German-American Pentecostal evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, popularly known in theological circles for his record-setting crusades as “the Billy Graham of Africa,” passed away on Saturday, December 7 at the age of 79.
The preacher died at home, surrounded by family, and is survived by his wife, Anni, three adult children and spouses, Kai-Uwe, Gabriele, and Susanne, and eight grandchildren
“He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family,” his wife Anni Bonnke said in a statement.
The family lives in the United States but Bonnke was best-known for his work with his ministry, the Christ For All Nations (CfaN) organisation throughout Africa. Historians have said that no Western evangelist spent as much time in sub-Saharan Africa as Bonnke.
CfaN claims that over 79 million people came to Christ as a result of Bonnke’s career, which spanned from 1967 until his retirement in 2017.
The Pentecostal evangelist preached a prayerful message of Christ’s transforming power while also boasting miracles and healings.
His death has created an outpouring of touching tributes from around the world.
“Those who knew him off-stage can testify to his personal integrity, genuine kindness, and overflowing love for the Lord,” said his successor, CfaN evangelist Daniel Kolenda. “His ministry was inspired and sustained by his rich prayer life, his deep understanding of the Word, and his unceasing intimacy with the Holy Spirit.”
CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and son of the American evangelist Billy Graham, evangelist Franklin Graham said Reinhard Bonnke was a powerful evangelist throughout the world, but particularly on the continent of Africa where his heart burned with compassion for people’s souls.
“Through the preaching of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, millions of lives will be in Heaven and we give praise and glory to God that His Word never returns void. Our thoughts and prayers are with Reinhard’s wife Anni and the entire family,”
President of Congress of Christian Leaders, Rev. Johnnie Moore told CBN News, “No single human being is more responsible for making Africa Christian continent,” than Bonke did.
“It was one of the great revivals in all of history. He was another giant of what I’ve come to call ‘the great evangelical century where a generation of pastors, missionaries and evangelists took personal responsibility for taking the Gospel to -literally- every corner of the globe. They wouldn’t rest until they had ‘reached the world in their generation’ and they succeeded in reaching more people in more places than any time in Christian history, except for the first generations after Christ. No one pursued that passion with greater resolve and almost no one inspired more to follow in his footsteps. He leaves a legacy of countless millions of Christians who breathe every breathe to reach every soul for the Glory of God in their generation, ” said Rev. Johnnie Moore.
Free Chapel Pastor Jentezen Franklin said only a few people have made the lifetime commitment to the message of the Gospel that Reinhard Bonnke made.
“He was a role model worldwide for his unwavering belief in the supernatural and miraculous power that we have through the Holy Spirit. With every fibre of his being, Reinhard knew God loved each and every one of his children and he desperately wanted everyone to understand the depths of that love. I pray that every Christian lives with the same authenticity and passion that he did every day on this earth. My prayers are with the Bonnke family today. May a life well-lived and a certain destiny give them peace and comfort.”
Evangelist Bonnke’s influence transcended beyond Christian circle that even the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari – a Muslim as a matter of fact -extended his condolences to the Bonnke family, describing his death as a “great loss to Nigeria, Africa and the entire world.”
“The President condoles with government and people of Germany, family and friends of the great preacher and teacher of the Bible, and all his co-labourers in the vineyard, praying that God will comfort all those that mourn him.”
While many hail him as a spiritual giant, his ministry was not without controversy among evangelicals. His activities in Africa at times stirred controversy.
He was scoffed when he promised miracles and anointing. Among other things, he claimed to raise the dead and heal the deaf, blind and disabled, drawing criticism from skeptics, other faiths and more traditional Christian churches.
Quite a huge crowd puller, his critics said the last thing African Christianity needs is more preachers who focus on spiritually shallow events. They say the quality of disciples, not the quantity of the crowd like Bonke drew, was the key to reaching Africans.
In 1991, there were religious riots in the Nigerian city of Kaduna after police granted permission for Bonnke to hold a revival meeting and thousands of Muslims took to the streets in an uproar. At least eight people were reported killed.
In 1999, 16 people died in a stampede during a rally organised by Bonnke in Benin City, Nigeria.
In 2014, the Associated Press reported that he was living in a $3m (£2.3m) apartment near Palm Beach, Florida.
Still, ordinary Africans adore him.
In his 2009 autobiography, Living a Life of Fire, he wrote
“I still have only one sermon. I preach the simple ABCs of the gospel.”
The son of a pastor, evangelist Bonnke was born in 1940 in Königsberg, Germany – a city on the Baltic Sea is now called Kaliningrad and is part of Russia. He felt the call to African missions as a kid, going on to attend seminary in Wales and become ordained in the German Pentecostal Church.
He led a congregation in northern Germany then became a missionary in the tiny nation of Lesotho in southern Africa. There, the Spirit gave him a vision of the African continent “washed in the blood of Jesus,” leading to his mass evangelism ministry.
He founded Christ For All Nations mission organisation in 1974. The church was first based in South Africa but moved its headquarters to Germany in the 1980s to distance it from the then-Apartheid government.
In 2017, he held a farewell gospel campaign in 2017 in Nigeria, after which he stepped down as the organisation’s leader due to health issues, passing the button to evangelist Daniel Kolenda.
Hillsong senior pastor Brian Houston cited Bonnke as an inspiration, saying,
“I love the way salvation resonates in his spirit, whether he’s on a platform speaking to millions or behind the scenes having a chat—Jesus is always on his lips.”
Bonnke authored 40 books.
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