There are some drawbacks to being named after arguably the most bumble-headed thing (this is a family blog, and I try to keep cussing posts down to fewer than one per year, so bumble-headed is going to have to do) Christians have done since Peter lopped off an ear, sure.  But here’s how the conversation normally plays out for me.

Me: I work with Campus Crusade for Christ:

Joe Freshman: Can you use the word “crusade?” isn’t that like “jihad?”

Me: I know, I like to call it “vintage militant.”  We started back in the fifties, long before political correctness.  Also during that time, Billy Graham was known to go on “crusades” where people came to an arena to hear a message.  We were in essence extending those arena crusades to the college campus.  Our name is meant to differentiate us from a “fellowship” in that we make it a point to initiate conversations and interactions about the Bible.  We are about telling people (without the swords and burnings at the stake) that Jesus has changed our lives.

Joe Freshman: Oh, cool.  Have you played Madden ’09?

See, to be honest, it’s not a stumbling block to people that are actually interested in spirituality, and talking about the gospel.  Its a stumbling block to the atheist message boards and the students and faculty who are not in any way interested in the gospel.  They are looking for a way to discount us without engaging us.  Frankly, I’m ok with that.  I am not interested in having a conversation with someone who has closed their mind to even the remote possibility of Jesus being who He said He was.

The charge that we should change our name to something else would be viable, if our movement of 50 years bore even a remote semblance to the crusades of 15th century Europe.  But anybody who has been around the local, regional, or national leadership of Campus Crusade can tell you that there’s just nothing in common, on the level of motive, to compare.  I’d much rather a person stay Muslim and dialogue with me than for me to force them to fake-repent.

And if we were to change our name to appeal to the fact that some antagonistic fringers don’t like it, then we become the ministry formerly known as Campus Crusade (no matter what we change our name to), and that won’t fit on my business card.  I say we stick with two things: the same name, and the same love for the campus, that makes charges of bigotry really tough to stick.  It’s tough to accuse a guy who is hugging you that he hates your guts, no matter how bumble-headed he is.

I Win. But not as much as they do.

The first of the three words in our organizational DNA?


Of the three, this is the word whose usage is the most antiquated.  But keep in mind that CCC started long before political correctness.

When we say we are trying to win students and faculty to Christ, we don’t mean it to sound like they are a game that we are playing, or that we want to do something to them without their consent.  We want to give individuals the opportunity to hear and respond to a message.  But we’re convinced that the message is so astounding (and so supernaturally backed) that the hearers can be (and are) changed on a fundamental level by hearing and responding.  We believe that because we’ve experienced it.

So, one of the distinctives of Campus Crusade (that is reflected in our name) since the very beginning has been the unashamed, unwavering, bold proclamation of the gospel.  At times that has given us a bad reputation as tract people who are more concerned with numbers than with actually connecting with folks.  In my 11 year experience (both as student and staff) within this organization, that has turned out to be a near-totally fabricated accusation.  We are concerned with numbers, sure, but so were the writers of Scripture.  ( ____ people were fed with ____ loaves and ____ fish in Matthew 6:41… ____ people came to Christ after Peter preached in Acts 2:41…)  We want to know the numbers so that we can celebrate what God is doing!  But we are far more concerned that people experience the gospel than we are with a number.

Are there (or have there ever been) any staff members who are more concerned with numbers or getting people through a booklet?  Sure.  At times our zeal has outpaced our discretion.  Do we always have great, crystal-clear theology of evangelism organizationally? Nope.  The “I found it” campaign in the 70s immediately comes to mind. There are two sides to err on, the side of over-enthusiasm and the side of smug theological arrogance and nit-picking (curiously also often leading to a lack of passion and action).  We’ve almost exclusively erred on the side of enthusiasm.  But that enthusiasm is under-girded and driven by a single, unshakably biblical conviction: God wants to use people to save other people.

I will firmly stand behind the current local, regional and national leadership and say that, to the best of my knowledge, their heart is to trust the Lord to change the hearts of students and faculty on the college campus.  And that’s something I want to be a part of as well, for the good and benefit of those faculty and students.

But as we read Matthew 28:18-20, we find Jesus commanding us to make more than converts.  He wants us to make “disciples.”  Tune in tomorrow for how we are seeing that take place, as we look at “build.”

Building. I’d say the foundation is the key.

Utilizing my extensive training in the world of Lego blocks, I’d have to assume that a building is only as good as it’s foundation.  So, looking at the second word in our organizational DNA, “build,” ought to give us insight not only into the methods, but the underlying premises of what our organization truly is concerned with.  How exciting.

Most missions organizations, from my perspective, put the thrust of “every tribe, tongue, nation” type verses primarily on the “going” or the “reaching.”  And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  But the job of the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20, which I would say is the banner verse under which Campus Crusade exists) is to “make disciples,” not just converts.  In fact, with thanks to my friend Donny and my Logos Bible software (which, by the way, I need to take a course to learn how to fully utilize), I took some time this morning to study the original language of the verses in question, and as best I can tell the act of “going” in assumed, not the main thrust of the verse.  The act of “disciple-making” seems to be the main verb.  That’s not readily apparent in our English translations of verse 19.

So the reaching (see my discussion of “Win” yesterday) is a necessary component of the greater goal of our ministry, and that’s the building (“…make disciples…”) and eventually sending (“…of all nations”).  We want for students and faculty to not only come to know Christ, but to become “disciples,” which is a truly rich word.  We want to teach them the things they need to know to grow and to really experience the gospel over and over.

Recently I have been very encouraged by the  division of CCC called Centerfield Productions, as they have been putting out some great resources that are helpful in not only effectively building students, but doing so in a way that is transferable.  We desire to give students content in such a way that they can turn around (without hours of training and studying) and give that content to another student.  This produces movements that are not leader-heavy, and leaders that don’t erroneously see themselves as integral to the movement, but as stewards of God’s movement.  For more study on how we think this idea of transferability is biblical, check out 2 Timothy 2:2 and note how many generations there are from Paul (the writer) to “others.”

One of the criticisms I’ve heard of Campus Crusade is that we oversimplify tough doctrines (Like the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, for example).  I’d like to offer a defense and explanation, again from my perspective as a staff member.  (This is by no means CCC’s official stance on anything.)  We have razor-sharp focus on one or two doctrines, namely the proclamation of the gospel and an intro into walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.  By focusing in on teaching folks that the Holy Spirit is the power source for the Christian life, we are able to agree with both sides of the potentially divisive charismatic issue and yet not, in my opinion, dishonor the Holy Spirit.  Is our doctrine exhaustive or complete in this area?  No, and it never was intended to be.  If we claimed it were all there is to know about the Holy Spirit, then there’d be a problem.

We are missionaries on the college campus.  I see one of my primary goals as plugging students into the visible body of Christ, namely the local church.  I give them the basics, and then train them to share those basics with others.  I am squarely concerned with training.  I want for students to learn how to share their faith in a way that is not street preaching with offensive, out-of-touch signs.  When I’ve effectively built students, that’s one of the primary markers for me.

But to simply build them involves (and finds it’s completion in) sending them to repeat the process.  More on that tomorrow.

Sending is a lot like planning a party.

Ever watched your team win the championship when you are the only one in the room who cares?  I have.  It was 2005, and UNC was playing Illinois.  I lived in Middle Tennessee, and had to suffer through Kentucky basketball games anytime there was a Raycom conflict that season.

The day of the championship game I had two bible studies scheduled.  So I had the guys from both of them over to my place, we brought in a projector, and watched the game projected on a wall in my house.  Everyone in the room watched the game, but they were far more interested in watching me watch the game.

There was something about winning it all that was less satisfying than I had imagined.  Part of the joy of celebrating is celebrating with others.  I jumped up and down and even ran down my street waving a Tar Heel flag, but it still wasn’t the same.

That’s what the third and final word in our organizational DNA is all about.  “Send.”  We want to send students and faculty around the world to gather up more people to celebrate with them, not because it is some sinister plot to take over the world, but because we’ve found something we enjoy, and we want others to enjoy it alongside us.

Sending should be something that, if we’ve properly built into the students, happens naturally.  Once a student gets the taste in their mouth of God using them, it’s tough to get it out.  That’s what propelled me literally around the world to tell others about Christ.  I found something worth celebrating, namely that Jesus had paid for all of my sin, and wanted others to find the same reason to party.

The thing that differentiates this missions model from others is that it’s really messy.  We will send a junior in college, with no formal seminary education, to a remote city in Asia to share with others about Christ.  Does it always end well? Absolutely not.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post on building, we focus on one or two things, and do them well.  We would rather take steps of faith and have to go behind students and clean up the mess than to always play it safe.  And we believe in a sovereign God.

What I have seen in my 7 years of campus ministry is that students are far more effective at reaching students than I am, no matter how trained or untrained they are.  My job is to find Johnny Freshman and build into him in such a way as to give him the vision to reach his classmates.  That transition normally doesn’t take place until at least his fourth semester.  But once it does, I get to watch as a person with far more “street cred” than I reaches out to his peers.

My favorite thing in the world (after Jesus’ life and my wife’s smile) is seeing students catch on, and make the turn from being a consumer in their faith to being an active participant in the Great Commission.

Like having a Heel-by-marriage wife to celebrate another Carolina championship 4 years later, Jesus wants us to enjoy him, and call others into that enjoyment.

The Most Significant Thing.

After a great weekend leading the music at a conference in Atlanta (and thereby missing the second big snowstorm of the season in Asheville), I am overwhelmed again that God has called us to be on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ.

The conference this time around was “Preview”–so named because we use it as a way to give a select group of hand-picked soon-to-graduate students a preview of staff life.  Except that in this fantasy-land preview, staff life includes the region paying for them to stay at a wonderful hotel (meals and everything covered).

And though we use it as a way to recruit new staff, this conference (in the two years I have attended) has served each time to be a fantastic re-hashing of my own personal call to ministry with Campus Crusade.  Roger Hershey, the speaker for the weekend (and a guy who’s been on staff with CCC for 37 years), cut me to the heart when he challenged us to be about not only loving Christ, but about the amazing privilege of mobilizing students to go to the ends of the earth.  Possibly the most significant thing any of us could be about in this life is the mobilizing of people toward fulfilling the great commission.

And you and I get to do that every day.  Thank you for your gifts, prayers, and heart to see God move on the college campus.

How are you mobilizing people to fulfill the great commission?