Eugene Cho

our love affair with success

Many of have love affairs with “success” which is why we can so easily fall susceptible to a spiral of insecurity.

If we’re honest – no matter who we are and whatever discipline of work we’re involved with – we have some  perception of success.

That in itself isn’t bad but what if our perception of success becomes like a love affair; an obsession of value and self-worth? Check video below (for RSS feeds).

Pastors and leaders aren’t impervious to such pursuits of “success.” In fact, maybe we are more susceptible. And in these days of constant bombardment of various forms of new media, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others – other leaders, churches, ministries, non-profits, etc.

I am no different.

I’d like to think that as I turn 41 soon and coming upon 20 years in ministry, I would have outgrown such shallow comparisons but it’s still an ongoing struggle.

When we’re immature

…when our rootedness is not in the Gospel of Christ, then it leads us into dangerous and lonely places – where we find ourselves constantly comparing or seeking the approval and affirmation of others or via:

  • budgets.
  • attendance.
  • size.
  • buildings.
  • # of followers, readers, etc.

If you look carefully or to be honest, if you just look, there are always some sort of lists and compilations of “the most influential” or “the fastest growing” or “the largest” or “the baddest” or “the whatever”…

Trust me. I’ve made couple lists for stuff that I have no idea how they come up with such lists. I occasionally travel to speak at conferences. But when our sense of calling and security is guided by such things, they will never satisfy you. It’s never enough. Never.

You want more…

because your soul is satisfied by lists, praise, adoration, and ultimately, a worldly sense of success.

Hear this well:

You don’t have to be “the most influential” in the nation. Just seek to be the most influential and loving pastor and leader to the church you’re called to. That will not likely get you on any special lists but you’ll serve your people well. You’ll be faithful to your flock and calling.

Metrics have their place. But don’t get lorded over by numbers and metrics. Numbers don’t guide us. Rather, the Holy Spirit is our guide. Be faithful. Be obedient. And it’s very possible that when we seek a life of faithfulness and obedience, it doesn’t always translate into worldly metrics of success.

I think Mother Theresa said it so well:

“God does not call us to be successful, but God calls us to be faithful.”

Can I get an amen?

Here’s a quick video I filmed for last year’s The Nines online conference. It never aired so I’m sharing it here exactly about the topic of ‘redefining success.”

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12 Responses

  1. Sejin says:

    This reminds me of what A.W. Tozer frequently wrote about.

    P.S My mom says your “bah reum” is very precise.

  2. thanks man. i share your insecurities and need heavy doses of the gospel to help anchor me.

  3. Erick says:

    Several years back in Seminary I could not get a grip of confidence and even feared that if I gained confidence I could become over confident. It was a strange place emotionally and spiritually for me as I prepared for pastoral ministry; caught between these extremes.

    Dr. & Rev. John Weborg had these words for me…He talked to me about ego. He told me that I need to acknowledge my ego – which I though was odd, since I constituted ego = bad (being a jerk). He proceeded to tell me that being egotistical was wrong and immature, but knowing and having confidence in my ego -who I am created to be- was vitally important.

    He reminded me whose I was. He encouraged me to remember my baptism. He taught me to be confident in who I am, who I am created by and who I am guided by.

    I do not always remember this nor am I perfect at it, but it is a loving reminder from the Father that:

    I am created, called and loved by
    “I AM”.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Erick.

      I have been told my several that I don’t seem lacking in confidence. And yet, it’s probably been one of the things I’ve struggled w/ the most in recent years…ultimately, because it’s linked in some way to our perceptions of success.

      • Erick says:

        It’s strange how easily we can mask a lack of confidence and how so many things on the outside (success, energy, etc.) can be equated with confidence. Success = Confidence is a misconception. We sometimes do not even need to try very hard to cover up our lack of confidence -especially when things/life are going well.

        Thanks again for posting so honestly, it’s encouraging.

  4. I’m reading “Renovation of the Church” right now and it is on this very issue. Have you had a chance to read it, Eugene? If not I would highly recommend it. It’s one of the most poignant books on ministry and “success” in the North American Church that I’ve ever read by far!

  5. Scott says:

    I struggle with it. I read it. I appreciate the honest words. Not easy to read but necessary. The narcotic of success is real.

  6. Very insightful Eugene. As pastors it’s very easy to measure success based on what other churches are doing and trying to manufacture that same success. At Waves where I pastor God is doing some pretty amazing things and we are seeing lots of baptisms and lots of growth. I know all we are doing is planting and watering the seeds but ultimately it’s God that’s making them grow. A pastor contacted me and asked if he could buy me lunch so I could share with him what we are doing at Waves so he could see if his church could “catch some of that fire”. Of course I let him buy me lunch (lol, I love free lunch) but I was very upfront in telling him that I didn’t think it was wise to try to copy what we are doing. Sure, you can pick up little things here and there that may work, but as a whole I feel that when God is really doing something at one church it’s really hard for another church to replicate it. There are too many things that factor into it beginning with the spiritual health and character of the leadership. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Once again thank you for being thought provoking and keeping it real.

  7. […] Eugene Cho encourages pastors to come to peace with who they are instead of mimicking others and longing for “success.” Although the audio is a bit rough, this video is worth the watch! You don’t have to be “the most influential” in the nation. Just seek to be the most influential and loving pastor and leader to the church you’re called to. That will not likely get you on any special lists but you’ll serve your people well. You’ll be faithful to your flock and calling. […]

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One Day’s Wages

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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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