Yoido Full Gospel Church founder Reverend David Yonggi Cho passed away on Tuesday morning. He was the founder of the biggest South Korean church that initiated the spread of Christianity in the country during the war. He was 85.
His church released a press release confirming his death at a Seoul hospital. The pastor had been treated and admitted in July 2020 when he collapsed due to a cerebral hemorrhage.
Reverend Cho was raised and born in a Buddhist family in 1936, the heights of the Korean war. He left Buddhism and embraced Christianity after nearly dying of tuberculosis when he was 17. He attributed his recovery to a miracle from God.
He narrated this story and had officially formed a statement about it on his website.
“I will never forget God’s blessing and grace over my life, through which He chose me to be His Servant when I was just an insignificant child with lung disease, and He saved me by His grace through the atonement of the Cross of Jesus Christ, so that through prayer I might receive wisdom and preach by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit wherever He placed me,” he wrote.
Christianity and Protestantism may have been the leading religion in Korea in recent times. However, the Christian faith under the leadership of Reverend Paul Yonggi Cho had its humble beginnings, with only five worshippers in 1958 gathering inside a tent church in Seoul. In these times, South Korea was in the reconstructive phase after the 1950-53 Korean War.
David Yonggi Cho revived the church and increased its influence, converting the hugely Confucian country to embrace a new faith.
Declining memberships and church scandals
His church experienced rapid through the decades, and in 1993, it had gathered more than 700,000 members. However, a sharp declined after that year, with some church officials saying that it lost around 600,000 members.
Despite the significant drop in membership, the Yoido Full Gospel Church is still the largest Protestant church in South Korea. It currently has 400 pastors and evangelists in the country and has sent 500 missionaries abroad.
No church has survived without its share of rumors and scandals. The Yoido Full Gospel Church is not an exemption.
He and his family faced a major scandal when a female politician filed a paternity suit against one of his sons. Critics also called them out for asserting dominance in key posts in church organizations.
A controversial ‘unprecedented democratic’ power transition also happened in 2008, forcing Cho to step down from his position as the church’s top pastor. A non-family member replaced him.
The expansion of Cho’s church also motivated other megachurches in Korea to assert more effort in increasing their membership rate.