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…”

    Amen.

    @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…..as 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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It appears I brought a little Seattle to the NYC. Drizzle fest. 24 hour gathering with a small group of leaders from around the country. Learning. Listening. Asking hard questions. Head exploding. Heart trying to have hope. 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.

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