Loving the Outcast

     Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong? Have you ever been treated like there’s something wrong with you because you are different? I’ve discovered a very common theme among those who are creative, artistic, and “geeky.” I had the opportunity to capture the testimony of Nick, a professional animator and video game designer who has been serving on my team:

     “I was really shy and I heard things like, ‘you’re into Pokémon and drawing cartoons? Aren’t you twelve now? You should be into girls and stuff!’ You have no idea how many times I was asked, ‘are you gay?’ in much more colorful language, usually by my dad and people who questioned whether I was acting right. I grew very resentful.”

     The judgment Nick felt in the church caused him to pull away from God. He figured that God either didn’t exist or didn’t care. Things started to change during Nick’s freshman year, when he met AJ. “He was just like me in so many ways, but actually took pursuing God seriously.”

     AJ’s sincere faith, kind heart, and common interest stirred Nick to truly dig into exploring whether God was real. AJ couldn’t convince Nick of God’s existence, because Nick felt he had to experience it for himself; but their friendship brought Nick to a place where he knew he had to take a step of faith. He said, “I’ve never seen it yet, but I’m gonna give it a real shot.” Nick sealed this decision by “handing over to God” his most prized possession, the sketchbook he carried everywhere and which brought him so much ridicule.

     He noticed a change in his heart very quickly. “I didn’t resent people for thinking I was weird all the time anymore. That was huge to me! All of a sudden, I didn’t have that tension, always feeling left out and ignored. I can be me, even if people don’t get it. God gets me and that’s actually enough.” From then on, Nick pursued God while drawing and telling stories—which has led to an active career and ministry.

     Nick and his wife are now working with us—producing gospel animations, video games, and developing a strategy to reach those within a gaming or “nerd” culture. In order to continue to send students like AJ as missionaries to the outcast, Karen and I are trusting the Lord to provide special gifts to help fully fund our ministry in 2023 and increase our impact on the next generation. Would you prayerfully consider helping to meet this need right now with a one-time or monthly gift of the amount which God puts on your heart?

     Whether you are able to help meet this need or not, we want to express our deepest appreciation for your partnership. Through your generous giving and prayers, we and many young people have been truly blessed. Thank you for serving with us to bring the gospel to the whole world through the next generation!

Reaching High Schoolers

   25 students at our local high school invited Jesus into their hearts a few weeks ago! That was about 1/4 of the students who attended the first Cru outreach of the year led by Cru High School missionary, Carlos.  Since then, we’ve been discussing the possibility of teaming up with the school’s gaming club to do another gospel event.

     Jon-Gabriel, the gaming club president, is both a renowned eSports competitor and the son of a local pastor.  He has been praying for God to use his gifts as a platform for people to discover Jesus.

     This has also been an opportunity to work together with missionaries from FamilyLife (a Cru ministry that focuses on empowering marriages and parenting), and a partnering ministry called Crossover.

Finishing Well

   On the 29th of this month, we were saddened to hear that Steve Douglass went home to be with the Lord.  Steve became the second president of Campus Crusade for Christ in the year 2000, after having served with founder Bill Bright for over 30 years.  Dr. Bright said that Steve, “knows and understands our movement as well as anybody, and better than most. He genuinely seeks to honor our Lord in his actions and decisions.”  Our current president, Steve Sellers, called him a “great missionary statesman,” saying that his death was a “tremendous loss for the [Cru] family.”

     Steve Douglass had a special place in our hearts, personally.  He was the leader who welcomed us into the ministry family 16 years ago, and 10 years ago he prayed over Karen when visiting our team right before our decision to move to Cru headquarters.  Steve balanced a heart for God’s mission everywhere with an approachable and genuine concern for individuals.

     We got to know him a little more over the years and, when our team asked him to pray for Cru leaders to catch the vision for reaching students through video games, he replied “I hope they easily see the opportunity.”  We pray that our own lives will be proven as good and faithful as that of this kind and generous man of God.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

   Karen and I like to teach people to do what we call “stride-of-life ministry.”  Sometimes Christians can believe that it is solely up to pastors and vocational missionaries to spread the gospel, or that ministry is something individual Christians do on trips or during events.

     “Stride-of-life” ministry, though, is the idea that God owns every day of every believer (Galatians 2:20).  Being a light for Jesus isn’t something we turn on and off, or set on our calendars.  When we wake up each day re-centering on what Christ has done for us and who we are in Him (2 Cor 5:21), the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith, allowing the unconditional love and peace of God to fill us to overflowing (John 7:38-39).  As we set out each day to engage in the world around us (at work, in our family, in our neighborhood, or with our friends), it is that love and peace that people see evident in our lives (2 Cor 4:7).  Life becomes an adventure with the our heavenly Father, keeping our eyes open for the good works He prepares in advance for us (Ephesians 2:10).

     Karen is my favorite example of this.  Everywhere she goes, Karen truly sees people.  Just the other day, it happened again.  We split up in Walmart to run some errands.  When I found her again, she waved me over with excitement to meet her new friend, Jonathan, whom she met in the toy aisle.  Jonathan travels around the area making sure his company’s supply is stocked and displayed properly, but he also makes it a point to be kind and helpful beyond his official responsibilities.  It was amazing to see how God opened his heart to share with us about his family, his back pains, and his emotional journey.  We’ve kept in touch, and have been praying for him ever since.  Would you pray for him, too, and look out for the Jonathans God may be putting in your path?

Strangely Easy to Share

    One of the core ways Cru spreads the gospel, and one of the first things we teach Christian students to do, is to walk their campus starting conversations with new people and inviting them to learn about our Lord and Savior. We coach them to never take that conversation where the other person is unhappy to go; our goal is to leave each encounter with the other person closer to Jesus than when we started. We realize that most of the time people won’t go from hostile to new believer in one interaction. That said, these “random conversations” led to many people giving their lives to Jesus (2,056 total salvation decisions so far this year among our different evangelism strategies)!

Pray for “Broken Bonds” and “Blissful Dawn” (screennames of those we met)

    It may sound strange, but one of our favorite places to go on campus is wherever people go to smoke. People there are usually not rushed and are more open to chatting. The same is true in some video game spaces, like VR Chat. In the midst of people being weird and silly, my friend Frank and I met a college student who opened up about a recent tragedy, and his friend who struggles at her job. All this without leaving the house. Pray for more like this!

Innovators for Christ

Karen and I getting to know some of our teammates

    “One of the greatest dangers for Cru is that we would stop innovation. Cru has always been on the cutting edge, thinking about new ways to do ministry more effectively. If we lose that innovative spirit, we will lose something that is core to our movement. We all need to look for new ways to accomplish the mission and the vision God has given us.”

– Steve Sellers, President of Cru

    This year, Karen and I are participating in an Innovation Residency to explore insights and opportunities, with the goal of helping to design fresh solutions to our most pressing problems and deliver these ideas around the globe.

    We hope to develop unique ways of building people in their faith & sending them out with that same life-changing message and relationship. We are fueled by the words of Cindy, who told us, “Without you [trying new things], I never would have become a Christian.”

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     We’ve recently been introduced to two styles of problem solving: Human-Centered Design (HCD) and Gamification. HCD says to spend a lot of time interviewing the people you’re creating something for, and to involve some of them throughout the whole design process. This process really sees people, their aches, and their hopes; and there are plenty of examples of it in the Bible (Prov 19:2, 20:5; Mark 2:17; Acts 17:22-29; Phil 2:3; 1 Thes 2:7-11). This is how we developed a gospel presentation specific to people from an honor/shame culture as well as our StoryRunners ministry.

     The drawback of the HCD method is that it costs a lot of manpower, time, and the money to customize a solution for a specific audience. There’s also the danger that the people you involve won’t accurately represent your whole audience, or that you will have to re-design for every new audience you want to engage. That’s where gamification comes in, which looks at why people voluntarily spend their time/money on games (from sports to slot machines) and says that “people are called to action and transformation through these common motivations.” After all, God already knows what motivates the hearts of mankind (Psalm 139:1-2; Prov 21:1; Matt 6:8). Do we get people to do what’s good for them by appealing to their better natures, referred to as “white hat motivators” (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 1:17; John 1:12; Romans 5:8; 2 Cor 5:20)? Or, do we try to move people toward God through the discomfort and urgency of “black hat motivators” (Ez 3:18; John 15:2; Luke 12:20, 16:27-28; Heb 9:27)?

     As we come up with ways to build communities, equip believers to spread the love of God, and invite new people into His family, some balk at the idea of “playing on people’s emotions,” which is a valid concern. It may be impossible to avoid it completely, but what we can do is make sure we are primarily focused on truly seeing and loving the people we’re engaging. In all we do, let us allow Christ to lead our hearts, and let the Spirit produce His fruit in our lives (1 Cor 9:16; 2 Cor 5:14; Phil 1:15-18).


     Imagine a boisterous youth leader paired up with a quiet, not-sure-what-he’s-in-for freshman boy stepping into a humid and bustling courtyard of students to represent Jesus.  What a neat blessing to have our son Arthur learning from Carlos (our Cru missionary at the local high school).  We were so proud of our son as he helped man their club fair table.  He courageously spoke to older students at a school he’d never before attended.  That was just the start!

     The next week, on Country Western day of Spirit Week, Arthur and Carlos navigated crowded halls of cowboy-attired students to deliver 40 pizzas for an outreach event.  Around 100 high schoolers heard Cru students share their testimonies using “The Four.” 79 people filled out comment cards and 25 of them said they invited Jesus into their heart that day!  Please pray as Arthur and the team follow up with these new believers and invite them into Bible studies at the high school.

What God’s Been Teaching Us

     As we read a book for our Innovation Program, I (Jeff) was shocked by a truly ugly reflection. It started with a discussion of the healthcare system’s culture of evading blame and covering up mistakes.  The author of Black Box Thinking writes, “In health care, competence is often equated with clinical perfection. Making mistakes is considered to demonstrate ineptness. The very idea of failing is threatening.” I could sympathize. I mean who wants to go to a doctor who has accidentally amputated the wrong limb?  Then it got a little too close to home…

     “Society, as a whole, has a deeply contradictory attitude to failure. Even as we find excuses for our own failings, we are quick to blame others for the same mistakes. We have a deep instinct to find scapegoats. It destroys the vital information we need in order to learn. Studies have shown we are often so worried about failing that we will create vague goals so that nobody can point the finger if we don’t achieve them. This represents the essential anatomy of failure-denial. Self-justification, allied to a wider cultural allergy to failure, morphs into an almost insurmountable barrier to progress.”

     I’m afraid of looking bad.  I’ve spent a lifetime afraid that I am incompetent, and working very hard to ensure myself and everyone else that “I didn’t screw up” or “it wasn’t my fault.”  I want to hide my sin under fig leaves and want to believe I have earned God’s love, but that’s not what God says (1 John 1:8-9).

     The world doesn’t need another pretend perfect person.  Every human being longs to be known and loved as we truly are.  To be unconditionally loved in a conditional world. This is the beautiful answer of the gospel: that, as Tim Keller says, “we are more sinful than we dared believe, yet we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”  This message rings truest when authentically, sincerely, genuinely shared through flawed and imperfect people (2 Cor 4:7).  Nobody will see Christ in me while I am engaged in image management, so I want to work toward Paul’s example & boast about my weaknesses so the power of Christ can work through me (2 Cor 12:9-10).