Shirer is right on point at packed GCU appearance

Priscilla Shirer drew upon relatable, real-life experiences during her all-day event Saturday at GCU Arena.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Slaven Gujic
GCU News Bureau

No one will ever accuse Priscilla Shirer of sounding aloof. One word kept coming up Saturday when attendees were asked what they liked best about her all-day LifeWay Women event at Grand Canyon University Arena.


Shirer demonstrated the depth of her teaching when she discussed Bible passages.

“I love her transparency,” said Carrie Kujath, who drove all the way from Colorado to be one of the estimated 5,000 women and a handful of men who heard her. “I love how she’s a normal mom. She’s folding her own clothes.”

Kujath can relate in another way – while Shirer has three sons, she has four. Shirer’s talks are geared toward women, and they appreciate the way she personalizes her stories with experiences that are straight out of Mom’s Handbook.

She talked of shopping at Ross to buy a $4.99 journal for each of her sons – she wanted to regularly record moments in their lives, significant and just cute.

She gave examples for everyone from high school and college students to women in the business world and moms as she talked of how everyone has been placed in ministry.

She told a hilarious story about a son losing a baby tooth – how he was so thrilled to get $5 from the tooth fairy, but little did he know that his father, Jerry, had actually taken the money from the drawer that contained his birthday money. Shirer, who said she at first was aghast that her husband had put that much money under the pillow, lauded his financial planning as she walked down to his seat in the front row to give him a high-five.

And she made her stories even more personal by getting up close and personal. Maybe most amazingly, Shirer walked up and down the aisles and even part way up the stairs without missing a beat as she delivered strong message after strong message.

The crowd for Shirer's appearance filled the floor seating and the lower bowl of the Arena.

“Down to earth, relatable, speaking of everyday occurrences and things going on right now,” is what Tabatha Willingham of Phoenix liked best.

Willingham, whose son Jared Willingham is a senior at GCU majoring in finance, showed her determination to be there by going by herself even though a friend backed out and then parking on a street quite a ways from campus when traffic was congested.

“I told him he might need to pick me up and take me to my car,” she said, mindful of the heavy rain that was falling outside the Arena.

Kujath and Willingham both said their admiration for Shirer’s work grew after her appearance in “War Room,” a 2015 movie in which she starred. But Shirer also has impacted many women through video Bible studies distributed by her Going Beyond Ministries – that’s how Cindy Noto discovered her.

Shirer's brother Anthony, a professional singer, also performed.

“She has inspired me,” said Noto, who bought a ticket right away when she heard Shirer was coming to Phoenix and then encouraged other members of the congregation at The Church at Arrowhead in Glendale to do the same. “I did her DVD series on Ephesians 3:20, and that sermon was the first time I’d ever seen her. I wanted to see her live.”

It was obvious how many people have watched that DVD when Shirer started to recite that verse during her talk.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” she began, as they quickly joined in, “according to His power that is at work within us …”

Shirer’s command of the Bible and ability to make you think was demonstrated as she retold, in great detail, the story of the five loaves and two fishes – Christ’s miracle that used that meager amount of food to feed a crowd that probably exceeded 15,000.

The words and music meant a lot to attendees.

It wasn’t just about the feeding of all those people, she said. It also was about feeding the disciples.

She noted that at first the disciples wanted Jesus to send them all away because there was not nearly enough food for them – just as we ask God to take away our burdens.

“Resist the urge to pray away your multitude,” Shirer said.

Then the disciples had another faulty plan: They wanted to go into a nearby town and try to buy enough food for all those people.

Shirer called it “an example of how we never think we have enough to share.”

“God receives what you give,” she added. “You don’t need more. You just need God’s blessing on your ‘five and two.’”

And isn’t it interesting, as Shirer pointed out, that when all the people were done eating, the disciples then filled 12 wicker baskets of scraps – one for each disciple.

“I love how she mixes humor in with the direct teaching of the words,” Kujath said. “It had never clicked with me (before) when she talked about the 12 baskets full. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’”

But here’s maybe the best testament to the power of Shirer’s words in her first Phoenix appearance on behalf of LifeWay: She talked about how God gives every person a treasure, and we should never hold back – it made Noto think.

“That is me right now, something that I’m going through,” she said. “I told the Lord, ‘I need to hear from you. I need to hear from you today.’ Now … OK, no more holding back.”

A lot of women there probably could relate.

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


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