Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 17 July 2016

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Dreaming Big

 

Pastor David Yonggi Cho (formerly known as Paul Yonggi Cho) had been nurturing the dream of building the largest church in Korea. Then, in 1961, he acted on this dream and began reaching out to new people. This morning, I want to tell his story and how God granted him his wish and even exceeded his wildest dreams by making him the Senior Pastor of the largest church in the world. [John Allen, The Global War on Christians (New York: Image 2013), 68: “The largest single Christian congregation anywhere in the world is thought to be the Yoido Full Gospel Church….” The Economist, November 1, 2007 adds: “Yoido Full Gospel Church…boasts 830,000 members, a number it says is rising by 3,000 a month.”] A newspaper correspondent, Lucky Severson, observed [in 2012] that sixty years ago there were about 50,000 Christians in South Korea. Today it is more than 10 million [In 1900, only 1% of the country’s population was Christian, but in 1962 there were 5% and today about 30% of all South Koreans identify themselves as Christians], and almost one-in-ten were baptized in the Yoido Full Gospel Church where Pastor Cho, the founding pastor, served as the chairman of the board until 2011 [75 years of age then] (http://www.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/475903.html).

For David Yonggi Cho a dream came true and then God topped his dream with one that only God can dream. “Yonggi Cho, how about becoming the Senior Pastor of the largest church in the world?” For all of his ambitions, this was not on his radar but it was on God’s. We have a God that is dreaming big dreams and they have to be big because Jesus gave us, the church, an enormous commission couched in amazing promisesMatthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” [Jesus died for us – made the ultimate sacrifice – to offer salvation to all. 1 Corinthians 1:18: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”]

Ask yourself: How big do our dreams need to be – what needs to happen – to disciple even one nation, Australia, and teaching our own nation to obey everything Jesus has commanded us?

 

[How hard is it to dream big when in our country the recent history has been so deflating – Greg Sheridan: Christian churches drifting too far from the marketplace of ideas, The Australian, June 4, 2016:

Across the past 120 years, the Christian churches in Europe and Australia have lost every significant, long-term battle about social norms and legal measures to underpin them.

Consider just a few: birth control, no-fault divorce, abortion, Sunday trading, blasphemy, film and television standards, same-sex adoption and soon same-sex marriage, and no doubt euthanasia and much else. On some of these issues it was right that the churches lost. In these 120 years no victory was ever more than a temporary slowdown in secularism. While there seemed to be many tactical wins, the war was lost. In each case, the church misunderstood the extent and nature of its support and the long-term threat it faced.

The Christian churches now need to reconceive of themselves as representing a distinct and not all that big minority (of practising Christians). They should conduct themselves as a self-confident minority, seeking to win conversion through example and persuasion and not to defend endlessly legal protections and enforcements that are increasingly untenable or meaningless.]

 

What God did with Yonggi Cho, he is doing with others. In the Bible, Moses dreamt about helping his own people, the enslaved Jews in Egypt. And then, many years later, God spoke to him and said: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt … So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:7). Moses would not just help lighten the load of his people, but he would be their deliverer, taking them completely out of Egypt into a new land, flowing with milk and honey. On the way, he would mediate a covenant with God whereby God himself would dwell among his people. All of his dreams came true and then God topped them.

All of Jesus’ core disciples dreamt about becoming great leaders. Jesus surpassed their wildest dreams when He reserved for them twelve thrones in His kingdom and inscribed their names on the foundation stones of heavenly Jerusalem (see Luke 9:46; 22:24,28-30; Matt. 20:20-24; Rev. 21:14).

Exceeding our desires is one of God’sspecialties.” Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth wished for a child. God exceeded their expectations when He gave them a son who would not only bring joy to them, but to many (see Luke 1:13-17).

This morning, drawing from Yonggi Cho’s experience and the testimonies in the Bible, what are your dreams as people of God? Are you ready to dream? Maybe I give you a few more Bible verses:

 

John 14:12-14: Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

 

John 15:7-8: If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

 

John 15:16: … I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit— fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

 

John 16:23-24: …Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.…Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

 

Psalm 37:4 [NKJV]: Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.

 

The Bible is full of promises and encouragement, and if we are discerning the current season of our church, Living Grace, correctly, this is the time to step into these promises, trusting Jesus with the desires of our heart, and begin dreaming more intentionally.

 

From “Relaunching Lutheran Renewal” (29 March 2015): And – further adding to my delight – I knew the time had finally come to stand up and be counted … now I sensed that a change had come …

On Sunday, Herman preached and he didn’t preach what he had in mind earlier in the week. God had given him a new message and the message was “breakthrough” for Living Grace and our ministry. Herman said: “It was breakthrough not just for individuals but breakthrough also for Living Grace and the Lutheran Church of Australia.”

Herman also sensed that God had wanted him to pray for breakthrough in people’s work situation but, not knowing what was on his heart, we had already done so straight after the worship. I led but then Letoya suggested that Brett had authority in this area and he should pray which he did. This was great confirmation that we were on the right track. God had put the same burden on all of us.

The whole church embraced the call to give shape to a national movement of Lutheran Renewal.

At the prayer meeting before the service [15 February 2015], Vicki was surprised at my excitement and peace in the face of the Qld Bishop’s actions. She thought that  the black mark against me name had become blacker and it was true but I sensed a change of seasons and had joy and confidence. Vicki took it all in and when she heard Herman begin to preach on “breakthrough”, (in her words) her spirit jumped and she was connecting the dots:

 

Vicki Meagher’s testimony: Two weeks before Christmas 2014 we were discussing prayer and fasting for 7 days in the New Year (2015). As time went by, the Lord put on my heart He wanted the first fruits. It became clear He wanted the first day of the year, so I was led by the Holy Spirit into a 40 day fast from the 1st January to 9th of February.

We were going through difficult times in the church (Living Grace), difficult times personally. In general, everything was getting too hard. As always, God has perfect timing. It was such a relief that God took over, took control and set discipline in place. I laid everything down before Him that was weighing so heavy on my heart. He knew everything but I just wanted to make sure.

On Monday the 9th of February (40th day) I was reading and praying 5-5.30am and words came out of my mouth that had nothing to do with what I was doing. They were all out before I realized what had happened. I did not move or say anything – just sat. It had never happened like that before.

 

He said: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).

 

I was still for about an hour. Then I got angry because for so, so long I had been crying out begging, pleading with Him to do something and in the natural nothing seemed to be happening. So I let it go and walked away from what was said.

On Thursday 12th February (3 days later) – around the same time reading and praying – the exact same thing happened. Words came out of my mouth before I realized. I was in control of nothing.

 

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not.”

 

I didn’t get angry. I just cried, repented and meditated on what he had said – not once but twice. This fast was God’s plan. He ordered it. He planned it. All I did was obey. What was it for?

On Sunday 15th February, we all went into the 8am prayer meeting. We were talking. Pastor Edgar told us about his week. The Jesus Tent in Rockhampton had been cancelled. The black mark against him had become blacker. Turmoil was still around us but he said that he was excited. He was at peace. He spoke with confidence.

Church began and Pastor Herman was preaching and the word the Lord gave him was “BREAKTHROUGH”. My spirit jumped. God’s word was being confirmed all morning.

It is a new day – a new beginning. We will have warfare but God has promised:

 

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not.”

 

Amen.

 

+++

 

First recorded in the message “Laden with Prosperity” (15 November 2015): Vicki was very busy and only remembered late that our “Touching Base” meeting was coming up and she asked God for a word for the congregation. She continued with her work [Tue 3 Nov 2015] and was vacuuming when she heard God in a voice that was louder than the vacuum cleaner and he said: “Forcefully advancing.” She immediately went to the Bible and found the verse: “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12).

Vicki went to bed early because she was very tired. Around midnight, God woke her up and said: “Church of Philadelphia”. She left the bedroom and looked up the church in Philadelphia in the Bible:

 

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:7-13).

 

This is what we had been sensing all year. The time of waiting and closed doors is over and we are now in a breakthrough season. For years (since 2010), we have been praying about the “key” to the Lutheran Church and now God opened the door that no one can shut again. God is pleased with us – “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

 

[Compare this with the prophetic word in 2008 when God gave us the word of being like the church in Laodicea (also in Revelation 3).]

 

What are your dreams? We are studying Yonggi Cho’s bookMake Your Faith Work”, because there a big dream came true and we want to learn the inside story of how God operates in making these big dreams come true. What are your dreams? [Give time for some people to share their dreams.] This is not meant to generate pressure on anyone. Francisca, our younger daughter, attended a small group where the leader asked everyone to write down their life goals. Some were specific and down-to-earth and put down just one goal such as wanting to have a family. Francisca, on the other hand, had her page full. In the last few years, she wanted to become an Olympian, a deep sea diver, high-court judge, beekeeper and prime-minister. And I forgot the rest. We are all wired differently (and she may have to sort her dreams a little), but what kind of dreams is God stirring up in us or resurrecting in us?

Sometimes we may be too shy to dream big about ourselves, but what about dreaming big about some others among us? For instance, I look at our worship bands – Kirsty, Dan, Mark, Dion, Letoya, and the whole team – and I am dreaming that they will write their own songs (which they already do) and God will breathe on them and have our whole nation sing them. We will produce worship CDs and DVDs, and go out and minister in worship at other places. Our congregation has an exceptional high percentage of small business owners and I am dreaming that God is prospering some of these businesses supernaturally to shine a light in the business world and finance his kingdom work. I know that this is on the heart of quite a few of them, and I am dreaming and praying for their breakthrough. Then, I am dreaming about our children, moving in spiritual disciplines and gifts that have blossomed and matured from an early age – prayer, worship, prophecy, deliverance, preaching [with the wisdom of Solomon which adds amazing projects and prosperity to everything].

I have to admit that so far I have never really dreamt about building a big church. When you have a big church, you have to run it and make it work, and I know that I am not the best at organizing and overseeing the programs, volunteers and staff. You may not be dreaming about building a big church, because we may lose some of the family feel of a smaller church, at least in the Sunday gathering. You will no longer know everyone that belongs to Living Grace, and so on.

However, I have been dreaming about drawing closer to God [I want more of God for myself and everyone here] and I have a burden to share God, including what life with him in the fullness of the Spirit looks like, with all people. On long-service leave in Germany, I struggled to keep silent when I was surrounded by people who knew nothing about God. And there were so many Christians that did not really know the Holy Spirit or what it meant to be filled by him. I am dreaming that doors will open and everyone will hear. I am dreaming that there will be another platform for preaching the Gospel where a whole nation listens to the preaching of Jesus. [Billy Graham impacted Australia in the 1950s and beyond, and it can happen again – even bigger.] I am dreaming about the Lutheran Church in Australia embracing renewal and welcoming the Holy Spirit into the denomination. I am dreaming that – finally – we will have converts – new people putting their faith in Jesus Christ and receiving salvation from him. I am dreaming that we will all bear fruit and disciple our own new Christians. I am dreaming about the joy of salvation becoming so contageous that everyone wants to have Jesus. I am dreaming about revival, another awakening in our nation.

What about you? So my dreams do not begin with building a large church. They begin with a burden for the lost and being fruitful as those that belong to Jesus. However, I realize that this does entail a growing church. You cannot have new Christians coming in and not grow. For now, as a church, we have targeted by faith an average Sunday worship attendance of 500 which is not going to be the largest church in town or the nation, but it is a beginning and this kind of growth (requiring our attendance to grow more than threefold) will further help us getting a hearing for what we have to say.

How are we going with our dreams? I am not sure. It can be hard to stretch the imagination and still feel that we are grounded in prayer and hearing from God. Can wild dreams really be from God?

The good news is that God does not plant his dreams into perfectly pure hearts only. In many respects, Yonggi Cho was dreaming a selfish dream:

 

Paul Yonggi Cho: Successful Home Cell Groups, New Jersey: Logos International, 1981, p2: In those days the Yong Nak Presbyterian Church was the largest church in Seoul. It had about 6,000 members [compared to Cho’s 600 members at the time], and that proved to be a great challenge to me. In fact, one day, without anyone else knowing about it, I took a measuring stick and went over to the Presbyterian church in order to take its exact measurements. I determined the length and the width of the building, and I counted the number of pews. It seated more than 2,000 persons.

In my ambition, I then said, “I will build a church larger than this, and the Lord will fill it.”

 

Yonggi Cho was ambitious and competitive, looking to shine himself, rather than serve humbly. But the people in the Bible were also dreaming big, largely selfish, dreams at first. For instance, Jesus’ core disciples – the twelve – always argued who was the greatest among them before they all became great in humble service.

This is how God processed Yonggi Cho:

 

Paul Yonggi Cho: Successful Home Cell Groups, New Jersey: Logos International, 1981, p4-47: By 1964 we were behind schedule, compared with my request to God for 3,000 members. Our congregation had grown to 2,400, but I was already in big trouble. I still thought I was really accomplishing great things for the Lord, rushing around from early morning until late in the evening, but my nerves were beginning to wear out. I suffered from constant fatigue, yet I continued to force myself to keep the church moving. I preached, I counseled, I visited the sick, I knocked on doors—I was always on the move.

[Fatigue, collapse and ten years of sickness:] The crisis came one Sunday following the second morning service. We were scheduled to baptize 300 people. (According to our custom, we held believers’ baptism only twice a year.) Dr. John Hurston, an American missionary who was helping me to pastor the church, was there to assist me. However, because of the attitude I had developed, believing I had to do everything myself, I had told John I would baptize each new member personally. Considering myself a “specially chosen vessel of God,” I thought God could bless these people only through me.

But John saw that I was already tired, as I went down into the water to receive the first member. “Cho, you’d better let me give you a hand,” he said.

“No, no, I’m all right,” I protested.

But I did not even dare think about the huge crowd of people waiting to be baptized. I took them one at a time, calling out, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” as I lowered them into the water. Then, of course, I had to lift them out again.

I managed quite well with the first few people, but then came some ladies who were a little plump, and it really took a lot of effort for me to support them and lift them back out of the water. It was not long until I really began to feel the exhaustion, and I could feel the muscles in my arms begin to tremble.

At that point John Hurston said, “Cho, you look a little pale. Are you all right?”

“I’m okay,” I said, nodding vigorously to emphasize my determination.

“No, I think you need to rest for a while,” he persisted. “Come on out of the water and let me take over until you get your strength back.”

“I told you I’m all right,” I said firmly.

He nodded doubtfully. I knew he wasn’t convinced. In my mind I asked the Lord to strengthen me.

To this day I don’t know whether He actually did or whether I simply forced myself to stay on my feet through sheer willpower, but I held up through all 300 baptisms. By the time the last person left the water, I was dizzy and almost delirious.

Exhausted as I was, my work was not over. That afternoon I was scheduled to meet a visiting evangelist from the United States, and that evening I would be his interpreter.

Again John was concerned for my health, and he said to me, “You look so tired. Please rest this afternoon, and I’ll go to the airport.”

I shook my head. “He’s expecting me,” I said. I did not want to give up even one of my responsibilities as pastor.

So without even eating lunch, I drove out to the airport, greeted the evangelist and drove him to his hotel. All the while my legs were quivering whenever I stood up. Then I managed a short rest before I had to pick him up and drive him to the church.

At the beginning of the evening service some of the deacons joined John Hurston in expressing concern for my health. “Pastor Cho,” one of them said, “you look so haggard. You cannot possibly interpret tonight. Let me go and find another interpreter.”

But, I thought, who could interpret this man’s message instead of me? God’s power was flowing through me, and I was the only one who could interpret properly.

“No, I will be all right,” I assured them.

So the evangelist began to speak, and right away I knew I was in trouble. He was a typical fiery Pentecostal preacher, and he began to jump around and shout so much that, as an interpreter, I had a difficult time following him. He had the anointing, and I did not.

To compensate for my own lack of anointing, I began to try to put a little more expressiveness into my voice, and it was not long until I was shouting out the interpretation to every sentence. The evangelist glanced at me out of the corner of his eye, and then he, too, began to shriek and shout. Soon we were both shrieking and shouting, and jumping all around the podium.

By the time we were about a half hour into his message, I began to feel terrible cramps around my heart. I couldn’t breathe. My knees were trembling. Finally, my body could take no more and, against every effort of my will, I simply began to sag. Although I could still hear the evangelist shouting as my knees began to collapse, it seemed as though my eyes had suddenly been switched off. Everything went black.

As I was going down, I remember saying to God, “Lord, why are you punishing me publicly? You could have done this to me privately, in my office.”

My eyes cleared as I lay there, and I looked up at John and said, “John, I’m dying.” My heart seemed to be trembling, and I struggled for breath—my whole system seemed to be crying out for oxygen. Finally, I lost consciousness.

Meanwhile, the congregation was praying for me, but the visiting evangelist was left standing there at the podium, momentarily forgotten. Embarrassed, he simply looked on helplessly. There was nothing he could do; he had lost his mouthpiece.

When I regained consciousness, I struggled to my feet and feebly made my way back to the podium. The only thing I knew to do was dismiss the service, and I did. Then the deacons carried me out to an ambulance, and I was taken to the hospital.

In the emergency room I felt humiliated. I was the pastor who prayed for the sick, and the sick became well. What was I doing here? My ego simply could not accept it. I began to claim my healing; that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. I expected the Lord to perform a miracle and send me home from the hospital.

“Take me out of this hospital,” I cried. “I’m trusting the Word of God! By His stripes I am healed! I won’t accept any injection. Don’t give me any medicine.”

The doctors finally gave up and the deacons drove me home.

But God was not ready to heal me. I continued to claim all the promises for healing in the Bible. If anybody ever claimed the Word of God, I did. I was a bachelor at the time, and I would sit up in my bed in my apartment and claim all of the Scriptures I could find concerning healing. I kept quoting them and quoting them, saying, “God, this is your promise. You cannot deny yourself! I claim it! In the name of Jesus, I’m healed!”

But I got no better. My heart continued to feel cramped, and I struggled to breathe. There were several doctors among the deacons of our church, and they offered to help, but I refused. “I’m standing on the Word of God,” I said.

As I look back on that now, I realize I had only head faith at that time, not heart faith. Head faith cannot claim anything. I was claiming only the logos, which is the general Word of God. I have since learned that it is only when the Holy Spirit gives specific confirmation (rhema, the revealed Word of God to an individual) that we can claim any of those promises as our own. Then our faith becomes heart faith, and with that kind of faith we can move mountains.

I didn’t know that then, so I just kept on claiming those promises, using head faith. I tried to ignore the symptoms. Never mind the fact that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I tried to ignore the presence of death I sensed in my room. I would not give up.

The following Sunday I asked the deacons to take me to the church so that I could preach. I was so weak I couldn’t leave the house for fear of fainting, and I needed a housekeeper to take care of me, but I still insisted on carrying out my responsibilities as pastor of the church. (In my absence, Dr. John Hurston and the woman who was to become my mother-in-law, the Rev. Jashil Choi, were carrying out many of the pastoral duties.)

After the deacons helped me to the podium, I stood in front of the anxious congregation. My body trembled all over. I began to preach in a very weak voice, speaking slowly and halting after every few sentences. I lasted for only eight minutes. Then I fainted.

The deacons took me to my office, and, when I awoke, I began to claim the promises of God again: “By His stripes I am healed … He took my infirmities and carried away my sickness. . . .”

I tried to exercise blind faith, yet in my heart I had no confirmation from the Holy Spirit that I was going to be healed.

“Take me up to the second service,” I told the deacons. “I am going to depend upon the Lord to give me strength.”

At the second service I stood weakly at the podium and prayed, “Lord, now I am exercising faith, standing on your Word. Strengthen me.”

This time I was able to preach for only five minutes before I fainted. Later, after the deacons took me home, I felt certain at last that I really was dying.

But then something happened within me. God seemed to be trying to reach me, telling me I couldn’t just go on claiming all those promises blindly. I had never asked Him what His will was in my situation. In fact, until then I had never considered the possibility that God might choose not to heal me.

“Father,” I said, “you gave all of these promises to us. But I claim them and you don’t heal me. Aren’t you going to heal me?”

Then I was startled by the very distinct voice of God: “Son, I am going to heal you, but the healing is going to take ten years.”

It had not been an audible voice, but it was so clear that I knew I had not been mistaken. I was shaken. It was as though God had passed sentence on me, and yet there was a kind of peace in my trembling heart. I wanted to argue, but I knew I could not argue with God.

For the next ten years, from 1964 to 1974, I felt as though I were dying at every moment. It has become clear to me that an arrogant man pays a very high price—a hardened heart is very hard to break. I had wanted to be broken in an instant; instead it took ten years to destroy “the Great Cho,” as I had come to consider myself.

It is difficult to describe the suffering I endured. Each morning when I woke up I would immediately feel my heart palpitating. There was a burning feeling of death that would begin to creep up from my toes, and I would say to myself, “Oh, I don’t think I’m going to be able to make it today.” But then I would think of God’s promise to heal me, and I knew I was not going to die that day. So I would get out of bed, perspiring and dizzy and gasping for air, and take the medicine I now knew I needed.

[Strategy of cell groups:] My dream of having the largest church in Korea flashed before my eyes. How could I ever reach such a goal, I wondered, when I couldn’t even pastor a church of 2,400 members?

But God said He was going to heal me, so I was not ready to give up. Even though I was too weak to stand at the podium and preach a sermon, I insisted that the deacons help me to the platform so that I could sit there while John Hurston preached.

As I continued on in this desperate state, I gradually became aware that God might have a higher purpose in my suffering, and I knew I needed to become more open to His leading. It was only then that He was able to begin unfolding His plan for me and for Full Gospel Central Church.

It was about a month after my collapse when God began to get through to me that I had been wrong in the methods I had been using to pastor our church.

I was flat on my back in my apartment. I was determined not to give up my ministry, yet I was completely unable to carry it out. John Hurston and Mrs. Choi were carrying the load, but with 2,400 members they were unable to minister to all of the needs of the people. John was not fluent in Korean, and therefore he was able to counsel and pray with very few of the members. Because Mrs. Choi was a woman, the men were reluctant to seek her counsel.

On top of that, Korea was still a poor country, and our members were having a difficult time paying the financial expenses of our growing congregation. Somehow I knew I needed to mobilize more people and get more lay members involved in the ministry of the church, but I didn’t know how. Besides, I didn’t know if asking them was justified.

In my state of exhaustion there didn’t seem to be much that I could do. I was in bed most of the time, in and out of depression, feeling like a pile of broken junk. I couldn’t leave my apartment unassisted for fear I might faint on the street.

I had fallen into the routine of napping and praying, napping and praying, fighting back at that feeling of creeping death and meditating on God’s purpose in leaving me in this predicament. That led me into a number of intense Bible studies that were to prepare me for the time when God could begin to use me.

Before He could give me the full revelation, however, He took me through two preliminary Bible studies. The first was on divine healing. I had preached about divine healing with real conviction and had seen many people healed. Yet I seemed unable to muster the faith to be healed myself, and I realized I did not have a sound scriptural understanding of the topic.

The second subject was the need to have intimate fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

Both of these studies led me to write books. The first was entitled Jesus Christ, the Divine Healer, and the second was called simply The Holy Spirit. Through these studies I grew in my own faith and understanding. I found the study on the Holy Spirit especially revealing.

For instance, as I studied the Bible, I saw that, although we are told to have fellowship with the Father and with the Son, we are to have “communion” with the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). I learned that communion goes deeper than fellowship. One dictionary defines communion as “an intimate relationship with deep understanding,” and another says it is “the act of sharing one’s thoughts and emotions with another.”

In my need, God spoke to me of the necessity for having communion with the Holy Spirit—to have intimate fellowship with Him, to share my deepest thoughts and emotions with Him.

“Think of a marriage,” the Lord said to me. “When a man marries a woman, he doesn’t just bring her into his house and leave her there. He doesn’t treat her as just a ‘thing’ in his house. No, he loves her and shares his life with her—intimately. That is the kind of relationship you are to have with the Holy Spirit.”

During the year from 1964 to 1965 I continued to be terribly ill, spending most of my time in bed, but during that time my fellowship with the Holy Spirit began to deepen and take on the characteristics of communion. I finished both of those books, and they went on to become best sellers in Korea, and later in Japan.

But those studies were only preliminary to the real revelation God wanted to give me. That revelation was to have the most powerful effect on my ministry. Simply stated, the Lord wanted to show me that I needed to delegate responsibility in the church.

As I lay there on my bed, wondering how I would ever again be able to manage the congregation of Full Gospel Central Church (let alone an even larger one), I asked the Holy Spirit, “Lord, what can I do?”

Suddenly I felt the Spirit speaking to my heart: “Let my people go and grow.”

I was stunned and puzzled. What did that mean?

He continued, “Let my people go from the kingdom of Yonggi Cho, but let them grow.”

“What do you mean, ‘Let them grow’?” I asked.

“Help them to stand on their own feet. Help them to carry out ministry.”

That made me really begin to search the Scriptures. I came to Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, and that gave me courage. In Eph. 4:11 it said that God “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (NIV).

Then I saw it. God’s servants (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) are given to the Church to equip the lay people, so the lay people can carry out ministry, both inside and outside the Church.

Next I read in Acts 2:46-47 that there were two types of meetings in the early church. Not only did the disciples gather regularly at the Temple, but they also met together daily in their homes to break bread and to have fellowship.

I knew that in the early days of the Church there were 100,000 Christians in Jerusalem, out of a population of 200,000. Who could have taken care of all those people, since there were only twelve apostles? How could they take care of the house-to-house ministry? There had to be leaders of smaller groups—of house fellowships. Together with the seven deacons (Acts 6), the lay leaders would have had to share the responsibility of carrying out house-to-house ministry.

Until then my idea of the church was always a public building; I had never even considered the possibility of turning a house into a church. Yet the Bible clearly and specifically mentioned the church meeting in houses.

And I thought to myself, here I have been stressing only a temple ministry. We have no house-to-house ministry. I’ve just been telling our people to come to church on Sundays and Wednesdays. There is something we have been lacking.

My study carried me on to the sixth chapter of Acts, where the apostles chose seven deacons to minister to the physical needs of the growing congregation, while the apostles limited themselves to prayer and the preaching of the Word. But after the stoning of one of the deacons, Stephen, the church was scattered. Then even the deacons became preachers, as is evident from Philip’s evangelism campaign to Samaria in Acts 8. The apostles had delegated not only the authority to minister to physical needs but also the authority to preach.

As I surveyed Acts, I saw that in addition to the 3,000 people added to the church on Pentecost, 5,000 more were added the following day. Yet there were only twelve apostles and seven deacons. Therefore, the only way for the believers to be taken care of in the house meetings was for each of those fellowships—or cell groups—to have a leader. The church, then, was well-organized to minister to the needs of a growing congregation.

“That’s it!” I said to myself. It made sense. How else could the early church have absorbed 3,000 converts on the first day, when the Holy Spirit fell on the believers in the Upper Room on Pentecost? The needs of those people were taken care of in the homes, not in the Temple.

As I continued to read, I saw that other churches were mentioned as meeting in houses—the church in the house of Lydia (Acts 16:40), the church in the house of Priscilla and Aquilla (Rom. 16:3-5) and the church in the house of Philemon (Philem. 2). Clearly there was much scriptural support for home meetings.

Next I was drawn to Exodus 18 and Moses’ struggles in trying to judge the Israelites in the wilderness. He would sit before them from mourning until night, listening to their disputes and judging their cases. His father-in-law, Jethro, saw that it was too much for him, and he showed Moses how to delegate authority so that he would not wear himself out trying to meet the needs of all those in his charge.

“But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God,” Jethro told him, “trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you” (Exod. 18:21-22, NIV).

I began to see that delegation of authority is definitely part of the will of God.

Gradually the idea began to form in my mind: Suppose I released my deacons to open their homes as house churches. Suppose they taught the people, prayed for them to be healed and helped them, and suppose the people helped one another in the same way in those home cell groups. The church could flourish in the homes, and the members could even evangelize by inviting their friends and neighbors to the meetings. Then on Sunday they could bring them to the church building for the worship service. That would exempt me from laboring in visiting and counseling, and other such time-consuming work. I would be free to be the pastor—to teach and preach and equip the lay leaders for ministry.

In the space of three weeks I had a whole new plan for our church. But I knew I would still have to get it accepted by the board of deacons, and I would have to make a good presentation—the deacons were already worried about my leadership.

Soon thereafter I was able to get up from my bed, but I was still very weak and had to struggle to stay on my feet. I went to the doctor, who told me, “You have a very weak heart, and your whole system is very weak. You’re suffering from nervous exhaustion, and the only advice I can give you is to give up the ministry. It’s too much for you.”

“Isn’t there some medicine I can take?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “There is actually nothing physically wrong with you. You have simply been working too hard. Your heart palpitations and your weakness are a reaction to overwork. The illness is strictly psychosomatic. I can’t give you any medicine. It wouldn’t do any good. You will have to find another profession that is less taxing on you emotionally.”

It sounded like a death sentence to my ministry, but I was not willing to give up. God had promised to build a church through me, and He had promised to heal me, although the healing would take ten years. I would believe Him instead of the doctor.

I was only twenty-eight years old, but my body was a wreck. The doctor had told me to give up preaching and choose some other profession. But despite the condition of my body, I felt tremendous excitement. God had spoken to me out of His Word during those days I lay on my bed. He had unveiled a whole plan to me for restructuring our church so that I would not have to carry the ministerial load alone. I was eager to put it into practice, because I was convinced it would work.

However, I could not simply go back to the church and order the members to implement the plan. Our church had 2,400 members, and it had a board of deacons that would have to approve any changes in the structure or in the ministry of the church.

“Lord, this is your plan,” I prayed. “How can they fail to accept it, since it’s your will?”

I was confident there would be no opposition.

A month after I was back on my feet, I called the deacon board together and said, “As you know, I am very sick, and I can’t carry out all the work of the church, especially counseling and home visitation. And I cannot pray for the sick or even pray with people to be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

I told them the things God had revealed to me in Scripture, and I said I was releasing them to carry out the ministry. I told them they needed to stand on their own feet. Then I presented the plan as God had given it to me. I showed the deacons how home cell meetings would work, and I laid out all of the scriptural support I had for this new system.

“Yes, you do have a good biblical argument,” one of the deacons said. “This kind of arrangement would seem to be of the Lord. But we have not been trained to do the kinds of things you do. That’s why we pay you to be our pastor.”

“I am a busy man,” said another deacon. “When I return home from work, I’m tired, and I need the privacy of my home. I would not be able to lead a home meeting.”

There was not much other comment. Everyone basically agreed that the idea was scripturally sound, but they didn’t see how it could work at Full Gospel Central Church. There seemed to be no way I could motivate them. No one got angry; they were simply convinced it couldn’t be done.

After the meeting I began to have all sorts of doubts about my ministry again. I was certain I knew what the deacons were thinking, even though they didn’t express themselves during the meeting. They were thinking that they were paying me to do a job that I now was asking them to do for nothing. I began to fear that they would resent me for trying to maneuver them into doing my work, using my illness as an excuse.

The deacons seemed to have no compassion, I thought. No one had said anything about wanting a new pastor, but I began to hear some secondhand reports from members of the congregation that the deacons would not refuse my resignation if I should choose to submit it.

[Strategy of using women:] I was still extremely weak and subject to fainting spells, and the reaction of the deacons was a real setback. What was I to do? I sought out the one person in whom I had always felt I could confide, Mrs. Choi. I told her the whole story.

“We must seek the Lord on this,” she said simply. “Let’s pray together.”

After a period of prayer and searching the Scriptures, Mrs. Choi and I were discussing the various alternatives to implementing the home cell group plan, and together we hit upon the idea of using the women of the church.

As we continued to pray about it, while I poured my heart out to the Lord, Mrs. Choi said, “I believe God has revealed this way to us because it is His way. I believe we should call the deaconesses together and present the plan to them.”

I shook my head. How was this possible? Who would accept it? This was Seoul, Korea, not the United States. There is no feminist movement in Korea, for we have an Oriental culture that decisively puts women in a subordinate role throughout society. For thousands of years Korean women have been subject to their husbands. Women have never done any big job, either in society or in the church. It was difficult for me even to think of delegating authority to women. How could they possibly lead home fellowship meetings? The men would rebel! Besides, didn’t the Scriptures themselves say that women should keep silent in the church? That is what Paul had written in his letter to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:11).

As an Oriental, I had a special understanding of Paul’s instruction to Timothy. Paul had been writing from an Oriental understanding. When I read his admonition that the women should keep silent, I related it to our own Korean society. In many churches in Korea it had been the custom to separate the men from the women in the worship services. The men would sit on the right as they entered the church, and the women would sit on the left. A large curtain was strung down the center aisle so that they could not even see one another.

But when a service was about to draw to a close, some of the overeager women would begin to whisper through the curtain to their husbands: “Are you there?

Are you ready to go? Meet me outside right after the service!” Sometimes the women would cause such a disturbance that the preacher would have to say, “Ladies, please keep silent until you are outside the church!”

And when Paul talked about Sarah calling Abraham “lord,” I knew what that meant too. Even today in Oriental society, a wife will refer to her husband as her “lord.” If she does not do that, she will have insulted him. If you ask a Korean woman how her husband’s health is, she will reply, “My lord is well, thank you.”

So, as I thought about using women in the church, all of these things were appearing in my mind, and I prayed, “God, you are really going to destroy our church with this kind of idea. If I ever tried to mobilize women and encouraged them to carry out the church business, the whole church would turn against me. All of Korean society would turn against me. I would be shut out completely.”

Then the Lord distinctly answered me: “Yes, that is your idea. My idea is to use the women.”

“Lord, if you really want me to use women, you’ll have to prove it to me from Scripture,” I said.

Then I went home. Because of my weakness, I had to get some rest.

During the next few days I constantly searched the Scriptures and asked God to reveal to me the verses that would support the use of women in the ministry. Gradually a new picture began to take shape. I began to see that Paul was not a male chauvinist after all. He frequently used women in his ministry, but only if they were under his authority. The literal translation of Rom. 16:1 calls Phoebe a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea; that means she had a responsible position in the church—but under Paul’s authority. By his commending her to the church at Rome, it was clear he was commending her not just as a servant but as a preacher. Paul had delegated to her the authority to preach, and to me that meant she was free to minister.

Then in Rom. 16:3 Paul mentions Priscilla and Aquila and talks about the “church that is in their house” (verse 5). Who would the preacher have been in that house? Again I could draw on my Oriental background, because in the Oriental custom the leader is always mentioned first. The order in which Priscilla and Aquila were mentioned had nothing to do with “ladies before gentlemen.” When a Westerner goes into the home of an Oriental, if he greets the wife before the husband, he is really bringing disgrace to that family. In fact, it is customary upon entering a Korean house, even when the husband is not at home, for the visitor to say to the wife first, “How is your husband?” Then the visitor is free to ask the wife, “How are you?” The husband always comes first; he is the head of the house.

Also in Korea we do not say, “Ladies and gentlemen.” That would immediately cause trouble. Instead we say, “Gentlemen and ladies.” In Korea the man does not stand back and hold open a door for a woman, but the woman waits and follows the man through the door. This is Oriental custom.

So when Paul talks about “Priscilla and Aquila,” the order in which he mentions them must be judged against the Oriental culture in which he lived. Priscilla was the wife of Aquila, but when the Holy Spirit led Paul to mention Priscilla first, it means that Priscilla was the leader in the house church. Priscilla was the “pastor,” as it were, and Aquila was the assistant, and she could pastor the home church because Paul had delegated his authority to her, not to Aquila.

Verse 6 says, “Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you” (NIV). Mary here is mentioned among the laborers for God, and that does not mean she was working in the kitchen, or changing children’s diapers. The women Paul mentions were laboring together with him to preach the gospel! That includes Tryphena and Tryphosa, two women mentioned in verse 12, who are called “workers in the Lord” (NASB), not workers in the kitchen. In the same verse Paul mentions Persis, who “worked hard in the Lord.”

How do people labor in the Lord? They do it by witnessing, praying with people, preaching and helping spiritually.

This showed me very clearly that God was using women in the New Testament, but it was always under a man’s authority. For instance, Paul writes that when a woman prophesies (1 Cor. 11:5) she should have her head covered; otherwise she disgraces her head. That means women were free to prophesy, and prophecy is a form of preaching. But in their prophesying they had to demonstrate that they were under men’s authority.

Then the Lord began to speak to me: “Yonggi Cho, from whom was I born?”

“From woman, Lord,” I responded.

“And on whose lap was I nurtured?”

“Woman, Lord.”

“And who followed me throughout my ministry and helped to meet my needs?”

“Women,” I said.

“Who stayed until the last minutes of my crucifixion?”

32 Selling the Program to the Church

“Women.”

“And who came to anoint my body in the tomb?”

“The women.”

“Who were the first witnesses to my resurrection?”

“The women.”

“And to whom did I give the first message after my resurrection?”

“Mary Magdalene, a woman.”

“To all of my questions you have answered, ‘Woman.’ Then why are you afraid of women? During my earthly ministry I was surrounded by dear, wonderful women. So why shouldn’t my body, the Church, be surrounded and supported by women as well?”

What else could I do? The Lord had made it clear to me that it was His will to use women in the Church. The following week I called a meeting of the Women’s Missionary Association, and about twenty women, all deaconesses, waited to hear what I had to say. I explained the situation to them, telling them honestly about my health problems and explaining the revelation and the scriptural confirmation that Jashil Choi and I had received.

At the previous meeting of the deacons, the men had been so logical and rational in their responses, but here the women were compassionate. All of them were concerned about my health, and they unanimously agreed to follow my direction. Mrs. Choi accepted the responsibility for organizing the work, because I was too sick to do it. Under her direction, the city of Seoul was divided into twenty districts, corresponding to the number of women who had agreed to lead home cell meetings.

I did make one requirement of the women. I asked Mrs. Choi and all of the leaders to wear caps to signify they were under my authority, just as Paul had ordered that a woman must have her head covered when she prophesies. To everyone in the church it would indicate that the women were speaking not on their own authority but on mine.

I went back to my apartment that night, still as sick as ever, but with a wonderful feeling inside that God was doing something in our church. I was beginning to think that at last my worries were over.

Well, God was doing something in our church, but my troubles certainly had not come to an end. I had not been prepared for Satan’s counterattack.

On the Sunday after my meeting with the women, I unveiled the plan to the congregation. Again I went through the whole story of how the Lord had led me through the Scriptures to show us the need to establish home cell groups. I explained all of the verses that showed it was scriptural to delegate authority to women to lead these meetings.

“This is not my plan for the church, but it is God’s plan,” I emphasized. “Therefore, it is necessary for all of you to participate. The church is being divided into twenty districts, and each of you is to go to a district home cell meeting this week.”

We handed out papers to everyone, showing them when and where their cell meetings were to be held.

Perhaps I was naive, but I actually thought most of the people would cooperate by attending the first meeting. I was wrong. There turned out to be a lot of opposition. Many argued that they didn’t have time for an “extra meeting.” The men protested about having to sit under the teaching of a woman, but I had expected that. What I had not expected was the reluctance of many of the women as well. After all, they said, hadn’t they always been taught that it was the men who were in authority? They expected to be taught by men.

That first week it really seemed as though all hell were breaking out in my church, so strong did the rebellion appear. Of our 2,400 members, only about 400 to 600 attended the twenty neighborhood cell meetings. There were from twenty to thirty members in each meeting. No one seemed to know exactly what to expect or how to act, and the women leaders had to devise their own lessons to teach the groups. (I had given them no guidelines, simply because I did not have any guidelines to give them. I had made only two suggestions: Watch the Christians to see that they don’t backslide, and go out and win your neighbors for Jesus Christ.)

The strongest objections came from the men, of course. They refused to allow a woman to lay hands on them for healing or to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. One woman was nearly beaten up by her husband for that. They also complained that the meetings were disorganized.

The following Sunday I emphasized even more strongly that the women were under my authority, and that they were speaking for me in the cell group meetings. That seemed to soothe many of the members, and after that those who were genuinely committed in their Christian faith submitted to the program. Of course, there were still quite a few cantankerous members who refused to have anything to do with the home cell groups. They tried to undermine the plan by urging others to stay away from the meetings. Many, I’m sure, felt I was trying to exert too much authority on the church.

The second week, attendance increased. Even though I had given no guidelines and was providing virtually no direct leadership, people were finding meaning in the meetings. But without direction, the women leaders were having great difficulty trying to find their own way. I was not prepared for some of the things they were doing.

For one thing, I had given the women no training to teach; I had not grounded them in sound doctrine. One leader did not even understand the doctrine of the Trinity, and she was teaching in her group that Christians worship three Gods: the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. She thought Jesus and the Holy Spirit were lesser Gods under the Father. Another taught that a person is not saved until he speaks in tongues. And a third leader said the form of baptism does not matter. (Our denomination prescribes water baptism by immersion.)

So the women were doing whatever they liked, and the whole church was in turmoil.

“Yes, just as I expected,” I said. I was convinced that our church was about to be destroyed, just as I had told the Lord it would be.

Yet I heard the Holy Spirit gently speaking to me, saying, “Yes, there is chaos, but remember that the whole earth was created out of chaos, and all good things come out of chaos. Stick with it.”

I found that some of the women actually were doing a very good job. They were going out into their neighborhoods and finding people who had some kind of need, and they were succeeding in bringing them into the cell groups and winning them to Christ. They organized good cell meetings and had a good service. I called these successful leaders into my office and asked them their secret. I found that those who were successful had had some kind of training.

“Pastor, you can’t just release all of these women to lead and not give them any training,” one of the women said to me. “You have to train them. You have delegated your authority to us. You should delegate your sermons too. You should not let any of us preach our own sermons.”

I could see that she was right, and so that very day I began to write out my sermon notes and distribute them to the cell leaders. I called a meeting of all the leaders for every Wednesday, and at the meeting I would distribute the notes and explain them, and tell the women what I wanted them to teach. I even organized an order of worship for the cell meetings: There would be opening prayers and singing, followed by a representative (or corporate) prayer, preaching from the Word of God for encouragement (using my sermon outline), and then an offering. The meeting would end with testimonies, prayers for healing and the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and a closing prayer.

In less than a month after the start of home cell groups at Full Gospel Central Church, order was beginning to come to the meetings. I thought all the problems were solved. But they were not. One by one, six other major problems surfaced …

But at least I felt that most of the major problems with our home cell groups had been solved. The groups were really beginning to show the marks of success. Members were inviting their neighbors to the meetings, and these people were meeting the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The cells were growing and dividing, and more people were being added to the church every week. As the number of cells increased, we hired more licensed ministers and appointed more deacons and deaconesses to watch over them.

Still, in my condition, I was unable to appreciate the growth of Full Gospel Central Church. We were not keeping membership records, and the last official count I recalled seeing was the 2,400 figure recorded in 1964. I knew we were much larger than that because of the number of home cell groups, but I could not bring myself to look at the church in terms of the exact number of members. In fact, I could hardly keep my mind on anything at all. My memory was so bad during those years that sometimes I couldn’t even remember the names of my sons.

It seemed as though I was barely holding on to life. Every moment I felt I was at death’s door. Every day I would say, “Lord, just let me preach one more sermon, and then I can die.”

Even in that condition, God sent me out. The news was spreading about the growth that was taking place in our church. Not only was it well-known throughout Korea, but our denomination, the Assemblies of God, was very excited about it too. I was appointed general superintendent for all of the Assembly of God churches in Seoul, and I served on the advisory committee to the Pentecostal World Conference, which was held in Brazil and Seoul.

In addition, our church was involved in a major missionary program, and I was helping to set up the home cell group programs on the mission field served by our missionaries.

So I soon found myself fainting in some very unexpected places. Once I fainted in the Tokyo airport. Another time I fainted in an Assembly of God church in the United States, and I also fainted at the denomination’s headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. I found myself fainting in hotels and motels. My life was miserable.

But I continued praying for the sick, and many people were healed. Every time I witnessed a healing, I would silently plead with God, “Lord, me too, please. Me too!”

But God had said ten years, and ten years it was to be. During that whole time I suffered excruciating pain. I knew I was no longer in control of anything. How could I be, when I was so sick? Once I had wanted to be successful and important, and I wanted to have control of everything that happened in our church. I wanted to build the biggest church in Korea. But none of those things was important anymore. I had become totally dependent on the Lord for every day of my life, for every movement of my body, for every single breath I took—and God was merciful to me.

I realize now that God was breaking me during that period of my life. I now know it is very necessary for a leader to be broken. If he isn’t broken, he will never be able to lead God’s people as a shepherd leads the sheep, because he will always be leading out of fear. He will be thinking of money or of power, because he will be afraid of losing his authority or his position. He will never be able to put his trust in the lay people and delegate authority to them for fear of losing his own position and authority. He will be afraid that any mistake they make might reflect on him. He will do a lot of things for the Lord, but God will not be able to use him, because he will be afraid to listen.

God will use people only according to their brokenness. I know now that God really could not use me until I was completely broken, until I could no longer rely on my own strength. And so after ten years of suffering, I had become nothing more than dust. I was helpless.

Toward the end of those ten years our church received a vision to construct a new church building. It would be on the newly developed Yoido Island in the Han River, where new apartments and government buildings were under development. We acquired some land there, and the new building was completed in 1973.

It was only then that I finally discovered just how many people we had. When it came time to move, there were 18,000 members of Full Gospel Central Church, all of them involved in the home cell groups. But not all of them wanted to leave the old building in Sodaemoon. We made an agreement to allow 8,000 to stay there, and the denomination appointed a new pastor to take over that church. Then we moved to our new Full Gospel Central Church with 10,000 members. We were still smaller than the Yong Nak Presbyterian Church, but we were growing, and I knew the potential was virtually unlimited because of the open-ended system of cell groups.

The wonderful thing for me during that move was that the healing God had promised me finally became a reality. I cannot point to a particular day or hour, but slowly the healing that I knew would be mine began to seep into my heart, and my heart was completely healed. The palpitations stopped, and I gained new physical strength. No longer did I sense that feeling of impending death.

Even today, however, I cannot say I am completely healed. My mind still has a tendency, whenever I am exhausted, to go in many directions, and my memory fails. At times I still have difficulty remembering the names of some of my close associates. But the healing process is still going on in my body, and I am depending on God for everything. Now that “the Great Cho” is dead, I do not strive for money or fame or power, because all desire for those things has been taken from me. From my experience

I realize those things are all like a big bubble that can burst at any moment.

Yet with the healing I still have one major problem facing me—the seventh and final major assault from Satan to try to break up our thriving church. But that problem did not develop for another couple of years.

The first year we were at the new church on Yoido Island we gained 3,000 members. I began to encourage the cell groups to seek more members by going throughout their neighborhoods and sharing the good news of what God had done for them. I began to set goals for each of the cells, and for each district that was made up of a group of cells. As I continued to dream of the members I expected to fill the new building, God gave me the confirmation (rhema), and I would claim the growth—year by year, and even month by month. After several years we were winning 3,000 souls a month for Christ.

When the seventh major assault from Satan came, it was one of the worst I could have imagined. It is one that the women of the church never would have considered. The women were with me 100 percent. But some of the men in leadership began to let their responsibilities and their authority go to their heads. Three of the licensed ministers (each of whom had fifty home cell groups under his authority) began to feel that the members were loyal to them rather than to me or the church.

Those three licensed ministers decided to call their flocks of fifty cells each to split off from Full Gospel Central Church, to form their own churches. These churches had the potential for being quite sizable because each of those ministers actually was overseeing 2,000 members.

I plainly told the men that I did not approve of what they were doing. They were stealing my sheep! But they refused to listen to me, and they sent word to everyone in the cell groups under them not to worship at Full Gospel Central Church any longer on Sunday mornings. Instead they would have their own worship services in their own districts of the city. Of course, I sent word to the cell groups that I did not approve of this division.

The “split” lasted for about six months. When the separate Sunday meetings began, each of the three licensed ministers discovered he had only 300 to 500 members, rather than the 2,000 or so each had expected. But they went ahead and continued to meet separately, considering themselves to be newly established churches.

In the meantime, to take care of the remaining members of our congregation in those districts, I appointed new licensed ministers over the cell groups that remained loyal to Full Gospel Central Church.

Then gradually the members who had left the church began to drift back. By the end of six months those three ministers had so few followers that they were forced to give up and leave the city. Each of them now has a small church elsewhere in Korea, but the Lord has not blessed them as they had envisioned in the beginning.

The mistake made by those men was in thinking that, because I had delegated my authority to them, the people actually were following them. They were wrong. The people were following me.

Since then I have taken some steps to provide for those who have ambition among the men of our church. If a home cell leader wants to become a licensed minister, I will pay for his tuition to go to Bible school, with the stipulation that, upon graduation, he spend at least three years as one of the licensed ministers of our church. After that, if he still wants to have a church of his own, I will help him. I will provide him with a salary and enough expense money to start his own church elsewhere. But it must be a church to bring in new members, not to take members away from the mother church.

So far, seventy-five churches and missionary works have been started by members of Full Gospel Central Church in just this manner. They are all over the world, including Japan, Australia, the United States, Latin America and Europe.

 

[$5,000,000 building and apartment complex:] David Yonggi Cho: The Fourth Dimension, Gainesville: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1979, p107-115: When God spoke to my heart in 1969 and told me to build a church that would seat 10,000 people I was frightened. Every moment I felt like Philip. I talked with the board of elders and all of them thought like the disciples of Philip; they would tell me it was impossible.

When I talked with my six hundred deacons, again I found every one of them thinking in the same way. So I too joined the school of Philip and I came to Jesus and told him I could not build the church.

[Sacrificing his own home:] But in my heart Christ commanded me; “I did not ask you to confer with your deacons and elders; I told you to go and build.” “Lord, I replied, ‘You know I don’t have anything to build with. It will take so much more money then I have now.’” Then through the Holy Spirit, Jesus spoke to my heart, “What do you have that you personally could give?”

In my heart I knew what he was asking, but I refused to recognize his request. “Jesus, don’t ask me to do that. I married when I was thirty years old and throughout the years I have saved my money so I could build a beautiful home and give it to my wife. I can’t sell that house.” But the Lord replied, “Give what you have.” “Father, its just $20,000. That can’t build a church and apartment complex, they cost $5 million. The amount my house would bring would not possibly be enough.” But God said, “Sell your home, and bring that money to me with faith.”

“Oh, God, this is terrible, how can I do that?” “If you’re ever to believe my word,” the Lord admonished me, “you must first be willing to give of what you have and what you own.”\

To a Korean wife the home is everything; it is the place where she raises her children; it is the place she builds her life; it is a precious possession to her. So I was afraid to tell my wife and I began to travail in prayer. I prayed that my wife would consent about the selling of her home.

That evening I bought gifts of flowers and scarves home to my wife. She was no dummy! “Why are you bringing me these gifts?” she asked. “Are you worried that I don’t love you anymore?” But she was pleased and she made the evening meal happily.

“Oh, praise God,” I responded, “I’m so happy that I have chosen you. If ever God wanted me to choose another girl again I would still pick you. You are more beautiful to me each day.” After a time, when I felt the moment to be right, I said, “Honey, I have a big problem.”

Concerned, she looked at me insisting, “Tell me, what is your problem?” “We’re going to build this big church that is going to seat 10,000 people,” I told her. “It will cost $5 million dollars and as I was praying about this matter, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said if I was to get the money for the church, I would have to start from my own household. God wants us to submit five loaves of bread and two fishes … and those five loaves and two fishes are our house!”

My wife turned pale, and then looking straight into my eyes she said, “This home is mine, not yours. Don’t you dare touch this house. It belongs to me and my children, you cannot give this house up.”

Her reaction was just as I feared. Then I went to the Lord and prayed, “Now I have done what I can, and the rest is up to you. Send your Holy Spirit to prick her heart so that she will surrender.”

That night as I prayed, I could see my wife constantly turning and tossing in her sleep. I knew then that the Holy Spirit was working. I said to the Lord, “Oh, God, keep on nudging her.”

And sure enough, the Lord nudged her; for almost a week she could not sleep, and her eyes became blood-shot. Finally, she came to me, “I cannot stand it any longer. I cannot refuse what the Holy Spirit wants. I’ll give up the house.” So she brought the title deed for the house, and together we took that title deed and gave our home for the construction of the church …

[Getting the building site:] One day, however, a problem about the land we planned to build on came up. The Korean government was developing a piece of land called Yeouido Island. This piece of property was going to be molded after New York’s Manhattan Island. They were building government buildings on the land and would allow only one church there. Church bids came from all over Korea; Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Buddhist, Confucius applied to the government. All were screened and passed through congress for permission to build a church on this special land. I also submitted an application. The man in charge looked at me and asked “What denomination do you belong to?” “The Assemblies of God”, I replied. “You mean that church where they shout praises to God in such a loud and noisy way? And pray for the sick and speak in strange tongues?” “That’s right”, I responded. He shook his head. “You know this church is going to be right in front of the new congress hall. This church has got to be dignified and your church is not. We can’t accept your application.”

I was happy in my heart, however, because this would excuse me from building the church. I returned to the Lord in prayer. “Lord you heard that didn’t you? We are not dignified enough to build there.”

You can bring every excuse you can think of to the Lord, but the Holy Spirit always has the answer. The Holy Spirit responded, saying, “When did I ask you to go and apply for a building permit?” “Am I not supposed to?” I questioned.

“My child, you should not follow the path you are now walking. You must walk the other way; the way of prayer and faith.” [In time, the mother-in-law of the man in charge of developing the whole area was filled with the Holy Spirit through Yonggi Cho, his wife was being saved, and he also ended up giving his life to Jesus in one of Yonggi Cho’s services. This brought favour to the church and permission to build the church on the choices land, sitting directly across from Korea’s National Assembly.]

… I then went and signed a contract with a construction company. Shortly afterwards they dug the foundation and began the building of the church and apartment house complex …

In a similar way your faith is bound to be tested. If you have a small project you’ll be tried in a small way. If you have a big project you’ll be tried in a big way. Never think that your faith will only travel through a field of roses. You will go through turbulence by which God tests your faith. So far, in the building of the church, I still belong to the school of Andrew, faith; and with great faith, prayed through each new problem.

[Bankruptcy:] But then the dollar devaluation came and the contractor broke the contract. He said they wanted to renegotiate and he increased the costs of building the church. Then the oil crisis came and all the banks closed. My people began to lose their jobs and even with my total income per month, I could hardly meet even the interest on the loans. Not only could I not pay my staff in the church, but I received no salary myself.

Then the company began to sue me because I could not pay their necessary fees. I would come to the church and notice after notice came, filing suit: the electric company, the sewage company, the construction company. Papers were piled on my desk yet I had no money to pay any of them. I didn’t even have the money to hire my own lawyer. I would sit behind my desk and one by one the workers in my church began to leave because I could not give them their salaries. Nobody wants to stay on a sinking boat and I was sinking fast.

Since we had sold our home and had no place to go I brought my family to an unfinished apartment on the seventh floor of the unfinished apartment complex. There was no running water and no heat and it was very cold.

Each evening, I would come home to the barren apartment and all night we would shiver in the cold weather. We had no food and everything seemed so dark. I was hitting rock bottom and fast becoming a disciple of Philip, walking by sight. I said to myself, “Yes, I made a mistake. I should never have believed God in such a way. I should have thought in the traditional pattern. I should not have started to walk on the water. All this business about faith is a fake. All those voices that I heard in my prayer life must have been the voice of my own consciousness and not from the Holy Spirit. Yes, I made a mistake.” And I began to feel sorry for myself.

People were beginning to leave my church and all reports were negative. My family even began to doubt me. Everything seemed impossible and I was tired and hungry. “This is it.” I said. “This is the end. If this is the so called life of faith, I’m going to finish my life.

“I’m going cast myself down,” I continued. “I’m going to die, but I don’t want to go to hell. I’ve been working for you for all these years and at least I should get something in return. If hell is worse then this place why should I go there? But I can’t live in the world like this. I’m committing suicide, but please accept my soul and send me to heaven.”

The impact of prayer was more powerful then I realized and as I prayed I heard a voice saying, “You’re a coward; you want to cast yourself down and become an object of ridicule for people. Will you remain a coward, or are you a man of faith?” “Yes,” I admitted, “I am a coward.” Again the voice spoke, “Not only will you go to hell, but you will also pull down many of your members that put their trust in you. You borrowed money from some of the elders and members. Remember the thousands of dollars you borrowed from the precious sisters in the church? They all put trust in you and now you’re throwing yourself down, committing suicide. You will cause a chain reaction. Because of your coward acts they will lose their faith. They will have broken homes and some will also commit suicide. What a repercussion you’ll cause the Christian world to feel.”

These words poured into my heart. I slumped down crying, “Oh, God, then what can I do? Why won’t you let me die?”

God replied, “You cannot die, for you must persevere. You must see all the debts paid; all the people’s debts must be clear.” I stood up, left the seventh floor and went to my office. I knelt down travailing and crying.

[Save Our Pastor movement:] News of my desperate state began to spread among the people. Suddenly they experienced a reawakening of faith, including those that had already left the church. “Let’s save our preacher!” they cried. “Let’s save the man of God!”

In this way a Save Our Pastor movement began. It was a cold winter, and we had no heat but by the thousands the people began to flock into the ground floor of the unfinished church, thousands also fasting and praying through many nights. They cried and prayed. Then God began to move. Ladies would cut their long hair bringing it to the platform to make wigs that could be sold. One day, in an especially moving scene, an eighty-year-old woman who had no children, no support, barely living by the help of the government, came to the platform, crying and trembling. She brought an old banged-up rice bowl, a pair of chopsticks and a spoon. As a she stood there crying she said, “Pastor, I want to see you delivered from this situation. I want to see you helped, for your ministry was such a great blessing to me for so many years. I want to do something, but I have no money. This is all I have – this old rice bowl, a pair of chopsticks and a spoon. But I want to give it all to the Lord’s work. I can eat out of cardboard, and I can eat with my fingers.”

My heart was broken. “Lady,” I said, “I can’t accept this. It’s all you have. You need these to eat your everyday meals. I can’t accept it.”

She broke down in tears, saying, “Wouldn’t God accept this gift from an old dying woman? Wouldn’t he? I know that this can’t be of much help to you, but I want to give something.”

Suddenly one business man stood up and spoke, “Pastor, I want to buy that.” And he paid nearly $30,000 just for that old banged-up bowl, chopsticks and spoon.

This began to light a fire. People began selling their good houses and moving to small apartments. There were young couples who gave their whole year’s salaries to the church and decided to live by faith.

This great movement brought results, for soon money began to flow in and I could pay the interest on the loan. Banks began to open their doors to me and amazingly in less then a year things began to work out. I paid all the debts and was cleared until 1973. Not only was I able to pay the interest but I also had the $5 million dollars to finish building the church and apartment complex. God again proved that the school of Andrew is best and that to think in terms of miracles is to think as God would have us think.

 

Yonggi Cho had early successes, he had 600 members in only three years of starting his church (God doubling his congregation twice in a year – year one from 150 to 300; year two from 300 to 600), but his dream of building the biggest church in Korea, even though it turned out to be from God, was not easily achieved: His health broke down – for ten long years of daily pain and fainting spells. There was bancruptcy and betrayal. He hit rock bottom with thoughts of suicide. He had given everything along the way, including his own home.

He himself explains why this was necessary:

 

Paul Yonggi Cho: Successful Home Cell Groups, New Jersey: Logos International, 1981, p10-11: I thought God approved of what I was doing. After all, He was blessing our work with miracles and healings; that was what brought the people to the church. But I was convinced that God had made Yonggi Cho somebody special. He was doing all this work through me! Without me, nothing happened in the church.

After moving the church from its original site, where it had been known as the Taejo Dong Full Gospel Church, we renamed it Full Gospel Central Church. I was the pastor. I was the administrator. I was in charge of the Sunday school program. And, yes, oftentimes I was even the janitor. Full Gospel Central Church simply could not function without the Reverend Paul Yonggi Cho, I thought. I was the pivot around which the whole church revolved.

This was not an intentional thing with me. I had been raised during the Japanese occupation of Korea and had been forced to live in a very poverty-stricken situation. I had almost died from tuberculosis. As a response to my background, I had tremendous ambition to become famous and successful, and to make a lot of money. In fact, before I met Jesus Christ as my Savior, I had intended to become a physician.

So when I entered the ministry, in my heart there was a hidden goal to become a famous and successful preacher. I loved God and wanted to work for Him, but my hidden motive was always the drive to succeed. I was very egotistical, and I wanted to do everything my own way.

God had to destroy all that; otherwise the church would have been my work, not His. God had to break me so that I would be worthy to lead His flock. I did not know that at the time, and so in all of my striving for the Lord I was always running scared. Not only that, I was beginning to tire.

 

Paul Yonggi Cho: Successful Home Cell Groups, New Jersey: Logos International, 1981, p44-46: But I continued praying for the sick, and many people were healed. Every time I witnessed a healing, I would silently plead with God, “Lord, me too, please. Me too!”

But God had said ten years, and ten years it was to be. During that whole time I suffered excruciating pain. I knew I was no longer in control of anything. How could I be, when I was so sick? Once I had wanted to be successful and important, and I wanted to have control of everything that happened in our church. I wanted to build the biggest church in Korea. But none of those things was important anymore. I had become totally dependent on the Lord for every day of my life, for every movement of my body, for every single breath I took—and God was merciful to me.

I realize now that God was breaking me during that period of my life. I now know it is very necessary for a leader to be broken. If he isn’t broken, he will never be able to lead God’s people as a shepherd leads the sheep, because he will always be leading out of fear. He will be thinking of money or of power, because he will be afraid of losing his authority or his position. He will never be able to put his trust in the lay people and delegate authority to them for fear of losing his own position and authority. He will be afraid that any mistake they make might reflect on him. He will do a lot of things for the Lord, but God will not be able to use him, because he will be afraid to listen.

God will use people only according to their brokenness. I know now that God really could not use me until I was completely broken, until I could no longer rely on my own strength. And so after ten years of suffering, I had become nothing more than dust. I was helpless …

Even today, however, I cannot say I am completely healed. My mind still has a tendency, whenever I am exhausted, to go in many directions, and my memory fails. At times I still have difficulty remembering the names of some of my close associates. But the healing process is still going on in my body, and I am depending on God for everything. Now that “the Great Cho” is dead, I do not strive for money or fame or power, because all desire for those things has been taken from me. From my experience I realize those things are all like a big bubble that can burst at any moment.

 

God likes our dreams, even when our hearts are not pure about them. They are often from him and he sets about shaping us into the people who can actually steward the fulfillment of these dreams for his glory, not our own. Thegreat Cho” – thegreat Edgar” – thegreat Gary” – thegreat Herman” – they all have to die so that we serve God with our dreams and not ourselves. And this can take time – years and years – but God is patient and keen to do a thorough job, for our own protection, because success so easily corrupts even the best of us. If the reports on the internet are correct, Yonggi Cho in his later years allowed himself to become more thandustagain and stumbled.

 

[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/25/david-yonggi-cho-embezzlement_n_4849335.html: David Yonggi Cho, founder of South Korea’s Yoido Full Gospel Church, has been sentenced to three years in prison for embezzling $12 million in church funds. Allegations arose in November of last year when 30 church elders held a press conference accusing Cho and his family of stealing millions in church donations dating back to the 1990s. The elders enumerated multiple instances of Cho’s dishonesty that involved him borrowing and never returning funds, acquiring enormous church donations without disclosing what they were being used toward and even taking an $18 million severance pay when he stepped down as head pastor in 2008.]

 

The core disciples first learned to taste absolute failure, betraying their Lord when it counted the most, before they rose as leaders of the early church. Moses was stuck in the wilderness for forty years, hiding from Pharaoh, before God called him to return and lead his people out of Egypt.

God seems to make sure that the truth of these Bible verses remains: Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Martin Luther writes: “… It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his good works unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless and that his works are not his but God’s” (quoted in Gerhard Forde: On Being a Theologian of the Cross, Grand Rapids 1997, 82). How true this is when Jesus himself, even though he was without sin, required hardship to learn obedience rather than serving himself – Hebrews 5:7-9: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” [Expand on Jesus’ humility to undergo this discipline as the Son of God from eternity, his ongoing life-style of fervent cries and tears, and being the source of eternal salvation for all of us.]

 

[See also Edgar Mayer: Surprised by Miracles, San Giovanni Teatino, Evangelista Media, 2015, p164-166: However, picking up on the insight of the previous chapter, God will grant us the dream that is buried deep within us—but not without pain. First He kills the dream before resurrecting the same dream in a purified fashion and making it much bigger than originally planned. He will bring glory to Himself. This is the story of all the people in the Bible.

In the prime of his manhood, Moses took matters in his own hands and killed an Egyptian. This immediately cut short all of his ambitions. He was forced to flee for his life and ended up herding sheep in the desert for forty years. It was a humbling fall from grace for this proud prince of Egypt.

The desert made Moses “a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Finally, he was ready, and God resurrected the dream that he had long forgotten. After forty years in the wilderness, God would use Moses to rescue His people. Everything God had in mind would be so much bigger than he ever thought possible.

As an unbeliever and anti-church activist, Paul was extremely zealous for God. But God showed him the shame of his folly and kept tempering his pride with suffering:

 

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Corinthians 15:9; see also Philippians 3:4-9).

 

…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.…But he [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”…That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7,9-10).

 

It was absolutely humbling for Paul to realize that he had been wrong about Jesus. He never forgot that he had persecuted the Church, and he knew that he was an apostle purely by grace.

As a young man, Joseph had dreamt that his whole family was bowing down before him. However, his dreams were shattered when his brothers sold him as a slave to Egypt and told his dad that he had been killed by a wild animal. In Egypt, he was wrongly accused and imprisoned for a long time. Once he had hope of being released, but he remained forgotten.

Finally, God promoted Joseph from a prisoner to the man in charge in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. After years of prison and isolation, he was ready for what God intended. Joseph forgave and loved and served his family, and they bowed down before him.

When all the disciples ran away from Jesus and even denied Him, all their dreams were shattered—at the peak of their self-confidence. Then Jesus restored the humbled men and released them into a lifestyle of greatness through servanthood: “…the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.…I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:26-27).

God only granted Zechariah his wish for a son when he reached an old age. Once he had given up and surrendered his dreams, he was ready to let God give him a child. It would be according to God’s design only—and even then Zechariah struggled to let God set the agenda. He was reprimanded with these words: “And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” (Luke 1:20).]

 

God nullifies us and our dreams before he is raising them up again and making them greater than ever imagined Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

In my bookSurprised by Miracles”, I describe how God dealt with our dreams and high hopes in the chapter The Slow Years”. They were not the best but necessary for the dreams to come back now. If you have not yet let thegreat youdie, allow it to happen now. Humble yourself before God and let any dream gladen your heart but give all honour and glory to God. No competition with one another, no measuring each other’s building and businesses and ministries and realms of influence. No dream to build one’s own name.

I make one more point. We may all be dreaming about revival, an amazing harvest, blessings and favour, a nation turning back to God, but Yonggi Cho learned that he could not do it in his own strength. He was painfully sick for ten years which allowed God to work through unexpected strategies: small groups and women – both unheard and “offensive” strategies in Korea at the time. How will God achieve his purposes among us? What will happen? I am sure that Moses did not foresee the ten plagues in Egypt or the miraculous escape through the parting of the Red Sea. I am sure that Peter did not foresee that he would heal the lame beggar at the temple gate, known to him and everyone in Jerusalem for years, and that this healing would shake Jerusalem. We are dreaming with God, daring to stretch our imagination through the Holy Spirit, but remain conscious that God has to move to achieve the greatness of these dreams, and he often does something unexpected.

Where is it going to go – our lives and this church? I am curious, and I know that so are you. We will spend a few weeks on studying Yonggi Cho’s bookMake Your Faith Workto learn the inside story of how God operates in making big dreams come true. The invitation of God standsJeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things thou knowest not. Amen.