ATLANTA (BP)–While Christians worldwide are mourning the death of Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, the organization’s current president said the ministry nevertheless continues to see God at work around the world.
“It’s harvest time now, but it won’t be forever,” said Steve Douglass, who took the helm of the world’s largest ministry organization in 2000. “I think we’re in a window of opportunity, and we need to take advantage of it here in America and around the world.”
Douglass was a featured speaker during the North American Mission Board’s July 27-30 Summer State Leadership meeting with Baptist state convention evangelism, church planting and communications leaders.
Douglass lauded the rise in cooperation among evangelicals. He cited the conference theme, “Networking for Kingdom Growth,” as an example of the kind of thinking that is helping accomplish Bright’s dream of seeing the world reached with the Gospel.
“If he had seen your theme I think he would be thrilled,” Douglass said. “I would say there’s more cooperation in the Gospel today than I have seen in my 34 years of ministry. I remember back when you could not talk about a citywide campaign with cooperation between various denominations and … parachurch organizations. But that day is done.”
Douglass told of one joint conference on global evangelization in which Southern Baptists and others worked through breaks for more than 15 hours of meetings — just so they could make progress on developing new strategies for reaching the entire world.
“We were deciding how to get the job done,” he said. “We dreamed of the number zero, the day when researchers will search to and fro throughout the earth and not be able to find an unreached group.”
Out of that meeting, he said, organizations advanced their efforts to translate the Bible into new languages after seeing the serious intent of other evangelicals to reach those groups.
Douglass also reported on the Jesus Film Project, one of Campus Crusade’s most well-known efforts at reaching people all over the world. Financed with funding from a supporter in the late 1970s, the film now has been translated into 820 languages and exposed to 24.5 million people around the world — with 3.5 million accepting Christ and 1.5 million going through a discipleship process.
“We’ve lost track of how many churches they’ve planted,” Douglass said.
In another effort that took place last summer, Bright had cast a vision for Africa of touching 50 million people in 50 cities in 50 days with the Gospel. By the end of the summer, 64.5 million people were exposed to the Gospel, resulting in 1.7 million decisions and 170,000 people enrolled in a follow-up process and connected with churches.
In one church, about 40 people — almost the entire congregation — were trained in the strategy and subsequently shared the Gospel with 900 in their community. Three hundred accepted Christ.
“Eighty people wanted to join them on Sunday morning, packing out this small church,” Douglass said. “Now there’s where you want to have a building project.”
He also shared successes of the organization’s core ministries on college campuses. In one case he was invited to speak on a college campus and was surprised to find a relatively small room designed for about 50 people. But 72 students showed up, and out of 37 guests 22 made professions of faith.
In Albania, students not only reached their campuses with the Gospel — but have touched almost their entire country.
“These students grabbed a ‘JESUS’ film under their arm and went out to the villages they came from,” he said. “And if they couldn’t arrange ground transportation they hired helicopters to go out to the places where no one could get to. Now that is zeal.”
But while the harvest is ripe, Douglass said, the responsibility of Southern Baptists and other evangelicals is to be faithful to the task.
Noting that “Southern Baptists rank as some of the most creative, impressive and hard-working evangelists in the world,” he said the problem in America is there are so many bearing the label of Christianity who bear no evidence of changed lives.
“My challenge is don’t be one of those,” Douglass said. “The foundation of it all is your life. If you aren’t absolutely excited about Jesus Christ, if you aren’t so filled up with His Spirit that it just radiates out of your face, then you’re not helping as much as you know you want to help.”
He told of his own testimony of seeing Christ radiating through his future wife at a Campus Crusade meeting, and knowing that he wanted that same kind of relationship.
“That is the most central transaction of evangelism,” Douglass said. “When people see it, hear about it, they say, ‘Wow. That’s what I want! … Somewhere out there in the world there have to be people who are such true followers of Jesus Christ that it connects with [others] that there is a God.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: STEVE DOUGLASS.