He left for missionary work Africa at the age of 10 and says that he had the experience of Baptism in the Holy Spirit. He is the son of a pastor and ex-serviceman in the German Army.
Bonnke studied at The Bible College of Wales in Swansea, where he was inspired by the director Samuel Rees Howells. In one meeting after Howells spoke of answered prayer, Bonnke prayed, "Lord, I also want to be a man of faith. I want to see your way of providing for needs."
After graduation, he pastored in Germany for seven years. He began his ministry in Africa, with which he is principally identified, preaching in Lesotho in 1967. He has subsequently held evangelical meetings across the continent.