"I want you to throw out your pre-conceived notions about Christianity for a moment and think about what Jesus said," a national evangelist told thousands seated at the Amphitheater at California State University Stanislaus.
"Who better to tell us what God is like than Jesus?" posed Greg Laurie at the Central Valley Harvest Crusade, his third evangelistic outreach this summer.
Some 48,000 people flocked to the Harvest Crusade with thousands more watching top Christian artists perform and Laurie preach via live webcasts. The evangelistic crusade has been months in the making, involving around 150 churches and 3,000 local volunteers.
Addressing pre-conceived views of Christianity that some visitors may have brought to the three-night event, Laurie affirmed what many believe – that there are hypocrites in the church.
"I'd like to say to you that there are no hypocrites in the church, but there are because the church is made of real people," said Laurie Saturday night. But "just because there are hypocrites doesn't mean that's going to get you off the hook when you stand before God", the evangelist and Southern California pastor stressed.
"Jesus didn't say 'follow my people'. He said 'follow me'," he highlighted. "Jesus will never let you down."
Speaking to those who may view Christianity as a religion of rules and regulations, Laurie mimicked such a person saying, "Ah, man. God is just out to ruin our lives. With all of its rules and regulations, who wants to get into that kind of thing?"
When Laurie had his Christ decision-making moment in high school, he did not originally set out to become a Christian. He was part of the party scene and had a mother who divorced seven times. And he thought Christians were Jesus freaks.
"A lot of us are like that. I'm going to draw my own picture of [who] God [is]," Laurie told the Harvest crowd.
And he did not deny that sin can be fun. "It's fun to sin for a while. We've all had fun. But it comes with a penalty," he warned.
"It (sin) promises freedom but it brings slavery," said Laurie. "It promises pleasure but it ultimately brings misery."
Rather than judging from their own views, Laurie asked the crowd to see what Jesus says about what God is like.
Like the renowned story Jesus told of the prodigal son and the father, God will throw His arms around you and say "Welcome home, son/daughter," said Laurie.
Nearly 4,000 people accepted Jesus Christ over the August 24-26 event. Laurie's next Harvest preaching is slated for New York on September 23.