Campus Crusade vs. the Local Church: my evaluation

Thanks for the comments guys. I think there are tremendous advantages to the parachurch, but on the whole, the campus ministry variety is a dying class. But first, the good news.

Here’s are some advantages of parachurch ministry:

1. Scope: Singular commitment to a particular vision that has the muscle to reach a larger scope.The local church is at a disadvantage because its scope is going to be, by definition, limited to a particular community.

2. Ecumenism: Since CCC doesn’t focus on doctrines that can tend to divide, it can sweep up a large number of laborers into the umbrella for the purposes of evangelism, while leaving the doctrinal concerns under the purview of their specific churches.

3. Unhindered Focus: CCC can legitimately target those who would be ‘leaders’ while not giving  much attention to those who are less fortunate. That means CCC will generally focus on the educated, the attractive, the influential, the popular, and the articulate. These are the sorts of people that movements are built upon. A church would abandon its mandate if it were to neglect these people, but because CCC is an evangelistic enterprise and not a church, it is not forced to care for those who will not directly advance the mission.

4. The Edge: Because CCC will always be working with the “emerging” generation of young people, they will always have the edge of knowing what trends are taking place in the culture. Campus Crusade was on the forefront of seeker sensitive ministry before Bill Hybels and Willow-Back got on board.

Analysis: With these advantages, why is CCC losing influence? Is it merely because our founder and president is dead?

No. Campus Crusade filled the void at a pivotal time in history when the conservative church had abandoned its Great Commission mandate and buried itself in fundamentalist protectionism. Bill Bright’s vision was large and no church would embrace it. However, (and i say this with sadness) I think CCC will continue to lose influence because now that it has been around for 60 years, its flaws are becoming more visible.

It is, in many respects, a victim of its own success and influence. By this I mean that CCC put out with factory like precision two generations of missional minded people who were committed to the same things that the larger church ignored or thought it already had covered. CCC was the best at building communities of faith with deep relationships, calling people to radical commitment to Christ, Great Commission obsession, contemporary worship music, and so on. The church was quite comfortable in its own routine, largely due to the abandonment of the Great Commission and the influence of fundamentalist protectionism.

But the church learned from parachurch ministries, especially as those college students became pastors, teachers, elders, and so on, and help refocus the church. Now that those values have been largely embraced by the broader church, the church has also recognized that the parachurch way of embracing those values are fundamentally deficient.

Its kind of like learning to read using rudimentary and flawed techniques. After learning to read, one reads about better methods of learning to read and uses that knowledge to teach others the new method.

Its the same with the church and parachurch. The parachurch taught the church many valuable things. The church embraced them over time, only to learn that the parachurch was a flawed approach to embracing those values it had now come to embrace.

My prediction: church planting will replace the parachurch as the primary vehicle for evangelism in the USA. I’ll supply these reasons in a forthcoming post…

  1. hi sir first i do thank God that He allowed me to stumble upon your site. though i disagree with the many things you wrote about parachurches, in particular, CCC, i praise God that through your blog i am acquiring new perspectives.

    i am a 5th year student in the philippines currently involved with CCC. i already have applied to become a staff member of CCC and just waiting for the result of my application.

    i have a problem with the title itself: CCC vs. local church. our goal is to bring God the highest glory by functioning as a body in fulfilling the Great Commission. why do you look at it as if CCC and the local churches are competing against each other? as if we are doing the things we are doing (evangelism, discipleship) to get the applause of Christians?

    i acknowledge that ccc has flaws, weaknesses, just as the local churches do because no organization, parachurch or local church can accomplish the Great Commission on its own. CCC acknowledges very well that it cannot accomplish the task on its own. so instead of pointing a finger to other organizations’ flaws, why not just do what God has called us to do? Not everyone is called for campus ministry. Not everyone is called for local church ministry. God called each of us, and He has gifted each one of us for our specific part to help fulfill the Great Commission.

    despite all this, sir, i have saved your page so i can read it later. thank you so much for the insights.

    for the glory of Jesus,

  2. Al-Jay

    Thank you for posting. I love Campus Crusade dearly and have spent many years of my life serving God through this ministry. These are my predictions based on what I have observed in the USA. In the Philippines, the situation is different and Campus Crusade may still exert a great deal of influence there.

    Nonetheless, I stand by my prediction that CCC will lose influence because more and more churches are beginning to adopt their methods. Thus, more churches are doing things missionally, which is a good thing.

    Thanks again for your comments, and I look forward to more in the future.

  3. Michael,

    You’re on staff with CCC? Wow – I came to faith with Campus Crusade back in 1990 (I had just started my Sophomore year). I totally agree with your analysis, and thought it was very well-balanced. CCC served and serves a legitimate need (bringing people to Christ and discipling them), and is a great organization. However, you are correct in that the local church is the biblical model. The tension between the two becomes clearer on the foreign mission field – I went to Bulgaria with CCC for a short-term mission in the early ’90’s – these foreign para-church organizations essentially became competitors with the established, local evangelical churches. Not good.

    The same problem can exist here as well, but less overtly. Anyway, a great benefit of their work has been raising up a generation of college grads on fire for the Lord who can in turn go back and serve in the Church at large. I have read that in recent years, CCC has gone quite liberal in certain doctrinal areas, which disappoints me greatly. OTOH, I have also heard that repentance is now included in the Gospel presentation and the possibility of being a life-long “carnal Christian” has been removed from the Four Laws, so that is good. What school are you serving?

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