Pastor David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the Yoido Full Gospel Church (Assemblies of God) in South Korea, has paased away. At the height of the church's growth, it has been reported that Yoido Full Gospel Church had over 830,000 members, making it the largest congregational church in the world. Cho died on Tuesday morning at the age of 85 after battling with complications from a stroke.
Cho was initially a Buddhist. When he was 17 years-old, Cho was close to death after contracting tuberculois. However, a beautiful girl visited him telling him about Jesus Christ, after which Cho became a Christian. Sensing God calling 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.
In 1958, Cho and his mother-in-law, Choi Ja-shil, founded rhe Yoido Full Gospel Church. Cho began preaching on the Three-Fold Blessing (the blessing of the spirit, soul, and body), proclaiming that physical health and financial prosperity are as much a part of God's will for Christians as the salvation of the soul. Inspired by his message of hope and monetary wealth, many previously uncommitted people joined the church, and by the beginning of 1961, membership had grown to a thousand.
Membership of the church reached fifty thousand by 1977, a figure that doubled in only two years. A special worship service was held to celebrate this milestone, with Demos Shakarian, President of the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International as the guest speaker. In 1993, with 700,000 members, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, was the world's largest congregation recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Cho retired as head pastor several times, but the church ran into immediate infighting among the remaining ministers, causing him to come out of retirement, most recently late in 2006. As of 2007, membership stands at 830,000, with seven Sunday services translated into 16 languages. In 2008, Cho finally retired, with Young Hoon Lee succeeding him as senior pastor.