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Sad state of American churches is ‘scandal,’ Bill Bright tells SBC

ST. LOUIS (BP)–The sad state of America’s churches is one of the great scandals of Christian history, and American Christians must repent, live in the power of God’s spirit and pray for revival, Bill Bright told messengers during the closing session of the Southern Baptist Convention June 12 in St. Louis.

“One of the great scandals of the centuries is the condition of the church of Christ in America today,” said Bright, founder of the worldwide evangelistic organization Campus Crusade for Christ.

“The fires burn brightly in other parts of the world and in some parts of America, but, oh, we need to pray for revival and believe God for revival and begin in our own hearts.”

That revival will only come, however, when Christians surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ, confess the sins that hinder God’s spirit and live every moment in the power of the Holy Spirit, he said.

“Now, some will say that’s not realistic,” Bright said. “All kinds of problems plague us daily, but if we truly understand [who Jesus is], we are not hindered by circumstances.

“God often uses circumstances like illness and loss of loved ones, financial reverses for our blessing. And if we know how to say thank you in all things, and we learn how to praise him during trials and tribulations, … God blesses that expression of faith.”

Bright knows firsthand about illness and trials. Doctors only gave him a year to live in 2000 when he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable ailment afflicting the lungs. He wore an oxygen tube while speaking to the SBC assembly and had to stop several times with coughing spasms.

“But I am standing before you by the grace of God. I am praising him, though I am ready at any moment to go…. I can tell you that the last year of my life has been the most fruitful, productive and most joyful year of my life,” said Bright, author of more than 100 books.

“I am on this oxygen 24 hours a day,” he said, “but circumstances do not contribute to misery. It’s our lack of understanding of who God is and his wonderful, holy purpose for us that frustrates so many.”

Campus Crusade for Christ has more than 25,000 fulltime staff and more than 553,000 trained volunteers in 196 countries. Their “Jesus” film has been translated into more than 730 languages and viewed by more than 4.5 billion people in 234 countries, making it the most widely viewed film ever produced. More than 2.5 billion copies of his “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet have been distributed in more than 200 languages.

But Bright has not been content with those achievements. He is deeply involved in the launch of a new project, the Global Pastors Network (www.globalpastorsnetwork.org), which intends to train 5 million lay pastors to start 5 million house churches around the world.

“To surrender yourself totally, irrevocably, without reservation to the living Christ is the greatest privilege man can know,” Bright said. “This is life. To live the self-centered life is to live in self-imposed spiritual poverty.

“I am 80 years old and I am just beginning to really understand, though I preached it for many years, the importance of being dead to Bill Bright. Bill Bright has no rights in my life. Christ has purchased me; I belong to him. And if I refuse to walk in the light as he is in the light, I am the loser.”

After Bright’s message, SBC President James Merritt quoted 19th-century Baptist evangelist Dwight L. Moody, who said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with one man totally committed to him.”

“I believe we heard from that man today,” Merritt said.

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  • Mark Kelly