Remembering Bill Bright, My Mentor

Bill Bright, the founder and 50-year President of Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru), died 15 years ago today. There is a photo of him on the wall near my office at our Lake Hart headquarters that always elicits an emotional response as I walk past—gratitude, missing him, amazement at his faith. I wrote this article seven years ago and wanted to post it again on this 15th anniversary of his graduation to Heaven.

Bill and Vonette Bright–always smiling

Bill and Vonette Bright–always smiling

I had the amazing privilege for many years of working closely with Bill Bright.

He was editor-in-chief of the two magazines I edited–Collegiate Challenge and Worldwide Challenge. I helped him write the first five Transferable Concepts and the first edition of Come Help Change the World. I edited many articles that he wrote.

Needless to say, his thinking, his faith, his ideas have made an indelible impression on me. Of course, Bill Bright and I did not agree on everything, and I was grateful that he would listen to my ideas. And sometimes agree and even change.

What did I learn from Dr. Bright? More things than I can recount here. But here are a few of the most enduring truths he taught—by his life.

  1. The priority is to love God above all else. If you ever asked him what to pray for him, he always said: “Pray I never leave my first love.”

  2. Believe God. Trust God. Have faith in God. Bill always believed God for big things—even impossible things. He would make sure he had heard from God, then ask the rest of us to join him in going for it, in faith. There is a good reason his biography was called Amazing Faith.

  3. Live every day, every moment in the power of the Holy Spirit. “The Christian life is not difficult. It’s impossible.” So we must depend on the indwelling, empowering Spirit of God to live it through us.

  4. Love others. He wept when he heard that surveys showed that many students wanted to know Jesus, but they didn’t know how. A humble, shy man, Bill shared the love of Christ with everyone he encountered. He never badgered them—he just reached out in love.

I could go on. Be assured, he was not perfect.  But Bill Bright lived out the love of God as well as anyone I have known.

Fortunately, he made sure the things he had learned were made available to others.  He wrote dozens of books, prepared numerous training videos, appeared on many TV shows, did hundreds of daily radio programs (with my husband).

Here are four books he wrote that have had profound impact on me:

God: Discover His Character:  “We can trace all our human problems to our view of God” was one of Dr. Bright’s favorite comments. So he wrote a book to help expand our understanding of who God is and what He is like. A powerful picture of the God we love and serve.

The Secret: How to Live with Purpose andPower  Bill Bright probably did as much as anyone else to help believers understand what it meant to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit moment by moment.  He also played a key role in bridging the chasm between evangelicals and charismatics—opening communication and growing trust.

The Journey Home: Finishing with Joy Written from his sick bed, as he slowly succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis, Dr. Bright paints a beautiful picture of what it means to finish well with the Lord.  He gives a strong but gentle challenge to make life meaningful to the very end!

My Life Is Not My Own: Following God No Matter the Cost  I can’t count how many times I heard Bill say, “I am just a slave of Jesus Christ.” In this book he portrays that all he did to serve God had little to do with his own excellence and everything to do with becoming a “royal slave” to the King of kings. He presents a compelling vision of the freedom that comes from giving ourselves to Jesus as a bond slave.

So here’s an invitation. Get to know this man God used to touch so many lives.  Pick one of these books to read and you will be led straight to the feet of Jesus.

What about you? How has God used Bill Bright to help you in your walk with Him? What book or teaching of his was encouraging to you?

C2018 Judy Douglass