Eugene Cho

You don’t have to be a celebrity _______ to be influential. Just be faithful.

How do you define a successful church?
How do we measure success as a pastor?

For that matter, how do we measure success in ______________?

As you read this post, I want to invite you to consider replacing ‘celebrity pastor‘ with ‘celebrity __________’.  Insert your area of profession or focus and consider the content of this post.

I’m come to realize that part of my calling as a pastor and leader is to be an encouragement to other pastors – but especially to those that don’t “measure up” to how we in the church subculture often directly or indirectly elevate stories of successful pastors – aka ‘celebrity pastors.’

This post isn’t a criticism of celebrity pastors. Hardly at all. Instead, it’s a post to accentuate the importance of all those who serve and lead in the church – but especially those pastors you’ll never hear of; Those that are not part of the preaching circuit; Those that don’t have publishing deals, etc.

I am not a successful pastor. I don’t pastor a mega-church or a large church. I don’t facilitate astronomical budgets, earn a huge salary, travel with huge entourages, fly on private jets, and have thousands upon thousands of sermon subscribers.

But nevertheless, I have influence.
We all do.

I’m simply trying to be faithful to the things, to the people, to the city, to the convictions, and to the Kingdom work that God has placed before me.

I want to be faithful.

That is all and that in itself, is so important.

Our church recently hosted our Annual Meeting where I shared my Lead Pastor Report. In addition, we published our Annual Report, shared some major changes and possibilities, and also shared and explained all of our financial reports. While there are mentions of numbers, budgets, and such, what I was most encouraged by was our pursuit to be faithful to the things that God has placed upon the hearts of our church.

I invite you to take a few minutes to read through our Annual Report. I share it in hopes that it might encourage some of you.  My intent isn’t to be boastful but rather to convey, a sense of deep profound joy in knowing that God is working amongst our church – even our little church.

Why is this important?

Well, perhaps, it’s because some of us might struggle with pastor envy – or more appropriately – celebrity pastor envy. Let’s be honest: We’re often comparing sizes. Yes, I just went there.

But we do. Pastors and leaders are no different and for many of us, we simply don’t measure up. Don’t be obsessed with measuring up to measurements. Measure up to faithfulness.

You matter. Your leadership matters. Your influence matters.  Your church matters. While you and I will never make any list of “the most influential” or “the fastest growing” or “the largest” or “the baddest” or “the whatever”…

We still matter. Our leadership and ministry matters. Let’s be faithful.

Speaking of success, many of us 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?

That would be dangerous. Borderline idolatrous.

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.

Trust me…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.

I think Mother Teresa said it so well:

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

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14 Responses

  1. Great report Eugene. Your ministry is incredible. All glory to God, but know I’m blessed by your church.

  2. Ed Traub says:

    Thank you, Eugene. Needed this very much. You’re a blessing to my ministry!

  3. Ben Katt says:

    I’m glad to hear about the great things happening at Quest. Keep up the good work over in Interbay!

    However, I am puzzled by the whole conversation about “celebrity pastors, mostly because I simply don’t know any younger pastors who care about that kind of thing. So, I’m curious what circles you are hanging out in where you detect this sort of insecurity.

    It seems spot on to talk about pastors comparing ourselves to one another, but that’s quite a different thing from longing for celebrity status.

    • Eugene Cho says:

      Ben,

      Thanks for the questions. It’s great to hear how grounded you are and how your circle of support and colleagues aid in that groundedness.

      You’re right that the talk of ‘celebrity pastors’ don’t necessarily come up but it’s the stuff that we envy about them that come up: size, clout, influence, platform, etc.

      I get my share of email from younger pastors who share of these struggles of wanting more and being more.

      Perhaps, we’ve all been there. I have. And in the process of wanting more, we forget that we’re called to be faithful.

  4. Bernard Tam says:

    Thank you Eugene for the reminder and encouragement.

  5. sejin says:

    But don’t you see? That because you are faithful, you are successful.

  6. M says:

    Have you read “Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor”? Surprisingly good biography of someone who was never a celebrity.

  7. […] you don’t have to be a celebrity pastor to be influential (eugenecho.com) […]

  8. […] You Don’t Have To Be A Celebrity Pastor To Be Influential by Eugene Cho […]

  9. Janice says:

    This spoke to me.
    I blog. I have facebook pages with about 60,000 fans following.
    There is always blogger envy, who has the most fans/readers/subscribers.
    This post just reminded me that I can still be a nobody but have influence. Jesus wasn’t famous due to publishing books and speaking engagement, he was successful because he was influential. I want to be that. Thank you Pastor.

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One Day’s Wages

My Instagram

Window seat. For the win. As leaders, we must not see ministry and family as competing commitments.  We must not sacrifice our marriage and kids for the sake of "ministry." How can we? Loving our families IS ministry & good leadership.

And on a side note, we took this goofy photo for Mother's Day last Sunday at @seattlequest. I was shocked! What in the world happened to our kids? Our 13 year old son blocked four of my shots on the basketball court yesterday. He's since been grounded... I fear that we ask God to move mountains, forgetting that God also wants to move us.

In fact, it's possible that we are that mountain. Time flies. The eldest is wrapping up her 1st year in college and the college tours have begun for the 2nd child. The youngest enters high school in the Fall. Can't say enough about how proud Minhee and I are of the kids - not just of their accomplishments but the people they are and are becoming.

But...man...we can't wait to party it up when we're emptynesters. Party at our house. It's going to be epic. Humbled. Grateful. Mindful of God's grace and faithfulness in my life. It's all grace... It's an unexpected honor to be invited back - even with some mini-drama - to @princetonseminary to receive the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award - exactly 25 years after starting my journey there as a student in 1992. Wow.

Princeton isn't necessarily for everyone. And to say that I loved everything about my experience would be misleading but it was very formative. Ir challenged me to examine why I believed in what I believed. It reminded me that God could handle my questions. It prepared me for a post-Christian context where I am not entitled to be heard but I had to earn the right to be heard, and of course, it taught me that all is good with a Philly cheese steak at Hoagie Haven.

No one is an island to themselves and I am certainly an example of that. Many people - women and men, young and old, and of many backgrounds - prayed, encouraged, mentored, and loved me along the way. Grateful for my professors at seminary, my many classmates, and the numerous fellow staff and co-laborers I've had the privilege of serving Christ with past and present. And of course, I'm forever inspired by my parents, my children, and my wife, Minhee. Thank you for your faith, hope, and love...and oh, for your patience. Only your family will know and see both the best and worst of you. They've seen my worst...and keep on believing in me.

Thank you again, PTS and President Barnes, for this honor. Then, today, and tomorrow...by God's grace, just striving to be faithful to my Lord and Savior...to preach and live out the convictions of the whole Gospel. Amen. So humbled and grateful to be with @catalystleader in Cincinnati to encourage leaders from all around the country about the invitation to Uncommon Fellowship.

Preached from John 4. We can talk, preach, sing, philsophize, liturgize, and spit rhymes about Samaria...but we still have to talk through Samaria.

my tweets

  • Heartbroken. Praying for Manchester & the UK. For those mourning loved ones. For those injured and fighting for life. Lord, in your mercy. || 10 hours ago
  • Window seat. For the win. https://t.co/yG66Sm2bvu || 2 days ago
  • As leaders, we must not sacrifice our family for the sake of ministry because loving our family IS good leadership: instagram.com/p/BUVAGVwg-5z/ || 2 days ago
  • We long for a Gospel that comforts but resist the Gospel that disrupts. Having the former without the latter seduces us into complacency. || 2 days ago
  • Love wins in the end but in the meanwhile,it fights for things that matter. Love isn't sentimental. It's both gentle & fierce. Love endures. || 3 days ago
  • This is what we love to do. Empowering local, indigenous leaders to serve their own communities. Thanks for your su… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… || 3 days ago