ANAHEIM, Calif. – More than 28,000 people came out on a warm summer evening to hear evangelist Greg Laurie give the message of the gospel on the first of three nights of the SoCal Harvest event at Angel Stadium Friday. However, the Southern California pastor warned at the beginning that the subject he was about to preach on was not a comfortable one – death.
"My message title for this evening is 'I Don't Want to Talk About It," Laurie said. "That title is based on something my mom used to say whenever our conversation turned toward spiritual matters."
Laurie said his mother, who was a "dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe," had been married several times with several boyfriends in between and had problems with alcohol. He lived in a home that "was the opposite of a Christian home."
He explained, "One day, I felt strongly impressed by the Lord to go and have a conversation with my mother about her soul, as she was in very poor health. When I told her why I was there that day she again said, 'I don't want to talk about it!' But that day we did talk about it, and it resulted in my mom making a recommitment to the God she had been running from for most of her life."
After musical performances by American Idol finalist Colton Dixon and six-time Grammy Award-winner TobyMac, Laurie took to the stage setup in the infield of where the Los Angeles Angels play to deliver his trademark presentation of a clear gospel message in a culturally relevant format and drawing on the latest in current events. Laurie's Harvest events, now in their 24th year in SoCal, have drawn more than 4.7 million people to stadiums and arenas around the world since 1990.
"What happens after death? According to the Bible, the only reliable book on the afterlife, when we die we enter eternity," Laurie told those in attendance and an online audience. "The Bible teaches that there are actually two deaths. One is a physical death, the other is spiritual death. Jesus warned we are to fear the second death more than the first death.
"Here's the good news, if you are born once you will die twice, but if you are born twice you will die once … meaning if you are born physically you are going to die physically and then you are going to have that second death, you are going to die spiritually, separated from God. But if you are born twice, physically and then you are born again by believing in Jesus you will only die once, only physically because then you will go to heaven," he said while many applauded. "That is why Jesus said, 'You must be born again.'"
He added, "You know medical science seeks to add years to your life, but only Christ can add life to your years. And he will give you a life that is worth living because it is full and meaningful, and you don't need drugs and you don't need alcohol, and then you have the hope of life beyone the grave as well."
Before the event began on Friday evening, Harvest volunteers writing on the ministry's blog noted that 50 members of the Black Sheep Harley Davidson for Christ motorcycle club made an entrance into the parking lot after parading from a neighboring city motorcycle shop.
"It's a lot of fun any time you get that many bikers together," said Bob Langevin, who has volunteered at the Harvest Crusade every year for the last 11 years in positions such as stage set-up and tear-down, usher, and follow-up counselor. This year, he decided to be a guest and invite as many Harley Davidson members as possible.
"Our mission, at Black Sheep Harley Davidson for Christ, is to reach as many Harley Davidson members as we can who are not saved, bring them to an event like this and help them get saved," said Langevin with "anxious anticipation in his voice," a Harvest blogger reported.
Rock band Flyleaf and Australian group for King & Country are scheduled to perform on Saturday, and multi-platinum-selling rock band Third Day and singer/songwriter and San Diego native Phil Wickham on Sunday.
Also, Phil Robertson, the Duck Commander patriarch of A&E's popular show Duck Dynasty, is scheduled to be interviewed by Laurie during the Sunday at the event.
The 2013 SoCal Harvest is being broadcast live via the Internet at www.harvest.org. Video podcasts and blog accounts of each message will also be made available at http://blog.greglaurie.com/, as well as "behind the scenes" updates from Greg Laurie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/greglaurie and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/harvest.greglaurie.