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. (They recount this story on page 50 of this issue.)
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. He has edited the issue with the same fervency he seems to apply to everything in life. And the idea of including Daniel Kolenda as co-editor appealed to us. Bonnke can explain better than I how Kolenda is transitioning to fill his huge shoes.
How the evangelistic spark of a mass crusade is fanned into a burning flame
As the gospel is preached clearly and concisely each night, hundreds of thousands of precious people respond to the call of salvation and receive Jesus as their Savior. Such is the dimension of this response that the hundreds of participating churches are each flooded with thousands of new converts and wonderful reports pour in from the leaders and members of participating churches.
Often we hear of congregations doubling and tripling in size during the weeks following the Great Gospel Campaigns. We have learned that this leads some churches to even start multiple branches to accommodate the new arrivals. On the CfaN team, we call this Spirit-enabled phenomenon “addition” to the kingdom of God.
But our ministry team feels a second responsibility, and that is to inspire and train others in the communities and nations in which we hold crusades to—as the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy—“do the work of an evangelist” (see 2 Tim. 4:5).
The reality of eternity without Christ compels me to preach the gospel
For the most part, the subject of hell has not been a topic of discussion in churches today. One of the reasons is that, in the past, hell was presented with a fire-and-brimstone, “you’re going to burn” attitude. As a result, it is a message perceived of as unloving and harsh. However, if it is presented as a message of warning, and not of condemnation, it is more readily accepted. A message of warning is a message of love. What loving parent wouldn’t warn his or her child not to play in a busy street? If a person truly understands what eternity might bring, they may be a bit more receptive to the gospel. God’s desire is to get people into heaven, not keep them out!
Another reason the topic is avoided is because of a lack of answers as to the “whys” regarding the extreme severity and eternal duration of hell. To many, God would be unloving to allow such punishment for all eternity.
This lack of teaching—and even ignoring of the subject altogether—is derived from a questioning of the morality of God. Some criticize His justice, stating that if they were God they wouldn’t allow someone to suffer forever, so then God certainly wouldn’t either. A lack of understanding causes silence on the subject. If hell is mentioned, it is downplayed in order to avoid offending anyone. The fear of loss of congregation members is on the minds of many pastors.
Beyond programs and prayer meetings, the church today must embrace its role as an eternal house of intercession
The house of prayer in a city is not a church, not a prayer ministry and not the building in which they meet. The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., is only a “gas station”—we take a cup of gasoline and throw it on the prayer fires that burn in the real “house of prayer in Kansas City,” which is the entire body of Christ, made up of more than 1,000 congregations in our area.
The eternal destiny of all God’s people is to function as a house of prayer now and in the age to come. In one short statement, Jesus revealed this to us when He prophetically declared, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13).
Isaiah also spoke this decree when he prophesied to Israel: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (see Is. 56:7). When God calls us by a specific name, it indicates our character and how we are to function in the Holy Spirit.
Seven characteristics of the end-time prayer and worship movement
What we are witnessing today, with the rapidly growing worldwide prayer and worship movement, is the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies about the end times. No one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return, but we do know that it will be in response to the church—His bride—beckoning Him to come (see Rev. 22:17). While Scripture is filled with the defining characteristics of this end-time worship and prayer movement, I want to focus on seven that I believe are particularly key.
1. It will be God-centered (Rev. 4:8; 5:11-14; Is. 24:14–16). Those nearest God’s throne are most qualified to proclaim the truth about who He is and what He does. God desires that His people would encounter His majesty and love and that in turn they would offer up their praise for who He is. Worship is a witness on earth to the indescribable value of Jesus. Our worship and prayer are best energized when we experience intimacy with God’s heart. The Father relates to us with tender mercy, and Jesus, our Bridegroom God, relates to us with fiery desire (see Is. 54:5; 62:5). In Revelation 22:17, John prophesied that the Spirit and the bride would say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
2. It will be continual (Rev. 4:8; Is. 62:6-7; Luke 18:7-8). In Revelation John witnesses celestial beings who “do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy ...’ ” (see Rev. 4:8). God desires to be worshipped on this earth just as He is in heaven—unceasingly. Isaiah prophesied of an end-time prayer movement that will not rest night and day until God’s purposes are fully established (see Is. 62:6-7), and Jesus spoke of prayer going forth night and day until His justice is fully released (see Luke 18:7-8).