William R. "Bill" Bright (October 19, 1921 – July 19, 2003) was an American evangelist. The founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, he wrote The Four Spiritual Laws in 1952 and produced the Jesus Film in 1979.
Born in Coweta, Oklahoma, Bright described himself as being a "happy pagan" in his youth. He graduated from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma with an Economics degree. As a student at Northeastern State University, he was initiated into the Zeta Chapter of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity, and has subsequently been granted honorable alumni status to Alpha Gamma Omega Christ-Centered Fraternity. While in his early 20s he moved to Los Angeles, California and founded a company called Bright's California Confections.
Conversion / Early Ministry
In 1944, while attending the First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, Bright became an Evangelical Christian. He immediately began intensive Biblical studies which led him to graduate studies at Princeton and Fuller Theological Seminaries (although he never completed a degree at either). It was while he was a student at Fuller that he felt what he regarded as the call of God to help fulfill Christ's Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) by sharing his faith, beginning with students at UCLA. This gave birth to the Campus Crusade for Christ movement.
During the decades to follow, Bill Bright and his wife, Vonette, remained faithful to this work, and the ministry expanded greatly. Campus Crusade now has more than 27,000 full-time staff and over 225,000 trained volunteer staff in 190 countries.
Bright held five honorary doctorate degrees: a Doctor of Laws from the Jeonbuk National University of Korea, a Doctor of Divinity from John Brown University, a Doctor of Letters from Houghton Seminary, a Doctor of Divinity from the Los Angeles Bible College and Seminary, and a Doctor of Laws from Pepperdine University.
In 1983, he chaired the National Committee for the National Year of the Bible. He was named the 1996 recipient of the $1.1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He donated the prize money to causes promoting the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.
He wrote more than 100 books and booklets, and thousands of articles and pamphlets that have been distributed in most major languages by the millions. He was a signer of the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together.
Bright was a co-founder of the Alliance Defense Fund which funds high profile litigation cases on behalf of Christians' First Amendment rights. He was also a co-signatory of the Land letter of 2002 which outlined a just war rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, providing a theological underpinning for the invasion being planned by President George W. Bush.
He produced the Jesus Film in 1979, which was released by Warner Bros. in the United States. It was not a financial success, losing approximately $2 million. While praising its "meticulous attention to authenticity", critics panned Jesus for being "painfully monotonous". The Los Angeles Times called it a "...dull Sunday-School treatment of the life of Christ
Pastor Rick Warren • Author of "The Purpose Driven Life", stated, "The 'JESUS' film is the most effective evangelistic tool ever invented." Every eight seconds, somewhere in the world, another person indicates a decision to follow Christ…after watching the "JESUS" film. Every eight seconds... that's 10,800 people per day, 324,000 per month and more than 3.8 million per year! That’s like the population of the entire city of Pittsburgh, PA coming to Christ every 28 ¼ days. And yet, if you are like many people, you may have never even heard of it.
Bright was survived by his wife Vonette, sons Zachary and Brad, and four grandchildren.
The Rev. Billy Graham released a statement on Bright's death: "He has carried a burden on his heart as few men that I've ever known - a burden for the evangelization of the world. He is a man whose sincerity and integrity and devotion to our Lord have been an inspiration and a blessing to me ever since the early days of my ministry."
- Turner, John G. (2008). Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ : the renewal of evangelicalism in postwar America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3185-4.
- Bill Bright Memorial Website
- Bright Media Foundation
- Campus Crusade for Christ International
- Review of John G. Turner's Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ (University of North Carolina Press, 2008)