Evangelists Reinhard Bonnke and Daniel Kolenda talk about the succession of leadership at Christ for all Nations and their ministry expectations going forward
MINISTRY TODAY: Why did you decide to appoint a successor to your ministry?
REINHARD BONNKE: I want the extraordinary harvest of souls to continue for as long as the opportunity lasts. What my team and I have experienced since the year 2000 is possibly unparalleled in the history of the church—masses of precious souls have been pressing into the kingdom of God.
MINISTRY TODAY: The Lord has used you for more than 35 years to lead Christ for all Nations. Was it a difficult decision for you to give up the leadership?
BONNKE: Well, I am now 70 years of age and am clear enough 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. I am forever after souls—hell empty and heaven full. Jesus didn’t die to give us careers but to save the lost. As for me personally, I have given the Lord the blossom of my life and believe that He will not throw the stalk away.
MINISTRY TODAY: What has God taught you from this transference of authority?
BONNKE: God sent Daniel Kolenda my way. The Holy Spirit spoke to me that the anointed must be appointed, and this is what I did. Daniel has taken to it like a duck to the water, and God blesses his ministry as much as my own. I am still fully engaged until Jesus comes.
MINISTRY TODAY: What advice would you offer to pastors who are facing the same kind of decision with their ministries that you made with yours?
BONNKE: I would ask them to listen to the Holy Spirit and not just to flesh and blood—and, of course, to seek first the kingdom of God. A successful transfer is not automatic.
MINISTRY TODAY: Over the years, how have you had to adjust your message to fit the different cultural contexts in which you have preached?
BONNKE: It took a while to dawn on me that there was and is no adjustment needed. The God who created the world, including the human family, also created the gospel. He created it with us in mind. When it is preached anywhere, the Holy Spirit plucks the strings of the human spirit and makes it resound and respond.
MINISTRY TODAY: How did God show you that succeeding Rev. Bonnke was His will for you?
DANIEL KOLENDA: As I look back on the sequence of events that brought us here, the hand of God and His divine orchestration is quite evident. I did not come to CfaN with the intention of being Reinhard Bonnke’s successor. That never would have entered into my wildest dreams. But as we obeyed the call of God, one step at a time, it became obvious to me, as well as to pastor Bonnke and the whole ministry, that God was speaking very clearly with many miraculous confirmations along the way.
MINISTRY TODAY: How long did the transition take to complete after you and Rev. Bonnke started the process?
KOLENDA: From an organizational standpoint, the transition took approximately four years. But the passing of the baton is an ongoing process. It is my great joy to continue to work together with pastor Bonnke, submit to his leadership, and learn from him as a spiritual father and mentor.
MINISTRY TODAY: Could you briefly describe how this process worked?
KOLENDA: Evangelist Bonnke entrusted responsibility to me with great care. When he saw that I could handle 20 percent, he would give me another 20 percent. He never took back what had been delegated. Though he never micromanaged me, he did watch over me at every step until he was totally confident.
MINISTRY TODAY: Will you be making any immediate changes to the ministry?
KOLENDA: We are always honing our methods and shifting feet to maximize our impact as a ministry, but the core of our mission and vision continues to be and will always remain the same. We continue to focus on mass evangelism around the world and especially in Africa.
MINISTRY TODAY: Do you believe that holding mass crusades will continue to be the most viable method of evangelism for the ministry, moving forward?
KOLENDA: We focus on mass crusades because this is the assignment the Lord has given this ministry. We find that we are most effective when we are doing what God has gifted us and called us to do—and since neither the gift nor the call has changed, we will continue to grow where we have been planted.
MINISTRY TODAY: Would your method of evangelizing be any different if you were preaching primarily in the United States?
KOLENDA: Our methods change slightly from nation to nation, but there is no substitute for the proclamation of the gospel under the anointing of the Holy Spirit with signs following. This works everywhere—even in America!
MINISTRY TODAY: Could you name an interesting miracle or incident that you have witnessed recently in a crusade?
KOLENDA: In the city of Sapele, Nigeria, a mother came to the meeting with her three-year-old son. He was terribly ill, and she was hoping for him to be healed. During the meeting the little boy collapsed on the ground, and when the mother examined him, she found that he had no pulse and was not breathing. He had died right there on the crusade field.
Heartbroken, she brought him up to the platform where the ushers also examined the body and confirmed that he was indeed dead. The ushers were so moved that they let this woman with her dead son pass the security barricade and stand at the bottom of the steps leading up to the platform.
Once I had finished preaching and praying for the sick, I walked down the steps and saw that grief-stricken mother crying uncontrollably and holding the limp body. I approached her, laid my hands on the boy and prayed. A few seconds later, he opened his eyes and started to breathe. The next day when I arrived at the field, the first thing I saw as our car pulled up to the platform was that little boy, running around and playing. Jesus had raised him from the dead and made him whole!
The Harvest Goes On
The anointing to see souls saved will continue in my successor, Daniel Kolenda.
By Reinhard Bonnke
Five years ago a young man named Daniel Kolenda walked through the doors of our ministry. He and his wife had planted a local church that could not pay their living expenses. He needed a job.
Who would have imagined, as he filled out an application for employment, that he would eventually share my vision, stand in my shoes, communicate through media to my worldwide base of supporters, preach in my stead and see more than 10 million decisions for Christ registered at his invitations? Today he is still a young evangelist in his late 20s!
I am a doer, not an academic. I listen carefully for the voice of the Lord, and then I obey, even when it does not make complete sense to my natural mind. It is only later that I look back and see the turns in the path and recognize the full wisdom of God at work in such obedience. So it is with the story of Daniel and me.
The first quality I recognized in him was the Holy Spirit’s anointing. He had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, as I had, and he did not approach anything in his strength alone. I saw also that he was a doer like me, listening and obeying the voice of the Lord. However, when he was in action, he was given special gifts for evangelism that did not come from his own diligence. Without this heavenly charisma, the rest of this story would never have entered my mind.
Education, talent, energy, sincerity—even family heritage—all these count for nothing next to the anointing. The anointing is God’s ordination of an individual.
One day as I watched Daniel at work, the Holy Spirit said to me, “The anointed must be appointed.” Immediately I recalled my own struggles to enter my calling against the resistance of my pastor-father, Hermann Bonnke.
Many leaders believe that anyone in leadership must endure the same struggle they did before they are seasoned enough for appointment. The Holy Spirit was saying to me that, with God, this does not need to be true. Young Elisha never challenged the prophets of Baal as Elijah did. Nor did he hack them to death with Elijah’s bloody sword. Yet his accomplishments were double those of his mentor.
Then the Holy Spirit whispered, “Heaven is bigger than hell.” These words shocked my evangelist’s mind. Wasn’t the way to damnation in Matthew 7 bigger and wider than the narrow road to heaven? Then I saw it: After Jesus spoke these words recorded in Matthew, He planted His cross in the middle of that highway to hell, His arms open wide.
I realized that the cross of Christ is the biggest roadblock of all time. When an evangelist preaches “Repent!” we are saying, in effect, “Turn around!” When one sinner makes a U-turn, heaven rejoices and hell is left with nothing to celebrate. The expanse of heaven is measured by God’s love alone.
So, for me, this was reason enough to appoint the one God had anointed. I invited Daniel to travel with me in ministry. He has been shoulder to shoulder, stride for stride, learning, growing, preaching the gospel and seeing signs following, just as I have.
It is impossible to be near a life of fire and not catch the glow. He is glowing, and so is this 70-year-old evangelist.
Reinhard Bonnke is the founder of Christ for all Nations, an evangelistic ministry based in Orlando, Fla., that God has used to draw tens of millions of people to Christ in Africa and developing nations across the world.
Receiving the Baton
The visionary Christian leader will empower his successor
By Daniel Kolenda
The Bible records in 2 Kings 13:20-21 an unusual account of a funeral. A group of Israelites were burying a man when they saw a band of Moabite marauders approaching them. They panicked, cut the ceremony short and threw the dead man into the grave where Elisha the prophet had been buried. The Bible says that “when the man ... touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet” (v. 20).
Some see this passage as a great compliment to the ancient prophet—how he was so anointed that even his bones brought life from the dead. I see it as a sad indictment—how unfortunate that Elisha took his great anointing to the grave with him.
Elisha’s mentor, Elijah, had a very different approach. When he was swept away to heaven in a fiery chariot, he cast his mantle overboard for his young protégé and successor to catch.
In modern, Westernized Christianity, where individualism is a supreme virtue, successors often are either disregarded as unnecessary or feared as a threat to the incumbent leader. But when Elijah passed the baton to Elisha, he did not compromise his legacy. As a matter of fact, by transferring what he had to Elisha, he enabled his own prophetic ministry to continue for another generation and even double in impact through Elisha. Had Elisha known Sir Isaac Newton, he surely would have declared with him: “If I have seen farther, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
Successful generational transition is a matter that requires a great deal of humility from each person in both generations. Elisha is described as the one “who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah” (2 Kings 3:11). His posture was one of humility, and it put him in a position to catch a mantle.
Every Elijah needs an Elisha who is willing to pursue, serve, submit and honor. Likewise, every Elisha needs an Elijah who has the grace and humility to see beyond himself for the sake of the next generation.
Daniel Kolenda is the 29-year-old new president of Christ for all Nations. He accepted leadership of the ministry from Reinhard Bonnke, 70, who founded the international evangelistic work 35 years ago.