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David Yonggi Cho

David Yonggi Cho (조영기) is a Korean Christian minister. He is Senior Pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church (여이도 순복음 교회), which is the world's largest known congregation, with a membership of 780 000 in 2003.

Table of contents
1 Early Life
2 The Daejo Church
3 The Seodaemun Church
4 The Yoido Church
5 Wider Ministry
6 External Links

Early Life

He was born Cho Yonggi (조영기), on 14 February 1936, in Kyo-doeng (교덩), Kyungsang (경상) Province. The son of Cho Doo-chun (조두천) and Kim Bok-sun (김복순), Cho was the eldest of five brothers and four sisters. He graduated from middle school with honours, but his hopes of a university education appeared thwarted when his father's sock and glove business went bankrupt. Accordingly, he enrolled in a cheap 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. A keen student, 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 being comforted by his sister's Christian friend while suffering from tuberculosis. He subsequently had a series of spiritual experiences, including what Pentecostals call the Baptism of the Holy Spirit - an experience in which the believer speaks in tongues - when he saw Jesus Christ 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 (서울). While there, he met Choi Ja-Shil (체자실), 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 reached fifty 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.

The church's expansion program suffered a setback in January 1961, when Cho was conscripted by the Korean army. He asked John Hurston, an American missionary, to pastor the church in his abasnce. 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 Seodamun. It opened in November 1961. The church soon outgrew its premesis: 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.

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 Yoido Island (여이도솜), in the Han River (한강), which flows through Seoul. At that time, Yoido 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 Yoido 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.

Wider 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 Assosication 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, Japanese, and Mandarin. He has written numerous books, including The Fourth Dimension (two volumes); The Holy Spirit, My Senior Partner; Praying With Jesus; and Prayer, Key to Revival. He has three adult sons.

See also:

External Links