Eugene Cho

an amazing gift: dying in order to give life

This past weekend, Quest Church celebrated the one year anniversary of Interbay Covenant Church merging into Quest Church.  For those that are new to this blog or not familiar with this story, carefully read and enjoy this story. It still continues to amaze me.

Interbay Church – a 65 year old, traditional, urban, 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 valued around $7-8 million dollars.  Many of the 50 or so folks from Interbay continue to be a part of the larger Quest community. A year ago this time, I wrote an entry sharing three things [amongst several] that amazed me about this “merger”:

  1. An amazing commitment to the Larger Kingdom.  The average size church in Seattle is about 80 people.  Interbay is averaging about 60 adults and 10 children.  They basically had no debt and were financially stable; While the long term future of Interbay was uncertain, it was very obvious that they could have been around for several more years.  Who knows?  There are many churches that can’t fully grasp that even churches (small ‘c’) have a life cycle as well; they try hanging on till the very end and are usually forced to make decisions with their backs against the wall.  Developers are often hawking for the opportunity to pummel down church buildings to build up condos, high-rises, retail shops, and such.  Once the larger Kingdom loses property and building, it’ll never come back. Folks at Interbay have said on numerous occasions: “What we want is to see, above all,  is a vibrant and thriving church presence in this area and to Seattle…That’s what matters to us.”  This is Kingdom vision.
  2. An amazing step of faith.  Like all works of God, there are stories of amazing faith in the history of Interbay.  The ministry at Interbay began about 65 years ago.  A man named Henry Isaacson purchased the land and handed it over to First Covenant Church Seattle.  FCC eventually deeded the property to Interbay  – a churchplant of FCC that was ‘officially’ established on Easter Sunday, 1954.  53 years of amazing history.  People like Carl and Inga Hagstrom have literally used their very hands to build the church – physically and metaphorically.  I had the pleasure of speaking with Inga recently and was moved to near tears to hear her love for Jesus and the church.  There are stories like Elsa Olson who was given a ‘temporary’ Sunday School class of 2 and 3 year olds.  That temporary job lasted 24 years and the current [and future] nursery, Elsa’s Garden, is named after Elsa.  During the early years, the children’s ministry grew to about 200 children; in the 1970s-80s, Interbay was the hub for a vibrant youth ministry.  We still have occasional customers at our non-profit Q Cafe reminiscing how their lives were impacted by their youth ministry in the same space many years ago.  Nobody likes change. It is difficult; it takes courage; it takes faith.   This is an amazing story of faith.
  3. An amazing example of generosity.  While this is a ‘merger,’ Interbay is giving a great deal as they have chosen to join Quest.  In this merger, they will relinquish their church institution – their name, their leadership team, their constitution, and simply, their ‘ways of doing things.’  A well discussed ‘Transition Plan’ will be implemented to ensure that the most important asset in any church community – the people – will not be forgotten or hurt.   All of their assets and stuff will also be given to the unifed Quest.  While their church building isn’t large, the value of the land and building is astronomical as is everything in Seattle. The building/land – valued at approximately 8 million – will also be passed on to Quest.  This is amazing generosity.

This story still convicts me, humbles me, compels me and reminds me that truly…we are called to the work of the Kingdom of God and not the kingdom of one man, one woman, one denomination, and not certainly, one church.

I’d be lying if I shared that everything was perfect and easy but the reason why this has been such a cause for celebration is because God has been clearly evident and glorified through this story.  I want to take a few words to again thank each person of the former Interbay Covenant Church – especially Pastor Ray Bartel and their leadership team – to have the courage and faith to let go of everything comfortable and familiar to join Quest.  And while the adjustments have been different, I am so proud of Quest as well for their faith, courage, and patience. 

Since so many folks around the country contact me about info regarding this “merger,” here are some relevant links and reads in some sort of systematic order:

  • A Letter to Interbay.  The letter I wrote on behalf of our church’s leadership team to Interbay asking them to prayerfully consider the possibilities and opportunities.
  • Wow.  Reflections after an affirming official vote for Interbay merging into Quest to become ONE church
  • We are ONE Church.  Some thoughts after our first official service together on June 3, 2007
  • The Building Renovation which we undertook over 28 intense days in August/September of 2007.  Whew.  It was intense but amazing what you can do for about $56,000.
  • The Honeymoon is Over– a report on how things were going 3 months after the official merger.
  • Media ArticlesSeattle PI article on this story | Covenant Companion article entitled, Companions in Seattle.

Filed under: religion,

9 Responses

  1. Ann says:

    Yesterday’s service was incredibly moving. Very much enjoyed hearing from different voices and from the missionaries.

  2. Tyler says:

    Thanks for sharing this story Eugene. I hadn’t heard it before. Clearly God had something at work long ago in the hearts of the members of Interbay. Couldn’t agree more with your 3 assessments. Awesome.

  3. Pamela says:

    Wow. I had no idea. This really is an amazing story!

  4. Ben says:

    Great service this past Sunday – The Shims are very cool.

  5. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of something like this happening before. It’s a higher level of courage and clearly God-driven. Experiencing a slice of that result yesterday knocked me off my pedestal. Man that was humbling.

    Yesterday’s service was incredibly emotional. So many examples of faithfulness under pressure. Hard to put into words, really. I can’t remember the last time I actively watched God at work. It seems to always be a word of mouth thing or bit of news but it was in front of my eyes at Quest yesterday.

    -ian

  6. bleek says:

    so THIS is what he meant when he said, “They’ll know you’re my disciples when…”

  7. John Scott says:

    Fantastic! Our church is looking at doing something similar in the near future, so it’s great to be able to learn through your process…Thanks!

  8. […] Eugene Cho reflecting on their church merger, cool story.   […]

  9. […] Two years ago, the average age at Quest was 24 for women and 26 for dudes.  Thanks to the gifting of Interbay Church to Quest about 1.5 years ago, Quest is now a multi-generational church.  We’ve gone through some […]

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One Day’s Wages

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Window seat. For the win. As leaders, we must not see ministry and family as competing commitments.  We must not sacrifice our marriage and kids for the sake of "ministry." How can we? Loving our families IS ministry & good leadership.

And on a side note, we took this goofy photo for Mother's Day last Sunday at @seattlequest. I was shocked! What in the world happened to our kids? Our 13 year old son blocked four of my shots on the basketball court yesterday. He's since been grounded... I fear that we ask God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us.

In fact, it's possible that we are that mountain. Time flies. The eldest is wrapping up her 1st year in college and the college tours have begun for the 2nd child. The youngest enters high school in the Fall. Can't say enough about how proud Minhee and I are of the kids - not just of their accomplishments but the people they are and are becoming.

But...man...we can't wait to party it up when we're emptynesters. Party at our house. It's going to be epic. Humbled. Grateful. Mindful of God's grace and faithfulness in my life. It's all grace... It's an unexpected honor to be invited back - even with some mini-drama - to @princetonseminary to receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award - exactly 25 years after starting my journey there as a student in 1992. Wow.

Princeton isn't necessarily for everyone. And to say that I loved everything about my experience would be misleading but it was very formative. Ir challenged me to examine why I believed in what I believed. It reminded me that God could handle my questions. It prepared me for a post-Christian context where I am not entitled to be heard but I had to earn the right to be heard, and of course, it taught me that all is good with a Philly cheese steak at Hoagie Haven.

No one is an island to themselves and I am certainly an example of that. Many people - women and men, young and old, and of many backgrounds - prayed, encouraged, mentored, and loved me along the way. Grateful for my professors at seminary, my many classmates, and the numerous fellow staff and co-laborers I've had the privilege of serving Christ with past and present. And of course, I'm forever inspired by my parents, my children, and my wife, Minhee. Thank you for your faith, hope, and love...and oh, for your patience. Only your family will know and see both the best and worst of you. They've seen my worst...and keep on believing in me.

Thank you again, PTS and President Barnes, for this honor. Then, today, and tomorrow...by God's grace, just striving to be faithful to my Lord and Savior...to preach and live out the convictions of the whole Gospel. Amen. So humbled and grateful to be with @catalystleader in Cincinnati to encourage leaders from all around the country about the invitation to Uncommon Fellowship.

Preached from John 4. We can talk, preach, sing, philsophize, liturgize, and spit rhymes about Samaria...but we still have to talk through Samaria.

my tweets

  • Heartbroken. Praying for Manchester & the UK. For those mourning loved ones. For those injured and fighting for life. Lord, in your mercy. || 10 hours ago
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  • As leaders, we must not sacrifice our family for the sake of ministry because loving our family IS good leadership: instagram.com/p/BUVAGVwg-5z/ || 2 days ago
  • We long for a Gospel that comforts but resist the Gospel that disrupts. Having the former without the latter seduces us into complacency. || 2 days ago
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