(Photo: Saddleback Church/Vu Le)
LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Evangelist Greg Laurie filled in for Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren during worship services over the weekend and is the first of a string of well-known Christian leaders scheduled to speak from the pulpit while Warren continues to grieve his son's passing. The list of pastors planned includes Francis Chan, Mark Driscoll, Pete Wilson, David Platt, Craig Groeschel, Wilfredo De Jesús, and Doug Fields.
During the sermon series featuring the pastors, they are scheduled to answer the question, "What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?" Chan, an author and popular speaker at Christian conferences, is planned for next weekend at Saddleback.
Prior to his weekend sermons at the church, Laurie told The Christian Post he wanted to give a message of hope amid grief. The Harvest Crusades founder, who said the untimely loss of his son nearly five years ago gave him a "new ministry," spoke at Saddleback just a little more than two weeks since the suicide death of Warren's 27-year-old son, Matthew. Christopher Laurie died, at age 33, in an automobile accident in 2008.
"I didn't come here so much as a preacher, but I guess I am that," Laurie said Sunday morning during one of the four worship services that he delivered the message. "I come as a fellow father who is mourning to help another father who is mourning, another family (also mourning).
"The Bible tells us that we should weep with those that weep and when we heard the tragic news about Matthew our hearts went out to you," he said. "I want you to know that Harvest, the church that I pastor for 40 years, has been praying for all of you here at Saddleback. We are different congregations, but we are all one family. We are the family of God – praying for one for another, holding up one another."
Laurie said that he called Warren when he first heard the news about the death of his son, Matthew. Warren had been waiting for his call.
Laurie explained, "That's because I too have lost a son. I shared some thoughts with Rick and we had prayer together. I believe that Rick and Kay will see their son, Matthew, again in heaven because Matthew put his faith in Christ. He had his struggles. We all know about that, but as Pastor Rick has said himself, heaven is not for perfect people it is for forgiven people. Isn't that good news? Because I'm not perfect, are you?"
He added, "To lose a child is one of the hardest things that can happen to a person. On July 24, 2008 my son left this earth and went into the presence of God. It was the hardest day of my life. It really is a fate worse than death. Any parent would gladly trade places with their child and go and die."
In addition to speaking about the hope people who have lost loved ones can find in Jesus, Laurie talked about the current spiritual condition of the U.S. He is scheduled to speak in Washington D.C. during the National Day of Prayer on May 2.
"We have so much chaos in our country right now. There's this recent terrorist attack in Boston – two young men effectively brought one of the great American cities to a standstill. And then we have threats," he explained. "Iran developing a nuclear weapon and threatening to use it against the United States, North Korea threatening to use nuclear weapons against the United States," he paused briefly and said, "Gangnam Style," to which he received much laughter.
"So, here's the thing, are we going to put our hope in our politicians? [Or] are we going to put our hope into acknowledging the only place where we can legitimately place our hope and that is in God? Like never before, America needs to turn back to God," Laurie said.
He said his message on the National Day of Prayer will be very simple.
"America needs to turn back to God and we need to pray for God's blessing on our nation. The church needs revival and the world needs evangelism," Laurie preached. "As we pray for our nation we can pray for those in power and we should, but let's start by praying for ourselves."
Both Saddleback Church and Harvest Church have their weekend and Sunday services webcast live. Worship service and Bible studies are also available in the archive section of the churches' websites.