Pastor Yonggi Cho was born on February 14, 1936 in Southern Kyung-sam Province, Sam-nam district, Kyo-doeng area. He was the first born of five sons and four daughters of Mr. Doo-Chun Cho and Mrs. Bok-sun Kim. During his childhood He was greatly influence.
Early life: 1958–1961
He was born on February 14, 1936, in Ulju-gun, now part of Ulsan metropolitan city. The son of Cho Doo-chun and Kim Bok-sun, He was the eldest of five brothers and four sisters. He graduated from middle school with honours. Because his father’s sock and glove business went bankrupt, He could not afford high school or university tuition. Subsequently, He enrolled in an inexpensive technical high school to learn a trade. At the same time, He began frequenting an American army base near his school, and learned English from soldiers whom He befriended. He mastered English quickly, and became an interpreter for the commander of the army base, and also for the principal of his school.
Raised initially as a Buddhist, Cho converted to Christianity at the age of 17, after a girl visited me daily telling me about Jesus Christ, after He was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Believing that God had called me to the ministry, He began working as an interpreter for the American evangelist Ken Tize. In 1956, when He received a scholarship to study theology at Full Gospel Bible College in Seoul. While there, He met Choi Ja-Shil (최자실), who became his mother-in-law and a close ministerial associate. He graduated in March 1958.
The Daejo Church
In May 1958, He held his first worship service in the home of his friend, Choi Ja-shil. Only Choi and her three children attended the service, but the church grew rapidly and soon had 50 members. Cho and church members began a campaign of knocking on doors and inviting people to come to church, and within three years, it had grown to four hundred members. In 1961, the church purchased its first plot of land at Seodaemun-gu.
The church’s expansion program suffered a setback in January 1961, when He was conscripted by the South Korean army for national service. He asked John Hurston, an American missionary, to pastor the church in his absence. his service in the army was short-lived. He required surgery for a serious intestinal illness, and on the grounds of ill health, He was discharged from the army after just seven months of service.
Following his military discharge, He once again began his pastoral work, despite continuing ill health. A 1500-seat auditorium was constructed on the plot of land at Seodaemun. It opened in November 1961. The church soon outgrew its premises: by 1964 it numbered three thousand.
Soon afterwards, He had married Kim Sung-hye (김성혜), the daughter of Choi Ja-shil, on 1 March 1965. In the meantime, He had been continuing to overwork, and suffered a collapse in 1965. Realizing that the work of leading a large congregation was too much for one person, He divided the city of Seoul into twenty zones, or “cells,” as he called them, and began training leaders for each cell, who would hold services for worship and Bible study in their homes during the week. Cell leaders were encouraged to invite non-Christian neighbours to attend, to learn about Christianity. Each cell leader was required to train an assistant, and when cell membership reached a certain number, the assistant leader would form a new cell, taking about half of the old cell with me or her.
By 1968, the church numbered eight thousand members; in addition to weekly cell meetings, the church was holding three Sunday services. Even three services proved insufficient to accommodate all members of the church, however, and Cho decided to purchase a larger property on Yeouido Island, in the Han River, which flows through Seoul.
The Yoido Church: 1973–present
Economic problems delayed the construction of a church on Yeouido (Yeoui Island), but in 1973, the new ten thousand-seat auditorium was completed. Its first worship service was held on 23 September 1973. In the same year, Prayer Mountain, a sanctuary where individuals can lock themselves away in small cubicles for prayer and fasting, was established. Expanded in 1982 to accommodate ten thousand people, Prayer Mountain is now visited by more than a million people each year, including some ten thousand foreign pilgrims. The church continued to grow exponentially; its membership reached 400,000 in 1984, and 700,000 in 1992. In the 1990s, Cho decided that rather than expanding further, the church should establish satellite churches in other parts of the city.
Awards and Honors
In 1968, He received an honorary doctor of divinity degree from Bethany University, (formerly known as Bethany Bible College), located in Santa Cruz, California.
He was also honored by the Council of Churches of the City of New York. He was awarded The Family of Man Medallion on May 18, 2005.
He went to be with the Lord on the early hours of September 14th 2021.