Who is David Cho?
David Cho (formerly known as Paul Yonggi Cho) is a Korean Christian minister. He is Senior Pastor and founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church (Assemblies of God), the world's largest congregation with a membership of 1,000,000 (as of 2007). Cho still conducts two services of the seven the church holds a day; they are so heavily attended that people often must arrive an hour early to have a seat.
He was born on February 14, 1936, in Ulju-gun, now part of Ulsan metropolitan city. The son of Cho Doo-chun and Kim Bok-sun, Cho was the eldest of five brothers and four sisters. He graduated from middle school with honours. Because his father's sock and glove business went bankrupt, he could not afford most high school or university tuition.
Subsequently, he enrolled in an inexpensive technical high school to learn a trade. At the same time, he began frequenting an American army base near his school, and learned English from soldiers whom he befriended. He mastered English quickly, and became an interpreter for the commander of the army base, and also for the principal of his school.
Raised initially as a Buddhist, Cho converted to Christianity at the age of 17, after a girl visited him daily telling him about Jesus Christ, after he was diagnosed with terminal tuberculosis. One day, she knelt down to pray for him and began to weep. He was deeply touched and told her, "Don't cry...I now know about your Christian love. Since I am dying I will become a Christian for you."
She gave him her own Bible and said to him, "If you read it faithfully you will find the words of life." He subsequently had a series of spiritual experiences, including what Pentecostals call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit - during which the believer experiences glossolalia - when he saw Jesus in a vision. Believing that God had called him to the ministry, Cho began working as an interpreter for the American evangelist Ken Tize.
In 1956, he received a scholarship to study theology at Full Gospel Bible College in Seoul. While there, he met Choi Ja-Shil who became his mother in law and a close ministerial associate. He graduated in March 1958.
The Daejo Church
In May 1958, Cho held his first worship service in the home of his friend, Choi Ja-shil. Only Choi and her three children attended the service, but the church grew rapidly and soon had 50 members. Cho and church members began a vigorous campaign of knocking on doors and inviting people to come to church, and within three years, it had grown to four hundred members. In 1961, the church purchased its first plot of land at Seodaemun-gu.
The church's expansion program suffered a setback in January 1961, when Cho was conscripted by the South Korean army for national service. He asked John Hurston, an American missionary, to pastor the church in his absence. Cho's service in the army was short-lived, however. He required surgery for a serious intestinal illness, and on the grounds of ill health, he was discharged from the army after just seven months of service.
The Seodaemun Church
Following his military discharge, Cho immersed himself in his pastoral work once more, despite continuing ill health. A 1500-seat auditorium was constructed on the plot of land at Seodaemun. It opened in November 1961. The church soon outgrew its premises: by 1964 it numbered three thousand. Soon afterwards, Cho had married Kim Sung-hye, the daughter of Choi Ja-shil, on 1 March 1965.
In the meantime, Cho had been continuing to overwork, and suffered a collapse in 1965. Realizing that the work of leading a large congregation was too much for one person, Cho divided the city of Seoul into twenty zones, or "cells," as he called them, and began training leaders for each cell, who would hold services for worship and Bible study in their homes during the week. Cell leaders were encouraged to invite non-Christian neighbors to attend, to learn about Christianity. Each cell leader was required to train an assistant, and when cell membership reached a certain number, the assistant leader would form a new cell, taking about half of the old cell with him or her.
The success of this concept of cell multiplication surprised even optimistic church members. By 1968, the church numbered eight thousand members; in addition to weekly cell meetings, the church was holding three Sunday services. Even three services proved insufficient to accommodate all members of the church, however, and Cho decided to purchase a larger property on Yeouido Island, in the Han River, which flows through Seoul.
At that time, Yeouido Island was little more than a sand dune, but Cho saw its potential. With the island due to be developed by the Deputy Mayor of Seoul, and with many government offices and companies planning to relocate there, Cho saw the island as an ideal central location for a church.
The Yoido Church
Economic problems delayed the construction of a church on Yeouido (Yeoui Island), but in 1973, the new ten thousand-seat auditorium was completed. Its first worship service was held on 23 September 1973. In the same year, Prayer Mountain, a sanctuary where individuals can lock themselves away in small cubicles for prayer and fasting, was established.
Expanded in 1982 to accommodate ten thousand people, Prayer Mountain is now visited by more than a million people each year, including some ten thousand foreign pilgrims. The church continued to grow exponentially; its membership reached 400,000 in 1984, and 700,000 in 1992.
In the 1990s, Cho decided that rather than expanding further, the church should establish satellite churches in other parts of the city. Goals for the decade of 2000-2010 include the establishment of some five thousand satellite churches and five hundred prayer houses, similar to Prayer Mountain.
Cho has spent more than 44 years emphasizing the importance of cell group ministry, which he believes is the key to church growth, as well as team ministry.
In November 1976, Cho founded Church Growth International, an organization dedicated to teaching the principles of evangelism and church growth to pastors all over the world. In January 1986, he led the way in establishing the Elim Welfare Town, a facility for the elderly, the young, the homeless, and the unemployed.
The latter would be given training and a choice of four occupations. In March of the same year, he founded Hansei University. He was Chairman of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship from 1992 to 2000, and has served as Chairman of the Korean Christian Leaders Association since November 1998. He has also served as Chairman of the Good People charity organization since February 1999.
In addition to his native Korean, Cho is fluent in English. He has written numerous books, including Fourth Dimension (two volumes); The Holy Spirit, My Senior Partner; Praying With Jesus; More Than Numbers; and Prayer, Key to Revival. He has three adult sons.
Salvation for the soul, Good health, Prosperity
As well as the usual salvation for the soul, David Cho wishes for every believer that salvation would ensure wellness of the soul which brings the true essence for good health (healing) and wealth.
Biblical basis: 3 John 1:2 says, "Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." (NIV) "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (KJV)
He calls these the threefold blessing:
Salvation for the soul: "When a man accepts Christ as his Saviour and his spirit comes alive, that reborn spirit becomes the master of the soul, having command over it, and uses the body as a place of residence. A person who experiences a rebirth of the spirit also experiences a rebirth of the conscience, a longing for the Word of God, a hope for the spiritual realm, and begins to communicate with God through prayer and worship and praises the Lord, and comes to feel the existence of God through every fiber of his body." — Yoido Full Gospel Church
Good health: "The physical curse of illness and death which were handed down through generations after the first sin of Adam were cleansed whole with no trace. Now, we must base our lives on the redemption of Christ, and claim our right to health and divine healing. Also, Christians receive the seed of eternal life (I Corinthians 15:42-45)." — Yoido Full Gospel Church
Prosperity: "We must rethink our misguided thoughts considering material wealth as being equated with sin. We must drive out our subconsciously rooted thoughts of poverty, condemnation and despair. God acts in concordance with our conscience; If our thoughts are filled with poverty and despair, God bless us with material blessing." — Yoido Full Gospel Church
Belief in the fourth dimension
"Then God spoke to my heart, 'Son, as the second dimension includes and controls the first dimension, and the third dimension includes and controls the second dimension, so the fourth dimension includes and controls the third dimension, producing a creation of order and beauty. The spirit is the fourth dimension. Every human being is a spiritual being as well as a physical being. They have the fourth dimension as well as the third dimension in their hearts.' So men, by exploring their spiritual sphere of the fourth dimension through the development of concentrated visions and dreams in their imaginations, can brood over and incubate the third dimension, influencing and changing it. This is what the Holy Spirit taught me." — Cho, The Fourth Dimension 1979: p 40
Awards and honors
Cho received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Bethany Bible College, Santa Cruz, California, in 1968.
Cho has been awarded The Family of Man Medallion by CCCNY (The Council of Churches of the City of New York) in Brooklyn, New York on May 18, 2005. The Family of Man Medallion is awarded to "individuals who exemplify excellence in the use of God-given talents in the service of humankind."
Since the beginning of the council in 1963, the Council has presented the award to recipients such as the former U.S. presidents: John F. Kennedy; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Richard M. Nixon; and Jimmy Carter. The award was also presented to John D. Rockefeller III. Dr. Cho is the twenty-fifth person and the first Asian man to receive The Family of Man Medallion.
CCCNY President Calvin Butts who presented The Family of Man Medallion said, "We decided to honor Dr. Cho because of his fervent efforts to preach the Gospel to the world. He planted a church with only five members in 1958, and he is still ministering to that church which has become the biggest church in the world. He is a man of God who continues to preach the Gospel throughout the whole world, bringing many souls to Christ. He has also written inspiring Christian books."
Brooklyn, Bronx in New York City also proclaimed May 18 as "Rev. Dr. David Yonggi Cho Day."
In March, 2011, Cho again became a subject of controversy when he reportedly made comments suggesting that the 2011 Tōhoku tsunami "could be a warning from God to Japan, which has become an increasingly materialistic, secular and idol-worshiping country.”
In April, 2011, Cho was accused of nepotism by assigning his relatives to key church positions after his retirement.
In September 2011, Korean prosecutors began an investigation of Cho's alleged embezzlement of 23 billion ($20 million USD) from the Yoido Full Gospel Church's funds, after 29 church elders filed complaints. A national broadcaster, MBC, released a documentary that claimed the money had been used to buy properties in the United States.
- "David Cho" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.