Remembering Bill Bright
I first heard about Campus Crusade for Christ around 1964 at the Fort Wilderness summer camp in Wisconsin where a team of College students presented the Campus ministry. As a young teen I was unimpressed with the materials they were using in simple black and white. “God’s Plan” , ” The Van Deusen Letter – The Good Life or is it ” and so on. In the next year Campus Crusade produced the four laws whose genius was using Scripture and simple transitions; As well as being the first three dimensional tract to be read along with someone personally asking for a response to the most important question of life. Most lost Americans are “religiously lost”. They already know that they are sinners in danger of Hell fire. They need to hear the Good News of Salvation ” by grace through faith” and not ” Theoretical formulations, thesis, axioms or condemnations “. Perhaps, those brought up in the lap of reformed theology or a grace filled home needed to hear more about Hell and their sinfulness, but the majority of religious lost in America were very well made aware of it already. They needed to hear the Good News and still do!
As a Senior in High School, already in the battle for souls as an Awana Club director, being in Navigator training and the president of my High School’s Youth for Christ club; I took great interest in Campus Crusade’s great campaign on the California Berkeley University Campus in 1967 during one of the most critical years in America’s history. A few months later I was enrolled at the Chicago City College where I was asked to be the chairman of an Inter Varsity Chapter. After a few weeks our Christian Campus group agreed to ask Campus Crusade for Christ to accept us into its work. I began working with Dave Sunde, Conrad Koch, Marty DeBoer, Steve Kovic and Harry & Gladys Dickelman. Speakers on Campus included: Tom Skinner, Rich Wager, Bill Pierce, Jim Green and Pete Gillquist. Yes, I invited Pete Gilquist after he left Campus Crusade for Christ and the staff of Campus Crusade was at the meeting where Pete shared the Gospel – It was still unclear what had happened; And Braun, Gilquist, Craddock, Ballew and Walker were first going to create a new student movement called Acts 29 – we thought. Shortly after that most of them, if not all joined the Antiochian Orthodox church as priests where they are today . Guilquist was one of the major leaders along with Jon Braun and the others mentioned above who tried to take leadership away from a fast growing student movement. Several of us also went to hear Jon Braun in what was his last evangelical effort at North Park College where he attended seminary. I came into Campus Crusade during that time with the new national leadership being led by men like Swede Anderson, Paul Eschelman, Josh McDowell and Jim Green. I spent eleven years with Campus Crusade as a student leader and then as a staff member in Poland and at Cal State Long Beach in California. I was taught by Bill Bright during those years in California, Illinois, Texas, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Colorado, Indiana, Washington D.C and in Europe. I first heard Bill Bright speak at the Christmas conferences in Chicago ( Marriott Hotel ) from 1968 to 1971 where his messages were used to convinced me to go to Poland. I first met him up close around then at a Senior Panic conference during that time. In the summer of 1975 we traveled together by car in Yugoslavia and met in Colorado during staff training where I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ. At the end of 1979, I had decided to take some time off from Crusade staff to care for my 11 year old nephew who did not have a mother or a father he could go to as they both had new families which rejected him. I was single and could not take him on staff with me. I was hoping to find a wife at the age of 30 or another home for my nephew within a year or two. Instead, Martial Law broke out in Poland and hundreds of thousands of Poles came to live in Chicago. I became the president of two large Polish organizations in the 1980’s and shared the Gospel with the Poles in Chicago until we left Chicago in 2000. We left behind a prime time radio show in Polish which still goes on the air every week, a camp evangelization program which continues and we trained dozens of Poles who continue the work among Poles in Chicago today. After I left staff in 1979, I was asked to travel with Bill Bright by airliner and speak along side of him in Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta. He asked me to come back on staff at that time and I simply told him that I was waiting for the adoption matter of my nephew to play itself out. I really expected to re-join staff in a matter of months. There were other dynamics in Poland where I was high profile as the twice elected Chairman of the University Polonia students and it became better for me to stay away as dozens of new staff were coming from America to live in Poland in an unofficial manner.
The Lord had us meet again in 1990 in Washington D.C. where I was asked to speak to Christian leaders about the true nature of the fall of Communism. Dr. Bright came to hear me speak and we spent some wonderful personal time together talking about the ministry needs in Russia. I told him back then that Russia would only be open for a few years and to move quickly now. Today Russian Christians are saying that the doors are already closing. Campus Crusade for Christ has put all the resources it could into the former USSR and nationals will continue the work alone in due time. We wrote occassionaly to each other over the past 20 years and in 2000 his authorized biography mentioned my name. I last heard from him in a personal letter in 2001 and we hoped to meet in Florida before he was taken home to be with the Lord.
In 2004 I was privileged to meet again with his precious wife Vonette and to meet with his son Brad Bright and his biographer Michael Richardson at Beyond all Limits 2 in Orlando, Florida – as well as meeting with the new president of Campus Crusade for Christ – Steve Douglas, National leader Jim Green and Paul Eshelman who directs the Jesus Film Project and directed Explo 72. Vonette Bright and the two leaders of the Global Pastor’s Network ( John Maxwell and James Davis ) are pictured below.
Bill Bright was the real thing. He was a father figure for many of us who remained on track with the foundational truths of Scripture. He couldn’t be bought or shmoozed into any ” Christian ” caste system. All believers had royal blood flowing through their spiritual viens and all were taken seriously by him, He was a man consumed by the clear teachings of the Lord of all Creation and to be his instrument to a dying world. My precious wife Anna became a Christian because of the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ in Poland among Catholics. There is much more that I could say and many stories to tell. The picture directly below is one I took of him almost thirty years ago in Yugoslavia while we were on the run from city to city.
It is with great sadness I write this note as a great personal friend has left us on July 19th, 2003 to be with the Lord. Bill Bright’s greatest secret was that he treated all followers of Christ as being important and with the same great love and grace. He was a Jesus man through and through. It is also with greater resolve that we go to Poland, as our ministry there was eternally intertwined with his. On Saturday August 16, 2003 I was able to take sometime in the center of Cracow to sit and watch a replay of Dr. Bright’s memorial service at the First Baptist Church in Orlando, Florida which I visited on January 25, 2004. In the beginning of the memorial program was a picture of Bud Hinkson who left to be with the Lord about 11 years earlier. Bud Hinkson started the work of Campus Crusade for Christ in Poland which has impacted Poland with results which I can see today almost thirty years later. Larry and Debbie Thompson started the National Staff Movement of Poland several years later, after many contacts and evangelization meetings took place. Today they are together in Heaven rejoicing.
” Over the years our conversations were pivotal in my development… His vision extended to Saddleback Church. In the early years, Bill proved to be one of the few Christian leaders who understood our strategy for reaching the unchurched … My own passion for creating the purpose driven life and church tools came from His example… Other than my own father, I cannot think of anyone who has influenced me more than Bill. ”
A word from Bill Bright
Martin Luther, the great Protestant Reformer, once
remarked, “If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each
morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I
have so much business I cannot get on without spending
three hours daily in prayer.”
…begin every morning in prayer and end the day in
prayer worshiping our Lord.
Like other great men of God, he knew that having a
strong devotional life was vital to the success of his
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Prayer pulls the rope
down below and the great bell rings above in the ears
of God. Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so
languidly; others give only an occasional jerk at the
rope. But he who communicates with heaven is the man
who grasps the rope boldly and pulls continuously with
all his might.”
God’s Word commands us to “pray without ceasing.” We
can be in prayer every moment of the day,
demonstrating our devotion to God, our thoughts
focused on the Lord, and our hearts singing with
praise and worship as we go about our daily tasks.
In my devotional life, I have found it meaningful to
begin every morning in prayer and end the day in
prayer worshiping our Lord.
…I ask Him to think with my mind, to love
with my heart, and to speak with my lips.
As I get out of bed each morning, I worship Him
saying, “Lord, I bow before you and acknowledge you as
Throughout the day, I focus my thoughts on the Lord,
and praise and worship Him for His goodness. I tell
the Lord that I love Him, and I thank Him for living
in me. Then, I ask Him to think with my mind, to love
with my heart, and to speak with my lips. Since He
came to seek and to save the lost, I ask Him to seek
and to save the lost through me.
In the evening, I ask, “Lord, is there anything in me
that is displeasing to you, anything that I need to
…so that my
subconscious thoughts are on the Lord Jesus all night
I then like to spend whatever time is appropriate
reading and meditating on God’s Word so that my
subconscious thoughts are on the Lord Jesus all night
I want God’s Word to so abide in me that it will
always expose my imperfections. As the Holy Spirit
reveals my sins and weaknesses, I confess them
according to 1 John 1:9 and claim by faith God’s
victory for my life. That makes prayer and the study
of God’s Word an exciting adventure for me.
Yours for helping to fulfill the Great Commission each
year until our Lord returns,