Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke (19 April 1940 – 7 December 2019) was a German Pentecostal evangelist, principally known for his Great Gospel Crusades throughout the Continent of Africa. Bonnke has been an evangelist and missionary in Africa since 1967.
Bonnke has had over 79 million recorded decisions for Christ made during his crusades. He has preached the gospel to more people than anyone in history.
Born Reinhard Willi Gottfried Bonnke on 19 April 1940 in Königsberg, East Prussia, Germany, he got born again at the age of nine after his mother spoke with him about the punishment for a sin he committed, unless Jesus saved him. He felt a call to preach the gospel in Africa at the age of 10, and since then, never lost his passion to preach the gospel in Africa.
Son of a pastor and ex-serviceman in the German Army who initially did not take Bonnke’s call to preach the gospel seriously, Bonnke studied at The Bible College of Wales in Swansea, where he was inspired by the director Samuel Rees Howells. In one meeting after Howells spoke of answered prayer, Bonnke prayed, “Lord, I also want to be a man of faith. I want to see your way of providing for needs.
After graduation from the Bible College in Wales, he pastored in Germany for seven years and then went on to start missionary work in Africa. It was there, in the small mountain kingdom of Lesotho, that God placed upon his heart the vision of ‘the continent of Africa, being washed in the precious Blood of Jesus’ — an entire continent, from Cape Town to Cairo and from Dakar to Djibouti that needed to be reached and to hear the proclamation of the sign-following Gospel.
Founder, Christ For All Nations (CfAN), Bonnke began his ministry in Africa, with which he is principally identified, preaching in Lesotho in 1967. He has subsequently held evangelical meetings across the continent.
Encountering poor results from his evangelistic efforts and frustrated at the pace of his ministry, he had a dream with a picture of the map of Africa being spread with red and heard the voice of God crying “Africa Shall Be Saved”. This dream recurred four nights in a row and led him to adopt large scale evangelism, rather than the traditional small scale missionary approach. He rented a stadium in Gaborone, and preached with little cooperation from local churches. Beginning with only 100 people, the stadium meetings grew.
Evangelist Bonnke began his ministry holding tent meetings that accommodated large crowds. According to an account published by the Christian Broadcasting Network, in 1984 he commissioned the construction of what was claimed to be the world’s largest mobile structure – a tent capable of seating 34,000; this was destroyed in a wind storm just before a major meeting and therefore the team decided to hold the event in the open air instead. According to this account, the event was subsequently attended by over 100,000 people which is far greater than the 34,000 seating capacity the tents could contain.
He is known as one with a burning passion for the Gospel, a vision for Africa and a message for the world.
Since 1987, through a host of major events in Africa and other parts of the world, the ministry has recorded more than 77 million documented decisions for Jesus Christ.
As part of the discipleship-training program, 185 million copies of CfaN follow-up literature have been published in 103 languages and printed in 55 countries. Millions of books have been printed and freely ‘seeded‘ in nations around the world. All this is in addition to the Reinhard Bonnke School of Fire, an online, self-study course, aimed at inspiring others to Holy Spirit Evangelism and leading to either a certificate or university credits.
After graduating from the Bible College of Wales and returning to Germany, Bonnke led a series of crusade meetings in Rendsburg. He began receiving speaking invitations from all around Germany and the rest of the world. Bonnke met Anni Suelze at a gospel music festival, and admired the grace with which she recovered from a wrongly pitched music performance at the expense of losing the competition. He offered to preach at the church she attended one Sunday and fell in love with her. They married in 1964 and had three children (Kai-Uwe, Gabrielle, and Susie) and eight grandchildren.
Evangelist Bonnke went home to be with the Lord on 7 December 2019. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family.
Bonnke’s Autobiography, Living a Life of Fire is a collection of stories of his life including accounts of his childhood growing up during the Second World War and living in prison camps to his early years in ministry and how he believed God used him to bring the gospel of salvation to Africa.