Kruckenberg gets to the heart of a touchy subject

Brian Kruckenberg speaks at Chapel on Monday about the importance of putting Jesus before relationships and marriage.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

“Jesus, Jesus, You make the darkness tremble,” they sang. “Jesus, Jesus, You silence fear.”

“Do you believe that there is power in the name of Jesus?” one of the singers, Madison Russell, exhorted the Chapel audience at Grand Canyon University Arena.

In a morning of powerful messages, the Worship team provided the perfect segue to Brian Kruckenberg’s talk Monday with those words, accented by this passage Russell read from Philippians 2:9-10:

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place
    and gave Him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth …

Madison Russell 

Those verses had touched the hearts of the Worship team as it prepared for Monday’s worship, Russell revealed. But she had more to say:

“I don’t know if it’s just one person in here or many, but I feel like someone just needs to be reminded of the sovereignty of our God. He is in control, and His name has power. When you speak the name of Jesus, the enemy is afraid. When you speak the name of Jesus, things begin to change.”

Kruckenberg, Lead Pastor of New City Church in Phoenix and a regular Chapel speaker, took the stage moments later and applied that sentiment to a touchy subject for young people – relationships and marriage.

One of the degrees graduating students tend to seek, he joked, is the “Mrs. degree,” the “ring by spring” goal they tend to worry about as much as midterms and finals and where that first job will be. It’s a product of looking at what others have and thinking you need the same thing.

“Comparison is the enemy of contentment,” Kruckenberg told the audience.

“Comparison is the enemy of contentment,” was the first of several pieces of wisdom Kruckenberg would share.

“When we look around at other people and get how smart they are, how good looking they are, how successful they are and all the things that they’ve accomplished, and then we take a step back and we look at our own lives, we may not like what we see,” he added.

“But the truth is, Jesus loves what He sees. Jesus loves you, and Jesus calls you into a relationship with Him, and He wants you to have contentment in Him.”

Kruckenberg wanted to touch briefly on being overly focused on money and its link to getting married. He drew a “Whoo!” of approval from someone in the crowd when he said, “Marriage and money are not the keys to wholeness and happiness,” and he underlined that thought with Paul’s message to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:6-10:

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. … 

“Contentment is the key to success in your relational and professional pursuits,” Kruckenberg said.

Paul had seen too many of his followers turn away from God when they found marriage and money. Paul wasn’t suggesting that there is anything wrong with being married, Kruckenberg emphasized, but it can create discontent if worldly pleasures aren’t plentiful.

Another Kruckenberg-ism: “Contentment is the key to success in your relational and professional pursuits.”

Paul addressed the issue of out-of-marriage sexual promiscuity in his first letter to the Corinthians, whose city included a summit with a prostitute-filled temple built out of worship to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and fertility.

His new followers knew that wasn’t the place for them, but they were confused about intimacy. That’s why he wrote what he did in 1 Corinthians 7, Kruckenberg explained, urging the unmarried to find contentment in their life.

“Now I know we’re not in first-century Corinth. I know we don’t have a temple to Aphrodite. But we do have Tinder, right?” Kruckenberg said. “I mean, they had the Corinthian summit, and we have Old Town Scottsdale. Is this getting real?”

“Who has taught you more about dating and relationships, Jesus or Taylor Swift?” he asked.

And this is where Kruckenberg really put the issue in perspective. About 90-95% of what we learn is through unconscious cues and signals, he said, and the world today teaches a sex ethic.

“Who has taught you more about dating and relationships, Jesus or Taylor Swift?” he challenged his listeners, some of them no doubt huge Taylor Swift fans.

The church needs to talk about this more, he added. Its silence on the subject leaves people to idolize marriage without considering what it can do to their relationship with God.

“Marriage isn’t the Gospel,” he said. “Marriage doesn’t save you.”

But there’s a stigma to being single – thus, the “ring by spring.” Paul considered singleness a gift, but that’s hardly how it is viewed in modern society.

“No one wants that gift,” Kruckenberg said, comparing it to dodgeball or swatting a bee or getting socks and underwear for Christmas.

Nothing wrong with wanting to get married, he emphasized, but there was no dodging the provocative question he asked next about the dating process:

Kruckenberg pointedly asked listeners whether they were preparing for marriage ... or divorce.

“Are you preparing for marriage, or are you, as you’re dating, preparing for divorce?”

It’s important to use singleness properly, to look for the right things, rather than fall into the “date/hook up/break up” trap practiced so often in today’s culture – the same trap Swift has sung about in so many of her lyrics.

The right thing, Kruckenberg said, is the person’s character, not how they compare to others around you. Are they pursuing God? How do they talk about their family? What kind of relationships do they have? Do they always have to be right?

And then he probably boggled a few young minds with what he had to say about the “soulmate” concept:

“I just want to destroy this myth once and for all. … If there’s only one person on planet Earth that was perfectly made for me, and I had to marry this person, if I get it wrong, I mess up the whole system for everybody.

“Because if I married your soulmate, then someone else married my soulmate, right? Or if married someone’s soulmate, then that person just better have the gift of singleness because that person can’t get married because I married their soulmate.”

The Worship team's lyrics, with Trina Beecher as one of the singers, provided the perfect segue to Kruckenberg’s talk.

Those sentiments led to Kruckenberg’s closing piece of wisdom:

“There’s only one perfect spouse, and that’s Jesus. I know you expect me to say that, but that’s true. That’s why you have to get your identity in Him – not in someone else, not in something else.”

Those graduating students face so many questions, he said.

Big question: What will be my career?

Bigger question: Who will be my spouse? (It is supposed to last a lifetime, after all.)

But the biggest question of all: Who is my Savior?

“You get that one right,” Kruckenberg said, “and it’s amazing how the other ones tend to fall into place.”

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


  • Here's a slideshow from Monday's Chapel.
  • To watch the full Chapel service, including the music of the Worship team, the announcements for the week and Brian Kruckenberg’s talk, click here.
  • Next Monday’s speaker: Tim Griffin, GCU Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor


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Bible Verse

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

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