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Monday, June 23, 2014

"Overrated" (Eugene Cho)

TITLE: Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?
AUTHOR: Eugene Cho
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishers, 2014, (240 pages).

Are we a society that talks louder than our actual walks? Are we more interesting in ideas about changing the world rather than actually changing the world? The crux of this book is this. Just do it. Do not overrate our ideas to the point of non-action. Those who are already out in the field, be encouraged. Those who are yet to step out of their own comfort zones, "faithfully, prayerfully, and tenaciously live out these ideas, dreams, and visions" that they may play their part in changing the world. Rather than to use fear and guilt as motivations, Cho uses stories and confessions about his own struggles. Founder of Quest Church in Seattle, Washington, Cho is also a visionary founder of One Day's Wages, an organization focused on alleviating world poverty.

He begins by sharing how one Wednesday evening, he breaks to his family the news about subletting his house for two months. Despite the protests from family members, he goes on to share about his plans to give up a year's salary, and actually practicing what many people often preach. He also notes how people tends to support things from a distance but never venture beyond mere likes on Facebook or give actual dollars in any charity campaigns. In terms of justice, Cho says it well that "justice is doing for others what we would want done for us." He shares about a common feedback to him to tone down on social justice matters and to be faithful in pastoral care within the church. His response is pointed and reminds us that the gospel does not merely saves, the gospel serves; the gospel seeks to restore justice; the gospel ushers in the Kingdom of God; the gospel is good news for ALL. How to do that?

Cho uses his own life story again. He shares of what it takes to make sure our possession do not own us. He reminds us of the treacheries of money. He warns us of the deceptions of "upward mobility" that our whole life will be better by just consuming more stuff. He preaches generosity, simplicity, and how a sixteen year old teen donated his whole day's salary to his non-profit. He shows readers about changing the world in three easy steps, which incidentally are not that easy for a modern society bent on busyness and quick fixes. He recommends learning to shut up in a world of noise; to listen more than busily speaking; and to pray to discern what God is saying. Writing as an Asian, Cho reflects on Asian parenting styles and laments at the way his children is growing up in a generation that seems so ready to jump ship to the next whatever without adopting a tenacious capacity to follow through on major things. He is also concerned about the younger generation's biblical illiteracy proving his point as he sees teens struggling to find the "Book of Shaquille" in the Bible. His main contention: "The culture today is light on wisdom and lacking a depth of substantive understanding. Our limited attention span spreads our affections thin, yielding shallow roots."

He advocates asking hard questions of ourselves and reminds us the importance of being true to God in the midst of our passion to do good work. The example of Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin's bestselling book scandal is a case of becoming famous using humanitarian work; where false facts eventually bring about the greater detriment to the cause. The ends may be noble but the means must also be done with impeccable integrity.

So What?

This is a great book for a first time author. Open and frank, direct and uninhibited, Cho lets his convictions about putting the gospel to work flow through freely. Aware of the many obstacles that often prevent well-intentioned individuals from following through, he walks with us, and shows us that sacrifices are not monstrously impossible. All it takes is heart. All it requires is commitment and perseverance to follow through God's vision for us. In order for that to happen, one needs to be able to situate oneself in God's presence, through prayer, through discernment, through listening, and through appropriate action. We need to be aware of the fallacies of constant busyness as it is not about achieving many things but about accomplishing what God wants. We need to go beyond the superficiality of modern living toward a deeper growth in God's Word and good works. The former helps us to grow. The latter is a result of that spiritual growth. For readers, be arrested by the convictions of the author. Slowly and gradually, ask of ourselves what that means for us personally. While we may not be called to do all Cho had done, we are called to ask what God requires of us.

Cho covers many areas which have stunted the potential of many churches and well-intentioned Christians. The objections he shares are real and often self-limiting. Wisdom is needed to know how to respond in love. I appreciate the way Cho has led by example, showing us what it literally means to give up our possessions and to let our words become reality through faith in God. The book is an invitation to discipleship. For discipleship has many facets. Justice, evangelism, outreach, charity, and many other altruistic efforts must stem out of the gospel of Christ. It is essentially the fruit of discipleship. His personal motto: "Don't ask others to do what you're not willing to do yourself" is relevant through and through. There is something that Cho points out that I feel needs to be addressed at a much deeper level. It is integrity in good works. In our infatuation to do good works, we are tempted to let the ends justify the means. We need to be humble not only to do good works but to ask permission of the very people we are trying to help. Point: Just because we have the money or the means does not automatically give us the right to shove things down other people's throats. People have needs but they have feelings too. For anyone wanting to do good works, may I recommend taking baby steps for beginners; periodically venturing beyond our comfort zones for moderates; and a radical paradigm shifts for anyone willing to be used to change the world.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.

p/s: By the way, I am not sure whether it is coincidental but the front cover of the book reminds me of Jack Kuhatschek's "The Superman Syndrome."

This book is provided to me courtesy of David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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