Reinhard Bonnke, one of the greatest generals of evangelism the world has ever known, has gone home to glory—but not without leaving us many lessons for life and ministry.
Bonnke told me he went from “zero to hero,” which is an accurate portrayal of the youngest son of a preacher from a small village in Northern Germany. His life is a model for generations of preachers to come and his story should inspire Christians to preach the Gospel without compromise.
Bonnke taught me how to deal with misunderstanding and rejection in life and ministry. He told me:
“I learned quite early in life to bless those who hate you. I’ve learned that one basic thing. You need to always forgive others if you feel that you are being wronged so that my own channels to heaven will remain open. Many times in the middle of the night I jumped out of bed and my mind was full of things of what some people had said about me. I didn’t like it because it was a bunch of lies and I was walking up and down for hours at night in my little home and I prayed, ‘Lord I bless them that curse me, I bless them that curse me, I bless them that curse me.’ And then after maybe an hour or so heaven just pierced my heart and crept into my soul. I had blessed them all and I had my channels open to heaven and the next meeting I saw great results. I think that is a true key point. If we start to defend ourselves and respond to every little rumor, we are actually paralyzing ourselves.”
When I asked Bonnke if there were times he felt like giving up, he told me:
“There are times where things don’t seem to go so well. There are times where we look at each other and say, ‘What is wrong?’ But this has been a great lesson to me. A year or two later I had kicked off a crusade, I said, ‘Well, it didn’t go so well.’ Then we move on. Then I heard reports of what happened in those areas and the awesome manifestations of God’s power and changes in that area. Oh, we must never judge quickly. We must leave it to God. God’s Word never returns void. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve told my team we will never, never, never say this crusade was not good. Never. It would be an insult to the Gospel and the God of the Gospel. We are now experienced and we know how the rapids run, as we would say in Germany, and we keep plugging away and some places harder than another. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter.
When I asked Bonnke what was one of the most surprising things he learned about the Holy Spirit, he told me:
“Well I grew up with the truth of the Holy Spirit because my parents were Pentecostal and my father was a pastor and what I learned there was just, I would say, the minimal truth of the Holy Spirit, of His power, Gods fire. in Africa, it suddenly dawned on me and the Holy Spirit himself started to teach me that God has decided from the beginning, that in the last days He would pour out His spirit upon all the flesh. I thought that prayer for the Holy Spirit was inaccurate in a closed prayer meeting just with some insiders so to speak. And then the Lord spoke to me, right at the beginning, tomorrow in the stadium, He said tomorrow I want you to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I said Lord, this is not for a stadium, this is an evangelistic crusade, to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for a church service. And the Lord said to me, I‘ll give you a good reason why that is not so. On the last day, my Spirit bled on all flesh and I could see there was so much flesh around. That promise would never be fulfilled if we just think in terms of churches and then I started to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the biggest meetings whether I preached to a million or just to 50,000 and the Lord has been faithful. I can honestly say He has been saturating oil nations with His glory and with the Spirit of God. It is something so powerful that exceeds anything we could ever produce, whether it’s now good preaching or good communication or something in the natural. The real heart of the real success is in the Holy Spirit.”
And when I asked him about the biggest challenges facing the body of Christ, he told me:
“I do not want to use a big brush because there are always fantastic exceptions. The Church of Jesus Christ, in very many countries, has become sleepy, self-concerned, preaching a Gospel of self-affirmation instead of salvation. These are things I’m sure which don’t please the Lord. It reminds me of the parable of the 10 virgins. Five had trimmed their lamps and five had forgotten some extra oil. They all fell asleep. But soon thy will come. Behold the Bridegroom. May the Lord help us. We can rise with burning lamps to meet Jesus in the clouds of heaven. I believe it’s time for God’s people to shake up and wake up and speak up and never shut up, when called upon and even when not called upon. We preach the Gospel in season and out of season.”
I learned far more than this from my conversations with Bonnke, but these are some of the truths I remember most. What did you learn from Reinhard Bonnke?