Reinhard Bonnke -- Africa's Most Active Evangelist
German Reinhard Bonnke has carved out an international reputation as one of the only Western evangelists to work with the African Independent Churches. This has given Bonnke access to a third of all of the active church members in Africa. According to Bonnke's own numbers, in the past decade he has preached to 17.5 million people in Africa. He has tailored his crusades to appeal to his African followers, offering "excitement in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, being slain in the Spirit, laughing uncontrollably, and dancing in the Spirit."
Bonnke, the son of a pastor, was born in Konisherg, Germany in 1940. He is said to have committed himself to preaching the word of God at the age of nine.
His preaching in Africa began in 1967, in Lesotho. After a discouraging start, he decided to rent the national stadium and stage his first mass campaign. Ten thousand people turned up, and when Bonnke saw hundreds of people running forward, responding to the call for salvation, he is quoted as saying "I wept like a boy and vowed to the Lord that in obedience I would move across the whole of Africa to bring the vision to pass."
Since then, Bonnke has staged
campaigns in a number of African countries. In 1991, at his miracle crusade
in Kano, the epicentre of Muslim Nigeria, a riot broke out between Muslims
and Christians that left hundreds dead. (The Christian Church of Nigeria
has put the toll as high as two thousand.) Banned from Nigeria for eight
years, Bonnke returned in October 1999 to the Christian dominated city
of Benin. His open-air rally was again marked by tragedy. A surge in the
crowd of half a million turned into a stampede and fifteen people were
crushed to death.
Bonnke, like other Charismatic Christian evangelists, promises healing miracles to his African followers. In the Benin crusade, as seen in the Witness documentary Miracles: Faith and Damnation, Bonnke claimed sixty-eight miracles onstage. It was impossible to verify whether any healing had taken place.
Because Bonnke's African followers are the poorest of the poor, fundamentalists in Germany, Britain, the United States and Canada bankroll his African events. In Canada, a branch of Bonnke's Christ for all Nations ministry fundraises for his campaigns. It's estimated that Canadian evangelicals annually invest more than $250 million in global missions.
In November 2000, Reinhard Bonnke is planning to hold the largest miracle crusade ever - this one in Lagos - where all five arms of the Christian Association of Nigeria will participate. The crusade will take place over five days on an open ground with an estimated capacity to accommodate between 6 to 7 million people.