There are six Sunday services in the morning and afternoon. I attended the ones at 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. According to one of the English-speaking ushers that cater to foreigners, the church auditorium seats roughly 14,000 people. It was about 2/3 full during at the 7 a.m. service and completely full at 9 a.m. Assuming, then, that there are an average of 12,000 people at each service, that is still only 60,000 who attend regular Sunday services in the main auditorium. I was told that there are services going on at other locations, but they are much smaller. Even assuming that 100,000 or even 150,000 or even 200,000 attend Sunday services, I wonder where the other six or seven hundred thousand are? One or two hundred thousand people is a large crowd, but it is not 850,000. It appears that this church counts members like the average Southern Baptist Church, meaning they count anyone who has ever joined and rarely or ever drop anyone from the rolls for inactivity! The same is true, sadly, for many independent Baptist churches. This is better, of course, than the Roman Catholic Church, which counts every baptized baby as a member. Membership statistics for most churches are meaningless, in fact.
Like the charismatic movement at large, Yoido Full Gospel Church is a dangerous mixture of truth and error. There were some good things. I was surprised to find that much of the music consisted of the powerful old hymns sung to the accompaniment of the orchestra and organ without any contemporary flavor. Such music never fails to be a conviction and blessing. Also, the people were enthusiastic both during the prayers and the preaching, saying loud “amens” frequently to show their affirmation of what was being said. Many staid, half-asleep Baptist congregations could learn something from this. There was a good prayer for the nation, asking God to keep peace in the land, praying that injustice would be put down so that there would not be turmoil. Too many churches and individual believers neglect to pray for their nation in obedience to 1 Timothy 2. The people’s dress is also conservative. The majority of men wore suits and ties, and a large number of women wore modest dresses. (Korean society in general tends to be conservative in dress.)
Too bad we could not end by listing the things that are good, but we are commanded to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). Not only are we to “cleave to that which is good” but we are to “abhor that which is evil” (Rom. 12:9). Those who do not like “negativity” do not like the Bible, because it contains a lot of it.
Though, as we have mentioned, some of the music is conservative and traditional in the main services, the Yoido Full Gospel Church also uses contemporary music. A 10-member worship team (four men and six women) leads some of the songs to the beat of a full drum kit. In each service, a video was shown of the Tokyo Jesus Festival 2003, which was sponsored by Yoido Full Gospel Church. The video showed a Christian rock song being performed with young dancers jiving to a rock style number. They use Christian rock music in their youth meetings.
The message in the 7 a.m. service was preached by Pastor Tae Bok Kim and was on the topic of “We Have This Treasure in Jars of Clay.” He is a dynamic preacher and most of the message was scriptural. Toward the end he got off into charismatic error, though, by claiming that the believer is accompanied by two angels and that whatever you believe will come to pass. He urged people to stand up if they wanted to be saved and led the crowd in a simple sinner’s prayer. After this he said, “We welcome you; you are now a child of God.” David Yonggi Cho did the same thing following his message in the 9 a.m. service. This is “easy believism” in the extreme and it is presumptuous. Cho does not know anything about the people who prayed the prayer. He has no idea whether or not they prayed with understanding or whether they prayed in sincere faith or whether or not they were truly turning to Christ alone from their false gods. There is no way that he could pronounce these people saved, and yet that is precisely what he did.
During the invitation and ministry time, people are not called down to the front of the church, probably because there simply is no room. Instead, they are urged to pray for themselves and for one another where they are standing. The services end with a loud babble of voices when the people pray all at once.
David Yonggi Cho’s message in the 9 a.m. hour was also largely scriptural. He preached the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone because of the blood of Christ. He even preached repentance. Again, though, the truth was mingled with error. Cho quoted Mahatma Gandhi that there are seven deadly sins, and he listed those sins, not giving any warning that Gandhi was an unregenerate pagan and therefore not to be trusted in theology. Also, as we will see, Cho’s gospel is not clear, because he adds healing and other things to it.
Cho asked those who were sick to put a hand on the sick part of their body and to claim their healing.
The church’s web site presents a “five fold gospel.” This is what some Pentecostal churches call “the full gospel.” It is composed of the gospel of regeneration, the gospel of the fullness of the Holy Spirit, the gospel of divine healing, the gospel of blessing, and the gospel of the advent. The Yoido Church web site says, “Full Gospel faith not only accepts the Gospel of salvation which Christ made complete as He was resurrected from the dead, but also believes in the release from physical illness and salvation for the cursed life.” By adding to the one true gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, these churches are preaching a false gospel. In 1 Cor. 15:1-4, Paul clearly stated the gospel that he preached, and it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for our sins. Paul warned that if someone adds to or changes this gospel, they are cursed of God (Galatians 1). These are fearful words.
David Yonggi Cho teaches that physical healing is promised in the gospel. He says, “The Bible tells us that the reason for His being whipped was so that He could take upon Himself our diseases as well. As He was whipped, he redeemed us from our ills and our weaknesses (Isaiah 53:4; 1 Peter 2:24)” (David Cho, http://english.fgtv.com/Gospel/fivefold2.asp).
This is a confusion of the dispensations. Salvation does guarantee complete physical healing and prosperity, but it is for the future when the kingdom of God will be established at Christ’s return. In this current life, the believer is waiting and longing for that promise to be fulfilled (Romans 8:18-25). The healing that we can enjoy at present is described in 1 Peter 2:24. It is the forgiveness of sin. God does heal in answer to prayer, but there is no guanartee of healing. Eventually, every believer gets sick and dies.
Cho’s book THE FOURTH DIMENSION reveals the depth of his false theology. The following is from a review of this book by Dr. Peter Masters:
“Pastor Cho tells us how he learned to pray. When he began to pastor his church in Seoul he was very poor and living in one room. Then he wondered what he was doing trying to work without a bed, a desk and chair, or any means of transport, and he began to pray to God for these things to be supplied. He prayed very much for a desk, chair and bicycle, but after six months he was still lacking all three and became very discouraged. He tells us--‘Then I sat down and began to cry. Suddenly I felt a serenity, a feeling of tranquility came into my soul. Whenever I have that kind of feeling, a sense of the presence of God, He always speaks: so I waited. Then that still, small voice welled up in my soul, and the Spirit said, “My son, I heard your prayer a long time ago.”
“‘Right away I blurted out, “Then, where are my desk, chair and bicycle?”
“‘The Spirit then said, “Yes, that is the trouble with you and with all My children. They beg Me, demanding every kind of request, but they ask in such vague terms that I can't answer. Don’t you know that there are dozens of desks, chairs and bicycles? But you've simply asked Me for a desk, chair and bicycle. You never ordered a specific desk, chair and bicycle.” [Cho claims,] ‘That was the turning point in my life.’...
“Yonggi Cho tells us how he then began to specify the size of the desk (which was to be made of Philippine mahogany), and the kind of chair (one made with an iron frame, with rollers on the tips, so that when he sat on it he could push himself around ‘like a big shot’). He thought long and hard about the kind of bicycle he wanted before settling for the ideal type and praying, ‘Father, I want to have a bicycle made in the USA, with gears on the side...”
“He then tells us how he prayed for his needs: ‘I ordered these things in such articulate terms that God could not make a mistake in delivering them. Then I felt faith flowing up ... that night I slept like a baby.’
“Paul Cho says that the Lord never welcomes vague prayers. ... At first glimpse, this idea of highly specific praying may not seem to be the greatest error in the world, but Paul Cho goes on to teach that the believer gets these specific requests supplied by visualizing them and then bringing them into existence by faith!
“It is vital to see this because here is the point at which charismatic development leaves Christianity and crosses into the territory of paganism. Ideas like this are the inspiration of the largest church in the world, imitated by so many Western charismatics.
“He teaches the need for a vivid mental picture coupled with a burning desire and a firm conviction that the goal is already accomplished. Dr. Cho calls this process: visualizing the goal, then incubating it into reality by strength of faith--or would it be will-power? He teaches that believers may order up wealth and success; anything they want as long as it is moral. The key to getting these things is the art of fantasying them, because God cannot bring them into being unless the individual incubates the image. Certainly, Dr. Cho ‘tidies up’ his teaching by saying that people should first pray to God for what He wants them to have before fantasying and incubating these things into reality. But in most of his many examples ... he dispenses with the need to refer to God for guidance on the details. Though he attempts to give some biblical justification for his ideas, he tells us that he obtained them in the first place because God communicated them directly to him.
“This is own explanation of how he arrived at his teaching on incubating prayer answers and healing diseases. ... Cho was very jealous of the success which other religions had in attracting followers. He wrote: ‘While Christianity has been in Japan for more than a hundred years, with only half a percent of the population claiming to be Christians, Soka Gakki has millions of followers. ... Without seeing miracles, people cannot be satisfied that God is powerful. It is you [Christians] who are responsible to supply miracles for these people.’ ...
“Dr. Cho says that his massive church grew to its present size and continues to grow because he follows this principle of visualization. He first imagines his church growing to a certain figure, and he then visualizes all the faces and incubates the vision into reality. Similarly, when he seeks the expansion of his television ministry, he imagines it being aired throughout Korea, Japan, the United States, and Canada. He pins up maps of these countries in his office and he the develops a mental vision of the transmitters beaming the programs.
“Paul Yonggi Cho teaches that all Christians should aim to prosper in body, soul and spirit, and their success and failure in this is due entirely to their success or failure in visualizing. He writes that his church members have so proved these principles of success that there have been no bankruptcies in his church, and the membership has undertaken the largest and most expensive church-building program in all history. However, one cannot always take Pastor Cho’s claims very seriously, for elsewhere he writes of how his own bankruptcy was all but inevitable, and how he stood the very verge of suicide through the near failure of his church-building project. In the end he was only saved by church members taking such sympathetic action that many sold their homes and most precious possessions to bail him out.
“Needless to say, when we come to the Bible we cannot find any of these instructions or ideas. We look in vain for any advice about visualizing, incubating, imagining, or any other technique of sorcery or will-power designed to dominate God and to take away His sovereignty over the lives of His people. In the Bible we find that even an apostle like Paul is obliged to ask God in a humble, dependent way if he might be enabled to visit the people of a certain church--subject to the will of God.
“The Apostle Paul, judged in the light of Paul Cho’s books, was a dismal failure because he knew what it felt like to be abased, to endure hardship, and to encounter many, many difficulties. So often events did not turn out according to his wish or endeavor as a servant of Christ. Paul evidently made the mistake of negative thinking-- accepting trials and tribulations. Overall he failed miserably in the use of his fourth-dimensional powers, never proving successful at fantasying or willing anything into existence. ...
“What has built the largest church in the world? The answer is, an idolatrous mixture of biblical teaching and pagan mind-techniques. God is deprived of His sovereignty in the believer's affairs, and the authority of Scripture is replaced by the authority of supposedly direct messages from God and the produce of the imagination. This is the kind of church which has moved hordes of impressionable Christian teachers the world over to jump on to the healing-prophesying bandwagon. We need to take very great care in these days.
“Look at the books which charismatics and neo-evangelicals are writing today. They are commending these things. ... These are the teachings which have captured their minds! This is the brand of Third World Christianity they are so anxious to emulate. What are we to say to these things?
“Remember the Judaizers!” (“Occult Healing Builds World’s Largest Church: The influence of Paul Yonggi Cho,” by Dr. Peter Masters, Pastor, Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England; from his book, The Healing Epidemic).
The Yoido Full Gospel Church’s web site says that 279 of the 527 pastors are women. In 1991, Cho said that of the 50,000 cell group leaders, all but 3,000 were women and some women lead cells of 50 to 300 families (Calvary Contender, Nov. 1, 1991). This is in direct disobedience to 1 Timothy 2.
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