a hero goes home to shine
You may have heard of a man named Bill Bright. Or perhaps you haven't. He was a humble man. Unassuming. Quiet, even shy. Yet his life has touched more people around the world than anyone in modern history including presidents, kings and even the pope.
By some estimates a billion people have been influenced in some way by Dr. Bright. It wasn't his work as much as who he was that led to this worldwide impact. You see, what he did was not much different from what many other leaders do. Bill wrote books and spoke from the stage in his soft, gentle way to inspire groups of people in more countries than you could hope to ever visit.
But he inspired as few others ever have or perhaps ever will. Beginning as a personal effort in the early 1950's, this simple contractor took the time to engage college students on the UCLA campus in discussions about spiritual viewpoints. His efforts grew into an organization known as Campus Crusade for Christ, eventually employing tens of thousands of staff in countries around the globe. The organization he started with his wife Vonette has long carried on his tradition of gently sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through various means of free expression. One-on-one dialog with neighbors, friends and acquaintances. Small booklets that people could pick up and read on their own initiative. International conferences. Personal dialogs with some of the most influential political leaders in history. Musical concerts. Books. Magazines. CD-ROMs. Web sites. The JESUS film, seen by more people and translated into more languages than any film in history. Radio programs. Television broadcasts. And much more. Always produced with a gentle sensitivity filled with genuine love and care.
Genuine. This is perhaps the best word you can use to describe the man who inspired not just an organization but a movement.
He was everything I know I should be. Yet in all the areas I fall short, he allowed God to work through his life to rise above human weakness. He never talked about himself. All his attention was directed towards you and God and the organization he inspired. When he was awarded the $1 million Templeton prize, which according to its own rules must go to an individual, he made certain the entire amount was instead given to Campus Crusade.
Those who met him, however briefly, would recall that he made them feel as if they were the most important person on earth. Walking along a street he would regularly stop total strangers and tell them that they were loved by a God who wanted to have a personal relationship with them. As he travelled from city to city, everyone he came into contact with -- from taxi drivers to hotel bell captains to waiters and waitresses -- would receive a genuine declaration of love and consideration, with a gentle request to think about our loving God and his desire for a deep personal relationship.
In my all-too-brief years during the mid-1990's working with Campus Crusade to help establish the organization's Internet ministry, I had the privilege on a handful of occasions to meet Dr. Bright. Each time I came away deeply inspired and forever changed by the experience. Even when the room was filled with influential leaders demanding his attention, his focus on the person he was speaking with -- even if it was a janitor -- never wavered, allowing them to feel deeply cared about.
He was what every Christian should be. Real. Loving. Humble. Thoughtful. Caring. Gentle. Different.
Dr. Bill Bright passed away on Saturday, July 19, 2003 following a long illness. He was 81.
Though I hardly knew him, I will miss him.
Yet I know that as much as he changed the world, he has now been changed himself. In an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, he has been ushered into the presence of the one person he loved most; the one who served as his model and inspiration: a man you have certainly heard of named Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus promised that those who are faithful in leading many to righteousness will receive a reward that will glow brighter than any star. Forever.
Do you know that God loves you? You may have heard that said before. Perhaps you brushed it off as a simplistic idea or religious viewpoint. It's far more than that. You're free to make any decision you wish about the truth of God's existence and his desire to have a personal relationship with you. But whatever you decide, don't lightly brush off a decision of such magnitude. Don't form an opinion based on what your friends or family might have told you or what you may have heard in passing. Examine the facts for yourself. You can start by learning more about the man who most inspired Dr. Bright.