Eugene Cho

all hell broke loose

“…What, we wondered, is going on in all those churches? What are they saying? What are they doing? What are they plotting?…”

The title is not a joke.  We received what I perceive to be the best press about our church – ever.  Bar none.  We’ve had our share of media from the local press.  Last week, there was a solid article and great pic of the merger story.  This past December, there was a dedicated “portrait” of my personal story  in the popular magazine insert called Pacific Northwest in the Sunday paper.  But this morning, someone sent me some info of a great article from The Stranger – the premier rebellious, hilarious, provocative, alternative, and very popular weekly newspaper [umm – in some circles].  They advertise themselves as the “only newspaper in Seattle.”  [It’s a good paper – minus the raunchy over the top sex ads near the back of the magazine.]

Seattle is infamously known as the most “unchurched city in America.”  The Northwest is the most unchurched region in America.  But it isn’t godless or spiritual.  It’s a beautiful place – full of life, questions, conversations, and such.  What I love the most about living in this city and this region is that you have to earn the right to have your voice in the larger marketplace of thoughts, ideas, and philosophies. 

Anyway, the Stranger staff sent 31 of their staff to visit 31 churches this past Sunday and they wrote up the most brutal and simultaneously, hilarious “reviews” of these churches.  Yes, all hell broke loose according to these authors.   I am so excited – honestly – that Quest actually made the list!  I feel so cool.  Like, I’ve finally been accepted as a true Seattle-ite.  Ahh, but this again confirms my point that people – more than you ever know – and more than they want to admit – are watching the Church.  They are watching to see our convictions, motivations, hypocrisy, compassion, or in our case, “insipid worship.”

What did they write?  Well, here are some of my favorite quotes: 

“With charges of clerical sexual abuse still being leveled at churches great and small, you might think a Christian pastor would err on the side of not encouraging congregants to hug their neighbors past their comfort levels. The getting-to-know-you process? More like the getting-to-sue-you process.”  [Thanks, Leah!]

“…sort of Mars Hill wannabe.” [OK.  I admit, that one actually hurt.]

“…Interbay voted itself out of existence and handed all of its property—its homely sanctuary (picture the Brady Bunch’s living room pressed into service as a church).” [Come back in September after our renovation.]

“There was some insipid singing, led by an insipid worship band, and then a sermon preached by what I took to be Interbay’s soon-to-be unemployed pastor.”  [Ray, welcome to the larger marketplace!]

“Then Quest Church’s pastor, Eugene Cho, tore a loaf of bread in half, we took Communion, and then we prayed. [I don’t want to sound defensive here but I want everyone to know that I also did pour wine as well.  I promise.  I did…seriously, I did.]

[Read the full article here.  We are review #31 – the best for last!]

I love Seattle.  I really do.  I want to be here until I retire at 40.

On another note, for those that were wondering, I finally heard back from the Seattle Times about their open columnist position on their “team of 4 or 5 religious voices.”  I was really hoping to the get the nod and after months of waiting, I thought I’d get it.  But, no go.  My one complaint:  I just wished they sent me an email.  Receiving that letter – that ominous standard thin letter with the vibe of “Thank you but we regret to inform you…” just reminded me way too much of a former season in my life.

Maybe I should ask the Stranger if they’ll hire me.  Seriously, I’d write for them for free.

Filed under: church, culture, emerging church, quest church, religion, seattle

32 Responses

  1. James says:

    You first make it on Angry Asian Man and now you get on the Stranger!
    How cool is that?

    Congrats…I guess.

  2. david says:

    your double negatives are confusing me! i think you mean either “most UN-churched” or “least churched”, right?

    regardless, i thought the article was hilarious and insightful.

  3. steve lewis says:

    I read the article this morning. Funny stuff in there. Overall, though, I found it disappointing, because with 30 different writers, it seemed like they were all competing with each other for the funniest line, and several of the churches they were supposedly reviewing barely got mentioned.

    My personal favorite line from the article was from a mega-prosperity-church review: “I’m an atheist, but [church name] brings Bible imagery to my mind. Standing in all the gaudy sound and tacky fury, all I can think of is the perverted temple that Jesus Christ ripped to pieces with his bare f#$%ing hands.”

  4. Wayne Park says:

    This line had to make me laugh:
    “In today’s emerging churches, you lift both hands up toward heaven, arms out, in what looks like a sort of double-armed fascist salute.”

  5. jessie says:

    interesting article. i thought there were some accurate insight, although it seemed that the primary focus of the writers was to be as snarky as possible…

  6. jklam says:

    those guys at the stranger are hilarious =)

  7. e cho says:

    david: yeah, sorry for the confusion. you know what i meant to say and corrected it.

    steve: well, i have a feeling they were told: “go to these churches. rip on them and make it as funny as possible.” that’s how i read it and thought it was hilarious.

  8. Jason says:

    Funny, just finished that article and then I see you’ve blogged it! My favorite line: “In an era when Christianity is marketed as a sort of rock concert meets Gatorade commercial…” Brings too mind so well the peppy, trying-to-be-hip, youth groups of my teenage years.

    I found it interesting how much press communion got in the reviews — it seems the Eucharist is seen as a wierd, still somewhat magical or at least mysterious, remnant of a bygone era. It’s what what determines if you actually did church. In fact the few aspects of the church that got positive nods are all things many churches seem to be outdoing themselves to put behind them: big, talented choirs (First African Methodist), grand old buildings (St. Mark’s), and you could even put communion on the list since so many churches minimize it.

  9. […] Best Press About Quest 14 06 2007 OK, I gotta rip this one off of Eugene.. […]

  10. e cho says:

    wayne: i like what you wrote on your blog as well.

    my comment there:
    wayne: my take on the whole article is that they sent 30 of their staff to go out the visit their list of churches and to do whatever they can to outwit and outrip one another. i read that article with that in mind and so laughed like crazy.

    but i do appreciate your thoughts about the aroma of christ. what encourages me about the article is that it confirms to me again that whether people like to admit it or not, they’re watching you [or smelling you]…

  11. Ben says:

    This was one of the letters to the editors of the Stranger and addressed to the mastermind of the article, Dan Savage.

    Dan, your whole religion-bashing schtick really gets old. You are as abrasive and intolerant as the people you profess to hate so much. With a Catholic mother, one would think that you would have deeper insight on these matters. Clearly, that is not the case. Your blather is as hard to listen to as an O’Reilly Factor marathon. Speaking of him, I’ll never forget that deer-in-the headlights interview of yours a few years back. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about – you are capable of conveying an intelligent perspective on these matters, but instead, you seem to let your anger get in the way and you come off like a hate-filled dipshit. Instead of being the anti-Falwell, you could be a much more persuasive public figure. You certainly have a broad enough audience to pull that off. It is just too easy for a lot of middle-ground people to write you off. Good perspectives; bad tactics.

    Your Friend,
    The Devil

  12. Jennifer says:

    Does it make me a bad person that I think the funniest line in the whole article was about Mark Driscoll : “Where’s that round-faced dude who blames infidelity on fat wives?” 🙂

  13. Santosh says:

    The coolest thing about all of this is that the writer was Dan Savage – if it is the same Dan Savage I am thinking of – he has a very sexually explicit advice column that runs in many papers around North America – including up here in Vancouver Canada.

    Savage was in your church – that is so cool!

  14. leochen says:

    Maybe it’s because I missed two Sundays at church cuz of work… but my first though was… (please pardon me)… that I wanted to beat the schits out of each one of them little @#%!. OK… I wouldn’t really do it… but man… stupid kids! It’s so hard to love people you just rather beat the crap out of… =)

  15. e cho says:

    jennifer: naughty, naughty. 😛
    santosh: yes, it’s than dan savage.
    leo: easy there. we need your hands for photographs. you know on the most part, i thought most of the 31 reviews were pretty funny but there were couple downright mean stuff. as couple folks emailed me, the comment about “interbay’s soon to be unemployed pastor” was simply mean. i checked in with ray and his response, “at least they didn’t say i was insipid…”

  16. the 'insipid' g... says:

    i think i finally found the perfect band name… ‘the insipids’!!! 🙂

  17. m@ says:

    RayBart is the bomb.🙂

    Jennifer, that line and the dialogue one staffer had with an elderly woman on the cougar face-ripping scenario got me rolling.

  18. gar says:

    Funny article, but I think “The Stranger” too often is under the mistaken impression that constant insults and drug references are equivalent to edgy, good writing. “Seattle Weekly” is still the better free paper here in Seattle, and yep, that’s my professional opinion (BA Editorial Journalism, UW).

    The article’s concept was nice (regular folks reviewing church); execution was lackluster (the Baha’i reviewer didn’t even find the church!).

  19. Daniel Azuma says:

    George pointed me at the article this afternoon. Absolutely hilarious! Congrats for getting ripped on with the best (and worst) of them. I’ll be looking for “The Insipids” first CD!

  20. Rebecca says:

    After reading the full article, I can’t decide if I should be amused or insulted. Does this mean I have to cut down on the fascist saluting? I actually would like God to pick me up and hug me, thank you very much.

  21. layguy says:

    What ruffles me is that you actually get offended by the Mars Hill similarity – This shows arrogance on your part. A bunch of misfits write about the churches in Seattle, ok tongue in cheek – but dissing things like communion etc and one thing you like to highlight is that you were “hurt” by being compared to mars Hill.

    C’mon Eugene.

  22. […] never met, but still consider a friend) and pastor of Quest Church in Seattle sent me this link. Basically The Stranger-which is the alternative newspaper in Seattle sent reporters to 30 […]

  23. Jacob says:

    Hey Eugene – great you guys made the stranger’s strange list! What a read man – from start to finish the article in its entirety is pretty fascinating. Sure it’s the stranger… and its coming from a pretty sharp angle, but it is what it is.

    No use in attacking these guys even if the writers feel free to hit below the belt and entertain the world at the churches expense. I am sure most people in Seattle know what the stranger is, and what bias they bring to their press. Still, still we need to try and have ears to hear what they are saying and eyes to see beyond their nonsense.

    About the mars hill thing… well just be who you guys are. And keep doing what your doing… obviously God has knit you into your community and is doing his thing. Peace until the next time.

  24. e cho says:

    layguy: dude, i’m sorry to have ruffled you. i know that you’re a huge fan of driscoll. i have alot of respect for him as well. like you, i have defended mark in the past.
    the comment was written tongue in cheek but as you might know, mars hill and driscoll is a polarizing church/figure. while i have a great deal of respect for the ministry that they do, it’s not a good thing [at least in seattle] to be grouped with mars hill – especially if that’s not our intent. in addition, there are some distinct theological differences. we’re all in one team for sure but want to also let folks know that we’re different as well.
    hope all is well is australia…

  25. layguy says:

    Hi Eugene,

    Thanks for writing to me – twice. As you’ve checked out my blog, you can see that I like Driscoll. I like his passion and purpose. And I am over other Christians bashing him on the net.

    At the same time, I am willing to learn from you as you are in the city of Seattle. I am interested by what you mean Driscoll and Mars Hill being polarizing? Also I’d like to know what theological differences you have from Mars Hill.

    I’m asking this out of curiosity and don’t have any sinister intentions. I respect you for what you do and the fact that you take the effort to communicate with those who communicate with you.

  26. e cho says:

    laydude: i’ll email you offline.

  27. layguy says:

    ok – BTW – It’s LayGuy🙂 Don’t like “dude” as it’s not that popular in Australia.🙂

  28. […] newspaper [Seattle Weekly].  As readers of this blog know, he authored what I thought to be a witty review of Quest Church in the paper’s last edition.  I was surprised that he posted my personal email and his […]

  29. layguy says:

    Hi Eugene,
    Wanna see what they think of you at that misfit of a paper…
    http://slog.thestranger.com/2007/06/quest_church_good_for_women_bad_for_gays
    And what still sucks is that you’re offended at Mars Hill. Grow a spine and stick up for what you believe in and tackle these misfits head on.

  30. e cho says:

    Lay dude,
    thanks for the love brother.

  31. […] Links: All Hell Broke Loose; Listening; Gracious as All F#*k; and The Gay […]

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One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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