Many, many years after I made the decision to pray for an hour a day, I was inspired, and actually surprised, when I read the life story of Bill Bright in the book, Amazing Faith. Even though I had been an acquaintance of Bill and Vonette Bright for quite a few years, I had never heard about the contract he wrote and signed with other friends in 1947. Tucked away in the pages of Bright’s book is the remarkable story of how a contract with God set the hearts of ordinary people on fire for God.
The development of this contract occurred during a weekend teacher training conference led by Henrietta Mears, Sunday school teacher and mentor to hundreds of students at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood.
One night during the retreat, Mears delivered a powerful message on being fully committed and “expendable” for Christ. Later in the evening, Bill felt compelled to go to Henrietta’s study room to talk and pray. Two other men, Richard C. Halverson and Louis H. Evans, Jr. felt similarly compelled, each on his own accord.
Without a plan or agenda, the informally assembled group of four was driven to their knees in prayer. They were overcome by God’s presence calling them to reach the world, especially college students, with the love of God.
Anointed through a vibrant encounter with the Holy Spirit, their prayer time produced untamed enthusiasm for the gospel and a plan for reaching students for Christ. Before they went their separate ways that night, they initiated the Fellowship of the Burning Heart. And they recorded on paper the lifetime commitments they made for the purpose of giving themselves entirely over to the God they loved.
The significance of the signed contract represented a powerful turning point in each of their lives, yet oddly, it has received little public attention beyond the pages of Bright’s biography.
The written contract read:
I am committed to the principle that Christian discipleship is sustained solely by God alone through His Spirit; that the abiding life of John 15 is His way of sustaining me. Therefore, I pledge myself to a disciplined devotional life in which I promise through prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading to give God not less that one continuous hour per day (Psalm 1).
I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship begins with Christian character. Therefore, I pledge myself to holy living that by a life of self-denial and self-discipline, I may emulate those Christ-like qualities of chastity and virtue which will magnify the Lord (Phil. 1:20-21).
I am committed to the principle that Discipleship exercises itself principally in the winning for the lost to Christ. Therefore, I pledge myself to seek every possible opportunity to witness, and to witness at every possible opportunity, to the end that I may be responsible for bringing at least one to Christ every 12 months (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).
I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship demands nothing less than absolute consecration to Christ. Therefore, I present my body a living sacrifice, utterly abandoned to God. By this commitment, I will that God’s perfect will shall find complete expression in my life; and I offer myself in all sobriety to be expendable for Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil 3:7-14).
Ignited by Passion, Purified by Fire, Ablaze with Purpose
Reading the four-point contract stopped me dead in my tracks. The straightforward principles in the contract were the very same convictions God had put on my heart decades earlier—commitments to prayer, purity and purpose. I had always highly respected Bill Bright and Henrietta Mears for the work they accomplished for Christ during their lives, but now I had uncovered a tangible blueprint for their passion, purity and purpose.
Their “sold out” love for God and willingness to invite the Holy Spirit into every area of their lives enabled these four people to live above their weaknesses and beyond their limits. They committed to “absolute consecration to Christ” and none of them would ever be the same.
Consider how God was able to use the expendable lives of those who put their commitment to Him in writing that night:
Bill Bright went on to found Campus Crusade for Christ, which is estimated to have led well over fifty million people to Christ around the world.
Richard C. Halverson wrote twenty-six books and eventually became the chaplain of the United States Senate.
Louis H. Evans, Jr. authored a number of books and pastored churches around the country, including Bel Air Presbyterian Church and National Presbyterian Church in Washington D.C.
Henrietta Mears was the director of Christian education at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood for thirty-five years, founder of Gospel Light Publishers and Forest Home Conference Center, and co-founder of Gospel Literature International.
Even now, as I consider the vows that each of them made to God, I am most compelled by the realization that they were not prompted to make these commitments because of an outcry against a liberal culture or resistance to political or societal correctness. Instead, a deeply profound experience with God ignited a passion within these four Christians that produced burning hearts for Him. It changed their lives and eternally impacted the lives of others for the living, loving God.
I encourage you to take the Burning Hearts 21-Day Adventure by (1) giving one hour of each day to God in prayer and Bible reading, (2) committing to live in this culture in complete sobriety and purity, and (3) asking God to give you at least one person to share the Gospel, for whom you will be responsible to lead to Christ. It is quite a counter-cultural and life-changing adventure!
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