by Pastor Robert Griffith
German missionary to Africa, Reinhard Bonnke (1940-2019) was the founder of Christ For All Nations (CFAN) which now ministers to millions. Converted at nine, he had a missionary zeal. As a teenager, Reinhard saw Johannesburg in South Africa in a vision of a map of Africa. At 19 he headed off to the Bible College of Wales to train as a missionary, even though he couldn’t speak English. Three months later he was preaching in English! There he learned practical principles of living by faith. After a short pastorate in Germany where he married Anna, they left for German missionary work in Africa. Working as traditional missionaries from 1967 to 1974 in Maseru, the capital of the small landlocked country of Lesotho, they saw meagre results.
Near the end of that time Reinhard’s interpreter broke down during his message at a healing meeting one Sunday morning and sank to the floor weeping because of God’s awesome presence. Waiting for the interpreter to recover, Reinhard heard the Lord speak to him and say, “My Words in your mouth are just as powerful as My Words in My own mouth.” This voice repeated that sentence and Reinhard ‘saw’ it like a movie in Scripture – as Jesus told His disciples to speak in faith and it would happen.
Speaking about this pivotal moment later, Reinhard said, “I suddenly realized that the power was not in the mouth – the power was in the Word.” Then, when the interpreter had recovered enough to speak, as he was preaching Reinhard heard the Spirit say, “Call those who are completely blind and speak the Word of Authority.” He did and about six blind people stood. He boldly proclaimed, “Now I am going to speak with the authority of God and you are going to see a white man standing before you. Your eyes are going to open.” Taking a deep breath Reinhard shouted: “In the name of Jesus, blind eyes open!” The power of his voice jolted even those on the stage. It felt as though a flaming bolt of lightning was let loose in the building. His voice was still resonating against the bare brick walls when there was another shout. This time it was the shriek of a woman’s voice. What she screamed shattered the silence that hung over the congregation: “I can see! I can see!” She had been totally blind for years. The other blind people also could see. The whole place erupted in excited cheers. A woman then handed her crippled boy to Reinhard who sensed the power of God on the boy and watched amazed as his crippled legs shook and straightened. He was completely healed. The meeting went for hours as people screamed, shouted, danced and sang.
At the end of 1974, Reinhard relocated to Johannesburg where he established Christ for All Nations (CFAN). Early in January, when he was ill, he had a vision of Jesus similar to Joshua’s vision in Joshua 5:13-15. He wrote about it later:
“I was very sick. I didn’t think I would make it. I went to the doctors. Nothing helped. I was crying to God: ‘Lord what are you doing? What is your plan?’ One afternoon I retired to my study. A thirst for prayer came over me and I was hardly on my knees when I saw a most wonderful vision. I saw the son of God standing in front of me in full armour, like a general. The armour was shining like the sun and burning like fire. It was tremendous and I realised that the Lord of Hosts had come. I threw myself at His feet. I laughed and I cried … I don’t know for how long, but when I got up I was perfectly healed.”
Revived and renewed, Reinhard then flew to Gaberone in Botswana to buy time on radio there to promote a crusade meeting. The Lord had told him to hire the 10,000 seat sports stadium for the meetings. A local pastor who agreed to help prepare for the crusade was amazed. He only had 40 people in his entire congregation! This crusade in April 1974 started in a hall which could seat 800. On the first night 100 attended. Healings happened every night and many people embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. By the end of the first week 2,000 people were packed into the hall. So then they moved into the awaiting stadium! Thousands more came. People were saved and healed every night and over 500 people were baptised in water in just two weeks. One night in the stadium, the Holy Spirit urged Reinhard to pray for people to receive a fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit. So he asked his African co-worker to give a message on the Holy Spirit. About 1,000 people responded to the call to let the Holy Spirit take the lead in their lives and their ministries. As soon as they raised their hands they were all flattened, shouting and praising God from the ground. Reinhard had never seen anything like that before. This continued to happen in all his crusades. Reinhard used an enormous tent which could seat 30,000 people. Then the crowds grew so large no tent could hold them. Some of CFAN crusades in Africa have reached huge open air crowds of 600,000 to 800,000 people and one had over a million people gathered. It was an amazing time and I could share many wonderful stories of what happened as the Holy Spirit moved through these crusade meetings. Let me share one of them with you now. This is from one of Reinhard Bonnke’s books:
My phone rang. Brother Harold Horn, someone I had known since my arrival in Lesotho, said, “Reinhard, come to Kimberly and preach to us.” I said, “I will come.”
Friday night as I sat on the platform I looked across the gathering of 200 people. Not one young person did I see in the room. Not one. I leaned over to Harold, who was near to me, and asked, “Where are the young people?” He nodded sadly, acknowledging that I had correctly seen the problem. Every head in the room was gray. I preached. The service was closed, and the people filtered out to their cars to go home. When they had gone, Harold came to me. “Reinhard, would you like to see the answer to your question? Would you like to know where all the young people in Kimberly are?”
“Yes, I would,” I replied.
“I will show you. Get into my car, and I will take you there.”
He drove through the streets, turning this way and that until he came to a large building at the edge of a warehouse district. The building was ablaze with gaudy neon signs. One large sign blinked out the word, disco, disco, disco…The parking lot was jam-packed to overflowing with vehicles. As he turned off the key I could hear the boom, boom, boom, of the heavy bass beat coming through the walls of that building. The so-called music seemed to shake the very ground beneath us with an ungodly spirit. “This is a den of iniquity,” I said sadly. He nodded. “This is the latest thing, Reinhard. It is called a discotheque, a dance club. It is a craze that is sweeping the whole world right now, and young people everywhere are very attracted to it. Let’s go inside.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Let’s go home. I have never gone to such a place. It would be an abomination to me. But as I turned to get back into the car I felt bad inside. I stopped in my tracks. This is when the Holy Spirit began to speak to me. Since I had come this far, something seemed wrong if I now turned away. But I had no idea what the Spirit wanted me to do. I just couldn’t leave.
“Let’s take a look inside,” Harold suggested. Suddenly, this seemed right. Everything in my spirit said yes. I nodded. “OK, Harold. Let’s just take a look at this disco.” We came to the door and stood there. I felt the Spirit say to me very clearly,’ Look inside. I will show you something you do not know.’ I took a deep breath then opened the door. The blast of music must have knocked the hair back from my forehead. I have never heard such volume in my life. It was deafening. But it was in that instant that I received a spiritual vision of the reality of the disco. In the flash of the strobe lights, I did not see young people dancing with joy. I saw frozen images of boredom, fear, loneliness and insecurity - one after the other, captured on the faces of those young people. The split-second flashes of light revealed these images, over and over and over again. Each of those haunted faces spoke to me of their emptiness - pure emptiness. Suddenly, I could not care less what anyone thought of me. I knew that I would preach in this disco. Nothing could deny the love of Jesus that I felt. I heard the Holy Spirit say in my heart, ‘Find the owner of this place.’ And so, I said to Harold, “Help me to find the owner of this disco.”
“What good will that do?”
“I must talk to him. Let’s find him now.”
“But what will you say to him?”
“I will ask him to let me preach in his disco.”
Harold laughed. “You won’t do that, Reinhard.”
“I will. I absolutely will.”
Harold followed me now. I inquired inside the disco, and we were led to an office at the rear of the building. The owner was a middle-aged businessman who looked to be very much a part of the rock-and-roll culture. He had long hair, gold chains around his neck, an open-collared shirt, and blue jeans. I said to him, “Sir, I’ve come all the way from Germany. I am asking you for permission to allow me to address the young people in your disco for just five minutes.” He looked at me from top to toe. “You’re a preacher,” he said. I was still dressed in my suit and tie. I nodded. He said, “If you want to preach you should preach in a church.”
“There are no young people in the church,” I said. “They don’t come to the church so the preacher must come to the young people. Now give me five minutes, only five minutes, I ask of you.” “You’ve got to be kidding.” He shook his head in disbelief, then turned around and walked away. “There is no way, man.” He had no sympathy for my plea at all.
As he was walking, suddenly the Holy Spirit touched me. He said to me, ‘Tell him what you saw when you looked into his dance hall.’ I went after the man and took him by the arm. He turned to face me again. “One question, sir,” I said, looking deep into his eyes. “Do you think the young people find what they need for life in your disco?” Slowly the face of that man changed. He looked down thoughtfully. When he looked up again he said, “It is very strange that you would say that. I have children of my own. I’ve thought many times that the disco will not give the young people what they need for life.”
“I beg you, sir, give me five minutes with them.” He was thoughtful for a moment. “OK, but not tonight. Saturday night, tomorrow night at midnight, I will give you the microphone for five minutes.” I grabbed his hand and shook it. “It’s a deal, and thank you, sir. I will be here.”
The next night I dressed in casual clothes. I did not want to look like a preacher just coming from Church. I needed disco camouflage. When at last the clock struck twelve, the music stopped. I jumped up and onto the stage where the records were being spun. I took the microphone from the disk jockey and shouted, “Sit down, sit down, sit down. I’ve come all the way from Germany, and I’ve got something very important to tell you.” Suddenly the young people began sitting down everywhere. It was then I realized I was not in church but in a dance hall. Most of the young people plopped right down on the floor. There they sat, smoking cigarettes and chewing gum, waiting for me to tell them something very important that I had brought with me all the way from Germany.
I started to preach... one minute ... two minutes ... then suddenly the Holy Spirit was there; I mean the wind of God blew through that disco. Suddenly I heard sobbing. I saw many young people getting out their handkerchiefs and starting to wipe their eyes, crying everywhere. I had preached enough to know that when people start shedding tears, it’s time for an altar call. I said, “How many of you want to receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour? How many want to find forgiveness for your sins and enter God’s plan for your life, here, tonight?” Every hand that I could see in that place went straight up. I said, “Alright, repeat after me.” We prayed the prayer of salvation together. My five minutes were up. My work was done. I left that disco walking on cloud nine, rejoicing, absolutely rejoicing.
A year later I returned to Kimberly. Harold met me at the airport. He said, “Get in my car. I have a surprise for you.” I got in his car. He did not say anything about it; he just drove through the winding streets until he came to the warehouse district. The car stopped. I looked out of the window. I could not believe my eyes. I wiped them and looked again. Instead of seeing the big disco sign, there was a huge white cross on the front of the building.
“This is not the surprise,” Harold said. “Come inside.” We walked up to that door where we had stood a year ago.” Are you ready for this, Reinhard?” Harold swung the door open, and I looked into a packed house full of young people. They were chanting, “Bonnke, Bonnke, Bonnke.” I cried out with joy. They rushed to me, hugging me and shaking my hands, bringing me inside. One young man said, “Remember me? I was the disk jockey that night that you came.” Another grabbed my hand. “I was operating the light show.” Another said, “We were dancing the night away. Now we are dancing for Jesus.”
“After you left town, the disco went bankrupt,” Harold shouted to me. “This disco is now a Church!” He was beaming from ear to ear. A fine-looking gentleman came up to me. “We heard about what happened to the young people here. My church has sponsored me to be a pastor to these kids.”
I stood again on that disco stage looking at those faces, so different from the ones I had seen in the strobe lights a year before. The lights were up full now. Even more, the light of the Lord’s favour was shining on every face. I pointed my finger to the heavens and shouted, “Jesus!” – “Jesus!” They shouted back to me as one, making the walls to tremble. “Praise Jesus! – Praise Jesus! He is Lord! – “He is Lord! Hallelujah! – “Hallelujah!” Now that disco was rocking the right way. Kimberley’s true diamonds were shining in their Father’s eyes.
There are countless stories which have arisen through Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry. I will let Reinhardt tell about this next one himself. This was recorded just before he died three years ago. These are some of his final words. This is what happens when the Holy Spirit moves. Follow this link to view the video: https://www.gunnedahbaptist.org.au/files/videos/Bonnke.mp4
When the Holy Spirit moves, there is no mistaking the presence and power of God. Reinhard Bonnke left an amazing legacy, having preached to tens of millions of people in Africa alone, leading hundreds of thousands of people to Jesus Christ. Throughout his ministry, Reinhard always pointed people to God and was always deferring to the Holy Spirit Who directed his entire ministry. If you want to see what happens when the Holy Spirit moves in and through God’s surrendered, available children, then you need look no further than the ministry of this one German Pastor whom God called to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to Africa.
Let me close with some quotes from Reinhard’s sermons which reveal a lot about His central focus and daily submission to God, through the Holy Spirit:
“God always works with workers and moves with movers, but He does not sit with sitters.”
“The Bible says that the devil is like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He comes in the darkness, and tries to frighten the children of God with his mighty roar. But when you switch on the light of the Word of God, you discover that there is no lion. There is only a mouse with a microphone! The devil is an imposter.”
“The Gospel is ‘Good News’, not ‘Good History,’ because when it’s preached, it happens.”
“If you are doing nothing, God doesn't need to give you any help in doing nothing. Go out and do something impossible for Jesus, and then God will help you.”
“Anyone can believe when God is already moving. But real faith is when you step out when it seems that God is not moving.”
“We may sing 'welcome, welcome, Holy Spirit', but He does not come because of our welcome. He is no guest, no stranger invited in for an hour or two. He is the Lord from heaven and He invites us into His presence.”
“I don't want to play with marbles, when God told me to move mountains!”
“The Gospel is like water; no man invented it, yet no man can live without it.”
“The Gospel is not reformation, decoration or renovation. The Gospel is liberation.”
“The Holy Spirit is a healing spirit. When the Holy Spirit is present, anything is possible.”
“The less Holy Spirit we have, the more cake and coffee we need to keep the Church going.”
“Christianity is supernatural – or it’s nothing at all.”
Now of course, none of this is new to us. We have always known about the essential role of the Holy Spirit in our lives if we desire to live up to our calling in Christ. God told us many years ago through Zechariah that it's . . .
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6)
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