Eugene Cho

how do you possibly give it all away?

_C032530Today (June 3) marks the 2nd year anniversary of an amazing story of Beauty & Grace. Interbay Covenant Church, a 65 year old church with a long and fruitful history of ministry, chose to draw their history to an end in 2007 and gift themselves into a merger with Quest Church. In this process, they not only joined our church and vision but gifted all their assets (around 6-7 million dollars) to the ministry of Quest.

How do you possibly give it all away?

It’s pretty simple: They realized it didn’t “belong” to them to begin with…

There are days I still get the goosebumps at having a front row seat of the Holy Spirit at work through this selfless act for the larger Kingdom.  I am completely humbled and will always remain grateful and personally challenged… I am especially thankful for the legacy of such people such as Amy Boyd, Carl Hagstrom, and Vi Berlin who gave so much to the ministry of Interbay and later, to Quest in their unique ways. These three passed away this past year at the ages of 89, 91, and 100.

Do you have a story to share about amazing grace?

While it was something that the majority of their remaining members (eventually) joyfully chose to do, it was still very difficult and painful – both before the official merger and afterwards.Recently, I received this email from a former Interbay member – and now, a Quest member. Take a read…

I have been a part of Quest for almost 2 years now. When Interbay and Quest began the discussion to merge, it was not a decision that I initially embraced. I prayed, wrestled, discussed (and discussed) before coming to the understanding that the Lord could do more through us together, than apart. (I have to add that my boys wondered what the big deal was…they already hung out with the Quest kids, why couldn’t the Quest/Interbay parents hang out?🙂 ).

For my first year at Quest, I experienced the normal growing pains of blending two families. Starting at the age of 5, I had always worshipped in Covenant churches (no, despite the way I look and my last name, we are not a multi-generational Covenant family-Roman Catholic and Lutheran family ties). I have experienced many different ways of worship, but never in such a large congregation, such a young congregation, or such a multi ethnic congregation. I felt like I didn’t know anyone, but they all knew each other, like being a transfer student in a new school. I plugged myself in as much as I could, since I was doing the temporary single parent thing, serving in toddler Sunday school, coming out the Taking It to the Streets whenever I could, etc., but still felt very much on the outside.

The second year was a bit easier, I knew more names, recognized more faces, started to get together with others outside of Sundays. With “E” home, I had a bit more freedom to prayerfully seek out where I might be able to serve more, as well as to be fed. I have been able to help in Women’s Ministry (though we’re going to come up with a better name than that) planning, plugged into a C-Group, and been able give more time to serving the toddlers of Quest. I have been challenged, encouraged, held accountable and been lifted up.

In the run up to my 3rd year, we have dealt with the difficult news of my mum’s cancer and preparations for my family to once again be separated by several thousand miles. I have often been humbled by the encouragement, the prayers, the support and care that I have received from the people of Quest. In the Sundays since “E” left, it is not uncommon for people to stop me on Sunday and ask me what I need. I usually can’t think of anything on the spot, so the frequent response has been, “Promise you’ll call if you think of anything” (they are often quite insistent🙂 ).

Pastor Eugene, on April 17th, you did a posting on your blog on the beauty of the diversity of our church and why diversity is so important. It was both encouraging and challenging to me. But there was something else that brought me to tears. At the end you thanked Leo for some the photos that you had posted. They were beautiful. As I looked over the pictures, I was amazed at how many of those pictured I knew. I had not really paid attention to the photo at the top, when I had started reading, so I decided to scroll back up. I noticed again…”Hey, I know those people. That’s Matthew and his dad taking communion”. I had to look closely to recognize the other people in the picture. Then all of a sudden I realized who else was in the picture. It was my husband and I! I burst into tears. It finally hit me, I belong here. This is truly my church family. I belong in this family.

…I owe an apology and my thanks:

First, the apology. In my heart, and a few times to you both directly, I questioned your motives for merging our two churches. I was wrong and unfair to you both. For that, I humbly ask for your forgiveness. I realize that this is way overdue.

Thank you both for your pursuit the Holy Spirit’s leading, not just for both churches, but for the Interbay neighborhood, our city and our world. Thank you for trusting that He who makes all things new, to make this family, a family. I am not naive enough to think that we do not currently or will not in the future have struggles-that is part of being a family. But I am thankful for this family and your part in bringing us together.

If you’re interested in more 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 Articles:  Seattle PI article on this story | Covenant Companion article entitled, Companions in Seattle.

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6 Responses

  1. steve lewis says:

    Eugene,

    Congrats on the anniversary. The timing of the post is funny for me, because two days ago I read about the Interbay/Quest merger in Soong-Chan Rah’s book as an example of faith and trust and an understanding that mission is bigger than turf. And two days before that, I was meeting with a church planter friend who is quickly approaching a similar situation of merging with an older congregation – I told him that he needs to hear your story, because I really think your two churches navigated the path to becoming one church incredibly well.

    Yesterday, you tweeted about having to clean up the excrement left outside your building, which makes for an unpleasant work experience. I’m glad that you get letters like the one you’ve posted here to encourage you too.

    Peace friend.

  2. Cody says:

    The first church that I ever had the joy of being their pastor, gave their building and funds away. When I started, there were only 10 members left of a church in rural New Mexico that had at times run a couple hundred and 70 years of history. I spent a little over a year there and in that time began to realize we could do one of two things: 1)we could continue with this small group until everyone died and no one would have been upset or 2)we could be a part of something bigger God wanted for that area. There is a large population of people who only spoke Spanish and a real need for ministry. Well after much talk and prayer, our congregation gave everything to a Spanish church that needed a building. People who had sat in the same pews for, well, there whole lives, had freely and willing given that up. It is one of the greatest things I have ever seen.

  3. sara says:

    what an incredible gift! there are so many older churches out there, i wish more had the same vision as these members did! I just found your blog today, from a link on facebook!🙂 Looking forward to reading more of your blog.

  4. philnamy says:

    Very encouraging. I alway’s thought pastor Ray was a big stud and wanted the best for the church.

  5. Rosalind Sciammas says:

    Finding Quest Church, being embraced by its pastors and congregation, only to be led to new heights, that is one example of God’s amazing grace.

  6. Eugene thanks for posting this note, it is perfect timing for me. I’m the church planter Steve wrote about above. I need to hear that what happened with Quest became a beautiful church. I have been in Seattle for eight months now and actually have been connected with your church and ministry without ever meeting you or having been there, but through the family that you must have much joy in leading. I have met many of Quest’s members and always without fail have loved them all, which speaks highly of their shepherd.
    Continue strong and hopefully soon I will have a similar story to share with you and the world as we encourage other churches to do the same.

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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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