The 59-year-old Christian pastor and evangelist--famous for being a disciple of Chuck Smith, leading the annual Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium of blah, blah, blah--is pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, a megachurch in Riverside and one of the largest in the country. But his roots run deep in Orange County, where he lives, and he attended Newport Harbor HighSchool. He has preached locally for more than 20 years, including more than a year and a half recently at Free Chapel in Irvine.
Now, shockingly, SHOCKINGLY, the OC Seeker says, Laurie has set up shop in Irvine, no doubt building the kingdom of God and stealing sheep from other preachers in the process.
Laurie founded the fellowship at 2727 Campus Drive, touted as a Harvest "campus", with the plan to preach there regularly, while also continuing his sermon duties in Riverside, through the magic of a high-definition video feed that would allow him to speak in Riverside on Sundays, then speed to OC for another morning service that would be broadcast back to Harvest in Riverside. The church also has its own campus pastor and staff.
Confused? So is the OCeeker. Why God needs Greg to plant a church that will basically be populated by sheeple from other steeples remains a mystery. But His ways are not the OCeeker's ways.
What's clear: Greg is one smart sermonator for working an angle to get his ass out of the IE.
March 8, 7 p.m.
Damn, where do all you people come from? The OCeeker arrived about 15 minutes after the service started, and practically had to park at Harvest Riverside. Thankfully, little signs on the sidewalk off Campus Drive and Teller Avenue directed his cigar-smoking ass to the parking lots, which were packed. In another display of America's war on Christianity, there was one sign in the industrial/office complex that said "No Harvest Parking".
The OCeeker strolled for about five hours toward the sanctuary, his hike temporarily blessed by the booty of a holy heina who sported tight jeans and a pair of heels that showed off her well-manicured and delicate toes. Single saints: Harvest OC is the spot for church-hopping hotties. Get some!
Outside the plain industrial building, believers milled about under large signs advertising Harvest. A table carried merch for the house band of the night, The Afters. And, Mexican food was served up at a nearby grill. The OCeeker asked if the grub was free. It wasn't.
Inside, The Afters were already firing up the large crowd with some Jesus-is-my-boyfriend music, while a handful of parents stayed with the small children in the lobby, where they could catch Greg on a TV screen. They've got this live streaming thing down!
The OCeeker headed directly for the sanctuary, where ushers "Dick" and "Dave" manned the doors rather politely. It would be cool if Harvest OC dropped Dick and Dave for the Dave and Deke Combo. Boy howdy, would the OCeeker love him some "Henpecked Peckerwood" before the service got going.
Again, where do all you people come from? There were easily more than a thousand people there, perhaps millions more, and the OCeeker had to take a spot in the back of the packed sanctuary.
The Afters, whose members look like "American Idol" contestants and whose songs sounded like, hell if I know, pick whatever's playing on KFSH-FM 95.9 right now, were already in the midst of a jam. One of their lyrics said "greater things are to be done in this city."
Not if Larry Agran has anything to do with it!
The congregation, a mixed multitude of races and ages, stood during two songs, some lifting their hands to heaven, or the brown ceiling which spread itself over tan and blue walls in a sanctuary lit warmly by lights the hung from above. Two camera operators filmed the proceedings from the middle of the room, where a large soundboard stood. A couple of large screens showed the song lyrics.
When the band finished its brief set, the crowd went bonkers for Jesus. Or Greg Laurie. He immediately hit the stage.
Bumper Stickers in Parking Lot: Harvest. Harvest. Harvest. Harvest. Harvest. Really, there were five of them on one car.
As Laurie took the pulpit, the OCeeker noticed a Latina cougar next to him (I swear, this is the place to find a prayer partner). She looked to be about a 6, which is great for a coug, and the OCeeker nearly reached for his Binaca. Delilah Valenzuela didn't have a Bible, but went all high-tech and read the Scriptures on her smartphone. A white guy to the OCeeker's left didn't have a Bible either. He spent the sermon texting.
Laurie is in great shape. Tan and tight in his long-sleeve black shirt and jeans, he obviously spends a lot of time at Lord's Gym. He's also way-bald now, which, with the bluish-purple lighting behind him, reminded the OCeeker of the Dr. Phil Show. Damn, he's starting to look like Chuckie...but enough projection.
He preached out of Philippians, (theOCeeker is going with the King James Bible cuz he has no idea what newfangled Bible Laurie preached out of), focusing on verses 12 and 13:
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
Laurie began the sermon with an illustration about working out physically to keep in shape, filling the introduction with jokes. "I've been really working at crunches," he said. "I'm up to a hundred crunches a day. Nestles, you should try it!"
That led to a talk about checking one's spiritual health. Laurie gave a checklist for folks to consider whether they have true Christian faith: Did you confess Jesus Christ as Lord? 2. Do you obey Christ's commands? Are you unhappy or miserable when you're sinning? Do you love other Christians?
Welp, one out of four ain't bad for the ol' OCeeker, who gave the sermon a B. Well-paced and broken up with vanilla humor, Laurie is great teacher for those are new to the faith. Seasoned saints may find his teaching too basic for their tastes.
Sinners in the Hands of a Funny Preacher
Laurie closed the service by inviting the repentant to come forward and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior, as the regular ol' house worship band played a song. About a half-dozen walked to the altar, showing their faith in God, as well as just how many people at Harvest OC are already believers, and simply left their crappy churches. A handful of folks also came forward at Laurie's invitation to rededicate their lives to the Lord. Laurie gave everybody a new Bible.
Then it was time for The Afters to rock the house again. A lot of people skedaddled at that point, including the OCeeker, who stopped at an informatin table and picked up an empty baby bottle. The label showed a baby on it, and the words "God's Gift". Apparently, it was part of something calling itself "We Witness". Paperwork with the bottle advertised pregnancy counselling out of a center in Riverside. Maybe they can live stream the counselling for those who can't make the drive.
No one introduced themselves to the OCeeker. Maybe it was the cigar smoke.