Is Cru Losing Its First Love for Christ?

By Tom Gilson Published on April 3, 2024

All through history, God has launched powerful movements to serve alongside the Church. They begin with His people doing marvelous things in His name, their momentum lasts years or even decades … but in time nearly all of them falter, fade, and eventually fail.

That story appears to be in danger of repeating itself today. For me, it’s even sadder because it’s deeply personal.

For 34 years, my wife and I served as staff members and leaders in Campus Crusade for Christ, the ministry now known as Cru. Now I see its leaders — including friends of mine — making decisions that are bound to lead to its downfall.

Cru has set a new policy it is training its staff to use: that it’s okay or even advisable to practice “pronoun hospitality.” And yet to do so is to accommodate the lie that a man can be a woman, and vice versa.

Staff members Uriah and Marissa Mundell voiced biblical objections to this policy recently, and a supervisor told them to comply for the sake of being “winsome.” When they took their objections public, Cru fired them.

Great Staff, Great Friends

I can’t hide it: This hurts. This is family — family I helped build. For more than five years I served as a senior human resource director with Cru, part of a team responsible for guiding and shaping policy. Later I served in strategy development on a team attached to the President’s Office.

Many of Cru’s senior leaders today were once close, trusted colleagues. Some were good friends, and still are. Cru staff members have a special bond of unity based on a shared mission, mutual respect, and beyond that, the uniqueness of living on salaries provided by prayer and financial partners that we ourselves gathered as colaborers.

No one chooses a life on missionary support like that unless they mean it. If you meet a Cru staff member, you’re meeting someone who is highly committed to the Great Commission. These are great people, every one of them, with a great heart for the lost. Not one of them would dream of trading the truth of Christ for a lie.

Ironically, though, just days before the Mundells were fired, TV personality Megyn Kelly publicly repented for having promoted “pronoun hospitality” in the past. If she can see the deception in transgenderism, why can’t Cru?

I fear it’s because they’ve set their mission so high in their minds, they’ve made it their first love.

Built on a Great Foundation

Bill Bright warned us urgently against losing our first love, our love for Jesus Christ. He and his wife, Vonette, founded Campus Crusade in 1951, with one clear vision in mind: the “fulfillment of the Great Commission in our generation.”

The movement grew steadily, eventually becoming the largest interdenominational mission agency in the world. Hand in hand with many other churches and missions groups, it’s played a direct role in seeing hundreds of millions of people come to faith in Christ over seven decades.

The error would be more subtle, appearing in the form of “a good idea” for reaching the lost more effectively.

Dr. Bright kept a gentle but firm hand on the movement. When we met for staff conferences, his message was consistent, and his themes were few: Walk in faith. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Take the initiative to share your faith, and leave the results to God. Know how to disciple others. Trust God for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

He must have seen the fragility of it all, though, because in his later years he added one more theme, which he repeated again and again: a plea drawn from Revelation 2:4, never to lose our first love.

How to Slip Away from Christ …

How does a great evangelistic movement fall away from that first love? Not by rejecting their love for Christ. I cannot tell you how unthinkable that would be for Cru. No, the error would be more subtle, appearing in the form of “a good idea” for reaching the lost more effectively.

Cru has always focused on eliminating needless barriers to nonbelievers’ hearing the Gospel. This was “our DNA,” as we often said among ourselves. It was part of the reason Cru influenced so many for Christ. So when the world began saying it was an “offense” to “misgender” people, making it hard to have conversations about Christ, that appeared as one of those needless barriers to avoid. So now, for the sake of the mission, Cru’s staff are now being trained to go the “winsome” route by using “pronoun hospitality.”

Is this “barrier” really needless, though? Or is this a case of the mission taking first place in Cru’s heart when it should be second instead? I believe it’s the latter.

… Without Even Noticing

I doubt they realize they’re doing it. Bringing the lost to Christ is a right and worthy thing to do, but not (as Eric Metaxas warns us) when we make an idol of it. Not when we set it even slightly ahead of Christ Himself.

I believe if Bill Bright were here today he would remind us of another biblical love, found in 2 Thessalonians 2:10: love for the truth, closely connected to obedience. Jesus was the example here, as always. Our Lord was absolutely willing to accommodate others’ needs over His own, even to the extreme of giving His life for us, yet in His commitment to truth, He was absolutely unyielding.

Though they still love Jesus Christ, they’ve let His way, His word, and His truth slip silently to second place. Their mission has become their first love. 

The same Great Commission that is so central to Cru’s mission and identity includes His instruction to “teach all I have commanded you.” Surely that includes His example of truth, and His teaching on holding fast to it! 

It appears very much to me now that Cru has let go of that. Though they still love Jesus Christ, they’ve let His way, His Word, and His truth slip silently to second place. Their mission has become their first love. 

Feeling the Weight of It

This is my best analysis of what’s likely going on at Cru, but my heart in this is far from strictly analytical. There is too much of me in this story: too much history, too much joy, too much love — and now too much disappointment, too much alarm, too much grief.

There was a time when it would have been my responsibility to terminate staff members like the Mundells. I vividly remember those meetings with other senior leaders, making hard personnel decisions we needed to make. The team would decide together, but it was my signature on the page that made the termination official. I can still feel the weight of it.

Three Hard Conversations for Cru

If I was sitting in that leadership meeting today, deciding what to do with the Mundells, I would start with hard conversations about Cru itself, pleading for us to keep Christ at the center above all else. I would urge my fellow leaders to honor Uriah and Marissa Mundell for standing strong for Christ and His truth.

The Mundells took their complaints public. That’s a significant policy violation for Cru, as it is with almost every organization, so as HR director I would have had to take that seriously. I have no doubt that was the official reason they were fired.

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I wouldn’t rush to terminate them even for that, though. We would have to sit down with them for more hard conversations. These were never easy decisions, so I cannot say from here how that would or should have ended. I do know where I would begin: Always, and as much as possible, seeking first to restore and reconcile.

Finally, I would want to initiate still more hard conversations, this time with all of Cru’s leaders, urging us to remember Bill Bright’s warning — not to mention the words of Christ Himself! — to maintain our first love, not casting it aside even for the sake of the mission.

My prayer with this column is to help spark that very conversation.

May God Restore!

Jesus Himself told us in Revelation 2:4-5, “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

Great movements come and great movements go, and when they go, it’s because of sin and compromise within. So I say this now with tears — tears that are making it hard to see what I’m typing on the screen: I fear we will see the same happen to Cru.

It hurts. I love the movement so much. I love the people so much. May God restore them.

(Cru will not speak to members of the media on these topics. I am in touch with the Mundells and will be speaking with them soon, off the record, having chosen to write this based on my own direct experience with Cru.)

An update to this article including one correction appeared on Friday, April 12, 2024.

 

  Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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