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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Made it to 47 years old this psst week. Grateful for God's grace and all those who believed in me, prayed for me, encouraged me, invested in me, forgave me, fed me, loved me, and _____ me.

I've come a long way since my first school picture  at the age of 6 - the age I immigrated to the United States. And long way to go. You can do it, sun. Break through the clouds. I love her. Saturday morning date at Pike Market with @minheejcho. Enjoying the final day of sun before 6 months of rain and gray. Not lol'ing. Some of my moat memorable travels have been to Myanmar (otherwise known as Burma). In fact, the vision of @onedayswages began on my first visit to this country in 2006. On a recent visit, I began learning about the Rohingya people. Sadly, it has escalated to horrendous, genocidal proportions.

Thus far, about 500,000 people have been driven out from Myanmar through violence...with most going to Bangledesh...regulated to a massive refugee camp. Stateless. Undocumented. Minority groups. Dehumanized. Homes and villages destroyed. And so much more unspeakable atrocities.

Yes, it's complex and messy. It always is. But the root of this injustice as the case for so much brokeness in the world is the sin of dehumanizing one anotber as..."the other." May we see each person, including the Rohingya people, as one who is created in the image of God. It's the truth and the remedy to the incessant dehumanization that goes on in our world.

Lord, in your mercy. The obedience of discipleship which includes the work of justice is a marathon. It's long, arduous, and emotional. Be tenacious. But also take care of yourself. Create healthy rhythms. Don't burn out. We need you for the marathon. Friends, don't give up. Press on. In the midst of so much chaos in the world, may we continue to cling to the hope of the whole Gospel. May we cling unto Jesus:

Way maker!
Miracle worker!
Promise keeper!
Light in the darkness!
That is who You are!

What an encounter with the Holy Spirit at @seattlequest today. Grateful for our worship team, the gospel choir, and the Audio/Visual team. Thank you Matt, Teresita, and Chris. Please thank all the volunteers for us.

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