World renowned evangelist and author Reinhard Bonnke has passed away. He was 79 years old.
Evangelist Bonnke was perhaps best known for his pioneering mass evangelism events. Held throughout Africa and beyond, these Gospel Outreach Campaigns literally reached hundreds of millions of individuals across the world. In 2000, Bonnke attracted an astounding 1.6 million attendees at a single meeting in Lagos, Nigeria. All told, Evangelist Bonnke saw more than 79-million people choose to follow Christ as a result of his ministry.
Reinhard Bonnke was born on the 19th of April 1940 in Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany. His father was a pastor. At the tender age of 9, Bonnke himself became a Christ-follower. Very soon after, he began to proclaim his intention to be a preacher and missionary to Africa. And he followed through on that dream.
He attended The Bible College of Wales in Swansea which was led by Samuel Rees Howells. Howells was famous as a man whose prayers were answered – an individual of great faith. Howells’ example deeply inspired Bonnke and he himself prayed, “Lord, I also want to be a man of faith. I want to see your way of providing for needs.” Bonnke could not have known then the incredible extent to which God would answer that request.
After college, Bonnke took up a pastorate in Hamburg, Germany. On the journey from the college to Germany, he had a free day and chose to spend it sight-seeing in London. He didn’t have money for a formal tour, so he decided to hop on a bus and see where it took him. Eventually, he landed at the door step of healing evangelist George Jeffreys – one of the most consequential missionaries of the previous generation. The then 21-year-old Bonnke took a chance and knocked on the door. The aged Jeffreys admitted him, laid his hands on him and blessed him.
The following day, Evangelist Bonnke arrived in Hamburg. His father picked him up at the station and before Bonnke could say a word about the providential encounter, his father relayed the news that George Jeffreys had passed away overnight. Bonnke would point to that encounter as the moment he received the mantel of a healing evangelist.
Still, it was sometime before the Evangelist walked in the full realization of that call. He pastored in Germany through most of the 1960’s, marrying his wife, Anni, in 1964. Then, in 1967, with two small children, the Bonnke family relocated to the tiny South African kingdom of Lesotho as missionaries. The ministry was nominally successful, and then, God gave Evangelist Bonnke a dream. In it, he saw the entire continent of Africa covered in the blood of Jesus and heard a voice declare, “Africa shall be saved!” That has been Bonnke’s battle cry ever since.
In 1974, Evangelist Bonnke formed Christ for All Nations (CfaN) as a means of facilitating the fulfilment of that dream. CfaN has worked with one goal: to reach Africa with the gospel, from Cape Town to Cairo. By the grace of God, they’ve been incredibly successful in that effort.
The ministry has grown though numerous iterations. Initially, they were known for gathering thousands under a huge tent. But, when the tent was blown away by a storm, God expanded Bonnke’s vision to reach crowds no tent, save the sky itself, could hold. In 1981, Peter Vandenberg (currently Vice President of CfaN) joined the team and brought his unique blend of ministry and engineering experience to bear. Soon the team was employing modular stages and innovative speaker designs to reach crowds that frequently numbered in the hundreds of thousands. Accordingly, hundreds of millions of people from nearly every nation in Africa have heard Evangelist Bonnke’s clear, fiery presentation of the truth of God’s love displayed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
However, the crowds were drawn to much more than Bonnke’s passionate oratory. From the very beginning, the multi-day events were marked by profound miracles and incredible displays of God’s power. The dead have been raised, blind eyes opened, crippled legs made to stand and walk. Demons have been cast out, depression healed, and families restored. And CfaN has been ruthless in their verification of these claims. The numbers have been so consistent and overwhelming that even to cynics it seems more impossible for them to have been faked than for them to be real.
Naturally, the phenomenal crowd sizes and undeniable flow of supernatural miracles brought a lot of attention to Evangelist Bonnke and CfaN. He was regularly featured on Christian television, spoke widely at large churches and conferences and more than 190-million copies of his 40+ books are in circulation. Many world leaders counted him as a trusted voice of counsel. There are many parts of the world where Reinhard Bonnke is a household name. Many of today’s best-known ministers point to him as a role model – both on and off stage. Brian Houston, Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church, said of Evangelist Bonnke, “Over the years, his unwavering passion to win souls for the Kingdom has never ceased to inspire me to connect people to Jesus, their Savior. I love the way salvation resonates in his spirit, whether he’s on a platform speaking to millions or behind the scenes having a chat – Jesus is always on his lips.”
In addition to his tremendous global influence, he was known by family, friends and colleagues as a man of deep humility, compassion and service. By all accounts, Evangelist Bonnke lived as if obedience to God was the only true success. As he wrote in his autobiography, Living a Life of Fire,
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.
In the mid-2000s God gave Evangelist Bonnke the foresight “to know that the baton has to be passed on to the young generation. This ministry is not my private property. It is all by God’s grace.” He began to mentor Daniel Kolenda and over the course of the decade, shared increasing responsibility with his protégé. Evangelist Kolenda became Lead Evangelist and CEO of CfaN in 2011. In 2017, before a crowd of nearly a million people in Lagos, Nigeria, Evangelist Bonnke prayed for Evangelist Kolenda as George Jeffreys had for him nearly 50 years before. Today, under Evangelist Kolenda’s leadership, CfaN continues to enjoy the same reach, favor and miracles that it did under Evangelist Bonnke’s 30+ year tenure. It is a transition that only the Holy Spirit could have orchestrated and perhaps one of the greatest proofs of Bonnke’s qualities as a disciple of Christ.
Reinhard Bonnke is survived by his wife, Anni, three adult children, Kai-Uwe, Gabrielle, and Susanne and eight grandchildren. We share in their grief – even as we celebrate his immense legacy.