Shocking: Founder of world’s largest Megachurch, David Yonggi Cho is dead

David Yonggi Cho, the Korean Pentecostal who founded Yoido Full Gospel Church, the world’s largest megachurch, died on Tuesday at the age of 85.

The news of his death was known by the church’s website.

Yonggi Cho conveyed the gospel of hope to the Korean people who fell into despair after the Korean War.

According to the church, he was instrumental in growing the Korean church, particularly developing Yoido Full Gospel Church as the world’s largest church.”

Yonggi 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.

He also promoted Pentecostal practices of prayer and healing as essential to dynamic church growth.

Though membership has since declined to 600,000, it’s still the largest Protestant church in South Korea, with 400 pastors and evangelists in the country and 500 missionaries abroad, reported The Associated Press. Protestantism is the biggest religion in South Korea, followed by Buddhism and Catholicism, according to 2015 government census data.

Cho was born on February 14, 1936, in the rural county of Ulju. His father owned a glove and sock manufacturing company, but it went bankrupt during Cho’s childhood, forcing him to make his own way in the world.

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.”

Two years later, he and Jashil Choi, his future mother-in-law, started holding services in a tent. Only four or five people came to the first service, but within three years, regular attendance had grown to 600.

By the early 1960s, Cho harbored ambitions to grow his congregation into the largest church in Korea. He later told Church Growth that this was because he wanted to be rich and famous, and he had a competitive spirit.

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.

“As a last resort,” he wrote in his 2019 memoir, “I decided to look to the God I did not know. I cried out, ‘God I want to live! I want to live! Please help me!”

When he was later released from the hospital, cured of tuberculosis, he gave the glory to God and claimed a miraculous healing. In 1956, he started attending the Full Gospel Bible College in Seoul, preparing to become a minister.

“Religion is useless if religion can’t give hope,” Cho told the radio program The World in 2017. “People began to swarm to the tent church, the poor people, they needed to have hope.”

The congregation was known for dividing church members into small groups, also known as cell groups, which met in homes under the direction of lay elders, according to Christianity Today.

“As a last resort,” he wrote in his 2019 memoir, “I decided to look to the God I did not know. I cried out, ‘God I want to live! I want to live! Please help me!”

When he was later released from the hospital, cured of tuberculosis, he gave the glory to God and claimed a miraculous healing. In 1956, he started attending the Full Gospel Bible College in Seoul, preparing to become a minister.

Cho retired as pastor of the Yodoi church in 2007. In 2014, he was convicted for embezzling millions from the church and received a suspended sentence. His son Cho Hee-Jun used church funds to buy stocks at inflated prices and then created false documents to evade taxes, according to Korean news reports.

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