Recently, I started penning my thoughts on the recent fall from grace of the pastor of by far the world’s largest single church congregation which is located in Seoul, South Korea. His name is David Yonggi Cho. A long time ago he changed his name from Paul Yonggi Cho.
His real name isn’t Paul or David. These are adopted “spiritual names” from the Bible that he decided to use.
Irrespective of the name changes and the reasons for them, Dr David Yonggi Cho probably wishes he could change his name altogether now.
Dr Cho’s has been a crazy spectacular fall from grace that is simply cosmic in world-wide Pentecostal Church circles. We’re talking here about a highly charismatic, intensely motivated and very godly village man who latched onto something through missionaries help, natural intelligence and God’s leading and anointing, to birth and grow a mega-church larger than the planet has ever seen. And this in four decades.
The one and only time I got to see Dr Cho preach was in the late 80s at Hillsong City Campus, Sydney, Australia. In those days it was known as Christian Life Centre Sydney.
Dr Cho didn’t so much preach as talk and teach. He literally glowed with the Presence of the Holy Spirit. He was dressed immaculately in a black suit with a white shirt and a tie. He was balding.
My father was a Presbyterian Pastor so I’ve heard preachers all my life. Of all the preachers I’ve listened to I’d rank Dr Cho no 1 in the anointing of the Holy Spirit on his life. The Presence of God radiated from his person.
Pastor T.L. Osbourne, the great American evangelist, who I heard at Christian Life Centre in the early 1980s, when it was located in Darlinghurst, I’d rank as no 2. Pastor T.L. Osbourne also glowed with God’s Presence.
In the 1970s and 1980s, according to Dr Cho’s books such as “Prayer: key to revival” and “The Fourth Dimension”, Dr Cho was living a life of devotion, godliness and prayer. Cho shared in these books that he prayed four hours every day, rising at 4am to achieve this. Then he prayed frequently during the day in meetings, prayer meetings and in the course of performing his pastoral duties
Somehow after the explosive growth of his Church, in the past ten years Dr Cho has gradual lost the plot. There were earlier scandals and accusations about the misuse of millions of church funds by Dr Cho. These accusations were made by concerned elders and supporters. The faithful.
In 2011 after the Japanese Earthquakes and massive Tsunami, Pastor Cho declared that this was an act of judgment by God on Japan for it’s sin and idolatry. This prophesy apparently went down like a lead balloon in the Korean media, and especially in Japan.
Who is to know the validity of statements like that? There are numerous accounts in the Bible of God judging nations. Whatever the case, a prophet or man of God must be very sure and very careful before such utterances are made.
Here we have the great man, the man of the greatest numerical Christian Church success ever, starting to speak like he’s God, act with money like he’s God and generally get too big for his already very large boots.
And then the final scene: the fraudulent acquisition of UD$12 million from church investors in his son’s business. It was one thing to misuse millions of church funds with little or no accountability and another to speak doom about on Japan.
Such high acts were difficult for Pastor Cho to get in serious trouble for. Pastor Cho has founded and grown a mega-church of over 800,000 members. Can you imagine the tithes? A few million dollars here and there going astray is chicken feed.
Interpreting Japan’s pain after the Tsunami as an act of God is also difficult to be brought to account for. People may think you’re loony or a great prophet but Dr Cho was such a big man it was difficult to bring him down or to account for these utterances.
The action that did bring him down, after probably many dubious acts over the past decade or longer, was when, in liaison with his son, Pastor Cho misappropriated US$12 million. This was an act that breached the laws of South Korea. And Pastor Cho found that he had feet of clay like the rest of us. The Law is no respecter of persons. Nor is God.
To him who much has been given, much is accountable.