While many local churches are conducting follow-up work on new converts from the Billy Graham crusade, employees at Reinhard Bonnke Ministries in Sacramento have a much bigger harvest field in sight: all 50 United States and the 12 Canadian provinces and territories.

The week before the Graham crusade, employees at the German evangelist's U.S. headquarters in Sacramento began work on a two-year project: designing a 20-page evangelistic booklet that will be mailed to all 112 million households in the United States and Canada in September 1997.

Bonnke's international ministry, Christ for All Nations (CFAN), based in his hometown of Frankfurt, has mailed booklets to the 24 million homes of the United Kingdom and the 40 million German-speaking households of Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein during the past two years. To date, 70,000 decision-for-Christ cards have been mailed back to West Midlands, England, and 33,000 returned in Frankfurt.

The glossy British version of "From Minus to Plus: The Epic of Christ's Cross" features full-color photographs and the simple message of salvation in chapters from "Sin in the Twentieth Century" to "Close Encounter with God."

A HEART FOR AFRICA: Bonnke, 55, is known primarily for having held huge tent revival meetings in Africa since 1978. According to Bonnke's own numbers, in this decade alone he has preached to 17.5 million on that continent, with 3.6 million making professions of faith.

For most of his ministry, Bonnke has been preaching in the Third World. He continues to conduct crusades primarily in Muslim-dominated countries, such as Chad and Mali, that have a minority Christian population. He regularly encounters opposition not only from Muslim leaders, but the Orthodox church as well (CT, June 19, 1995, p. 44). "Reinhard is not interested in preaching in the United States, where there is 24-hour-a-day Christian television," says Ron Shaw, a native of India, who is Bonnke's national director in Sacramento. "He wants to go to the lost who haven't heard the gospel."

Lower costs and higher conversion rates are other factors. The typical Bonnke overseas crusade costs $200,000, with an average of 100,000 people making confessions of faith during a six-day event. Noting the cost of the Graham crusade in Sacramento, the 55-year-old Shaw says, "Reinhard feels a million and a half dollars is better spent in Africa and Asia."

Bonnke says God told him in a vision three years ago to blanket Europe and North America with the message of the Cross. His message encountered opposition in Germany from several prominent church leaders who have accused Bonnke of trying to confuse the population. Lutherans have been particularly suspicious of the theology of Bonnke, a Pentecostal whose crusades often feature miraculous healings. "No medical healings are shared publicly without medical verification," Shaw says.

Yet support has come from surprising quarters. For example, several Catholic priests in Austria read the sinner's prayer in Bonnke's booklet from their pulpits.

The key to the campaign, as has been the case with any Bonnke—or Graham—crusade, is local church participation. Some 3,200 German congregations have participated in the literature-distribution program. In the United Kingdom, 15,000 churches cooperated, a record for any joint endeavor there.

In the United States, the Bonnke ministry is hoping to have 50,000 local churches participate. Pastors must sign a statement of faith that involves orthodox beliefs.

CHURCH IN ACTION: Once an individual's response card is received, the ministry mails a letter to that person, informing him or her of the nearest church that is participating in the evangelism outreach. In addition, a follow-up booklet on the importance of church attendance, "Now That You Are Saved," is also mailed out. The church pastor then receives a letter giving notification of the response.

Bonnke is relying on the generosity of churches to help defray the cost of the U.S. mailing. At an estimated 60 cents per booklet, paper, printing, and mailing costs would be about $67 million.

"We're going to challenge God's people to help pay for their neighborhood or street," says Shaw, who is married to Bonnke's sister, Felicia. "We will challenge churches to take care of their own city." Jack Hayford's 7,000-member Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, has become one of the first congregations involved. The Foursquare Gospel pastor is on Bonnke's board of trustees.

In the UK, the project cost $10 million, and in Germany it cost $25 million. The Sacramento office—which moved into larger quarters last month—now has nine employees, but that number could swell to 200 when workers are needed to coordinate responses to the highly automated computer church data base.

Peter Van Den Berg, who moved to Sacramento from Frankfurt in October to direct the project, predicts it will be the most appealing mass mailing in U.S. history. "The quality of the material will lead people to make a decision one way or the other," says Van Den Berg, a 48-year-old Zimbabwe native who is vice chair of CFAN International. "People will keep it lying around the home even if they don't respond, because it is attractive."


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