South Korean Megachurch Pastor Dies (International Christian Herald 9.22.21)

This is the International Christian Herald podcast. Here are the top stories you need to know about today.

According to Religion News Service, The founder of one of the world’s largest megachurches has died, according to news reports from Korea. The English-language Korean Herald reported that the Rev. Cho Yong-gi died at a Seoul hospital on Tuesday morning (Sept. 14). He was 85. Cho, known in the United States as David Yonggi Cho, was the founder of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, a Pentecostal megachurch whose members number in the hundreds of thousands. The church’s website also carried an announcement of his death. “He conveyed the gospel of hope to the Korean people who fell into despair after the Korean War,” the church said in a statement. “He was instrumental in growing the Korean church, particularly developing Yoido Full Gospel Church as the world’s largest church.” Cho founded the Pentecostal church in 1958, initially holding services under a tent before moving to a 10,000-seat sanctuary in 1993, according to Christianity Today magazine. The church would eventually claim the title of the world’s largest church according to Guinness World Records, with close to 800,000 members. As many as 200,000 people attended weekly services, drawn by Cho’s hopeful preaching and optimistic messages about a better life. Though membership has since declined to 600,000, it’s still the largest Protestant church in South Korea, with 400 pastors and evangelists in the country and 500 missionaries abroad, reported The Associated Press. Protestantism is the biggest religion in South Korea, followed by Buddhism and Catholicism, according to 2015 government census data. Born into a Buddhist family, Cho converted to Christianity, which he credited for his healing from a serious illness as a teenager, the Yonhap News Agency reported. Cho retired as pastor of the Yodoi church in 2007. In 2014, he was convicted for embezzling millions from the church and received a suspended sentence. His son Cho Hee-Jun used church funds to buy stocks at inflated prices and then created false documents to evade taxes, according to Korean news reports. Still, Cho remained a beloved figure and was named pastor emeritus by the church, which is affiliated with the Assemblies of God. A number of Cho’s sermons are posted on the church’s website. A funeral for Cho will be held at the church on Saturday, the Korean Herald reported.

According to Christian Headlines, A 14-year-old Christian boy in eastern India is fighting for his life a month after suspected Hindu extremists threw flammable liquid on him and set him on fire, sources said. “He is very, very critical,” said Dr. K.N. Tiwari of the burn unit of Appolo Burn Hospital in Patna, Bihar state. “His survival chances are low.” On Aug. 11 three unidentified men on a motorbike threw the liquid on Nitish Kumar as he was returning home to Bihar state’s Kamta Nagar village, Gaya District, from his early morning routine of purchasing fresh vegetables. Drenched, Nitish initially thought they had mischievously thrown water on him, he said. “But soon my skin began to burn,” Nitish told Morning Star News, in agony. “The burning sensation increased with every passing second. I dropped the basket and ran towards my house [750 meters away] screaming and howling.” The motorbike did not stop, and in his pain he had no way of trying to see its license plate, he said. The fire burned 65 percent of his body, with 15 percent deep burns, said Sushma Sharma, a hospital volunteer treating Kumar. Pastor Rajkumar Bharati, also known as Began Mochi, head of the church the Kumar family attends in Kurwa, said the fire burned him in back from neck to knees and in front from his lower chest, stomach and groin down to his knees, along with the back of both hands. His family has faced opposition from Hindu extremists from Nitish’s village and from Kurwa since they left Hinduism for Christianity two years ago, said Nitish’s 17-year-old brother, Sanjeet Kumar.

According to CBN, Pope Francis has reiterated to the world press that the Catholic Church believes “abortion is murder,” saying it’s something the church cannot accept. Speaking aboard a flight back to Rome from central Europe on Wednesday, Francis, 84, was decisive in his belief that abortion is murder and that even a weeks-old embryo is a human life that must be protected. “The problem of abortion, abortion is more than a problem, abortion is murder,” he said. “Scientifically it’s a human life. The textbooks teach us that. But is it right to take it out to solve a problem? And this is why the Church is so strict on this issue because it is kind of like accepting this is accepting daily murder.” The pope also weighed in on the debate about whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should be denied Communion, stating that he has never denied the Eucharist to anyone and that the issue should be handled in a pastoral way. “If we look at the history of the church, we can see that every time the bishops did not act like shepherds when dealing with a problem, they aligned themselves with political life, on political problems,” the pope told the journalists who traveled with him. “What should the pastor do? Be a shepherd, do not go around condemning … but be a pastor. But is he also a pastor of the excommunicated? Yes, he is the pastor, and … he must be a shepherd with God’s style. And God’s style is closeness, compassion, and tenderness,” the pope said.

According to Religion News Service, Manny Pacquiao, the world champion boxer-turned-politician, is suing a popular evangelist in his native Philippines for libel. The lawsuit targets Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, a preacher popular with millions of Filipinos, who accused Pacquiao of embezzling public funds in building a sports complex that has been labeled a “white elephant.” “He used this deliberate falsehood to brainwash the minds of the Filipino public,” Pacquiao said of Quiboloy in announcing his lawsuit, in which he is seeking $2 million in damages. “He even had the audacity to quote the Holy Scripture in furtherance of his lies, misleading his flock and confusing the public, with the end view of blackening (my) reputation,” the lawsuit claims. Quiboloy is the executive pastor of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, a restorationist church in Davao City, in the southern Philippines. The church is believed to have 4 million followers in the country and another 2 million among the Filipino diaspora. His followers refer to the septuagenarian preacher as “Owner of the Universe” and “Appointed Son of God,” among other titles. The accusations arise from Pacquiao’s role in the building of the Sarangani Sports Training Center, which he sponsored as a senator. Though senators are elected at-large in the Philippines, Pacquiao was a congressional representative for Sarangani from 2010-2016. The district often ranks as one of the poorest regions of the Philippines. In 2018, Pacquiao sponsored a bill to develop the sports center, and President Rodrigo Duterte signed it into law the following year. Though the budget for the facility is 200 million Filipino pesos, a social media campaign claimed that 3.5 billion pesos were committed to the project. (An investigation by Rappler, a local media outlet, determined the higher cost to be false.) Lawyers for Quiboloy maintain that the pastor made no specific claims and only raised questions.

According to the Christian Post, In Hungary, where politicians have sought to create walls to preserve the country’s identity amid the migration crisis in Europe, Pope Francis advocates for building bridges with neighbors of other religions and backgrounds. “This is what I wish for you: that the cross be your bridge between the past and the future,” the pope said in his closing remarks after the Angelus prayer on Sunday (Sept. 12), his last words to the country before he set off to Slovakia for the second leg of his trip, where he will be until Sept. 15. Francis hopes to rekindle faith and unity in these central European countries that survived Nazi and then Soviet control and continue to fight for their identity amid modern crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, migration and globalization. Speaking to Hungarian faithful in the large Heroes’ Square in Budapest, Pope Francis recognized how much religion has contributed to sustaining the Hungarian identity as “the lifeblood of this nation.” “Yet the cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms toward everyone,” the pope said, adding that while the roots of the country must remain firm, the cross is a reminder to reach out to the other “without defensiveness.” “My wish is that you be like that: grounded and open, rooted and considerate,” Francis said, before leaving for the airport. Pope Francis’ short stay in Hungary, only nine hours, was initially met with anger by local Catholics who hoped the pope would stay in the country longer. His brief stay has been interpreted by some as a consequence of Francis’ disagreements with the conservative and nationalistic Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán.

According to Faithwire, Bella Taylor Smith, a member of the international megachurch Hillsong, won the Australian version of “The Voice” Sunday alongside her coach, who is also a Christian. During an interview on the Aussie morning show “Sunrise,” Smith said she is “shocked and thrilled” to have won the singing competition, adding she still “can’t believe” her victory. A music teacher by trade, the 23-year-old singer emerged the winner after performing Andrea Bocelli’s “The Prayer” with coach Guy Sebastian, who described Smith as “a phenomenal talent” with “one of the purest voices I have heard.” “I really can’t believe it,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to see what incredible things are ahead for me. I’m really grateful for you, [Sebastian], for everyone who voted and for my beautiful family, whom I love.” In a Facebook post the night before the finale, the contestant thanked her friends, family, and church community for their support, “and honestly and most importantly to Jesus for giving me hope and a beautiful life to live.”

In closing, remember, God loves you. He always has and He always will. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” If you don’t know Jesus as your Saviour, today is a good day to get to know Him. Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead for you. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Thanks so much for listening and may God bless your day!