WHAT ARE THE QUALIFICATIONS FOR AN EFFECTIVE MINISTRY?
By: E.S. Caldwell
I heard what sounded like the thunderous roar of Niagara Falls inside a church in Seoul, Korea. I was attending the second service on a Wednesday evening in Yoido Full Gospel Church (formerly Full Gospel Central Church) pastored by Paul Yonggi Cho. That multivocal roar came from the combined sound of more than 10,000 people praying in tongues at the same time-not shouting, but praying aloud in a conversational level.
As the rushing, thunderous sound surrounded me, my mind raced back 14 years to when I first heard the pounding waters of the 3,010-foot wide Horseshoe Falls cascading 158 feet downward. That was magnificent. This was majestic! It seemed uncanny that the two sounds were so similar.
How did I know they were praying in tongues instead of their Korean language? Frankly, I wasn’t certain until I asked Miss Lee, the coordinator of the seminar. “Mostly the people are praying in the Spirit,” she informed me.
Visualize the scene with me. The vast arena contains eight sections of pews fanning out in curved rows beneath a high, domed ceiling. The back of each pew contains a shelf where the worshippers can place hymnals or Bibles. The Koreans sit while they pray, their arms extended forward and slightly upward. Many of them rock gently back and forth. Their intensity is evident-eyes squeezed shut, concentration apparent. They are talking to God in languages He has provided. Communication with Deity immerses every fiber of their beings. Spiritual dynamism charges the atmosphere. This is prayer in concert elevated to the nth degree.
Can the platform regain control of this torrent? Yes, and with amazing ease-a single stroke of a bell on the pulpit. One silvery chime penetrates the air and within seconds the voices hush, ready to respond to the next phase of the service. Suddenly everyone is singing the familiar old hymn, “Near the Cross.” Then it’s “Amazing Grace,” and foreigners like me discover “how sweet the sound” when we hear it in the Korean tongue.
Next, it’s time to say in unison the Apostles’ Creed (this summary of Christian doctrine is included as a part of every service on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday and every cell meeting, whenever in the week each of the 21,000 cells meet).
Cho is at the pulpit. He informs the congregation that foreign visitors are present. He invites those attending the Church Growth International Seminar to stand. We are clustered in two sections of the balcony. As soon as we are on our feet, Cho urges his congregation to pray for the 252 visitors from seven parts of the globe.
The Koreans stand, 10,000 strong, each extending both arms toward us and their prayer begins. This time it’s different-it’s like the sound of a mighty rushing wind. And accompanying that sound comes a physical sensation-something resembling electrical energy swept from the Korean multitude up, over and through the assembled visitors. I’ve never before felt anything quite like that rolling surge of power. And when I had opportunity I asked other participants if they too experienced what I had felt. “Like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” said Dale Galloway , pastor of the New Hope Community Church in Portland, Oregon. Similar comments were made by others, whether Baptist, Church of Christ, Lutheran, Nazarene or Pentecostal.
That first on-site visit to the world’s largest church (389,321 members as of July 31, 1984) made all of us ready to listen attentively to its pastor. You simply have to be there to grasp the magnitude of what God continues to accomplish in that church. You have to believe with your own eyes when you see all-day, mass-production baptismal services in its Jerusalem Chapel, counting 8,208 immersions in July alone.
And so when the seminary sessions get underway, on the 11th floor of the CGI building, you listen attentively to the slight-built, softspoken, keen-eyed senior pastor. He’s discovered something that’s worth knowing.
Qualifications for Ministry
In the first session, Cho lists 10 qualifications for an effective ministry. Summarized briefly, they are:
1. You must be a man or woman of visions and dreams. Onthe day of Pentecost, Peter quoted what God said through the prophet Joel: “I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh…and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). So visions and dreams are the “language” of the Holy Spirit. If you are not a man or woman of visions and dreams, you are finished so far as church growth is concerned. “I first dreamed of 150 in my church, then 300,” said Cho. “Then in 1964 the Holy Spirit told me to visualize 3,000-and to act as though this was now true.
“Show me your vision, and I’ll show you your future. Seeing comes ahead of possession. God said to Abraham, ‘What you see, you will possess. Romans 4:17 says that ‘God…calleth those things which be not as though they were.'”
By the help of the Holy Spirit get visions and dreams. You must fast and pray. Remember, your dream is the vessel through which God fulfills your desire.
2. You must be a pastor who has a clear goal. When you set a goal, you really need the Holy Spirit’s help. “I usually set a five-year goal,” Cho said, and he recommended that ideally a pastor should plan to stay in a church for the rest of his life. When setting goals one should ask: Can I believe this? Is it achievable? Is it concrete? Making the goal clear is important because it gives you a sense of direction, it provides a means to motivate your people, it helps you persevere and it enables you to measure your progress. And when you arrive at your goal, you can have a success image.
3. You must be men and women of powerful faith. Cho cautioned that in any project the leader expect a “death experience,” because only after death could there be a resurrection. He said that when he announced his plan to expand the present sanctuary seating capacity from 10,000 to 25,000, he faced great resistance. Many elders left the church.
And about this time, some leaders in the Korean Assemblies of God branded him a heretic and began action to withdraw his credentials. At issue was the advice Cho offered an only son whose father attempted suicide because the Christian youth refused to offer ceremonial food in respect for his deceased mother. Some denominations condemn the practice as idol worship; others say that it is just paying respect to deceased parents. In this instance, Cho advised the youth, who was contemplating withdrawing from the Church: “Brother, your father won’t understand, so why don’t you carry out that ceremony, respecting your mother, and still come to church? Then, by and by, bring your father, too. Then when he gets converted, he won’t be too much concerned about the ceremony?”
A tape recording of only that excerpt from Cho’s Wednesday lecture on 1 Corinthians 8 was the “damning evidence” with which the Korean denominational officials intended to oust their most successful minister. Cho responded to his jealous contemporaries: “Before you officially chase me out of the denomination, I’ll just turn in my resignation.” The officials called in the secular and
religious press and announced that Cho was a heretic. And a writer was hired to produce a book that defamed Cho. It was a terrible situation, but in the three years since, Cho has been exonerated. He was selected by Korean lay Christians to serve as one of the main centennials of Protestant Christianity in Korea (1,200,000 attended the event in August 1984). Now the secular press and
television praise Cho as an authentic representative of the Christian Church.
“Never budge or waiver when you have a vision,” says the pastor who prevailed after overcoming a firestorm of unwarranted attacks.
He commented that in America some pastors are dominated by laymen. But a church board should be supportive of the pastor’s vision.
4. You must be a man or woman of prayer. Church growth does not come by gimmicks and pushing buttons.
Before you come to the pulpit, the battle should already be won. “I must pray at least three hours for one message,” says Cho. And he adds, “When I have many people praying, I am not afraid of anything.”
5. You must be men and women of desire if you want to see church growth. To have success, you have to have a fervent heart.
6. You must have a good relationship with your people. But as a pastor you will be tempted between home visitation and visitation with God. In Acts 13, the church leaders ministered to the Lord before they ministered to the people. God has a tremendous need for fellowship because God is love. “Until you have a deep fellowship with God,” says Cho, “He will not bless you.”
“I cannot personally visit with the members of my church; they are too many,” he says. “But I can visualize them. I see them clearly, then I pray for them. I can minister to them in prayer even though I am on another continent.”
Many of these people are prospering. Some 3,000 are now successful businessmen. When they first came to the Lord, they were poor.
7. You must be an absolutely honest person. When you make a mistake, you must honestly confess it and ask forgiveness. If you try to justify yourself, you will lose your friends.
8. You must be men and women of morality. A pastor is in the vortex of temptation. Money is a temptation to some. Pride tempts others. And members of the opposite sex are also a temptation. Never yield to temptation.
It takes 30 or 40 years to become a successful pastor, and all can be lost in one fall. “I travel with elders and deacons so I will be protected and have witnesses of my moral conduct,” Cho remarked.
9. You must study continually. Cho says that he makes a practice of reading books written by successful people. He also reads news magazines and devotional books. He recently learned the Japanese language-a three-year project. Now he preaches in Japanese on weekly telecasts aired in Japan.
10. You must learn how to delegate. Cho had to learn this the hard way. In 1964 he was singlehandedly pastoring 3,000 people, and collapsed with nervous exhaustion. His illness lingered for 10 years until the cell system, with the delegation it requires, was completely established.
During that time he learned to delegate his work to associate pastors (he now has 316). He also learned how effective and loyal women could be in ministry assignments (two-thirds of his associate pastors are women, and the same proportion of his 21,000 cell leaders are female).
In the 10 years Cho was somewhat incapacitated, his church grew from 3,000 to 18,000. The Lord did not allow him to recover until he had learned to delegate responsibility to his associates and cell leaders.
During 1984 each of his 21,000 cell leaders has a goal of winning 10 people to the Lord. By winning only two families, that goal can be met. In 1983 one cell leader brought 320 people to the Lord for salvation. Simple arithmetic shows that 10 converts multiplied by 21,000 cell leaders equals 210,000 converts in a single year. And the leaders are on target.
I attended a cell group of the ninth floor of a modern high-rise apartment. Wives from the complex came with their leather-bound hymnals and Bibles. They sang, they recited the Apostles’ Creed, they studied the printed Scripture lesson, they prayed. It was a well-rounded spiritual event in which everyone participated. A friend of mine attended a cell group in a more primitive setting-a house without plumbing. He reported that eight of the women in attendance were not yet converted, but they were well on the way to accepting the message of the gospel.
Cho says his goal is to have 50,000 cells, with the potential for half a million conversions a year!
As a minister, the less work you do, the more successful you will be. A general does not fight on the front lines, he lays out strategy. Then the people of your church can be motivated, involved and fulfilled.
Cho says that if you don’t “lose your job,” you are not a successful pastor.
In other sessions, Cho discussed pulpit ministry, signs of revival and a detailed explanation of his cell system.
Then there was the unforgettable experience enjoyed by seminar members who attended the Friday all-night prayer service. And on Sunday we attended one of the seven magnificent worship services complete with a symphonic orchestra accompanying glorious anthems sung by one of the seven choirs. Worshippers were packed in everywhere, including 13 chapels, each with TV screens watched by 500 to 1,000 people. Awesome!
On Monday we visited Fasting Prayer Mountain, located 45 minutes north of Seoul. The ark-shaped chapel seats 10,000-5,000 in benches, 5,000 on the floor. On the lower level there are two additional chapels, each platform displays the same giant banner you saw in the central church-the words of Mark 16:15 in Korean and English: “GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE.” Four services a day minister year-round to those who set aside chunks of time to fast and pray. And for those who want seclusion, there are 152 one-person concrete prayer grottos inconspicuously placed throughout the tree-shaded landscape. These mini-bunkers provide a power greater than any artillery for restraining the onslaught of communist armies encamped but a few miles to the north. As a prayer mountain pastor put it, “With our prayer, North Korea cannot attack South Korea.” You know you walk on holy ground!
Pastors who visit South Korea will learn lessons that will not be fully grasped anywhere else. These lessons are especially beneficial for pastors from a superpower, high-tech nation like America. The only question is: Can we be humble enough to learn?
(The above material originally appeared in Ministries Magazine.)
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