A five-star general in the Army of God completed his term of service and has gone to heaven. Dr. Yonggi Cho died peacefully in hospital in South Korea on Tuesday morning Sept, 14th. He was 85 years of age.
It was my privilege to know Dr. Cho and serve on his Board of Directors for Church Growth International. In this Langstaff letter, I wish to pay tribute to a great man of God who was one of this generation’s great leaders.
HOW I BECAME INVOLVED WITH DR. CHO
In the 1970s, my wife Dorothy and I founded a renewal ministry called The Temple Trust to help foster Holy Spirit renewal across the nation of Australia. We worked with people of every possible denomination, including Pentecostals. I was invited to speak at a biannual Assemblies of God conference held in Melbourne, Australia. To the best of my recollection, it was the first time the Assemblies of God had asked a non Assemblies of God pastor to speak at their conference. At that time, I was a Methodist minister. The main speaker at the conference was to be Dr. Cho. The conference included weekend services, and the speakers at the conference were to speak at the various Assemblies of God churches in Melbourne.
When I looked at the schedule, I was surprised to find I was one of the two ministers to speak at Richmond Temple, the leading Assemblies of God church in the city. I was astonished to find I was teamed up with Dr. Cho.
Now, I was still “wet behind the ears,” so to speak, having only been baptized in the Spirit some 5 or 6 years, and here I was sharing the pulpit with the pastor of the largest church in the world. I would speak first for approximately a half-hour, and then Dr. Cho would take over. After it was all over, I could not help but wonder what Dr. Cho thought of my message. It could not have been that bad because later, he told me, “I would like you to come up and minister in my church in Korea.” Naturally, I was flabbergasted at such a possibility. However, nothing came of the offer for a couple of years.
Then Dr. Cho was invited back to speak in Adelaide, Australia, and I went down to the conference. It was then that Dr. Cho repeated his invitation to come to Korea. He also invited me to be on the Board of Directors of Church Growth International, which included other Australian leaders, such as Andrew Evans, Reg Klimionok, Phil Pringle, and David Cartledge. This was a unique privilege as the Board included many great leaders from around the world.
In June of 1979, I flew up to Seoul, Korea, and had the privilege of ministering in Yoido Full Gospel Church, the world’s largest megachurch.
I spoke at the mid-week service on Wednesday night, at the Bible School on Thursday, at the All-Night of Prayer on Friday, went up to the Prayer Mountain with his mother-in-law, Choi-Ja-Shil, on Saturday, and then at one of the great services on Sunday.
That week was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and ministry that I will never forget. I preached in English, and Dr. Cho translated it into Korean. (There was a joke amongst the Board that if Dr. Cho didn’t like your message, he would provide his own).
Since then, I have been blessed to be with him at board meetings and conferences in Korea and in such places as Hawaii, Minneapolis, Guatemala, and Baton Rouge. In 1986, my wife Dorothy and I went to the CGI conference in Jerusalem, Israel. My life and ministry have been greatly enriched and inspired by Dr. Cho.
Let me share some of the things I gleaned from his life and ministry. He faithfully preached Christ and the gospel, and his ministry included:
In 1958, Dr. Cho and his mother-in-law (a great woman of prayer) founded the church in Seoul, Korea, using an old army tent. They started with about eight people, and it grew from there. He conveyed the gospel of hope to the Korean people who had fallen into despair after the Korean war of the early 1950s. He preached the hope that flows from the good news of Jesus.
He was a man with a great vision. You would have to be a visionary to do what he did. The Guineas Book of World Records acknowledged the church as the largest church globally, with approximately 800,000 members at its peak.
Undoubtedly inspired by the example of his mother-in-law, the church developed a strong foundation of prayer, including the All-Night of Prayer every Friday. Eventually, they developed Prayer Mountain, where people could go and pray (usually pray and fast).
Dr. Cho placed a strong emphasis on the person and work of the Holy Spirit as being essential to ministry. He authored books on the Holy Spirit, including “The Fourth Dimension.”
He provided a positive message of faith, believing God for miracles. He had extraordinary faith and believed God for great things.
In addition to all these important points, one of the major factors in the growth of the church was the development of cell groups.
In the early 1960s, Dr. Cho had to step out of pastoral ministry because of stress. He crashed emotionally and physically because, as pastor, he was trying to do everything. In the midst of it all, he came up with the answer – cell groups in his church, a revolutionary idea in Korea at the time.
One of the keys to the growth of the church was women. Lee Grady, one-time editor of Charisma Magazine, wrote about it this way, “While prayer certainly was a key ingredient in the spreading of the Gospel in Seoul, Cho revealed in 1999 during a meeting with pastors and missionaries in Italy that experts had overlooked a major factor in his success. Cho went on to inform the audience that women played a key role in his ministry — even from the beginning when he began his church with Choi Ja-shil, a female colleague who eventually became his mother-in-law.
Cho explained to the attendees at the Italy event that he collapsed from exhaustion in 1964 when he was ministering to his 3,000-member congregation. When he told his male leaders that he wanted to divide the church into home cells, they resisted the idea. They didn’t want him to delegate his work to them. ‘We are not trained to do that, and we are not paid to do that,’ the men told Cho.
But when Cho presented his idea to Yoido’s female leaders, they eagerly embraced the concept and asked him to teach them how to lead. ‘Teach us, pastor,” the women told Cho. “We will do anything for you’ “(hughsnews.com).
I have always found Dr. Cho to be humble. I did not hear him boasting about his achievements. He often told stories against himself, and he also had a sense of humor.
One has to remember he was not perfect, and he made mistakes. Towards the end of his ministry, he got in trouble with the Korean government authorities regarding a particular financial scheme involving his son.
A FINAL WORD
When Dr. Cho died, the Board of Directors were asked to send a 60-second tribute to Dr. Cho to be included in their celebration of his life. This is what I wrote.
“I want to offer my condolences in regard to our dear friend Dr. Yonggi Cho. I am sad, but at the same time, I rejoice that he is now with the Lord in heaven. Ever since I first met Dr. Cho in Melbourne, Australia, in the mid-1970s, he has been an inspiration to me.
A man of great vision
A man of extraordinary faith
A man of deep prayer
A man with a worldwide impact
A man with a humble heart
He ranked alongside people like Billy Graham as one of the great Christian leaders of this generation. I thank the Lord for our friend Dr. Cho and his life-changing ministry. We honor him today. We love him and cherish every memory of him. To God be the glory, Amen.”