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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Morning walk with the queen. In pursuit of 10,001 steps. #SelfCare #TryingToGetFit #CantFitInMyClothes F A M I L Y. So grateful to be creating memories.

Confession time: I sucked in my belly like it's the end of the world because of the full solar eclipse and then stopped breathing until this photo was taken. Which is probably why my wife looks like she's punching me on the side. But...mission accomplished. #OldManTricks These are crazy, turbulent times. Fight the good fight. Run the race set before us.

But we also need you for the long haul. Don't burn out. Discipleship and justice work is a marathon. Learn to take care of yourself. Don't play the victim. It's far too tempting to blame others. Be rooted in prayer, Scripture, and community. It's okay to pause, critical to rest and retreat, and godly to practice Sabbath.

#NoteToSelf Everyone loves the idea of  reconciliation...until it involves truthtelling, confessing, repenting, dismantling, forgiving, and peacemaking. Charlottesville. So heartbreaking and infuriating. We weep and mourn over the hatred in the hearts of these white nationalists. We weep and mourn but we can't be defeated.

As I stare at this photo that's making its round on the internet, I'm reminded of the utter importance of showing up. I'm grateful for the news media, law enforcement, clergy, and peaceful protesters that are currently there to report, protect, pray, and protest.

And this is an invitation to us. May we not be mere bystanders. May we keep pressing forward. Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly. Commit to truth-telling, justice, reconciliation, peacemaking. Follow the ways of Christ. Every day. And it's important to note that we don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. In fact, it's more important that we do this exactly where we're at. May we live out the call to reconciliation in our churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and around our dining tables. Lord, may it be so... We don't have to go to Charlottesville to do this. We have to do this wherever were called to be.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. /// Thanks to those who let me know that the photo wasn't actually from today but rather from last month in Charlottesville. - https://www.facebook.com/FrankSomervilleKTVU/posts/1551137301616258:0 Grateful for a spontaneous, last minute trip with Minhee to my old stomping grounds - San Francisco. 48 hours of visiting this special city that I called home for so many years.

Pic 1: Went to the Cliff House restaurant where we got engaged about 21 years ago to make out. Oops, sorry, I meant...to reflect on God's faithfulness over these many years.

Pic 2: Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge because it's such an iconic place - with some of the most incredible views.

Pic 3: Enjoyed a glass of some Cabernet Sauvignon and pretended to be wine connoisseurs at a vineyard.

Pic 4: Had lunch at my favorite Chinese restaurant, Sam Tung, which boasts some of the best chicken in the country. And of course, we ate at In-n-out.

Pic 5: And finally, celebrated with the good folks at @thefreedomstory where @onedayswages received their annual Freedom Award. What an honor.

Grateful. Thankful for this sabbatical.

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