Bob Buford: Mega-Force Behind Megachurch Movement Dies at 78

Bob Buford

Ministry leader, philanthropist, author and businessman Bob Buford has died at 78.

Buford Television, Inc., began with a single ABC affiliate in Tyler, Texas, and grew into a network of cable systems across the country. In 1999 Buford helped sell the family business interest in order to create philanthropic initiatives designed to serve churches. He often joked that he hoped the last check he wrote just before he died would bounce—because he had given away the last of his millions.

Those initiatives included the Leadership Network, a ministry started in 1984 to help the newly emerging wave of pastors who were breaking worship attendance barriers of 1,000 and sometimes 2,000 or more. The Halftime Institute that included teaching, coaching and connecting marketplace leaders to discover God’s calling on their lives. And the Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management (now The Hesselbein Leadership Forum at the University of Pittsburgh) and the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University.

His influence was wide ranging. Many leaders well-known in evangelical circles point to Buford’s impact on their ministries. Popular author and management expert Ken Blanchard said, “Bob made my faith come alive. Without his influence, I might never have become a loving follower of Jesus, and the organization Lead Like Jesus would not be having the impact it is having around the world.”

“I am grateful for the quiet, ferocious commitment to Christ and his kingdom that was embodied in Bob Buford,” Matt Chandler senior pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, said in a story carried by Christianity Today. “Bob created space for conversations about faithful disciple-making in a large church context, and The Village has benefited extensively from that space and those conversations. His uncanny ability to gather high-capacity leaders to dream about kingdom impact was unique and will be missed.”

“Some invest in fame and fortune. Bob Buford invested in the lives of leaders,” said Leith Anderson, one of the many pastors Buford helped through connections and resources. Anderson pastored a Minneapolis church that grew from the hundreds to thousands, and he has also served as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. “New ideas, new relationships, new opportunities—Bob Buford opened the way for me and many.”

Bob Buford died April 18, 2018, after a lengthy illness near his home in Dallas, Texas.

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Bob Ditmer
Bob Ditmer has worked in Christian media for more than 20 years including positions with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Focus on the Family.