What is in a name?
Labeling oneself a Christian and following Jesus in the age of televangelism, clergy abuse, greed and fundamentalism is a tumultuous journey, to say the least. It seems that those of us who promote His tenets of tolerance, unconditional love and respect for all humankind are losing the name “Christian” to people who kill abortion doctors, picket military funerals and ostracize gay folks (or any folks for that matter). Out-screaming the misguided minority can prove to be overwhelming to even the most steadfast of followers.
Even so, many of us have been (and will remain) committed to promoting the love and Wisdom of our Creator through the religious tradition of Christianity. . .no matter how lonely it may feel at times.
So, when Campus Crusade for Christ International (CCCI) announced that after 60 years it was changing its name to “Cru” (“a nickname given to the organization at the local level since the mid-90’s”) my heart sank. Their reasoning ranged from how the expansion of their ministry stretched beyond the “campus” walls to the negative connotations that the word “crusade” invokes. Regardless, all I chose to hear was that the word “Christ” had been removed.
I was heartbroken. Was this a case of another Christian organization jumping ship in favor of big business?
CCCI is an organization with a budget of over 500 million dollars and serves in 191 countries through 29 different ministries. They are a force to be reckoned with not only within the Christian community, but also within the non-profit sector. Why on earth would they discard the word “Christ”? We need them!
Like many, my knee-jerk reaction was one of anger, sadness and abandonment.
Like many, I was wrong.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:
22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.”
CCCI has maintained from the beginning that “Cru” was a way for them to be all things to all people and, as a former member of CCCI, I support their decision wholeheartedly. Christians are having a hard enough time navigating through this world. The last thing we need to do is cannibalize anyone’s ministry efforts over a name change.
So, in the spirit of solidarity, allow me to deviate from my column’s standard devotional/meditation format to share bits of my recent interview with Mike Adamson, Director of Communication for CCCI. After much research and meditation, below are the answers to what I felt were the most poignant (and invasive) questions surrounding their rebranding efforts.
CCCI is 501(c)(3) non-profit company, correct? Yes.
In the FAQ of your website, you use the work “stakeholders”? Who are the “stakeholders” of CCCI? All those who participate in some way in our global mission. Staff-Ministry Partners (students, businessmen, professional athletes, military chaplains, lay volunteers) – Donors – Organizations we partner with.
According to your 2010 annual statement, it seems that you were short the last couple of years – did a loss in revenue contribute to the decision to rebrand CCCI? No. The loss in revenue did not play any role whatsoever in our name change or in the shifts in how we live out our mission.
The name change of CCCI to “Cru” has ruffled the feathers of Christians worldwide – did you anticipate the backlash? If so, how did you prepare? Yes and No. We anticipated that many whose lives had been changed by their involvement with Campus Crusade in the past would not be pleased with a new name. Often a name change signals a significant change in direction or in mission. This wasn’t true of our name change. We needed to change because of two words – Campus and Crusade. We also anticipated that some followers of Jesus would be concerned that the word Christ was not part of the new name — we were prepared to speak to that. What caught us off-guard were a couple mainstream media stories that were inaccurate and sensationalized — “that our motivation for the name-change was the word “Jesus”. The backlash to a false soundbite did get ahead of us.
On your website you detail the process of changing your name, reassuring everyone that eliminating Christ was not an intentional move. Surely it came up in the months leading up to the vote – might you reveal some of the arguments for and against removing the name of Christ? The motivations for changing our name were the two words Campus and Crusade. From that point we simply engaged in a process of finding a name that would allow us to most effectively connect people to the heart of Jesus and his offer of love and forgiveness. The key criteria that disqualified most of the 1600 name options was trademark ownability.
As someone in the entertainment industry, I am fully aware of the ins and outs of rebranding, but pairing secular business jargon with a faith-based ministry makes me nervous. Could you let us in on the spiritual journey of changing the name? We’ve known for some time that the word Crusade was a hindrance to connecting to the men and women who could benefit by encountering and experiencing Jesus. But we were a bit slow to begin the shift because of the great equity of our current name among followers of Jesus. Many of our stakeholders didn’t hear the words “Campus Crusade” with the same baggage. The faith journey was one of giving up what was comfortable and known and moving into the unknown for the sake of effectiveness.
Christianity as a whole is struggling (in the media, in Hollywood, on the internet) and we are often surrounded by very bad publicity. Was changing the name to Cru an effort to distance CCCI from the bad PR? The name change was not motivated by bad media publicity. It was motivated by a desire to remove the hurdles between individuals and their opportunity to consider Jesus.
The Bible talks about God as not being the author of confusion but, to some, “Cru” is an ambiguous and confusing name. What is your response? Since the mid-90’s when Cru became a nickname for much of our work at the local level, the name has been filled with all of the meaning that comes from the experience, opportunity and relationship of being involved. It’s true, that much like Google or Starbucks the word Cru has no direct definition tied to the organization. But much like those companies, it’s how our partners experience Cru at personal touchpoints that will fill the word with meaning.
When I posted your story on our facebook page, many compared the change to YMCA. Upon visiting the YMCA website – Christ is all but gone. What is you response to this? I can’t speak for the YMCA. I can reiterate that we made our change so that we could have greater opportunity to EXALT Christ more effectively. Our decision was motivated by our intentionality and our intensity to talk more often and more effectively about Jesus and the need for everyone in the world to know Him. Our websites are full of resources to help people meet Jesus and to walk with him. Check out www.everystudent.com and www.startingwithgod.com.
I have been debating with people since this story broke that changing your name to Cru is no different that what Paul had to do to adapt to Roman society. Have you discussed and/or prepared a statement on the similarities? Your point is wise. We are always seeking to communicate the unchanging truth of the gospel in ways that give people the best opportunity to process and respond to it. The only hurdle to gospel should be the cross itself.
There are Christians out there that are supporting this change. I think it’s just difficult to swallow, as the name of Christ has become such a taboo. His name is magnificent. When Jesus is lifted up he will draw all men to himself. The word Crusade was a hindrance that limited our ability to lift up the name of Jesus. The word Campus was confusing to many who would consider joining us in lifting up Jesus name once they left the university. May God give us all the grace to honor and exalt Christ in ways that extend far beyond the name on the door. May we all trust Him as we take the initiative daily to connect people with Jesus through our words and actions. May God honor our obedient faith and draw men to Himself.
So there you have it. This is a really interesting debate and I would love for you all to weigh in. Please feel free to discuss your opinions in the comments section below.
God’s Fencepost is a weekly meditation/devotional that deals with morality and current events. I, Shannon Ivey, am an openly flawed human being who simply pens what I perceive to be the important reflections of God’s mercy, creativity and unconditional love. My mother always said that God can use something as simple as a fencepost as a mouth-piece, so that’s what my column humbly aims to be. . . “God’s Fencepost.”