Think Reinhard Bonnke and his ministry are all about the
numbers? You better believe it—and here’s why that’s a good thing.
I was a young journalist attending an international conference in
Nairobi, Kenya, in 1984 when I saw fliers all over town for a German evangelist
named Reinhard Bonnke, who was holding huge crusades throughout Kenya. Knowing
Germany wasn’t exactly a hotbed of evangelism, I was curious. African friends
told me about this man’s passion to see all of Africa saved. Soon we were covering
his ministry in Charisma.
One of our first stories was about his massive revival tent that held up to 34,000 people. In 1985, a storm
destroyed the tent in South Africa—but in the end, it didn’t seem to matter
since it couldn’t have contained the hundreds of thousands who showed up.
I first met Bonnke in
Brazil in 1989 when he was there for his daughter’s wedding. My wife and I had
flown down to attend a Charles and Frances Hunter crusade in Rio de Janeiro,
and we stayed at the same hotel as Bonnke. A friendship developed that continues
today. Little did I know he would one day move his international headquarters
to Orlando, Fla., which allows us to interact several times a year—most
recently when he wanted to introduce me last fall to his successor, Daniel
Kolenda. I actually knew Daniel’s family and visited his dad’s church in Port
Charlotte, Fla., when Daniel was a little boy. In Charisma’s March issue we covered the incredible story
about how after some unsuccessful attempts to find a successor, God
supernaturally told Bonnke that the anointed must be appointed.
When I recently began inviting leaders to serve as guest
editors for Ministry Today,
I never dreamed someone of Bonnke’s worldwide stature would agree. But when we
mentioned to him our vision to devote an entire issue to the topic of
evangelism—and just how important it is for the church—he jumped at the chance. Bonnke served as guest editor for the May/June 2011 issue of Ministry Today. His successor, Daniel Kolenda, was the co-editor. Bonnke can explain better than I how Kolenda is transitioning to fill his huge
This isn’t just an opportunity to take over a large
ministry, but also to win millions to Christ. When discussing people and souls,
most of our minds. Yet I believe it. I’ve observed how conservative Bonnke’s
ministry is on reporting numbers. Sadly, many evangelists have exaggerated so
much that evangelistically speaking
has entered our everyday language to mean “exaggeration.”
L to R: Reinhard Bonnke, Anni Bonnke,
But I’ve seen the multitudes with my own eyes. In 2000, I
traveled to Lagos, Nigeria, to attend one of Bonnke’s massive rallies. One of
the greatest spiritual experiences of my life was being there the night he
ministered the baptism of the Holy Spirit to a crowd estimated at 1.6 million. For at least 20 minutes,
waves of power rolled over that crowd as seemingly everyone spoke in tongues at
the top of their voices.
On another night, I walked the crowd with one of his
staff. I saw how they marked off areas on the ground, actually counted people
in the squares and multiplied by the number of squares. I determined their
numbers were believable. And during the day I saw firsthand the Fire Conference
for 20,000 pastors and how they distributed the decision cards that had been
filled out. African leaders told me how Bonnke’s crusades built the local
church and how churches cooperated as a result.
It’s estimated Bonnke has been instrumental in bringing 60 million souls to Christ and we believe that number is at least
close. (Only God knows the exact number.) But the point is not entirely the
number. Bonnke uses the number—as do we—not to brag but to give a frame of
reference of the absolute enormity of this ministry and to give glory to God.