Making Disciples: Learning from David Cho and Yoido Full Gospel Church

By Carl George, author and church growth expert

Christianity has spread rapidly under persecution and without government sponsorship from the days of the early church until now. The largest churches, now found on virtually every continent, rely on variations of cell group models to care for and nurture their converts. The jury is no longer out. The verdict is clear. Cell group ministry works.

The only impediments to implementing cell group ministry are a lack of clarity about goals and distractions from other pursuits. I have watched cell group efforts fail only because of insufficient leadership wisdom and perseverance to work through the resistances and impediments encountered in the transition.

When the late David Cho, founder of Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest church in the history of Christianity,  explained the roots of his cell church strategy, he gave credit to several streams that led to the foundation of the largest church in the history of Christendom:

  1. His mother-in-law’s pioneering influence when he was too ill to conduct business as usual.
  2. His exposure to the history of John Wesley, whose class meetings (actually home groups) maintained the fruit that established churches could not.
  3. His early successes with using staff members to coach and support the cell leaders.

All three of these core principles helped Cho develop his small group ministry as his church grew larger and larger.

When Cho expounded on the place of faith and prayer in obeying God’s call to open up cell groups, he said something that has rung in my ears for many years. I can still hear Cho saying, “It is the cell system that you must understand.”

By these words, Cho conveyed to me something that goes beyond the cell itself. It’s the idea that cells are not an end in themselves. If you only focused on cells, you would miss essential truths that Cho fully grasped: 

  1. New believers receive personal attention in cells. Cho realized that new Christians matured into disciples of Jesus with the attention provided through cell ministry.
  2. New leaders are developed through cell ministry. Cho realized that cells developed leaders who, in turn, started new cells. He then employed staff pastors to come alongside the cell leaders.  

The kind of leader Cho had in mind was a disciple-maker. This kind of host, facilitator, gatherer, leader, or whatever you eventually call them, has a bigger vision than the cell meeting. Disciple-makers envision fully mature cell members developing new disciples through cell ministry.

Concentration is critical to making disciples who make disciples, and the Yoido Full Gospel Church shows us how to develop new disciples through cell-based ministr