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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It. Still. Hurts.
#TamirRice Incredible news: @onedayswages is projecting to have our most impactful year as we grant out $1.3 million dollars! Thank you so much for your prayers and support...please read on to learn how you can join in our work.

As you gather with family, friends, and loved ones for Thanksgiving and the holidays, I wanted to share an opportunity. Often times, when I speak to people about the privilege of generosity, I remind them, "You don't have to but you get to." It's so true.

My wife and I (and our three kids) started ODW in 2009. We felt the Holy Spirit convicting us to give up our year's salary. It wasn't an easy thing to say "Yes" or "Amen" to but we made the decision to obey. As a result, it took us about three years to save, simplify, and sell off things we didn't need.

It's been an incredible journey as we've learned so much about the heart of God and God's love for the hurting and vulnerable around the world - particularly those living in extreme poverty. ODW is a small, scrappy, grassroots organization (with just 3 full-time employees) but since our launch, we've raised nearly $6 million dollars to help those living in extreme poverty: clean water and sanitation, education, maternal health, human trafficking, refugee crisis, hunger, and the list goes on and on.

So, here's my humble ask: As we do this work, would you consider making a pledge to support our work...so that we can keep doing this work with integrity and excellence?
You can make a one time gift or make monthly pledge of just $25 (or more). Thanks so much for considering this: http://onedayswages.org/give (link in bio, too) Don't just count your blessings. Bless others with your blessings. Here, there, everywhere. Be a blessing for this blesses our Father in Heaven and builds the Kingdom of God.

#ReThinkRegugees #WeWelcomeRefugees
@onedayswages Grateful. Still reflecting on the letters that I've received from classmates and students that have come before me and after me. Never imagined all that God would have in store for me. Lots of humbling things but in the midst of them, there were literally thousands upon thousands of daily decisions and choices to be faithful. That's what matters. Seen or unseen. Noticed or unnoticed. You do your best and sometimes you stumble and fumble along but nevertheless, seeking to be faithful.

Also, you know you're getting old when your school honors you with a Distinguished Alumni Award. Lol. 47 is the new 27. Or something like that. Here's to the next 47. In our culture, we can be so obsessed with the "spectacular" or "glamorous." The Church often engagws in thia language and paradigm...but what if God has called many of us to small, ordinary things?

Will we still be faithful?
Will we still go about such things with great love and joy?

I recently came across this picture taken by @mattylew, one of our church staff...and I started tearing up: This is my mother; in her 70s; with realities of some disabilities that make it difficult for her to stand up and sit down...but here she is on her knees and prostate in prayer. She doesn't have any social media accounts, barely knows how to use her smartphone, doesn't have a platform, hasn't written a book, doesn't have any titles in our church, isn't listed as a leader or an expert or a consultant or a guru. But she simply seeks to do her best - by God's grace - to be faithful to God. She prays for hours every day inteceding for our family, our church, and the larger world.

Even if we're not noticed or celebrated or elevated...let's be faithful. Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant. And not even successful in the eyes of the world.

Be faithful. Amen. #notetoself (and maybe helpful for someone else)

At times, we have to say ‘NO’ to good things to say ‘YES’ to the most important things.

We can't do it all.
Pray and choose wisely.
Then invest deeply.

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