Reinhard Bonnke, TB Joshua And Overcoming Division In The Body Of Christ

“Let us have a minute of silence for one of God’s Generals – Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke. May his soul rest in perfect peace.” The entire congregation rose solemnly to their feet. Respect. Honour. Acknowledgement. A day earlier it had been announced that German Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke had passed onto glory at the ripe age of 79. “It’s all about Jesus, not all about T.B. Joshua. It’s not about Reinhard Bonnke; it’s all about Jesus.”

It was with these heartfelt words that Pastor T.B. Joshua began his sermon at The Synagogue, Church Of All Nations (SCOAN) on Sunday December 8th 2019. Hours earlier, his social media platforms – followed by millions – had published a touching tribute to Evangelist Bonnke, describing him as a “missionary with a burning passion for the Gospel.” Celebrating his ‘life and legacy of harvest’, Emmanuel TV declared, “The character of a true believer is that he finds refuge in the secret place of the Most High God. Heaven is our resting place, our dwelling place. Here Reinhard Bonnke rests – in the precious arms of Jesus Christ.”

I’m sure churches around the African continent and indeed the world offered similar sentiments and shared similar tributes. Reinhard Bonnke was, after all, a colossus in the evangelical world whose mammoth crusades led untold millions to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. However, the significance of Joshua’s poignant tribute lies in the divisive events preceding it, much of which remains shrouded in mystery by the ‘dirty politics’ that unfortunately infiltrated Nigerian Christianity. Indeed, many don’t know that Reinhard Bonnke publicly renounced any ties with TB Joshua – at the specific, urgent insistence of then Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) President Ayo Oritsejafor. 

In 2007, Bonnke had been interviewed by Emmanuel TV in one of his public meetings, immediately irking Nigeria’s Pentecostal fold who had denounced Joshua as an impostor who used diabolical powers. Bonnke spoke several weeks later on ABN (African Broadcasting Network) – the channel owned and operated by Oritsejafor – stating he was unaware of Emmanuel TV’s correlation with TB Joshua and renouncing any ‘endorsement of TB Joshua’ suggested by his initial interview. At the period when ‘persecution’ against TB Joshua from Nigerian Pastors was at its fiercest, Oritsejafor was undoubtedly among his chief critics, stating categorically in an interview with the Vanguard in 2009 that he did not consider Joshua to even be a Christian and threatening to ‘expel’ any member of PFN who was caught ‘fraternising’ with him. Oritsejafor’s spiritual father – the late Benson Idahosa – once famously said TB Joshua was ‘below his cleaner’ and defiantly declared he would shortly die. Without jumping to any conclusions, it’s pertinent to note his own passing followed soon after. 

In an article from US-based Charisma Magazine in 2002 about the controversies surrounding Joshua’s ministry, Peter Vandenberg, then executive vice president of Christ for All Nations (CFAN), explained Bonnke’s rationale for ‘keeping a distance’ from the Nigerian cleric. “We held a meeting organised by 2000 local pastors and every one of them said that Joshua does things that are occultic and that what he is doing is not doctrinally correct… We stand with the majority of Christians there who have denounced him. Our brothers in Nigeria are on the ground there, and they know best.”

It’s intriguing to note the ministry quoted ‘the majority’ as opposed to ‘seeking God’ for insight. However, years have passed since these controversies raged and time has unequivocally spoken a rather different picture than the ‘majority’ quoted above. Rather than receding away from prominence, TB Joshua has grown leaps and bounds, emerging as Nigeria’s most well-known televangelist with an increasingly large international following. Whilst Oritsejafor has faded into virtual anonymity, Joshua’s ministry has seen exponential, sustained growth (ABN has 1,500 YouTube subscribers and Emmanuel TV has 1,500,000). Prominent figures in Nigerian Christendom who vociferously condemned him such as Mike Okonkwo, Chris Okotie and Matthew Ashimolowo have dipped into ‘relative obscurity’ compared to Joshua’s meotoric rise in influence and acclaim.

Amidst such criticism, Joshua remained silent – letting actions speak louder than words. His sermons are centred on the simple truths of God’s Word, he engages in huge humanitarian projects both locally and internationally and the countless testimonies emerging from his ministry unequivocally give glory to Jesus Christ. Whilst Oritsejafor has been embroiled in the controversy of the Prosperity Gospel – recently caught on camera ‘commanding’ Americans to pay $5,000 each for an ‘anointed mantle’ at Morris Cerullo’s church – TB Joshua has painstakingly made it clear miracles cannot be exchanged with money and openly distanced himself from the excessive greed associated with the ‘Prosperity Gospel’. To surmise the scenario, the advice of Gameliel in Acts 5:38-39 springs readily to mind: “Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

I expect Bonnke just listened to what the ‘majority’ said without taking time to personally observe TB Joshua or seek the face of God concerning his anointed ministry. I am sure he – like many others in the Pentecostal fold – realised the truth about Joshua’s genuineness and unique spiritual calling but found it difficult to publicly acknowledge given his past comments. Regardless, this tribute by TB Joshua provides a powerful lesson, especially poignant for those in the vineyard of Christ. Let us forget pain of the past, put aside our differences in the body of Christ and ensure we stand for unity – with Jesus Christ at the forefront of all our actions and attitudes. After all, it’s not about Reinhard Bonnke, TB Joshua, Enoch Adeboye, David Oyedepo, Chris Oyakhilome or any other minister of God – it is all about Jesus! 

Tawia Acheampong is a writer on African affairs based in Accra, Ghana

2 thoughts on “Reinhard Bonnke, TB Joshua And Overcoming Division In The Body Of Christ

  • 23rd December 2019 at 6:23 pm
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    Thank you Tawia Acheampong.
    I am from the United States and have sent my sons to visit the Lord’s Church with TB Joshua.

    Your column and information was insightful, but what is more telling is TB Joshua’s unwavering commitment and demonstration of the love of Christ. “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.” 1John 4:12 Reinhard Bonnke I know loved TB Joshua as well.

    To God be the glory!

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  • 4th October 2020 at 6:51 pm
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    As concerning the Word of life, Luke 10 section 25-28 says: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
    Luke 18 section 18-25 says: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Matthew 5 section 43-48 says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    In Old Testament, the Jewish people and their ancestors were given the Law to observe. First, What Adam and Eve should observe was that they could not eat the fruits from the tree of wisdom. Then, their son Cain was told that he should not kill. As sins became increased, the laws were also added more. Up to the generation of Moses, the Law in Old Testament was given to Israelites. We know that the Law is good and the Law is used to punish people who commit sins, but people cannot obey the Law because the sinful spirits are in people. Even that we know stealing and giving false testimony are sinful, but greedy and pride spirits in us drive us to do sinful things. So as Old Testament prophesied we need to get rid of our sinful nature from our spirits.
    Jeremiah 31 section 31-33 says: “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
    Ezekiel 36 section 24-27 says: “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
    The prophecies are fulfilled when Jesus begins to teach love. The two greatest commandments are ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Love is above the Law and if people have love they are free from the law of sin and death. If people who are full of love will not think about stealing or giving false testimony but are merciful and they feed hungry people or give thirsty people something to drink or invite strangers in or clothe people who need clothes. The Law is for people who commit sins. Nobody will say that he will get reward because he does not steal before. But love is the grace we get. And with love we will get eternal life.
    Romans 13 section 8-10 says: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
    Luke 17 section 20-21 says: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say,’ Here it is,’ or ‘ There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    John 4 section 23-24 says: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

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