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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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. Thanks for your prayers. 
I have numerous stories to share but for now, the following came up in every conversation with Iraqi/Syrian refugees:

1 Have tea with us. Or coffee. Or juice. Or something with lots of sugar in it. Or better yet, all of the above.
2 We want peace. We want security. 
3 We hate ISIS. 
4 We just want to go home.
5 Please don't forget us.

Please don't forget them... Father, please bless and protect these Iraqi and Syrian "refugee" children that have already endured so much. Protect their hearts and mind from unfathomable trauma. Plant seeds of hope and vision in their lives. And as we pray for them, teach us how to advocate for them. Amen. "We don't call them refugees. We call them relatives. We don't call them camps but centers. Dignity is so important." -  local Iraqi priest whose church has welcomed many "relatives" to their church's property

It's always a privilege to be invited into peoples' home for tea - even if it's a temporary tent. This is an extended Yezidi family that fled the Mosul, Iraq area because of ISIS. It's indeed true that Christians were targeted by ISIS and thatbstory muat be shared but other minority groups like the Yezidis were also targeted. Some of their heartbreaking stories included the kidnapping of their sister. They shared that their father passed away shortly of a "broken heart." The conversation was emotional but afterwards, we asked each other for permission to take photos. Once the selfies came out, the real smiles came out.

So friends: Pray for Iraq. Pray for the persecuted Church. Pray for Christians, minority groups like the Yezidis who fear they will e completely wiped out in the Middle East,, and Muslims alike who are all suffering under ISIS. Friends: I'm traveling in the Middle East this week - Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. (Make sure you follow my pics/stories on IG stories). Specifically, I'm here representing @onedayswages to meet, learn, and listen to pastors, local leaders, NGOs, and of course directly from refugees from within these countries - including many from Syria.

For security purposes, I haven't been able to share at all but I'm now able to start sharing some photos and stories. For now, I'll be sharing numerous photos through my IG stories and will be sharing some longer written pieces in couple months when ODW launches another wave of partnerships to come alongside refugees in these areas. Four of us are traveling together also for the purpose of creating a short documentary that we hope to release early next year.

While I'm on my church sabbatical, it's truly a privilege to be able to come to these countries and to meet local pastors and indigenous leaders that tirelessly pursue peace and justice, and to hear directly from refugees. I've read so many various articles and pieces over the years and I thought I was prepared but it has been jarring, heartbreaking,  and gut wrenching. In the midst of such chaos, there's hope but there's also a lot of questions, too.

I hope you follow along as I share photos, stories, and help release this mini-documentary. Please tag friends that might be interested.

Please pray for safety, for empathy, for humility and integrity, for divine meetings. Pray that we listen well; To be present and not just be a consumer of these vulnerable stories. That's my biggest prayer.

Special thanks to @worldvisionusa and @worldrelief for hosting us on this journey. 9/11
Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.

Today, I had some gut wrenching and heart breaking conversations about war, violence, and peacemaking. Mostly, I listened. Never in my wildest imagination did I envision having these conversations on 9/11 of all days. I wish I could share more now but I hope to later after I process them for a few days.

But indeed: Never forget.
And never stop working for peace.
May it be so. Amen. Mount Rainier is simply epic. There's nothing like flying in and out of Seattle.

#mountrainier
#seattle
#northwestisbest

my tweets

  • Boom. Final fishing trip. Grateful. A nice way to end my 3 month sabbatical. #catchandrelease twitter.com/i/web/status/9… || 20 hours ago
  • Christians: May we be guided by the Scriptures that remind us, "Seek first the Kingdom of God" and not, "Seek first the kingdom of America." || 21 hours ago
  • Every convo with Iraqi/Syrian refugees included: 1 Have tea with us 2 We want peace 3 We hate ISIS 4 We want to go home 5 Don't forget us || 3 days ago
  • Back safely from Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan to assess @OneDaysWages' partnerships & to film mini-documentary on refugee crisis. So many emotions. || 3 days ago
  • Pray for Mexico. For those mourning loved ones. For those fighting for life - even under rubbles. For rescue workers. Lord, in your mercy. || 3 days ago
  • Don't underestimate what God can do through you. God has a very long history of using foolish and broken people for His purposes and glory. || 6 days ago