ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ who died July 19, was an example of a man who allowed God to harness his tremendous talents and use them for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.
He was born on his family’s ranch near Coweta, Okla., on Oct. 19, 1921. One of seven children, Bright grew up as “an agnostic, and just a happy pagan all through my high school and college years,” The Orlando Sentinel recounted Bright as saying. “I enjoyed life. I was fun-loving.”
He graduated from Northeastern State University in Oklahoma and later moved to Los Angeles to launch a successful business career. He started a specialty and gourmet foods business, Bright’s Brandied Foods and Bright’s California Confections, according to The Sentinel in a July 20 profile.
Despite his business success, an active social life and more than a passing resemblance to film star Clark Gable, Bright felt something was missing from his life, The Sentinel continued.
As he drove by the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood in 1945, he felt an urge to stop.
“It was almost as though an invisible hand reached out and pulled me into the church,” he said in The Sentinel. “It was the strangest thing, even as I think about it now.”
During the next few months, largely through the influence of the church and his mother’s prayers, Bright became a Christian and then began an intensive study of the Bible.
“I was a spiritual illiterate, so I went to seminary for five years to learn everything I could about the Bible and Christ and religion and, in the process, God led me to put aside everything I’d worked day and night to build for something better,” The Sentinel recounted Bright as saying.
He undertook graduate work at Princeton and Fuller theological seminaries, while continuing his business interests. At Fuller, Bright sensed the call of God to help fulfill the Great Commission. He began by sharing Christ with students on campus at UCLA, and that activity made way for the worldwide ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
Bright married Vonette Zachary, a childhood friend from Coweta, in 1948. In 1951, the couple drew up a contract with Jesus, pledging to give up their worldly pursuits in order help spread the Gospel to the entire world. They sold their food business and later an Oklahoma oil drilling company, The Sentinel reported, and used the proceeds to found Campus Crusade for Christ.
What began as a small campus ministry in 1951 now has more than 26,000 fulltime staff and more than 225,000 trained volunteer staff in 191 countries in areas representing 99.5 percent of the population. The organization has spread from its campus roots to cover nearly every segment of society and reach out to students, inner cities, governments, prisons, families, the military, executives, musicians, athletes and others.
Bright wrote more than 100 books and booklets, including the widely used “The Four Spiritual Laws.”
On July 10, Vonette Bright sent an e-mail to ministry members and supporters, telling them that her husband’s health had taken a turn for the worse in the previous week, The Sentinel reported.
“I feel secure, protected, loved and at times so joyful for Bill that he will be with Jesus,” she wrote.
Bright died July 19 from complications related to pulmonary fibrosis. He was 81.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CAMPUS BEGINNINGS and A TEAM FOR CHRIST.