The founder of the world's largest church has challenged Western pastors to involve women more in ministry. They can play a vital role in church growth, says David Yonggi Cho, who leads the 700,000-member Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea.
"Without women I don't think I could have built up this big church," says Cho in an article for a Dawn Ministries report championing the place of women in evangelism and missions. Four hundred of his 600 associate pastors are women, as are 47,000 of the church's 50,000 cell group leaders.
"By empowering women we are evangelizing all Korea," writes Cho, who says that he is encouraging American churches to do the same but is "very discouraged" that churches in Europe do not release women for ministry.
Cho began to involve women in ministry after exhausting himself trying to do everything himself at his then 3,000-strong church. He saw in the Bible how the early church equipped lay leaders for ministry--among them Priscilla, who led a home church.
Dividing his congregation up into small cells of five to 10 families, he appointed a woman over the network and trained others to help lead groups. His move angered some of the men, who left the church--but it grew sixfold in the following five years.
"For 5,000 years in Korea women had no voice at all," Cho says. "They were only to cater to the needs of men. Then Christianity came and set women free. Especially in the church, women are free in Korea. In ministry they are equal with men. They are licensed, they are ordained. They become deacons and elders, and they become the cell leaders."
Cho says that if pastors trained women and delegated ministry to them, "they will become tremendous messengers for the Lord." While some argue the Bible teaches that women should be silent in the church, Cho says that "once women are called into ministry, they no longer belong to the category of women. They are messengers of the Lord."
Cho's challenge--"Don't be afraid to empower women"--is made in the current issue of the "Dawn Report," which focuses on "the incredible resource, often overlooked, that the gentler sex provide in the economy of God." Jim Montgomery, president of Dawn Ministries--which is marking its 15th anniversary--says that women have a significant part to play in church growth.
The publication says that 80 percent of one large group of itinerant evangelists and church planters in one Asian country are women, and many of the new churches in a Middle Eastern country were started by women.
Through the DAWN--Discipling a Whole Nation--movement launched by Dawn Ministries, which unites churches in a national evangelism and church planting effort, around 1 million new churches have been started in 60 countries in the last 10 years.
Leaders in 1,000 denominations, church networks and parachurch organizations in 149 countries are taking part in DAWN projects, which involve surveying the existing Christian population and setting goals for the number of new churches needed to ensure a congregation within reach of every community.