Eugene Cho

the truth is…we’re not very sexy

The truth is that our church isn’t very glamourous or sexy. It’s not that we hadn’t tried but it’s just not us. I admit that via the internet, everything looks just a little more glitzy. I can’t tell you the number of visitors we’ve  had over the year – locally or nationally – who trek to Quest on a Sunday and usually send me an email with a hint of disappointment saying:

Wow.  Your church service was kinda plain…

Which is I guess another way of saying…”It wasn’t very sexy.”

And while we admit that it’s nice to occasionally have unique elements to our service, we simply don’t utilize the glitz, blitz, and lights because we can’t sustain it. I don’t share this as a criticism to those that do. It’s great if it’s their ethos and they can sustain it. I’ve discovered that what you utilize to “invite” people to your church is what you’ll need to often retain them.

Our prayer is that folks at our church communty – through both Sundays, community groups, and opportunities to serve and grow would simply experience an encounter with God – by grace – and be compelled to participate more deeply into the mission of God.

At Quest, we try to share with folks that we have no fancy productions, no free gifts, no gimmicks, and we don’t have all the answers to life. We gather to sing, pray, read the scriptures;  We preach, celebrate the sacrament of communion, receive tithes and offerings; We encourage people to join community groups. And we encourage people to live out their faiths, to love mercy, seek justice, and walk humbly.

I was reading this blog entry  from a recent “visitor” and her family that have been “dating” Quest in the recent months. Her post entitled Lust vs. Love: My Search for Community sums up what I shared above except it’s much better written.

…quest church, however, was not the sexy provocative first impression that i was hoping for. no flashy lights, no pre-service donuts;), no one aggressively tried to stake a claim on us….just not a lot of hype. honestly at first, i was a bit disappointed because it actually has a lot going for it (multi-ethnic/cultural/generational, multiple women pastors, great children’s ministry, communion EVERY week) ….but instead, my initial impression was kind of like that guy in college that i would’ve considered more like a “friend” than someone i would date. unfortunately, that’s NOT what i wanted in a church. i wanted that hot-love-at-first-sight kind of experience! [read full entry]

I hope folks don’t read this as a side jab against sexy, glitzy, or glamorous churches.  It’s not.  Nor is it meant to be an excuse for the mediocrity we dispense through our churches. But a reminder of something that I am both reminded of and rebuked through the Holy Spirit:

When the glamour, productions, and lights come down: What remains?

And for that reason, Quest has a long way to go.  Thank God for His grace and that we can stumble along the Missio Dei – in community.


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18 Responses

  1. Ian says:

    yeah, a lot of folks are into the glitz and glamour but i’ve always been a Maryann guy while the others fawned over Ginger. there are still plenty of people looking for community that just IS, instead of trying to sell you on something like you’re always at a convention or something. my own community has very little bells and whistles and i couldn’t be happier there.
    there’s definitely grace in groups that let the individual have their own journey with their Lord (not that the reverse isn’t also true).

  2. your friend says:

    LOVE is always very attractive and never boring, whatever outward package it comes in. And you have love! I mean agape, not the mushy-wussy-pushy one.

  3. Andy M says:

    This makes me think of my experiences at the two leadership conferences that I have attended. The first was Catalyst in Atlanta. It was great. It was a huge conference, and everything was slick and very well done. It was what I would call the “finished product”.

    The next conference I attended was Origins at Mosaic in LA. It was unbelievably different. Rather than everything being clean, and slick, it was rather like you were entering into the mess an artist creates while creating a masterpiece. It was raw. You often saw the process of the creativity, rather than a finished product.

    I loved both conferences, but I honestly prefer the mess over the clean-cut production. And they shared that they had made their own sets for the conference, and didn’t usually have much in the way of decorating, and if they do they do it very well, but for cheap.

    I just recently visited a church that didn’t have anything for decorating. The building was simple, the colors were simple, the chairs were simple. And I loved it, because that simplicity is a part of who they are as a congregation. It reflected their values, and their purpose. It was beautiful.

    Thank God that we don’t have to have a fancy show to be the people of God.

  4. Jim Chen says:

    Quest is special. I hope to be back soon.

  5. Jason says:

    Ya I don’t like sexy church. The church of Acts wasn’t sexy. Although I don’t have anything going yet, I don’t want the church I’m working to start to be lights and smoke and big music and all that. I love going to churches that emphasize the simplicity of the Christian worship just as you do: songs, prayer, Bible. I have total confidence that the gospel speaks for itself and I work to emphasize that with my group. I don’t want people coming because they like the show. I want them coming for God. A great passage that speaks to this very thing is 1 Kings 18:39 when the prophets of Baal fall on their knees with the simple acknowledgement that “The LORD – he is God! The LORD – he is God!”

    Keep up the good work Eugene and don’t ever feel like you’re not doing enough!

  6. Daniel Azuma says:

    Yeah, but what about that pastor’s hair…? =)

  7. The Chiz says:

    “Plain” still requires a great deal of work; while we can cut out the pyrotechnics budget, there are still many factors that need to be shepherded. Factors should be read as “people.” A clear vision, a commitment to excellence in crafting songs and services, and a continual reiteration of the gospel do require our attention- both in the details AND in paying attention to the move of the Holy Spirit- help us create a sacred space for people to encounter and worship God. This certainly ISN’T the point of why we gather and worship, and mountain-top encounters don’t come with a money-back guaruntee; BUT, we do a great service to our God and to our people if we can clear obstacles that obstruct our worship- be they bad song choices, distracting flag dancers (ugh…), ackward technical difficulties- that line up along with a multitude of other factors seeking to keep us from expressing our love, devotion, thankfulness, and desire for our God.

  8. Randall says:

    we’re cutting the pyrotechnics budget!?!?

  9. Leo Chen says:

    Randall, what did I tell you about those crazy green, red and blue light?

  10. Eugene Cho says:

    @your friend: “love is attractive…”


    @The Chiz: well said. this is why we can’t hide behind mediocrity.

    @randall: pyrotechnics is out but dry ice is still in the budget.

  11. Erick says:

    I’ve never been to Quest, although would love to some day (pretty good trek from MN)…I appreciate the honesty I hear of in your church as well as through your non-religious Q Cafe. Thanks for being a good/healthy example of what it means to keep it real. Also, appreciated your comment about the reality that if you “wow” people with lights/glitz and all that biz, you’ve got to keep on doing it, not only is that exhausting on a budget but it can sometimes (not all) become a mask for a church. Thanks Eugene.

  12. mirianne says:

    I’ve been reading your posts for some time, and I actually didn’t think the church would be focusing on being fancy. Didn’t Jesus preach everywhere He went?

  13. Terri says:

    Sexiness isn’t what drew me to Quest, that’s for sure. 🙂 Just to put my 2 cents in regarding production or glitz in a worship setting. The balance goes something like this: the hearts of the people (congregants, preaching pastor, and all involved in running the worship) need to be raw and vulnerable for the Spirit to work and transform. However, in order for those leading not to distract others from worshipping God, the worship, esp in the areas of music and sound, needs to be polished. Not glitzy production. Polish. Each knowing his/her role and doing it to the best of their abilities and in sync with everyone else…and of course, in tune with the Spirit. Practically, that means setting aside time to only work on skills so that on Sundays, no one is trying to figure out how to play/sing their part or get rid of feedback…so that the focus can remain where it should. That said, I’m really glad the dry ice budget is still there! Woohoo!

  14. what interesting commentary…it seems that many people enjoy the emotional reaction they have to churches more that the spiritual…i do wonder often if our search for “sexy” causes us to miss our call from the Spirit.
    you seem very honest and straightforward, and i’m sure your lack of “glamour” is a candid reflection of your call to serve Him the way that He wants you to.

  15. cas says:

    I like that. I’d visit if I was back in Seattle.

  16. teresa says:

    The church’s real “sexiness” comes from being in love with God… the bride falls for the bridegroom. It seems like your church has the beauty and attraction…intimacy of the grace of God operating within the life of the church body there although it is not so in tuned with decoration part of the exterior. After all, beauty as someone said is in the eye of the beholder as well.

  17. Peter Adams says:

    Was at Quest April 2008. What you – and your visitor – have written sums up our experience. (We also went to one of the sexy places locally!) Some of us were disappointed, others were relieved at the lack of glamour. We are seeking be multi-ethnic/cultural/generational/gender here in a needy and multicultural area of UK, and I take comfort in two things. First, we are very ordinary and we are trying to do “ordinary” church things but just across an unusual cross-section of people. Second, any Sunday service is a still photo of what we are, and not a video – the photo doesn’t show the changes and the direction. We have a long way to go; so I guess do you, but its the fact that we are identifying the need and committing to the journey that is the important thing.
    Well done on the million signatures for “One day’s wages”. That also makes you different, but definitely not sexy.

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One Day’s Wages

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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.

Yes, blessed be the local, indigenous leaders. What an honor and privilege to celebrate with the on-the-ground local @thefreedomstory team to celebrate the recent opening of their Education and Resource Center for the local youth in Chiang Rai, Thailanf. This was made possible through a partnership and matching grant by @onedayswages and The Freedom Story.

While it was an honor to be there to cut the cord and say a few words, this is an example of collaboration. Much love to the Freedom Story team including their co-founders Tawee Donchai and @Rachel Goble, to their staff who live in the community, who understand their context and culture, and who tenaciously pursue a better world with hope, justice and love. And of course, much love to the students themselves for they each matter. Finally, to each person that donated to @onedayswages to make this grant possible.

May hundreds and even thousands of youth be impacted, encouraged, and mentored. May they capture a glimpse of God's love for them.

Photo: @benjaminedwards Part 2 on my wrestling with the complex issue of human trafficking. In part, documenting my trip to Thailand for listen, learn, and visit one of our partner orgs @thefreedomstory. More to come.

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.

Lord, break our hearts for the things that break your heart. Give us eyes to see others through your eyes. Give us humility so that we acknowledge our own need to learn and grow. (Photo via @thefreedomstory)

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