The Power of Imagination: A Lesson From David Yonggi Cho

I have been writing about personal effectiveness since 2006. Over time, I have learned more and more about the factors that can help you live a fulfilling life. Recently, one thing that has caught my attention is the power of imagination.

You see, the more I study those who have gone far in their lives, the more I see how imagination plays a role. It’s not the only factor, of course, but it’s often a starting point. When you imagine a future you believe in, that belief will get stronger and will drive actions in that direction. Not only that but also the belief can help you get through a lot of obstacles. You will have grit: passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

A few days ago, I was saddened to hear the passing of pastor David Yonggi Cho from South Korea. I learn a lot from the story of his life. He started Yoido Full Gospel Church with his future mother-in-law in 1958 in the aftermath of the Korean war. Many people struggled to meet basic needs at that time. Amid the difficult situation, they started the church when he was just 22 years old. From Wikipedia:

The Yoido Full Gospel Church was founded in 1958 by Pastor David Yonggi Cho and his mother-in-law, Choi Ja-shil… On 15 May 1958, a worship service was held in the home of Choi Ja-shil. Apart from the two pastors, only Choi Ja-shil’s three daughters (one of whom later married David Yonggi Cho) and one elderly woman, who had come in to escape from the rain, attended the first service.

Not exactly a great start, was it? Only six people attended the first service: the two pastors, the three daughters, and one woman who escaped from the rain!

It’s a humble beginning indeed. But what happened then? Again, from Wikipedia:

Church membership continued to grow, reaching three thousand by 1964 and eight thousand by 1968… In 1993, with 700,000 members, the Yoido Full Gospel Church was the world’s largest congregation recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Isn’t that remarkable? You wouldn’t have guessed it given the humble beginning. But what is a key factor behind it? How could it happen?

As it turns out, one of the key factors is imagination. Imagination about the future is a key trait in Cho’s life. Here is what he said in an interview about his early days in ministry:

I think that the tent church for me was like an army training camp for recruits. When 300 people gathered in the tent church, I preached as if I were standing in front of 3,000 people since that was my dream. I lived in a dream during that time.

“I lived in a dream during that time.” This sentence, I believe, contains the key lesson there. It clearly shows the importance of imagination in his life and ministry.

You can’t just imagine anything you want, though. You need a conviction that it will happen. In Cho’s case, that conviction came from prayer. Here is another excerpt about his early days in ministry:

One day while I was praying I heard a voice say, “Stand up and spread your hands like a bird’s wings and turn around.” Then I obeyed. Then another voice said, “You will preach the Gospel going around the world in just this way.” Then I started to study English very hard. I tried my best to become accustomed to thinking and speaking in English, even in reading the Bible and preparing sermons. I really made an effort to become accustomed to doing everything in English.

As you can see, he didn’t just imagine anything he wanted; he was convinced about it. That conviction translated into concrete action: he studied English very hard.

So again, imagination is key. That’s how you further your reach. That’s how you keep going despite the obstacles. Harness the power of imagination to reach your full potential.


  1. Hi Thought process and action are the keys to get what we dream. Very good article written in very simple language. Thank you so much.

    • Donald Latumahina
      Donald Latumahina

      Thought process and action are important indeed. Thanks for stopping by, Rajashekhar!

Comments are closed.