If you’re relatively new to the Christian faith, the name Reinhard Bonnke will probably hold little or no significance for you. But for those of us who’ve been on the journey a while, the man is a true legend of the faith.
I first heard Reinhard Bonnke preach at the Kings Hall in Belfast. The year was 1987. The conflict in N Ireland was at its inglorious height, with not even the slightest hint of a peace process on the horizon. I remember traffic chaos on the way to the Saturday night meeting because there had been a bomb scare near the venue. On arrival, I was amazed to see over 10,000 people gathered to worship God and hear from ‘God’s servant’. I’d never seen anything like it in my life.
Eventually, Bonnke took to the stage. His message gripped me from start to finish, and his delivery was utterly mesmerising. I’d never heard a preacher like him. Sure, he raised his voice…but it wasn’t the kind of angry shouting that some of the old Irish preachers were notorious for. No, his was the sound of sheer excitement and pure joy. Reinhard took a simple biblical text and then explained it with stories and illustrations which totally made sense. Afterwards, he prayed for those who needed healing – and story after story flowed from many who believed they’d received a touch from heaven. I was profoundly impacted by that meeting. It was only in the proceeding weeks and months that I began to understand the impact of Reinhard Bonnke’s ministry in Africa, the continent with which he is principally associated. Kings and presidents respected him, and his outdoor gatherings attracted hundreds of thousands of people, with many finding faith in Christ.
In 1997, exactly ten years after my first experience of his ministry, I heard Reinhard preach again, this time in the city of Birmingham. I even got to meet him afterwards. He was warm, gracious and overflowing with kindness. After chatting to me, he laid his hands on my head and asked God to bless me and use my life for his glory. That night, I received something from heaven which I can only explain as an anointing. Over the next decade, I would travel extensively around the UK, speaking at thousands of events and leading many to faith in Jesus. Though I can’t fully explain it, I’m convinced there was an impartation that night when Reinhard Bonnke prayed for me. It shaped the direction of my life and ministry.
In 2007, 20 years after my first encounter with Reinhard’s ministry and 10 years after receiving prayer, I was honoured to spend a few days with him. Though now a little older, he’d lost none of his fire. Over good food and drink, he told stories of his experiences in life and ministry. He shared some of the challenges he’d faced too. Reinhard opened his heart with characteristic warmth & fresh humility – and I felt truly humbled to sit at his feet and learn, up close & personal. I will always be grateful to God for that privilege. It deeply impacted me.
In December 2019, at the age of 79, Reinhard Bonnke went home to heaven. How amazing to think that millions there will be grateful that a servant of God carried the gospel to their nation, their city, their town, their village. God used him to make a difference that will last forever. This one man’s life of surrender and obedience is a challenge to all of us. What might God accomplish through your surrendered life? Imagine if you dared to believe God? All things are possible.