[Series IV] The Fourth Dimension Spirituality and Church Growth

The Fourth Dimension Spirituality and Church Growth
– The Case Study of Rev. David Yonggi Cho –

A Lecture Presented at the International Church Growth Conference
(World Mission Briefing)

Organized by the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies and Institute for Church Growth

(ICG) of Korea in Oxford, 11th-12th November, 2004.

Written By HONG, Young Gi (Ph.D.)

 

4. The Fourth Dimension Spirituality and Church Growth

Rev. Cho’s fourth dimensional spirituality has been proven as effective church growth model by his pupil pastors’ ministry as well as by Cho’s own ministry. It is not program-oriented, but spirituality-oriented. Rev. David Cho (2004b) says as follows:

  Church growth too does not occur externally. Changes within my dreams act as the catalyst to initiate church growth within the sphere of the Third Dimension. For instance, in the heart of a church leader are dreams for church growth, then those very dream stimulate and fuel the momentum for growth within as if some formulaic application had occurred.

  I recall a happening while visiting Austria 30 years ago. Today, many Austrian churches have anywhere from 3 to 5 thousand members, but 30 years ago, any notion of church growth was ridiculed and not taken seriously. For a week during the visit I taught and conducted seminars on church growth and development only to realize that not one participant was taking me seriously. Contrary to my disappointment however (and I somewhat sympathized upon learning the characteristics of Austrians), I later discovered that most Austrians embraced individualistic life styles and enjoyed leisure activities more than attending churches for Sunday worship services.

  Fully sensing their lack of interest in my topics as the seminar continued, on the last day of the seminar, I had the participants bring a piece of paper. After a short little prayer, I asked all the participating pastors to write down on paper what they would envision for their churches after a five-year period from then. With mischievous smirks on their faces, they nonchalantly started scribbling numbers. Upon glancing at some of their figures on paper, I noticed 3,000 written on Reverend Cleanup’s paper, whose ministry consisted of around
50 members, and on another person, president of the Austrian Church Denominations, 5,000 was written. There were also others who doubtfully wrote down 300 or 500. When I no longer heard the scribbling noise, I changed the tone of my voice to strongly urge and to challenge everyone to put the list where it’s clearly visible and day and night dream, with a prayerful heart, until they see those numbers in their congregations. Nevertheless, even in light of what they have just done, many doubted and whispered, “It’s only a dream…”
I, who knew and believed the unfolding of miracles in the sphere of the Fourth Dimension, however, certainly believed that God would show them His miracles in His time.

  After a year, I had a chance to revisit Austria and meet with Reverend Evans. In tears, he told me, “God has blessed our ministry. Ever since we applied what you have taught us, the Austrian churches have witnessed 100% growth within a year.” There was much excitement and awe in his testimony. Praise God! Ever since that meeting, I’ve been appointed as the ‘Father of Austrian Church Growth.’ Like Reverend Cleanup and Reverend Evans whose congregation numbers had grown to 3,000 and 5,000 respectively, the very doubtful act that
they had participated in had been actually realized. When Austrian churches started dreaming, changes took place.

  Whenever I train lay leaders of cell groups at my church, I tell them to write down their targeted numbers as they go out to witness to other families. I tell them to dream morning and night. At first, no one took me seriously. But in retrospect, those who hastened to my advice witnessed the unfolding of the miracle just as they dreamt, whereas those who took me lightly didn’t.

  What exactly is going on here? There is an explanation. It is because the Third Dimension is altered by the Fourth Dimension. Those who don’t dream cannot do much. Likewise, church growth starts from dreaming. Even in the business world, dreaming precedes success. Just because one aspires to give his/her best does not bring about success. If that was the only requirement for success, then there ought to be many successful people. In reality, however, that is not the case. Aspirations without dreams are done in vain. Those who fail can only glean from their mistakes.

  Rev. Cho believes that the way for God to work is through changing our thinking and inspiring us with visions and dreams. So how to have a dream and faith? When the Holy Spirit comes upon a person, he receives a vision for ministry, vision for church renewal and growth. Rev. David Cho says as follows (Cho, 2004b):

  When I came to Yoido, the Holy Spirit spoke to me these words: “Look as far as you can see in every direction. I am going to give all this land to you.” God instilled in me a great faith through the words that He gave to Abraham. And, God instilled in me to take the world as my mission field. Just like what God had instilled in John Wesley’s heart and what He had done through John Wesley in England, God required the same in me. This was how my vision was conceived. The very reason people today are indifferent to world evangelism and world mission is because they have never experienced the coming of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the very reason so many churches remain fragmented and regionalized is because they too have never experienced the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Let us not forget it is only the anointing of the Holy Spirit that can rekindle the fire of evangelism and mission.

Rev. David Cho emphasizes that it is the work of the Holy Spirit that enables us to dream. He also emphasizes the power of prayer in the fourth dimensional dream (Cho, 2004b):

  Do you know how powerful your dreams can be if they are from the Fourth Dimension? The world that we live in, the Third Dimension, is to be invaded by the Fourth Dimension. For instance, those who have unsaved spouses or children whom they want to lead to the Lord, I often charge them by saying, “Pray and dream that someday you’ll see them worshipping and praising with you.” Before you pray, you need to set the groundwork by initiating programs that are capable of impacting the Fourth Dimension. Once that is in place, you pray and you pray hard because dreams are the very change-causing agents within the Fourth Dimension. The whole reason we fast is because fasting makes our dreams more explicit to envision. In other words, what you obtain through fasting is the very clear “lenses” in which to see the Fourth Dimension in its well-defined state. Therefore, even before you fast, you need to clearly understand the purpose as to why you are fasting and dream that very act. Fasting alone cannot move God’s own heart. It’s when one is changed through fasting, and then God does his work in and beyond the Fourth Dimension. In other words, when our vessels are ready to receive the blessings, in which God has in store for us, He will intercede on our behalf. Therefore, in sum, dreams steer our very own future.

 

  Rev. Cho says that when he prays, the Holy Spirit gives visions and dreams to him. He speaks the vision with faith. This has made him do miraculous ministry, which has had a great impact on his spiritual authority and the growth of the Yoido Full Gospel Church. By using the channels of the fourth dimension spirituality, Rev. Cho’s ministry has experienced many miracles. Miracle is defined as “what God does things that are impossible by human power”. In the Yoido Full Gospel Church, expecting miracles (life change, problem solving, and healing, etc.) is a natural reality for church members. The members believe that transcendent God can intervene, solve problems, and make miracles in their life.

  As John Locke, a British experiential philosopher of the 18th century, suggested, in order for Christianity to remain alive in modern society, an evidence of a miracle has to be manifested to prove that religion (God) is alive (Park, 2003: 89). Experiencing the presence and power of God in the third dimensional life is a critical factor in the dynamics and growth of the church. One can always read the testimonies of healing or life-changing miracles in the weekly, Full Gospel Family News and monthly, Shinanggye of the church. Behind the growth of the Yoido Full Gospel Church, there are numerous stories of the fourth dimensional miracles among the church members.

  Many pupils of Rev. Cho have the largest churches in the major cities of Korea (e.g. Nowon Full Gospel Church with a membership of 20,000, Holy Spirit Church with a membership of 15,000, Kwangju Full Gospel Church with a membership of 12,000, and Daejon Full Gospel Church with a membership of 20,000). Many people ask Rev. Yonggi Cho: “How come your pupils have the large churches in Korea?” and Cho answers: “Because they change their thinking attitude seeing the way I do ministry.” Rev. Cho says that when we change our thinking way according to God’s words, creative change occurs in our third dimensional life, including Christian ministry. I have interviewed some of Rev. Cho’s pupils who developed the large churches. They admit that they have learned how to think, dream, have faith, and speak from Rev. Cho. When they apply these to their pastoral ministries by the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit, their ministries are blessed.

  I will illustrate the case of Daejon Full Gospel Church. The senior pastor is Rev. Soksan Kim. He was working as the director of missions in Yoido Full Gospel Church. While praying, he came to have a burning desire to plant a new church and founded a church in 1986. Before the planting, he saw a vision of 10,000 in prayer. He started the church with a few members. He learned how to dream in faith from Rev. Cho. So when he planted the church he dreamed of ten thousand people worshipping in his church. He saw this in prayer. In spite of a few members, he had 7 services on Sunday as if his church had ten thousand members. He also preached with a loud voice with passion to a few members on Sunday services as if he were preaching to ten thousands. The church had a prayer meeting every night at ten for two hours and after the prayer meeting, and Rev. Kim himself had a prayer time for two hours until 2 a.m. When Rev. Kim saw the difficult surroundings during the day, he was discouraged, but when he prayed during the night, he came to see with a vision of faith. For some months after the planting, there was little growth, but after that, many people began to come to the church and the church grew to 1,000 registered members including children one year later. In 1993, the church exceeded 10,000 registered members and 15,000 in 2004. The church has held the Gethsemane prayer meeting since the foundation every night, but now at 9:00 p.m.

  The senior assistant pastor of the church, Rev. Ko told me that the senior pastor, Rev. Kim seems to have inspiration and conviction about church ministry in prayer from the Holy Spirit. Rev. Ko says that when Rev. Kim proposes an idea, church members think that it seems impossible at first, but later they come to see the idea come into reality. Through this kind of frequent experience, many church members now come to believe that the hands of God are upon their senior pastor and accept their pastor’s visions and confident faith. Rev. Ko says that it seems that Rev. Kim’s visions and faith are emanated from his unceasing prayer life.

  Another pupil of Rev. David Yonggi Cho, Rev. Won Hee Chung was installed in Gwangju Full Gospel Church in 1990. The church was founded in 1952 in Gwangju, and when Rev. Chung came to the church, it had 200 members. However, the church grew to a large church with 20,000 registered membership and 4,000 adults attending today. When Rev. Chung was installed, the church was in the state of split and conflict. Rev. Chung realized that the problem could not be solved by human strength but only by prayer. He himself prayed more than two hours a day. While praying in the Holy Spirit, he imagined that God purified the church and the power of God was upon the church.

  He also emphasized the importance of prayer to church members. The staff of the church began to have a prayer meeting for one hour every day. The church also began to have a Gethsemane prayer meeting every evening at 8 p.m., which is still continuing. Besides this prayer meeting, about 100 people in the district in turn gather together for prayer every day at 11 a.m. The church members always experience the answers of prayer so that they feel the presence and miracles of God. This changes the spiritual atmosphere of the church and the church members become confident in their faith, leading to evangelism. Rev. Chung emphasized during the interview that it was through the grace of the Holy Spirit that his church grew. He always admitted that the Holy Spirit is the owner of the church and ministry dependent on the Holy Spirit is the key to church revival.

  Many church leaders in the world, such as Cesar Castellanos and Bill Hybells, have also been influenced by Rev. Cho’s fourth dimensional spirituality, especially his emphasis on prayer and vision. For Rev. Cho, church growth is related to the change of the attitudes of church members so he says that he has preached to change people in how to think, how to dream, how to have faith, and how to speak. The fourth dimension spirituality presupposes that it is the work of God which initiates church growth and we are God’s channels.

 

Implications and Future Tasks

  What are the implications of the fourth dimension spirituality? The fourth dimension spirituality and church growth implies the spiritual dynamics of church ministry. Without change in spiritual attitude and life, it is hard to experience creative change in our life and ministry. Modern churches, influenced by secular trends, need to give more attention to the spirituality of church leaders. When the leader is filled with the Holy Spirit through prayer and the word of God, he comes to have a vision and dream for his ministry. This invites a positive effect to the spiritual atmosphere of the whole congregation. This implies that spiritual leadership is critically important for the church.

  The fourth dimension spirituality usually accompanies miracles, as it affects and alters the third dimension. It carries out meaningful religious experiences. Experiencing the work of God and religious experience are very important in the growth of churches in modern context. David Miller (1997) analyzed that growing churches provide meaningful religious experience through his research on America’s growing large churches. Religious experience result in church member’s testimony of the gospel, and this exerts a great influence on church growth.

  Then what are the future tasks for the fourth dimension spirituality? First, we need more academic research into spiritual leadership or spirituality of the leader. The fourth dimension spirituality is a model devised by Rev. David Cho through his ministry experience. We need more empirical survey based on field research about how thinking, faith, visions and dreams, speaking moved by prayer and God’s word, and the Holy Spirit affect Christian ministry and change the fate of the people.

  Second, it is necessary to provide spirituality training for church leaders. This may be the application of the fourth dimension spirituality. There are some leadership training courses for business world, such as Dale Carnegie Course. However, we need training courses or schools to apply the fourth dimension spirituality to the life of church leaders. Without training, spiritual habit is not likely to be formulated. The Institute for Church Growth (ICG) has been undertaking a research project on how to develop the fourth dimensional spirituality to provide training programs with education manuals for Christian leaders. ICG will have the manuals translated into English by 2006 to be used in training schools or conferences for world church leaders.

  Third, it is important to maintain a balance between the fourth dimension spirituality and social spirituality (cf. Hong, 2003c). The fourth dimension spirituality does not, and should not ignore this life in the world. It should also focus on cultivating the social life of the people. The meaning of the fourth dimension spirituality needs to be elevated to the level of community transformation. This may require the understanding of the social meaning of the Christian gospel in the fourth dimension spirituality. I pray that numerous church leaders will understand the dynamics of the fourth dimension spirituality more deeply and apply it to their ministries so that they will experience the wonderful transformation in their lives and church ministries.

4 Comments

  1. That is really insightful. It gave me a few ideas and I’ll be placing them on my blog soon. I’m bookmarking your site and I’ll be back. Thank you again!

  2. Chalya Princess M

    God bless you for an invaluable & enlightening analysis of the fourth dimension. I was able to understand the true implication of walking and working in the circle of the 4th dimension. One of the most difficult responsibilities of being a Christian is the act of undertaking consistent,Holy Spirit-filled prayers but this article gives me an indepth lesson on the advantages of faith prayer while at the same time focusing on the 4 imperatives of my thought processes, dreams, the effective Word of God and the Spoken (Rhema) word. I feel an excitement in my spirit-man already. God bless u.

  3. I am always willing to be invited and share in depth about the fourth dimension spirituality as a expert in this area. This is really something in spiritual and church growth.

  4. Thank you for this powerful information. Is there 5,6,7 dimension

Leave a Reply