Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ

Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America

  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ
    Book Description:

    Founded as a local college ministry in 1951, Campus Crusade for Christ has become one of the world's largest evangelical organizations, today boasting an annual budget of more than $500 million. Nondenominational organizations like Campus Crusade account for much of modern evangelicalism's dynamism and adaptation to mainstream American culture. Despite the importance of these "parachurch" organizations, says John Turner, historians have largely ignored them.Turner offers an accessible and colorful history of Campus Crusade and its founder, Bill Bright, whose marketing and fund-raising acumen transformed the organization into an international evangelical empire. Drawing on archival materials and more than one hundred interviews, Turner challenges the dominant narrative of the secularization of higher education, demonstrating how Campus Crusade helped reestablish evangelical Christianity as a visible subculture on American campuses. Beyond the campus, Bright expanded evangelicalism's influence in the worlds of business and politics. As Turner demonstrates, the story of Campus Crusade reflects the halting movement of evangelicalism into mainstream American society: its awkward marriage with conservative politics, its hesitancy over gender roles and sexuality, and its growing affluence.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0475-6
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In June 1972, eighty-five thousand college and high school students converged for a weeklong festival. They lived in a “tent city,” listened to rock music, played in mud formed by down-pours, and enjoyed being away from their parents. Yet this throng of students was different from the youthful gatherings more often associated with the late 1960s and early 1970s. These young people were in Dallas for Campus Crusade for Christ’s “Explo ’72”—at “Godstock” rather than Woodstock.¹ The students spent the mornings listening to Bill Bright, Billy Graham, and other evangelical luminaries talk about Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and...

  5. 1 God May Choose a Country Boy
    (pp. 13-40)

    William Rohl Bright was born on 19 October 1921, the sixth child and fifth son born to Forrest Dale and Mary Lee Rohl Bright. Since her last pregnancy had ended in a stillbirth, Mary Lee worried that she would not be able to carry her next child to full term. When she became pregnant again, she “made a commitment to God that the next child would be dedicated to him.” Earlier that year, the Brights had settled on a ranch located on the outskirts of Coweta, Oklahoma. Coweta was—and still is—a small town situated on the railroad line...

  6. 2 Campus Ministry at America’s “Trojan Horse”
    (pp. 41-68)

    After deciding to found Campus Crusade for Christ, Bright wrote potential supporters to outline his vision, which fused spiritual and political concerns and objectives. He asserted that “the average collegian is spiritually illiterate” and—probably not counting Catholic or Jewish students—“estimated that less than five percent of the college students of America are actively engaged in the church of today.” After noting that virtually all American colleges and universities “were founded as Christian institutions,” he lamented that “many of our state universities and colleges and other institutions deny the deity of Christ, the Bible as the Word of God,...

  7. 3 Sibling Rivalries
    (pp. 69-92)

    At the 1943 convention of the National Association of Evangelicals, Harold Ockenga asserted that “the United States of America has been assigned a destiny comparable to that of ancient Israel.” Evangelicals recognized that in order to fulfill that destiny, they needed to reassert their position of leadership in American society. “It is not boasting,” William Ward Ayer had maintained at the NAE’s 1942 organizing meeting, “to declare that evangelical Christianity has the America of our fathers to save.” The founders of the NAE believed Bible-believing Christians could not “save” America unless they put aside theological and ecclesiastical infighting and united...

  8. 4 The Conservative Impulses of the Early 1960s
    (pp. 93-118)

    Despite Campus Crusade’s conflicts with Bob Jones University and the emerging charismatic movement, the organization grew quickly in the early 1960s, tripling in size to nearly three hundred staff on 108 campuses by 1963.¹ The ministry maintained its small office in Los Angeles and the summer training grounds on Lake Minnetonka in Mound, Minnesota. Bill Bright remained an evangelical entrepreneur, launching ministries in Asia and Latin America, beginning an evangelistic ministry to American laypeople, and experimenting with evangelism through various forms of media, including records and radio. As Crusade grew, Bright and his top assistants further standardized their evangelistic approach...

  9. 5 The Jesus Revolution from Berkeley to Dallas
    (pp. 119-146)

    On Monday, 23 January 1967, the campus of the University of California at Berkeley appeared poised to explode into another round of student protest and turmoil. The preceding Friday, the California Board of Regents—prodded by newly inaugurated Governor Ronald Reagan—fired Clark Kerr, president of the University of California system since 1958. During his gubernatorial campaign, Reagan had spoken disparagingly of the “mess at Berkeley” and “sexual orgies so vile I cannot describe them,” and he lambasted Kerr for failing to impose order on disruptive students. A scant two years before his firing, Kerr had struggled with mixed success...

  10. 6 The Evangelical Bicentennial
    (pp. 147-172)

    The mid-1970s were heady times for American evangelicals. Dramatic conversions were front-page news. Shortly after going to prison for his role in the Watergate scandal, Charles Colson announced his Christian faith in the best-selling bookBorn Again. Arthur DeMoss, a Philadelphia-based insurance mogul and a major Campus Crusade donor, posted half of the $100,000 bail for Eldridge Cleaver upon his return to the United States. The former Black Panther, who had spent years abroad as a fugitive from the U.S. criminal justice system, was baptized in the Arrowhead Springs swimming pool in October 1976 while Crusade celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary....

  11. 7 America and the World for Jesus
    (pp. 173-198)

    Despite the mixed success of Here’s Life, America, Bill Bright foresaw a massive acceleration of Campus Crusade’s ministries. Bright’s entrepreneurial style had always been to charge ahead and tackle new challenges rather than linger over setbacks. Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, describes his attempts to give counsel to Crusade’s president. When Hendricks and Bright met periodically, Bright asked his friend to “tell me what’s wrong with Crusade.” “He’d get out a piece of paper,” recollects Hendricks, “[and I would] give him three, four, five things.” Bright would express his appreciation, but “next year I’d come back [and]...

  12. 8 Kingdoms at War
    (pp. 199-226)

    Whether it was Josh McDowell speaking to university students, Senator Bill Armstrong speaking to a group of executives, or a staff member conducting a Bible study at a high school, Campus Crusade staff and associates regularly encouraged individuals to make a commitment to believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Yet Bill Bright dearly wanted to do more than evangelize individuals while watching the larger culture become less reflective of evangelical values. As Crusade continued to grow in size and stature, Bright and several others within the organization also focused their attention on evangelical solutions to the nation’s ills. Bright never...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 227-236)

    In July 2003, Campus Crusade’s staff members gathered at Colorado State University for the organization’s biannual staff conference. More than five thousand in attendance, they sang, swayed, and raised their hands to the high-octane praise music that pulsated through the university’s basketball arena. A group of contemporary gospel musicians, all African American, led the assembly in worship on several occasions. The vast majority of Crusade staff present were young, white Americans in their twenties and thirties, many of whom looked and dressed like collegians. Several high-profile evangelical speakers motivated staff members to remain passionate about telling other people about Jesus,...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 237-262)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-278)
  16. Index
    (pp. 279-288)