The story about pastor Yonggi Cho is incredibly important.
I have met him on a few occasions, last time at a lunch in Pensacola a few years ago. It was always special to talk with a man with such strong life-experiences.
The man who led the building of the world´s largest church, measured in membership (over 700.000), Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South-Korea, is worth studying.
Some people are only concerned about the supposed weaknesses in his charismatic theology. That in itself is worth a discussion.
Others are wide-eyed with admiration because he has succeeded with prayer and cellgroup-development. Definitely, we have a lot to learn from him.
But one aspect of his life that we barely know about today, is the massive opposition that he previously encountered from his pentecostal brothers in Korea.
Around 1980, Yonggi Cho had become a significant factor within international pentecostalism, and on homefield in South-Korea, his church grew even more than the other churches.
In this setting, jealousy developed fully – among his own.
The accusations against Yonggi Cho were not concerning theology and methods, but his personality.
At the annual conference of Korean Assemblies of God in 1978, the pentecostals assembled under their leader, Yonggi Cho, who was the president. Here, the dirtiest methods were used to smear him. Accusations in writing were presented that he was a manipulator, he brainwashed people, he was a psychopath (!). The annual conference ended with Yonggi Cho being defrocked as president – in shame and dishonor.
But luckily, there were broadminded international leaders who saw farther that this. General Superintendent for US Assemblies of God, Thomas Zimmermann, was also the leader of the world council for pentecostals, and he saw through the power play, intrigues, and spectacle in Korea. The newly elected Korean leaders sent a letter to Zimmermann where they demanded that Yonggi Cho should be removed from his position as a council member in the international council, and that American churches within Assemblies of God had to deny Yonggi Cho any preaching assignments.
But Thomas Zimmermann said no!
Four-five years later, Yonggi Cho was invited to become a member again of the Korean Assemblies of God, now even in a ceremonial leadership position. The shortsighted power-abusers who had started the hate-campaign against him, had lost.
Now, “nobody” remembers this story any longer. Fortunately, it is documented in historical records, so we might learn from it.
I hosted Thomas Zimmermann for a week in Oslo in 1985, and I asked him about this. He gave me a detailed explanation, and he was obviously very upset by the treatment that Yonggi Cho had been given.
Whether in Korea or Europe, it is easy to become introvert, narrowminded and self-centered. Then, it is good to know that we livein a big world. Fortunately, our international relationships bring some sobriety and broadmindedness into our duck pond….