A record 5,435,000 American college students begin fall classes this month. What will they learn of Christ?

The question motivates the rapidly expanding “Campus Crusade” movement, an Unusually ambitious effort to evangelize college students in North America and abroad. This fall, as part of a continuing “Christian crash program,” the organization is commissioning 151 new full-time staff members. They will be assigned to pioneer evangelistic efforts at such big-name campuses as Penn State, Purdue, and Arkansas. Even strategic Roman Catholic academic centers like Notre Dame and Georgetown may be visited.

“Ours is a low-pressure approach, logical and practical,” says Dr. William R. Bright, founder, president, and executive director of Campus Crusade for Christ International, Inc. “The approach is based on the idea that college students have a basic spiritual hunger and will respond if the claims of Christ are communicated simply by a Spirit-controlled person.”

Campus Crusade for Christ was founded in 1951, but not until a decade later did its rate of growth become extraordinary. Within four years the organization has (1) tripled its full-time staff to 451, (2) branched out into twelve countries, and (3) acquired a headquarters property at Arrowhead Springs. California, that is the envy of the evangelical world.

The Campus Crusade story is the lengthened shadow of a person, the dapper Dr. Bright, now 43. As a student leader at Northeastern State College in Oklahoma, he was a practical agnostic unconfronted by the claims of Christ. He did not meet Christ until, as a Los Angeles businessman, he attended a young-adult class taught by the late Miss Henrietta Mears in Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church. His fiancée, Vonette Zachary, first labeled him a “fanatic,” then decided for Christ herself in a conference with Miss Mears.

After their marriage, Bright continued his food specialty business while attending classes at Fuller Theological Seminary (he had taken work earlier at Princeton Seminary). But the burden of reaching college students weighed on him. He dropped out of seminary and began contacting student leaders on the UCLA campus. One by one, at luncheon sessions, during fraternity meetings, and in personal conferences, Bright won students to Christ. The converts eventually included All-America football heroes such as Don Moomaw and Bob Davenport, a yearbook editor, and student body presidents.

Today, with his 451-member staff, nearly all of whom hold academic degrees and many of whom hold several. Bright directs work on more than sixty U. S. campus centers, from which the work spreads to hundreds of colleges. There are an additional ninety-six staff members employed in South America and Asia. The aim is to place a trained national in each of the more than 100 nations where a college education is offered.

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Roman Catholic campuses are a special challenge. Bright indicates that important approaches are being attempted, but he refuses to be specific “because it might hurt our work.” In general terms, he characterizes the potential this way:

“One of the greatest movements of our day is in Roman Catholicism.”

Campus Crusade has some exceptionally influential college efforts. At Arizona State University, where Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss America of 1965, participated in Campus Crusade activities, more than 500 decisions have been reported annually. University of Texas, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Ohio State, and Oregon have strong efforts. Among Eastern schools, beachheads have been won at Yale, Harvard, Smith, and Radcliffe.

Pursuing a strategy of reaching the campus elite has resulted in some dramatic episodes. Last December, during the widely publicized demonstrations at the University of California at Berkeley, a Campus Crusade staff member won the confidence of student body president Charles R. Powell and led him to personal faith in Christ. Powell spent the past summer training with Campus Crusade (many present staff workers are Campus Crusade converts).

Occasionally, Campus Crusade runs into resistance from college presidents whose ecumenical ties are pronounced, and who tend to dismiss those whose efforts lack denominational sponsorship as “fundamentalist scalp-hunters” seeking to “badger” the students. One college chaplain told Bright bluntly: “I don’t want it, and we don’t need it.”

Many college administrators, however, are concerned over the sparse impact of most existing denominational agencies on the spiritual life of students. Wherever Campus Crusade is recognized—and more campuses have indicated a welcome than can currently be supplied with a staff worker—there is a faculty sponsor.

A phenomenal development in Campus Crusade annals has been the acquisition of plush Arrowhead Springs, a converted six-story hotel where Elizabeth Taylor spent her first honeymoon. In what Bright describes as a “modern-day miracle,” Campus Crusade has rallied gifts and pledges to assure eventual retirement of a $2 million mortgage assumed in December, 1962. At that time, the organization borrowed $15,000 for a down payment.

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The 136-room building, situated on an 1,800-acre site in the San Bernardino Mountains, was sold because as a luxury hotel it apparently could not compete with Palm Springs and Las Vegas. Campus Crusade uses the property for administrative offices and a training center. The original name was retained; it was drawn from the fact that a nearby mountain formation suggests an arrowhead pointing to mineral springs on the site.

Earlier this summer, Arrowhead Springs gave Bright some uneasy moments. A wealthy contractor promised $250,000 if Campus Crusade could attract a remaining $1,120,000 balance on the mortgage by June 30. The night of the deadline, staff members gathered for a meeting of prayer and praise as the last dollars were committed. The major portion of the committed money, however, was from a group of businessmen who were purchasing 600 acres of Arrowhead Springs land to help Campus Crusade. The contractor came up with the promised $250,000 but objected to the sale, and suggested instead that Campus Crusade borrow a necessary $1,000,000 on the 600 acres. Then came word of a gift of two Midwest apartment properties, the annual income of which enables payment of principal and interest on the remaining debt in ten years. Arrowhead Springs holdings remain intact, but tax-exempt Campus Crusade may now face criticism for becoming involved directly with commercial enterprise.

Arrowhead Springs is such an impressive bloc of real estate that it prompts criticism—including some of the sour-grapes variety. Bright is asked, “Why do you need such fancy property, and why so much of it?”

Some observers note that the property has potential as a university site. Bright does not rule out that possibility, but insists that Campus Crusade is making good use of the land and building in the interests of worldwide evangelism.

Another point of contention between Campus Crusade and a segment of the evangelical world rises from the seeming competition with the much older Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship.

Bright and Inter-Varsity chief John Alexander are good friends, and neither gives any indication of a competitive spirit. The evangelistic needs among college students are so great, and campus populations have soared so high, that no one organization is likely to be able to muster enough resources to do an adequate job.

Campus Crusade de-emphasizes the importance of creedal affirmations among students but does require its staff members to sign a “very conservative” statement of faith.

At Arrowhead Springs, it holds conferences and publishes such items as a quarterly with a circulation of 150,000. One tract, an authentic personal letter sent by Bright to an unconverted businessman, has had a distribution of more than 2,000,000 copies in at least eight languages.

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