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Pastor Eugene Cho of Quest Church Takes Anti-Poverty Fight to Willow Creek

Seattle Leader Talks One Day's Wages, Multiethnic Churches, How Faith and Justice Are Intertwined

Going back to your previous question about social justice, I think those words come with a lot of … it's a loaded phrase. People argue about those words, social justice. I fear that a lot of us, we're talking about those things without being quite sure what they actually mean. Or it's been hijacked by the political conversation.

For us as Christians, we do justice because justice matters to God. If you want to call it social justice, go for it, but for us as Christians, we do it because of the Jesus that we serve, because of the God we worship. I try not to argue about the semantics of words. But the reason why we do it is because our God is a god of justice. God cares about justice. He calls us … to speak justice as well. Our church is in alignment with those values, that while we believe in the centrality of the Gospel that Jesus came to save, he also came to restore.

Our church, aside from our Sunday worship services, again like other churches we have many small groups where people gather. Two of the things that we do that I really, really love and appreciate about our church – we have a nonprofit neighborhood cafe and music venue Monday through Saturday that we run in our neighborhood in our commitment to be a good neighbor. Then we also run a homeless advocacy center, our justice center, in a different location than our church because we want to treat and we want to welcome our homeless community. We want to treat them as friends, treat them as human beings, we want to treat them as people that we can learn from as well, but we also want to advocate for them, we want to be on their side, as well as [challenge] them. Those are some of the things that our church seeks to do.

CP: On the issue of being intentionally diverse, how do you go about that? There are some churches or leaders that believe that the congregation should be diverse but they don't necessarily know how to go about that. So when you say "intentionally diverse," what kind of things do you mean?

Cho:That's a great question that could probably be a long, long conversation in itself. I get this question a lot. I've had pastors and leaders contact me because they see what we do and they go, "How do you do that?" What I'm sensing is that I think for any legitimate Christian leader or pastor, they get it from a theological perspective. They get it that in the kingdom of God there's neither Greek nor Jew, slave or free, male or female (Galatians 3:28), they get it. I think what's difficult for them to connect is that they don't personally live it out. It's not part of their personal worldview. So for me, I say this not to elevate myself, I think if anything it explains that I'm not doing anything extraordinary other than simply living consistently to my worldview.

What I mean by that is that I grew up in the city in San Francisco. When I first immigrated to this country at the age of six, I was reminded that I was an "other," being an immigrant, being Korean. So that was part of my worldview, that my eyes naturally go constantly and consistently toward the marginalized, the outside. The other thing that growing up in San Francisco really impacted me [with] is that it was such a diverse city. My classrooms were diverse, my neighborhoods were diverse, my parents' grocery store in San Francisco had a very diverse clientele. What I would say is that it's not just a theological truth or construct for me, but it's just part of the way I see the world. I think being in a homogeneous setting would actually be something challenging for me. As a result, I'm constantly teaching with those things in mind.

Having said that, it's still a challenge. It's still a challenge because I think people generally migrate or acclimate toward those that look like them or think like them. A couple of things that we do is that we have a diverse leadership intentionally, we strategically pray for people with shared values. We also are mindful of worship … We have a worship pastor who is amazing. She's Asian-American but she's able to lead in styles that are true to her but also resonate across cultures. Another one that I would share is that every single year, we host a five- to six-week class called "Faith and Race." It's an in-your-face, in-your-heart, in-your-mind discussion, conversation, engaging the Scriptures about issues of faith and race. We talk bluntly about racism, about racialization, we talk about model minority (stereotypes), we talk about white privilege, we talk about entitlement in a difficult conversation, but we do this every year as a way to encourage people to be thoughtful and mindful, prayerful and intentional about kingdom values.

CP: Finally, are there any upcoming projects planned for One Day's Wages, any campaigns at Quest Church, or anything you want to mention that you haven't already mentioned?

Cho: Nothing comes to mind as a church. We're not a fancy church. We want to be a steady church that speaks to the light and salt, and not as a one-hit wonder but as a long marathon. As for One Day's Wages, our goal a year from now, three years from now, five years from now, whatever it might be, is to do what we're doing now and to do it deeply, to do it faithfully. We want to be known for transparency, we want to be known for integrity. We raised $1.6 million and our goal is to raise, hopefully in the next five years, $10 million. Our pledge to people is that a hundred percent of all donations that come in, minus credit card fees, go to projects to empower people around the world.

To learn more about One Days' Wages, visit: Learn more about Quest Church at

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