Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) -- the popular, large-scale Christian organization -- has decided to make a major change. In early 2012, the multi-faceted para-church group will officially drop the name it has held for 60 years, replacing it with a three-letter word -- "Cru." While many within the group are praising the change, some outsiders wonder if the ministry, which seeks to "build spiritual movements everywhere so everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus Christ," is making the wrong decision by removing "Christ" from its title.
Founded by Bill and Vonette Bright at UCLA back in 1951, the organization -- which today brings in $490 million per year in revenue -- spread rapidly. By 1960, 40 U.S. college campuses had chapters, with at least two others already operating in foreign countries. By 1996, Money Magazine dubbed the group the most efficient religious ministry in America. According to CCC's web site:
By the year 2000, Campus Crusade for Christ International, the parent organization for the college ministry, had more than 24,000 full time staff members, and more than 500,000 trained volunteers serving in 191 countries.
"Cru" is a title that is quite familiar to the organization. Though it was chosen from a pool of 1,600 potential options, it is a name that local campus ministries have called themselves for more than a decade. In an official press release CCC writes that this move will "increase relevance and global effectiveness:"
“From the beginning, Bill (Bright) was open to changing our name. He never felt it was set in stone. In fact, he actually considered changing the name 20 or 25 years ago,” said Vonette Bright, who co-founded Campus Crusade for Christ with her husband. “We want to remove any obstacle to people hearing about the most important person who ever lived – Jesus Christ.”
According to Christianity Today (CT), over the years some evangelicals have simply referred to the ministry as "Crusade." This name has caused problems overseas, as it is reminiscent of history's militaristic crusades, which are described as "...conquests by European Christians intended to reclaim the Holy Land from Muslims in the 11th to 13th centuries." CT has more:
"It's become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East," said Steve Sellers, the CCCI vice president and U.S. national director who is leading the name change project. "In the '50s, crusade was the evangelistic term in the United States. Over time, different words take on different meanings to different groups."
CCC acknowledges that there may be some who support the new name and others who lament it. But, it's not just the "Crusade" connotation that is bothersome. The word "campus" also limits the organization in its reach. While the initial ministry was mainly focused upon reaching college campuses, new, more diverse endeavors have arisen over the years.
Today, there is Here's Life Inner City (a ministry serving America's urban poor), Keynote (a music ministry) and Athletes in Action (a Christian outreach for athletes), to name a few. Leaders claim that a broader name, considering an ever-expanding wide-focus lens, was warranted.
Still, some may wonder why "Christ" couldn't be worked into the new name. Plus, there's the unavoidable fact that "Cru" is the first portion of the word that the organization was trying to avoid in the first place. In a FAQ section on CCC's new web site announcing the name, the following explanation is given:
We were not trying to eliminate the word Christ from our name. We were looking for a name that would most effectively serve our mission and help us take the gospel to the world. Our mission has not changed. Cru enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name...
This description will certainly appease some, but others may still find issue, especially with the portion about people who "might be initially...turned off" by a Christian name. Take the poll below and tell us what you think about CCC's new name:
Full Disclosure: The author of this article worked for Campus Crusade for Christ/Here's Life Inner City from 2009 until 2011.