Why the church must return the Great Commission to top priority
However, as one of the fivefold ministries given to the church, my perspective as an evangelist belongs with that of the apostle, the prophet, the pastor and teacher. Taken together, these five visions equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.
So, what does this evangelist see? I see two disturbing trends:
First, I see churches that are not increasing. They sit in communities where the population is growing, children are born, immigrants move in, jobs attract new families, government programs attract the needy, yet these churches remain stagnant. They are growing inward, forgetting the imperative of the Great Commission.
Second, I see megachurches growing for the wrong reasons. Thousands of seekers are attracted by a warm social environment but are not finding the pearl of great price. They are not embracing Christ as Savior and Lord, nor are they being made uncomfortable by the claims of His cross. How this distresses my soul!
But I will not react in anger. My feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. I am a bearer of good news. My message to both erring churches is, “Return.” I am not pointing a finger or calling for breast-beating, fasting, prayer, humiliation or a vow to do better. No, I am simply saying, “Return.”
I am always struck by the picture of Jesus standing at the door of the church in Laodicea: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:19-20).
What is He doing there? He is knocking! This image from the book of Revelation was not given to the wonderful church of Philadelphia. No, it was given to the church of lukewarm, compromising,
Spirit-ignoring believers. And what does this picture tell us? It tells us that the Laodiceans, in all of their error, were not far from the real thing. All they had to do was turn, open the door and He would come in. Jesus had not left them. They had left Him.
Become the Real Thing Again
And so, in the Spirit of Christ knocking at the door in Laodicea, I say to churches that have lost their zeal for evangelism, you are not far from the real thing. Let soul winning return as a priority. The church of Jesus Christ is not a pleasure boat, but a lifeboat. Entertainers are neither needed nor wanted. From the captain to the cook, all hands are needed on deck for soul saving. The church that doesn’t save the lost is lost itself.
What is the secret to keeping the evangelistic fire alive? First, I believe we must cast ourselves in utter reliance upon the Holy Spirit. Oh yes, many say this, but what does it really look like? I believe when we rightly trust the Spirit, all of our methods, programs, denominational loyalties and long-held traditions become secondary—even expendable. If the Lord chooses to let a sacred cow or two die, we let them go because we utterly depend upon the fire of the Spirit for life, for breath, for every sinner who repents. He is the only true “soul winner.” He is the fire. We have the great privilege, through the “foolishness of preaching,” to be stewards of His fire.
When I was a young missionary in Africa, I dutifully saluted my fathers in the work. They taught me what was considered to be the proper methods of missions, tried and true, proven for longer than I had been alive. I could not lightly dismiss them. Yet it made my heart ache to see how few responded to the rigid picture those fathers painted of our gracious Savior.
It was almost as if we handed the baby Jesus to the world wrapped in legal documents, covered in rules and regulations that obscured His very nature. I longed to see the vast multitudes of precious African people rejoicing in Christ, but under such trappings I was not surprised that so few came to Him. The tried and true methods of the traditional missionary endeavor had become a boneyard of dead, putrefying religion.
God took a hammer and chisel and began working on me. Things didn’t shape up overnight. I learned lessons one by one. New dimensions of the Holy Spirit opened up, and each one was an astonishment to me. Signs and wonders began to occur, and things began to change. One would have to read my autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, to fully appreciate the sequence the Lord took me through.
With each lesson I found myself opposed by those who clung to methods, programs, denominational loyalties and long-held traditions. In each case there came a time to break free of such, and follow the Spirit in the pursuit of souls. It was emotionally wrenching to go through it, and that is why many do not travel this road. They buy a false security in the company of death.
Utter dependence on the Holy Spirit sometimes can cause us to look like troublemakers, but that is not what is happening. You must simply love Him and esteem Him above all others. Let the chips fall where they may. There is no formula for instant success “on the cheap,” I’m afraid, and I am not offering such here.
But I can offer my testimony. I have seen over 1 million people record decisions for Christ in a single meeting. I have seen 55 million embrace Jesus in the past 10 years. On it goes. Our crowds are greater than ever. Multitudes are being healed and filled with the Holy Spirit. It is harvest time. The book of Acts was not the peak performance of the power of God, but the first sampling of the possibilities for His followers in the Holy Spirit. Trust Him! Accept no substitutes.
Breaking free of the tried and true we have seen whole countries shaken by the power of the gospel. If this can be the result of the things God has shown me, my hope is that God will show you also. May you receive that heart revelation of the matchless glory of His power, a power beyond anything yet seen. The potentials of Pentecost have never been fully realized, and there is much more to come.
Our Turn to Spread the Gospel
Two thoughts have long thundered in my soul. First is the vision God gave me of a blood-washed Africa. This vision shook and cracked and disintegrated the tried and true methods of missionary work in my life. I had to decide to pursue it and look neither to the right nor the left, and it cost me for a short while the affection of many fellow laborers. Would I trade their affection for the harvest the vision has led me to? Would you?
Second is the principle of plundering hell to populate heaven. Does this idea make you uncomfortable? It came to me from heaven. It leaves no room for neutrality. It allows no stopping point. To me, this is not a mere notion, nor a far-fetched ideal. It is a word from God that has become my marching order. I live by it. I run by it. I go, I go and I go into the world with this sense of purpose, “plundering hell to populate heaven.” I am not driven by it, I am led by it, and it separates me from others who have accepted a more comfortable treaty with the Lord of the harvest.
But today, I must deal with the fact that I will probably not live to see the fulfillment of either a blood-washed Africa or an empty hell. God will not give the whole world to any one man or woman. He wants to raise up an army of anointed people. For this reason I constantly scan the horizons for other men and women who may take up this challenge for Holy Spirit evangelism.
God is the creator of evangelists. We are ordinary flesh and blood folk. Angels probably could have done a far more efficient job, but in the infinite wisdom of the Lord, He had no such plan. It is striking to consider, that the angel who appeared to Cornelius in Acts 10:5 was not allowed to mention the name of Jesus to him, nor to explain the way of salvation.
All the angel could say was, “Now send men to Joppa and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter.” This mighty seraph from deep heaven had to bow to Peter’s higher privilege of carrying the gospel of Jesus Christ to Cornelius. We only can accept, with wonder and humility, the fact that it pleases God to call and to send people like you and me. We humans are privileged. There should be no reluctance on our part to do this work.
It has always been the same. God used not one, but four evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—to write down the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such a pattern is linked, in my mind, to the four men in the Old Testament who carried the Ark of the Covenant.
Carriers of the gospel change from generation to generation, but the gospel remains the same. We are here now, and today is our turn. God has called us. Each of us. The gospel needs to be taken to the ends of the earth. I sometimes wonder if the millions I am reaping today were not meant to be divided among many others who turned away from His call.
I do not believe that it is God’s plan to allow hell to be bigger than heaven. Although Scripture speaks in Matthew 7:13 about “many” who are on their way to eternal destruction, they must be intercepted by men and women preaching the original gospel. Hebrews 2:10 reveals that provision has been made to bring “many sons to glory,” and Revelation 7:9 speaks of a successful conclusion to this idea. Jesus told us to make disciples of all nations. These were not empty words.
Furthermore, there are no emergency arrangements found in Scripture in case the gospel fails. It won’t! More people are being saved, healed and baptized in the Holy Spirit today than ever before in human history. We are not called with the outcome of an uncertain war hanging in the balance. We are called to share the victory and the spoils.
God’s invincible secret is the cross of Christ, which frightens every demon in hell. Heaven will be an eternal and dominating monument to the victory of the gospel. My words are a welcome to join a conquering army, not a plea to support a hopeless and desperate resistance against overwhelming odds. Our Captain never lost a battle, and He never will.
Be Part of God’s Soul Purpose
For this purpose, God has laid down the basic means for the salvation of souls. Human schemes have not been the answer, and if we follow them we will see the present generation die in their sins. The mighty commission of Christ to His church is a call to the war against unbelief, using the sword of the gospel as our weapon.
We need more imaginative approaches rather than doing things a certain way just because that’s the way they have always been done. Methods which have made little impact in the past are not likely to produce an impact now. Plodding along mechanically might be called faithfulness in the zombieland of the missionary boneyard, but our primary concern in evangelism is effectiveness, not this type of so-called faithfulness.
I am concerned, because there surely must be limiting factors hindering the gospel. These limiting factors possibly are the accepted methods of evangelism, which are still unchanged. They could even be doctrines and sentiments which tell us to “leave it all to God.”
Some insist God’s method of winning the lost is revival but they fail to carry out the Great Commission in the meanwhile. Some think that if people are to be saved, they will be saved anyway. Suppose such theories are wrong? After all, they surely are! What an awful risk, to rest the eternal destiny of souls upon a controversial interpretation of Scripture or the turn of a Greek verb. We must err on the side of obedience to the Great Commission.
And so, I urge you, be a part of it. Return soul winning as a priority to the church. I believe the best is yet to be. The whole world will resound with the praises of our God and Savior. In all nations and in every tongue, confession will be made that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
About Our Guest Editor ...
Reinhard Bonnke is principally known for his gospel crusades throughout Africa. The son of a pastor, Bonnke gave his life to the Lord at age 9 and heard the call to the African mission field before his teen years. After attending Bible college in Wales and being ordained in Germany, he pastored a church and then went on to begin missionary work in Africa. It was there, in the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, that God placed a vision on his heart of “the continent of Africa, being washed in the precious blood of Jesus.” It has been nearly 35 years since he founded the international ministry of Christ for all Nations (CfaN), which currently has offices in the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, Nigeria, South Africa, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong. He has conducted citywide meetings across Africa with as many as 1.6 million people attending a single meeting. Since the start of the new millennium, through a host of major events in Africa and other parts of the world, the ministry has recorded 55 million documented decisions for Jesus Christ. He is also recognized for hosting Fire Conferences in many parts of the world that are aimed at equipping church leaders and workers for evangelism. His ministry teaches an online self-study course aimed at inspiring Holy Spirit evangelism and publishes follow-up literature as part of its discipleship-training program that has been translated into 103 languages and printed in 55 countries. He and his wife, Anni, have three children and eight grandchildren.
God in Action
By Reinhard Bonnke
The gospel alone gives life. It is like breathing—there’s no alternative. Freewill gives us the right to make choices, but it does not give us the power to create them. Our options are limited: life or death. Just as breathing oxygen is the only option for natural life, believing the gospel is the only option for eternal life. We die if we do not breathe. We die forever if we do not repent.
The human heart has a terminal disease. It needs more than enlightenment. It needs deliverance from the crippling power of sin. It needs life. People seek their own alternatives in the New Age, the power of the mind, Buddhism, meditation, healing cults and other man-made religions. But these will no more cure their disease and restore their hearts than playing a game of chess would heal a man of cancer. People need saving. And only Jesus saves.
The same God who created the world also created the gospel. But the gospel came at far greater cost. To create the world God spoke. To redeem the world God Himself came in the flesh. The gospel is God in action. It is God in the mire and sweat of the battlefield, engaging the enemy in the bitter trenches of mortal combat. God fully invested Himself, His Son and His blood into this gospel.
That’s why the world must know that the gospel is the only option for eternal life, and that’s why you and I as leaders entrusted with the gospel must never let up on telling them.
Some get squeamish or even offended by this gospel of the precious blood of Jesus—as if the earth’s soil were not already soaked with the blood of violent sin! But this is not a timid gospel. It is God’s power and love bravely confronting the dark mysteries of the human heart and rectifying the evil deeds of human history. Only Calvary’s gospel will prevail in such a harsh world. Christ’s blood was needed to cover the blood of many millions of murdered “Abels” crying to God from the ground.
The gospel is not some vague feeling of love or a sentimental greeting card. It is the story of ultimate reality, the final rescuing of mankind. It is written with the pen of truth dipped in the blood of Christ. We are not redeemed by a casual nod from an “understanding” Heavenly Father. Indeed, the verdict “Forgiven!” issues from the mouth of His Son’s gaping wounds. The gospel rings with Eden’s anguished “Adam, where are you?” and with Christ’s “loud crying and tears” in Gethsemane. Those cries continue calling Adam today, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
The Holy Spirit will not anoint a lesser gospel. He has clothed Himself with this gospel. God’s Spirit is the hand that fits perfectly into the glove of the preached word, Jesus Christ. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1:5, “Because·our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and·in the Holy Spirit.” At creation the Spirit was hovering over the chaotic waters awaiting the spoken word. When God spoke the word, the Spirit began to act.
It is the same today. When God’s gospel is preached, the Holy Spirit storms into action. Our thinking should be as Romans 1:16 says: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.”