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?

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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.

    BEING ABOUT THE FATHER’S BUSINESS

    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.

    cheers.

  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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stuff, connect, info

One Day’s Wages

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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. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter

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