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

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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. 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.

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