Chapel: Don’t limit your faith to ‘The Box’
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
Chris Brown describes himself as an “ADD storyteller saved by grace that God continues to use for reasons that I still don’t quite understand.”
Maybe so, but his Chapel talk Monday morning at GCU Arena really made you pay attention.
This was the perfect antidote for a post-Thanksgiving tryptophan hangover, a series of one-liners and asides and quick-witted insights that were creative and direct. The senior pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, Calif., near San Diego, didn’t just address the audience, he grabbed it by the shoulders and shook it with a force that belied his casual black shirt, jeans and flip-flops. “I don’t want you just listening, I want you participating,” he said afterward.
That participation was required right from the start Monday as Brown launched immediately into the scene described in Chapter 4 of the first book of Samuel, in which the Israelites are battling — and getting slaughtered by — the Philistines. By turning it into a make-believe movie, Brown painted such a vivid picture of the two armies that you could almost taste the popcorn.
But this movie contained comments from Brown within the script, things like, “I wonder in this arena today how many of you are asking, ‘Why? … Why, God? Why did You let this happen?’” Time and again, Brown would challenge listeners to think about whether their relationship with God is similar to the Israelites’ approach. “They didn’t treat Him as God, they treated Him as a genie,” he said.
After 4,000 Israelites were killed on the first day of battle, the Ark of the Covenant was brought in to inspire the troops (cue the Indiana Jones reference from Brown). In a riff that was as distinctive as Jones’ fedora, Brown kept referring to the ark as “The Box” and drew other humorous analogies to things that were in it besides the Ten Commandments.
For example, one item in The Box, Brown said, was a jar of Pop-Tarts. “The Hebrew word is manna, but it’s translated Pop-Tart,” he joked.
The Box didn’t save the Israelites — 30,000 soldiers died on the second day of battle — and Brown called it “rabbit-foot theology.”
“They were more concerned with using God than worshipping God,” he said.
It wasn’t until 20 years later, in Chapter 7, that the Israelites turned things around by heeding Samuel’s warning and turned away from their false gods, repented and vowed to serve only the Lord. As a result, “that day the Lord thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites,” reads 1 Samuel 7:10.
And therein lies Brown’s main message amid the multitude he threw out to the audience: We tend to keep our faith in God in a box, ready to use Him only when we think we need Him. That’s why Brown kept asking the audience, in various ways, how perplexed they are with the state of their lives.
“If today you want to return to God, get your priorities straight,” Brown said. “He did not die on the cross to answer your prayers. He died on the cross to buy us back, to own us.”
It doesn’t get much more focused than that.
● For a replay of Brown’s talk, click here.
● For more than 40 other videos of talks by Brown, click here.
● Next week’s Chapel: Christmas service (last Chapel of semester)
Contact Rick Vacek at 602-639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.