Charlie Riggs, one of our early Navigators, passed away July 21, 2008, at his home in Colorado, at age 91.
Riggs served in the U.S. Army during World War IICharlie came to Christ as a teenager, but didn’t mature spiritually until he was a young man in the Army. During World War II, Charlie was promoted to First Lieutenant and spent the end of the war in Seattle, Washington.
While in Seattle, Charlie lived in the home of Navigator leader Lorne Sanny. Charlie’s close friend Dr. Waylon Moore says, “Being mentored by Lorne Sanny super-charged Charlie’s spiritual life. The discipline and total commitment that marked his Army life meshed with his personal devotion to Christ.”
While living with the Sannys, Charlie met LaRue Bogue. They were married July 8, 1947, in Los Angeles, California.
In 1950, evangelist Billy Graham asked The Navigators to assist in his crusades by training people to follow up with those who responded to the invitation to know Christ. Sanny became the point person in this partnership, and Charlie joined Sanny’s team.
The Navigators directed follow-up efforts for the crusades until 1957 when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) created its own counseling department, appointing Charlie as director. Charlie served the BGEA for more than 40 years in crusade direction and counseling.
While serving at the 1954 London crusade, Charlie developed a simple tool to help a person understand how to have a personal relationship with Christ. The resulting booklet, “Steps to Peace With God,” became standard issue in the Billy Graham crusades and has since been translated into dozens of languages in various printed and electronic forms and shared with millions of people. (Visit the BGEA web site to see the current version:
“God had done so much for me and changed my life,” Charlie said in a 2004 interview with Decision magazine. “His plan for us is peace and life, and the only way to have that peace is to accept Jesus. I had heard Mr. Graham preach this many times. I just took that message and made it into the four steps.”
Navigator Vice President of Public Ministries Lauren Libby remembers Charlie’s devotion to Christ. “Charlie lived a life in close communication with Jesus,” Libby says. “The first time I met him, when I was 25, he spoke at a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He quoted Proverbs chapters 3 through 6 from memory and gave two phenomenal talks on wisdom. This humble man had tremendous spiritual power.”
Once retired from the BGEA, Charlie volunteered in a prison ministry, holding Bible studies with inmates in Cañon City, Colorado.
“Charlie was a lifetime laborer,” Libby says. “Even after his ‘retirement’ he was constantly laboring and developing spiritual laborers everywhere he went. Every crusade and every town he ministered in, he left little bands of people who would continue to labor for Christ.”
Charlie is survived by his three children. Services were held Monday, July 28, in Cañon City. Memorial contributions may be given to the Billy Graham Association at P.O. Box 1270, Charlotte, N.C. 28201-1270; The Navigators at P.O. Box 6000, Colorado Springs, CO 80934; or to Wycliffe Bible Translators at P.O. Box 628200, Orlando, FL 32862-8200.
Dr. Waylon B. Moore of Discipleship, a worldwide Christian mentoring ministry, wrote about Charlie’s influence on his life in an article entitled,
Great Mentors I Have Known: Charlie Riggs, Pacesetter
The Billy Graham Association website features two Decision articles about Charlie:
An 86-year-old Goes to Prison Twice a Week
” by Bob Paulson
Peace and Life
” by Tom Phillips