Eugene Cho

105 million dollars

our church’s leadership team and pastors have been intensely busy in the past month reviewing this past year’s budget and simultaneously putting together a budget proposal to our church membership.  it is true that one’s budget should be seen as a ‘moral document’ (jim wallis).  i’ve always believed that one of the most substantive ways to discern a person’s values, worldview, and depth was by asking to see their personal budget.  perhaps, it is for this reason that one of “the don’t do’s” in life or ministry is to be too inquisitive about folks’ personal finances.  two commitments my family and i have made to help us remain aligned with our stewardship values are 1) to share our 1040 tax report with at least one other person or family, and 2) to publicly share (or make available) our ‘charitable giving’ summary with our church membership.  the latter is something that the entire leadership team and pastors do together – not with the motivation to boast but to model an attempt to live generously and convey to our church community that we are not going to ask them to do something that we ourselves will not strive to do. 

i still recall the first six months of our church when we began meeting at the vineyard church in the seattle u-district.  they were very generous but coming up with the $200 monthly rent was honestly, difficult at times.  during that season, i was trying to feed my family working as a part-time custodian; seattle was experiencing the painful reality of the dot-com craze and implosion; folks were getting laid off left and right; quest was then not collecting regular offering; and we were lucky to have a dozen people join us for bible study.  as i look back, i’m humbled that God had chosen to use a handful of people to not only bring together a church community but what i believe to be a mini-movement within the larger movement of the Kingdom of God.  it’s taken us some time but it feels good to finally give our pastors and staff a decent raise, to provide medical benefits to our full-time employees, and to remain committed to appropriating about 25% of our income to churchplanting and global missions. 

while feeling pretty positive about our church’s budget and stewardship philosophy, i was stunned to come across news of a megachurch in florida that has recently broken a record for the most funds raised (pledged) in a capital campaign.  i have no idea what they were raising the funds for because i was simply stunned by the figure:  they raised in pledge the amount of 105 million dollars!

…Calvary Chapel in Ft. Lauderdale has received pledges totaling $105 million, believed to be the largest amount every raised by a US church…Chicago’s Willow Creek Church…raised more than $80 million in the 2000 Chapter 2 campaign… [full article]

here’s my commentary:  that’s a lot of money

Filed under: christianity, church, emerging church

5 Responses

  1. David Park says:

    Love your commitment to openness and putting your money where your mouth is. I hope it is something that many pastors and leaders would be encouraged to do in order to live authentic lives. Thanks for your example and your leadership.

  2. Blake says:

    Ditto to the previous post. 🙂 I deeply admire and find inspiration in your genuinity. (Is that even a word? Heh, I guess it is now. 😉 )

  3. e cho says:

    thanks. trying my best. but it’s amazing how selfish i can still be. i guess it’s a lifelong journey to learn how to be more giving and generous.

  4. Mark says:

    I don’t know if I like reading this or not. I must admit that hearing a church raise 105 mil makes me feel frustrated that we have struggled to come up with 150K. I like you have always transparent with my salary and giving trying to make the same statement “we wont ask you to do something we wont do” but I find that as people come into our community who have never been part of sucha thing as church /faith communities faithful giving is incredibly hard to grasp (especially when they are typically living at 120% of their income) . I have a friend who always tells me that if you aren’t struggling with sexual relationships, heresy, and finances in a congregation then your dealing with the wrong people. – your milage may vary 🙂

  5. m@ says:

    I agree, Mark — and even more ironic to your last sentence is that many people keep financial struggles closest to their chest. I think I’ve been in many a situation where a pastor would give a story about how someone would tithe and, as a result, some sort of monetary blessing would come about, saving him/her from financial ruin. A great story, but it sorta distorts the purpose of giving “with good cheer”, doesn’t it? For someone who doesn’t entirely understand the concept of tithing, he/she may respond to that by saying “why should I tithe? I’m not in dire straits!”

    That said, if we really do adhere to the belief that God will not give us more than we can handle, then whatever needs your church has/will have will be met in full, even if the bottom line doesn’t reflect that.

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In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
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on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
is the great temptation 
of our times.

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