Eugene Cho

pastoral paradox

Death and Life?  It doesn’t surprise me to read statistics that one might view as contradicting statements.  There are ample stats that testify to the “dangers” of being a pastor.  On the other hand, a recent article reports that according to surveys, clergy report the highest level of satisfaction.  Huh?  Both statistics actually make complete sense to me

According to that survey, the top five professions are clergy, physical therapists, firefighters, education administrators, and painters/sculptors:

Clergy ranked by far the most satisfied and the most generally happy of 198 occupations.

Eighty-seven percent of clergy said they were “very satisfied” with their work, compared with an average 47 percent for all workers. Sixty-seven percent reported being “very happy,” compared with an average 33 percent for all workers.

Jackson Carroll, Williams professor emeritus of religion and society at Duke Divinity School, found similarly high satisfaction when he studied Protestant and Catholic clergy, despite relatively modest salaries and long hours.

“They look at their occupation as a calling,” Carroll said. “A pastor does get called on to enter into some of the deepest moments of a person’s life, celebrating a birth and sitting with people at times of illness or death. There’s a lot of fulfillment.” [read the entire article]

So, while pastoral ministry is at times exhausting, draining, depressing, and overwhelming, it’s also meaningful and fulfilling.  This past Sunday, our church family and pastors had the joyous privilege of encouraging, praying, and baptizing several people.  Each of their stories blessed me in unique ways.  Here, I’d like to share a portion of “Rachel’s” story:

My faith in God is nothing of my own doing. I am probably the chief saboteur of my own relationship with the Lord Christ. Rather than upholding pillars of a cathedral around my heart, which is St. Teresa of Avila’s beautiful analogy of our soulish vessel for the Holy Spirit, I’d say most days I struggle to keep a cardboard cover. I get blown around a lot, by the elements, by other people’s opinions of me and of the universe, by the un-ignorable state of injustice that is worse than a multi-drug resistant infection.  

I came to know Christ through a few individuals who took notice of my awkward struggle to construct an identity all my own. They say true friends are the people to whom you can say the things you’d rather not have to say, and they are those who tell you things you’d rather not have to hear. I’ve been unexpectedly blessed by angels who came out of the woodwork to walk with me through some dark times, and those conversations tell the true story of my faith. But like John said, “if every one were written down, the whole world would not have the room for the books that would be written.” 

My own stubbornness and arrogance are to blame for those dark nights of the soul. Loneliness is a bitch. By my sophomore year at SPU, I had pretty much encapsulated myself into a cocoon of pain—not of growth—more like an isolated tomb that still managed to smile away others’ concern. A dear professor of mine saw through the veneer, and pulled me aside more than once to minister to my hurting. He shared that on the day of his own conversion, a professor told him, “I am glad you are feeling this pain. You need to feel it some more.”  So I did, and it was a refining fire kind of good in my life.  I am a scientist, I am a philosopher, I am a comic, a cynic, I am a leader, a face on campus, and a very ugly sinner. These identities have made it very hard to accept the message of the cross, to truly believe that on top of all that schlock, I am also beloved, forgiven, and worth the sacrifice of death to be fully reconciled. I will profess as a living paradox who is tormented by the mystery of God’s salvation that only Jesus is freedom.  [read her entire story]

So, while pastoral ministry can be @*#$@…what a blessing.  May you also be engaged – not in a perfect job [since we know it doesn’t exist] but one that gives you pleasure, purpose and meaning – so that ultimately, you may honor God.  Sola Dei Gloria.

Question: Are you currently engaged in something that gives you pleasure, purpose, and meaning?  If not, what would that be?

baptism.jpg

Filed under: church, emerging church, ministry, religion

6 Responses

  1. Karen says:

    For me, it’s not one set thing. I just want to always be around people and reflect Christ and his grace somehow.

  2. LK. says:

    In being an artist, there is little return and recognition (unless you get really lucky and your name is Picasso). The hours are long, pay is virtually non-existent, and there is a lot of time spent in isolation. There is also a lot of misunderstanding, self-doubt, and lonliness, because sometimes none or very few people understand and validate you, and often times, an artist’s sense of worth is heavily constructed by the feedback and approval of other’s. Often times it feels like your efforts are going nowhere, and sometimes you wonder if it’s all really worth it.
    But when you feel convicted by Jesus with passionate vision, all the things above seem so meaningless in comparison. Feeling a sense of calling brings and keeps you so deeply connected to life and God, and true meaning is found in something greater than yourself. Even when the fruit of your labor seems invisible in our linear minds, there is reward in knowing that there is a larger picture in which God knows what he’s doing, and you are blessed to be an agent of it.

  3. Dan K. says:

    The problem, Pastor Eugene, is I don’t have a clue and I just want to find out what I’m passionate about.

  4. Blake says:

    I’m in similar boat as Dan. I know that I have passions, (People, Flying, Loving, etc.) but finding some work/avocation to be passionate about is my current challenge.

  5. Teresa says:

    At World Aid, our mission is “to give hope to the oppressed.” I am passionate about that mission, but the part God gave me to play, is very small-I’m a bookkeeper. What’s to be passionate about? My mission is to help get resources to people who actually get to be face to face with those who need the hope, need the medical care, and need the food, and need what folks who send in their checks here help to provide. Every time I do my bookkeeper thing, I get to give thanks to God for every one of the folks here who get to play a part in giving what they had, in caring, in using their skills to help feed the hungry, and encourage those in need on the other side of the world. I get to see the good in people and that while none of us can fix everything in some of the ugly places in the world, if we all do what God gives us to do, we can do SOMETHING. I pray for those who send resources, and I give thanks each week that even bookkeepers can use their skills for serving God.

  6. e cho says:

    thanks teresa for sharing that.

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One Day’s Wages

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Collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion
kəˌlabəˈrāSH(ə)n/
noun

the action of working with someone or a group of others  to produce or create something.

May we hold our logos, egos, and tribalism have their place. May we hold them loosely for they too shall pass. May we collaborate for the sake of the greater Kingdom of God ... which endures forever. As we honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., don't forget the God behind the man. The one true God who deposited this dream into MLK is still speaking to us today. Are we listening?

Be courageous. Be brave.

Being invited by the King Family to speak at the MLK worship service at Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2016 remains one of the most unexpected honors of my life. On the right is his daughter, Dr. Bernice King and his sister, Dr. Christine King Farris. Walking throughstreet markets in different parts of the world is the best. Soaking in the culture. Listening to the local language and music. Enjoying the amazing cuisine. Meeting new friends. Praying for the Gospel to penetrate. #ChiangRai Blessed be the local, indigenous leaders for it is they who live in the very communities they seek to love. For it is they who understand their context and culture...better than a Westerner ever will. For it is they who will continue to tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love when visitors like me leave.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for @onedayswages...to listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

There's such painful and poignant irony in pursuing justice...unjustly. One way we do this is when we reduce people into projects...and thus, propagating the dangerous power dynamic of US as heroes and THEM as helpless and exclusively as victims. So dangerous.

Human trafficking is not just an issue. It’s ultimately, about people. Depending on the sources of statistics, there are anywhere from 29-40 million people in some form of forced labor and slavery, including sex trafficking.

And one thing I’ve learned, personally, is how easy it is easy to reduce people into projects which is why mutuality, reciprocity, and dignity are so vital. These are critical because God never intended people to be reduced into projects.

We forget this and we indirectly foster a culture and system of victimization or worse, the pornification of the poor or in this case, "the trafficked." And when you start dehumanizing the poor or trafficked, you have no genuine desire to build relationships with them. You believe or build stereotypes in broad strokes, singular, black and white narratives that have been told about them. You believe the lie that they have nothing to teach us and are incapable of contributing to the larger society.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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