Eugene Cho

Never stop learning. Go deep. Be deep. Have more depth than 140 characters.

romero

There are many beautiful aspects of our larger culture … and then they are broken things. There are also things that are incredibly encouraging and of course, disconcerting.

One of my concerns in our larger culture – including the Church:

We’re
lacking
d  e  p  t  h  .

In my first book – Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? (set to release on September 1 but available for pre-order now),  there’s a chapter entitled, “Have More Depth than 140 Characters.”

I am the first to tell you that I don’t know everything about everything. But when it comes to my core pursuits, my passions, the issues that inspire me and drive me to serve, I try to learn as much as I can.

Over the past few years, I have met many people who are not only interested in serving the world in various ways but who are engaged in their convictions and passions. But I am often surprised to find out that they do not know the basic history and background of their chosen interest.

I remember one time in particular, at a conference, when a woman came up to me and told me she was very grateful and appreciative of a talk I had just given. We chitchatted, and eventually I asked her what she did as her vocation.

She said she worked at an NGO, serving the poor in Central America. We were having a polite conversation. She asked for advice, and I tried my best to encourage her in our short conversation. As I shared one of my favorite quotes from Óscar Romero, I asked her if she had read much of his works or about him.

“Aspire not to have more but to be more.” – Óscar Romero

She had this blank look on her face.

“No, I haven’t met him yet, but I’d love to. Can you connect me? How can I contact him?”

An awkward silence ensued.

It dawned on me at that point that she had never heard about Archbishop Romero—who, by the way, was assassinated on March 24, 1980.

“I’m sorry. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I really want to encourage you. You’re doing some great work in your communities, so be encouraged. As you keep doing deep work in your community and because you feel led to serve the larger communities throughout Central America, you need to understand the history of Central America. The equivalent of you not knowing about Óscar Romero in your context is if you were to say that you care about civil rights in America and not know about Martin Luther King Jr.”

Another awkward silence.

Please don’t judge me. It sounded much more pastoral and kind when I said it. Really! I gave her a huge hug and encouraged her to keep pressing on, going deeper, caring well, leading well, listening well, and loving well.

You may or may not know about Óscar Romero, but I hope you learn about him, especially if you ever choose to serve the poor in Latin America. Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. He was an outspoken advocate for the poor and vulnerable as security crumbled in El Salvador in the late 1970s.

He was celebrating mass at a hospital, lifting a chalice during the sacrament, when he was shot.

The assassination sparked an international uproar, coming one day after he preached a sermon that implored soldiers to act like Christians and stop carrying out the government’s ongoing repression.

Óscar Romero has an important story to be heard. And there are many others, if you take the time to dig in and learn. To better understand issues of poverty, justice, and classism in Latin America, how can one not take the time to study and learn from theologians such as Dominican priest Gustavo Gutiérrez and the Jesuit priest Juan Luis Segundo?

  • How can we say we care about abolition and not know the story of William Wilberforce?
  • How can we say we care about the history of slavery and abolitionism in the United States and not know about Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass or Harriet Beecher Stowe or William Lloyd Garrison?
  • How can we say we care about women’s equality in America and not know the likes of Susan B. Anthony (who also taught at a seminary), Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth?
  • How can we say we care about the civil rights movement and racial justice and not know the story of Emmett Till?
  • How can we say we care about Asian American context or ministry and not know the story of Vincent Chin?

Point being, you can’t know everything about everything, but when you say that you care about something in particular, and feel called about it, this is where I say you have to dig deep, be deep. Take time to understand the issues, facts, complexities, and nuances.

Without knowing even the basic background of what you care about, you can hurt the people you are trying to help. This is an issue of respect.

All issues have their form in a community of history, context, and culture. If we miss these things, we simply are not doing our jobs well. We’re not caring well, listening well, and not setting up ourselves well for mutual relationship.

Never stop learning. Study the Bible. Read the news. Devour books. Engage people. Ask questions. Be a critical thinker and active practitioner.

Your move.


The above is an excerpt from my book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2014), 158-161.

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6 Responses

  1. Peter Yi says:

    Hey Pastor Eugene, do you know a missionary named Bronson Yi, who served in Asia?

  2. Bruce Strom says:

    As always, thank you. I gladly take the shovel from you and will join in digging deeper.

  3. aldoyle2013 says:

    Powerful. And it hits me at a time when I am (feeling) totally consumed with work and life. Eugene, I have to stop now and think about what you are saying. About what your message is about CHANGE. I know I can talk a good game. I often get paid for it. And I can write and bout things and get paid for it. But there is coming a time when I am going to have to pause… long… and think….hard… about me…”Am I A GUY WHO IS more in love with the idea of changing the world, than actually changing the world.” Expletive resisted!”

  4. This idea is something that has challenged me since I heard you share at The Justice Conference in 2012. With so much news of injustice coming at us every day, it feels a little overwhelming because I want to learn about all of it.
    “You can’t know everything about everything, but when you say that you care about something in particular, and feel called about it, this is where I say you have to dig deep, be deep.”
    I’ve come to a place where I feel okay with becoming *informed* about many issues going on around me, but I want to be an *expert* in that which I’m passionate about. Thank you for your challenge in this, for challenging me to see that posting something on Facebook is not the same as living justly. and reading some tweets does not make me informed.

  5. Joe Hancock says:

    Reblogged this on Joe's Thoughts and commented:
    Great thoughts from Eugene Cho which are taken from upcoming book Overrated. Check it out and go ahead and pre-order book!

  6. […] under a rock as I just discovered Eugene Cho’s blog just this weekend. The credit goes to this post for convincing me to move his new book to the top of my fall reading list. In this personal […]

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Father - daughters bonding (and freezing) time at the Seahawks game. Grateful to the Panthers organization for the tickets. Now, go Hawks. Pound the Panthers. The family that karaokes together stays together. #ChoFamilyKPopFamily Family time in one of my favorite cities in the world - especially when the exchange rate is so favorable. Thank you, Vancouver, for being such a great refuge for our souls for the past 20 years. #QuestVancouver It's the day after...that day.
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It's never that perfect or easy but that we get to try to do these things is reason enough to be grateful to the One who gives us life.

Yes. Be grateful.
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#PreachingToMyself This is what real life looks like after a crazy couple weeks. Grateful for this woman. I love her. She's gonna scream at me for posting this pic. #ThoseSocksThough Grateful for the opportunity to encourage 2500 youth leaders & pastors at the @youthspecialties conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Had prayed for wisdom to encourage leaders and courage to navigate a word for leaders post election about empathy and compassion for the unseen, marginalized, and those experiencing real fear.

Also, what a joy to have my church's youth pastor, @cobycagle, also here teaching. Some years ago, I was a youth pastor for several years in California, Korea, NY, and NJ. They were meaningful years but filled with challenges and loneliness. Sometimes, I felt unseen and insignificant - in comparison to "real" adult ministry. As a lead pastor now, I want to make sure I don't make those mistakes of overlooking our youth and children's ministry and their volunteers and staff. 
Pastor Coby, Pastor Katey, Pam, Jalle, and Jasmin: We see you. We appreciate you. We are grateful for your presence and leadership at Quest and beyond. Thank you and all of our amazing volunteers

my tweets

  • Father/daughters bonding time at the Seahawks game. Grateful to the Panthers organization for the tix. Now, go Hawk… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… || 22 hours ago
  • "Genuine hope is not blind optimism. It is hope with open eyes, which sees the suffering and yet believes in the future." ~ Jürgen Moltmann || 1 day ago
  • They play against my Seahawks tomorrow but who cares. What a privilege to preach the Gospel at the Carolina Panther… twitter.com/i/web/status/8… || 1 day ago
  • We wait for Christ to return to restore all things but while we wait, we join and partner with God to work towards that restoration. #advent || 2 days ago
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  • If the grass feels greener on the other side, it might be the Holy Spirit reminding you to water the grass you're standing on. || 3 days ago

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