Lessons From the Life of Bill Bright

Bill Bright
Bill Bright with students in the early years of Campus Crusade for Christ. (Cru)

The founder of the world’s largest ministry stood before hundreds of younger church leaders. Bill Bright looked at us and said, “For the last 50 years I have made every decision in light of this question--how will this decision affect the fulfilling of the Great Commission?

It was 1998 and my wife, Naomi, and I were delegates to Leadership ’88, a historic conference for younger church leaders. We were humbled to be seated at the dinner table with Bill Bright and his wife, Vonette. At the time I was 38 and thrilled to be with these giants of the faith. When I heard his statement I immediately thought, what a testimony. Had almost anyone else made that statement, it would have seemed pretentious. From Bill Bright it was a factual, powerful statement of a life commitment. He was a missionary statesman of the first order.

Bill Bright had touched my life as a college student through the outreaches of the ministry he founded, Campus Crusade for Christ. And forty years ago this month--right here in Dallas--I was privileged to be one of the 80,000 people who attended the zenith event of the Jesus Movement--Explo ’72. Who was the visionary behind this mammoth event? You guessed it. Bill Bright.

Among the many life lessons I observed from this remarkable man, here are three of the most important ones:

Stay focused. For well over half a century Bill Bright kept the main thing the main thing--bringing global glory to Jesus Christ and fulfilling His commission to get the Gospel to every person and make disciples of every nation.

Think--and believe--huge. Bill Bright thought, dreamed, and prayed in world terms. “Small plans cannot enflame the minds of men,” he said. All of Bill Bright’s evangelistic initiatives were, in a word, huge. In 1956 he wrote the Gospel tract The Four Spiritual Laws. This booklet has been printed in some 200 languages and distributed to over 2.5 billion people, making it the most widely distributed booklet in history.

In 1976 Bill spearheaded the Here’s Life, America campaign with the goal “to saturate the United States with the gospel.” And in 1979 he commissioned the largest evangelistic outreach in history: the JESUS film.  Recent statistics indicate that the JESUS film has been translated into 1,121 languages with an estimated 200 million viewers responding to the film by praying to receive Christ as their Savior.

Give all. Bill and Vonette Bright literally signed a contract to be slaves of Christ. In my lifetime, perhaps no one gave of himself in promoting the cause and kingdom of Christ more than Bill Bright. Neither age nor disease stopped him from his passion to see Christ exalted and the Great Commission fulfilled. As his body was increasingly ravaged with pulmonary fibrosis and he fought for every breath, he remained totally engaged in reaching people for Jesus Christ. Often he would literally go from the oxygen tank to the studio to capture one more session. Then it was back to the oxygen tank. During the last two years of his life, although much of the time he was confined to bed, he was involved in some 80 projects designed to bring people to faith in Christ and train them as His disciples.

“God has placed in our trust a measure of time, a unique set of talents, and sufficient resources to carry out His will for each of our lives,” Bill said. “Our task as faithful stewards is to manage those blessings in order to bring maximum glory to His name.”

Find out more miracle stories from the life of Bill Bright--including how he providentially met Dawson Trotman (founder of The Navigators) in his first week in California--in David Shibley’s new book, Great for God.  This book is available through your Christian bookstore or in printed or e-book format from several online retailers including www.amazon.com and strang.christianbook.com

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