Pastor Eugene Cho encourages ministry leaders in our current crisis. Remember that God is with you and your leadership is essential!
A Message from Eugene Cho
Hey friends. My name is Eugene Cho. I pastor in Seattle, Washington and I also run two organizations, One Day’s Wages and Bread for the World. My friends at David C Cook gave me the privilege of sharing a few thoughts—a few words of encouragement for pastors and leaders around this country and even around the world.
Now, we are living in very chaotic and unprecedented times. And perhaps it is good for us to take a moment to slow down, to breathe, and to just soak in the wisdom of God from God’s Word.
You might be familiar with the story of Joshua, but just in case you’re not, I’ll share one verse for you to help anchor our brief time of encouragement.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9
God’s Work Through Joshua
When we think about Joshua, our typical understanding is that Joshua is someone who is incredibly competent and confident. He is this great general who leads the Israelites into the promised land.
But along with that, there’s actually a deeper perspective of who Joshua is.
This is the reason why, when you read this particular chapter in Joshua and throughout the book of Joshua, there is a consistent theme that goes on and it’s the theme of fear and discouragement. There is also the theme of God exhorting, encouraging, challenging Joshua: don’t be afraid, don’t be discouraged—rather be courageous.
This is said several times to the point that you almost wonder if God is being redundant—like a broken record. God isn’t being redundant.
Our God who knows all things—who knows our hearts and souls, our minds—knows that Joshua, this general, is afraid and discouraged. And because of that, God seeks to pastor, shepherd, minister, and exhort Joshua during that time.
God Wants Relationship with Us
That’s the first point that I want to share with you. It’s this: we can bring our full selves to God. It’s not that God wants us to stay discouraged or wants us to be paralyzed by fear—but God wants us to bring our full authentic selves to Him.
There is room and space in our relationship with God.
You see, courage is not the absence of fear, but rather courage is when our imperfect faith, even with trembling and shaking, speaks to fear. That’s what courage is.
So, the first thing is simply, I want to encourage us to breathe and to come to God—because God loves us, cares for us, and wants to minister to us. And as God ministers to us, it allows us then to shepherd and minister and love and guide others.
We can’t lead people to places that we haven’t gone to ourselves. We shouldn’t speak to others about matters that we haven’t spoken to God about. And the list goes on.
God Wants Us to Trust in Him
The second thing that I want to encourage you with is this: You see, another reason Joshua is so afraid is that he sees the Jordan river and he needs to cross the Jordan river. Not just by himself, but scholars say about 2+ million people were part of this journey into the promised land.
I mean, can you imagine leading a group of 2+ million people?
But in addition to that, scholars tell us that the Jordan river was likely in flood season at that time. Flood season, which means the waters weren’t receding, but the waters were actually rising and it was dangerous.
Listen, the Jordan river is real—it is dangerous, it’s there, it’s not fictitious, it’s not made up. I’m transposing it. Covid-19, coronavirus is real. It’s a real health pandemic. It’s something that we should be mindful and sensitive and educated about.
But when you and I obsess about the Jordan river, it’s amazing how the Jordan river gets deeper and deeper. And the water rises and rises. And it almost feels as if God becomes smaller, smaller, smaller.
Listen, our problems should not increase, and God decrease. We have to fix our eyes on Jesus, even as we’re mindful of the real health crisis that we’re in … because if we’re not careful, we can obsess and even make a small “g” god over whatever our Jordan river might be.
Be mindful, be sensitive, be aware, be educated—but may we fix our eyes on our Lord Jesus Christ.
God Wants Us to Be About His Kingdom
The third thing that I want to share to encourage you is that sometimes it takes a crisis to remind us that it’s not about you or me. It’s not about our one church, your church, my church. It’s not about our logos, our branding, our platforms, our denominations, our publishers.
Ultimately, it’s about the capital “C” Church and the kingdom of God.
So even during this time, we should be encouraging and exhorting our fellow pastors and leaders—championing other churches, again, for the sake of the glory of Christ.
We should be encouraging people, sharing resources and ideas and things we have that might be of encouragement to others and even vice versa. We should be quick to ask help and assistance from our sisters and brothers as well.
God Wants Us to Love Well
The fourth thing is we’re called to love our neighbors. And we can’t love our neighbors if we don’t know our neighbors.
What an amazing opportunity, even as we’re mindful of social distancing and mindful of our elected leaders giving us guidance about how we should work for the common good and seek the peace of the city.
Even as we do those things, let’s remember, social distancing does not mean social isolation, social selfishness, social hunkering, social hoarding.
That’s not what it means.
Even as we’re mindful of the protocol given to us, let’s be mindful of the great commandments to love God, but to love our neighbors as ourselves. So love our neighbors, including those that don’t look like us, think like us, feel like us, worship like us, vote like us, or whatever it may be.
Be light and be salt.
God Wants Us to Be His Hands and Feet
And lastly, I want to encourage you with this encouragement and exhortation to be mindful of those who are particularly vulnerable during this time.
Now, certainly those who are elderly, those who have underlying health conditions—we should be mindful and sensitive to them. But I also want to be mindful of the reality that there are those who are really, really struggling—fearful about how they’re going to take care of themselves and their loved ones in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Now, let’s be honest. This health crisis has impacted every single one of us.
For me as a speaker, I realize that the majority of my income will not be coming in for the next few months. This past month, I published a new book. What was meant to be a book launch has become a book quarantine.
So, after I went through my initial phase of whining and complaining, and woe is me, I got some perspective. And that perspective is this, I realized I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or the meal after that or for that matter, any meals for this month.
I realized that I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to pay this month’s rent and the next month’s rent. But there are those who are particularly vulnerable, who are struggling with real issues of hunger or poverty or marginalization or access to information.
And as a church—the capital “C” Church—we know that God loves everyone, God loves every person, but we also know that God has a special inclination for those who are vulnerable in our cities and around the world.
Essential Leadership: God’s Work Through You
This is why it’s so important for us as we come to God encouraged, experiencing His intimacy in our lives.
Let’s continue to lead.
Pastors and leaders, thank you so much for your presence—your leadership.
I know that in the conversation, we’ve been told there are certain elements or businesses that are essential and non-essential. And certainly I want to encourage us to respect these things. I just want to share with you—one pastor to another, one leader to another—that your leadership is essential in our city, in our nation, and around the world.
Thank you so much for your leadership and influence and your faithfulness.
God bless you.