The death of Yonggi Cho, one of the distinguished Church growth expert was announced on Tuesday morning via his official Facebook page. He died at the age of 85. This announcement reads, “Dr David Yonggi Cho has gone to be with Jesus. At the age of 85 (1936-2021).
David Yonggi Cho was co-founder of the world’s largest church, Yoido Full Gospel Church, and the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.
According to CT (Christianity Today), “Cho and his mother-in-law started a church in Seoul in 1958 in a tent pieced together from bits of US Army tents. Yoido Full Gospel Church, affiliated with the Assemblies of God, grew to a weekly attendance of about 800,000 people in seven Sunday services, with hundreds of licensed ministers and thousands of laypersons leading weekly small groups of 10 to 15 people.”
Explaining further on his conversion experience, CT notes, He learned English from hanging around American military bases, and by the age of 15 began to work for the troops as a translator.
His life changed at 17, when tuberculosis sent him to the hospital coughing up blood and rethinking his understanding of the universe. As a Buddhist, Cho later explained, he had been taught that he must suffer to “become Buddha through hardship.”
Jesus, it seemed, offered an alternative. Christians told him that “Jesus the living God is your friend, mentor and guide here and now.” After reading a Bible given to him by a young woman, Cho decided to reach out to the Christian God.
This is the turning point in his life. Dr. David is known to be the Pastor with the largest congregation in the world, sitting thousands of people each services. Many Pastors around the world modelled his Church growth cell strategy and structures for Churches and ministries.
However, Cho was not without his own challenge, he was suspended at a point in time because of misappropriation of funds and other legal issues. CT noted the following;
In 1981, two Assemblies of God leaders accused Cho’s church of accommodating ancestor worship. Some in the church continued cultural practices of lighting candles in front of deceased relatives and bowing to their pictures on important days. Cho said it was possible to distinguish between ancestor worship and honoring your father and mother, but many Christian leaders in Korea and the larger Pentecostal world saw that as heretical.
Cho stepped back from full-time ministry in 2008, passing leadership to Young Hoon Lee, the current pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church.
In his retirement, Cho faced his most serious scandal. He was found guilty of embezzling funds from the church and was given a three-year suspended sentence. He directed leadership of the church to buy unlisted stocks owned by his eldest son. The value was inflated, and the church reportedly lost about 13 billion won, the equivalent of about $12 million. He was also found guilty of evading taxes in the stock deal.
Cho told his church that the conviction was the hardest day in his life of ministry. But he also said his conscience was clear before God, and the church allowed him to continue in part-time ministry.
We at Naija Gospel Radio offer our condolence to the family for the loss of a Father, Husband and leader.