David Yonggi Cho
|David Yonggi Cho|
|Born||David Yungi Cho
14 February 1936
Uiju-gu, Ulsan, Korea
Full Gospel Bible College (graduated 1958)Kookmin University (graduated 1968)
|Spouse(s)||Kim Sung Hae|
|David Yonggi Cho|
|Revised Romanization||Jo Yong-gi|
David Yungi Cho (formerly known as Paul Yungi Cho) is a South 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 claimed membership of 830,000 (as of 2007[update]). In February 2014, he was convicted for tax evasion, given a 3-year suspended prison sentence, and fined the equivalent of almost US$5 million.
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 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 tuberculosis. 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 (최자실), 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 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. 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 once again began his pastoral work, 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 (김성혜), 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 neighbours 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.
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.
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.
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. In 1988, he founded newspaper company, kukmin Ilbo. 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.
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."
- 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)."
- 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."
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. He has also received honors such as being a passenger of a car that was driven by a president of a country. Pastor Cho has had many distinct privileges and honors during his years, and one time, he was able to hold a crusade with an attendance of over one million. 
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." However, this interview was so distorted, text of apology was announced by The News Mission.
In September 2011, 29 church elders out of 1,500 elders filed lawsuit by South Korean prosecutors. The prosecutors began an investigation of Cho's alleged embezzlement of 23 billion ($20 million USD) from the Yoido Full Gospel Church's funds. A national broadcaster, MBC, released a documentary that claimed the money had been used to buy properties for the Bethesda Christian university in California, United States.
On 20 February 2014, Cho was found guilty of tax evasion, sentenced to three years imprisonment, suspended for five years, and fined the equivalent of almost $5 million. His oldest son Cho Hee-jun was sentenced to three years imprisonment. The charges arose from Cho's church purchasing shares from his son's church at above market value and fraudulently claiming tax relief.
But due to popularity and other reasons, Dr. Cho was not sent to prison, and was able to continue his work. The church remains strong, and according to the current senior pastor, is growing.
Dr. Cho has apologized publicly, and said "God forbid, if God calls me back today, I will still be able to go to the Kingdom of God," acknowledging his wrongdoings, and once again establishing a model reaction despite hard times.
- "Online transliteration/transcription tool". Ushuaia.pl. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- "O come all ye faithful". Special Report on Religion and Public Life (The Economist). 2007-11-03. p. 6. Retrieved 2007-11-05.
-  Archived December 8, 2004 at the Wayback Machine
- Wilson, Dwight J. (2002). "Cho, David (Paul) Yonggi (Yong-Gi)". In Stanley M. Burgess. The new international dictionary of Pentecostal and charismatic movements. (Rev. and expanded ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House. pp. 521–522. ISBN 0310224810.
- The Kyunghyang Shinmun, 14 March 2011. .
- For God and country. The Economist 15 October 2011.
- "Yoido Full Gospel church leaders found guilty of tax evasion : National : Home". Hani.co.kr. 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- "David Yonggi Cho, Founder of World's Largest Church, Found Guilty of Breach of Trust, Corruption". Gospelherald.com. 2014-02-21. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- "Ps David Yonggi Cho of Yoido Full Gospel Church Sentenced "Three Years in Prison, Suspended For Five Years, And ... To Pay 5 billion Won"". C3 Church Watch. Retrieved 2014-06-15.
- Official website (Korean)
- Yoido Full Gospel Church website
- Amar Bakshi's Washington Post Interview
- Theologian Richard Riss on Cho (Sympathetic)
- Apologetics Index (Anti)
- The Toronto Blessing, includes material about Cho (Anti)
- Theological critics about Cho (Anti)