Cru History

Campus Crusade for Christ

The Brights in the ’50s, soon after beginning the ministry.

When Dr. Bill and Vonette Bright began Campus Crusade for Christ in 1951, it was on a college campus… UCLA. Because of the energy and commitment of college students to make a difference in their world, Dr. Bright would say, “Reach the campus today and you reach the world tomorrow.”

Today, college campuses are still a major part of our ministry. It is in the college years that many are open to sincere, spiritual considerations. They want to know what they believe and why they believe it. Many will graduate having formed beliefs and values that they will rely on throughout their adult lives. We want them to experience what Jesus talked about when He said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

The goal of Campus Crusade for Christ is to help people begin a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ. We then are committed to building new believers in their faith and training them to win, build and send others. In short, our mission is to be used of God to turn lost people into Christ-centered laborers.

There are numerous ways in which we go about this ministry. We will use larger group speaker presentations; one-on-one personal conversations; investigative Bible studies; and evangelistic tools. We are committed to extensive discipleship, in-depth training conferences, and encouraging students toward opportunities to serve Christ on campuses in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Milestones in Cru’s History

1950s

1951

As a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, studying late one night for a Greek exam, Bill Bright receives a unique impression from God to invest his life in helping reach the entire world, starting with college students. A professor friend suggests “Campus Crusade for Christ” as the name of the new ministry. In the fall, Bill and his wife, Vonette, start Campus Crusade at UCLA with the backing of a 24-hour prayer chain.

1952

More than 250 UCLA students receive Christ, including the student-body president, campus-newspaper editor and many athletes, including Rafer Johnson (pictured here), later an Olympic gold-medalist in the decathlon. Campus Crusade spreads to other schools, and to meet the need, the Brights accept their first six staff members.

1956

Bill Bright writes “God’s Plan for Your Life.” This 20-minute evangelistic presentation, required memorization for staff members, sets the tone for the development of Campus Crusade’s revolutionary training in evangelism and discipleship.

1958

Campus Crusade becomes international as Dr. Joon Gon Kim launches the work in South Korea. Over the next 40 years, South Korea moves from a missionary-receiving nation to one that sends them, with 271 Korean Campus Crusade staff members and disciples serving in 23 other countries around the world today.

1959

The first Lay Institute for Evangelism takes the evangelism and discipleship training from the campus ministry and adapts it to a church context.

1960s

1962

At the eleventh hour, God provides every last penny for the purchase of Arrowhead Springs. The resort complex in San Bernardino, CA, becomes Campus Crusade’s headquarters for the next three decades.

1963

André Kole becomes a Campus Crusade staff member and develops an evangelistic illusion show. The André Kole Ministry becomes Campus Crusade’s first “special ministry,” preceding such divisions as Athletes in Action, Student Venture, the Josh McDowell Ministry and FamilyLife.

1965

Bill Bright takes what he describes as “the distilled essence of the gospel” and writes a booklet called Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws? Today the boolet has been translated into more than 200 languages, and more than 2.5 billion copies have been distributed worldwide.

1966

With contemporary music lyrics gaining significance in youth culture through performers like The Beatles and Bob Dylan, Campus Crusade develops its own life-changing music group. The New Folk helps lead many to a personal relationship with Christ through carefully designed concerts incorporating secular music.

1967

Campus Crusade staff members and 600 students converge on the University of California at Berkeley for one week of confronting the hotbed of radical campus activism with the radical message of the gospel. More than 700 students and faculty members receive Christ. The “Berkeley Blitz” ends with Billy Graham preaching at the campus Greek Theatre.

1970s

1972

Campus Crusade staff members and others converge on the Cotton Bowl in Dallas for EXPLO 72. This landmark conference features evangelism and discipleship training, contemporary music concerts, and lots of rain.

1974

More than 300,000 delegates attend EXPLO 74 in Seoul, South Korea. Police officially estimate a crowd of 1.5 million at one of the evening meetings; 323,000 of them indicate decisions to receive Christ.

1976

From 1976 to 1980, approximately 85 percent of Americans receive some exposure to the “I Found It!” campaign, which mobilizes more than 300,000 Christians from 15,000 churches in 246 cities for organized evangelism.

1977

Athletes in Action, Campus Crusade’s sports division, makes national news when its men’s basketball team crushes collegiate powers Nevada-Las Vegas and San Francisco. UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian, referring to AIA’s evangelistic presentations at halftime, quips, “They beat you up in the first half, pray for you at halftime, then beat you up in the second half.”

1979

JESUS, a film account of the life of Christ, premieres in 250 theaters. Based on the Gospel of Luke,JESUS is filmed at 202 locations in Israel, incorporating a cast of more than 5,000. The film becomes the most-translated motion picture in history-more than 1100 languages, 6.3 billion viewers and 250million decisions for Christ as of 2011.

1980s

1982

Campus Crusade sends its first team of students to the Soviet Union. Under the code name “Northstar,” this summer mission project highlights an influx of covert ministry activity in Eastern Europe, which accelerates openly after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

1983

More than 17,000 college students, Campus Crusade staff members and exhibitors, as well as Billy Graham, brave arctic conditions and icy roads to meet in Kansas City, MO, for KC 83, an evangelism- and discipleship-training conference.

1985

EXPLO 85, a worldwide video conference, links an estimated 300,000 delegates at 98 conference sites on five continents, with the help of 18 satellites. Bill Bright defies jet lag while spending one day on all five continents.

1987

Campus Crusade launches New Life 2000®. This initiative brings Campus Crusade ministries under one umbrella in cooperation with Christians worldwide, with a goal of helping lead at least 1 billion people to Christ.

1988

The first Thursday in May is officially declared the National Day of Prayer. Vonette Bright serves as co-chairwoman in its first year. Campus Crusade later turns over leadership of the event to Shirley Dobson and Focus on the Family.

1990s

1990

Representatives from 102 countries converge on Manila over a six-month period. During the New Life 2000: Manila project, more than 5,000 people (only 11 percent of them Americans) present the gospel to 3.3 million Filipinos, with 447,000 indicating decisions to receive Christ.

1991

Campus Crusade’s world headquarters moves from California to Florida. After 30 years at Arrowhead Springs in San Bernardino, the ministry relocates to Orlando.

1992

The CoMission unites more than 60 Christian organizations, including Campus Crusade, in the pursuit of making the most of the new-found spiritual openness in the former Soviet Union. The CoMission foreshadows the explosion of cooperative efforts in the church at large, such as The Macedonian Project and Mission America.

1994

Bill Bright fasts for 40 days, and issues a call for prayer and fasting for revival in America. More than 600 Christian leaders meet in Orlando, FL, for the first Prayer and Fasting Conference. In 1998, thousands join the conference through 4,100 satellite downlinks.

1997

Campus Crusade’s U.S. National Staff Conference becomes a world staff conference, as staff members representing 171 other nations attend and find their faith inspired.

2000’s

2000

Bill Bright announces Steve Douglass, executive vice president and director of U.S. Ministries, as his successor, effective August 2001.

2001

In response to the September 11 attacks on America, Campus Crusade produces the evangelistic magazine Fallen but Not Forgotten. The 16-page remembrance piece was distributed to more than 10 million people by hundreds of churches and Christian organizations.

2002

Operation Sunrise Africa mobilizes Christians in 22 African countries. Believers from India, the Philippines, Singapore, France and the United States join thousands of Africans in the strategy to proclaim the gospel in 50 cities in 50 days. Sixty-four million people heard the gospel, 1.7 million indicated decisions to receive Christ and 81 new churches were planted.

2003

Fifty-two years after founding the world’s largest Christian ministry, Bill Bright dies at age 81.

2005

Many of Josh McDowell’s books have been translated into 65 languages. It takes just 30 languages to reach three-quarters of the world’s population.

2006

During Spring Break, at least 10,000 students participate in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in New Orleans and Pass Christian, Miss.

2007

The evangelistic website, everystudent.com is translated into 27 languages and has more than 5 million visitors, with 400 indicating decisions to know Christ per day.

2010’s

2010

Global Aid Network responded to the January 12 earthquake in Haiti by immediately distributing 1 million pre-packaged meals, and following up with medical and trauma care teams, and additional shipments of food, water filters, hygiene items, blankets, tents and mobility units (wheelchairs, walkers and crutches). In the first six months, GAiN shipped 40 containers of aid worth $6.5 million, and distributed more than 5.3 million meals.

2011

Campus Crusade for Christ becomes Cru in the U.S.

2012

Nearly 1,500 Cru staff members and volunteers from more than 30 countries participated in the Heartbeat Tallinn event in Estonia’s capital city. By the end, some 15,000 Estonians heard the message of God’s love for them.

2016

Jesus Film Media has seen more than 21 million views of their films digitally. They have also seen more than 500,000 installs of the Jesus Film Media app between iPhone and Android.

Cru has a ministry presence in 190 countries, which represents 99.6 percent of the world’s population. Read more at Cru.org.