Eugene Cho

people come and people go

People come and people go.  Quest has grown fairly significantly the past couple years and and many people have also moved on the past couple years – for various reasons.  But for whatever reason, it’s much easier to focus on the folks that move on rather than to enjoy the folks that choose to stay.  Why is that?

Over the years, I’ve learned to not take people’s departures too personally but it still sucks and at times, hurts…because ultimately, they’re people I care for.  Here are couple [edited] emails from folks in the recent years.

Hi Eugene: I just wanted to finally get this out and let you know that I have decided to leave Quest permanently. To be honest I have been struggling with Quest for a long time and I just needed to do something about it…I do still feel close to the core Quest family but have lost touch with this new community of attenders, so much so that I no longer have the desire to attend. I have been struggling with the way Quest has grown and felt very impersonal on Sundays and to be totally honest I don’t really share in the vision of Quest any longer.

So, yes, being a pastor can get discouraging because while these decisions aren’t meant to be personal, how can one not take it to heart to a certain level?  This is why it’s so encouraging to occasionally hear the voice from the other spectrum:

I also wanted to express to you how great it has been to have Quest as my home church over the last two years.

It has meant so much to me to be able to take part in a community like Quest, that is so dedicated to not only strengthening and challenging the faith of the people who attend, but also to reaching out into the community and serving the physical and spiritual needs that are so prevelant. This has been an important period of time in my life and your ministry at Quest has had a huge impact on my view of what it means to be a Christian in today’s society. I will never forget the time that I have been able to be involved with Quest and the influence that it has had on my own journey with Christ.

People come and people go.  There are times I wished that it had no effect on me at all but I’m realizing that the minute that happens, I will truly have lost the heart of being a pastor and shepherd.  It sucks and hurts but am realizing that is much better than not caring at all.  Apathy is the death to the soul.

And through all this, just trying to be faithful…and feeling like I’m failing.  Thank God for grace.

Filed under: church, emerging church, religion

11 Responses

  1. Scott says:

    Thanks for the reminder Eugene. I’m a small struggling church plant who just lost a key family this weekend. They made it a point to remind it that it was nothing I did but they felt the need to return to the church of their “roots”. Another key family in the church is close to them and is now wanting to meet with me this week, likely to tell me their doubts about the church and wanting to find a way to leave also. I dread the meeting but am pushing it to get it over with. I try to not take it personal but I do. I’m hurting this morning and my wife is fearful for the fallout. All of this and we were told repeatedly it had nothing to do with us!

  2. don says:

    After 27 years of doing this, this is still where I pray for thick skin because it hurts so much when a person or family you have invested love and time into elect to go somewhere else. Our egos get so enmeshed. yeah, we need to pray for grace.

  3. Dustin says:

    Eugene,

    First of all, I’d like to say that I really enjoy reading your blog. Some people have a hard time dealing with church growth and the dynamics of their church changing. You guys have a good thing going and have been faithful to your call to reach this city.

    Dustin
    (member of big church across Salmon Bay)

  4. Kacie says:

    Eugene, I watched the same things happen at my church in Chicago over the past six years. As the church grew, the incoming new attendees were very excited about the church, and those who had been around a couple of years often became disillusioned and decided to switch churches. This stung until I found myself doing the same thing. I think it’s like any relationship – after being in it a while the newness and romance of it all wears off and you find out that your church, like all churches, is flawed and that building relationships is never a completely easy process. Staying with a church is a rare thing these days, especially in the city, and I think that it rarely actually has something to say about the quality of the church itself.

    I came back to my church after a couple of months, as did several of my friends who ventured out church hopping for a while. I realized that the problems I saw in my church were normal issues and were there because the church was filled with people…. and therefore were the same in every other church. I’m so glad I stuck around!

    Also – I really appreciate your blog. Thanks for writing!

  5. Sue says:

    Eugene:

    Thanks so much for this post.. My father was a pastor and I grew up seeing him with many endless nights. People who aren’t in ministry will never understand what pastors go through.

  6. Karis says:

    E,

    You have a hard job. You have a unique congregation. You have vision beyond yourself. You love Jesus. All these add up to complexity. I, for one, am glad to have stuck around for a while. Quest is a good place. I think ( & pray) that people are meeting Christ there. Thanks for sticking around in this messy business of pastoring.

    K

  7. rk says:

    after moving to a bigger venue, our church just exploded. i joined them just about that time. it was also my first and only church. so i have never really experienced being a part of a small community and then growing to be a megachurh. i was born-again right into a megachurch. but during those early years when the church is growing so rapidly i hear a lot of unpleasant comments. some from inside but most from outside. people have a hard time adjusting to change. i did affect me for a while and i did have my doubts but at the end of the day i decided to stick around because Jesus and his finished work is always central in all that we do and preach and that’s what matters most to me. you can never please everyone and i think god uses every churches to serve different purposes, different needs and for different people. i am more comfortable in a big church than a smaller one where everybody knows everybody. i know most people complains about the lack of personal feel in a large churh but i actually like it that way. it’s got to do with my own personailty. i will feel out of place if forced to interact and mingle with people i hardly know. in a small church i will feel like i have to act up sometimes. i also hear a lot of people complain that there is hardly an opportunity for them to know their pastor personally. i don’t have an issue with that either. in a large church the pastors main focus should be delivering god’s word faithfully. i don’t need him to be best friends with him. i think my church has got it’s priorities right and my pastor has got his focus right. those who want more intimacy can always join a cell-group anyway.

  8. hey eugene, i liked a previous post of yours a lot… the one on paul potts, and how we should be people who bring people’s gifts and callings out and empower them to bless those around them. perhaps your own words are words of comfort when you see people leave for good reasons, empowered, sent, seeking to live out God’s call on their lives wherever they need to be next…

  9. Dan says:

    So the question is, how easily do we let people off the hook? I’m a firm believer that God calls people into a community – so is he calling them out of that community into another? Or is it just their preference in the moment? Do we say “Thanks for the memories, hope God blesses you?” Or do we say “Your letter is all well and good, but the one thing you haven’t told me is that God is calling you out of our midst into another Body. And unless you can tell me you truly sense God calling you away, then leaving is wrong.” I know – we shouldn’t guilt or shame people into staying, but on the other hand, if we let them go that easily, aren’t we just enforcing the consumer mentality that says “If I tire of the cheeseburgers at Wendy’s, I can just go to Dicks, since it’s all about my choice”?

    When people move away from the area, I always ask them to let us bless their departure. If people leave because of a significant theological issue, I ask them to have the decency to let us pray for them as they go. But when they remain nebulous, using the “I just don’t feel all that much at home” (as with your quoted letter), I have a harder time letting those go without some challenge. But don’t think I have this figured out. I’m still trying to decide how much to push the issue.

  10. e cho says:

    Dan:

    For me, it’s a case by case situation. There are instances when I feel the need to have a deeper conversation but as I’ve learned, it takes two for a conversation to take place.

    I am at ‘peace’ in knowing that someone has prayed and processed through a decision. I may not fully understand it but have realized that I don’t always need to.

  11. Steve Santos says:

    October 04, 2007

    Eugene,

    The post “people come and people go” reminded me of my friend’s experience in shepherding a church which had a very strong and incomparable intimacy among the members. The church shared their blessings with one another, loved each other more than real brothers, and took care of each other.

    The members grew tremendously as if it won’t stop growing. But like many relationships, it was also prone to be broken and inclined to be uncaring. This happened because people in the church are not perfect. Each should understand that this imperfections is a blessing in disguise—that people come and people go to let us know that there’s nothing permanent in this world. Everything and everyone changes.

    Steve

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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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