In a continuation of a series I began on Friday
, I'll be writing about one of the most influential dominionists that very few people have heard of--Paul Yonggi Cho, the leader of the world's largest megachurch and head of the World Assemblies of God Council.
Cho has connections with the "Brownsville Revival" movement, including its disturbing Joel's Army variant, and--through his connections with the FGBMFI and Assemblies--is quite influential in political dominionism including the sad history of Guatemala's reign of terror. And, rather disturbingly, he may also have the ear of one of the most popular pop-culture preachers in the US today.
Learn more about the most influential dominionist you've never heard of below...
Quite possibly one of the most influential people in dominionism today--and one which very, very few people outside of the Assemblies or researchers of spiritually abusive groups know about--is longtime spiritual-warfare hawker David Yonggi Cho
(nee Paul Yonggi Cho).
Cho, for those who aren't familiar (and most of you won't be unless you are a walkaway from some of the most spiritually abusive segments of the dominionist movement), is the head
of Yoido Full Gospel Church--an extremely large Assemblies of God church in Seoul, South Korea (and with multiple "satellite" congregations throughout South Korea) that qualifies as the world's largest megachurch and (if its satellite congregations are counted) quite possibly the largest single congregation of any church; the church has claimed quite literally three-fourths of a million people in South Korea as members, and effectively is the Assemblies of God in that country for all intents and purposes. His megachurch empire started a scant ten years after the Assemblies entered Korea, so he is a prime study on how the Assemblies actively exports dominionism worldwide.
The reason that Cho has two names is a story in and of itself (and is where we begin jumping deep into the rabbit hole and seeing how far down it goes). Cho has claimed that that he died and later came back from the dead:
Paul Yonggi Cho
Some of the biggest names in the charismatic movement claim to have been to the other side and back. Among them is Paul Yonggi [David] Cho -- controversial pastor of the largest church in the world (with more than 750,000 members--nearly half of all pentecostals in South Korea are in fact members of Cho's church) in Seoul, Korea. He said he met a blue-skinned, deceased missionary to Korea there who
commissioned him to reach his country-folk for Christ.
Cho has also stated that one of his assistant pastors at the Yoido Full Gospel Church died and came back to life after three days. During that time period, according to an interview Cho gave
to Mary Stewart Relfe, he was reunited with his wife in heaven where he saw God and was able to meet various biblical figures -- including Abraham, Stephen, and David..
(Sources: Cho, Leap Of Faith
) (Bridge Publishing, 1984);  "Interview with Dr. Paul Cho," Mary S. Relfe, League of Prayer (P.O. Box 4038, Montgomery, AL, 36104).)
During this bit of a trip to the Other Side that Cho claims to have experienced (a surprisingly common claim by Assemblies-linked "name it and claim it" promoters; Jesse Duplantis, another "name it and claim it" promoter popular on the Assemblies traveling-pastor circuit, also claims to have died and come back, as have many others) Cho claims to have been told to change his name and also claims to have seen Jesus as a member of the local fire brigade:
Cho claims to have received his call to preach from Jesus Christ Himself, who supposedly appeared to him dressed like a fireman. (Dwight J. Wilson, "Cho, Paul Yonggi," Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 161)
. . .
As Cho tells the story of his name change, God showed him that Paul Cho had to die and David Cho was to be resurrected in his place. According to Cho, God Himself came up with his new name. (Paul Yonggi Cho interviewed by C. Peter Wagner, "Yonggi Cho Changes His Name," Charisma & Christian Life, November 1992, 80)
Cho is quite possibly the original user of possibly one of the most spiritually abusive tactics ever devised
--the "cell church" or "shepherding group", which has been the primary method in which his church has grown exponentially. (Of note, it was originally invented as a way to keep control over the huge congregation at Yoido Full Gospel; it is now being used to "seed" dominionist movements in churches to take over from within, "cuckoo style"
. Per at least one online expose of Cho
there are over 50,000
separate "cell church" groups at Yoido Full Gospel--meaning at maximum
the church is comprised of a huge number of "mini-churches" comprised of fifteen members each with inordinate control over the lives of people in their cell.)
Cho is also, very much, a promoter of dominion theology and particularly "name it and claim it"; Cho has had links with the Assemblies frontgroup Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International which has historically been a major force in promotion of dominionism both here and abroad, and a profile at Rick Ross Institute notes that he has bastardised concepts from traditional Korean shamanism (with none of the ethical safeguards used by traditional shamans) in almost identical fashion to that of the Moonies. He has also, by his own admission, used tactics based on those used by Soka Gakkai:
8. Cho admits that "Sokagakkai [Soka Gakkai] has applied the law of the fourth dimension and has performed miracles" (Ibid., 64). Likewise, "many people involved in yoga are healing the sick by yoga meditation...in Buddhism monks also have performed fantastic miracles" (Ibid., 36-37; vol. 2, 36). He states that if non-Christians are able to accomplish incredible feats via the fourth dimension, then Christians, using the same means, ought to be able to do all that and much more (Ibid., vol. 1, 37, 41).
(For those unfamiliar with Soka Gakkai, it's a "Buddhist-based" highly abusive coercive religious group
that is almost universally considered cultic and possibly violated law
in obtaining confidential NCIC records for purposes of "dead-agenting" critics. Sokka Gakkai also (in similar fashion to the "Joel's Army" folks) uses prayers as a form of cursing mainstream Buddhist leaders in Japan
, has in general engaged in extremely unethical behaviour
such as promoting praying for the death of a mainstream Buddhist leader
(claiming people will be exorcised from demons by doing so) and whose members have even literally attempted to torch the temples of mainstream Buddhist churches
. Much of the theology of Soka Gakkai involves twisting of Buddhist sutras to promote a concept not unlike "Name it and claim it".)
It is, in fact, probably not a major exaggeration to state that Cho has been responsible for the increasing rate that the Assemblies of God has gone hard-dominionist worldwide; in fact, in 1992, he was elected head of the World Assemblies of God Council (the group overseeing all Assemblies of God churches worldwide)--the exact period when "Third Wave" pentecostalism (such as promoted in Brownsville Assemblies of God during the "Pensacola Revival") and its associated spiritual-warfare movements were embraced officially as a "move of the spirit" by the American Assemblies of God headquarters. (As noted in Friday's post, one of the "early adopters" of Third Wave doctrines pre-Brownsville was none other than New Life Church in Colorado Springs--which itself has some interesting connections with possibly one of the most genocidal regimes in the Americas in modern history.)
Cho's role in having explicitly encouraged the Brownsville revival--connected with a rise in the promotion of "spiritual warfare" theology including "Joel's Army"--is well documented:
In 1993, Dr. Cho, pastor of the world's largest church in Seoul, Korea was conducting a meeting in Seattle, Washington. He was praying for revival in America. "God are you going to send revival to America, or is she destined for judgment?" While he was praying the Lord told him to get a map of America.
He did so and the Holy Spirit told him to point his finger at the map. As he did, he felt his finger drawn to the Florida panhandle and to the city of Pensacola. "I am going to send revival to the seaside city of Pensacola and it will spread like a fire until all of America has been consumed by it," said the Lord to Dr. Cho. Dr. Cho shared his experience with others and the word predictably spread to many of the pastors in the Pensacola area.
Some time later, a Church of God pastor in Mobile, Alabama (70 miles away from Pensacola) was in a meeting with Dr. Cho. "Dr. Cho, there's been a rumor that you have prophesied a great revival in America to begin in Pensacola, Florida. Is there any truth to this?" he asked. "No rumah! No rumah!" said Dr. Cho in broken English. "Received vision; revival will come!"
Dr. John Hurston, former associate and spiritual mentor of Dr. Cho has attested to Dr. Cho's vision and prophesy. In reporting on the Pensacola revival at the Assemblies of God national convention in St. Louis on August 12, 1995, Loren Triplett, foreign missions director for the Assemblies of God related this vision and prophecy with Dr. Cho in the audience.
It should be noted that this is not the first time Cho has tried to breed the Pensacola Madness
, though--and in fact, New Life Church (founded in the 70s) wasn't the first "Brownsville" style church where Cho was influential. Part of the reason I am all too aware is that the Assemblies of God church I am a walkaway from was the first documented church in the US
where Cho predicted, and was trying to encourage, "Brownsville"-style revivals:
It is interesting how a claim regarding a prophecy attributed to Korean Pastor Cho changed three times, each time becoming more specific until it identified Pensacola as the city where a "great end-time revival" would break out and spread throughout the world. Actually, I had heard of that prophecy years before when we lived in Kentucky, and there was speculation that (the church I escaped) would be the church where it was to start. The prophecy didn't change . . . the telling of it did.
(I have deleted the specific name of the church in the quote due to a pattern of RL harassment against walkaways and critics. Church name is in original post linked above. In fact, the church I'm a walkaway from pretty much was
one of the first "Third Wave" churches in the US, a full thirty years before Brownsville's "revival".)
Another article (which notes that the church I am a walkaway from has the ignominious dishonour of being the first Cho-influenced Assemblies church in North America) also notes that between the time the church I left was targeted and Brownsville was targeted that he claimed the next "outpouring" would be in Canada--at the Toronto Airport Fellowship, a Vineyard church often credited for "Third Wave" pentecostalism and its associated spiritual warfare movements.
Apparently Cho has also been particularly influential in promotion of dominionism and "deliverance ministry" in particular, and much of his writing may be the basis of the "Joel's Army" movement:
At the "Dawn 2000" conference held in Nottingham 7-9th March 1995, David (formerly Paul - but that's another story) Yonggi Cho spoke on "The Leader's Prayer Life". In the West we are mesmerised by numbers, and sometimes confuse size and success with spiritual truth. Apparently, according to Hank Hanegraaff, David Yonggi Cho's church in South Korea, at 750,000 members the largest in the world, is nevertheless small in comparison with the Buddhist cult of Saki Gakkai, (a Buddhist version of "Health and Wealth" or "name it and claim it"), on which it appears to be modelled. (Christianity in Crisis, p.352)
The following report by Malcolm Jones, of that "Dawn 2000" talk, is taken from Evangelicals Now, April 1995, p.9 (Cho's words are in italic)
"One almost stood in awe at the amount of time this man spends in prayer each day, and yet one felt grave concern at his philosophy of prayer.
He gave us two reasons why we should pray. Firstly, "God has a tremendous need, and we minister to his need of fellowship". If Cho is right, one wonders how the Godhead survived before we were created. Surely Scripture presents us with a self-sufficient God!
Apparently, God ministers to our need as we minister to his. And he does this by giving us visions. He speaks to us through visions. "Visions are the language of the Holy Spirit. It is visions which change you." Church planters were told, that "the church you see is the church God will give you." For visions and dreams are the mother of faith. It is claimed that this idea is rooted in God's promise to Abraham that he would be given all he saw. Cho seems to have overlooked the fact that Abraham was neither seeing visions or dreaming dreams at the time, but simply looking over some real estate.
Secondly, prayer is important because, "only through prayer can the powers of darkness be broken." No, he was not talking about prayers for the success of the gospel, but prayers that will bind or drive out demons. "If you don't bind Satan, you can't free people", he claims. The gospel seems not to be the power of God to deliver lost people. It needs to be preceded by binding the demons that hold such people in their grip.
So, on Sundays, Cho does not preach from the written Word. He doesn't talk about the gospel, but only about God. (One shudders to think what god that might be, if he is not the God revealed in the Gospels.)
The Scriptures are God's Word for all in general, but Cho wants to speak to people's felt needs, and only the Holy Spirit knows what they are at any given time. So Dr. Cho claims to listen to God's word coming directly from the Spirit - without reference to Scripture - and give that to his congregation.
He is committed to the idea of territorial spirits. For example, Cho claims he had to fly Japanese pastors to Korea, because they could not understand his teaching in Japan. It seems that South Korea is a relatively demon-free zone now, compared to Japan - which is tough luck if you can't afford to fly out of Japan to receive enlightenment.
What a relief it must have been for the people of the New Testament that they didn't have to fly from their demon-ridden society to be delivered by the gospel or taught the truth in Jesus!" (Evangelicals Now, April 1995, p.9)
Sadly, the rampant spiritual abuse I have reported as a survivor of "Third Wave Madness" is all too typical in the "Third Wave" churches--in fact, the whole "Third Wave" is increasingly regarded as spiritually abusive per se
, and some of its core doctrines are frighteningly similar to those in Scientology
Not only did Cho devise "Third Wave" pentecostalism, he in fact invented many of the tactics that are used by "spiritual warfare" groups--including "prayer gangs", "territorial marking" with Wesson oil, etc. and can in fact be credited with much of the dominionist "spiritual warfare" movement's invention and popularising.
Of interesting note, Cho has attempted to promote dominionist movements in South Korea itself and has multiple links to dominionist groups here in the States; in addition to the FGBMFI and other links, he's also linked to quite possibly one of the most spiritually abusive of the Assemblies frontgroups, "Youth With A Mission" (which is almost universally considered by exit counselors as cultic, and which has multiple links to dominionism).
Unfortunately, Cho is also in a position of incredible influence now--in fact, not only is he essentially the Assemblies of God in Korea (in fact, he was elected head of the Assemblies in Korea officially in 1985), he's now pretty much the Assemblies of God worldwide--from 1992 to 2000, Cho was president of the World Assemblies of God Fellowship--the worldwide governing council for all Assemblies of God churches worldwide. It is not coincidential that it was precisely in that period that the Assemblies of God officially endorsed Third Wave and "Joel's Army" theology:
This should deeply concern many here on Guam. At a meeting between leaders of both the Toronto "Blessing" and Brownsville A/G, Thomas Trask gave this ringing endorsement of Brownsville:
"Thomas Trask, General Superintendant of the Assemblies of God denomination, gave his unconditional glowing support for the Brownsville A/G and their head pastor, John Kilpatrick, at a recent meeting with other leaders in Kentucky such as Paul Walker, General Overseer of The Church of God and Randy Clark, the Evangelist-Pastor of the Toronto Blessing. (We Will Break Dividing Wall" by The Remnant International, 1997)
This endorsement of Brownsville and its head pastor, John Kilpatrick, flies in the face of the fact that John Kilpatrick made a false prophesy and when it did not come true, lied by making an "apology" to the public in which he stated that he never made a "prophesy" in the first place. That is what I call "taking a page from the Bill Clinton playbook"!
Trask, in an official letter of response to inquiries regarding the A/G position on Brownsville, stated in his opening sentence:
"First, let me say that the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, is an outstanding church that has been in a sovereign move of the Spirit now for many months."7
(Notes: (7) from http://www.pentecostal-issues.org/...
Internet Archive link here
This is, of course, despite not only apologetics sites and exit-counseling groups alike expressing concern about spiritually abusive aspects of the Third Wave.
By now, it should be quite obvious why I consider anyone and anything to do with Cho as being Bad News.
Hence why I'm quite concerned with the links between Paul Yonggi Cho and Rick Warren, one of the most popular megachurch preachers today.
(For those of you not all that familiar with Warren, he's leader of one of the largest megachurches in the country--Saddleback Church--and is author of the book "The Purpose Driven Life", popular in evangelical circles. Some have noted he promotes "dominionism lite", but he's not been mentioned as a topic of concern as frequently as, say, Ted Haggard. Recently, Warren's church became the subject of controversy as the media director was found to be linked to the promotion of the game "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" (which is essentially a video-game based on a fictionalisation of "Joel's Army" endtime theology; this led to the media director leaving his position both at Saddleback Church and Left Behind Productions. Notably, Warren's media director was in charge of a plan to promote the game through megachurches--specifically through pastors and megachurch media contacts.)
And the links between Cho and Warren are, sadly, extensive indeed. Deception In The Church and Let Us Reason document this:
Warren was a key speaker at Yonggi Cho's church growth conference in 1997. Cho is known to mix occult concepts with Christian teaching. He is especially known for his word faith & visualization techniques. Warren was also a key speaker at Schuller's Institute for Successful Church Leadership.
David Cho's connection to Robert Schuller is evident. Robert Schuller writes in the foreword to Yonggi Cho's book, The Fourth Dimension: "I discovered the reality of that dynamic dimension in prayer that comes through visualizing.... Don't try to understand it. Just start to enjoy it! It's true. It works. I tried it."
To say Cho is promoting mysticism would be an understatement. He says if Buddhists and Yoga practitioners can accomplish their objectives through fourth dimensional powers, then Christians should be able to accomplish much more by using the same means. (Paul Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimension, vol. 1, 1979, pp.37, 41) "You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth... He is bound by your lips and by your words... Remember that Christ is depending upon you and your spoken word to release His presence." (Ibid., 83)
In Warren's interview with Cho we can see his respect for him.
Warren: Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?
Cho: I feel that the most American churches really don't believe in the miracles of God. The church is getting very institutionalized. But I tell you that by a new anointing the American church would start to believe the miracle of the nation of God's hand."
Warren: Can you please pray a prayer of blessing to the pastors that are reading this? (Rick Warren And David Yonggi Cho Talk About Using The Internet by Tim Bednar July 25, 2003) (originally from e-church.com
More damningly, a dominionist publication has interviewed Cho wherein the latter admits links with Rick Warren
; this same publication has an article by Rick Warren where he quotes Cho directly in admitting both have possibly plaigarised sections of sermons
from Billy Graham and a pastor of a Dallas, TX church:
There has been much talk in recent years on blogs and Web sites about how much of other people's sermons is appropriate to incorporate into your own messages. When does it get to the point of "plagiarism"? A friend of mine in Cincinnati was recently dismissed by his church's board of trustees because of this. As I predicted to that board of trustees, the size of that thriving church has been cut in half, the momentum they had been experiencing has gone away, and they are in big financial trouble. What a needless waste of God's momentum that had been resting upon them.
At a seminar, Dr. Cho, pastor of the world's largest church in Korea, was asked during a question and answer time, "How do you put your weekly messages together? They are so powerful!" He said, "Honestly, I have never given an original message in all my years of ministry here at Yoido Church. Each week, I preach word-for-word messages from either Billy Graham or W.A. Criswell from Dallas First Baptist Church. I can't afford to not have a home run each weekend when we gather. I don't trust my own ability to give completely original messages." Wow!
Warren was also a speaker at the Azusa Street Centennial
(held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival, generally held as the "birth" of pentecostalism including the Assemblies of God) and reportedly shared the stage with Cho.
Warren and Cho also have joined forces in promoting megachurches via the Internet including setting up "cell churches" online (and networking fellow dominionists):
Churches need to stop building bigger buildings and start relying more on the Internet, say two leading pastors in the church growth movement. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the 750,000-member Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, and Rick Warren, pastor of the 15,000-member Saddleback Valley Community Church, say the Internet is a "next generation strategy" that will connect decentralized home groups to the larger church body.
The two met recently in California to discuss church growth strategies for the 21st century, and their conclusion was -- stop building buildings and use that money for world missions. The interview appears in the July 25 issue of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free, e-mail newsletter available from the Web site www.pastors.com.
With 20,000 new converts a year, Cho says there is no way his church can match buildings to membership and so he's encouraging younger converts to stay at home and worship through the Internet.
"We are so jammed that we have no way to keep growing except by going to cyberspace," says Cho. He says he tells young people, "Don't come to church, just stay home and get your teaching through the Internet." These long-distance members give regular feedback on the sermons and services, and they can give their tithe through the Internet, and they stay physically connected to the larger body through small study groups.
Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Church," adds, "Even if we had all the buildings we needed, one question is whether or not the next generation wants to worship in huge buildings." He says Saddleback is experimenting with live Internet services on the weekends and has already set up a GroupNet to help small groups stay connected to each other.
Cho's church offers live services over the Internet, including Sunday and Wednesday. "But also, when I want to give special instructions or teaching to the cell groups," says Cho, "then I will teach it through the Internet to the cells and apartments."
"It is silly to build larger and larger church buildings," says Cho. "It is silly to spend more money on branch church buildings! You'll never have enough. I really believe this, and I have already announced to my people and ministers that the next step is to go into total cyberspace ministry because it is a real waste of money to build larger buildings." Warren adds, "No matter how much land you have, it eventually fills up.
Besides, just think of that money and how it could be used for missions. Our goal is to decentralize -- to send our church members out for ministry into their neighborhoods." Regarding the traditional need for buildings, Warren cites Saddleback's legacy: "We wanted to prove to the world that you don't have to have a building to grow a church. We were running over 10,000 in attendance before we built our first building. So we know how to grow and minister without buildings. What we're trying to learn now is how to do it through the Internet -- into the homes."
(It is worth noting--on a rather frightening note, at that--that many estimates have South Korea as the world's most "wired" nation, especially in regards to broadband access.)
Especially damning, Cho admits on his own website the links between him and Warren and cross-promotion of each other:
Prayer is the only way to survive!
Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in the USA came to see Dr. Cho who was visiting Los Angeles for the Spiritual Renewal Conference 2001 at Sarang Community Church in Los Angeles (Rev. Jung Hyun Oh). While Dr. Cho was talking to him, he urged the churches in the USA to pray. Dr. Cho emphasized prayer for the survival of the churches in the USA. He further said that leaders should listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and find out the methods of drawing young people into the Church, such as using the Internet.
It is frightening that Rick Warren is very, very close with the person who may in fact be one of the
most responsible for the fact that the Assemblies of God is, denomination-wide, dominionist and embracing of spiritual abuse in the name of "spiritual warfare"--and in the process creating thousands of instances of "collatteral damage".
And it should not be surprising in this light why employees of Warren's church are being found closely linked to games promoting the dominionist ideals of "spiritual warfare"--the very ideals in "dominion theology" that his friend Cho largely invented, has heavily promoted, and spread like a plague worldwide for the past fifty years.