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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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