Bill Bright: A quiet giant
- Thursday, July 31, 2003
Usually when a great and influential world leader dies, there are a multitude of headlines and news reports marking the event, but there was little fanfare when Bill Bright passed into eternity the other day. If you're scratching your head wondering who Bright was, that's exactly the way he would want it, but within evangelical circles he is paired with Billy Graham as the two most influential Christian leaders of the last 50 years.
While Graham is gifted at speaking to hundreds of thousands all at one time, 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.
You may think this is a sentimental exaggeration, but 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, Korea, in 1974 while serving as a short-term student missionary to Japan. When I returned to Riverside, Calif., to finish college, I'd often drive the short distance up the hill to his Arrowhead Springs headquarters to gain wisdom from this spiritual giant. Over the years, our conversations were pivotal points in my development as a leader, and I will deeply miss his counsel and friendship.
Other than my own father, I cannot think of anyone who has influenced me more than Bill. He taught me the power of visionary faith. 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, when, 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 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 tools related to the purpose-driven life and church came from his example.
In addition, Bill taught me the power of releasing the creativity of others. For instance, under the umbrella of Campus Crusade for Christ, there are now more than 60 specialized ministries that reach far beyond the original Bible study Bill started at UCLA. Those ministries range from inner-city outreach to supporting military families and stretch across 191 countries thanks to a staff of 26,000 fulltime employees and more than 225,000 trained volunteers.
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