Eugene Cho

everyone needs critics…

Some of my readers have too much time on their hands. 🙂 While I do appreciate some of you sending me interesting materials for my blog such as funny videos, interesting articles, other blogs to check out, and topics you’d like for me to address, I also get a few readers that send me stuff…about me.

Seriously. I know that I have stuff I need to work out in my life and I’m constantly trying to live in the tension of “I must decrease and He must increase” but I am no megalomania.  I don’t need folks to send me stuff about what others are saying about me, my ministry, blog, sermons, articles, blah…

But when someone sent me the stuff below regarding my comment in the NY Times about mixed martial arts, I just had to chuckle:

…Before I move on to my alternate proposal for preaching Jesus, I do want to take a moment to comment on what the so-called evangelical critics of UFC Jesus said in response to this article. One critical comment which really grabbed my attention, not because of its insightfulness but rather on account of its irony, was made by some pastor named Eugene Cho of “Quest Church” in Seattle, who said, “What you attract people to Christ with is also what you need to get people to stay.”

Basically, all you need to know about Cho, and whether he is in a position to make a comment like that, because he stands above the fray of all these evangelicals who hock Jesus with cool, is look at the name of his church, “Quest.” How much more transparent do you have to be than that, that you are using hip to reach people (the name sounds like it was taken off the name of a book in the “spirituality” section at Borders. At any rate, I click on Quest Church’s website and what do you see there but a cross draped with linens, a casually dressed band up front toting all the usual equipment, guitars, drums, etc., and interior walls painted the exact same colors you would find at your local Starbucks (hmmm, I wonder what kind of Jesus is Cho selling to people in Seattle). Then I click on Cho’s twitter page and find out that the most recent set of sermons is on what? You guessed it, relationships. Yeah, no one else is doing that! That is really different, and totally above the fray. I guess even in this case of an evangelical critic of UFC Jesus, we have an example of the pot calling the kettle black.

This stuff I can laugh at and laugh at myself but it does beg the more honest and prickly question about feedback, criticisms, or personal attacks.

How do you handle it? What principles guide you?

For me, I try to practice these principles:

1. They’re important. Everyone needs feedback and critics. They humble us, sharpen us, and occasionally, rebuke us…and sometimes, give us a good laugh.

2. Perspective. Whatever you do, you will have both supporters and critics. But whatever you do, do it with all your heart as working for the Lord…and not for the pleasing of men and women. (Col. 3:23)

3. Don’t give your ears to everyone. Be careful who you listen to. Let go of the inclination and temptation to please everyone. When it’s from folks that I know (especially from my church community), I listen…even if I don’t want to.

Not listening to anyone is as dangerous (if not more so) as listening to everyone.

4. Protect the soul. When they are clearly personal attacks, don’t listen. Stop listening. Turn off the internet. Our souls are too valuable if they are attacks intended to be malicious. Yes, I’ve developed thick skin over the year but I can still be impacted by the “attacks.”

5. Actually listen. Be careful who you listen to but to when you do listen, actually consider what people are saying because they may help speak to the “blind spots” in our lives. Bonus: Everyone has “blind spots” but we can’t see them. (get it?)

6. Be mature. In both listening and responding. I stumble and bumble along in my pursuit of following Christ but I nevertheless follow him. Therefore, be…Christlike.

What would you add? What advice would you give?


Filed under: christianity, leadership, pastors,

21 Responses

  1. I get a critic on my blog like that every so often. They usually have the comfort of being anonymous. I cherish them, because they are relatively rare, but they cause me mixed feelings. I don’t delete the comment. Sometimes I respond and justify myself. Many times, the comment is less than articulate, so I don’t need to justify myself. But I do try to take an honest look at myself and see if there is a hint of truth. Most of the time, the real critics have been gracious enough to email me privately, and have shown me something of real value.

  2. Bill B says:

    Pastor Cho,

    As a Jesus-follower, one should do ALL out of a spirit of love and that includes criticism.

    Criticism should be given lightly. It is so easy to be critical of others. We would all be best-served if we looked at the ‘beam in our own eye’ because we all have them.

    Also, I think advise is best-received if there is a relationship between both parties. A stranger’s ‘council’ doesn’t hold much weight. I am much more receptive of advise from a person who knows me.

  3. Matt says:

    dude. don’t worry about your critics. you’re my hero, man. seriously.

  4. Bryan says:

    I think your 6 points are very good.

    I had this on my desk as a reminder that responding to critics is not a main goal of my job description. I think it is from a 1600’s Puritan, but I forgot his name.


    Stick with our work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil’s dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil’s rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie, let sectarians quarrel, let critics malign, let enemies accuse, let the devil do his worst; but see to it nothing hinders you from fulfilling with joy the work God has given you.

    He has not commanded you to be admired or esteemed. He has never bidden you to defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood (about yourself) which Satan’s or God’s servants may start to peddle, or to track down every rumor that threatens your reputation. If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord.

    Keep at your work. Let your aim be as steady as a star. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded and rejected, forsaken by friends, and despised an rejected of men. But see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, “I have finished the work which God gave me to do.”

  5. Bryan says:

    And there is always this prayer

    May those that love us, love us.
    And those that don’t love us,
    May God turn their hearts.
    And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
    May He turn their ankles
    So we will know them by their limping.
    ~Irish Blessing

  6. Zach C says:

    Pretty clear the guy missed the point of your original comments about machismo and the blurring of western culture’s definition of men vs. Jesus Christ.
    Quote: (“I know Jesus wasn’t a pushover but to reduce Christ into our pop culture images of manhood seems wacky – theology and bible exegesis gone bad. Rather than focusing on external appearance, shouldn’t we focus on our “heart, soul, body, and mind”?)
    It’s hard to take criticism from someone who not only doesn’t understand what you are actually talking about, but seems personally hurt by your statements. Take it with a grain of salt.

  7. .elise.anne. says:

    this is totally unrelated, except to give encouragement in the midst of criticism, but…

    i am STOKED you are coming to Reload in Minneapolis in April.


  8. mary says:

    I like your principles, Eugene. I would add that anonymity makes it easy for the critic to be cruel and diminishes their credibility. I think most people appreciate honest feedback and critique, but when it is done in a public forum from an anonymous person, the motives seem questionable. Guess that’s where #4 comes in.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      mary: welcome back from the dominican republic. really proud of you and excited to read some of your processings of your work there with the haiti earthquake.

      re: anonymity. i agree.

      it’s hard not to be blunt about anonymous comments and criticism = cowardly.

    • Bryan says:

      a wise mentor told me that appropriate response to anonymous criticism is to make it a burning sacrifice unto the Lord. I think he meant that literally and figuratively.

  9. Eugene- good post and I am encouraged by your healthy perspective. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to engage with you last week and for living your principles.

  10. Daniel says:

    Pastor Cho,

    I agree with you 100% on this one.

    Constructive critisizm can be a great tool and we all should be able to both give and take it…in a mature way. But given the fact that we live in an imperfect world odds are things usually don’t play out that way.

  11. Eugene Cho says:

    hey folks,

    thanks for the comments.

    just making sure that this wasn’t written to elicit pity or woe is eugene for getting a pushback on someone’s blog.

    it was intended to encourage people to think about how we generally respond to criticism and feedback.


  12. Ken G. says:

    Bryan – thanks for sharing… awesome.
    Eugune – keep being a faithful servant. I appreciate your spirit.

  13. Matt K says:

    Its not anonymous critics that get to me, its the ones closer to home. In my recent life I’ve discovered lots of criticism going on “behind my back” within my own circle. It presents two challenges: (1) I cannot defend nor provide any response to the accusation and (2) I cannot learn from the criticism anything to improve going forward.

  14. I tend to find that my own worst critic is myself. Still I have struggled over the years on dealing with other folks critic of whatever in my life. I appreciate what you had to say here.

  15. your friend says:

    I have received emails that cursed me (and the ministry I am involved in). The criticsm was based on false assumptions, but despite bringing clarity to the misunderstanding, the critic kept holding on to his curses being rightfully said.

    A few weeks ago, it so happened that I met the critic personally. I am not that far yet to say that I had ever so loving feelings just welling up in me, but I did make an effort to greet him and have a conversation with him. This never happened, since he worked hard to avoid me. He was virtually running away from me!

    In other words: It is easy for a critic to be harsh on paper (or email!) but when personally confronted, those with a big mouth often withdraw.

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In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply. May our compassion not just be limited to the West or to those that look like us. Lifting up the people of Iraq, Iran, and Kurdistan in prayer after the 7.3 earthquake - including the many new friends I met on a recent trip to Iraq.

The death toll rises to over 400 and over 7,000 injured in multiple cities and hundreds of villages along the Western border with Iraq.

Lord, in your mercy... We are reminded again and again...that we are Resurrection People living in a Dark Friday world.

It's been a tough, emotional, and painful week - especially as we lament the horrible tragedy of the church shootings at Sutherland Springs. In the midst of this lament, I've been carried by the hope, beauty, and promise of our baptisms last Sunday and the raw and honest testimonies of God's mercy, love, and grace.

Indeed, God is not yet done. May we take heart for Christ has overcome the world. "Without genuine relationships with the poor, we rob them of their dignity and they become mere projects. And God did not intend for anyone to become our projects." Grateful this quote from my book, Overrated, is resonating with so many folks - individuals and  NGOs. / design by @preemptivelove .
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on ourselves 
even as we seek 
to change the world. 
To be about the latter 
without the former 
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