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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Grateful. Still reflecting on the letters that I've received from classmates and students that have come before me and after me. Never imagined all that God would have in store for me. Lots of humbling things but in the midst of them, there were literally thousands upon thousands of daily decisions and choices to be faithful. That's what matters. Seen or unseen. Noticed or unnoticed. You do your best and sometimes you stumble and fumble along but nevertheless, seeking to be faithful.

Also, you know you're getting old when your school honors you with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Lol. 47 is the new 27. Or something like that. Here's to the next 47. 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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