By Kazeem Ugbodaga
I remembered then, as young ministers, we would pray and cry out to God to make us like Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. Personally, I would read his books, especially ‘Evangelism by Fire,’ which captured his exploit in Africa for the Gospel of Jesus, with millions of souls converted to Christ, and poured out my heart in prayers unto God, “Oh God, make me like Bonnke, put the fire in me to do exploit for the kingdom.” The passion for the Cross of Jesus overwhelmed us as young ministers, just because of the influence of a man, a servant of the Most High, Bonnke. We desired with him in his vision of ‘Africa washed in the blood of Jesus.’ Such was his influence on us until we met him in crusades in Lagos and other places.
Undoubtedly, the heaven seems to open on Saturday, December 7, 2019 and ushers the great soldier of the Cross home to be with Jesus, whom he loved right from cradle and burnt out for Him. Like Stephen, who was martyred for Christ, one can feel millions of angels rejoicing and Christ standing at the right hand of God, saying “welcome home, weary pilgrim.” Bonnke came, saw and conquered. Even the biggest fiends of the gospel could not conquer him. His preaching was with power, demons crying out and vacating the possessed, supernatural miracles happening, including the dead being raised back to life, many filled with the Holy Ghost, millions converted and several others.
Bonnke was perhaps one of the greatest evangelists in the Christendom in the last two centuries, stepping into the shoes left behind by Evangelist Billy Graham and Evangelist Billy Sunday. The evangelistic campaigns of Graham and Sunday in America led millions to Christ. Bonnke took his campaign far in the dark continent of Africa where brutal and devilish traditions abound, where cruel human savages unleash terror on the vulnerable. With the Holy Spirit, his fame swept through the continent like wild fire, ushering millions of souls into the kingdom.
Early life and conversion
Bonnke was born on 19 April 1940 in Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany. He was the son of an army logistics officer. With his mother and siblings, he was taken to Denmark during the evacuation of East Prussia, and spent some years in a displaced persons centre. He was born again at the age of nine after his mother spoke with him about a sin that he had committed. He left for missionary work Africa at the age of 10 and said that he had the experience of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. After war service, his father had become a pastor.
Bonnke studied at The Bible College of Wales in Swansea, where he was inspired by the director Samuel Rees Howells. In one meeting after Howells spoke of answered prayer, Bonnke prayed, “Lord, I also want to be a man of faith. I want to see your way of providing for needs.” Passing through London, he had a chance meeting with the famous preacher George Jeffreys, who encouraged the young German student. After graduation, he pastored in Germany for seven years. He began his ministry in Africa, with which he is principally identified, preaching in Lesotho in 1967. He has subsequently held evangelical meetings across the continent.
Mission in Africa
Early on, Bonnke encountered poor results from his evangelistic efforts and felt frustrated at the pace of his ministry. Bonnke claims to have had a recurring dream featuring a picture of the map of Africa being spread with red and heard the voice of God crying “Africa Shall Be Saved.” This led him to adopt large-scale evangelism, rather than the traditional small scale missionary approach. He rented a stadium in Gaborone, and preached with little cooperation from local churches. Beginning with only 100 people, the stadium meetings grew.
In 1974, Bonnke founded the mission organisation ‘Christ For All Nations’ (abbreviated CfaN). Originally based in Johannesburg, South Africa, the headquarters were relocated to Frankfurt, Germany in 1986. This was done primarily to distance the organisation from South Africa’s apartheid policy at the time. Today CfaN has 9 offices across 5 continents.
Bonnke began his ministry holding tent meetings that accommodated large crowds. According to an account published by the Christian Broadcasting Network, in 1984 he commissioned the construction of what was claimed to be the world’s largest mobile structure – a tent capable of seating 34,000; this was destroyed in a wind storm just before a major meeting and therefore the team decided to hold the event in the open air instead. According to this account, the event was subsequently attended by over 100,000 people which is far greater than the 34,000 seating capacity the tents could contain.
Bonnke announced his ‘farewell gospel crusade’ to be held in Lagos, Nigeria in November 2017. Lagos is also the location of a gospel crusade held in 2000 which, according to CfaN, is the organisation’s largest to-date, drawing an attendance of 6 million people. In 2019 Reinhard Bonnke will headline the G12 Africa Conference in Pretoria, South Africa.
Last Mission in Africa
Bonnke’s last evangelistic campaign in Africa was in the city of Lagos. On November 6, 2017, the German evangelist held his last press conference in Lagos in preparation for his Farewell Crusade in Africa. At that conference, he said he was glad to be back in Nigeria for his last crusade in Africa, describing Nigeria as his favourite nation. He said he had no regrets for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in Africa for 50 years now.
“God’s words will be preached, miracles will be full and the Holy Spirit will come down. The ripple effects of this crusade will be felt all over the world. No man has invented water but no one can live without water. We can’t live without the gospel, the gospel is eternal and can never be invalid. The gospel is true today Because it was true at the beginning,” Bonnke had said.
His last Crusade
The Farewell Gospel Crusade of Bonnke kicked off on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at the behind Sparklight Estate, Opposite OPIC, Berger area of Lagos. The witnessed a revival moment as thousands of people made a decision for Christ. Hundreds of the top spiritual leaders from all over Africa were present as well as nearly 400 international guests that had come with the Christ for All Nation group. The crusade represented a historic moment in the celebration of 50 years of Evangelist Bonnke’s ministry in Africa. At the crusade, Bonnke preached a powerful and clear evangelistic message. Many thousands responded to the invitation and many were healed. Services were broadcast across the nation and around the world on social media as well as many Christian Television outlets.
Sunset on a glorious life
The man of God was called home on December 7, 2019 after a few battle with illness. A new chapter has certainly opened in his life, a crown of glory which ‘fadeth not away’ from the Lord. All told, more than 79-million people made Christ their Lord as a result of Evangelist Bonnke’s ministry. Bonnke was best known for his gospel outreach campaigns throughout Africa. It is no exaggeration to say that his work transformed the continent.
Bonnke said of the secret of his success: “In truth, I have done nothing alone. God has called me and has been my pilot. The Holy Spirit has been my comforter, my guide, and my power source… He brought to me the perfect wife. He gave us our beautiful children and extended family. And He has provided a team that has grown with me through decades of working together. Beyond that, He has brought thousands to stand with us. They have supported us in prayer and in partnership. Our rewards in Heaven will be equal.”