Eugene Cho

last sermon at quest…

I’m preaching my last sermon at Quest this Sunday – My last sermon before the beginning of my three month sabbatical which begins in couple weeks. 

I am really going to miss teaching at Quest especially because I’ve been really enjoying going through the book of Acts but just as much as I feel like I deserve this sabbatical, this is also my gift to the Quest Community for the summer.  They’ve earned this break from my long sermons – especially the folks at the 5pm service where I feel a little “too free” and sometimes go about an hour.  Enjoy this break Questers because I’ll be back with a vengeance.

People have asked about my “sermon process” so I’ll briefly share some thoughts here:

  • I love preaching through the Scriptures.  I’ve enjoyed topical preaching in previous years but find myself beginning from a more subjective [and dangerous] place.  I decide what I want to say or talk about and then fight Scriptures to support it.  Not good.
  • I love “Narrative Expository” teaching because it helps me to focus on the TEXT first.  Also, I don’t have to waste time thinking about what I’m going to preach on or about.  I just move from passage to the next passage.  This week, I’m teaching on Acts 9:1-19a and one of our other pastors preaches on the next section in Chapter 9 next week.  Nothing fancy but simply, the study and exegesis of the Revelation of Scriptures.
  • Because our church spends numerous months on a particular letter or book of the Bible, I have the advantage of reading and preparing for a sermon about two or three months in advance.  While I don’t do any extensive prep months in advance, I’m able to read ahead and have a “big picture” idea of where we’re headed.
  • While there’s nothing unique that I do in my sermon preparation, I do read the particular text at least 50-70x over the course of two months leading to the Sunday I teach from that text.  That’s been one of the most helpful aspects in establishing a level of “confidence” in my preaching voice.  Reading in so many times allows me the joy of reading it through different angles, perspectives, and experiences.
  • During the weekly leading to the Sunday, I put together a simple outline, access commentaries if necessary, ask for some feedback from the other pastors if needed, and put a few notes together so I can be able to teach freely and fluidly on Sunday – with my arms and hands flailing with great spiritual conviction.

These are the questions I ask during each preparation process:

  1. What does the Scripture say?  What is the context?  Who is it speaking to?  What is the cultural lens?
  2. What does it mean?  How do I interpret this? 
  3. How does this apply to the believer/church?  
  4. How does this apply to the current cultural landscape?  How does it affirm, rebuke, or speak prophetically against the culture?

In my opinion, teaching can be superficial if we start and focus on #3.  Rather than asking what the Scriptures are saying, we focus on “How do you FEEL about this?”  If we’re not careful, we end up simply as feel good “spiritual therapists” at best.

It’s a legitimate question but also should be asked in the context of the bigger picture.  I want to make sure that through each sermon, the church is a] learning about the Scriptures, b] being equipped in reading the Scriptures, and c] [hopefully] convicted by the Holy Spirit to grow as followers of Christ.

Last thought:  Exegesis [interpretation] of the Scriptures is important and not all pastors do it well. But equally as important in my opinion is the Exegesis of Culture.  How does the Scriptures engage, converse, dialogue, and wrestle with Culture – Locally and Globally?

What do you think?

Filed under: religion

15 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    I would agree that in all things, balance is crucial. I don’t want the sermon that talks only to my culture about the pastor’s opinion but leaves out the authority of the Bible. I also don’t need a doctrinal statement or a history lesson that does not touch where I live. I am not saying that doctrine and history and Biblical culture are not highly valuable. But the body needs to know why, at the where-I-live level, is Trinity or justification or that the Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 important. So, I would whole heartedly agree that exegesis of scripture and culture are a must. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. brother terry says:

    I also preach and teach in a “Narrative Expository” style. My mentor told me that a good sermon answers threee questions: What? So what? and What now? Those categories are pretty broad, but I think they should always incorporate the elements you listed. By the way, I not only flail my arms, I also pace quickly from side to side. LOL.

  3. MH says:

    Eugene,

    I’ve been coming out to Quest for about 3 months now. I’m disappointed you’ll be gone for the summer as I’ve been enjoying learning re-acquainting myself with “church” but do hope you have a great sabbatical.

  4. Jennifer says:

    PE

    Thanks for sharing some of your process!

    While I’m bummed that we wont get your preaching this summer – I am looking forward to hearing from some of the others that we dont as often. I love that we are a church that supports women in leadership – and love to hear the women pastors voices in preaching.

  5. Rebecca says:

    Eugene, I really appreciate your exegetical style-I have heard too many sermons that started with question 3, and I think we lose the depth of what God is saying in the Scriptures when we read and teach that way.

    Will miss you, but excited for you as you pursue the things God has called you to this year.

  6. Jack Y. says:

    Eugene,

    I left Seattle 3 years ago for New York when Quest was small but growing and Leah was a fairly new addition. I used to stop in to hang out at the Q cafe and use your internet terminals ^^ Thank you for that. You gave an outsider to Seattle a place to feel at home.

    Checking in years later, I am amazed at what you have built. This blog is interesting to me because it really shows how you approach your sermons with such intellectual rigor.

    As you predicted, I am still a skeptic, living in a skeptical place, but I really wanted to congratulate you and your staff on pursuing your passion for God’s work, and really creating something amazing. You are the modern, Type-A overachiever translated into the church, and your congregation is the better for it. Enjoy your sabbatical. It’s well deserved.

    Jack Y.

  7. ric wild says:

    I like everything you said. I too appreciate “narrative expository” preaching, but I also struggle with what we do as preachers/faith communities with the common lectionary. The lectionary is pretty cool and I think the church universal is better for having it. It weaves different passages together in interesting ways and the lectionary itself leads us on a sort of narrative journey–one that we can all join that for the most part transcends different faith traditions within Christianity and any barriers derived from denominations. I wonder if there is a good, creative way that honors the gift of the common lectionary while allowing for a long-term study of a single book of the Bible. Any thoughts?

  8. Eugene- I’m sorry and dissapointed that I missed your final sermon before the sabbatical. I hope the time off brings discovery, relaxation and peace. Lauren and I are keeping you and your family in our prayers.

    -ian

  9. eugenecho says:

    @ian: glad that you and family are at quest. look forward to connecting and hearing your story soon.

    @ric: good thoughts and questions. similarly, i think the lectionary has pros and cons. rather than being married to the lectionary, i try to honor the larger christian calendar and be mindful of those things. but for me personally, i very much enjoy going through the scriptures verse by verse.

    and if you have a chance, i would encourage you to take your community through genesis and exodus at least once. it was very formative for me.

    @jack: good to see you here on the blog. i remember you and thank you for the kind words.

  10. Jan Owen says:

    Eugene, I wanted to say congrats on the sabbat. I am currently halfway through my first one and it’s such an enriching (and for me emotional) experience. It takes some courage to acknowledge the ship won’t sink without you! I pray for God’s blessings on you as you take this time to make space in your life for more of Him, more of your family, more care for yourself. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve noticed, that my life is more spacious. And I love it. Let me know if you have any questions about this if you’ve never taken one before.

  11. […] very interesting blog post from Eugene Cho on preaching, I particularly found this quote interesting: "I do read the particular text at least 50-70x […]

  12. […] Preaching through Scriptures – Eugene Cho reflects on preaching through scriptures instead of topically (Thanks Scot) […]

  13. Steve says:

    Eugene,

    You mentioned the Narrative Expository Method and I was just wondering what books you would recommend that explain this a bit better?

  14. eugenecho says:

    @steve: thanks for stopping by the blog.

    anyone have some recommendations as i don’t. sorry.
    i just love the idea of teaching scriptures. and most of scriptures is in narrative form and i just find it difficult when we’ve deduced the teaching of scripture to several systemic and linear points to support a topic. but that’s just me. some people love that.

  15. Steve says:

    Yeah I understand what you are saying. I agree with what you are saying I was just wondering if you knew of any good resources that would help in bringing out a good narrative. Perhaps any book on story telling will do. Thank 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.

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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.

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