Greg Laurie

Symbolic details too painful for words: Shocking death of Jarrid Wilson stunned us all

Symbolic details too painful for words: Shocking death of Jarrid Wilson stunned us all

Did you need more evidence that we live (and strive to do good journalism) in a broken world?

Did you need a reminder that any journalist who works on the religion-news beat needs to dig into a dictionary and learn the meaning of this theological term — “theodicy.”

The death of the Rev. Jarrid Wilson unfolded on social media, with shock waves ripping through the digital ties that bind (including in newsrooms). He had worked to bring comfort to those suffering with mental-health issues — while being candid about his own life. Wilson reminded those struggling with suicidal thoughts that they were not alone and that God knew their pain.

This gifted preacher — married, with two young children — knew that and believed it. But something snapped, anyway.

Here’s the top of the team-written Religion News Service report about this tragedy which, hopefully, will shape the mainstream coverage of that will follow.

(RNS) — Jarrid Wilson, a California church leader, author and mental health advocate, died by suicide Monday evening (Sept. 9) at age 30.

Wilson, known as a passionate preacher, most recently was an associate pastor at megachurch Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California. A co-founder of the mental health nonprofit Anthem of Hope, Wilson was open about his own depression, often posting on his social media accounts about his battles with the mental illness.

“At a time like this, there are just no words,” said Harvest Senior Pastor Greg Laurie in a statement.

But there were words with which to wrestle — from Wilson, on the day he took his own life.

What journalist would imagine details more symbolic than these?

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Greg Laurie goes Southern Baptist and newsrooms in Southern California are clueless

Greg Laurie goes Southern Baptist and newsrooms in Southern California are clueless

I can’t say I’ve ever heard the Rev. Greg Laurie preach, but the evangelist is certainly a heavyweight in some circles. Which is why I was surprised to hear he was moving from life in a charismatic denomination to the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise did a piece (which I found in the Orange County Register) on Laurie’s switcheroo nearly a month after Christianity Today reported on it. The writer of the Press-Enterprise piece might have done well to have googled Laurie’s name, as she would have found CT’s vastly better-reported piece.

As it was, this is what the newspaper reported on Monday:

Harvest Christian Fellowship will be joining the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant body with about 15 million members. The Rev. Greg Laurie, pastor and founder of the 15,000-member Harvest and its Harvest Crusades, announced the move in June.
Some theologians see this as Laurie’s official shift toward mainstream evangelicalism and worry that Riverside-based Harvest could be overshadowed by the denomination. Laurie has been seen as one of the biggest crusaders of Calvary Chapel, an association of evangelical Christian churches to which Harvest belongs. Calvary was born as a movement away from religious denominations.
But, in a statement, Laurie calls the new partnership an extension of the collaboration already taking place between Harvest and a network of evangelical churches that participate in the annual Harvest Crusades -- a Southern California Christian institution that’s drawn millions of people to stadiums and arenas around the world.

So far, so good -- although we could talk about whether the vague "evangelical" terms is the best way to describe the Calvary Chapel movement. Then:

Laurie, who has an office in Irvine, was not available for an interview last week, spokeswoman Laura McGowan said.
For Southern Baptist, which has been reported to be struggling with declining membership, this is a gain…

Yes, you read that right. it really did say, "For Southern Baptist" -- singular.

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Orange County Register scores with an evangelism story without the snark

Orange County Register scores with an evangelism story without the snark

Read any positive stories about evangelists lately? Or evangelistic crusades? There's several reasons such narratives are missing in your typical daily news sheet, one of them being their increasing rarity and questions about their effectiveness. Another is that the spectacle of people walking the aisle to signify their conversion to Christianity is barely news these days. Which is why I was surprised to see the Orange County Register covering a Greg Laurie crusade. And not just Laurie's first crusade but his 26th. But here we have a reporter covering it like it's fresh and relevant:

Nichole Sanders vividly remembers the night she made the decision to have a relationship with Christ.
It was three years ago on a night of the Harvest Crusade. She rushed to the field at Angel Stadium with hundreds of others to pledge their new commitment to Christ. She looked up and was saluted by a digital banner, “Welcome to the family of God.”

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