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EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second story in a seven-part series by veteran journalist Troy Anderson about major evangelists who are turning their attention toward America to help ignite what Billy Graham describes as an end-times “great spiritual awakening.” The first story featured Graham’s warning for America
By Troy Anderson
At a time when pollsters say the United States is fast becoming a “post-Christian” nation, international evangelist Reinhard Bonnke believes God has a different vision for the future of America.
Bonnke – whose ministry, Christ for all Nations, has recorded 72 million people responding to the call of salvation in Africa and elsewhere – claims God spoke to him in a dream last year saying, “America will be saved!”
“I’m moving on in years, but I tell you I still want to kick the devil before I kick the bucket,” Bonnke, 73, told thousands of people, mostly youth, gathered recently on the first day of the Jesus Culture Conference in Universal City, Calif. “America will be saved! America will be saved! That’s what the Holy Spirit told me.”
The prediction is similar to one Bonnke made in 1972 when he claimed God told him in a dream, “All Africa shall be saved!”
At the time, like now, many people thought “this was impossible,” Bonnke told the 6,000 people gathered at the event sponsored by Jesus Culture, an international Christian revivalist youth outreach ministry based out of Bethel Church in Redding, Calif.
The ministry – which also operates a popular record label, Jesus Culture Music – is known for its lively spirit-filled conferences, youth dancing during Jesus Culture songs and by its moniker, “A New Breed of Emerging Revivalists.”
“Well, you know, after having seen what I’ve seen in Africa, I’m an incurable believer,” Bonnke said. “I believe America will be saved, and we will march toward it, and the Lord will do what only He can do. We will go from stadium to stadium, from city to city, from state to state and from coast to coast in the name of Jesus. Amen!”
Bonnke’s enthusiastic prediction comes as he and a number of major evangelists and ministries – including Billy Graham, Franklin Graham, Greg Laurie, Chuck Smith, Banning Liebscher and Jesus Culture – are turning their attention toward America in the hope of helping ignite what Graham describes as an end-times “great spiritual awakening.”
Bonnke will speak Sept. 27-28 at the Good News Orlando crusade at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
It is one of many evangelistic outreaches planned over the next couple of years, including My Hope America with Billy Graham on Nov. 7.
In an event now involving more than 16,000 churches and hundreds of thousands of people, many Americans are expected to gather with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers the week of Nov. 7 – Graham’s 95th birthday – to watch programs featuring a dynamic new message from Graham, music and testimonies. [More information can be found by calling 1-877-MY-HOPE, or 1-877-769-4673].
“If ever there was a time this country needed the intervention of God, it is now,” Graham wrote in a recent letter to supporters of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. “We can and should pray for America as a whole, but remember that when God sets out to change a nation, He begins by changing people. It starts with individuals. The more I pray, the more deeply I feel that My Hope America is the right outreach for this country today.”
The renewed push for evangelism in America is occurring as a variety of polls show religious affiliation in the U.S. is at its lowest point since it began to be tracked in the 1930s, according to an analysis of newly released survey data by the University of California at Berkeley and Duke University. Last year, one in five Americans claimed they had no religious preference, more than double the number reported in 1990, the researchers found.
The “nones,” as they are being called, are people who claim no faith or say they are unaffiliated with any belief system, according to the Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif.-based evangelical Christian polling firm. Those most likely to be in this apparently growing group include Asians, young people, residents of the Pacific Coast and New England regions, political independents and men.
One common thread in every survey has been the significant number of millennials – those born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s – among the “nones.” A Pew Research poll found one-in-three millennials, 32 percent, have no religious affiliation.
Despite these numbers, a recent Barna survey of 18-29 year old Americans with a Christian background found 42 percent are very concerned about their generation leaving the church, and 30 percent say they are “more excited about church than at any time in my life.”
At the recent Jesus Culture Conference, Matagwos Gatbrekristos, 19, of South Pasadena, Calif., told WND he believes “100 percent with all my heart that America will be saved and we will be here to witness it.”
“I believe every civilization destroys itself, or something from the outside destroys it, and America is a civilization that is on the verge of destroying itself with all the gay and lesbian things and how they are trying to legalize so many different drugs,” said Gatbrekristos, who plans to become an evangelist.
“It’s a nation in decline, but really what I believe now is exactly the opposite – that God wants to work in us, and God wants to work through us, and nothing is impossible as long as it’s all done with a purpose to glorify God and with a purpose to bring people to salvation.”
Palmdale, Calif., resident Jasmine Ealderas, 18, expressed similar confidence in Bonnke’s optimistic vision of faith in America.
“I completely agree,” Ealderas said. “I think as long as we are all in complete unity it’s definitely possible. If we all come together and in no time – I mean the awakening is happening now. It’s happening now, and in no time stadiums are going to be definitely filled.”
On the last day of the three-day conference, Jesus Culture Director Banning Liebscher opened the evening at the Gibson Amphitheater by praying that “from coast to coast, from Los Angeles all the way to New York City, God would awaken the hearts of a generation.”
“I believe that is what He wants to release,” Liebscher prayed. “I believe He wants to release faith in your heart for your city. I want you to lift up your voice believing God intends to pour out His Spirit from Los Angeles to New York City, from the West Coast to the East Coast, and He intends to awaken an entire generation.”
Liebscher continued, asking God to “light our hearts on fire for this.”
“I ask that you would consume us with this one message – that Jesus would be made famous in this nation,” he prayed.
After the prayer, an American Bible Society video was shown. In the video, the narrator said that sometimes it seems “our generation is taking a nosedive, that we’re destroying ourselves.”
“Sometimes it feels like we are sinking in the quicksand of our own decisions and our uncertainty. Sometimes it seems like we don’t care, but we do. We are a generation that cares deeply and feels passionately. We are a generation of change-makers and we love and protect and we unite and restore. Our world is not an easy place, but nestled in this place that seems dark and hopeless there is a light and where there is light there is hope.”
After the video, Arthur Satterwhite, a senior program manager at the American Bible Society, told the crowd that the American Bible Society is partnering with Jesus Culture because it wants “to be a part of this movement.”
“This is what prompts us to partner with groups like Jesus Culture – ministries that God has raised up for such a time as this to train you and to send you revivalists back out into the world to be the hands and feet, the power of God, on this earth,” Satterwhite said.
Then, after Satterwhite spoke, Liebscher preached a sermon, saying his goal for the conference was not that people would attend, but rather they would go home and “see revival in your city, revival on your campus and revival in your neighborhood.”
“Look, we didn’t bring in Reinhard Bonnke because we’re not serious,” Liebscher told the crowd. “You are called to change an entire generation. You are called to shape the course of world history.”
In his sermon on the first day of the conference, Bonnke told the audience that God is a “God of miracles,” and he witnessed it firsthand – watching as more than 72 million people made decisions for Christ at his crusades in Africa and elsewhere.
“Everything in the Bible is miraculous,” Bonnke said. “It’s miraculous. Someone said to me, ‘Reinhard, you’re preaching sensation.’ I said, ‘Well, it cannot be avoided. It cannot be avoided because this book is a miracle book. From the beginning to end, it’s all miracles. It cannot be avoided. I don’t believe in sensationalism, but I do believe in the sensational.”
Another time, Bonnke said, a reporter asked him if he had doubts about his faith.
“I said, ‘I do have doubts, sometimes.’ The reporter was amazed. He said, ‘You have doubts?’ ‘Oh yes,’ I said. ‘That cannot be,’ he said. ‘Oh, I have doubts about doubts,’ I said. ‘Why have you always to doubt the truth? Why can’t we doubt the lies of the devil? I have decided to doubt my doubts and I have decided to trust my Jesus.’ Away with doubt and here we are: America will be saved! America will be saved, and you will see it, and you will have a part in it.”
An award-winning reporter, bureau chief, editorial writer and editor at the Los Angeles Daily News, The Press-Enterprise and other newspapers for two decades, Troy Anderson writes for Reuters, WND, Charisma and many other media outlets. He’s also the CEO and editor-in-chief of the World Prophecy Network and HopeRev.org – Online Newsmagazines and Multimedia Ministries Spreading the Hope of Jesus in the End Times. He lives in Irvine, Calif.