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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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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