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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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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