While we are arguing over what often amounts to twiddle-dee-dee and twiddle-dee-dum, there are some pretty amazing things happening in other places on the other side of the world. The other day I came across this 5 1/2-minute video clip:
I’m not sure how many of us in the States are aware of what is going on in places like Nigeria. Certainly, if the events of this video clip happened in the United States, it would be headline news on all the major news outlets.
I am by no means defending everything associated with the ministry of Reinhard Bonnke, Daniel Kolenda, and the Christ for All Nations evangelistic ministry. There are certain aspects of it with which I definitely do not agree. I do not agree that speaking in tongues is the sign of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I do not think Bonnke’s method of getting people to start uttering unintelligible syllables with the intent of “priming the pump” for receiving the gift of tongues is a valid means of transmitting a gift the Bible says is sovereignly distributed by the Holy Spirit. I am skeptical of some of the claims of supernatural healing publicized on the Christ for All Nations website, and of the highly theatrical way in which the prayers for healing are carried out. I wonder about the follow-up and conscientious discipleship of many of those who are purported to make professions of faith in the Christ for All Nations crusades. I am deeply concerned about Bonnke’s failure to distance himself from more overtly heretical ministries such as that of Benny Hinn.
Yet, upon spending various hours listening to the content of the messages given by Bonnke and Kolenda in various venues on various occasions, it is hard for me to say the essential core of the saving gospel message is absent in their preaching. While they hold out Jesus as the ultimate solution for people’s problems and the healer of people’s diseases, I did not come across any inference in Bonnke and Kolenda’s preaching that faith in Jesus would make one rich or magically take away all one’s suffering. There was a clear call to repentance, and a presentation of faith in the sacrificial death of Jesus as the only remedy for sin. From what I gather, the Christ for All Nations ministry actively partners, to the degree possible, with local churches in the areas in which they hold their campaigns, and diligently seeks to hand over the follow-up efforts to them. Thus far, in my investigations, I have not come across any accusations of Bonnke and Kolenda themselves living lavish or immoral lifestyles, or using their ministries as a means for enriching themselves.
By this time, some of you may be wondering, “Why even bring up a Pentecostal ministry such as that of Bonnke and Kolenda on a Southern Baptist blog?” The question I want to raise is, How should we respond to something like this?
- Should we dive in indiscriminately to support such a ministry, lock, stock, and barrel? My misgivings enumerated above are certainly sufficient, in my opinion, to merit an unqualified no as an answer to this question.
- Should we, on the other hand, give a blanket condemnation to this ministry, and treat Bonnke and Kolenda as false prophets or preachers of a false gospel? Due to the other reasons given in my list of positive elements associated with their ministry I find it hard to give an unqualified yes as an answer to this question.
- Finally, should we remain indifferent towards and coolly detached from what is going on with regard to ministries such as those of Bonnke and Kolenda in Nigeria and other places around the world? As I see the literal millions of precious souls for whom Jesus died hearing the gospel and making a profession of faith in Christ in response to the preaching of the gospel, I find myself unable to answer yes to this question, either.
On the one hand, I think we should be excited about the undeniable extension of the gospel that is occurring in degrees previously unheard of. Though I definitely question some of the doctrinal emphases and methodology associated with ministries such as Christ for All Nations, I have not yet found a valid reason for questioning the motives of Bonnke and Kolenda. Yet, the Apostle Paul, when faced with a situation in which the gospel was apparently being preached for less than honorable motives, proclaimed, “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18).
On the other hand, I think we should be gravely concerned about the discipleship and doctrinal health of the new believers and churches in places like Nigeria. It is not enough to present lost souls with a “ticket to heaven.” We are called to make disciples, not converts. And we are called to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12–13). How to best go about this will, no doubt, require much prayer and much spiritual discernment. We should not view those like Bonnke and Kolenda as enemies:
John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:38–40).
And yet we should not sit idly by and allow false doctrine to undermine the long-term healthy growth of the Church in places like Nigeria. As I wrote in another post entitled Building on Someone Else’s Foundation:
Where those who have come before us have laid a defective foundation, it may be necessary to correct, and even, in some cases, undo some of what they have built. In many places in which we go to work, there may be people teaching false doctrine or carrying out their “ministry” in ways that are more harmful than they are helpful to the edification of the body of Christ in the region. As long as we are doing our best to diligently carry out the other principles in this list, there is a time and a place for the careful and sensitive correction and rebuke of other workers (see, for example, Paul’s pointed instructions with this regard to both Timothy and Titus: 1 Tim 1:3-7; 4:1-6; 6:4–5; 2 Tim 2:15-19; 3:16; 4:1–5; Titus 1:5).
This point must, however, be balanced by the next point in my post:
When evaluating other ministries in the region in which we are working, we must be very careful to discern between a truly good foundation and a truly defective foundation. Just because people do things differently than what we are used to does not mean they are necessarily worthy of our correction or rebuke. The work of some consists of a mixture of both good and defective elements. In such a case, while we gently work to correct their errors, we should be careful to not tear down or delegitimize the good elements of their work.
While on the topic of spiritual awakening around the world, I would like to also direct your attention to the PowerPoint review of the book Global Awakenings, by Mark Shaw, which I have posted here. If we are truly interested in the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and not just giving lip service to being “Great Commission Baptists,” I believe we need to be more aware of what is going around the world with regard to church growth and gospel impact by means of spiritual awakening. Shaw’s book insightfully and fascinatingly analyzes some of the complex factors involved.
While I’m at it, I think it may be instructive as well to point you toward this post containing a link to a documentary film on the Todd Bentley Lakeland “Healing Revival.” This is one “revival” movement that, from what I am able to perceive, has even more serious points of concern than the Christ for All Nations crusades, and less of the potentially “redeemable” elements.
I also share some of my personal observations on praying for healing here.
Since I’m on a roll, check out, while you’re at it—I know, I know, you all have plenty of time to kill—my post on Revival: True or False?, giving some brief comments on the recent revival (apparently, in this case, authentic, for the most part) in Jena, Louisiana (including a link to some really good interviews) as well as some related comments on the Todd Bentley Lakeland shenanigans.
Finally, if you are still with me, I highly recommend you look carefully at my entire post on Building on Someone Else’s Foundation. Though I didn’t get a whole lot of comments when I wrote it, I think it is one of the most important and relevant blog posts I have ever written.