I’ve just returned from the memorial service for Bill Bright in Orlando. Some of you were there, too. I know it was life-changing for me personally, for many reasons. But long before that service, Bill had a deep impact on my heart and vision…over many years and in many different ways. As a fellow member of the NPC, I wanted to share with you a few reflections about our fellow NPC member, Bill Bright. I hope this gives you increased reason to praise God for all He accomplished for Christ’s Kingdom through this humble servant of the King.

REFLECTIONS

My mind is flooded with so many memories, it’s hard to know where to begin. The Holy Spirit wove the vision and brilliance of Bill Bright into my life in so many ways over the past 35 years. The first time I ever heard

Bill speak was at a Wheaton Graduate School chapel service in 1968. The message is still with me. He spoke on “How To Be Filled With The Holy Spirit” and it opened my eyes to this wonderful Gift in a way that nothing had ever done for me before.

When I was starting out as a young pastor in 1968, I clearly remember using a 45RPM record of Bill Bright’s famous (already in 1968)) message on “The Uniqueness of Christ” in a Sunday evening service with my little church.

I still remember leading us in a lively discussion of it once we heard it. Even then, that wonderful emphasis he gave on Christ’s glory and supremacy caught my attention, and ignited my passion for God’s Son even more.

During those years I used some of the earliest versions of CCC training materials written by Bill (including the ten “Transferable Concepts” booklets) in much of my discipleship training with my church , too. I also trained students at adjacent Kent State University in using the 4 Laws booklet, taking them with me into the dorms to do it. Members of my church that went to EXPLO 72 in Dallas, an evangelism training gathering with 80,000 (Bill’s vision all the way), returned never to be the same again.

I remember, in 1975, when I first met Bill face-to-face, up at Arrowhead Springs. (This was during the time of the “Here’s Life America!” national evangelism outreach that came out of Bill’s heart and mind.) Ralph Winter and I went up to see him about CCC’s willingness to promote the Summer Institute of International Studies (which I was coordinating). Bill came out of a meeting to greet us in his cowboy boots and a cowboy hat! Was I ever in shock. Even now as I think back about a man who has walked with presidents and kings, I laugh about that “first impression.”

There was the time Bill and I talked about how he developed the 4 Laws booklet. The night before it was to go to press, with Vonette and a staff member doing final proof reading at the dining room table of his home, Bill decided to go to bed early. But suddenly, as he told it, he sat straight up and said to himself: “I’ve got it backwards”, ran downstairs at about 10 PM, and instructed Vonette to change the order of the “laws” so that “God loves you….” came FIRST (not second, as he had designed it originally) and “We have sinned” came second (not first). The rest is history!

I remember some 15 years later, sitting with Bill and Vonette at the their dinner table in their little bungalow up at Arrowhead. Bill spent a good deal of the evening sharing the fascinating story of God’s call on his life for ministry (when he was a business man, turned seminary student, studying at Fuller Theo Sem). He told how one evening in studying at his desk (he was still single) the Spirit came upon him and gave him (literally) a vision of all that the years would hold. In that hour, he saw things from Heaven that have since been fulfilled, such as the Jesus’ project (and on and on).

He was so filled with the sense of God’s glory, that he ran out into the street (his roommate followed him) and walked all over praising God. Bill told us that night at the dinner table that there were still pieces of that vision waiting fulfillment, which he was not at liberty to talk about until they finally came to pass. Even sitting there that evening listening to him (along with about 5 other members of the NPC) you could sense the mighty presence of the Lord in the room.

I remember another time in another intimate group, listening to Bill talk about the extraordinary night he experienced up at the Mt. Hermon Conference center, around 1948, when he was meeting with Henrietta Mears (founder of Gospel Light and at that time College Pastor at Hollywood Presbyterian Church). They had convened a group of other young men who, eventually, became some of the “bright lights” (no pun intended) in the evangelical world the last 50 years of the 20th century. He related to us that awesome account (which I had read about some years earlier) of how the Spirit of God fell on them as they gathered around the fireplace in Mear’s rustic cabin, and “put something in each of them” that night that bore fruit for decades around the world.

So many other memories have come back to me this morning, even as I typed these last few sentences–very special “revelations” to me about the heart of Bill Bright. I remember sitting, for example, with Bill and other NPC members (about 25 of us) in Washington DC about 12 years ago, listening to Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson talk about his own intimate walk with Christ. At one point. Dr. Halverson began to sing the little chorus: “Oh to be like Thee, Oh to be like Thee. Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art. Come in Thy power, Come in They fullness. Stamp Thy own image,  deep on my heart.”

And I looked over at Bill and saw him sitting there with tears streaming down his cheeks. THAT was the heart’s desire of Bill Bright his whole life.

Glancing up from my computer terminal just now, I looked over at a table in my office to see the framed picture of Bill and Vonette (and about 10 of us on the National Prayer Committee) gathered around (then) President and Mrs. George Bush (senior) in the State Room at the White House, on the National Day of Prayer in 1989, with Vonette holding a copy of a “Presidential Declaration”, presented by President Bush to her. The year before, Congress had legislated, for the first time ever, that the “National Day of Prayer” would be an “official” U.S. observance, by law, on the first Thursday of every May. Bill Bright is standing almost in the background (he later became a full-fledged member of the NPC). What a humble man of God he was–so giving, so serving, so willing to let others be in the “lime light”. This was true (as it was that day) even when it was BILL–as much as, or often more more than anyone else–who was responsible for the church-changing or nation-changing developments being recognized. In fact, I would say that the “behind the scenes, servant heart” of Campus Crusade for Christ that I’ve witnessed so often around the world simply reflects the “mind of Christ” (Phil. 2) that was so dominate in precious Bill.

Incidentally,do you know where the name “Campus Crusade For Christ” came from? After Bill had his vision at Fuller that night, he went in to see one of his favorite professors, Wilbur Smith (a great Bible scholar). Bill sensed he was to begin the fulfilling of the vision God had given him by working with students at UCLA. But he didn’t know what to call the ministry. Dr. Smith wrote the four little words on a piece of paper and slid it across the desk in front of Bill’s eyes. “CCC” was born that day.  (And it started out, incidentally, with a continuous 24 hour prayer watch on the campus–another insight into the soul of Bill Bright!).

Another memory comes from 1995, at the GCOWE–that is, Global Consultation on World Evangelization (AD 2000), with 3000 delegates from nearly 200 nations. Bill and I were slated to guide a major portion of one evening plenary. First, Bill spoke passionately on the need for all of us to experience “spiritual breathing” and receive a personal filling of the Holy Spirit. Immediately after that, I stepped up to guide a mini-Concert of Prayer, in which I had the delegates get on their knees and pray unitedly not only for a personal filling but also for a worldwide OUTPOURING of the Holy Spirit for the completion of the Great Commission. Talk about coming full circle! In 1968 I heard Bill speak on the Holy Spirit, and it changed me. Now, nearly 30 years later we were serving side by side to help mission leaders from the nations pray (maybe for the first time in history on this scale) for a filling of the global Church with the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a night and a sight I will never forget.

One of my last personal encounters with Bill was over 2 years ago in Orlando, when I was giving leadership to that year’s national “Fasting & Prayer Conference.” (that was the last one Bill sponsored). Bill had just learned about his disease 2 days earlier. At the time they had given him about 6 weeks to live. He was having a hard time breathing. So at times, he left the auditorium and went to a “waiting room” where he could watch on closed circuit TV. I went back there at one point to find him alone, walking back and forth, with the joy of the Lord all over his face. We talked and prayed together. It was a tender moment.

My very last time in Bill’s physical presence was about 18 months later, at the annual Mission America Coalition conference which happened to be in Orlando right after 9/11. The first night, Bill  came to greet us, hooked-up to his oxegen tank (which had to be wheeled up on stage with him). All he could talk about in his greeting was everything Christ meant to Him.  Following his 10 minute message, I was asked to give the plenary which “just happened” to be on the topic of “The Supremacy of Christ.” Talk about “coming full circle” ONCE AGAIN!!! Bill first fueled that vision in me in 1968 (see my story above). Now, 33 years later we were “teamed up” (just like at GCOWE) for an evening of bringing the same message to 400 national leaders!

But I hasten to add: The difference between the two of us that night, however, was fairly dramatic!! Bill knew a whole lot more than I did about what he was talking about. From his decades of personal experience in leading one of the greatest missionary organizations in the history of the Church (with 25,000 full time staff and nearly 500,000 volunteer staff), Bill Bright had a profound awareness of what the greatness and glory of God’s Son is REALLY all about!! Even with him now in Heaven, I want to continue to “sit at his feet” to learn from his undying devotion to the Savior as Lord of all.

The last time I heard Bill’s voice was over a speaker phone at the NPC meetings in Orlando this past January (see Dave Butt’s comments below).

From his hospital bed, with obvious shortness of breath, but WITH every breath, Bill Bright would ONLY talk about Christ and all He meant to him, and should mean to us. WOW! What a moment for the NPC to take with us into the rest of our lives.

We need to be in prayer for dear Vonette right now, of course. I have come to love her dearly over all these years. Surely they were a TEAM that provided an example to all of us who are married and in ministry. I remember Vonette introducing me at a CCC national high school conference by saying I had become like a son to her. Well, I can truly testify that both she and Bill were like spiritual parents to me over the years. I will never be able to thank God enough for them both!

Those are a few of many memories I wanted to share with you. BUT JUST THINK: There are literally hundreds of thousands of others around the world who carry similar treasures, and who are even at this very hour praising God, as I am, this one, incomparable blessing that flowed from the Throne, with the fullness of Christ, upon the Church worldwide: I’m talking about the unparalleled blessing of the person, and the vision, and the passion, and the ministry of BILL BRIGHT. “

“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for letting me (and all of us) see YOU so powerfully and winsomely in your servant, Bill Bright. He made us love YOU more than ever. He helped us serve YOU more wholeheartedly. Now, help us stay true to that passion and, for your glory, help us spread it to many others.

Amen.”

CHRIST IS ALL!

David Bryant

PROCLAIM HOPE!

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