IN THE CANDID CORNER: Matthew, Mark and Peter
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. – Luke 23:24
The news that international evangelist Reinhard Bonnke was coming to Barbados hit the streets last Monday almost like news that some hurricane was approaching.
The early morning call-in programmes on the main talk show stations were inundated with talk about this man from Germany who was being brought to raise the dead.
Callers to the programme Down To Brass Tacks seemed more incensed when reports suggested that his presence would improve the economy and reduce crime and help the unemployment situation.
“Who is this man?” was the refrain.
Well known promoter and former Barbados Labour Party parliamentarian Mark Williams called moderator David Ellis and queried why Barbados needed this “Bonnke” man at this time. He recalled past crusades under evangelists like Billy Graham and some others who had promised a similar impact on the country. As he saw it, these kinds of people never deliver.
Williams’ position was soon challenged by another caller who was of the view that a visit by the president and founder of Christ For All Nations could do no harm and that we should adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
Mr Ellis seemed willing to adopt a similar approach as he engaged a female caller who had met Bonnke and who identified herself as one of his spiritual daughters.
The caller, who spoke with a British accent, cited one case in Africa of a man who had been dead for four days. According to her, Reverend Bonnke prayed for the man and he was restored to life.
Last Tuesday, pollster and my fellow moderator Peter Wickham engaged callers to the programme on the issue of a man coming to Barbados to raise the dead, which in his opinion was laughable. In his usual sarcastic and anti-Christian style, he said if he did not have more important things to do, he would go to the Wildey Gymnasium just to laugh at the spectacle. Wickham found it preposterous that an intelligent country with a high literacy rate would have time for such a man.
Another caller even went so far as to suggest that the organizers should adopt a preventative approach and take Reverend Bonnke to a ward in the hospital where people were on the verge of death so he could stop them from dying.
But these detractors and naysayers are not alone. There are thousands, perhaps millions, around the world who continue in their ignorance to deny the transformative power of God. The healing of the sick, the raising of the dead and the power of God to turn people’s lives around are not processes that can be proven by a poll and by scientific analysis.
Though Christians are a collective community of believers, Christianity is not a group thing but based on a personal relationship with God. It is a personal encounter that is unique to each individual.
Christianity is based on faith which, according to the New English Translation of the Bible, “is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see”.
Rather than allow detractors to speak negativity into my spirit, I took the time to research Reinhard Bonnke’s life and contribution to the faith of which I am a member.
Born during World War II, Bonnke lived in East Germany as a child. I listened online to a few of his sermons to get a feel for the man whom God has clearly used to “harvest souls” for the kingdom. Among the themes on which he has preached and ministered are: From Zero To Hero, Hell Is Real, Jesus Culture – Awakening 2011 and God Uses Ordinary People.
The message he has taken the world over is no different from the one I have heard across the airwaves and experienced as a child growing up in the Church of the Nazarene. It is a message whose vocabulary resonates with Christians everywhere: the notion that “God has no maximum”, “Hell was not made for man, but for the Devil”, to mention a few.
I am touched by his mission and mantra to “bombard the whole world with the Holy Spirit”.
So, I wish to let my friends Mark Williams and Peter Wickham know that the Christians who are going to the Gymnasium today are not going to see evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, but to be part of what we know will be “a massive and torrential outpouring of the Holy Spirit”. No amount of persecution or harassment of our faith will be allowed to deprive us of our opportunity to experience our God in real and miraculous ways.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
• Matthew D. Farley is a secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum on Education, and a social commentator.