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Bill and Vonette Bright Incorporate Campus Crusade

Bill Bright with college students.

ON THIS DAY, 28 August 1953, Campus Crusade for Christ was incorporated in Los Angeles. The founders of the organization were Bill and Vonette Bright. The concept behind their campus ministry was to “win the campus today and change the world tomorrow.” 

Today, Campus Crusade for Christ is known as just “Cru.” It trains Christian leaders in over ninety countries around the world and works on over one thousand campuses. 

Bill Bright was born on a farm in Coweta, Oklahoma, 19 October 1921. A good student, he overcame shyness to win a Future Farmers of America oration contest in high school. Vonette also grew up in Coweta. 

Following his graduation from Northeastern State University (Tahlequah, Oklahoma), Bright moved to Los Angeles and opened a catering business. While attending a Presbyterian church service in 1945, he realized that he needed Christ as the focus of his life. His heart changed and he was filled with enthusiasm for Christian witness. He was already engaged to Vonette; at first she accused him of fanaticism and considered breaking their engagement. Instead, she joined him in following Christ. 

A few years later, Bright had entered seminary and was in the final semester of his senior year when “Suddenly, without warning or without indication of what was going to happen, I sensed the presence of God in a way I had never known before.” He felt the Lord was telling him to drop out of school. Although so near the finish line, he obeyed. Later he wrote that it proved to be the right move. As a layperson, he had a freedom he would not have had as an ordained minister. 

In 1951 Bill and Vonette wrote a contract with God promising to use their lives in whatever way God wished. They began working with intellectuals in Los Angeles, the work which became Campus Crusade. Fourteen years later, Bill wrote the tract the Four Spiritual Laws which became one of the most widely used Protestant evangelistic tools of the twentieth century. Another major ministry he spearheaded was the Jesus Film Project. It has distributed and shown a docu-drama of the Gospel of Luke in hundreds of languages, winning untold numbers to Christ.  Vonette founded the Great Commission Prayer Crusade in 1972, served as chair of the National Day of Prayer task force, launched a radio program known as Women Today, and authored or co-authored a number of Christian books. 

Dan Graves

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