Eugene Cho

the honeymoon is over

About three months ago, an amazing “miracle” took place.  Interbay Church – a 65 year old, traditional, older, and mostly Anglo church  – decided to “close” down and join Quest Church – a 6 year old, emerging, urban, and multiethnic churchplant.  In closing their church and merging with Quest, Interbay gave to Quest ALL of their assets which includes a church building and small warehouse conservatively valued at $6 million dollars. Even more miraculously, nearly all of their 50 adults – thus far – have decided to become part of Quest.

You can read some previous entries about this: Quest + Interbay = 1 church [pre-decision],  We Are One [post decision], and Seattle PI article on Merger.

Here’s another article that was recently published in the Companion Magazine:

At first glance, Cho and Bartel are an unlikely pair. Cho, thirty-six, wears chunky-framed glasses, dresses fashionably, and as pastor of an up-and coming multiethnic emerging church made up of twenty- and thirtysomethings, he’s been quoted often in Seattle’s two newspapers, the Times and the Post-Intelligencer. Bartel, sixty-one, is a pastor-shepherd in the truest sense of the word…

Make no mistake about it, however, Cho and Bartel are tight. They have spent many hours in prayer and conversation over the decision to unite their ministries. They speak in almost reverent tones of each other. It is clear in an interview in May that they enjoy each other’s company.

“We’ve been dating way too long,” says Cho. “My wife is a little jealous of Pastor Ray. I did tell her, though, that when the merger happens in June, we’re not kissing.” [Read full article]

Almost three months have passed and I get frequent emails and questions, internally and externally, asking in some form or another: “How’s it going?”

Well, it’s been going well – on the most part.  But, let me be honest.  It hasn’t always been easy and it’s painful to see some folks that are really struggling.  It’s been a challenge but the benefits and pluses far outweigh the negatives.  The two churches are were VERY different and that’s both the beauty and challenge.  On the most part, I would say that about 80% of the church community are flowing with things.  However, there’s about 10% from the former Interbay “Community” that naturally and understandably are struggling with this process called c-h-a-n-g-e.  About 10%+ from Quest are struggling because returning to the “traditional” building from our cafe space/quest ethos exemplifies much of what they fled away from – “institutional religion.”

Another way to put it is that “the honeymoon’s over.”  The pastoral staff have tried to be pastorally sensitive – especially to the older Interbay community but more change is coming.  Before the churches decided to come together, the leadership team at Quest clearly explained to Interbay some of the change that would need to take place.  And so, that time has come.  This upcoming Sunday, we’ll begin 27 days of renovation.  While there won’t be any major changes, people will be walking into a dramatically different looking sanctuary on Sunday, September 23.  Here are some of the renovations that will take place. *We’re still receiving donations if you’ve got a few thousand dollars you’d like to give away as a tax-deductible donation.

If Quest folks [meaning the WHOLE church] are reading this blog, thanks both for your courage and your patience. Yes, the honeymoon’s over but even deeper days are ahead.  I sincerely believe that.  We can soon stop worrying about stuff and focus on the heart of Quest:  Soul, Community, Justice and Compassion, and Global Presence. 

merger4.jpg

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pictures by Leo Chen Photography

Filed under: church, ministry, quest church, religion

11 Responses

  1. Jerry says:

    Eugene:

    I’m always encouraged to hear these stories and only hope that they’ll happen more frequently.

  2. Matt says:

    Its a small point, but Interbay, though older and mostly white (more Swedish than Anglo I would guess) is also “urban” in a geographical sense (though I understand one can use the adjective in a broader sense as well).

  3. Jennifer says:

    I think this is a very good merger, and I have done everything to put my heart into it. I am so very glad we are where we are.

    But, as someone in the 10% on the Quest side, I can honestly say this has been a hard transition for me.

    It just takes a while for trust to grow. I know that’s probably true on both sides🙂 For me, finding Quest was a real breath of fresh air and – I’m just being vulnerable here – it has been frightening to think about it becoming the kind of modern, Evangelical (in the bad sense), stuffy church that I’ve walked away from.

    I think this is going to become a beautiful thing, but we’ve got to walk together, and come to trust each other for a while. And that will just take some time. I’m glad we’re here, and I’m glad for this process, and am looking forward to the future together.

    Eugene, I do want to thank you for your sensitive leadership in all of this. That has been a real blessing.

  4. DS says:

    Eugene,
    Honestly, I think the hardest aspect of the transition has been the preaching. I like Pastor Ray alot and am excited to have him as part of the larger staff since everyone is so young. I know I speak for others when I say that it’s been tough to not have you teaching regularly. I was glad to read last Sunday that you’ll be back teaching regularly soon. Peace out.

  5. Jennifer says:

    DS,

    I have really enjoyed getting to know Ray a little bit through kid’s camp and other things. I like him and respect him. But, oh man, I am right there with about missing Eugene as doing the main teaching. I am anxious to get back on track with that.

  6. e cho says:

    we’re trying to honor the “transition plan” to have pastor ray teach about half for the first six months. with so many new folks and transition, it’s been intentional to get the other pastors/staff exposed as well. i’m excited to be teaching regularly as well. my hands and arms are starting to get out of shape.

  7. Blake says:

    I too am rather stoked about what our beautiful community will look like several month’s from now, even moreso 5 years from now.🙂

    Sounds like I’m in the minority here, but I’ve really been enjoying Pastor Ray’s teaching. Not that I enjoy your teaching any less P.E. I just really find Pastor Ray to be a good teacher.

  8. e cho says:

    We are very blessed to have good teachers like Ray and others on staff. Very blessed.

  9. Merging with Emerging

    Inspirerende historie om en 65 år gammel tradisjonell kirke som slår seg sammen med en seks år gammel urban, multietnisk kirke. Det er tydeligvis mulig. (via)

  10. Rick L in Tx says:

    Eugene, I dropped by after reading your post in Jesus Creed. Why don’t you invite Ray to do a guest blog on yours? I agree with you that it would be a valued addition to the conversation. If he’s hesitant, tell him Rick L in Texas thinks he ought to do it too!

  11. Jason Powell says:

    Hi Eugene,

    My name is Jason Powell and I live in Phoenix, AZ. I am poised to become the interim senior pastor at a struggling, small, 10 year old, Covenant church plant here in Phoenix. I will probably be facing many of the same struggles you have (helping an older, traditional cov. church into the 21st century). I emailed you a few days ago…don’t know if you got it. I would love to connect with you if you have the time to glean some wisdom, tips, etc. I’m good friends with Pat Stark from Genesis here in Phoenix. Great to hear about what you guys are doing…I’m praying for you.

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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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