Archives For Cru talks

What does it say about our philosophy of ministry if we spend 45% of our week prepping for a 25 minute event?

That event must be CRAZY important. Our whole ministry must hinge on whether those 25 minutes go well.

Thom Rainer asked pastors – “How Much Time Do You Spend Preparing a Sermon?”

  • He found that 70% of pastors spend 10 to 18 hours prepping a sermon.

I would guess that number is pretty accurate for college ministry staff as well.

cruIs it the best use of our time to spend 2 days off campus prepping a talk? I would guess that the average college meeting has 50 students. Just a guess. But even if you have 200, is it still wise to spend 45% of your week every week on a talk?

Do we think that our campus will be changed through Cru talks?

What would it look like for our calendars to reflect the reality that our campus will be changed by small groups of students multiplying their lives in their spheres of influence?

How would we spend our time if we really believed that?

To take it one step further, there are some campus ministries that don’t need a weekly meeting. Across St. Louis Cru’s campuses, the Cru ministries only have weekly meetings if they have more than 40 students involved (thanks to Matt McComas for his research).

For some of you, one of your best contributions to reaching your campus with the gospel is your amazing speaking ability. For many of you, it is not.

I speak at 2-3 Cru meetings a semester. Our staff men average about 1 meeting a year.

None of our staff ever speak during the first 3 weeks on campus. It frees me up to focus on helping our staff/leaders follow up freshmen instead of working on a talk for 12 hours/week.

Every semester we bring in great speakers/pastors to speak at our Cru meetings (I will say that we are blessed to have a wealth of great pastors and speakers in our area). Not only does it free our staff up but it helps our students connect to local churches as they hear pastors from 5-7 local churches which is a HUGE win.

What do you think? What are some of your concerns with bringing in outside speakers or speaking less?


cruA friend of mine recently asked a few Cru directors what they usually speak on at their first Weekly Meeting.

Love his heart for sharing/stealing resources. Seriously. No reason to reinvent the wheel.

Here are some of their responses (there’s a lot of wisdom):


Tim Norman (Cru National Director – Red River Region):

I typically did something that said, “Jesus is a pretty big deal. Cru is a group of people trying to figure out how He can shape our lives and dreams.” Looks like I generally spoke from Colossians 1, John 1, or Mark 1.

I generally tried to accomplish 3 things in my first few talks.

  1. Don’t keep people too long. These were the talks that I tried to be closer to 20-22 minutes.
  2. Let people know a little of “this is what we are about.” Sometimes, I started with the idea that many talk how how to survive as a Christian in college. Well, in this community you could thrive–not just survive.
  3. Shared the gospel. I was always blown away at how many people come to school contemplating a change. I remember my last fall at Northwestern that 2 of the guys that came to the first AIA meeting met with me a few days later and trusted Christ.


Shawn McGrath (National Director of Leadership Development – Red River Region)

I usually kept that talk as one of my shorter ones (20-25 mins) too, but here are a few things I wanted to make sure to do:

  • build trust with them by sharing my own story of struggle and life-change
  • show them we value the Word (usually taught from John 4 woman, John 20 Thomas)
  • give vision for where we are headed as a movement (evangelism and discipleship, growth)
  • share the Gospel
  • incorporate life-change stories from student leaders in the crowd- have them share if possible


Chris Newport (University of Texas Cru Director):

One passage I’ve used is John 4 and the woman at the well…talking about the thirst of the soul and how we are always looking at ways to satisfy this thirst, with this woman looking to men to fill that need in her life. Easy to address issues related to coming to college and trying to fit in, and showing how Jesus is what we are really looking for. Click to download it.

This fall I think I’m going to use Genesis 1 and talk about how we are made in God’s image, and that just as He is in community among the trinity, we were made for community. That part of reflecting Him is to be in close community and that we can’t experience the life were created for apart from community. Easy tie in to getting involved in Cru. Click to download it.


My response:

I usually bring in great speakers/pastors for the first few Cru’s. It frees me up to focus on helping our staff/leaders follow up freshmen instead of working on a talk for 12 hours/week.

What do you think? What should you talk about at your first weekly meeting?

If you have a go-to talk, share the wealth in the comments with a link.

One of my favorite gospel-centered stories in the Bible is Jonah.

Tullian Tchividjian calls it one of the best books for helping us get a better grip on the gospel.
This Spring I did a two week series at Cru on the book of Jonah (it could easily be taught over 4 weeks instead of 2).

In order to save you some time if you ever wanted to teach this book at your weekly meeting or Bible study, I wanted to share some resources on Jonah:

  • My Talk notes, slides, Sufjan song I used, and the intro and countdown video (all linked to below)
  • Links to help you research Jonah (also listed out below)

Some Key Points from my two talks on Jonah

Week 1 – We are Jonah (see full notes below)

  • Mark Driscoll – There is no way to understand the scriptures apart from these three questions

Who is God?
Who am I?
And what is repentance?

  • Jonah provides amazing insights into all three of these
  • Every year –In Jewish synagogues on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement – the holiest and most solemn day of the Year for Jews, The book of Jonah is read each year. The congregation responds to the reading with the confession “We are Jonah.”
  • The book of Jonah is a mirror in which we are supposed to see ourselves.
  • We are Jonah.
  • When we ask the question, What kind of people run from God?
  • The answer is people just like us.
  • We are Jonah- being picked up by our shipmates. One guy holding our arms, another our legs, about to toss us over to die for our sin, our running from God, our self-righteousness
  • We are in need of rescue
  • As part of his prayer Jonah says to God: “You cast me into the depths, into the heart of the sea.” (2:4)  – it’s what he deserved
  • But in Yom Kippur, the High Holy day of the Jews, they do something interesting. They tack on a random passage to the end of Jonah – a small section at the end of the Book of Micah that uses almost identical language about our sins: “You will cast their sins into the depths of the sea”  (Micah 7:19)
  • How is that possible for Him to cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (instead of us)?
  • Tim Keller connects the dots in his new book King’s Cross (from Mark 4:35):

Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.
Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm—the descriptions of the storm are almost identical.
Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.
In both stories the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, “We’re going to die.”
And in both cases there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.
Further, in both stories the sailors then become even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.
Two almost identical stories—with just one difference.
In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There’s only only thing to do. If I perish, you survive. If I die, you will live” (Jonah 1:12). And they threw him into the sea.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah.

  • He was willingly thrown into sea in our place so Micah 7:19 might be true.


Week 2 – Revival starts when the good people realize their evil and turn to God (see full notes below)

  • We lack compassion because we don’t understand the gospel
  • God is a gracious God who saves evil people
  • So who are the “evil” people?
  • The word “evil” is used of Jonah just as many times as it is of the Ninevites
  • The gospel is only for sinners
  • Preaching it to ourselves every day reminds us that we are indeed sinners in need of God’s grace.
  • “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”
  • Tim Keller – “Jesus comes and says, I have nothing to say to you unless you understand that you stand in the same place morally before god as the murderer, the rapist”
  • John Wayne Gacy raped and killed 33 young men and was one of the worst Serial Killers in American History
  • Now I bring up Gacy, at risk of creeping many of you out. And let me warn you, the next 5-10 minutes will be VERY heavy.
  • I think Gacy is a modern equivalent of the Ninevites.
  • In order to understand Jonah (and his hatred for evil men like the Ninevites), to understand the Ninevites, to understand ourselves and to understand God, I think it would be instructive to look at the life of John Wayne Gacy, Jr.
  • Jony Wayne Gacy summed up his life to a friend: “”I do a lot of rotten, horrible things, but I do a lot of good things too.”
  • I want you to listen to one of my favorite artists, Sufjan Stephens, sing a song about John Wayne Gacy (lyrics here). Because he connects the dots from Gacy’s life to our life.

And on his best behavior
He’d kill ten thousand people

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid

  • So How does Revival Start?
  • When Bad people start flooding out of the bars into churches and Christian meetings?
  • No. It starts when “good people” turn to God in repentance
  • The reason the good news of God’s love hadn’t gone out in the city of Ninevah is the same reason it hasn’t gone out across the campus
  • God’s people don’t like the people that God loves and we are too self-righteous to see ourselves as no better than the people they have been called to bring the gospel to
  • God has sent us out to represent Him to the world – so that the world will be changed by the message of the good news of God’s unconditional love – but also so that we will be changed in the process – by the message of the good news . . .



Books/Articles/Sermons I used in teaching Jonah

Better than Any Fish Story – Tullian Tchividjian on the gospel in Jonah

Five questions with Tullian Tchividjian

  • Jonah video and graphics – great (free!) intro clip, countdown, powerpoint slides from Southeast church
  • John Wayne Gacy, Jr. – haunting song by Sufjan Stevens. Main idea – on our best behavior, there is still unfathomable evil in our hearts

Here’s my full notes and slides for Week 1

GDE Error: Unable to load profile settings

GDE Error: Unable to load profile settings


Here’s my full notes for Week 2 (be forewarned – week 2’s notes are a chaotic mess that I never fully organized into a good flow!)

GDE Error: Unable to load profile settings

GDE Error: Unable to load profile settings


This month I gave two talks on sex/dating.  I got great feedback on both of them (though the Dating talk solicited more) and wanted to pass them along to other campus ministers to hopefully save someone some prep time in the future.  Feel free to use them for whatever purpose you need.

Yesterday I summarized and gave downloadable notes/powerpoint from the Sex talk.
Today, the Dating Talk.

Summary Ideas:

  • You have to understand the sex/dating culture in which you find yourself to effectively fight upstream

College students live in a hook up and shack up culture.


  • Hook up:
  • Relationships are increasingly ambiguous
    • “Romantically, the lines between just met, just friends, something a bit more than friends, “Talking”, “going out”, “dating”, being boyfriend and girlfriend, sleeping over, cohabitating, and relating like married people can seem like passing through a series of gradually darkening shades of grey.”
    • “Such tendencies toward nebulous relations . . . leave emerging adult females [with] somewhat more investment than their male peers in getting clear on the nature of their relationships. But they also do not seem to feel empowered to demand that or to be up for challenging the larger amorphous relationships culture. Mostly they seem to simply go along and try their best to figure out what’s going on.”  Souls in Transition
  • Girls have been given the expectation that the very most they could or should expect from a guy is a hookup
  • From an eye-opening article in the very secular The Atlantic magazine: “Is it any wonder that so many girls are binge-drinking and reporting, quite candidly, that this kind of drinking is a necessary part of their preparation for sexual activity?  These girls aren’t embracing sex, all evidence to the contrary. They’re terrified of it.”
  • I showed a short clip from the MTV show The Hills where Kristin and Brody (pictured above!) painfully demonstrate this.  (Start at 14:20End 15:09)
  • Shack Up
  • The vast majority of college students believe that cohabiting is a smart if not absolutely necessary experience and phase for moving toward an eventual successful and happy marriage
  • BUT  – “Studies consistently show that couples who live together before they marry are more, not less, likely to later divorce than couple who did not live together before their weddings”  – Souls in Transition

So what is the Biblical Pattern?

  • Date to Marry (Dating is laying a foundation for a potential marriage which is obviously in contrast to our Hook Up culture)
  • No Sexual Immorality. Love Mark Driscoll’s thoughts on this: “Girls if his interpretation (of the Bible) ends up with you naked in bed, I would argue that he may not be the most objective theologian. I’d go with my interpretation which is: dump him”
  • Guys Initiate – from the first date, to DTR-ing, to setting physical boundaries
  • In dating, the man is demonstrating his ability to lead, protect, and provide.
  • The woman is discerning whether she will be well cared for and provided for, and whether she can follow his leadership. (I think that’s a quote from Mark Driscoll)
  • I ended this section with a 7 minute clip from Mark Driscoll’s excellent talk on Dating (Start minute 35:28 – End minute 42:30)

Here are my notes (I probably cut out 10 minutes of this content b/c the talk had already gone close to 40 minutes, including the video clips).
And the powerpoint.


Sex and Dating Talks

October 12, 2010 — 3 Comments

“Not only is God pro-sex, he explicitly uses sexual union
as a metaphor for a believer’s union with God.

In a very daring way, the Bible says that sex was God’s invention,

to give us a sign of the Union that he built us for”

(paraphrase of Tim Keller)

I wish I could speak on Sex/Dating every week at Cru!  Such a critical topic for college students.  My prayer is that hundreds of future marriages will be affected as men and women learn to honor God in dating.

This month I gave two talks on sex/dating.  I got great feedback on both of them (though the Dating talk solicited more) and wanted to pass them along to hopefully save you some prep time in the future.  Feel free to use them for whatever purpose you need.

Today I’ll summarize and give downloadable notes/powerpoint from the Sex talk.
Tomorrow, the Dating Talk.

**Be sure to check out the phenomenal Matt Chandler clip at the bottom.  Amazingly good.**

Sex –

  • Main Idea= Sex is the #1 reason students don’t want anything to do with God in college.

From the book Souls in Transition: “One of the reasons why many emerging adults may want to distance themselves from religion is that religion in their minds conflicts with [their] lifestyle options.  Most of them want to party, to hook up and to have sex”

Major Premise – Serious religion says sex is bad

Minor Premise – I want to party and have sex

Conclusion – I am not interested in serious religion

  • But ironically Sex/Desire is one of the greatest proofs that there is a God.  The “inconsolable longing” is what brought CS Lewis to Christ.
  • Most college students would say:

“For right now I want to get a lot of that stuff out of my system, like messing around with girls and stuff, or partying.  You know, Get all that stuff out of your system before you get married.  Once you get married, you won’t be able to do all that stuff.”

  • The problem = that stuff doesn’t get out of your system.  Jesus says that “stuff”/sexual desire is internal and is a raging fire that will consumer your life
  • It’s not a switch you can turn off once you “Settle down”
  • This talk borrows heavily from Tim Keller’s two sermons (especially the former): Love, Lust and Liberation and Singleness
  • Some of the talk is verbatim from TIm Keller’s talk.  I type up many of my notes verbatim and then use them as jumping off points when I speak – using the ideas but putting them in my own words

I ended the talk with this powerful clip from Matt Chandler where he tells the story of a pastor who passed around a rose that represented someone’s sexuality – and as it’s “passed around” and “handled” by everyone – it comes back to the front it’s used and broken.  One girl e-mailed me after the talk: “I broke down in tears when the clip ‘Jesus Wants the Rose’ was played and I have watched it over and over again in my dorm room.”

Here’s my notes.

For the powerpoint slides backdrops, I used the incredible (and free!) artwork from Southeast Christian Church. Here’s my slides.

photo courtesy of steeljam