Fiery talk burns with passion for living God

Chris Brown continued the run of strong Chapel talks at the start of the fall semester.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

Here's the Chapel livestream

Jared Ulrich was a student at Azusa Pacific University when he first witnessed the unique teaching style of a bright, young campus pastor named Chris Brown.

“I didn’t know who he was,” Ulrich recalled. “But right from the get-go, he was telling stories – what you see is what you get. He always has been a phenomenal storyteller who makes the Bible come alive.”

The more Ulrich heard Brown speak, the more he was intrigued. Brown demonstrated his storytelling skills even more after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when he started a weekly service, called 911, that began at 9:11 p.m. Wednesdays.

Years later, when Ulrich became Worship Manager at Grand Canyon University, he sought out his old mentor, Lead Pastor of North Coast Church in Vista, California, for the last 18 years. He wanted GCU students to learn from Brown, just as he had.

Now it’s an annual event, and Brown was teaching again Monday morning in GCU’s Chapel with his down-to-earth mix of humor and straight talk.

Brown's demonstrative style has become a Chapel staple at GCU, just as it was at Azusa Pacific.

New students in the audience no doubt were taken aback by such a direct message interspersed with one-liners galore. Put it this way: Not many pastors harken back to their Sunday school days and, mimicking an old teacher, drop this into their talk several times:

“Boys and girls! Boys and girls! Look! Look! Listen! Listen!”

But that’s Brown. Invariably, your reaction to the first 10 minutes of his talk is, “Where’s he going with this?” But when he finishes, you can’t help but think, “What a journey!”

Monday, it was a trip through the book of Samuel and the story of David. Think you know all about David vs. Goliath? You’ve never heard it told the way Brown taught it.

“David is not the hero of the story,” Brown said.

The Worship team’s Marshanna Maxwell delivers the message through song and her shirt.

Yes, it was wonderful that a boy with only “shepherd” on his resume raised his hand for the daunting task of taking on the Philistine terror.

Absolutely, it’s impressive that he stepped up even though his brothers scoffed at the idea.

And, sure, he performed an amazing feat, slaying the giant with only his slingshot.

But David was highly motivated by the reward the king had offered: the hand of one of his daughters in marriage and a tax exemption for the killer’s family. The Bible mentions that three times.

“What was David’s motive that day for going against Goliath? Women and money, I love God, women and money, women and money,” Brown said.

The Worship team’s Madison Russell is moved by the music.

Brown also emphasized, in all the graphic detail laid out over the next 38 Old Testament chapters, David’s lust and other failures after he became king.

“A tragic character” with “one of the, if not the, most disastrous, dysfunctional families in all of history,” was Brown’s assessment.

Next Chapel speaker (11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 3)
Dr. Tim Griffin, University Pastor

Yet David also wrote 73 of the Psalms. While he was far from perfect, he twice referred to the “living God.”

“This is not a religion. This is not a philosophy. It is a living God that the Holy Creator of the universe still wants to spend time with you,” Brown said.

He added that the Bible “is not a set of rules, it’s not a book of dos and don’ts. Page 1 and 2, God created us to have an amazing relationship with Him, an amazing relationship with each other. Page 3, we’ve lost that. From Page 4 on, this book is not everything you have to do to get to God. This book is a rescue mission of everything God has gone through just to get to you.”

He pointed to David’s words in Psalm 139:14 …

I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    Your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

… And declared: “You are made exactly the way you’re made for a purpose. … When you find your giftedness being used by the Giver, you are going to find that sweet spot in life where you experience a living God. Not a religion. Not a book of dos and don’ts. A living God. And as long as you want to live your life here defying the living God, let me promise you, you are defying your purpose, you are defying your future.”

Brown makes the Bible come to life, said Worship Manager Jared Ulrich.

The final minutes of Brown’s talk were filled with introspection about his own life and sage advice to students about how to live theirs.

He was “that kid” growing up in west Texas, the one with ADHD who always talked in class or while the football coach was giving instructions.

“The family prayer request,” Brown called himself.

He hated church. He hated pastors. He wasn’t intellectual. But God still uses him to tell stories – His stories – and challenge students with this:

“Stop apologizing for how God made you. You lean in to a living God that says, ‘And I also know what your family thinks. I also know the names that you’ve been called. I know your reputation from high school. But guess what, honey? That ended three weeks ago.’

“Who you’re running with now is going to be your reputation. How you handle your Goliaths now is your resume. Your best preparation, to be used by God in the future, is, simply, do what you’re doing now and do it well.”  

Brown closed with some strong words about students should live their lives.

He noted what it says in 2 Chronicles 16:9:

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.

“Lean into a living God who cannot, will not take His hands, His eyes off of you because He made you for a purpose and He desires to use you for that purpose,” Brown said. “And you get to walk this planet holding the hand of the Creator of the universe.

“Oh, what a rush!”

And, oh, what a journey.

Contact Rick Vacek, Senior Manager for Internal Communications, at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].


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May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

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