Christians unite at GCU for Movement Day Arizona
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
It is hard to imagine a more dramatic opening to the first Movement Day Arizona than the auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic diocese of Phoenix repenting for the sins of his church and urging Christians to unite.
“May we all be one so that the world may believe,” Most Rev. Eduardo Nevares proclaimed.
But that was just the first of many such moments Saturday during an emotional eight hours that sought, as Executive Director Billy Thrall noted, to celebrate but also motivate by uniting nearly 1,000 church, civic and educational leaders from across the state in one gathering at Grand Canyon University.
That the event was at GCU was significant. Volunteering its facilities made the event possible, but the University’s heart for the community is an example of what the event is trying to accomplish.
“We’re so thankful that they’re a host,” Thrall said, “but they’re way more than that. They’re a partner.”
GCU President Brian Mueller was among the featured speakers and talked about how people tend not to listen to the words of Christians but have a harder time ignoring good works.
“Maybe they aren’t hearing us, but we should make it impossible not to see us,” he said.
That was the theme of the day. This was not just a call to come together, it was a call to action. For too long, Thrall said, similar gatherings often have been like a football team that only huddled but never actually ran a play.
“The blessings of God are not ours to hold,” he said. “They are for the benefit of those who aren’t on the team yet.”
The two plenary sessions in GCU Arena, both of which were led off by powerful Christian music – the Love International band in the morning and GCU’s all-student Chapel Worship band in the afternoon – were filled with strong messages, in particular Carl Medearis’ incredible and daringly hilarious tales of his life as a missionary in the Middle East.
“There is zero power in Christianity,” Medearis said. “The power is in Jesus.”
In between the plenary sessions, attendees could choose from 20 tracks and attend two of them, sandwiched around lunch on campus, and those produced some of the most dramatic moments of the day.
Emotions ran deep even before the “Serving Veterans: Providing Community, Faith & Healing” session began. One person there started to cry while thinking about a veteran who needed some love, and pretty soon the whole group was praying together and trying to hold back tears.
There also weren’t many dry eyes in “Foster Care System Engagement” when participants were asked to play out an imaginary foster care scenario. Several broke down.
Maybe most extraordinary of all, however, was the “Bearing Faithful Witness to the Sanctity of Life” workshop, simply because of who was on the panel and in the audience: Catholics and other evangelicals coming together as one on that issue.
One of the panelists was Paul Mulligan, President and CEO of Catholic Charities Community Services, and he said it was an amazing experience, as was the entire conference for him.
“I just think it’s right at the heart of the Gospel,” he said. “It’s a manifestation of Jesus’ last prayer. If it’s not leading us to Jesus, what are we doing with it?”
A GCU contingent led by Danielle Rinnier, Director of Spiritual Life, led a session titled “Deconstructing Millennial Leaders” and explained how the University has created a program that now includes more than 300 student leaders empowered to lead Bible studies and other campus spiritual activities.
“The primary goal is to help students follow the Lord,” Rinnier said.
The second plenary session ended with Dr. Jannah Scott, a speaker and strategist representing Greater Impact Church and the Global Prayer Network, passionately urging the audience to repent, seek reconciliation with each other and restore the church, and Thrall closed by having everyone read in unison 1 Peter 4:8:11, which includes this passage:
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”
This was the third Movement Day in North America, following the original in New York City and one in Dallas. Thrall, who said several attendees told him afterward that their only regret was that they didn’t bring more of their friends, promised there will be a second annual event next year.
But Dr. Mac Pier, founder and CEO of the New York City Leadership Center and the catalyst behind the Movement Day movement, emphasized that this is not just a “come one, come all” event.
“These are people who are pretty serious,” he said.
What he saw Saturday made him feel as if the Arizona representation is serious about making this work.
“It was a really good cross-section of the state,” he said. “Excellence will sustain it – there’s a lot of talent here.
“The plenary content was exceptional. Brian did a great job. It was great to be in the GCU context, something that really embodies the values we’re aiming for. People were interacting at a very deep level.”
As Thrall put it, “We’re praying that the connections you have made today will change Phoenix forever.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].