Strategy & Marketing

“It’s Not a Christian Organization if Christ Isn’t In the Name”

I hear that one a lot.  In fact, I’ve heard it in relation to Campus Crusade for Christ changing their name.  Some people are upset that they seem to have dropped the “Christ” part, when in fact, it was the “Crusade” word that caused them trouble with certain international outreaches.  But everyone’s a critic, and they had to get upset about something.  Campus Crusade changed it’s name last week to “CRU.”

For those outside the organization, “Cru” is an informal nickname that their campus staff have called themselves for years.  It has enormous equity among what’s probably the largest outreach in the organization – not to mention their next generation of leaders – and among the 5 final name choices, they made that selection.

Like “CRU” or not, one of the biggest criticisms has been the tired line that “It’s not Christian if you take “Christ” out of the name.”  Some have even called them “cowardly.”  My take?  That criticism, while probably made by well meaning people, could not be more false.  Using that argument, 90% of churches wouldn’t be Christian and the “Billy Graham Evangelistic Association” wouldn’t be Christian – along with about a million others – including Christian colleges and universities.  And dropping the word isn’t a sign of retreat, it’s a sign of advance.  After all, what’s the point of having a word like “crusade” or even “Christ” in the name if leading with that actually closes the door to sharing that very message?

I saw a movie workshop at a Christian media conference recently actually called “If “Christ” isn’t in the movie, you can’t call it a Christian film.”  That’s equally preposterous.

I wish people – even well meaning ones – would find out the real information before criticizing name changes – particularly from organizations that have long track records of success and integrity.  I wasn’t personally involved in the name change, but I know they spent years agonizing over it, praying, and doing their homework.  They know that a name can either open a door or shut it.

There are legitimate reasons to debate names and name changes.  Provocative challenges like calling people cowards for taking “Christ” out of the name isn’t one of them.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the name change and the issue in general…

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  1. That bit about the Christian media workshop really made my laugh. By that logic, because Satan doesn’t appear or isn’t mentioned in pornographic films, they aren’t morally questionable.

  2. Agree! I’ve been in discussion like this involving church and other organization names … and I’ve never gotten how having God/Jesus/Christ in a name makes it anything … I thought the people and what they do or don’t do determines that. 

  3. Find out the real information before criticizing.  Excellent point here and applicable to all aspects of life.

  4. Thanks Phil, great article and well written. As someone who’s on staff with cru i appreciate you believing the best about us, and helping others to see that other than our name nothing else has changed!

  5. Tough question.  I would not have recommended they make that change, but the answer is in the motive, and since we don’t have the ability to look on the heart like God does, I’d say it best to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  6. We recently went through a logo redesign at our church and were set on a non-cross oriented symbol before deciding it would probably best represent our audience if we left the cross in it. This led me to start thinking about whether we should symbolize ourselves with who we ARE or who we REPRESENT.

    The church is the body of christ. Meaning we’re just that, the body, and only the body. We’re not Christ himself. So should we not then make our calling card represent the body and not necessarily the head? I know it sounds weird to say we want to advertise the church and not Jesus. But your name is YOUR name. We don’t call the church “Christ”, we call the church “the church”.

    I’ve not come to a conclusion on this. I’m just wondering what it would look like if our names and logos symbolized that we’re the body instead of using the cross and “Christian” to symbolize the body.

    Taken too far, I guess that thinking can lend toward a risk of becoming us-centered and not Christ-centered.

  7. Banter amongst staff with CCC has ranged from, “Put an “X” on the end of it!” to “Why not, ‘Campus for Christ’ or simply ‘For Christ?'” to “It’s about time!” to “CRU actually has a lot of integrity, re: “Cru” is the grassroots nickname this generation of students has pegged us with.”  It’s a hip play on words that addresses our evangelistic impulse, but neuters that middle faux pax word in our original CCC name.  When you think about it, historically CCC never has been a “crusade” in any traditional sense of the word.  It’s been an exponentially growing spiritual movement with supernatural origins.  So, CRU, aka a “crew” of Jesus’ followers who are moving with God (and in step with the Holy Spirit), might be just the kind of name-tweak the Great Physician has ordered.

  8. I think people look for an excuse to criticize Christianity and unfortunatelly this does exactly that. I cringe when people take Christ out of Christmas and use Xmas as an example. I do think it is going along with the times and can’t believe this change is that needed. Using a Church name as reason this doesn’t matter is poor. How many Churches changed their name? The point is you are changing and opening yourself to a scrutiny you didn’t have to 

    1. Before you get too upset about “X” in place of “Christ”, do some studying on the origin of Christmas.

    2. I cringe when people don’t do the simplest research. Xmas is not about taking Christ out of Christmas. See this Wikipedia entry below:
      “Xmas” is a common abbreviation of the word “Christmas”. It is sometimes pronounced /ˈɛksməs/, but it, and variants such as “Xtemass”, originated as handwriting abbreviations for the typical pronunciation /ˈkrɪsməs/. The “-mas” part is from the Latin-derived Old English word for “Mass”,[1] while the “X” comes from the Greek letter Chi, which is the first letter of the Greek word Χριστός, translated as “Christ”.[2]
      There is a common misconception that the word Xmas is a secular attempt to remove the religious tradition from Christmas[3] by taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas”.The word “Christ” and its compounds, including “Christmas”, have been abbreviated in English for at least the past 1,000 years, long before the modern “Xmas” was commonly used. “Christ” was often written as “XP” or “Xt”; there are references in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as far back as AD 1021. This X and P arose as the uppercase forms of theGreek letters χ and ρ used in ancient abbreviations for Χριστος (Greek for “Christ”),[2] and are still widely seen in many Eastern Orthodox icons depicting Jesus Christ. Thelabarum, an amalgamation of the two Greek letters rendered as ☧, is a symbol often used to represent Christ in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Christian Churches.[18]

  9. A number of years ago, I was having a discussion with a woman about our opposing views on the necessity of baptism.  She claims she was right, because she went to a “Church of Christ”.  She asked me what the name of my church was, and since it did not have Church of Christ in the name, I was wrong.  

  10. A rose by any other name….Phil, remember when we were part of changing Joyce Meyer’s organizational name to Joyce Meyer Ministries?  Some donors were up in arms.  But any other name didn’t help the greatest amount of people find her on the TV listings.  That is the end game.  Reach as many as possible.  

  11. Well said Phil. The “heat” about the change has overwhelmed the light. Thanks for a reasoned and focused response. I wrote a blog about it here too:

  12. Coincidental.  I just started reading your book JOLT.  And so I googled you to find out more and came on your blog.  And earlier today I posted on the same subject (CRU) from a different perspective (but the same point) for a different audience – (July 31).  I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book.  Much grace.

  13. As long as the will of the Lord is done and the vision of the CCFC is maintained and sustained!!!!  Let us not make it a big issue!!!  Just keep supporting them..I was fortunate to have been grounded in the Word by CCFC here in Suva, Fiji in 1983 while a student at the University of the South Pacific!!!  The same people are there and I trust them as they have not changed although there is a new name!!!

  14. Years ago when a particular Christian singer began to have non-religious hits, another singer/musician responded by saying that if you are going to do “crossover” (artistry)…be sure to take the cross over. Jingoism at its best.

    I haven’t figured it all out, yet. Speaking of things “Christian”, how about the name “Church” of Scientology, with a cross on some of their buildings? Doesn’t seem to keep many Hollywood celebs away. Maybe that’s because Jesus is not really the center of that “church”-?

  15. I don’t have a problem with changing the name except the word “Cru” seems to be like a secret password or abbreviation for the word “crusade” and I wonder then if the people you were afraid of offending will see any difference.

  16. Great post!
    As a filmmaker, and a Christian, I often plunge headlong into the argument of my media efforts lacking ‘Christ’ in both name and outright presence in the work… interesting, as the work shares experiences, creates dialogue, and is most definitely reflecting my values as a Christian.

    Thaks for your toughts on the topic, Phil- and your brillaint examples. The media workshop header is so hammer to nail– let’s make an effort to help folks bridge the gap between shallow criticism, and being open-minded. It’s the message, no?

  17. You could half understand CCCI taking the Campus for Christ out of their name thinking Cru is a fluke because it is a “nickname” but I believe It might stop being a fluke when CCCI is taking the “Christ” out of their Navy Ministry replacing “Sailors for Christ” with “Military Connection” which might only sound to me more like a dating group

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