Mueller marvels at spirit of opening Chapel

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Here’s the Chapel livestream.

In some ways, it was the usual.

Grand Canyon University President Brian Mueller again was delivering his Chapel talk, signaling the start of another semester.

It included a healthy dose of Scripture, just like always.

He was passionate and demonstrative, like a good coach. No surprise — that’s the former coach’s style.

And it was another big crowd for a spiritual event that keeps steadily marking its lofty spot in the campus culture.

But, afterward, Mueller was taken aback by how unusual it is to watch students voluntarily crowd into GCU Arena every Monday morning.

They were as passionate as he was about witnessing the exceptional music of the all-student Worship team, which included Madison Russell singing one of her Canyon Worship 2022 songs (more about that below). They then truly wanted to hear from a leader who takes his task very, very seriously and never ceases to be amazed by what God has done at GCU.

“It’s kind of overwhelming when you stand up here and watch students come in and watch the Worship team lead worship,” Mueller said. “You’re kind of awestruck, in a way, by what’s happened here.

“It’s humbling because you feel a lot of responsibility to make sure you’re doing the right things. There are a lot of students who are going to become young adults while they’re here. What they learn here and what they experience here will be part of shaping that.”

Note the key word: responsibility. Mueller feels it. He lives it. He desperately wants students to feel it and live it, too.

That’s why he urged them to study God’s Word and put themselves in the middle of a Christian community on a campus where both opportunities are easy to find.

Students nearly fill GCU Arena for the first Chapel of the academic year.

Mueller’s talk was about winning, but not the winning that’s so much a part of human nature and, especially, the United States culture.

This is different.

“Winning from a heavenly perspective — it’s the great reversal,” he said.

Jesus won by losing, Mueller noted.

“Or I would say, ‘You win by serving.’”

Winning by losing? That’s confusing, but Mueller pointed that Jesus was “a confusing person. … A lot of it has to do with this whole concept of winning.”

Mueller read from Chapter 4 of John's Gospel.

One way Christ confused people was by embracing those who were shunned by the Jews. Mueller read the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), which marked the first time Jesus revealed Himself as the Messiah.

Just before that story, Mueller noted, Jesus spoke with Nicodemus, a member of the ruling class. And later in Chapter 4 of John, Jesus heals the son of the Roman official.

Mueller also pointed out that the first person Jesus appeared to after His resurrection was Mary Magdalene, whose past was as sordid as that of the Samaritan woman.

Israel was just as divided during Christ’s time as the U.S. is now, Mueller said. He urged students to take a leadership role in trying to heal the divisions that rack the country and declared that nothing will have changed for Christians after the Nov. 2 elections.

“You could play an unbelievable role in straightening this out,” he said. “The University, this year, could take a leadership role in figuring this out.”

"I absolutely believe that God put us in this place, at this time and in this neighborhood for a reason," Mueller said.

Mueller read the new GCU mission statement:

GCU is a missional, Christ-centered university with an innovative and adaptive spirit that addresses the world’s deep needs by cultivating compassionate Christian community, empowering free and virtuous action, and serving others in ways that promote human flourishing.

Through academic excellence, the university equips students with knowledge of the Christian worldview, instilling in them a sense of purpose and vocational calling that enables them to be innovative thinkers, effective communicators, global contributors, and transformative leaders who change their communities by placing the interests of others before their own.

Christianity is the only religion that migrates to where people are hurting, and Mueller reminded them that part of their mission here is to help a neighborhood of migrants faced with many challenges.

“I absolutely believe that God put us in this place, at this time and in this neighborhood for a reason,” he told them.

Not just in the neighborhood. At Chapel, too. What happens in both places is anything but usual.


Madison Russell sang her Canyon Worship 2022 song "Always a Reason" to open Chapel.

Russell, who began Chapel by singing "Always a Reason," echoed Mueller's sentiments about what is happening at GCU. Like him, she is awed by the opportunity to stand on stage and look out at the audience.

"I've loved seeing it grow over the years, and I’m just so excited to see what it looks like five years from now," she said. "We’ll see how the Lord continues to move after we’re gone and there’s a whole new set of students."

Of singing one of her three Canyon Worship songs in a major public venue for the first time, she said, "So thankful for the opportunity. It was really fun — just getting to do it in a live setting and hearing how it sounds. I thought it sounded great. The band did such a good job. The singers were great, too."

Canyon Worship is available on Spotify and Apple Music.


A special note about the next Chapel speaker, Brian “Head” Welch: The former Korn guitarist will share the amazing story of his conversion to Christianity when he comes to GCU Arena on Sept. 19. He described it in this video.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


Related content:

GCU News: Students step up to plate for campus worship

GCU News: Mueller's message enlightens God's handiwork -- us

GCU News: Mueller applies the wisdom of Good Samaritan story


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