Bill Bright, Founder of Campus Crusades Dies

If We Die, We’re in Heaven With Him
( [email protected] ) Jul 23, 2003 04:51 AM EDT

MIAMI – The head and founder of the largest Christian ministry died from complications related to pulmonary fibrosis at the age of 81, July 19. Bill Bright, leader of Campus Crusade for Christ was best known for energizing America’s evangelical Protestant movement after World War II.

"He has carried a burden on his heart as few men that I've ever known. A burden for the evangelization of the world," said Rev. Billy Graham in a written statement Sunday.

Bright, once a self-proclaimed “happy pagan” and California businessman met Christ in 1947, and since then devoted his life to outreach and ministry. He began Campus Crusades in 1951 in an effort to spread Christianity to the students at the University of California Los Angeles; CCC is now an international $374 million a year organization with a staff of 26,000 people in 191 countries.

Currently, CCC operates in sectors dedicated to evangelizing high school students, people in the entertainment industry, athletes, diplomats and college students. In 1957, Bright caught the public’s attention with the 77-word, “four spiritual laws.” In 1970, Bright plastered “I Found It!” signs across metropolitan areas followed by the revelation, “It was faith in Jesus.” In 1979, CCC released a two-hour film titled, “Jesus” under the patronage of billionaire Bunker Hunt; the film has since been dubbed in 650 languages.

Bright won the $ 1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion in 1996, after 45 years of service to CCC. During the 50th anniversary for CCC, Bright passed the presidency to the Rev Steve Douglass.

"A Christian can't lose," Bright said in an interview at the time. "If we live, we go on serving him. That's an adventure. If we die, we're in heaven with him, and that's incredible."

"Not only have I lost a dear and lifelong friend in Bill Bright, but the world has lost one of its greatest visionaries and faithful servants of Jesus Christ," Douglass said in a statement Sunday.

Bright's family members include his wife, Vonette; two sons, Zachary and Bradley; sister, Florence Skinner; brother, Forest; and four grandchildren.