Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Gillian Rea
GCU News Bureau
Talk about dynamic debuts. Harrison Russell’s introduction of “Rhythm” and Mark Moore’s first appearance as a Chapel speaker made for a powerful combination Monday morning in Chapel at Grand Canyon University Arena.
Russell led the Worship Team’s stirring musical performance and then, as a finale, evoked the longest and loudest Chapel ovation in memory from the crowd of 6,000 with “Rhythm,” the leadoff song on Canyon Worship 2018.
The album, written and performed by Center for Worship Arts students, was released Monday – it’s on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify and as a CD in the Lope Shop on campus. The “Rhythm” lyrics are sure to keep spinning through the head of anyone who hears them:
You’ve got me moving to a different beat,
I’m singing this melody,
I’m lost in the rhythm of Your love.
Moore’s talk was just as impactful. The Teaching Pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley was eloquent and direct as he told the story of Rustam, a pastor and surgeon (quite a combination, as Moore noted) from Tajikistan, on the northeast border of Afghanistan.
The pair met a month ago in Belarus, where Moore was doing a graduate class for Russian-speaking pastors on how to interpret the Bible. The only way to explain what happened to Rustam (pronounced “rrrrroos-TAHM”) is that God works in mysterious ways.
After all, it’s not every day that you hear of someone who had dreams of becoming a surgeon but was very poor … so he and his accomplices beat people and robbed them … and then they met with a Korean taekwondo master in the hope of getting even more lethal at it … but the instructor was secretly a missionary … and when Rustam, who was a Muslim, rejected the missionary’s declarations about Jesus, Christ Himself appeared to Rustam and said “I am Jesus, and I am your God” … so he converted to Christianity and went to a Moscow seminary.
An amazing story, sure, but Moore’s greater point revolved around what he calls “proleptic cruciformity” – “living the cross of Christ.”
“When we talk about the cross, at least in church world, we almost always think about Jesus – this is Jesus’ cross, and Jesus died on the cross for me, and that’s true. But that is never enough,” Moore said. “You want to be a disciple of Jesus, you’ve got to start talking about your cross, not His cross.”
He added, “The whole message, I can put in a single sentence: Jesus’ cross is salvation for your soul; your cross is salvation for society.”
Moore likened “proleptic” to “pointing to the future,” such as when teenage girls write the names of their future children in their three-ring binder or young boys make believe they’re taking the shot that will win the basketball game.
And, in his mind, the best way Christians can make the future better is by being more demonstrative about their beliefs. Only 13 percent of Valley residents attend church, Moore said, which means “they’re not going to hear about Christ from me; they need to hear about Christ from you.”
“I live here in this Valley. I will die here in this Valley,” he said. “This is my home, and I look around to 5 million people heading to a Christ-less eternity. And the likelihood of them just walking into the church because they want to hear about the cross of Jesus is pretty slim.”
It all goes back to the Bible verse Moore cited, Matthew 16:24-25:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it.’”
Moore also pointed to “How the West Won,” a book by secular sociologist Rodney Starr that details how Western civilization changed the world with its emphasis on freedom and knowledge. In America, Moore declared, education and hospitals – to name two major institutions – would not be where they are today without the church, and he lauded GCU’s efforts in its neighborhood.
“If you have heard the media lately, the way they talk about the church is that we are an archaic relic,” Moore said. “I don’t mean to be offensive with this, but anyone who believes the church is an archaic relic is historically ignorant. They haven’t a clue of what has happened in our society, in our world, because of the church. …”
“You remove the church, God won’t have to send us to hell – we will be there.”
There was more to Rustam’s story. He fulfilled that goal of becoming a doctor and found himself stitching up Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. But the Taliban still wanted to kill him because he was healing people in the name of Jesus, and it took two more only-God-could-do-this miracles to save his life when the Taliban tried to kill him. God told him, in another vision, that there were many other attempts as well.
Moore ended his talk with this challenge to his audience:
“When you take up a cross, you think you’re dying; that’s actually when you begin to live. People aren’t looking for something worth living for, they’re looking for something worth dying for, and when we show them what is worth dying for, they will realize how to begin living.
“There is a world right around you that is in desperate need of Christians who will take up their cross and will use their very occupations to transform society. And if you’re not willing to do that, you forfeit the right to call yourself a Christian.”
● For a replay of Monday’s Chapel, including the music performed by the Worship Team, click here.
● Next week’s speaker will be Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been a quadriplegic since she was paralyzed in an accident 50 years ago and operates a ministry that reaches out to the disabled. Chapel is at 11:15 a.m. Mondays in GCU Arena.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
GCU Today: Worship Team strikes a chord at Chapel