An intern for Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) writes a blog post for the Cru chapter at the University of Illinois. In the blog post he writes about why he serves in Cru. For me its basically a blog post on why he wanted to quit his secular job and crawl back into the bubble. In the process he forgets all the other people who could use the Gospel. Articles like this give us insight into the issues with modern evangelicalism.
15 Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.
Deuteronomy 18:15 NLT
Student Union at the University of Missouri – Columbia
Video pushing the Cru fall retreat at the University of Illinois
The other day I found myself on the website for Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) at the University of Illinois. I was poking around and saw an article that I wanted to analyze and look at. This article gives great insight into the culture of Cru. I appreciate articles like this because it shows how people think and the decision making process that a person makes.
I have written about Cru before. I was deeply involved in Cru and the chapter at Marquette University is actually the result of my labor and a couple of females at the time. I was a student leader, and went to Christmas conferences in Minnesota and California. At the time I enjoyed Cru but as I aged and dealt with life my thinking has shifted on Cru and its culture. Today there are times I honestly wonder how healthy is it? It was in that context that I stumbled across this blog post from the Cru blog at the University of Illinois. The title of the post is called, “Why I Serve.” I am going to offer feedback in red in the post.
Dear Christian College Student:
Though we may have never met, I want to encourage you using my story of college and post-college. It is my hope and prayer that the Lord would use my story to give an honest perspective to students who are deciding whether or not to work a secular job or enter full-time ministry. I pray that God will use my story to encourage you in faithful obedience to His leading. Using my story of Why I serve with Cru, I want you to hear two things: why it’s worth it and why you can too
No real problems it sounds like the writer is trying to be honest to present something balanced. A secular job is not mocked or criticized at this point.
Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Joe. My wife and I are first year interns with Cru at the University of Illinois. I graduated with an Accounting Degree from U of I in May of 2015 and after graduating I worked for a year at the Corporate Headquarters of a Fortune 100 company (“Company”). Prior to that I was a student-leader in Cru at U of I.
During my senior year, I had a job offer from the Company but was seriously considering turning down the offer to instead do a one-year STINT with Cru in Croatia. When I was deciding to STINT or take a corporate job, I wrestled with the idea that if I did not work with Cru I was choosing something lesser. This is false. In deciding what you will do post-college you are not choosing between following Jesus or not. Working with Cru is not a higher, better, perfect calling. You can glorify God in all work. It is not disobedient to work a different job or go to grad school. I serve with Cru because God is and has been doing incredible things through Cru for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and I want to help you see if God might be leading you to be a part of this after you graduate.
For those of you who don’t know inside Cru terms are thrown around that often have no meaning unless you understand. Cru can be like the military in the acronyms and more that are thrown around. A STINT is an abbreviation for Short Term International Mission. In the paragraph above I find no major flaws. I actually appreciate that the writer is saying that you don’t have to chose between following Jesus and something else. Plus he is saying that God can be glorified in all work. Okay that is fine also.
For a few years now a verse I cling to has been Acts 20:24 in which Paul, writing in the face of certain imprisonment and persecution for proclaiming the Gospel, says,
“But I do not account my life of any value, nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God.” (ESV)
Okay this is where this article starts to develop problems from my perspective. To cling to Acts 20:24 I honestly think is bad advice. My instinct is telling me that this Cru employee thinks that he is facing persecution and experiencing difficulty. Otherwise why cling to such a verse? Many white evangelical Christians have a warped view of Christian persecution. I have written about that in, “The Youth Group of Hydesville Community Church in Hydesville, California Shows God’s Not Dead 2. A Frank Discussion on White Evangelicals Warped View of Persecution.”
Why am I serving full-time with Cru?
First and foremost, I quit my corporate job to serve with Cru because I am 100% convinced the world’s problems are spiritual. I believe eternal investments are those we make in God, His Word, and the souls of people. I believe sin is the biggest problem and we are in desperate need of a Savior. I serve with Cru because I believe the Gospel is the only solution and I believe Jesus is everyone’s only Savior and only Hope.
And this is where things go down hill really fast with this Illinois Cru post. So the writer says that the world’s problems are spiritual. What does he do then? He quits his job and walks away from a lot of people around him. The very people who need the Lord. Basically from my perspective is that he is leaving the missionary field and abandoning it. The world is very secular and he would interact with people that he would not interact with at Cru. In Cru he is choosing to withdraw into the bubble. That for me is the tragedy about this. And for me it raises this question. This writer says that Jesus is the only Savior and Hope. Does he still believe that especially since he is walking away from so many people?
During my time in the corporate world, I quickly learned that, in the workplace, there is very little time and space for Gospel conversations. No matter what job you have, the typical workday is mostly spent doing the work the job requires of you. And unfortunately for me last year, that left very little residual time for me to invest in the lives of coworkers for the sake of the Gospel. In short, workplace ministry is difficult and constrained by the obvious limitations of the daily responsibilities of work.
This paragraph for me highlights why many parts of evangelicalism is broken and screwed up. The only way to “witness” is through Gospel conversations. Faith is evangelizing and little more. I would propose that this writer in the end has little faith because of what he proposes and says. Working hard, getting to know other people inside and outside of work, corporate trips, corporate outings, and more can really go a long way. But he rejects that in the end. One of the greatest sins of many evangelicals is that many lack patience. The expect everything to be done instantly. Think of it as fast food faith. Or you can call it “McCru”,”Cru Fil A”,”Cru Hut”,”Cru Express”,”Cru Bell”,”Cru King” and “Cru in the Box.” For me reading this post is basically this guy waving the white flag and quitting and choosing to go back into the bubble. This paragraph is exceptionally sad and highlights perhaps the reason why modern evangelical Christianity is flawed, broken and beyond repair.
I did, however, get to befriend and work with other recent college graduates. I spent many lunches getting to know coworkers and I did get to engage in spiritual conversations at work, but it was always limited by time and work responsibilities. This week, as I was reflecting on last year, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that before working in the corporate workplace all of my coworkers, much like myself, were on a college campus. In reaching college students for Christ, are we not simultaneously reaching the future workplace? I serve with Cru because I believe that reaching college students today means reaching the world tomorrow.
Basically as I read this section the writer is expressing how he is quitting. So he wants to reach the college students today to reach the work force tomorrow. Can I ask a question…what about the work force today? Or what about the college students who will not get involved in an organization like Cru? For me this is a post about just withdrawing from the world and going back into your bubble.
One reason I love Acts 20:24 is its simplicity. You could say this verse is Paul’s mission statement, his motto. Basically, what he’s saying is “I want to be all about the Gospel at any cost to myself”. The simplicity of our mission is another reason I chose to serve with Cru. I want my life, my work, my marriage, my mornings, my evenings, and my everything to be about the Gospel, and that’s what you get to do with Cru. I serve with Cru because I have the incredible privilege of focusing my efforts everyday on testifying to the Gospel of the grace of God.
If you really want to die to yourself learn to be patient. Get to know someone who is gay and listen to them for a couple of years. Befriend someone who is fried from church that cringes at the name. Get to know what they have endured. Basically what Joe is saying is that Cru allows him to make the “Gospel” as he defines it into an idol. Its another examples of Joe waving the white flag and quitting the secular work place. Where can he testify to the Gospel more, in a secular workplace or a college campus? I would propose that if Joe thinks its largely on the college campus then he does not know what the Gospel is. What if Joe made his secular job about the Gospel? What if he prayed for co-workers in business meetings. What if he got to know a couple of people and got to go out on double dates and more? What if Joe thought beyond what he believes the Gospel is now? What if he built a relationship over a few years with a co-worker so that 15 years from now when they are close Joe can be there for his friend when his father dies. What if he got to know another co-worker so that in a few years he got to know them when they started to have a family and he could hang out on the playground with his co-worker and listen to the challenges of life. Joe walked away from all that in choosing to go back to Cru. And while he says he is doing it for the Gospel in the end I would propose that he is doing this for himself.
Last year, it was not uncommon for me to sit in my cubicle, staring at the excel spreadsheet on my computer screen and ask myself, “will this matter eternally?” or “will it matter, even in ten years, that I made this spreadsheet more efficient or made sure the numbers on this paper added up correctly?”
In Cru from my understanding you also have to do spreadsheets and write reports on progress. Can’t that logic also apply to paperwork inside Cru? I am just asking this question.
On a typical day, I would show up to work at 8 am, sit in a cubicle, stare at spreadsheets, and work on problems that had no eternal significance. This year, I get to spend my workdays meeting with a Christ-centered team of coworkers, encouraging disciples in their walk with God, and telling students about the Savior they desperately need. On Wednesday this past week I spent time meeting with a leader in Cru for discipleship, and later that afternoon I shared the Gospel with a freshman who had never heard it. Yes, that’s really what I get to do as my job! How thankful I am that I have this incredible privilege! If we truly believe that only God, His Word, and people’s souls are eternally significant, wouldn’t we want to spend our days investing in these things? I serve with Cru because I want to invest in eternal things as my full-time job.
For me this paragraph shows what is possible with Kool Aid. What Joe is advocating I would suggest is an old heresy called clericalism. The only people who can serve are those in the pulpit or church. Joe shows that despite what he says in the beginning of this article actually he really believes that the only way you can serve God is in the spiritual context of church or ministry. The way this article started out with Joe it is almost like he did a bait and switch in the end. That is the challenge and the problem in this situation. If only Joe thought like this in all walks of life and not just the college campus.
God also used Psalm 67 to clarify why I wanted to be in full-time ministry.
“May God be gracious to us and bless us, And make His face to shine upon us, That your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations” Psalm 67:1-2 (ESV)
I still remember reading this verses on a Summer Mission with Cru in Croatia when God lit up these verses to my heart to show me what it meant to steward my life well. What these verses are saying is basically, “we’ve been blessed by God to make much of Him.” I realized then the responsibility I had to use all I’ve been given to make Jesus known. In my four years in Cru I was unbelievably equipped to walk with Jesus and share my faith. I’ve also been given a US passport that let’s me go just about anywhere in the world, I’ve been given good health, a college education, and so much more! You and I have a lot to steward for the sake of the Gospel.
This is incredibly legalistic and quite a burden is placed on people. So because I have a passport that means I have to travel? There are many different ways to serve and yet it appears as if Joe has tunnel vision in how he looks at things.
Last year, during a morning commute to work I listened to a podcast in which John Piper answered a question about Careers. Part of his response included this statement:
“Those of us in the prosperous West should keep in mind that one of the most surprising features of our culture which visitors from the two-thirds world are amazed at when they come is the stunning number of choices we have…And we tend to take all these choices for granted. Most places in the world, people do not have 100 possibilities in front of them for how to make a living. They may have one or two or three options given their village and the family they are in and the society they are in”
Even having a choice in our jobs/work is a western idea and privilege. When I heard this, I saw so clearly the gift of grace it is that we get to choose our vocation.
Well that settles it! The
Lord has spoken, whoops I meant to say John Piper has spoken. It is decided! As we all know John Piper is the 67th book of the Bible. He’s the Lord’s anointed. Anything he utters, spits or burps is from the Lord and must be taken literally. Well at least he is not listening to C.J. Mahaney boast of how he demanded sex from his wife when she was dealing with morning sickness in a sermon, or Mark Driscoll who talked about how women are penis homes. So I guess there can be worse.
We have been given a lot. How will we steward it? I pray Psalm 67 for us, that God will bless us so “that His way may be known on earth, His saving power among all nations”. I serve with Cru because we are called to steward our entire lives to make Jesus known.
So here is another thought. What if the Lord wanted Joe to work in the secular work field. Is he sinning in walking away from that? Has he been a good steward of handling what is of the Lord? John Piper is a fierce Neo-Calvinist who leads that movement, but what if Joe was to be a steward in the secular workplace as well? These are questions that are worth asking.
A big concern that many have about choosing to serve with Cru or enter full-time ministry is your circumstances. Whether that’s student debt, lack of support from parents, a fear of support raising, other job offers on the table, grad school, or anything else. In making this decision last year to work with Cru, my wife and I were engaged, and, yes, it was a sacrifice to choose to work with Cru. I could have kept a job that paid me a regular salary. We could have had an easier first few months of marriage if we didn’t have to support raise. I could have paid off a lot more student debt. In many ways, it would have been a lot easier to stay at my job at Allstate. However, God honors our sacrifices. He provided for us as we took this step of faith. He provided an incredible team of partners, and we got to experience Him deeper as we trusted him with these decisions. I do not say this to tell you how great I am. My only boast is Christ and any good in me is only by His grace. I tell you this because our God is worth any sacrifice. I’m sure every one of you could think of at least a few reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t choose to serve with Cru. Parents, student debt, support raising…whatever it is for you, I can tell you confidently, NO ONE has the perfect situation to choose to go into full-time ministry. It will always be a sacrifice, but it’s worth it. I serve with Cru because sacrificing everything to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God among college students here and around the world is worth it.
Why do evangelicals like Joe always view sacrifice in terms of joining a para-ministry, or becoming a pastor, or a missionary? Don’t Christians who work in the secular world and who handle stressful jobs also sacrifice? Why is sacrifice always view in that construct, in that you have to walk away from the “world.” There are lots of ways one sacrifices in life. Being patient with a difficult boss. Helping to train a new hire. Assisting in the company picnic. All of those situations speak to the Gospel also. Here is another thought. Why is a step of faith always viewed in the context of ministry? How and why did this tunnel vision develop? Is this a result of living and functioning inside a bubble? You think you are spiritual but the world sees right through that behavior.
My prayer for all of us is that we would be willing to say with Paul, “I do not account my life of any value” so that we would live so to make known Jesus’ “saving power among all nations”. I pray that God will raise up laborers for His Kingdom to serve with Cru here at U of I, across the country, and to the ends of the earth, because “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”. (Luke 10:2 ESV)
Joe, University of Illinois Cru Staff
The Pressure to Join Staff at Cru is Strong and Cult Like
When I was deeply involved in Cru I was taken back by how many people wanted to join staff. It almost became a rallying cry. Sometimes people would say, “I don’t know what I want to do I think about joining staff.” It happened frequently and sometimes it just baffled me. When I was in graduate school at Marquette I went to a career options conference and there was a strong push there for people to join staff as well. Within Cru the pressure to join staff is strong. Sometimes that is more respected than doing other jobs. This is a cultural phenomena inside Cru. You see the push for staff at conferences or events, and often you feel guilted. One thing about Cru is that one would feel guilted about doing things if they did not. Now to be fair guilt also happens outside Cru as well. Its throughout evangelical Christianity.
Cru has Made Bill Bright a Personality Cult in Many Ways
There was one thing about Cru that I found freaky and almost cult like. It was how the organization treated Bill Bright. Bill Bright almost became a personality cult. It reminded me a little bit of the personality cult of Joseph Stalin and or Kim Il Song of North Korea. That is one of the problems with celebrity pastors is that they often become personality cults. You can read about that in, “The Little Red Book…of John Piper?“ Bill Bright became a personality cult inside Campus Crusade, The way he was quoted, pushed, and promoted struck me as off though I never questioned or raised it. Sometimes it also came off odd. Now I was involved in Crusade from 1999 until 2002 but I still helped out off and on until I left Milwaukee for Washington, D.C. in 2005. Bill Bright stepped down from Crusade in 2001 and then died in 2003. He was replaced by Steven Douglass who leads the organization today.
Decision Making Inside a Bubble is What You Are Witnessing Here
If I remember correctly when Crusade started at UCLA it was meant to teach people about Jesus. What developed in the course of time is that the situation flipped. Instead of teaching people about Jesus what actually occurred is that people were taught to disengaged from their university or school and pull back into a bubble. It becomes a very sheltered life. And then comes the next step that is problematic that of the making decisions. How can you navigate and make decisions that will affect your life from a bubble and being withdrawn? In some ways you are setting people up for failure and then you add the celebrity pastor to that process and what you are going to do is set up people for burnout. I am 43 today. You know how many people I interacted with who followed this model who were burned out an fried. I was fried in Washington, D.C. Others I knew were fried in Africa, New York City, Chicago and elsewhere. This decision making process is quite toxic in many ways. Its circular reasoning that is reinforced in that frame of mind. My experiences are what have resulted in me raising concerns about all this within the Cru culture.