What do Billy Graham, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright, Young Life founder Jim Rayburn, Navigators founder Dawson Trotman, and former Senate chaplain Richard Halverson have in common?
The answer is a Sunday school teacher named Henrietta Mears. If the kingdom of God was a multilevel marketing pyramid, each of them would be in Henrietta Mears’ downline. Perhaps that’s why Christianity Today dubbed her “the grandmother of us all”.
When Henrietta was thirty-eight years old, she moved from Minnesota to a burgeoning town called Hollywood, California. She got involved in Sunday school at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, which Henrietta led to an astounding attendance of 6,500 students. For four decades, she faithfully devoted herself to her passion of building a cradle-to-grave Sunday school. While she was at it, she also started a publishing company called Gospel Light and a conference centre called Forest Home, and she wrote a book, What the Bible Is All About, which has sold more than three million copies.
It’s impossible to estimate how many millions of people have heard the gospel through the collective efforts of her protégés. Take the ministry that Bill Bright started, now called CRU. At last count, CRU had 20,000 full time staff plus 663,000 trained volunteers in 181 countries. The ministry offshoots include Athletes in Action, Student Venture, and the Jesus Film Project. An estimated 3.4 billion people have heard the gospel through CRU.
Bill Bright and his band of brothers, known as The Fellowship of the Burning Heart, shaped the twenty-first century way beyond our ability to connect the dots. [The salvation of countless millions is also] hyperlinked to Henrietta’s influence on a young evangelist named Billy Graham. Billy Graham called her “one of the finest Christians I have ever known.”
You may not influence millions of people, but you may influence one person who influences millions. You might be parenting or coaching or mentoring the next Henrietta Mears, the next Billy Graham, the next Bill Bright. Whatever they accomplish for the kingdom of God is part of your spiritual downline!
At the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul shares his who’s who list. There are twenty-nine names – Paul’s up line and downline. Who’s on your Romans 16 list?
Source: Mark Batterson, IF, 2015, Grand Rapids: Michigan, Baker Books, p.142-144