Evangelist Greg Laurie, speaking on the final night of a three-day outreach event at Angel Stadium in Anaheim to a maximum capacity crowd, told his own personal story of how he joined a group of "Jesus freaks," whom he had previously despised while attending high school.
Laurie, a Southern California native, who went to Harbor High School in Newport Beach in the late 1960s, said his friends warned him about those "Jesus freaks" meeting regularly on the school’s lawn. However, Laurie said he became open to the group when he was looking for answers to the meaning of his life.
“I grew up in a broken home. My mom was a beautiful woman, sort of a Marilyn Monroe look-alike. She was married and divorced seven times with boyfriends in between,” Laurie told the crowd of 45,000 in attendance. “She was a raging alcoholic ... and at night when she came home I would have to help put her to bed. In essence, I ended up taking care of my mom.”
Laurie, 58, said that ironically, in his teens he ended up living a party lifestyle, engaging in drinking, smoking, and doing drugs.
“I thought this isn’t where the answer is. I don’t want to live like my mom, but here I am doing the same thing,” the long-time evangelist said. “Around that time the drug culture was coming on strong. People told us that drugs would expand our consciousness. So, I got into drugs and they certainly didn’t make things better. In fact, they made things a whole lot worse. And so, with my life I knew where the answer wasn’t.”
None of the lifestyle choices he was making during high school revealed his purpose in life, he realized. He started seeking the answers by the process of elimination.
“At my high school campus in Newport Beach, Harbor High, there were some very outspoken Christians that actually walked around and carried their Bible in public and we called them ‘Jesus freaks,’" Laurie said.
He then asked those in attendance, “Are there any Jesus freaks here tonight?”
After a large portion of the crowd acknowledged Laurie with a roar of approval, he then said, “You are the atheist's worst nightmare.”
Laurie said he joined the circle of Christians at school because he “saw this cute girl and I wanted to get to know her better.”
“And she was sitting there with the Jesus freaks and they’re singing these weird little songs that all had like four chords to them on the guitar,” he recounted. “And I thought ‘look at these deranged people. They are all nuts.' I thought all the Jesus freaks were a few clowns short of a circus. Something wasn’t right.”
But he began to listen and opened his heart.
“A guy spoke and made a statement which was that 'Jesus said you are either for me or against me.' And I looked around at the Jesus freaks and thought 'well, they are definitely for him, but I’m not one of them. Does that mean I am against him?'”
“Well, I didn’t want to be in that category. That was the day I put my faith in Jesus Christ. That was the day I found the meaning and purpose of my life,” he said.
Sunday was the final night of the three-day Harvest event. A total of 115,000 people attended in person. It was announced on Sunday that the previous two nights included 240,000 people watching the event live online.
At the stadium, 11,905 people made decisions for Jesus over the three nights. An additional 376 people made decisions to accept Jesus online, organizers said.
On the third night, Laurie interviewed Louis Zamperini on stage. Zamperini was a WW-II bombardier, Olympic athlete, and prisoner of war. His testimony of coming to Christ included his forgiveness of his captors while in prison, and remarkably the forgiveness to the prison guard who humiliated him with daily beatings.
Also featured the same night were Christian musical artists Jeremy Camp, Jars of Clay, and Francesca Battistelli.
Harvest with Greg Laurie will be making its first appearance at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Sept. 10.
Founded in 1990, the “Harvest with Greg Laurie” events have drawn more than 4.2 million people in attendance. In 2010, online crusade attendance surpassed in-person attendance for the first time, doubling the amount of participants at events last year. Plans for next year's Harvest in Anaheim include broadcasting the event live to 10-15 churches and neutral venues throughout the United States.