Two Foreign Missioners
- Two Generations
- One Continent
- One Gospel
- Different Assignments
- Much Lessons
The African continent is undoubtedly indebted to the ministries of Pastor Sydney Granville Elton and Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. The impact of the duo on the African soil is forever imprinted on the annuals of African Pentecostal history.
Just two days ago, the news filtered in of the home-going of Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke and that obnoxious report sent shock waves around the global Christian world from centre to circumference.
At no other time is it very pertinent and expedient to soberly reflect on, and look back in retrospect to the effect of foreign contact on African soil with particular reference to the ministries of Pa Elton and Evangelist Bonnke than now.
As a passionate believer in the oneness of the Body of Christ and a strong advocate of the Gospel without primordial sentiments, I believe without an iota of doubt that the trangenerational effect of the duo’s ministry holds much lessons for today’s ministers in Africa.
I equally believe that it will help our generation to chart a new course for the preservation and maintainance of apostolic values characteristic of the 1st century Church.
The lives and ministries and Pa. Elton and Evangelist Bonnke are a testament to the compact nature and symbiotic structure of ministry offices as overlaid in the writings of Paul.
The two men were foreigners and the geographical space of their ministries was predominantly Africa. Pa. Elton was a Scottish missionary who stepped on African soil in 1937 and did fifty years of ministry here in Nigeria – he went home to be with the Lord in 1987, buried in Nigeria.
Evangelist Bonnke was a German evangelist who did mission work in Lesotho for some time until the Lord gave him the vision of a blood-washed Africa. He saw Africa soaked in the blood of Christ and evangelized the continent aggressively with unrivaled impact.
Both men left their comfort zones in Europe to do ministry in Africa. While a lot of African young ministers would aspire to do ministry in the Western world, where the pastures are green in terms of modern infrastructure, the duo, on the contrary, answered the call to preach the Gospel of Christ in the continent of Africa where the conditions are not as palatable as where they were coming from.
It’s lesson in self sacrifice and that marked them out while posterity cannot forget their labour of love in a jiffy. Pa. Elton resided in Ilesha, Southwest Nigeria and named his dog Ilesha as a constant reminder of his mission to Africa.
He had only one daughter, Sister Ruth Elton, who is currently in her 80s and doing mission work somewhere in Kogi State, Nigeria.
For Evangelist Bonnke, he held mass crusades across the nooks and crannies of Africa, and Nigeria in particular was a major recipient of his ministry.
I have a feeling that Nigeria received the larger chunk of Bonnke’s ministry than any other African nation, although my suspicion is subject to the statistics available in Christ For All Nations’ (CFAN) data base, which happens to be Bonnke’s ministry.
Little wonder he chose Nigeria for his Farewell Gospel Crusade held in Lagos in November, 2017. Noteworthy is that as at the time of Bonnke’s homegoing, his ministry, under the leadership of his successor, Evangelist Daniel Kolenda, was holding crusade in Ekiti State, Nigeria. Evangelist Kolenda received the news of Bonnke’s homegoing in Nigeria.
If the Body of Christ in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria, immortalize Reinhard Bonnke, it is not too much a sacrifice to make. The man invested his spirit, soul and body in the Gospel of Christ in Africa.
Another vital take-home from the ministries of Pa. Elton and Rev. Bonnke in Africa is that of staying glued to one’s assignment in ministry. Their ministries teach us that we can belong to different generations, minister in the same terrain but with specific assignments.
The New Generation minister must not come under the pressure of competitive jealousy to move out of the jurisdiction of his calling. The Word makes it clear that God’s end-time army shall not break ranks – Joel 2:7.
Know your assignment well and stay put to it. Don’t become distracted by the criticisms or unbelief of men in what you’re doing. Don’t leave your mandate in ministry because of any kind of pressure.
While Pa. Elton did apostolic work in Nigeria, or by extension Africa, Evangelist Bonnke did evangelistic work, yet they operated in the same territory even though in two separate generations.
Through Reinhard Bonnke’s evangelistic crusades, many churches had a spike in church membership yet he himself didn’t have one single church. His ministry was roving and itinerant in nature while Pa. Elton’s assignment was to majorly open up a generation of ministers in Nigeria.
Again, know your assignment well in ministry and let no man or woman blackmail you out of it. Pa. Elton’s ministry was purely apostolic in nature. God sent him to Nigeria as a divine trigger for a new breed of ministers, many of whom are major voices in Nigeria today.
The likes of Archbishop Benson Idahosa, Pastor E. A. Adeboye, Bishop Francis Wale Oke, Dr. Mike Oye, Bishop David Oyedepo, Dr. Emiko Amotsuka, Pastor W. F. Kumuyi, Pastor Olubi Johnson, Barrister Emeka Nwankpa, Dr. Kole Akinboboye, and MANY MANY OTHERS were influenced by Pa. Elton.
Sometime in the 70s, Pa. Elton laid hands on my spiritual father, Pastor Peter O. Morakinyo as the President of the Christian Union, College Of Education, Ilesha, Osun State. So, Pa. Elton opened up that generation and gave them platforms for expression.
That was part of his major assignments in Nigeria in addition to shaping the destiny of the nation through his prophetic pronouncements. He was the one who connected Archbishop Benson Idahosa to Gordon Lindsay and T. L. Osborn and Papa Idahosa’s ministry exploded on the global stage.
He knew that his own assignment was not like Bonnke’s and he was secured in it. Papa Idahosa used to visit him at Ilesha. Even though he did not travel far and wide across Africa like Bonnke, he was however able to heavily influence a lot of ministers who have traversed the length and breadth of not only Africa but the entire world.
Prominent among them was Archbishop Benson Idahosa. As a matter of fact, it was at Archbishop Idahosa’s crusade in Ibadan in 1985 that Reinhard Bonnke caught the fire to gather crowds for crusades in hundreds of thousands.
Prior to that time, the largest Reinhard Bonnke’s tent meeting did not exceed 34000 people, but then he was invited by Archbishop Idahosa to minister alongside him in the Ibadan crusade of 1985, and according to Bishop Francis Wale Oke, when Reinhard Bonnke saw the crowd in hundreds of thousands, he broke down in tears and got the inspiration to go beyond his tent meetings into massive outdoor crusades. That was the turning point in Reinhard Bonnke’s evangelistic drive and initiative!
What is the lesson here? It’s that even though Pa. Elton did not hold large crusades in the order of Rev. Bonnke, he heavily influenced someone i.e. Archbishop Benson Idahosa, who in turn became an inspiration to Reinhard Bonnke to open up the valve of his calling.
It is therefore worthy of note that no matter the part we’re called to play in the plan and program of God for each generation, THERE’S A POINT WHERE ALL OUR CALLINGS, MINISTRIES AND WORKS CONVERGE, and it is we coming into that awareness that we realize that all this while, it is the same Kingdom that we have been building.
The initiation of the minister into this critical point breaks pride, jealousy, competitive tendencies, etc. and serves as a divine catalyst for the global mandate of the Church.
Until the New Generation minister realizes this unbroken synergy and stays on course while recognizing the parts that others are called to play in the value chain of divine agenda, he’s not ready for God’s end-time move and he may end up as a casualty.
As I close, this is therefore a humble and passionate appeal to the African minister, especially the New Generation minister, to take a cue from these two giants of Faith, Pastor Sydney Granville Elton and Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke, who left their foreign shores to do ministry in Africa.
We need to understand their heart, their sacrifices and of course draw from their individual ministries, realizing that even though we may belong to different generations, minister in the same terrain, but our assignments are uniquely different, and they dovetail into one single end – TO BUILD AND EXPAND THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON THE EARTH.
May The Lord Help Us All!