The Three Callings of Steve Bray: A Look at the Man Behind Power Plus and Giving University
“I went to sleep, got up and went to work, and then at some point that day, I discovered a little evangelism tract in a phone booth,” says Steve. “It described Jesus and His plan for me. I prayed the prayer printed in the back of the booklet and signed my name. Then, I ran into a street preacher who told me to go to Calvary Chapel.”
I prayed the prayer printed in the back of the booklet and signed my name. Then, I ran into a street preacher who told me to go to Calvary Chapel.
It was 1975 and pastor Chuck Smith was ushering in the Jesus People movement through Calvary Chapel church in Costa Mesa, California. The welcoming, non-judgmental atmosphere appealed to Steve, as well as a whole community of hippies, surfers, and misfits, young and old. Steve soon found himself called down a different path that involved a whole new way of living and giving.
Steve says, “Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie taught me the Bible. I learned that, basically, you wake up, you eat, then you give. And I noticed the trend that you can never out-give God. Soon, I was sucked into a new lifestyle, built around the Bible and generosity.”
In 1981, Steve had another life-changing event when his wife Nancy introduced him to evangelist John Wimber. Wimber was pioneering the Vineyard movement from his flagship church which would become known as the Anaheim Vineyard. Steve says, “I was teaching three Bible studies there and getting ready to attend the Vineyard Ministries Institute to become a pastor.”
But then something unusual happened. “I asked God where He was going to send me,” explains Steve. “And I clearly heard God say, don’t be a pastor. I’m going to bless you in business so you can be a blessing to the Kingdom.” Steve was so confused that he began to doubt that this impression was from God.
I clearly heard God say, don’t be a pastor. I’m going to bless you in business so you can be a blessing to the Kingdom.
“At that time, there was no such thing as faith in business, and no Christian groups telling you how to combine faith and business.” So he called on his mentor, John Wimber, for advice. Steve says, “I explained what I believed that I heard the Lord say and John’s response was simple and profound. He said, ‘I’m going to miss you in the pastor’s program, son. God is going to use you elsewhere.’”
With his second calling validated, Steve abandoned his pastor training and headed into corporate life. Steve says, “I had barely graduated from high school and had no business degree or formal training. But God assured me that it was going to be about His favor, and it was not about me.”
And God was true to His word. By 2006, Steve’s company, Power Plus, had grown from $250,000 in annual revenue to over $133 million with more than 900 employees. “The company was doing insanely well with significant year over year growth,” says Steve. “It was during this time that I took my sons on several different mission trips to explore the ministries that we were interested in funding. I thought this would be my new path for giving. But then I wondered, what if my kids don’t want to do this with me. That’s when God said, it’s not just about you and your kids.”
Once again, God was calling Steve to something bigger.
“God gave me a vision to pour the profits of Power Plus into a new ministry focused on empowering people to explore generosity to the fullest,” says Steve. “I went to the leadership at the company and explained it. My CFO agreed to help me establish the 501(c)3 non-profit status and Giving University was born.”
God gave me a vision to pour the profits of Power Plus into a new ministry focused on empowering people to explore generosity to the fullest …and Giving University was born.
Steve saw that the way giving was often talked about in the church did not ignite people’s passion and he wanted to change that. “I wanted to break down the false constructs we have about giving, like just writing a check or giving from a place of duty, obligation, or guilt. I know that when you ignite someone’s passion, there’s no stopping them. We want to invite people into this amazing lifestyle of generosity.”
Giving University is an eight-week course that allows people to experience generosity first-hand. Every student is given $1,000 to give away to a cause they are passionate about. They research causes and make a presentation to the board of Giving University and then they are empowered to take the check to the organization that they’ve identified.
Then, after the student finishes the first eight weeks of the program, they become a Giving University ambassador. As an ambassador, students have the opportunity to take a trip to a serve somewhere internationally. Giving University puts the trip together and pays for the cost and allocates $50,000 for the team of ambassadors to fund the organization they are working at. Since its inception, Giving University has funded 350 organizations around the world.
Although Giving University is based on the Bible, students are accepted from all walks of faith or no faith at all. Steve explains, “We are truth-based and the truth of the Bible is to focus on the poor and evangelism, so that’s what we focus on at Giving University. Half of the students who have gone through are not Christian. The Bible gives us the example of Cornelius who was not a follower of Jesus but he sent up prayers and gave to the poor, and God noticed. Jesus never shames a person for giving. We believe no one is disqualified from generosity. Everyone can find a place in generosity.”
The Bible gives us the example of Cornelius who was not a follower of Jesus but he sent up prayers and gave to the poor, and God noticed.
Steve says that so far, the Giving University model has had profound effects on both the giver and the recipient. Instead of just sending a check, students are learning why they are called to give and how to actually make a difference with their money.
And the ultimate goal? Steve sums it up this way: “The fires of generosity keep us warm in this cold materialist world. We hope to ignite more and more people with a passion for giving and see little fires push back the darkness all over the world.”
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