Tributes paid to 'God's general' David Yonggi Cho, founder of the world's largest church

David Yonggi Cho(Photo: Facebook/David Yonggi Cho)

The co-founder of the world's largest church has been remembered as a giant of the faith and "God's general" after his passing on Tuesday aged 85.

Tributes were being paid on social media to David Yonggi Cho, who founded Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, with his mother-in-law in 1958.

At its height, the church claimed to have over 800,000 members.

Cho stepped down from leading the megachurch in 2008 but his presence continued to be felt as he retained the title of pastor emeritus.

Remembered for his engaging preaching, he passed away on Tuesday morning after being treated for a cerebral hemorrhage since July 2020.

In a touching tribute, the church remembered their co-founder as a key figure in the Christian landscape who brought hope to the country following the devastation of the Korean War.

"He conveyed the gospel of hope to the Korean people who fell into despair after the Korean War," the church.

"He was instrumental in growing the Korean church, particularly developing Yoido Full Gospel Church as the world's largest church."

Despite rising to meteoric heights, Cho's beginnings were humble, having known financial hardship in his childhood as a result of his father's bankruptcy. 

Even his destiny as a Christian pastor was not set as Cho was born into a Buddhist family. It was only through a Christian friend of his sister telling him about Jesus that he came to faith.

While his younger years were not privileged, he was clever and learned English after befriending soldiers at an American army base near his school.

His English ability was to prove instrumental to the development of his faith as he went on to serve as an interpreter for Assemblies of God missionary Kenneth Tize. 

Following this, he sensed the call to become a pastor and in 1956, at the age of 20, he enrolled in the Full Gospel Theological Seminary of the Assembly of God. 

His ministry too had humble beginnings, starting out not in a megachurch but a simple tent in Seoul.

He detailed his faith journey in one of his most popular books, "The Fourth Dimension", in which he credited his fruitfulness in ministry to answered prayer.

Billy Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma, was among those remembering Cho.

"I am sorry to hear of the passing of Dr. David Yonggi Cho, one of the great leaders of the Spirit-Empowered movement," he said.

"His ministry, writings and fatherhood blessed millions. Dr. Cho's legacy and impact will continue for many generations."

Godman Akinlabi, lead pastor of Elevation Church in Nigeria, called Cho "God's general".

"He lived a life of service and sacrifice for the Gospel of Christ. He is Heaven's Gain."

The Rev Dominic Yeo, lead pastor of Trinity Christian Centre in Singapore, said Cho's impact had reached many Christians worldwide.

"Today, we celebrate the homegoing of Rev Dr Cho Yonggi, a great man of God and faithful servant of the Lord whose burden was to see revival come into the nations," he said.

"He was an amazing servant, prophet, and messenger of God who lived an abundant life.

"He planted one of the world's greatest apostolic churches in South Korea in 1958. Yoido Full Gospel Church has grown exponentially to impact many churches and ministries worldwide.

"I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Rev. Cho and have been touched by his gentle yet strong leadership approach in guiding churches and discipling his flock.

"He was truly one of the greatest leaders and preachers in church history, having brought the Gospel to the discouraged, downcast, and lost. While the world has lost this mighty man of God, heaven is rejoicing at the homecoming of a saint."

Cho was married to Kim Sung Hae from 1965 until her passing earlier this year on February 11. He is survived by his three sons. His funeral will be held on Saturday.