God’s General: David Yonggi Cho
Pastor Yonggi Cho was born on February 14, 1936 in Southern Kyung-sam Province, Sam-nam district, Kyo-doeng area. He was the first born of five sons and four daughters of Mr. Doo-Chun Cho and Mrs. Bok-sun Kim. During his childhood he was greatly influenced and trained in Buddhism, Confucianism, and eastern studies.
Yonggi Cho graduated from middle school with honors. However, his father failed in his bid for an elected office, which also ruined his family financially. So he went on to technical high school to gain skills suited for finding work soon after graduation. An American army base was situated near his school and he was able to learn English from the soldiers stationed at the base. His English proficiency level enabled him to be an interpreter for the principal of his school and chief commander at the army base.
When he was 17 and a sophomore in high school, Yonggi Cho contracted tuberculosis, which put him at death’s door. Even as he neared death, he continued to study English by memorizing the English dictionary and his lesson books. Then his sister’s Christian friend visited him, and he accepted Christ as his personal Savior. As the disease continued to plague him, Yonggi Cho went to his hometown to continue receiving treatment for the disease. One day he attended a crusade in Pusan led by missionary Ken Tize, and he received the blessing of God.
After that he began helping missionary Tize with interpretation as well as reading various Christian books, which helped him understand the Christian truth in greater depths. However, since he lacked firm conviction, Yonggi Cho struggled inwardly and began to fast and pray. Then one night while fasting and praying he met Christ through a vision of light. Through the vision, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
The night he met Christ, Yonggi Cho was called by God to study theology. He came to Seoul in 1956 and entered Full Gospel Bible College on a scholarship. It was here that he met his future partner in ministry and his future mother-in-law, Pastor Choi Ja-shil.
The Daejo Church
After graduating from the theology school, Pastor Yonggi Cho along with Pastor Ja-shil Choi and her three children held the first worship service at her home. The home church began to grow more and more and had a membership of fifty. Then a tent was pitched out in the yard. At night, even in winter, church members prayed all night and then went out to witness all around the Daejo area during the day.
Amid the chaos and destruction of the war’s aftermath which brought great hardship and poverty to the people of Korea, Pastor Cho proclaimed the message of the Three-fold Blessing: the well-being of the spirit, body, and circumstances. With the fullness and the miracles of the Holy Spirit, many suffering from various illnesses were healed and Christians who came to church were filled with hope.
The church was growing remarkably well when Pastor Cho received an enlistment letter in January of 1961. The church had grown to a membership of 400 within three years of its founding and had just purchased a plot of land to build a church. So the mandatory enlistment was truly devastating. A few days prior to his enlistment, Pastor Cho asked missionary John Hurston who had been led by the Holy Spirit to the church, to take charge of the church, and Pastor Cho went into the army in January. While in the army, Pastor Cho suffered from an intestinal illness, which required surgery at the army hospital. However, even after major surgery-which took him to the brink of life and death, his condition would not improve. Therefore, Pastor Cho was discharged from the army after seven months of service.
The Seodaemun Church and the Implementation of Cell Groups
A few days after his discharge from the hospital-even before the surgical wounds had healed, Pastor Cho served as interpreter for Pastor Sam Todd who led a revival crusade at the Seodaemun intersection. Half a month after the crusade, which had been full of the miracles of God, Pastor Cho pitched a large marine tent at the site-the first expansion of his pioneer church.
By November of 1961, a church was constructed to accommodate 1,500 people and on February 18th the following year, the dedication was held to commemorate the church sanctuary as the Full Gospel Revival Hall. On April 26th of the same year, Pastor Cho became an ordained minister, and the church became officially registered as the Full Gospel Central Church.
Three years after the relocation to the Seodaemun area, in 1964 the church membership grew to 3,000. Amid the rapid growth of the church, Pastor Yonggi Cho married Pastor Ja-shil Choi’s daughter Sung-hae Kim on March 1, 1965.
Pastor Cho had been working without proper rest and without regard for his health, and he finally succumbed to overwork and fainted as he was leading a baptismal service for several hundred church members. However, after a week in the hospital, he was discharged for the Sunday service, at which time he again fainted due to weakened health, necessitating another stay in the hospital.
During his second stay in the hospital, he began to realize the physical limitations in his ministry. He further realized, “The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone” (Exodus 18:18). He began to understand the necessity of delegating work to others as Moses had delegated work to various appointed persons among the Israelites to lead them through the desert. The Holy Spirit gave him the understanding of how the members of the early church, especially the women of the church came to work and have fellowship together (Romans 16). Home cell groups became the launching pads for the explosive growth of the church.
A week later after his discharge, Pastor Cho informed the leaders of the church about his vision and began formulating cell groups. He divided the city of Seoul into 20 areas and encouraged the members of the church in given areas to come together in the homes of the members for worship and fellowship during the week. Many of the women were also chosen as cell leaders and trained to lead cell worship. Later, as the men of the church felt challenged by the great organization of women members, they also began meeting in cell groups with other male members of the church. Today the cell leaders in various organizations, (women, men, young men, young women, children and so on), number 32,500.
In 1968, three years after the formulation of home cell groups, church membership stood at 8,000, and there were three worship services on Sunday. Even with three Sunday services, it became harder to accommodate all the members of the church. This led to the purchase of land at Yoido for a new church building.
At the time, Yoido was an island consisting mainly of sand, and it lacked any means of public transportation into the area. This led to much criticism within the church for its selection. To make matters worse, the total cost for the church building was estimated at 800,000,000 Korean won, of which the church only had 1,000,000 won. Regardless, Pastor Cho believed in the miracles of God and went ahead with his plan for the new church. The strong faith of Pastor Cho convinced the board of directors, and with the issuance of promissory notes, church construction began in April of 1969.
The Church in Yoido and its Phenomenal Growth
As soon as the construction began, there was a worldwide oil crisis, which caused a rapid drop in the exchange rate of the Korean won to the dollar. As a result, the cost of construction materials skyrocketed because they were mostly imported. Church tithe income dropped as many lost jobs, and the banks tightened their belt in terms of loans. All of these factors threatened to bankrupt the church, and the construction on the church came to a halt.
Every night Pastor Yonggi Cho went into the base of the skeletal construction, getting drenched with rust-soaked dewdrops as he called out to God in prayer and fell from exhaustion on the cold cement foundation.
Many in the church were affected by Pastor Yonggi Cho’s heart-rending prayers and the “Save the Church!” movement began bringing many members of the church to the cold cement church floor for nightly prayer alongside Pastor Cho.
Consequently, the construction resumed in spurts and finally resulted in a completed sanctuary; this accommodated 10,000 people. The first tear-filled worship service was held on September 23, 1973.
With the successful completion of the Yoido Church in 1973, the establishment of Prayer Mountain occurred in the same year because it would greatly aid the growth of the church. With more and more Christians making their way to Prayer Mountain, construction of a sanctuary to accommodate 10,000 people at Prayer Mountain was completed in September of 1982.
The cemetery storage shack for all-night fasting and prayer which was begun by Pastor Ja-shill Choi in a small hamlet in Kyung-gi-do has now become the Prayer Mountain which serves an average of 3,500 people a day and about 10,000 foreigners each year who come to pray at Prayer Mountain.
Following the church’s relocation to Yoido Island, church growth skyrocketed. By 1979 the membership numbered 100,000, and by 1981 the membership had doubled again to 200,000.
For the purpose of educating and enhancing the faith of the congregation, the first and second education buildings were constructed as well as the missions center through which missionaries are fostered and trained for evangelizing the world.
In 1984 the official registration of the church name was Yoido Full Gospel Church. The church membership stood at 400,000, and by 1992 the membership had reached 700,000. For those living great distances from YFGC, satellite sanctuaries were built. Many independent churches were established and supported for reaching greater areas throughout Korea..
Pastor Cho continually thanks God for his 42 years of blessed ministry and is a true servant of God to the 780,000 currently registered members of the church today.
The goal for the new millenium is to establish 500 to 5,000 satellite churches and 500 prayer houses throughout the peninsula within the next 10 years, to expand the evangelical reach to the world through the support of the internet, and finally to expand evangelical missions work to the third world- including North Korea. For such purposes, Pastor David Yonggi Cho prays along with all the members of the church for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Principal Areas of Ministry
- Ministry of Evangelism
- National Evangelism
1961 – Pastor Cho first had the opportunity and honor of interpreting for Pastor Sam Todd at a revival meeting as well as for other evangelists. Then in March of 1965, he led revival meetings throughout the nation.
1969 – After the 3rd Assemblies of God Asian Conference on July 7th, about 20 other international conferences were held such as the Pentecostal World Conference for the purpose of expanding the Holy Spirit movement throughout the country.
1976 – Established in May for the purpose of evangelizing the people of Korea as well as for various other social services, the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Mission Group guides 36 separate mission groups and 22 national and international committee groups with over 3,000 active members.
1981 – Following the Crusade for Evangelization in Ulsan on July 7th, 30 other crusades were held in major cities around the country for the purpose of the evangelization of all Korean people.
1983 – The satellite sanctuaries which were built for those who lived great distances from Yoido Full Gospel Church began to gain independence and self-support. Currently there are 24 independent satellite churches and 16 dependent satellite sanctuaries. There are also 62 independent churches pioneered by pastors who have been trained and sent out by YFGC.
1995 – At the request of the Committee for Reconstruction of Churches in North Korea, which is a branch of the Korean Christian Church Coalition, Pastor Cho is supporting the rebuilding of the churches in North Korea.
1997 – Beginning in November, the dedication of prayer houses was held in parishes for the purpose of evangelizing the people living in the area. Currently there are 140 prayer houses designated throughout Seoul and other areas.
- International Evangelism
1964 – On April 12th, Pastor Cho was invited by the American Assemblies of God to participate in their 50th anniversary celebration. He led various crusades around the United States afterwards, then went to Bangkok in 1978, Australia in 1987, Moscow in 1991, South Africa in 1993 and many other places. Pastor Cho has led over 180 such crusades during his ministry. Wherever he ministers, the Holy Spirit makes great changes in the lives of the people.
1975 – For the purpose of providing faith guidance for Korean Christians living abroad and as part of their international ministry, the Full Gospel International Mission was begun on April 1st. Then in 1993, with an emphasis on third world countries and for the purpose of fostering native missionaries, Pastor Cho’s Africa Mission Center in Kenya and Elim Full Gospel Theology School in Kazahkstan were founded as well as four others. Currently, the theological seminaries founded by Pastor Cho have sent out 570 missionaries from 56 countries.
1976 – Since the establishment of Church Growth International on November 4th, about 6.8 million members from abut 50 nations have participated in conferences and seminars for the purpose of discussing and praying for church growth. Currently, periodicals written in English are provided for distribution in approximately 150 nations.
1978 – Pastor Cho has been supporting various events and conferences for the purpose of evangelizing the Japanese people-the Ten-million For Christ movement, through various media-centered means and through various crusades.
- Media Ministry
1966 – Founded the Full Gospel Document Mission. A year later in 1967, founded Faith-a monthly periodical incorporated into The Kookmin Daily Newspaper in 1988. It has become a widely distributed Christian periodical.
1968 – Began the “Full Gospel Hour” radio program on September 4th on the Geuk- doeng Radio Broadcasting station. Currently, YFGC produces various programs for both radio and TV through the Christian Broadcast Station, Asia Broadcast, and various other cable and closed circuit systems. Especially since April 20th of 1980, through the MBC-TV “Invitation to Happiness” program, Sunday sermons are broadcast for 12 hours serving as a great contribution to national evangelism.
1976 – Founded the Young-san Publisher (currently Seoul Logos Co.). So far, it has published 116 books written in Korean and 17 books in English written by Pastor David Yonggi Cho.
1978 – Began publication of Full Gospel News on October 8th, a weekly newsletter for diverse purposes- one of which is to evangelize. In 1992 it became the Full Gospel Family News and has become a newsletter which informs readers about many current events and information about the church. Another offshoot of Full Gospel News is Invitation to Happiness which also is published alongside of the Full Gospel Family News.
1988 – On December 10th, the daily newspaper carrying the gospel section The Kookmin Daily Newspaper was launched, a mouthpiece for Christianity as well as preparation for the unification of the two Koreas and their evangelization.
1996 – Since July 28th, through the communication satellite “Mookeunghwa,” approximately 100 assemblies including the secondary sanctuaries and satellite churches both at home and abroad in many areas of Japan, join in the worship services at YFGC. Since October 27th, 1999, prayer houses have also been able to subscribe to 24 hour worship services.
1998 – On December 24th, the internet webcasting station FGTV was founded for the purpose of spreading the gospel through this new communication medium.
- Ministry of Education
1953 – With the founding of the Korea Assemblies of God, Full Gospel Bible College was also founded to train and foster pastors and ministers in the tradition of full gospel theology. In April of 1960, the school expanded and relocated from Seodaemun to Daejo-dong. Then in 1976 Pastor Yonggi Cho was elected acting committee chairman to better establish and expand Full Gospel Bible College. In 1978 the school was moved to Keun-po. Then in 1985 it became an accredited university and Pastor Cho was elected chairman for the school. In 1991 a graduate school was added to the university and the name was changed to Soonshin University, then to Hansei University as it remains today. Hansei University strives to become a world-class comprehensive university, which develops and fosters those who will lead the future. Currently, the vestiges of the school which were left in Daejo-dong and Shin-Soo-dong, the Full Gospel Theological Seminary and the Full Gospel Seminary continue to train many ministers and pastors.
1961 – Beginning with a Sunday Bible school for kindergartners, it now provides Sunday Bible classes for students up to the 3rd year in high school. For those who live a distance from the church, the Seoul area has been divided into 21parishes for children and young adults.
1976 – Established in Los Angeles, Bethesda Theological School became accredited in 1983, making it a recognized institution of learning. Then in 1990 it became Bethesda Christian University. In 1997, it joined AABC (American Association of Bible Colleges).
1978 – First established on December 27th as the Full Gospel Education Research Institute for the purpose of educating and improving the faith of church members, in 1990 it became Young-san Research Center. Then in 1993 it became the International Theological Institute. Currently, ITI runs three departments for educational purposes: the Bible School established in 1979; the Bible College established in 1980; and the Bible Graduate School established in 1982. The three educational facilities take a person step by step in faith education.
1994 – Introduced long distance masters and Ph.D. programs granted by Regent University for students in Korea. The programs are run by the International Theological Institute. In 1995 a sisterhood relationship was established between Hansei University in Korea and Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.
- Ministry of Relief and Social Aid
1962 – With the church becoming organized, social relief work began with the women’s mission group taking the lead in visiting prisons and orphanages as well as raising funds for aid.
1982 – Founded a church and a help center at Holt Welfare Center, then founded “a wheelchair house” and financially supported the construction of a multi-purpose gym for the handicapped.
1982 – Founded a “Share and Share Alike Headquarters” to collect donated goods which are distributed to about 1,500 centers as well as donating and supporting various welfare facilities.
1984 – Sending rice and financial aid to various organizations helping refugees of natural or man-made disasters-both nationally and internationally.
1984 – Began the “Support for Those with Heart Disease” and have helped fund heart surgeries for about 2,700 children who did not have the financial capability to pay for their surgeries.
1987 – With the establishment of “Mission Group for the Handicapped” in December, “Lessons of Love” were offered to the handicapped to help them cope and enhance their potential to be functional in society.
1988 – Began the “Blood Donation Drive” to help the blood banks better help those who need blood transfusions for various surgeries.
1990 – Financially supported various aid programs through the “Paper Recycling Drive.”
1991 – Under the leadership of World Vision Korea, the loose change collection drive was begun by providing a “Bread of Love” coin bank. The drive was taken over by YFGC in 1992 and the money collected has been going to various relief organizations.
1992 – Begun in May, the used clothes collection drive became the “Shared Love” movement in 1996. The collected clothes are sent to various organizations and churches- both national and international.
1993 – Committee for assistance to pioneer churches in sparsely populated areas of the countryside was established. Monthly financial aid is sent to pastors of these churches. All in all, 700 churches have been financially supported until they became independently supported. Currently 250 churches are still being supported.
1995 – In March an “Aid for Those in North Korea” drive was begun with financial assistance as well as manufactured goods and medicine.
1997 – With the “IMF Crisis” gripping the nation, various frugality drives were begun such as the “Saturday Flea Market,” the “Share and Exchange Market,” the “Gold Collection Drive” and others all under the motto, “Let’s Save Our Economy.”
1999 – A non-government organization, the “Good People,” was established in order to help those suffering in North Korea from both natural and man-made disasters, as well as offer help to various people in need throughout the world.
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