To me Reinhard Bonnke is one of the greatest evangelists of all time. His crusade meetings and other initiatives have touched hundreds of millions of people. Great miracles from God accompany his clear and forthright presentations of Jesus and the cross of Christ. We can thank God for Reinhard Bonnke and his partners who together have done great things for God. It also really seems that this man in spite of his great achievements and huge operating budget has kept his personal integrity over the years in the three main areas of temptation that men face, "the gold, the glory and the girls". Praise God for that.
I have started reading one of Bonnke's latest books entitled "Taking Action – Receiving and operating in the gifts and power of the HOLY SPIRIT". It has some interesting insights and excellent thoughts. All this from a man who is a practitioner par excellence in the field of Holy Spirit empowered evangelism. All the same I would like to raise some points and promote discussion concerning some of his statements. I believe Bonnke is a better evangelist than teacher, but his huge evangelistic success obviously create a platform for his teachings, which are going to be heard by many people.
The issue I have with Bonnke is his idea that if we are truly baptized in the Holy Spirit there is always going to be this amazing power available to us which will flow whenever it is needed.
Near the beginning of chapter one Bonnke writes:
"Singing, 'There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb," and then having to fast and pray for a month to get power does not add up." (pg 1)
What is the point of writing this? Bonnke is someone who himself has fasted 40 days more than once. In fact, I hear he and his team do it every year. And some of them say the experience is "hell". If Bonnke himself never practiced long fasts, then I think he would be able to tell us that they are unimportant in the process of obtaining working power from on high. But he has, so how can he say this?
Jesus fasted 40 days in the wilderness and had to defeat the devil there. It seems that Bonnke and his team have had to do this on a fairly regular basis.as well. The fight with Satan has been real. So why represent to people that fasting and spiritual warfare is not at least an important element in the operation of the power of pentecost of which he speaks much throughout the rest of the book? Why not admit that there are going to be fights and self-denial is a big part of it? I didn't hear him TEACH about self-denial, but I am absolutely POSITIVE that he and his team practice it in a big way. Jesus both practiced it AND taught it.
Bonnke has learned to "live in the Spirit"
Bonnke writes on page 13: "If through the Spirit, I spoke with tongues, then through the Spirit there could be other wonders. I have learned to live in the Spirit. I am on new ground where signs and wonders happen. Praise God."
I think HERE is actually a major factor in what distinguishes someone like Bonnke from the vast majority of x hundred million "spirit-filled" Christians in the world. It lies in something Bonnke says he has "learned" – that is, to "live in the Spirit". I do not believe for a moment that anything that happens automatically has to be "learned". Someone might say, well, "In Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17). "I am always in the Spirit" because "the Spirit of God lives in me" (Romans 8). Such a person may or may not be theologically correct, but Bonnke is talking about somethig he has LEARNED to do. And once we LEARN to do what Bonnke calls "living in the Spirit" then we too will be able to live the kind of life Bonnke lives.
What Bonnke has learned to do is to OBEY the SPIRIT of GOD, and to NOT "grieve the Spirit of God". He has learned to "keep the pipe clean" so the rivers of living water can flow out. This is what we all need to do, but HOW GOOD WE ARE at pretending that we are serious about this when we are not.
There are so many potential areas where we can slip up. Its not just in the area of unbridled sexual lust, though obviously that IS a concern to many. We can slip up if we become UNBELIEVING, FEARFUL, unthankful, doubting, money focused, anxious or in any way idolatrous. Add these things to the mix, and though we might "theologically" "live in the Spirit", the power will be greatly diminished, if not shut off. And then we can talk all we like about how these things "are not my calling" but really we are having ourselves on.
What Happens when we sin as Christians?
Bonnke writes that this thought about "one baptism, many fillings" is wrong. He writes:
"Before continuing, we must look at another theory. The theory has been propounded that the whole church was baptized in the Spirit forever on the Day of Pentecost. Individuals can seek to be filled for themselves, however, but one filling of the Spirit is not lasting or enough, and we need to keep coming for a repeat experience – "many fillings". Bonnke goes on to say, "there is not a single word about repeated fillings." (pg 22).
Bonnke rejects this idea of "many fillings". I have also heard him preach against the idea of "many anointings" – something he disdainfully calls the idea that you need more of the Holy Spirit like "fresh coats of paint".
I wonder if Bonnke rejects this idea because he has managed to avoid making many mistakes or sinning in his life. I think this is pretty true. I read parts of his autobiography "Living a Life of Fire" and you don't see any record of him making serious mistakes. Praise God for that. I wish we were all able to navigate life with God's help and never make any serious mistakes. But for whatever reason, most of us do, and have. I know I have. I am not proud of this, but I have to acknowledge this. One of the mistakes I have made is to lose some fervency in prayer when I had money in the bank, or assets. But what if I should now take Bonnke's doctrine to heart, and believe that I am filled with the Holy Spirit all the time and have no need for repeated fillings? I don't know where this would get me, actually.
My main concern in all this is to harmonise what Bonnke teaches with reality, if that is possible. Clearly, the best course of action is to live in obedience to the Holy Spirit at all times. Then you might never need a refilling, because you will be filled with the Spirit at all times.
Failing that, I think we need to apply some teachings in the Word of God about confessing and forsaking sin, and then going after God afresh. I believe God lets us FEEL our need for Him after we have played fast and loose with his holy standards. This pattern is in the Bible and I don't think we should restrict it only to the Old Covenant, which clearly shows it.
"Rejoice not against me, O my enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD shall be a light to me." (Micah 7:8)
Note that Micah said, "I shall arise" not "I am already up". He said, "the Lord shall be a light to me." This shows there might be a period of waiting again for a fresh infilling of God before the full benefits of pentecost are enjoyed. I think this also happens for a good reason – God does not want us to treat his holy things lightly. We need to learn the fear of the Lord if we have not done so already.
This piece is not supposed to be a condemnation of a truly great man of God, but rather a Berean examination of some of his teaching. The Bible says that we should test all things, and hold fast to what is good. So what do other think about this? Does Bonnke needlessly downplay the role of personal self-denial and ongoing seeking of the Holy Spirit in his exposition of how things work? Or is he making important points which if believed will actually empower us to do the works of Jesus better?