The Weapon at Work
Overview: Chapter 6, The Weapon at Work, factually substantiates the title of this book and encourages the importance of activating the female part of God's creation. It also gives some of the history of women's role in Dr. Cho's Church, especially his mother-in-law, Dr. Choi.
The strength of Christianity in Korea does not explain Dr. Cho's Church of over a half million people. Yes, they have an exceptional prayer life style, their cell groups are highly organized and they experience miracles and healings in their Church. But Churches in other parts of the world have committed Christians, a strong prayer life, miracles and healings, and cell groups in place that cannot even reach 2% of their population and they are trying everything they know to grow.
The secret ingredient that Dr. Cho has is a gift from God that is available in abundance in every Church in the world. Although Dr. Cho doesn't try to hide the fact, people seem to ignore the importance of this asset. Actually, Dr. Cho mentions it frequently and advocates the use of this gift from God.
The man who told me the solution the first day I was in Korea was Dr. Ilsuk Cha, a businessman who was in charge of Church Growth International and would frequently accompany Dr. Cho on his international trips. Dr. Cha said, "What's wrong with American Churches is you don't use your women." I rejected his statement because I assumed that the real answer must have something to do with cell groups. Also, I may have been some what defensive about American Churches. In Dr. Cho's Church, women are encouraged not just to serve God but also to spread the Good News of Jesus, thereby daily adding new converts to the largest Church in the world. Dr. Cho states, "At Yoido Full Gospel Church, I have been using the ministries of women ever since God instilled this concept into my heart many years ago. Women have proven themselves vital in reaching the lost with the message of salvation in many different ways."
Dr. Cho started his Church in 1958 with a used Army tent. By 1961, he had 600 members and a new location in Seoul in the Sodaemoon area. He was very ambitious and tried to do all the work. He said, "Sometimes, I was even the janitor" By 1964, his Church had grown to an impressive 2,400 members but the growth had stagnated.
Then Dr. Cho became too sick to Pastor his Church. After much medical effort and prayer to no avail, God told him, "Son, I am going to heal you, but the healing is going to take 10 years." Dr. Cho said that, "From 1964 to 1974, I felt as though I was dying at every moment." During this same 10 year period while Dr. Cho was incapacitated, the Church grew to 19,865 members. It was experiencing growth at a normal "Cell Growth Rate" that continued on to a half million members.
At the beginning of this crucial decade, Dr. Cho had the woman who was to later become his mother-in-law, the Rev. Jashil Choi, caring out many of the pastoral duties. Dr. Cho was forced to depend on a woman, who was certainly a woman of God. Dr. Cho, after much prayer and study had the plan for home cell groups, with which his male deacons all agreed but were all too busy to help implement the cell groups.
In frustration, Dr. Cho sought out Mrs. Choi. After telling her the story, she suggested they pray. They spent time together in prayer and searching the Scriptures and finally, together they hit upon the idea of using the women of the Church. Mrs. Choi told Dr. Cho, "I believe God revealed this way to us because it is His way. I believe we should call the deaconesses together and present the plan to them." Now, Dr. Cho had a problem. Although he believed that they had made the right decision, he also knew that women are far from being emancipated in Korea. Compared to an American woman, the Korean woman appears to be over 100 years behind times - although the Christian Korea women appears to be way ahead of the American women in ministry.
The Korean woman always steps back and lets the man walk through the door first; however, when I was able to out wait them or get behind them, making it necessary for them to go through first - I will guarantee you that 100% of the ladies would smile in a very pleased manner. Actually, the Korean woman is generally better educated than her American counterpart and has a recent history where the majority of the thousands of Christian martyrs in the late 1800s were women. When Dr. Cho concluded that "the Lord had made it clear to me that it was His will to use women in the Church," he discovered the women were prepared.
As a great man of God who walks in obedience, Dr. Cho called a meeting of the Women's Missionary Association and about 20 women, all deaconesses, came. Although Dr. Cho was apprehensive about telling the women since the men in the Church had refused to help him, he discovered these women "unanimously agreed to follow my direction. Mrs. Choi accepted the responsibility for organizing the work because I was too sick to do it." So Mrs. Choi, was not only assisting in the pastoral duties but now was in charge of organizing the cell groups that resulted in phenomenal growth for the Church.
Mrs. Choi, a powerful woman of God in her own right, was born in 1915 in the northern part of Korea. At the age of 5, she lost her father to Japanese torture as a result of him being involved in the 1919 Independence efforts as mentioned in Chapter 2. As a 19 year old, she went to a revival and saw God heal a neighbor with a deformed arm. This caused her to turn to God and to go get her Buddhist mother who came only at her daughter's insistence to the revival. After her mother was healed of migraine headaches, she also became a Christian. By the age of 20, Choi Jashil became a nurse and eventually opened her own clinic. After the Second World War, she fled to the south and soon started a business in Seoul. She was a mother of 4 children as well as a successful business woman.
During these years, she had drifted away from God. Then, in a very short time, her mother died, her oldest daughter died from an accident at the age of 16 and the Korean currency was devalued, resulting in her bankruptcy. Her depression led to a plan to commit suicide. Before she could carry out her plan, an old friend whom she had not seen in many years, encouraged her to go to a revival. The preacher was the same one she had heard at the revival when she was 19. She recommitted her life to the Lord and entered Bible School at the age of 41 where she met a young man named Cho Yonggi who was only 20 at the time. (we now know him as Dr. Cho)
During the 10 year period while Dr. Cho depended on Mrs. Choi's strong assistance, the Church's future as the largest Church in the world was determined. In 1969, due to their extraordinary growth, the construction of their sanctuary at Yoido was begun, to be dedicated in 1973. Also, the facilities at Prayer Mountain were completed in 1974, for which Dr. Cho gave credit to Mrs. Choi when he stated, "as a result of her burden and vision our Full Gospel Prayer Mountain was established." When Mrs. Choi was seeking God concerning the start of Prayer Mountain, she went to the mountain every day for 100 days. She asked God to show her a sign if this was the place. After 91 days, a 26 year old man, who was dying of tuberculosis, asked her to take him to the mountain. After he spent days of fasting and praying because of her guidance, the man was healed and Mrs. Choi had her sign from God.
The complete story on the role of Dr. Jashil Choi may never be revealed, but it is certain that this tremendous woman of God was used mightily in the growth of Yoido Full Gospel Church. In 1975, at the end of her decade, Dr. Choi had 27 other women helping her, representing 62% of the pastoral staff. Over the years, the majority of Dr. Cho's Pastors have been women and the ratio has stayed around 60%. That is just the tip of the iceberg as far as women are concerned. A visitor on any Sunday can observe that over 80% of the tens of thousands moving in and out of the services are women.
Every time I accompanied a Pastor (male or female), we were met by senior deaconesses and section leaders (women). These women are in a powerful role of leadership and the Pastor was often in a role of assisting. The senior deaconesses and section leaders would lead us to those in need and to the new converts, who were usually already converted by the women. Frequently, I would observe the new convert take a new Bible and hymnal out of boxes for our visit. In a typical sub-district, in which I worked for several weeks under the guidance of Pastor Bin Sung Jin, there were 145 women cell groups out of the 155 total. The dominance of female leadership as Pastors, senior deaconesses, section leaders and cell group leaders is as true in Inchon as in Seoul. Over 90% of Dr. Cho's cell group leaders are women. On a normal Sunday, if all these women brought 3 family members, they would account for an average Sunday attendance. Judging from the cell leader purses, this may be what happens.
Often, I found myself joking that this Church is run by senior deaconesses and section leaders. It is no joke. Dr. Cho's secret weapon is women. Dr. Cho deserves recognition for being obedient to God in-spite of cultural pressures, by allowing and encouraging women to serve God to the fullest.
Why women? Is what Dr. Cho heard from God consistent with the way God works? YES - check the Bible! God used Mary Magdelene as the first evangelist to spread the Good News that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28:1-10). We find in reference to many women who were with Jesus and his disciples that "these women were helping to support them out of their own means"(Luke 8:3). Paul considered that Phoebe was "a great help to many people, including me" (Romans 16:2). Priscilla and Aquila had a church in their home (Romans 16:3-5). There is also a reference to the Church in Lydia's house (Acts 16:40). So not only were women used of God, but they were particularly used in house Churches or cell groups.
In modern times in America, a powerful woman of God named Maria Woodworth-Etter, had a ministry from 1879 till 1924 that had a major impact on Christianity in America. In 1889, she had the largest tent in the world that held 8,000 people. At one meeting in Oakland California, a local newspaper reported that the tent was full and over 10,000 people were standing outside. Thirty years before women could vote in the United States, she was urging, "It is high time for women to let their lights shine." Women have been trying to liberate and encourage other women for many years. Kathryn Kuhlman, who ministered to millions in the 1950's and 60's and may have had the greatest healing ministry of her century, said, "A woman's place is where God puts her." In-spite of the rhetoric and encouragement, women in many Churches in the world are still limited by men's rules. God has specifically empowered women and declared them the enemy of Satan (Genesis 3:15). All children of God, male or female, can be involved in sharing the Good News of Jesus and helping the body of Christ grow, especially through cell groups.
Christian women are confused some times as their proper role. In Genesis 3:16, God spoke directly to Eve, not through Adam. In Genesis 18:15, God spoke directly to Sarah. However in Genesis 21:12, God did tell Abraham to "listen to whatever Sarah tells you" regarding Hagar and Ishmael. In Luke 1:28 through an angel, God communicated with Mary. In John 4:7, Jesus spoke directly to a woman which resulted in her going back to her home town and telling people about Jesus. When Paul talks about slaves, most people say it was cultural for his day but when he talks negatively about women some Christians say it is for today.
GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. HE WANTS TO COMMUNICATE WITH ALL OF HIS CHILDREN AND WE ARE ALL TO SPREAD THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST.
Dr. Cho, obedient to God, placed women in a position of winning souls and ministering. As a result, these women have been the major contributors to the growth of their Church which is unprecedented in the history of Christianity. Jesus with people who are obedient to Him can do more to free women than all the politicians and rulers of the world.
For the title page and contents, Chapter 1 Setting the Stage, Chapter 2 Only in Korea?,
Chapter 3 Winning a Country for Christ, Chapter 4 Prayer That Moves Mountains,
Chapter 5 The Weapon at Work, Chapter 6 How Cell Groups Work,
Chapter 7 100 Days in Inchon, Appendix: Written Interview Comments