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Tribute to Paul Eshleman
The pioneer of the Jesus Film Project, Paul Eshleman, dies at 80.

A short tribute to honour a great servant of Jesus Christ and Campus Crusade for Christ who went to the Lord on 24 May this year.

In 1981 the Jesus Film Project was established by Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. The purpose was to distribute the 1979 film, JESUS, in many of the world’s languages with the stated goal of reaching “every nation, tribe, people and tongue, helping them see and hear the story of Jesus in a language they can understand.”

Bill Bright asked Paul Eshleman, who was originally involved in the production of the film, to head the Jesus Film Project. Over more than 2 decades, Paul Eshleman laid the foundation for a ministry that resulted in the JESUS film being recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the “Most Translated Film” in history, revealing the seriousness with which the JESUS Film Project takes their objective to share the gospel with people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Today the Jesus Film is still purposefully used as an evangelistic and discipleship tool in many languages and in different versions. It is now also available as a powerful App.

Paul Eshleman’s legacy is described as a dedication to spreading the Gospel through film and has left a lasting impact on Christian evangelism. In fact, the Jesus film has been credited with countless stories of individuals coming to faith in Jesus Christ after watching it.

In Paul Eshleman’s own words: “I’m driven every day to say, ‘Who hasn’t had a chance to hear yet, and how can I make that possible?’” “We are strategists for Christ, thinking of new ways to reach people with the message of life.”

With acknowledgement to, we share this tribute to Paul Eshleman’s Legacy:

Paul Eshleman’s life was driven by a desire for everyone, everywhere to hear about the love of Jesus in their own language. Paul grew up going to church but turned his life fully over to Christ while attending Michigan State University. After graduating with a master’s in business administration, marketing and finance, he enrolled in Bible college in Miami and began sharing the gospel with students at the University of Miami using the “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet.

In 1966, Paul joined staff at Cru (known then as Campus Crusade for Christ), co-founded by Bill and Vonette Bright. Then, a decade later, at Bill Bright’s urging, Paul stepped up to lead production on the JESUS film, a feature-length movie based on the Gospel of Luke. The film premiered in the U.S. in 1979 in 250 theaters.

Paul spent the next years of his life leading teams into major cities and remote regions of the world previously closed to Christians and the gospel, to show the JESUS film. As executive director of the Jesus Film Project, Paul spearheaded the initiative to translate and dub JESUS into hundreds of languages. By the year 2000, the JESUS film was in 600 languages! But Paul is perhaps best known by his friends and co-laborers in Christ for his personal yet innovative approach to evangelism. Paul constantly sought out ways the gospel could become more accessible to everyone on Earth, spurring on the development of portable film screening equipment and adaptable dubbing technology.

Today the JESUS film is available in more than 2,000 languages and has been shown in 225 countries—many times on equipment that fits neatly in a backpack. And thanks to partnerships with local believers, recording teams can turn out a new translation of JESUS in a matter of days. Jesus Film Project’s library of films holds more than 200 short films designed to spark conversations about Jesus and aid believers in evangelism, discipleship and church planting wherever they are. Many of the films are available in hundreds of languages.

Paul and his first wife Kathy were married for almost 50 years and faithfully served on Cru staff together before her death in 2019. Paul re-married in 2020 and is survived by his wife, Rena, two grown children, Jennifer and Jon, and six grandchildren.

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