CAMPUS CRUSADE FOUNDER Bill Bright died in July after a long struggle with pulmonary fibrosis. The famous evangelist didn't just convert people to Christ; he inspired not a few of them to embark on ministries of their own. Those ministries have in turn converted others and inspired a new generation of ministry-driven disciples. Here are just three examples:
• Josh McDowell, who heads a ministry that extends the impact of his decades of speaking and writing. Evidence that Demands a Verdict is his best-known book. McDowell has also become involved in humanitarian outreach to Russia.
• Dave Hannah, who founded Athletes in Action, a sports outreach ministry of Campus Crusade, and led it for decades. Hannah now gives himself to History's Handful, a ministry to individuals and corporations able to donate $1 million or more for fulfilling the Great Commission.
• Rick Warren, who is pastor of Saddleback Church, one of America's largest churches, and author of the best-selling The Purpose-Driven Life.
Here is how McDowell, Hannah, and Warren remember Bill Bright changing their lives.
The Contagious Evangelist
IN THE FALL of 1961, Bill Bright visited Wheaton College to give a chapel service on the Great Commission. After his talk, he took the time to meet with a few students and me at the student coffee shop. It seemed like time stood still as we sat in that booth, completely transfixed as Dr. Bright shared with us how to be filled with the Holy Spirit by faith.
He took a napkin and drew three circles with a simple chair sketched in the center of each one. On the first two chairs, he drew an S to represent the self, the ego.
"There are three kinds of people in the world," he explained. "The Bible tells us there is the 'natural man,' the 'spiritual man,' and the 'carnal man.' The natural man is one who hasn't received the Lord Jesus as Savior. The carnal man is one who has received Christ, but lives a defeated life."
Then, on the chair in the third circle, he drew a cross.
"But the spiritual man," he continued, "places Christ on the throne of his life, and his own ego steps aside to allow God's Holy Spirit to control his life. The fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and goodness—are the obvious benefits."
I remember thinking, When I get up and walk away from here, I will never again be the same. Never will I be able to say I don't know how to be filled with the Holy Spirit. And that proved to be true; my life has never been the same since that night.
That was only my first exposure to Bill's passion for evangelism. His faith and desire to share Christ was so much on the forefront of his mind; he was so captivated by his calling to reach others for Christ that it became contagious. You simply couldn't be around Bill without walking away with a greater desire to share Christ. Many people, including myself, so often think of evangelism as a task to accomplish. But Bill never looked at it that way. To Bill, evangelism was just a way of life.
BILL BRIGHT CHALLENGED me to think big and dream big and ask God for big things. I remember after I went on staff, Campus Crusade sent me to the University of Oklahoma. The largest number of OU students to attend a CC conference at Arrowhead Springs, California, was about 30 people. I decided to try to bring 100 from Oklahoma—that was far more than had ever attended.
When I told that to Bill, he said, "How about getting 500?"
That challenged me, and we actually ended up with 300 attending.
Some people in this situation might feel, "I only got 300, so I failed. I didn't do everything that Bill hoped I'd do." But I learned in working closely with him over the years that he wasn't upset that you didn't do the 500. He knew that if we were challenged to bring 500, but only recruited 300, well, that's a lot more than 100. It took me a few years to understand that.
Bill is the man who has most influenced my life in another way—his incredibly close walk with the Lord. I have been with him in every kind of situation for 41 years, and with Bill Bright what you see is what you get. I've also known other Christian leaders for whom that's not always the case.
When I was 25 or 26, Bill was going on some really important trip, and I needed to talk to him, so I took him to the airport. I had to pick him up in a place I wasn't familiar with, and I got lost.
Bill could have jumped all over me for making him late, but I noticed that he did not seem bothered or upset—even though this now meant he was going to have to fly across the country all night. When I let him off, he just said, "I guess the Lord has somebody he wants me to share with on another plane. We'll see what happens."
Little Tools Doing a Big Job
WHILE BILLY GRAHAM is gifted at speaking to hundreds of thousands all at one time, Bill Bright's gift was speaking to hundreds of thousands one at a time. As the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill created the largest Christian ministry in the world, yet his real legacy is the millions of people he either personally or corporately led to faith in Jesus Christ.
Bill Bright's little booklet The Four Spiritual Laws is the most widely distributed religious pamphlet in history. It has been printed in at least 200 languages and read by an estimated 2.5 billion people.
Now add Bill's role as producer of the Jesus film, a feature-length documentary on the life of Christ, which has been viewed by more than 5.1 billion people speaking 800 different languages in 234 countries, and you can begin to see just how large a shadow this humble man cast across the entire second half of the 20th century.
I first met Bill in Seoul in 1974 while serving as a short-term student missionary. When I returned to California to finish college, I'd often drive to his Arrowhead Springs headquarters to gain wisdom from this spiritual giant. Over the years, our conversations were pivotal in my development as a leader, and I will deeply miss his counsel and friendship.
Bill believed in a big God, so he had big dreams and took big risks. God honored that faith over and over again. His vision extended to Saddleback Church. In the early years, Bill proved to be one of the few Christian leaders who understood our strategy for reaching the unchurched, so he continually encouraged my wife, Kay, and me when others criticized us.
Bill also taught me that simple tools change the world. Millions of people now have faith in Christ because of tools he developed such as The Four Spiritual Laws, the Jesus film, The Spirit-filled Life booklet, and The Ten Transferable Concepts curriculum. My own passion for creating the purpose-driven life and church tools came from his example.
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Previous Christianity Today coverage of Bright includes:
Evangelicals lose three pioneers | Remembering Bill Bright, Paul Brand, and Larry Burkett. (Aug. 11, 2003)
Weblog: Campus Crusade for Christ Founder Bill Bright Dies at 81 | Former "happy pagan" went on to form one of the largest and most efficient parachurch ministries in the world. (July 21, 2003)
Bill Bright's Benediction | "As long as I have breath, I will praise and serve the Lord," the evangelist wrote earlier this month. (July 21, 2003)
Bright Unto the End | In the face of retirement and death, the founder of Campus Crusade says his spirit still soars. (October 12, 2001)
Bill Bright Announces Retirement | Current veep Stephen Douglass to lead Campus Crusade for Christ in July 2001. (July 20, 2000)
Bill Bright's Wonderful Plan for the World | Evangelicalism's power couple closes in on their radical mission. (July 14, 1997)
CT Classic: 'I'm Only Doing What God Told Me to Do' | The founder of Campus Crusade for Christ talks about America's moral disintegration, Christians in politics, and his hopes for the "greatest spiritual awakening in the history of the world." (September 24, 1976)
CT Classic: Campus Crusade Into All the World | Bill Bright leads a spiritual revolution. (June 9, 1972)
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