Welcome to part two of our series on the history of Cru at JMU. In this post we have the privilege of hearing about the experience of Shelby Abbott who was on staff with Cru at JMU from 2000 until 2007.
If you have any connection to Cru, Shelby doesn’t really need an introduction; he is the definition of a “cru-lebrity”. When I was a freshman at Virginia Tech way back in 2005, I knew Shelby as the loveable and hysterical emcee of the two biggest conferences I went to that year: Cru Winter Conference and Big Break. Twelve years later, he is still faithfully playing both of those roles. Shelby is the author of Jacked, I am a Tool, and I’m Awkward, You’re Awkward. Shelby currently works for Cru’s publishing arm, Cru Press. You can find Shelby’s Blog, as well as more information about his books here.
I asked Shelby how God was using Cru to reach the campus of JMU during his time. Here was his reply:
God did a lot in those years at JMU. There were a lot of specific strategies that both staff and students came up with to reach the campus—some good, and some not-so-good. We did an “I agree with Russ” campaign, which worked out really well, and what the students called a “door holding ministry” where we positioned ourselves around buildings on campus and held open doors for people…which was not so effective. People shared the gospel a lot in those days, and many people were trusting Christ on campus.
Ok, so if you’re not super familiar with both Cru and JMU, a couple of things won’t make sense. First of all, the “I agree with” campaign was a big deal back in the day. This was an evangelistic outreach where you would flood a campus with the slogan “I agree with… (fill in the blank of a particular student. For this example, we will say Russ)”. You’d put up posters, put an add in the school newspaper, and most importantly, wear t-shirts. Lots and lots of t-shirts. Everyone’s t-shirts would say “I agree with Russ”, except for one t-shirt which would say “I am Russ.” Then, at the end of the campaign, there would be a big event in which Russ would share the Gospel. The other thing you need to know is that students at JMU pride themselves on holding doors. I know… you just have to accept it.
Next I asked Shelby how God was using JMU Cru to reach the nations. Here is his reply:
We sent a lot of students overseas, both for summer missions and for Stints. I led a team of all JMU students and staff to Central Asia for a summer mission. There were 4 staff (myself included) and 14 JMU students. There was a lot of momentum for reaching the world in that time.
Eighteen JMU representatives on a single international summer mission? Incredible! But what was Cru’s weekly large group meeting like? After all, that is the face of the movement. Shelby’s response to this question was so unbelievable that I am still having trouble believing his answer. Shelby says that when he arrived there were about 75 students attending the meeting in 2000. By 2005, there were over 700. That is nearly a growth of 10 fold in just five years. During this time, God blessed the movement with incredibly talented speakers, band members, and emcees. All of this together created an environment where people were attracted to the community and heard the Gospel proclaimed boldly.
Ok, one last thing you need to know about Shelby’s time at JMU. His Bible study guys started the White House. The White House is a “Cru House” where 12 JMU Cru men live in semi-peace every year. The White House is still going strong today and remains a center of JMU Cru social life.
Contributed by Jerry Riendeau