“I can’t purr like a cat when millions are perishing every day. I want to roar like a lion!”: The late Reinhard Bonnke
This was the conviction of a man who made his 79 years on earth count.
Astoundingly, it is estimated that 79 million people made Jesus Christ their Lord as a result of Reinhard Bonkke’s ministry. Yep, 79 million. That’s 1 million souls for every year of his life.
In a press release on his death yesterday, Brian Houston, Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church, shared a beautiful memory of him: “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’s work through Christ for all Nations (CfaN) may have transformed the African continent, but it wasn’t just the African people that he felt compassion for.
In Plundering Hell to Populate Heaven: The Reinhard Bonnke Story, former journalist Ron Steele recounted how there was a “major departure from the crusade calendar in 1985” because CfaN had received a call from the Far East to hold a full crusade in Singapore in December.
Bonnke had previously come to Singapore for short preaching stints, but this time the local church was eager to have him come to do a proper crusade. The evangelist had been initially hesitant to accept the invitation to speak at a major crusade outside of Africa, but he later agreed. And the rest, as they say, was history.
The Church in Singapore “immediately shifted into high gear” and planned every detail with “precision and diligence”. Churches worked hand in hand, with the Anglican Church headed by Bishop Dr Moses Tay at that time playing a major role in preparing for the crusade.
The old National Stadium was booked for 5 days (December 11-15), full-page newspaper ads were placed and posters were displayed in most public places, including buses.
The Singapore crusade was a test for Bonnke, who realised that he was preaching to a stadium packed full of people who had almost zero Bible knowledge. But it was not a solo effort, as the event was fully supported in prayer by CfaN’s intercessory ministry headed by Suzette Hattingh, who went ahead to “prepare the spiritual ground with her intercessory prayer groups”.
The following is an excerpt from Plundering Hell to Populate Heaven: The Reinhard Bonnke Story, which tells a compelling account of his visit to Singapore.
“On the night Reinhard preached on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, thousands experienced the reality of this wonderful Bible promise. ‘Never before have we heard an entire stadium full of people singing in tongues,’ was the amazed comment of one Chinese organizer.
An odd thing happened during that service. As Reinhard preached on the Holy Spirit, a large white bird suddenly flew into the middle of the stadium and hovered all the while within the arcs of the powerful floodlights.
‘It is a sign from God! The Holy Spirit is here,’ people whispered to each other in the stands.
As cripples jumped out of wheelchairs and cancers disappeared, the comment was heard over and over, ‘This is a breakthrough for Singapore.’”
Steele documented in his book that up to 50,000 attended each service during the 5-day crusade and at least 7,000 salvations were seen.
In addition to the nightly crusades, Bonnke was asked to speak to 600 university lecturers. Preaching from Mark 15:39 on the Roman centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus on the Cross and had a revelation that Jesus is the Son of God, Steele recorded that “a number of the learned men responded to the altar call” afterwards.
So great was the impact of his visit in Singapore that Bonnke was invited to return to Singapore for an even larger crusade in 1987. This was also accompanied by requests to hold similar crusades in Malaysia and the Philippines.
“Every time I take a microphone, I have only one purpose in mind – to see hell empty and heaven full.” – Reinhard Bonnke
Sharing a personal reflection on a message from Bonnke that left the deepest impression, 34-year-old Singaporean evangelist Matthew Tan cited the statement above as one of two quotes that was “paradigm shifting” for him.
Tan remembers attending a local conference in 2010 where Bonnke made a special call for those under 25 years old to come forward to be prayed for.
A Bible college student then, Tan later went into full-time ministry a year later at the age of 26 and subsequently became a missions pastor at a local church. He now has his own evangelistic ministry that is based in Singapore but travels to cities and remote villages in Asia, ministering at healing services, gospel crusades and training up churches to minister in the area of healing.
“I was star-struck. He was the same live as he was in the videos. His passion for soul-winning is evident in the infectious way he spoke,” Tan recalled.
He said: “I caught from him the passion for soul winning. Everyone is precious to Jesus!
“The people coming to Jesus… they are not just numbers on a spreadsheet. God knows them individually by name. I see this all the time when people receive healing. The testimonies of healing are always personal. My ministry team merely stand in awe of what God has done!”
“I was amazed that God can use the obedience of one man to shape the eternal future of a nation,” he shared.
In remembering Bonnke, I’d like to leave you with a post on his Facebook page from 2013 that inspired me.
May our churches never be pleasure boats or cruise ships – but life boats and rescue ships that are well positioned to seek the lost. May we go into all the world to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ and never lose sight of our mission to save souls.
To leave a message for the Bonnke family or to learn more about his legacy, head over to reinhard.cfan.org. Or if you’d like to share your own experience of how Reinhard Bonnke has left an impact on your life, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!