Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Korean Billy Graham

Before Christmas there was an interview in the Chosun Ilbo with Rev. David Yonggi Cho who is the pastor emeritus of the largest Church in the world , the "Pure Gospel Church" known in English as the Full Gospel Church. He is known as the pastor who started with a handful of Christians and raised the number to 780 thousand . He has consistently refused to be interviewed but he did accept this invitation and spoke passionately about his work.

He mentioned his early years of poverty and also his bout with tuberculosis. When he started his ministry he mentioned he was dealing with very poor people. The interviewer asked him, outside of the help of the Holy Spirit, what did he attribute his success; Rev. Cho thought it was hope. He did not talk about heaven or hell but emphasised courage and hope in their lives. These poor people were not able to go to church with the rich but they were able to receive courage and hope which encouraged Rev. Cho.

He mention that he was not conscious of the growth of the Church in the beginning. Many of the women area leaders were the ones who brought in the numbers. He was asked about the criticism he received about his ministry of healing and speaking in tongues. He has been criticised continually for 50 years for having heretical views, now that he is retired he is no longer troubled with the criticism. He has been personally criticized for moral lapses, for his son's problems, for the way he has run the Church, money matters and for his theology.He admits it was difficult but it has not stopped the growth of the Church.

He describes his life and that of Korea as a miracle: "This has been true of me and of Korea. I was diagnosed with terminal tuberculosis and was able to do what I did, Korea itself after the Korean War was in a primitive state of poverty and today we are doing very well."

Rev Cho has had many trials but never lost hope.
The Christians were looking at him and when he was tempted to lose hope he preached to himself to have courage and try to see things positively. He says after Billy Graham he has possibly traveled to more places to preach than anyone else.

There is no question that he is a very charismatic person and has been able to bring Jesus to many here in Korea. He has been criticised by many especially among the Protestants for his understanding of Christianity. The Catholics do not seem to be as vociferous in criticism but not because they are in sympathy with the teaching. He is preaching the gospel of health and prosperity; the cross and justice issues would not be transparent in the teaching. This is an easy sell and has been very successful, but we are dealing with a history of about 50 years, so the coming years without Rev. Cho at the helm will be very telling.

The Catholic Church in Korea changes pastors at least every 5 or 6 years. This doesn't give any one a chance to become too charismatic and become bigger than the diocese. It probably is a very wise way of dealing with pastoral assignments. The workers in the vineyard are not that important, their work is to lead others to Jesus. The priest, like all those working in pastoral situations, are in the words of St. John the Baptist to become less so the one for whom they are working becomes bigger. The work should never depend on one person no matter how charismatic or talented he may be, this is especially true working as a disciple of Jesus.

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