By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service
ORLANDO, FL (ANS) -- William R. "Bill" Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, the world's largest Christian ministry, died July 19 from complications related to pulmonary fibrosis. He was 81, according to a news release from DeMossNewsPond.com.
As the world's largest Christian ministry, Campus Crusade for Christ serves people in 191 countries through a staff of 26,000 full-time employees and more than 225,000 trained volunteers working in some 60 niche ministries and projects ranging from military ministry to inner city ministry.
Bright was so motivated by what is known as the "Great Commission," Christ's command to carry the gospel throughout the world, that in 1956 he wrote a booklet titled The Four Spiritual Laws, which has been printed in some 200 languages and distributed to more than 2.5 billion people, making it the most widely disseminated religious booklet in history.
In 1979, Bright commissioned the JESUS film, a feature-length documentary on the life of Christ, which has since been viewed by more than 5.1 billion people in 234 countries and has become the most widely viewed, as well as most widely translated, film in history (more than 800 languages).
In 1996 Bright was presented with the prestigious Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, worth more than $1 million. The Templeton Prize is the world's largest financial annual award. Bright donated all of his prize money to causes promoting the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.
"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, a long-time friend of the Brights. "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."
Bright's work through Campus Crusade for Christ will continue under the leadership of Steve Douglass, a long-time associate whom Dr. Bright tapped in 2001 as his successor. "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," said Douglass.
Bill Bright is survived by his wife Vonette, who assisted him in founding Campus Crusade for Christ; his sister Florence Skinner; his brother Forest Bright; his son Zachary, who is pastor of Divine Savior Presbyterian Church in California; son Bradley, who is on staff with Campus Crusade; and four grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the Brights have requested that friends honor Bill's memory through the William R. Bright Legacy Trust to further the work to which he gave his life.