Yoido Full Gospel church in decline?

We wish to correct the below news article. It is misleading to call Yoido Full Gospel “Church” a church. It is a PDL/COP/HAW/NAR/WOF/MUS cult.


Cho has simply used the philosophies of modern day cults to mislead many Christian churches to believe that he is a legitimate Christian minister. He is not. (In fact, he has helped pioneer some of these dangerous cult movements.)

His theology and gospel do not reflect the historic Christian faith but rather a faith that is against genuine Christianity (see his work on the Fourth Dimension). The below article seems to suggest he has not kept up with the false PDL or the NAR teachings on youth recruitment. Then again, many youth who do know how to browse the web in Korea are probably learning the truth that Yoido Full Gospel does not reflect Christianity.

UCA News reports,

Signs of vulnerability for Korean megachurch

Scandal, aging population test Yoido after years of explosive growth

It’s midnight on a recent Tuesday at Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, and though many seats are empty, 300 people still sing and wave their hands to a catchy gospel tune. A few in attendance — almost all look over 50 years old — remain asleep.

“Feel the Holy Spirit,” chants the pastor, his assistant performing a kind of gospel rap into a microphone.

Some 830,000 people are members of Yoido, making it the largest church congregation in the world. But scandal and changing lifestyles mean the church faces stagnation after unprecedented growth in recent decades.

In February last year, Yoido’s founder, Pastor David Yonggi Cho, 79, was found guilty of embezzling 13 billion won (US$12 million). He received a three-year term suspended for five years and a fine of nearly US$5 million. Oldest son Cho Hee-jun remains behind bars serving a three-year term after he sold shares to Yoido at inflated prices.

“God forbid, if God calls me back today, I will still be able to go to the Kingdom of God,” Cho said in his first Sunday service following the verdict.

After one of the church’s toughest years, a Yoido spokesman said the church had escaped a negative impact on its growth because Cho had already retired. In 2011, he resigned as Yoido’s chairman three years after stepping down as senior pastor in a deal that meant prosecutors would delay filing a case.

Cho was replaced by Pastor Young Hoon Lee, a fluent Japanese and English speaker who has led Yoido missions overseas.

“He is leading the church to elevate us to a higher level and is not bound by a 70-year-old’s mind — Pastor Cho’s generation — while keeping the main values of the church’s beliefs,” Yoido’s public relations department wrote in an emailed response. “So although we met an unexpected situation with Pastor Cho, the church is still solid and we expect more growth of the church in this decade.”

Growth and stagnation

Outside Yoido’s main church on the Han River island of the same name, there were few signs of discontent this month. A 50-year-old member who gave only her surname, Kim, said she joined six years ago and had no thought of leaving Yoido.

“Pastor Cho’s speech always makes me feel good,” she said, referring to Cho’s continued appearances at Sunday services following his retirement.

Even if church members remain loyal, statistics and projections by experts suggest Yoido may struggle to match the staggering growth of previous years.

Started in 1958, the church held its first service in a Seoul living room where Cho and a co-pastor claimed to have performed a miracle in curing a paralyzed woman.

As the congregation swelled, the church was forced to relocate to a tent. By 1961, a brick-and-mortar church had been built and opened in downtown Seoul.

A move to the capital’s Yoido Island in 1973 gave the church its current name and the impetus for growth that accelerated into the 1980s. By 1992, the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed Yoido’s claims to the world’s largest congregation with 700,000 members.

Yoido says the secret of its success has been a “cell system” whereby congregation networks brought in new members, and gently prod those who miss religious services too often.

The church has paired innovative micromanagement with a philosophy focusing on the grandiose. The main church building in Seoul holds 12,000 people with overflow in adjoining sanctuaries featuring large screens. Religious services — at least 25 every week, around the clock — are broadcast on TV channels in South Korea and overseas. The message is one of healing and helping ever larger numbers find the Holy Spirit.

“People experienced the power and grace of the Gospel in their real lives. Then they brought others,” said the Yoido spokesman.

The church has also been helped by circumstance. Seoul’s population has exploded amid rapid economic growth in recent decades — in 2012, the city area was home to nearly 26 million people, one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas in terms of population. South Korea’s capital boasts 17 megachurches — defined as 2,000-plus attending each week. This is more than any city outside of the United States.

Another key factor aiding megachurch growth has been tax, or lack thereof. Government lobbying means South Korea’s powerful, and wealthy, religious groups have not been required to pay tax although some faiths — including the Catholic Church — have voluntarily done so in recent years.


However, perceived greed has damaged the reputations of South Korean megachurches, says Caleb Kwang-eun Shin, a lecturer at Korea Baptist Theological Seminary in Daejeon.

Pastor Cho’s conviction last year will not necessarily define Yoido’s future, he says. But whispers of impropriety have plagued Yoido and some other South Korean megachurches for years, turning people off.

“The scandals of megachurch pastors are very important,” says Shin. “Korean Churches have lost their role models and orientation.”

Even before the scandals hit, signs suggested Yoido’s membership may have peaked. After reaching 1 million members by the late 1990s, numbers reportedly fell to 830,000 in 2007. Eight years on, Yoido has the same membership, the church spokesman said on Sept. 14.

Faithful are not necessarily changing values and switching teams. The main challenge has been replacing aging members, says Michael Begin, a professor of Global Studies at Busan National University.

South Korea registered the lowest fertility rate in the world last year at 1.1 births per woman, according to the World Health Organization.

“[This] points to a huge challenge for megachurches to maintain replacement levels of recruitment,” says Begin.

Many South Korean megachurches have ramped up expansion outside of Seoul to smaller cities and suburbs, and increasingly overseas, in a bid to turn the tide. Churches like Yoido may also have to revise what they preach to return to growth, says Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Institute of Religion Research.

“It will be interesting to watch and see if South Korean megachurches moderate their theology as the society becomes increasingly postmodern and secular. And if they continue to be able to appeal to the newer generations of high-tech young adults,” he says.

Source: Signs of vulnerability for Korean megachurch, UCA News, http://www.ucanews.com/news/signs-of-vulnerability-for-korean-megachurch/74269, Accessed 16/09/2015. (Accessed 17/09/2015.)

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  1. Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

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