Skip to main content

Greg Laurie Harvest Auckland 25th June 2011: A Review

OK, I have a feeling that getting into this is going to cop me similar flack to what I got from daring to critique Charles Stanley many moons ago.  And if it does that is OK but if you are going to flip out on me, at least do me a favour and read what I actually write!

The church I am part of took two buses to the Vector Arena on the weekend to attend Greg Laurie: Auckland Harvest.  I had initially been resistant to getting involved, but at an initial interest meeting they sold it to me on the basis of their own financial commitment (the harvest guys were putting in plenty of their own cash), the commitment to follow up (they clearly put a lot of effort into turning converts into disciples), and to church unity (they laid the whole thing about churches working togther on thick).  I also saw this as a good opportunity of the sort that we can't usually offer our people for evangelism, inviting people to a church event is one thing but free tickets to the Vector Arena is another.

The first item of the evening was a film trailer of Greg Laurie's life.  I began to get a sinking feeling.  This was one of the things I was afraid of, celebrity hype.  Sure enough this trailer left us in no doubt that Greg was a really great guy, great enough that they'd already made a film about him and he wasn't even dead yet.

Then the Katinas came on, the first of four bands.  They were great, their second song in particular was actually truly uplifting, they were joyful and funky.  After three songs they were off.  

Now I wasn't taking notes so I may get the order of things wrong, but one of the things we were told was that no particlar auckland church was going to get highlighted at this event so you can imagine my dissapointment when both Life Church and C3 Church were singled out by having their pastors on stage to pray and to get a shout out to their congregations.  Maybe these churches had done more for the event, they probably had but I felt this was a let down, there were many other churches who had put a lot of work in to this event proportional to their size and I felt this contradicted what we had been assured of earlier.

Then came Phil Joel, he is a Kiwi artist and did a great rendition of the national anthem, although didn't get the words on the screen and didn't do it in Maori, but it was a a good moment anyway. After Phil we had three songs from Martin Smith of Delerious fame, who cracked me up by summoning up a mosh pit in the space that was supposed to be for all the converts to come forward to later.  But he is a seasoned performer and lovely nutty charismatic.  He reminded me of my younger days going to Delirious concerts in Blighty.  Then we had Jeremy Camp who only arrived due to miraculous ciircumstances but didn't go into detail about what they were, only that he only just got here.  Jeremy Camp has big muscles, I say that because I found it very distracting every time he lifted his arms in praise his pendulous triceps would hang off his arms and it made me wonder how much time he spent weight lifting.  He has a great voice and I realised I knew most of his songs from the radio.  He finished with a song about taking up the cross and counting the cost - I thought that was interesting because that was the exact opposite of the message I was expecting to get from Greg.

Greg's talk came next.  He had been hyped up so much "great communicator", "really knows how to connect with kiwis" that I was expecting something super flash.  Really, he was nothing of the sort, very much in the tradition of Billy Graham his message was very simple and not at all flash.  In fact his jokes and anecdotes, with which he liberally peppered his talk were all deeply old and tried and true preachers jokes, like the one about the burglar and the parrot who says "Jesus is watching you."  His relating to kiwis was pretty simple too, he made one joke about the different words Americans and Kiwis have for things, one joke about sheep and one reference to earthquakes.  It is hardly probing deep into our national psyche, but it was enough becaue people did love it.  No one seemed to mind that he used the word "irregardless" or referred to "CS Lewis the author of the Narnia Movies" or still insists on calling evangelistic events "crusades" (all things that would destroy your credibility in my eyes if I were a seeker).

He was preaching on John 3 and Nicodemus' encouter with Jesus.  Point 1. Nicodemus was rich and religious, he should have been happy but he wasn't - people who are rich are not happy. 2. Nicodemas came to Jesus by night because he was afriad of what his friends might think - don't let peer pressure put you off following Jesus (this was where the sheep joke came, I'm sure you can work it out). 3. Jesus told Nicodemas he had to be born again - everyone wants to be transformed but only Jesus can give us the transformation we really want.  I actually found the talk quite hard to follow, although the illustrations and things were simple all the jokes and anecdotes made it hard to keep track of the point he was making and the scripture was all but lost.  then without passing go he went straight to the "roman road"  "here is how you get saved" type of thing and told everyone to do it now cos they might die and then the Katinas came back and played this really nice altar call song and like 15% of the arena crowd (10,000) came forward to commit or recommit themselves to Christ.

It was quite impressive, although they couldn't actually cope with the number that went forward and the same thing happened the next night which meant that a number of people who tried to go forward wre not counselled and had that moment of commitment spoiled by being turned away by a steward.  Not having a contingency for that level of resonse and not being flexible enough to at least be ready the next night for it to happen again was another dissapointment.

On balance though, it was a good night. the people who came with me were encouraged and many were moved.  As an evangelism tool it did seem to move a number of people who have been sitting on the fence to step up and commit to Christ.  However I don't feel the gospel was well explained or that anyone was allowed to obey the call of Jeremy Camp (and Jesus) to count the cost.  It has also been valuable for me to discover some of those in our church with a heart for evangelism.  In the future though I would rather put our efforts into something local and less celebrity driven.

Let me know what you think.


  1. I pretty much agree with you Johnathan. One of the biggest things that I appreciated (and perhaps it's pure laziness) was having someone very 'other' to present a black and white gospel message, where at times within the church we can be afraid of presenting a message that is that blunt. It definitely took that hard job out of the hands of some of our youth as they brought their friends along (several of which gave there hards to God!!! Exciting!) I was not impressed by the movie trailer.. and the taking up of an offering so early on (a seeker turn-off in my opinion!) I would love to see this amount of unity building amongst the auckland churhes, in an ongoing way... but is it sustainable? I have to say, despite my cynical attitude when I went in.. I left praising God for the work that he's doing in our nation, and for so many who had come to salvation, especially those I knew personally.
    It is so exciting to know that those who were earnestly seeking God (or even were just mildly interested) heard a clear message of salvation. The church's (all churches, not just ours) job now is to flesh out that gospel message.. and support the new believers to become disciples. I pray that God will continue this awesome work..
    Liz R

  2. Hi Jonathan,
    While there were parts I would do differently (more of a focus on life as a Christian on earth rather than Christianity is a safety ticket in case you die on the way home tonight; less singing which non-Christians aren't into or used to), on the whole, wasn't it just a fantastic opportunity for thousands of people who don't know God to come into relationship with him?


  3. Hi Liz :-), thanks for your comment. I'm glad we took the trip, and it was exciting to see so many respond. It is helpful, when the dust has settled, to think through what was good and bad about it. From what I have heard of the second night I would have even more reservations. As a pastor it is a scary thing to sign up to other organisations when you don't know what they are going to do.

  4. Hi Ryan, yes and no. I guess my perspective is as a church leader who had to make a decision to get involved based on certain information, I felt let down on a number of point, my "trust" with the Greg Laurie brand is low. ON the other hand it was a good night for our church and a number of people made a decision for Christ, great, but that doesn't mean just because it "worked" that it should get my uncritical support. "Working" is not enough for me.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

That one time Jesus got the Bible wrong

It's so typical isn't it? You are preaching all day long, training your disciples, sparring with the Pharisees, encouraging the poor and down trodden, healing the sick and casting out demons, all day, day after day, and even when you go up a mountain to get a rest the crowds hunt you down and follow you up, and then the one time you get a bit muddled up with some of the details of a biblical text . . . that is the one they write down in the first gospel - verbatim. At least Matthew and Luke had the good sense to do some editing. But Mark, he always had his eye on giving the public the "historical Jesus" whoever that is supposed to be . . . warts and all. Thanks a lot Mark!

Some think I made the mistake on purpose, just to show the Pharisees up.

For some there is no mistake worth mentioning, only a slightly ambiguous turn of phrase.

Others think I am doing something tricky with Abiathar's name, getting him to figuratively stand in for the priesthood.

It really has…

Thor Ragnarok and Parihaka: Postcolonial Apocalypse

Thor: Ragnarok is a riot of colour, sound, violence, humour, sci-fi and fantasy. As a piece of entertainment it is the best Marvel has produced so far. As in many of Taika Waititi's films the plot often seems secondary to the humour and a number of quirky moments seemed only to serve for a quick giggle. I left the theatre overwhelmed by the sensory experience, but ultimately unimpressed by any deeper meaning.

It wasn't until the second morning after my trip to the movies that I woke to the realisation that the movie could function as a profound postcolonial metaphor (I do some of my best thinking while alseep, also it can take me a while for the penny to drop). Unfortunately a quick google showed me that I was neither the first, nor the second to have this thought.

[Spoiler Alert!]

It's easy to miss with all the other stuff going on but Thor undergoes a postcolonial awakening during the film as he slowly realises that his beloved Asgard and its dominion of the nine realms …

ANZABS 2018 program and abstracts

6-7 December, 2018

Venue: Wesley Hall, Trinity Methodist College,

202A St Johns Rd, Meadowbank, Auckland 1072

Thursday 6 December
10.00-10.10 – mihi
10.10-11.00 – Keynote speaker: Robert Myles – Fishing for Eyewitnesses in the Fourth Gospel
11.00-11.30 – Morning tea
11.30-12.00 – Lyndon Drake – Economic Capital in the Hebrew Bible
12.00-12.30 – Anne Aalbers – Resurrection and Celibacy: Two Sides of the Same Coin?
12.30-1.00 – Jonathan Robinson – "And he was with the beasts," (Mark 1:13): Ambiguity,
Interpretation and Mark as a Jewish Author
1.00-2.00 – Lunch
2.00-2.30 – Ben Hudson – Ethical Exhortation and the Decalogue in Ephesians
2.30-3.00 – Csilla Saysell – The Servant as 'a covenant of/for people' in Deutero-Isaiah
3.00-3.30 – Afternoon tea
3.30-4.00 – Jacqueline Lloyd – Did Jesus minister in Gaulanitis?
4.00-4.30 – Mark Keown – Jesus as the New Joshua
4.30 – AGM
Friday 7 December
9.30-10.00 – Ben Ong – Pākehā Readin…