Review of the Cru Winter Conferences for 2018 and 2019. Matt Mikalatos, Tara Beth Leach, Brandon Washington and Rasool Berry Are Some of the Featured Speakers

This is the annual review of the Cru Winter Conferences for 2018 and 2019. This looks at all the speakers, and agenda. It appears as if the conferences have improved. There doesn’t appear to be as much of a Neo-Calvinist agenda, and the celebrity pastor appears to be absent. The Wondering Eagle is pleasantly surprised as to how the Winter Conferences are this year.

“I’ve seen many friends makes bad choices in their 20’s. For some, regular partying quickly turned into alcoholism; for others, prescription drugs led them into dark places. For me it was religion.”

Mike Anderson formerly of the Resurgence at Mars Hill Seattle

“To experience true life, we must continue the Christian journey the same way we began it – by faith.”

Bill Bright

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.

Luke 1:68-70 NLT

San Francisco Bay Area through the Golden Gate Bridge.

Cru Winter Promotional Video

Every December this blog undertakes a project that involves a lot of work. This year was no exception. This year however, I had to work this in between writing about Harvest Bible Chapel and researching and writing about the Evangelical Free Church of America. Each December this blog looks at the Cru Winter Conferences around the United States. I study the speakers, what is being taught and try and see how things are being done. This year I went through all the conferences and looked up each speaker and did some analysis. My biggest concern with Cru today? The growing fundamentalism of Neo-Calvinism, which I view as problematic and cancerous inside evangelicalism. Evangelical Christianity has its own challenges as this blog writes about and documents.

Writing about Cru is personal for me because of my own involvement in the organization. I was involved in Cru at Fresno State University in 1999 and 2000. Then I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and helped plant a Cru chapter at Marquette University. I attended Christmas conferences in San Diego once and Minneapolis twice. I have heard the talks, participated in the worship, and made friends – some of which I still have today. Cru as an organization is complex. Recently I wrote about the Cru chapter at the University of Illinois. You can read that post at, “An Intern With Cru at the University of Illinois Explains Why He Serves With Cru.So let’s start to look at the conferences this year.

 

Baltimore Winter Conference – Baltimore, MD

This year the winter conference for Baltimore is taking place at the Baltimore Marriot at the waterfront. It is in the inner harbor of Baltimore. It is for Cru students in the mid-Atlantic region meaning that students from Virginia, West Virginia, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware and New Jersey participate. Some of the schools that attend this conference are Virginia Tech, Penn State, University of West Virginia, University of Maryland, Towson, The George Washington University, and Rutgers to give you a sampling. The conference goes from December 28, 2018 until January 1, 2019. The main speakers for the event are going to be Shelby Albott, Keri Armentrout, Brandon Edwards, Dr. Ken Fentress, Tim Henderson and worship will be led by Run 51.  Here is a brief look at the speakers.

Shelby Abbott works with Cru and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He claims that he wants to help people walk with Christ through the difficult seasons of life. He has published several books through Cru. Those books are, “Jacked“, “I am Awkward, You’re Awkward” and “I am a Tool.” Keri Armentrout works with Cru and is known for speaking about cultural and pop culture. You can read her blog here. Brandon Edwards is from New York and works with Maryland Cru. He is also a RA at the University of Maryland at College Park. His other job is as a DJ and musician and radio host. Dr. Ken Fentress is the senior pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland. Tim Henderson has been a leader at Cru at Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania. It appears as if Tim and his wife are the Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Fellowship Program in Roanoke, Virginia. The Blue Ridge Fellowship Program appears to be an intensive discipleship program. You can study the website here.

This conference appears to be fine. I don’t see much of a Neo-Calvinist agenda to it and it appears to have more balance then it has been in previous years. 

 

Denver Winter Conference – Denver, CO

The Denver Winter Conference takes place in the Hyatt from December 29, 2018 until January 2, 2019. This conference is for college students from Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado. It is for Cru students from the University of Kansas, Kansas State University, University of New Mexico, University of Missouri – Columbia, Creighton, University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Colorado State University and the Air Force Academy. The speakers at the conference this year are going to be Lindsey Dennis, Roger Hershey, Adam Saenz, and Brandon Washington. Here is a brief look at the speakers.

Lindsey Dennis works with Cru along with her husband Kevin. It appears they are based in Orlando, Florida. Lindsey writes and speaks about pain and suffering. She has an active blog which you can read here. She has also published her story in a book called, “Buried Dreams.” Roger Hershey works on staff with Cru. He overseas the Great Lakes Regional Team which is responsible for campuses in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio. Roger has also published a book called “The Finishers.” That book is about how people could bring about the return of the Lord by finishing the Great Commission sooner.  Adam Saenz has been a speaker at Cru before. In the recent past he spoke at Cru’s Fort Worth conference in Texas. Dr. Saenz is trained in psychology. He has written a book about teaching called, “The Power of a Teacher.” He considers himself to be a culture architect, or a person who can influence culture. Brandon Washington is the Pastor of Preaching and Vision at The Embassy Church. The Embassy Church is affiliated with Fellowship Associates and Acts 29

This conference I have concerns about. It seems as if Cru in Denver likes to use Acts 29 in  their events. That gives me concern and this is an event that I cannot recommend. This seems to be problematic issue with the Denver Winter Conference.

 

Fort Worth Winter Conference – Fort Worth, TX

The Fort Worth Winter Conference takes place in the Omni Fort Worth Hotel from January 1, 2019 until January 5, 2019.  College students who attend come from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. At Fort Worth Winter Conference you will find students from University of Texas, Texas A & M, Baylor, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, University of Arkansas, Tulane, Louisiana State and the University of Louisiana. The two speakers for the conference are Rasool Berry and Danni Peace. This is a brief look at both speakers.

Rasool Berry serves with Cru in New York City, and he is the campus pastor for The Bridge Church in Brooklyn, New York. Rasool has been on staff with Cru since 2000. He is a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Africana Studies and a minor in Sociology. Danni Peace is a full time campus minister who uses music, writing, and speaking to convey her message.

This blog has no concerns about the Fort Worth Winter Conference and recommends this event. Its doesn’t appear to have a Neo-Calvinist agenda.

 

Greensboro Winter Conference – Greensboro, NC

The Greensboro Winter Conference takes place at the Sheraton at Four Seasons from December 28, 2018 until January 1, 2019. This conference is for Cru students from North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. Some of the universities represented at Greensboro are Duke, University of North Carolina – Charlotte, University of South Carolina, Clemson, Anderson, Vanderbilt, University of Tennessee, University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and Morehead State University. The speakers or performers for this conference are Howard Brown, Pete Deison, Jacques Gilbert, Heather Holleman, Matt Papa, Hung Thach, Thomas Weekley and DJPdogg. Let’s break down each speaker and examine them.

Howard Brown is the senior pastor at Christ Central Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Howard started Christ Central in 2003 and before coming to North Carolina he did ministry in Baltimore and Atlanta. Howard went to undergrad at Clemson, and then seminary at Covenant Theological in St. Louis, Missouri. Pete Deison serves as the Associate Pastor of Park Cities Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas.  Park Cities is PCA. Tragically his wife committed suicide in 2012. You can read more about it here. Pete writes about death, loss of loved ones and has published a book about the topic. The book is for people experiencing grief after loss of a loved one. The name of the book is, “Visits from Heaven: One Man’s Eye-Opening Encounter with Death, Grief, and Comfort from the Other Side.” Jacques Gilbert works for the Apex, North Carolina Police Department. He has started and created a program called Blue Lights College. You can read more about it in this News and Observer article here. It helps recruit Spanish and blacks into a police training program. You can listen to his testimony here.

Heather Holleman teaches college writing at Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania. She also serves on the staff with Cru at Penn State. Some of the books that she has published include, “Live with Flair“,”Included in Christ“,”Seated With Christ“,”Guarded By Christ” and “Chosen For Christ.” She has an active blog that you can read here. Matt Papa is a songwriter, worship leader and an author. Hung Thach is the Cru City Director for high schools in Los Angeles, California. Djpdogg is a broadcaster, blogger, and artist. The final speaker is Dr. Thomas Weakley. He joined Cru staff at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in 1982 and has served as the team leader since 1985. He coaches Cru movements at the University of Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, and the University of Tennessee. Weakley earned his doctorate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and has worked as an adjunct professor at WKU. He has also taught at Lindsey Wilson and SBTS. Dr. Weakley has spoken at conferences in Europe and Asia.

This blog has few concerns about the Greensboro Winter Conference but is deciding to recommend this event. While it appears to have some elements of Neo-Calvinism it also appears to be more balanced then Greensboro has been in the past.

 

Indianapolis Winter Conference in 2017 and 2018.

Indianapolis Winter Conference – Indianapolis, IN

The Indianapolis Winter Conference will be held in the JW Marriot in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana from December 28, 2018 until January 1, 2019. Cru students who attend do so from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio. Some of the universities you will see at this conference include Michigan State University, University of Michigan, Miami of Ohio, Ohio State University, University of Akron, Kent State University, University of Toledo, Notre Dame, University of Indiana – Bloomington, Ball State University, Purdue, Northern Illinois University, University of Illinois, and DePaul. The speakers at Indianapolis are Rasool Berry, Rachel Gilson, Daniel Hill, Tara Beth Leach and Ron Sanders. This is a look at the speakers in Indianapolis.

Rasool Berry serves with Cru in New York City, and he is the campus pastor for The Bridge Church in Brooklyn, New York. Rasool has been on staff with Cru since 2000. He is a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in Africana Studies and a minor in Sociology. Rachel Gilson works with Cru in the Boston area along with her husband. She is gay (evangelicals like the term same sex attracted) and has written on the topic for The Gospel Coalition. You can read her blog here. Daniel Hill founded River City Community Church in Chicago. Before hand he was on staff at Willow Creek Church. Daniel published a book that looks at white culture and identity. The name of the book is called, “White Awake.” The book is popular with Cru, Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and Reformed University Fellowship. Tara Beth Leach is a Church of the Nazarene pastor in Sierra Madre, California. The church she leads is called PazNaz. Ron Sanders used to be on staff at Fuller. He has a long history of close to 30 years with Cru. Today he is a researcher, writer and consultant for Cru. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and looks at religious faith and public ethics.  Ron has published, “After the Election: Prophetic Politics in a Post-Secular Age.” Ron has an active blog here.

This blog has no problem recommending Winter Conference in Indianapolis. Yes there appears to be some of the Neo-Calvinist theology speaking. However, I am impressed that Cru would present someone such as Tara Beth Leach before college students. Its an opportunity to teach and show egalitarianism. That is healthy and good. As a result I recommend this conference.

 

Minneapolis Winter Conference – Minneapolis, MN

This used to be called TCX and this was the conference I attended twice. Minneapolis Winter Conference will be held in the Hilton Minneapolis from December 28, 2018 until January 1, 2019. Some of the universities that will be represented at Minneapolis are the following. Mankato State, University of Minnesota – Twin Cities,  University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of North Dakota – Grand Forks, North Dakota State University, University of South Dakota, University of Wisconsin – Madison, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, and my alma matter Marquette University. The speakers for Minneapolis this year are D.A. Horton, Elicia Horton, and Matt Mikalatos. This is a break down of the speakers.

Matt Mikalatos is the first person on the list. Matt has been on staff with Cru for 15 years and lives near Portland, Oregon. Matt wrote several books to include “My Imaginary Jesus“,”Night of the Living Dead Christian” and “Sky Lantern.” D.A. Horton is the pastor of Reach Fellowship,  works with the Southern Baptist Convention. Reach Fellowship is in North Long Beach, California. D.A. Horton obtained his B.S. in Biblical Studies from Calvary Bible College, his Masters Degree in Christian Studies from Calvary Theological Seminary and is currently working on his Ph.D. from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary which is located in Wake Forest, California. In addition D.A. Horton has written three books which are “G.O.S.P.E.L.” , “Bound to be Free” and “DNA: The Foundations of Faith.” The last speaker according to the website is Elicia Horton. Elicia is married to D.A. Horton. She travels and uses rap and speaks to people about her marriage which she is passionate about. Elicia and D.A. Horton published a book through Tyndale called, “Enter the Ring.”

This blog has no concerns about the Minneapolis Winter Conference and recommends this event. While D.A. Horton is Neo-Calvinist theology stream this conference appears to be balanced on theology. 

 

San Francisco Winter Conference  – San Francisco, CA

The San Francisco Winter Conference is being held in the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. This conference is being held on January 18, 2019 until January 21. This conference has been held in the past at San Diego and Los Angeles. I attended the San Diego conference and still wear the t-shirt from time to time in the Washington, D.C. area. This conference includes college students from California, Hawaii, Arizona and southern Nevada. Some of the universities that will attend include the following schools. University of Hawaii, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Northern Arizona University, University of Arizona, Arizona State University, University of California San Diego, San Diego State University, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Riverside, University of California Berkley, Stanford, California State University Fresno and California State University Chico. The speakers  and performers at San Francisco are Heather Holleman, Matt Mikalatos, Nancy Ortberg and Run 51. This is a look at the speaking line up.

Heather Holleman teaches college writing at Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania. She also serves on the staff with Cru at Penn State. Some of the books that she has published include, “Live with Flair“,”Included in Christ“,”Seated With Christ“,”Guarded By Christ” and “Chosen For Christ.” She has an active blog that you can read here. Matt Mikalatos is the first person on the list. Matt has been on staff with Cru for 15 years and lives near Portland, Oregon. Matt wrote several books to include “My Imaginary Jesus“,”Night of the Living Dead Christian” and “Sky Lantern.” Nancy Ortberg used to teach at Willowcreek Church in the Chicago, Illinois area. She speaks on faith and business. Nancy lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is a part of Faith Drive Entrepreneur. Nancy also wrote about being involved in the sexual harassment allegations against Bill Hybells.

This blog has no concerns about the San Francisco Winter Conference and recommends this event. Its doesn’t appear to have a Neo-Calvinist agenda.

 

Winter Conference Portland – Portland, OR

It appears as if Cru is not holding a winter conference in Portland, Oregon this year. If anyone knows why I would appreciate the details.

 

Winter Conference Southeast – Atlanta, GA

This conference appears to be not held this year. This blog is wondering if this event was canceled and if students are being encouraged to go to Greensboro or Fort Worth. This is the second year in a row that the Southeast Winter Conference was canceled by Cru. If anyone can share what is happening this writer would appreciate it.

 

Is Cru Moving Away from the Celebrity Pastor?

This blog was deeply surprised in looking at all the Cru conferences for 2018 and 2019. One thing that struck me is that I really didn’t see a celebrity pastor on display. In the past Cru had people like David Platt or John Piper speak. That is absent this year. What has happened? Is Cru starting to become more balanced in that context? Either way this blog is encouraged by these developments. To move away from the celebrity pastor culture is a sign of health in my opinion. The whole idea of the celebrity pastor is an oxymoron in my opinion. It will be interesting to see what happens when I look at the Cru conference for 2019 and 2020.