I recently had the privilege of getting to attend a Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ) vision dinner (also called a “fellowship dinner”–here’s an example of one from a different region and some tips that explain what these are all about). I left filled up with thoughts, ideas for evangelization, and a curiosity about the many legacies of Cru in my life. Here’s a few thoughts:
1. The dinner was filled with real life testimony. Call it telling “glory stories” or celebrating “wins,” but the idea is the same. There’s something powerful about affirming the presence of God and the blessings of the Holy Spirit in our ministries. Read more…
2. The quickness of “win, build, send.” Like FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) the mantra or process for discipleship is the simple, “win, build, send.” One of the students sharing her testimony had her adult re-conversion (aka the “fundamental decision” in the language of Pope Emeritus Benedict in Deus Caritas Est, §1) to Jesus Christ in the fall. By the next summer she was doing initial proclamation of the Gospel and relational evangelism overseas on a summer-length mission. FOCUS operates similarly. While it’s not explicitly rejected, it seems like in typical parishes, we don’t expect or support this in adults. Many adults have the sense that the amount of formation before one can be “send” to verbally share the Gospel is quite high–that it requires vast intellectual formation that would take years to acquire. While on-going formation is a lifelong Christian discipline, there is something important about encouraging and affirming people in their ability to authentically share the initial proclamation of the Gospel, the kerygma right away. Authenticity and realness of conversion goes a long way.
3. Spiritual surveys can bear real fruit. I was reminded how these are a mainstay of building a ministry for Cru. Spiritual surveying is about conversation first, collecting data second. They are easily adaptable as an evangelization technique in Catholic parishes. Crupressgreen.com has some great resources and how-to articles, just search for “survey” or check this list.
4. Indirect influence matters. As I listened to the various speakers talk, I thought about how, though I’d never gone to a Cru (then Campus Crusade) small group Bible study during my undergraduate years, I was indeed touched by their ministry. The last time I moved, I found a box of papers from college. In one folder was a collection of “Every Student” newspaper ads with apologetics and/or evangelistic messages. I’d cut these out in college. Because they spoke to me and gave me ways to defend my faith in a skeptical, indifferent, and sometimes even politely hostile college environment. I’m also pretty sure that Cru helped to sponsor some of the many auditorium-filling Christian speakers that came to our campus to speak about the rationality of our faith, the created order, and more.
5. Cru’s Catholic legacy. For anyone familiar with Cru and FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students), it’s pretty obvious that FOCUS is a “grandchild” of Cru [with FOCUS founder Curtis Martin as the first generation fruit of Cru, so to speak]. As I left the dinner, I was thinking about how amazed Cru founder Bill Bright might have been, back in the 1950s or 1960s, if someone had told him that in just a few decades there was going to be a Catholic version of Cru on campuses across America. Oh how the Holy Spirit can work, well beyond the limitations of our vision or imagination!
This made me a bit curious about Bill Bright, and so I found a library copy of Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America and gave it a read. Interesting to hear about the struggles Bright had with seminary education in contrast to his evangelistic ministries, his belief that denominational churches weren’t really ready to disciple and continue to form the “converts” made by Campus Crusade, his various initiatives that were not specifically focused on the relational evangelism that I’ve always identified with Cru, and more. It seems that he started out a bit anti-Catholic (thinking that the election of JFK would be the last free election in America, due to JFK’s relationship with the Vatican), but really evolved throughout his life–becoming open to Catholicism through the charismatic renewal, receiving support for the 1979 Jesus film through Catholic channels, and eventually signing onto the Evangelicals and Catholics Together ecumenical statement in 1994.
The relationship between Cru and FOCUS reminds me of some of the glorious truths in the Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio), §3-4:
- the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them [separated brethren] as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church
- Catholics must gladly acknowledge and esteem the truly Christian endowments from our common heritage which are to be found among our separated brethren
- Nor should we forget that anything wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can be a help to our own edification. Whatever is truly Christian is never contrary to what genuinely belongs to the faith; indeed, it can always bring a deeper realization of the mystery of Christ and the Church.
In that spirit, as a Catholic in a parish blessed to be hosting FOCUS missionaries who minister at our neighboring university, I’m thankful for how God used Bill Bright in a way that is indirectly producing spiritual fruit in my very own parish.