Let me start off by saying that I’ve got absolutely no problem with Campus Crusade for Christ changing its name to Cru. Sure it’s a little vague, but I think most people would agree that the old name and logo had to go. “Crusade” sounds like a declaration of war. “Cru” sounds like the name of a clothing retailer at the mall. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather meet Jesus at the mall.
But I have to admit I sighed a few times as I watched the drama surrounding the organization’s rebranding unfold. Having worked for a Christian organization in the midst of a rebranding effort that was later reversed, I saw a familiar pattern emerge:
1. Organization hires branding agency to help it change its name, motto, and/or logo.
2. Organization announces the changes and claims that they were God’s idea.
3. Supporters of the organization get all outraged because they think that “Christ” has been taken out of something.
4. Organization backtracks for fear of losing donor support. (As far as I know, this hasn’t happened with Campus Crusade yet.)
5. God looks like an idiot and Christ looks like a pawn.
What bugs me about Campus Crusade’s rebranding is not the name change but the insistence that God came up with it. In the press release announcing the change, President Steve Douglas declared, “This decision has been saturated with prayer. We only want what God wants for us.” Vice President Steve Sellers said it even more bluntly: “We believe wholeheartedly that God has given us this new name.”
The Steves basically played the God card. By insisting that the rebranding was God’s idea, they insulated themselves from criticism and pit dissenters against God Himself.
But the dissenters played the God card right back, insisting that for God to be present in the organization, he must be present in its name.
This whole fiasco illustrates why I sometimes find it difficult to work for and with Christian organizations. On more than one occasion I’ve found myself at a disadvantage because I am uncomfortable speaking definitively about what God wants when it comes to business decisions.
I may have a first choice for the title of my book, but I just can’t bring myself to argue that it’s God’s first choice too.
I may have an exciting new idea for a marketing campaign, but I just can’t bring myself to claim it was divinely inspired.
In the Christian publishing industry, where ideals and the bottom line often collide and where rejection is a part of the game, it can be especially tempting for both authors and publishers to cite God’s will as a reason for either moving forward with a project or leaving it behind. (I’ve often heard authors claim that God is their agent. Mine is Rachelle Gardner, and she’s excellent.)
I suppose it boils down to the age-old debate surrounding God’s will. Is it super-specific (God wants you to go to such-and-such college), or is it more general (God wants you to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him)? I lean toward the second view, which is why I’m cautious about invoking God’s will, especially when it comes to business decisions.
I also think there’s an element of insecurity at play. Anyone who has spoken up in a board room knows it can be intimidating to put your ideas out there and expose them to criticism, especially when you’re really excited about them. Defaulting to God’s will can bolster your position and make it harder for others to offer criticism. But even if it makes us uncomfortable, I think it’s important for Christians to be authentic— to acknowledge that there are actual people earning actual paychecks as they make these decisions. It’s less glamorous than citing God as your marketing director or editor perhaps, but it’s a lot more honest. And I think it better honors the people whose hard work makes ministries and books and music happen.
God is in the business of restoration and grace.
As long as the good people of Campus Crusade continue to commit themselves to that, I don’t think he cares what their logo looks like or what their name is.
I realize there can be quite a bit of gray space between ministry and business, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Have you ever been in a situation where God was cited as the source for a controversial decision? How did you respond? How can Christians do a better job of having healthy disagreements about these things without playing the God card?
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