Over 9,000 people made professions of faith at evangelist Greg Laurie's Southern California Harvest this past weekend even after billboards advertising the event were taken down over complaints about the Bible.
In its 29th year, SoCal Harvest went off without a hitch at Angel Stadium in Anaheim as over 100,000 people attended the three-night evangelism crusade and were treated to performances from top Christian music stars, stunts by motocross riders and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
However, the staple event of Laurie's Harvest Ministries faced some resistance in the weeks leading up after billboards promoting the event were removed because they featured Laurie holding up a Bible.
In response, Laurie called on attendees to bring their Bibles in order to devote time each night for everyone to hold up the holy book and proclaim their belief in the Word of God.
Laurie began his Friday night sermon by holding up his Bible to the crowd and proclaiming, "This is the book."
"How many of you brought a Bible with you tonight? Grab your Bible. Hold your Bible up," Laurie told the crowd. "We are not ashamed of the Word of God. This message has been sent to us from Heaven, given to us in a book and everything you need to know about God is right here in the Bible. No wonder people don't want it displayed on a billboard or anywhere else."
"But here is the bottom line," the 65-year-old pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship continued. "God has given us a message that we all need to hear tonight that we are going to get from this book."
As Laurie always ends each night of Harvest with an invitation for those who want to accept Christ in their lives to walk down to the field, as many as 9,260 people made professions of faith during the weekend.
By comparison, just over 10,000 people made professions of faith at last year's SoCal Harvest, which was attended by 92,000 across three nights.
"It has been amazing to see God work so powerfully all these years, with over half a million people making professions of faith to follow Christ," Laurie wrote in a tweet Monday. "This weekend was no exception either. ... To God be the Glory!"
On Facebook, Laurie shared a photograph of one man who gave his life to Christ on Friday night after he preached a sermon on the "power of the Bible." The man had a tattoo across his head that reads "F*** Love."
"Wow! Here's a photo of a man who gave his life to Jesus last night at #HarvestSoCal, and it completely encapsulates WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO!" Laurie wrote. "Guess what? He just accepted TRUE LOVE into his heart!!!"
During his Friday sermon, Laurie recalled the first time he witnessed the power of the Bible firsthand. It came when he was a "brand new Christian" in high school.
"The fact that people say the image of the Bible is offensive speaks to the power of the Bible," Laurie said. "The fact that someone would say that you can't hold that book up to me, is an acknowledgement of the power of the message that is in this book."
He described the first Bible that he was given by one of his classmates just after he had accepted Christ as his savior on his high school campus. It was a beat-up Bible that had two popsicle sticks glued to the front in the shape of a cross.
Laurie admitted that he was a bit embarrassed of the Bible at first. He recalled that when he later went to meet with his old friends who he used to do drugs with at one of their homes, he threw the Bible into the bushes so that his friends wouldn't see him with it.
However, he was forced to claim the Bible when the mother of one of his friends walked in the home and held up the Bible and asked "Who does this belong to?"
"They all began to make fun of me and laugh at me," Laurie said. "I realized right there that I didn't want to hang out with these guys anymore and I also realized the power of the Word of God. From that day forward, I proudly carried this Bible and I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ."
The Bible, he stressed, is a "book like no other."
"Millions of people will attest to the fact that the Scripture has changed their lives. These words have brought hope to the hopeless, perspective to the hurting, comfort to the bereaved. These words found in the Bible have healed marriages, they have cured the addicted, but why are these words so powerful?"
The reason is because "these are the very words of God," he said.
"Imagine if you got a text on your phone from God. Would you read it? Would you respond? I think so. A text from Jesus? Yeah, I would look at that. Listen, God has sent you a text and it is called the Bible. In fact, we even call it 'the text.' He'll speak to you through this book. Nothing touches the Bible and maybe that is why it is the best-selling book of all time."