Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke passed away yesterday (Dec 7, 2019). We look back at the life of the man whose ministry has led 79 million to Christ.
“If you want to catch a fish, don’t throw your net in the bath tub. You will not catch any fish, maybe only a bar of soap. Throw your net into the ocean.”
These were the words of Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke at the 2010 Church Growth International-Asia Conference, hosted by City Harvest Church. His deep passion for the lost has marked his life’s ministry. The ministry he founded in 1974, Christ for all Nations, records 78,800,74 salvation decision cards collected as of today.
Evangelist Bonnke was born on April 19, 1940 in Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany, and received Christ at the age of nine, when, according to his autobiography Living A Life Of Fire, his mother spoke to him after he committed a sin. At the age of 10, he heard the call to go and preach the Gospel in Africa and he went. His father, Hermann Bonnke became a pastor.
Evangelist Bonnke attended the Bible College of Wales in Swansea, and in 1962, on his journey home after graduating, the Holy Spirit led him to the house of evangelist George Jeffreys, in Clapham. Known for conducting services where the miraculous often happened, Jeffreys prayed for him and passed on his mantle to Bonnke. The day after, Jeffreys passed away.
After his ordination in Germany, Evangelist Bonnke pastored a church before embarking on missionary work in Africa in 1969.
According to the Christ for all Nations website, “It was there, in the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, that God placed upon his heart the vision of ‘the continent of Africa, being washed in the precious Blood of Jesus’ — an entire continent, from Cape Town to Cairo and from Dakar to Djibouti that needed to be reached and to hear the proclamation of the sign-following Gospel.”
In several accounts, Evangelist Bonnke shared that he had a recurring dream of a map of “blood-washed Africa”, and the voice of God crying out, “Africa Shall Be Saved”. He held on to the vision, and founded Christ for all Nations in 1974. That same year, he rented a 800-seater stadium in Gabarone, Botswana. Though the first meeting only attracted 100 people, the Holy Spirit came, and healings and miracles abounded. By the second meeting, the whole stadium was packed.
The meetings continued to grow. In 1984, Evangelist Bonnke commissioned the construction of the world’s largest mobile structure: a tent that could seat 34,000. When attendance began to exceed this, he started conducting open-air Gospel rallies that brought together as many as 150,000 people each time. The meetings continued to grow, still. By the ’90s, Evangelist Bonnke was holding city-wide meetings across the continent with as many as 1.6 million people attending a single meeting in Lagos, Nigeria.
The crusades went beyond Africa to Asia—Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and India—and South America. Indeed, Evangelist Bonnke was master of casting his net, not in a bathtub, not in an ocean, but across the oceans.
Today, CfaN has offices all over the world: the United States, Canada, Brazil, Germany, the Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Africa, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore.
In 2017, Evangelist Bonnke stepped down from CfaN, handing his mantle to evangelist Daniel Kolenda. The year before, he was diagnosed with throat cancer but made a recovery and continued to preach Christ fervently.
Evangelist Bonnke also had a deep passion to equip church leaders and workers to win the lost. He conducted Fire Conferences across the world. He also founded Minus To Plus was a literature arm of his ministry for disciple-making, producing 185 million copies of CfaN follow-up literature in 103 languages, printed in 55 countries. Millions of books have been printed and freely sent across nations around the world to share the Gospel message. He spent years developing The Full Flame Series of eight movies, launched in 2010, that inspire the church towards Holy Spirit evangelism.
He also utilised technology without fear: the Reinhard Bonnke School of Fireis an online, self-study course that teaches Holy Spirit Evangelism. Just last Thursday (Dec 6), he was still posting on Facebook about Get The Flame, a free online course about the power of intercessory prayer.
His passion for bringing salvation to the lost charted the course of more than 60 years of his ministry. Many Christians across the world, from the newly saved to Christian leaders, have been touched and transformed by the ministry of Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke.
Pastor Bobby Chaw had the privilege of meeting with Evangelist Bonnke at a CfaN lunch meeting on August 15 this year. He says, “I was deeply impacted by Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke’s love for Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He said, ‘Many people got it wrong: it was never Reinhard Bonnke, but the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Master Evangelist. Between the pulpit and the audience, it is the Holy Spirit. Only He can convict the hearts of the people. … I am not ashamed of the Holy Spirit.’ I left the lunch with a renewed hunger for the Holy Spirit, to know the Holy Spirit, to work with Him and never to be ashamed of His works of healings and miracles.”
Evangelist Bonnke leaves behind his wife of 55 years, Anni, his children Kai-Uwe, Gabrielle and Susie and his eight grandchildren.
We are agents of omnipotence. This means that unlimited power is at our fingertips. It also means that there are no great men working in God’s Kingdom. Rather, there is a great God at work in human beings who have childlike faith.”