson and Juan Francisco Martínez, Churches, Cultures & Leadership : A Practical Theology of Congregations and Ethnicities (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2011), 91.

[8] See Youtube video,

[9] Ed Stetzer, “The Most Segregated Hour of the Week?”, Christianity Today (Jan. 2015),

[10] “Enrollment Demographics, Fall 2016”, UCLA Academic Planning and Budget, accessed March 15, 2017,