[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he photos have a monotonous consistency—homely but functional platform, enormous speakers, towering lights—all facing a sea of brown-skinned humanity as far as the eye and camera can see. I’d seen these photos of Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke’s African crusades before, but they didn’t register as the unbelievable, historic phenomenon they really are until I heard Bonnke speak in a rare stateside appearance in May.
The slideshow staged by Bonnke’s Christ for All Nations ministry hit me all of a sudden—along with the mind-boggling numbers accompanying the photos: 540,000 salvations in Monrovia, Liberia; 429,255 salvations in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso—and those are actually some of the smaller figures, noted in CFaN’s latest newsletter. I jotted down one statistic in my notes: 1.4 million people in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, a city I have visited before. This number represents not attendees of the crusade, spanning several days, but those who filled out decision cards, which are passed on to local pastors for follow-up.
That sea of humanity in many cases exceeds 1,000,000 souls, especially in Nigeria, where the German-born Bonnke is revered as a great man of God.
Now just let that sink in for a moment. One million men and women, gathered in one day in one place to hear the good news of Jesus Christ preached by a simple gospel preacher, followed by verified healing miracles and hundreds of thousands of commitments for Jesus Christ.
This, by the way, has been going on for several years.
“We are after souls,” Bonnke said in his soft German accent on May 19, when he and his partner in ministry, Evangelist Daniel Kolenda, visited Dallas for a prayer breakfast of CFaN supporters. “I want hell empty and heaven full.”
I have been a professional journalist for more than 25 years, with the great majority of my experience in secular media as a reporter, columnist, and newspaper editor. I am stunned not just because of the sea of humanity—I know that’s a cliché, but if it ever had a specific, concrete meaning, this is it—but because I have read so very little about it in American media.
History is being made. Millions of souls are coming to Christ on a continent that has only experienced a few generations of Christianity, and the first couple rounds were brought by white men and women who in many cases imposed their culture and their racist colonial ideals as well as their religion. This says one thing: We are witnessing an undeniable move of God, unprecedented in the annals of Christianity.
Why haven’t you read about it? I’ll be blunt with you. I have decades of experience in media to back it up, along with great respect for my many secular peers who carry on their work with integrity and skill. (In other words, I’m not inclined to take cheap shots.)
● Africa doesn’t matter much to American readers. The significance of anything that happens in Africa is discounted. Sorry, folks, we’re prejudiced in ways we fail to see. We place greater value on pale-skinned souls.
● These are Christian crusades, and disdain for Christianity is the acceptable bigotry in American media.
● We get all gooey-eyed when we hear about poor children who get saved or fed or schooled, but we don’t care as much about the adults who are on their way to hell.
● Bonnke is a simple (but exceptionally skillful) gospel preacher. He isn’t gonna wow you with depth, profundity, novelty, and controversy. As if it matters to God.
“The gospel must be preached crystal clear,” Bonnke told the few hundred privileged enough to hear him and Kolenda in person in Dallas. “An unpreached gospel is like no gospel. It is like a bottle of medicine next to a dying man…the gospel is the medicine to a sin-sick world. Go into all the world to preach the gospel.”
That is exactly what this man does. What do you preach on Sunday?
The Cover Jinx
There is a legend about Sports Illustrated, the much-respected weekly sports magazine, that says whoever gets featured on its cover is destined to fall from glory to shame. The supposed SI cover jinx is well known in American sports, and Emmitt Smith was so wary of it that he adamantly wanted off the cover before Super Bowl XXVIII, after the 1993 NFL season. Smith made the cover anyway, and the Dallas Cowboys went on to win that game. Research has shown, in fact, that the jinx is little more than urban myth. (Though try telling that to Nomar Garciaparra, Jay Cutler, Jimmer Fredette…) But let me inform you about a “jinx” that really does exist.
It is well-known among Dallas media that if you put a black person on the cover of your general-circulation newspaper or magazine, not as many readers pick it up.
Some publications–like the paper I edited for nearly 12 years, the Dallas Observer—recognize this fact but have chosen to ignore it; they put on the cover whoever they want to put on the cover and deem newsworthy, thank you very much.
Believe it or not, we at MannaEXPRESS have observed this cover dynamic as well, even though we probably have the most diverse staff, coverage, and readership in American Christian media.
And you know what? We have taken our stand as well: We will decide what is on the cover, and that is that. This month it is incredible Bible teacher Dr. Myles Munroe, who is a brown-skinned Bahamian national. If you haven’t heard him before, snatch up one of his books or recordings on leadership, prayer, or Kingdom principles and be enlightened.
I, for one, couldn’t care less what the marketers and business minds have to say about our cover choice, one of many brown-skinned believers we’ve featured. If anyone in media should have the guts to stand behind what’s right and ignore the rest, it should be Christians. I’m proud that MannaEXPRESS publisher May Olusola had an opportunity to talk to Munroe.
By the way, I have my own Myles Munroe leadership story. In late 1995 or early 1996, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “Learn all you can about leadership.” I heard about an upcoming Munroe leadership seminar at The Acts Church in Fort Worth and off I went, for three days of excellent instruction on servant leadership. At the end, Munroe prophesied to those who attended that some of them would be elevated to new and unexpected places of leadership within just a few months.
In May 1996, I was very suddenly—and unexpectedly, to most people—promoted two levels to editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer. My mentor at the time noted that I was one of the youngest and least experienced persons ever hired for that position, which I held for nearly 12 years until I stepped down in 2008 to write a book.
My point is, I know who to thank for that promotion: God. But I appreciate His servant, who has worked tirelessly to empower some of the least expected people, especially in the Third World. Thank you for being a faithful teacher, Dr. Myles Munroe.
The Strange Fire of Pastor Chris Oyakhilome
I’d heard from a close friend in Africa about the healing miracles that follow the ministry of “Pastor Chris” Oyakhilome, the Nigerian evangelist whose ministry, Christ Embassy International, is making major inroads into the United States through television, social media, and conferences. Pastor Chris, as he’s affectionately called by his many devoted followers throughout the world, appeared in the Dallas area last August for what was one of the very few conferences in the U.S. that he’d done up until that point. I attended for all three days, wanting to check out the teachings of this superstar preacher few have heard of here.
I went with a receptive mind, because my friend had a relative who’d improved significantly after receiving prayer from Pastor Chris for some sort of chronic ailment.
This was a slow-burn kind of situation. I stayed for the whole conference, listening and observing and taking copious notes. I am not a trained theologian, but I started to pick up on things that didn’t seem to jibe with what I’d read and studied on my own in the Word of God. For one thing, Pastor Chris would do altar calls but never mention sin—the impassable gulf that separates you and me from God until we receive Jesus’ blood sacrifice.
What are you being saved from, after all, if you’re not being saved from sin?
It took me sitting through hours of teaching to realize what Pastor Chris was really saying: Sin doesn’t matter anymore, because once you make a decision for Jesus Christ, you are an entirely new, immortal spiritual being, and anything you might do in your flesh simply doesn’t count. Think about the implications of that for a moment.
If you have any knowledge of church history, you might recognize something from the ancient past of our faith: Gnosticism. A false, heretical school of belief in the early church—Paul, John, James, and Jude rail against it in the Epistles—that teaches, among other errors, that whatever sins we commit with our mortal bodies have no spiritual significance whatsoever. You can see exactly where that’s headed. It’s a handy excuse for all kinds of sin.
You can read my full report on Pastor Chris, “Miracle Man,” in the October 2011 issue of MannaEXPRESS, available online at www.mannaexpressonline.com through the list of Most Popular stories. But Pastor Chris is making a big move into the U.S.—his was one of the ministries with a major presence at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention earlier this year—and I recommend that you check out J. Lee Grady’s recent report on Pastor Chris for Charisma magazine online (see the June 27 Fire in My Bones column titled “False Prophets, Foreign Charlatans and Global Deception” at www.charismamag.com).
You’ve been forewarned. See to it that you don’t fall prey to deception.
Benny Hinn’s Fresh Start
Lightning-rod healing evangelist Benny Hinn shocked his worldwide following when he and his wife of three decades, Suzanne, divorced in 2010. But finally, some wonderful news from the megastar-evangelist scene: The Hinns are set to remarry in October.
Pastor Jack Hayford, one of the most respected leaders in Pentecostalism, will officiate. Hayford has been overseeing the Hinns’ reconciliation, Charisma magazine reports.
Hinn shouldered most of the blame for the break-up, saying he’d neglected his family while building a hugely popular international ministry.
“What I did not realize was that in the process of ministering around the world, it was taking a far greater toll on my marriage than I realized,” Hinn said in a written statement posted on his website, www.bennyhinn.org. “I once believed that my ministry came before my family, and I now realize that I was wrong. God comes first, then my family, and then my ministry.”
Regardless of what you think about Benny Hinn’s ministry, let’s all pray for the Hinns as they take this very public step of repentance and renewal.