World’s Biggest Congregation


LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: There are big churches, and then there’s the Yoido Full Gospel Church here in Seoul, South Korea. It’s the mother of megachurches, with the largest congregation in the world. On a typical day 200,000 will attend one of seven services along with another two or three hundred thousand watching them on TV in adjoining buildings or satellite branches. While some other churches may be losing members, this one just keeps growing. The main sanctuary here holds 21,000 worshipers packed to the rafters seven times every Sunday. Each service has its own orchestra, its own choir, its own pastor. There are hundreds of assistants. There need to be. Each service is translated into 16 different languages for visitors. Karen Kim is a pastor with the church’s international  division. She says she was shocked when she first moved here from Australia.

KAREN KIM: I think when you’ve got people this size, like you have to have structure, and you have to have organization, because otherwise people would be getting killed. Like you can’t just let it all just take care of itself. Like there has to be like organized rosters of volunteers and things like that to get people in and out of the service, or these people will literally die and get crushed.

Reverend Young Hoon LeeSEVERSON: The level of organization here is striking. Senior pastor Reverend Young Hoon Lee explains it this way.

REVEREND YOUNG HOON LEE: Our church operates like orchestra. Every day we make perfect harmony and fantastic symphony.

SEVERSON: Even though the first Christian missionaries arrived in Korea in 1784, the so-called Hermit Kingdom continued to be Buddhist until about 60 years ago. That was about the time Pastor David Cho founded what became the Yoido Full Gospel Church, which now has missionaries of its own in 67 countries.

REVEREND DAVID YONGGI CHO: People don’t come to our church because I’m holy person, I’m spectacular Christian. No. They come because I supply their need. I meet their need through the word of God.

SEVERSON: Actually, Pastor Cho is one of the most revered evangelists in Korea. He was a Buddhist until he rejected his religion when he was near death from tuberculosis. He says that’s when Jesus Christ appeared to him in the middle of the night and told him to preach the gospel. So he did. When the country was suffering in poverty and desperation after the Korean War, he preached the gospel of hope through prayer.

People come to Prayer Mountain to pray, sometime for hoursREVEREND CHO: Every morning at 4:30 people come to church, and they pray for one or two hours, and all-night prayer meeting on Friday evening.

SEVERSON: Prayer seems especially important to this congregation. Each day buses leave the big church for the ride up to Prayer Mountain, which includes a sacred cemetery on a hillside. It overlooks a complex of buildings with a church, a hotel, and tiny, individual prayer rooms barely big enough to kneel and pray, which some do for hours. From a distance you can hear the sound of wailing coming from  the top of the cemetery and people speaking in tongues.

KAREN KIM: It’s very important to their faith, and speaking in tongues is a way that they communicate with God and that they allow God to communicate through them, and it’s evidence of the Spirit working in them and then being filled with the Spirit.

SEVERSON: From only five members in 1958, Yoido Full Gospel, which is affiliated with the Pentecostal movement, grew to be the largest congregation in the world with over 800,000 members. Some satellite congregations have been released to become independent branches, although they’re still connected to the big church. There is more than one reason Yoido grew so big and so fast, but Pastor Cho believes women have a lot to do with it.

Pastor David Cho of Yoido Full Gospel ChurchPASTOR DAVID CHO: God gave me the idea because until that time women were despised, actually, in society. They were not given any important position, and the Spirit of the Lord said why don’t you use women? So I announced that I would start cell ministry and use women as the leader, and many men protested. They felt very bad about that, but I forced my idea. The women were so very happy,  and they dedicated—they were excellent workers.

KAREN KIM: They make up the majority of the membership in the church, and they really like to do a lot of volunteering. Historically, in church history Pentecostalism has been one of those areas and those branches of Christianity that has been more open to women pastors.

SEVERSON: One reason Yoido has grown so big is because of its fundamental message, that if members give to God, he’ll give them prosperity, the same message found in numerous megachurches in the U.S.

REVEREND CHO: Many people are accusing me that I’m preaching the gospel of prosperity, but I’m not afraid of being accused, because if gospel could not bring prosperity to other people, suffering people, what can you do for them? Because gospel must bring prosperity in our spirit, soul and body and lives. If gospel bring destruction to us, why should we believe in prosperity?

Tithing is a fundamental part of church doctrine.SEVERSON: But Pastor Cho says personal prosperity is good only if people become rich as well in their spirit and soul.

REVEREND CHO: People try to bring happiness from their circumstances by being rich, by arriving their position in society. But those things soon pass away. They need eternal hope that is coming from inside out, not from outside in.

SEVERSON: Tithing is a fundamental part of church doctrine.

REVEREND LEE: Most members give tithes to the church—10 percent. With that money we help all the poor people in our society.

SEVERSON: With so many members and so much in tithes, the church could be a powerful political influence in South Korea. But Pastor Lee says the church does not want to become politically active and instead puts more emphasis on the social gospel—helping the poor, like this project outside the church where  volunteers collect and dispense clothing for those in need.

Karen Kim is a pastor with the church’s international division.KAREN KIM: They have a lot of those projects. I think not just in our church, but I think churches around the world are starting realize that the debate between, you know, the social gospel-just the gospel—you can’t have one without the other, because you both, and they need to work hand-in-hand if you’re going to make a difference in our world.

SEVERSON: In the 1960s, Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world, with an annual per capita income of about $60. Today it’s around $30,000. South Korea is prospering. Pastor Cho says he knows one reason why.

REVEREND CHO: Jesus Christ. That is the only answer we can give. You come and try to study the reason of prosperity. You can’t find out any reason, because we don’t have a good politician so far. We don’t have great business people.

SEVERSON: And if Christianity is a factor in the prosperity of South Korea, Yoido is a significant contributor. Sixty years ago there were about 50,000 Christians in South Korea. Today it’s more than 10 million, and almost one-in-ten were baptized  in the Yoido Full Gospel Church.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Lucky Severson in Seoul, South Korea.

  • Brian Crossland

    What a great piece of journalism. Thanks lucky for the hard work and blessing us with something we don’t get to see very often, a positive message in a sometimes depressing world. Shalom

  • hardyandtiny

    She’s Australian?

  • James Aung (Torch)

    Hi Karen,

    It is great job. I personally enjoy reading “world biggest congregation”. May the new generation keep this big church as it is.

  • Donita Johnston

    My christian husband E.H.JOHNSTON served in the Korean war sixty years ago with THE US. MARINE CORP as a young man. He was blessed to be able to come home to live to eighty years and still serving GOD, After watching this story, it came to me that he helped in the cause of CHRIST unknowingly,& and only NOW are his efforts along with many others, come to frution. He has been battleing cancer for the last five years with the help of a wonderful KOREAN CHRISTIAN nurse that has become like a family member to us.Thank for for this story, it will allow many things to fall into place as we look back, and press on to the furture serving god.

  • Merry Zvi

    Great. Reverend Cho is a man on a mission. Be blessed always.

  • Andy Wang

    I’m from Hope church Singapore and a Singaporean exchange student at korea university from aug to dec 2011, and during those period I visited yoido’s regular service and attended the international service where pastor Karen is. I’ve to say yoido is indeed a spirit filled church, strong in cell group system, and believes much in the wonders of prayer. I hope their influence will continue to spread both in korea and internationally to advance God’s kingdom. Thanks for publishing this article and thanks yoido for their wonderful services.

  • Evans N Terkpertey

    I am Lighthouse Chapel International funded by Bishop Dag Heward-Mills who made me know Rev Cho and the good workw he is doing for the Lord. May God increase him and may they eat the fruit of their labor.

  • dan mendiola

    I was amazed for what the Lord is doing in this church led by ptr Cho. To God be the glory.

  • Rev. Jake Rock

    I was so moved and inspired when I saw this report today (8/ 12/12). We can so often get discouraged and hopeless when doing ministry and this report reminded how great God is and how He wants to reach people with the Gospel. We had our Lord’s Supper service at church tonight (MN Hardcore Church in Minneapolis) and I shared this story with the congregation. Thank you for showing this and keep up the good work!

  • Joy Garrattt

    Interesting story–please carefully research your facts about the history of Christianity in Korea. It did not take off a mere 60 years ago and there were far more than 50,000 Christians in the 1960s and 70s. An incredible revival began in 1905-1906 which broke down barriers between European-American missionaries and Korean converts, a reality that shaped Korean Christianity in so many ways.-there were probably already 50,000 Christians at that time–more than 100 years ago!!!! Please do a little bit more substantive background checking in order to insure that viewers will learn reliable information on your generally excellent program.

  • suresh dogra

    i wish believers had more intelligence than they actually have.material prosperity of korea is being attributed to christianity and jesus,the man who lived in utter poverty himself and said,” it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to pass through the gates of heaven.” bill gates is not a christian delusionist and yet is the richest man in the world.and then what about the claim of muslims that allah is gracious to them as he has given them the gift of oil.unless religion is tempered with sense it results in idiotic delusional effusions.

  • Chandana Barai

    Dear Pastor,

    Greetings in the Jesus name !

    I am from Bangladesh A.G Church and studying Korean Language in the Reformed Theological Seminary at Seoul.
    I gave birth a baby boy 21 February 2012 in Korea.

    Prayer Points
    1. Sponsor for my baby for his food & School;
    2. Sponsor for my School fees.

    Kindly pray for us & respond your prayer answer.

    May the Lord be with you all !

    Sincerely in Christ
    Chandana Barai

  • pastor. chris

    Greetings in the name of our lord Jesus Christ the bishop of soul ,i want to thank god for your life and the ministry I’m bless here in Nigeria with your books .

  • Esther Kim

    I just could not believe how one-sided this article is about this church. yonggi cho has done some good work of God, no doubt. many koreans have converted to christians through his preachings in the last century. but with much of the gift coming to the church goes right into his pocket. he buys buildings and companies around the world with the church’s money so that he could give them to his own kids and wife. It would’ve been better if it also mentioned the negative side of a ‘large church’ and the accusations this church faced.

  • John Low

    plss help me and i so hurtfull, pain, losing my faith, angry cos my wife fall in love with one of the christian korean man and now my wife left home and seeking for divorce . she 47yrs and that korean man 50yrs and i also 50yrs. we married for 22 year with 21yrs old son n 18yrs old daughter. she just left home after meeting that korean man cos my wife went to korea to meet him for a week and came back to malaysia told me she wanted divorce…she told me both of them are in love deeply…plss why all this happening..God help me…am in the state of giving up…its so painfull…

  • John Low

    i always respected korean as very committed christian people but why this man can do such thing to my family and break my family…why..plss God touch this korean man heart ..don’t do this plsss . plss lets go my wife …since i haven’t get my divorce letter not too late and i believed as long as i haven’t sign the divorce letter there still hope , so i pray that this korean man and my wife realize what they doing is Not right in God ways..

  • Pastor Yohanes Eko Lie

    hello pastor saya Pdt Yohanes Eko GBT Singkawang saya sangat senang dan benar benar d iberkati melalui pekerjaan Tuhan yang luar biasa telah terjadi di KOREA saya rindu kuasa Tuhan juga di infestasikan di kota kami Singkawang Kalimantan Barat Indonesia,GOD BLESS YOU Pastor

  • Pastor Yohanes Eko Lie

    hello pastor saya Pdt Yohanes Eko GBT Singkawang saya sangat senang dan benar benar d iberkati melalui pekerjaan Tuhan yang luar biasa telah terjadi di KOREA saya rindu kuasa Tuhan juga di infestasikan di kota kami Singkawang Kalimantan Barat Indonesia,GOD BLESS YOU Pastor

  • Random stranger

    I can be praying for you

  • Robert Munyui Kamunyu

    Tithing was under and is under the law with a curse for Christians seeking
    salvation under the law. Malachi 3:1-18. Salvation under the law one attains it
    at last breath on earth having done all that pertains to the law which is hard
    for one to accomplish. Even the tithe which was given by Abraham was under the
    law of sin and death from the fall of Adam and Eve. Those who cheat would like
    to deceive Christians that tithe was before the law but before which law. When
    Christ was born He was given gifts and not tithes Mathew 2:11-12. Salvation
    under spiritual law of love by grace is freely given and attained,
    Ephesians 2:4 -9, Ephesians 2:13 -20. Under Leviticus priesthood tithes were
    given for the tribe of Levi and tithe of tithe to the high Priest for they
    shared no land apart from the walled towns they were allocated to stay in
    for their continuous sacrifice to God, Numbers 18:20 -29.Widows, strangers
    ,fatherless and orphans benefited from tithes and offerings given to
    Levites, Deuteronomy 14:22-29. In Christianity widows were asked to be catered
    by close brethren to ease burden to the Church. There were also tithes of
    different kinds in Israel. There was also a tithe where a family had
    to eat all before the Lord, Deutreronomy12:6-7. In Christ Jesus we are saved by
    grace and not by works of law Galatians 3:8-13,Acts13: 38-39, Galatians 4: 4-5,
    Galatians2:16-21, Galatians 5:18. In NEW TESTAMENT two priesthood are compared
    Hebrew7: 7-28, Hebrew8:6 -13, Hebrew 9:6-9, Hebrew 10:8-23. Leviticus priesthood
    under the law with tithes, death, discontinuity and its acceptance under law
    and the holy priesthood of Christ without tithes, death and discontinuity
    under which Christians are in salvation being a Holy nation and
    loyal Priests to preach to the world GOD being their Father, 2Peter
    2:5-9. Christ is from the tribe of Juda without priesthood and he never sent
    any of the Levites Priests to preach to the world. Christ is
    the end of the law of sin and death which was against us having crucified it on
    the cross of Calvary Roman 10:1-4, Roman8:1-2,Roman 6:13-14 . Christ came
    to accomplish all the requirements of the law and became the Lord of the
    law. Beside the death of the two sinners, in CHRIST JESUS accomplished two
    deaths . Christ crucified on the Cross the law of sin and death which was
    against us. Christ then removed the first covenant and established the better
    Second Covenant mediated BY Him upon established better promises
    for us. All Apostles of Christ never asked for tithes. Even Judas never asked
    for tithes. Christ Himself never asked for tithes. In new testament
    comments are made on tithing under law which some want to use to justify
    tithing. Our Christian faith is founded on foundation of apostles, prophets
    ,JESUS CHRIST Himself being the Apostle and Corner Stone of our
    faith,Hebrew3:1. Leviticus priesthood is totally left out. In the same Spirit
    Paul referred law as was our and not law is our school master. To justify
    oneself us paying tithes under the law one has to give tithes to all saved
    Christians in the Church for we are loyal priests in Christ Jesus presenting
    our bodies as living sacrifice. But God does not have pleasure for
    Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings for sin neither
    had pleasure therein, which are offered under the law. A fountain cannot
    produce sweet and bitter water the same time. James 3:8-18. We Christian are
    saved by GRACE IN CHRIST LOVE(Spiritual Law) for we cannot be subjected
    to law of sin and death crucified by Christ on cross of Calvary. We are
    subjected to spiritual law of life in Christ Jesus and ought to have the
    spiritual understanding of the Word of God. Roman 8:1-2, Colossians 1:9-10.
    As God has blessed us we should give sacrificially as we have
    purposed in our hearts in liberty and in love, Galatians 5:1,
    2Corinthians 9;6-7, Galatians 6:6-7, Hebrew6:6-12,Hebrew13:11-16. Christ taught
    spiritual giving to God and to our parents, Luke 6:8 ,Matthew15:5-9. Paul also
    taught the same .2Corinthians 9:6-14, Philippians 2:4-5. Aaron was given unto
    Moses, the Levite priests were given unto Aaron, the eleven tribes of
    Israel were given unto Levite tribe to serve them but we Christians are
    purchased through the blood of Christ we are no mans’ servants but servants of
    Christ 1Corinthians 7:21-2 , Numbers 3:9-15. Those under the law are under
    curse. Are they telling Christians curses under law are blessings for them or
    they have powers to remove curses when Christians tithe to them? They have
    directed Christians to deceptive ways of curses for their own benefits
    and not blessings. The bounty of terror of deceptive greediness is
    professionally tactically presented as blessing based on salvation under their
    yard stick of tithes. The body of CHRIST is talking about the mess they
    have been subjected to by Levites priests and pastors. In willful
    deception by calling themselves the Levites of today who persecuted Christians
    and plunder Christians pockets today they are able to demand to be given
    tithes. Levites priests and elders never gave a helping hand to Christians.
    Christ did not leave His Church under Leviticus Priesthood. When we take the
    Word of God out of its content and contest ,we have contempt for the Word of
    God. He (GOD)who brought tithing under the old Covenant took it away in
    His(CHRIST) rights in the new Covenant.

    We can preach the Word of God quoting scriptures like the devil when he tested
    Jesus or quote the scriptures like CHRIST when He answered satan in time of
    need. Matthew 4:1-11 We can teach doctrine of men instead of doctrines of God.
    We can have a zeal of faith and establish our own righteousness not
    according to righteousness of God in the knowledge of his Word. Roman
    10:1-4. Pastors and priests calling themselves Levites of today have
    capitalized on low level Christian doctrinal knowledge
    teachings among Christians. .Tithing contradict the doctrine of salvation.
    Mathew15:5-9. We can preach the Word of God making the Church a house of
    merchandise to make merchandise of Christians and those who do so whose
    God is their belly which made Adam and Eve to fail in their relationship
    with God .If the trade was not profitable to them then it would have come to an
    end but it is a lucrative profitable business to them cunningly preserved with
    tactical appreciations to the body of Christ and spreading of the Gospel. Are
    elect Christians deceived? Romans 16:17 -19 ,2 Peter 2:1-3, John 2:16,
    Philppians3:17-19. We can preach Christ out of envy, strife or of
    good will. Philippians 1:15-17,2Corinthians4:1-2. It is the body of Christ the
    Church which is sent to preach to the world also as individuals brethren
    bearing the burden to preach to the world as Apostles of Christ did. The
    responsibility has not been on shoulders of priests and pastors
    only. Brethren are the loyal priests.

    Tithing is a hard topic to teach without spiritual understanding since we have
    many high profile elite preachers teaching on the same with books written
    of great hoped promises and condemnation on the same for those who do not
    tithe, Ephesians 5:6-7, Thessalonians 2:3-4. Some Christians in
    deceptive manner do teaching on tithes which is warmly appreciated from the
    pulpit. They become the magnetizing force with alluring great hoped
    blessed promises of wealth .Pharisees and the Scribes were the most well
    educated and Jesus said woe unto them seven times for being stumbling
    blocks in faith. Mathew 23:9-39. We only need to rightly
    divide the Word of God and know whether we are Christians
    seeking salvation under the law or we are Christians saved by Christ through
    the Spiritual law of love in grace, Corinthians 1:12-16,2 Timothy 2:15 .
    We redeemed sons of God who are made Kings and priests unto God have a
    common inheritance in Christ Jesus, Galatians 4:4-5, Colssians1:9-14
    ,1Corinthians 2:12-16. Revelation 1;4-6 . We are called spiritual sons of God
    after salvation and not before in fallen state. The same priests and pastors
    wreck the spiritual scriptures when they teach fallen Angles are called sons of
    God who married daughters of men giving offspring of giants , Genesis 6:1-8.
    God says he has never called any angles his son, Hebrew 1:4-5.When were fallen
    angles redeemed and sanctified to be called sons? The ownership of
    increased daughters is unto men before being referred to as sons of God and the
    lust to polygamous marriage was with men. Are beautiful daughters born today
    for men? Shall we have another episode of fallen angles marrying daughters of
    men before the close of age? Many have taught the Word of God outside Biblical
    doctrines so many are deceived in their teaching and preaching which
    condemn God as unjust since no judgment is passed to angles they refer to
    as sons of God. When men dropped further from grace when they practiced
    polygamous marriage and their life span was reduced to one hundred and twenty
    years , no judgment is passed to purposed angles they teach us sons of God. The
    sons of God were men who had done reconciliation to God the same way Abel had
    done and was accepted by God. The judgment is specifically to mankind and
    giants born in sin of polygamous marriage do not qualify the sons of God to be
    angles. Angles are ministering spirits with no reproductive empowerment,
    Matthew 22:29-32, Hebrew 1:14-14. Our relationship to God our Father is
    in love in our loyal priesthood to the world. Roman 8:14-17. Only those
    who are covetous mix teaching under carnal law and spiritual
    teaching enlightenment under spiritual law .. The devil uses the nobles,
    evil and false witness to do his will according to circumstances, Acts 13;50-51
    Acts 6: 9-14. Christians must remain wise and not be cheated by devils workers
    transforming themselves as angles of light. 2Corinthians11: 13-15. Levites
    Pastor, Priests and some Christians misquote Jesus Christ on
    judgment. Judge not that you may be not judged . Matthew7:1-5. They say
    God prohibit judgment which is not true since it is based on taking the
    scripture out of content and contest on understanding Jesus statement.
    Shall you close your eyes to evils committed that they may not judge you. Do
    you buy yourself freedom from being judged for not condemning evil or
    commenting on anything positive or negative. The preaching of the Word of God
    is based on judgment on sins and righteousness . God requires from us
    righteous judgment in wisdom and in love which condemn sins which leads man to
    repentant of sins and redemption. The Word of God in its content and
    contest states judgment on sins and righteousness. All living beings and
    organic life are in constant judgment for existent. If we can stop all
    processes of judgments life will come to a standstill and ultimate death
    with final judgment of decay. Life and all creation were established in
    good judgment by God and close of age shall end in judgment to eternal life or
    eternal death which is eternal life of suffering and separation from God.
    Genesis 1:1-31, Genesis 2:1-25. Even our bodies judge us out of energy and we
    hunger for food and thirst for water. All witty discoveries are results of
    acknowledgment of positive judgments on active well coordinated principals.
    Christians are encouraged to solve cases in judgment among themselves.
    1Corinthians 6:1-7,The Bible encourage us that our love may abound yet more in
    knowledge and in all Judgment Philippians 1:9-12,.Life is in active constant
    judgments and the creation mourns for final judgment which it shall be
    subjected by God. We relate in evaluation to all things in
    judgment. Irrespective of any judgment delivered on us we should delivers the
    Heavenly Kingdom judgment to sins . We saved Christians are counted and judged
    worthy to suffer tribulations together with Christ when we live Christian life
    in love ,Revelation Chapter1,2and3.

    There are may be those who preach tithing to saved Christians for lack of
    spiritual understanding. We should girdle up the loins of our minds. 1Peter
    :13-15.Roman 10:1-4. We shall not be cornered and be cheated. God bless
    us in abundant grace of spiritual revelation and understanding of His Holy
    Word, Colssians1:9-14, Ephesians 5:6 -7,1Thessalonians 2:3-6, 2Timothy2:15, 2Timothy
    2:24-26 . Amen

    I am happy and blessed to interact with you on spiritual teachings. Hope we
    shall search more scriptures for our spiritual growth . Yearning to
    receive your input on the topic .God bless you.

    The message is freely given

    purely to the body of JESUS
    CHRIST worldwide.

  • Maya

    God can prosper any and everything if given the chance! He’s God we attach limits to Him. That’s Why you think He can’t work outside of “religion” but then again God is not religion…. Bill Gates may not be a christian but I pray that you and him hear the Gospel of Jesus and become followers of the true and living God…. Remember God can do whatever He wants and if He wants to prosper Korea because He has people who love him so be it

  • Mabuto

    World biggest congregation is happening now in Karbala Iraq where about more than 18 million people are gathering to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (a.s) the grandson of Prophet Muhammmad (SAW ) .

  • Moses43

    Four Inspirational Songs You will not soon Forget:PLZ RT,,