As we continued to make our way down the California coast we came to Orange County. By this point we were four dates into the tour and were beginning to feel some of the miles. My voice was beginning to feel the toll of so much use and a few people on our team had come down with something. This is almost a guaranteed part of any Skull Church or O2 Experience tour. On our Florida tour last year I lost my voice completely and almost the entire band came down with a cold that made singing each night brutal. Such is life.
The Orange County date was hosted at Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa. This was a special place for us to get to do ministry as it is the mothership that lead to the 1,500-plus Calvary Chapel churches that have been planted all over the world since. It was here that Pastor Chuck Smith faithfully and simply taught God’s Word for so many years before he went home to Heaven in the fall of 2013. Pastor Brian Brodersen and his wife Cheryl are now leading the charge at this great church. Pastor Brian and I have become friends over the last few years and I respect him greatly.
Outside of Montana there is nowhere I have done more ministry over the years than in Orange County, so it’s always a blast to be back in town. Jennie and I were living here when we sensed God leading us to move to Montana and plant Fresh Life. The ironic thing is that God has opened up even more doors for ministry in Orange County since we left than we had when we lived there. It seems He has a sense of humor. The event was packed and we had to open up an overflow, but managed to get everyone into the facility. It was such a special night. There was a huge response to the invitation and we were able to meet some very cool people who came out.
Here is the Orange County O2 Experience look book.
The third stop on our tour of California was Menifee. Menifee is in a part of Southern California known as the Inland Empire (IE) that is growing like crazy. Thirteen years ago I went to Bible College in Temecula, a city that is also a part of the IE. Every time I return I am blown away by how much it has grown and all the new housing developments as urban sprawl continues to create more suburbs – that themselves become giant cities with suburbs of their own.
I have done a lot of preaching in Riverside County, the county which Menifee is in, and I have a lot of love for the people that live there. The event was hosted by Revival Christian Fellowship, a church lead by my good friend Pastor John Miller and his wife Kristy. When I was in Bible College Pastor John taught my Galatians/Ephesians class and we have been friends ever since. He has been an amazing encouragement and support all throughout my ministry. Several years ago he asked us if we would bring the O2 Experience to Revival and we were so stoked to finally come.
Let me say that this was by far the most insane event of the tour. With great church support and the fact that I have done a lot of ministry in the area we expected a good turnout, but it was far beyond what we were expecting. The sanctuary filled to capacity and they began opening up overflow rooms with video feeds, after opening up eight of these rooms people were still coming. They weren’t able to get everyone in and sadly some were turned away, but they made a valiant effort. It was an incredibly energetic night and we saw many come to know Jesus. To make it even more special that day was Clover’s third birthday so at the very end of the night she came out and we had everyone sing happy birthday to her. So. Much. Fun.
This is the second installment in a series of posts about our winter O2 Experience tour. In this post I will be looking back at our Los Angeles event. This was the most intimidating city to take on. LA is no joke. It is a beast of a city. The greater Los Angeles area is so spread out that it’s really difficult to get your arms or mind around. Where New York City was built up in a condensed area, LA was built out. It just goes and goes and goes.
It’s obviously a well known place. Internationally it is iconic and rightly viewed as quintessentially American. No matter where you go in the world, whether it’s Bangkok or Bucharest, people seem to gravitate towards LA when they talk about the United States. It is a center of culture, arts, fashion and entertainment. Someone once said, “as goes New York so goes the nation,” and that’s definitely true, but in many ways LA is just as influential, especially when it comes to sex. Not only is it home to Hollywood but the porn industry is headquartered in the San Fernando Valley as well.
We had the event in the West Side of the city in La Cienega at Core Church LA, a church lead by my friend Pastor Steve Wilburn. They have an amazing location just north of the 10 freeway in the part of town where all the movie studios are. Their building is just a quarter mile south of Beverly Hills and is visible from the 405 freeway. Primo. The cool thing is that when this church was being planted Fresh Life was able to contribute financially. We believed in what they were doing and sowed a seed early in the launch phase. To see the harvest that is coming out of soil we invested in was super special, but to see them return the investment by hosting our event and making a financial contribution to the O2 Experience above and beyond that was just beautiful, Biblical and full circle.
Their brand new building, which they had just recently moved into is beautiful. They have this gorgeous marquee that says, “Jesus Saves” boldly in neon and can be seen from all directions. On the Sunday night of the event there was a line going down the block and stretching around the corner. I have hosted a couple Harvest Crusades at Dodger Stadium and I spoke once at a church in Downey, but as with Santa Barbara I have never preached in the heart of Los Angeles so I wasn’t quite sure what we would see turnout wise. I was blessed and as surprised as anyone to see a standing room only crowd that filled up the venue and an overflow.
They didn’t just show up either, they were an energetic crowd and super fun to spend the evening with. Best of all we saw God do amazing things in many people’s hearts and lives. Watching many stand up and give their hearts to Jesus and knowing that there was joy in the presence of the angels over what was happening in the city of angels gave me chills. Hooray for LA!
Now that we are back home and the dust has settled I am going to post a series of blogs about the O2 Experience tour of Southern California we just returned from with some reflections from the journey as well as some amazing pictures from each city. Though we have been doing O2 Experience events for 11 years now it is more exhilarating to me than ever. Far from going out, the fire in my heart is burning brightly to bring this fresh perspective on life, death, sex and romance to this generation living on the earth today. Maybe it’s having my oldest daughter creeping closer to her junior high years, or maybe it’s the ever increasing joy I find in my marriage with Jennie as our love deepens like a fine wine over time — but I am absolutely energized by this ministry the Lord has called us to.
This tour kicked off in Santa Barbara, just a few hours north from Los Angeles, and what a beautiful drive! We took the scenic route going up the 1 through Malibu to get to the 101 and enjoyed every minute of it. I had come in to the tour from a preaching trip in England and was working on getting my body-clock off London-town time (with a little help from my friend Ambien) and so my mind was a little cloudy, but the beautiful drive along the coast with the windows down helped wake me up. I have heard people talk up Santa Barbara’s beauty forever but had never been there before and I instantly fell in love. It kind of felt to me like a happy cross between Orange County and Monterey. I also had some of the best salmon tacos I have ever had in my life at a killer mexican restaurant called Los Agaves. Then I saw Rob Lowe (dashing my dreams he didn’t walk up and say, “Hi, I’m Rob Lowe.”)
The church that hosted the event was Calvary Chapel Santa Barbara. Pastor David Guzik and his wife Ingalill, who lead there, have become good friends of Jennie and I and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them. Their church along with the others in the area did a fantastic job promoting the event. I was probably the most nervous about this spot on the tour because I have never preached in the city. Besides my Air 1 “60 Seconds of Hope” messages, I’m not on the radio and we don’t have a substantial podcast listener base there either. It could have been a bust. It’s always a step of faith coming to a new city for the first time and this was definitely uncertain going into it.
Getting back into the O2 Experience rhythm takes work, for our tour team the first is generally the most difficult and time consuming getting loaded in and out and for me getting my mind and heart back into the zone of this intense headspace. The event was awesome. By the time the night started the sanctuary was packed to capacity. There was a huge response to the gospel and you could sense God doing deep work in people’s hearts as we talked about sex, dating, romance and marriage. We have been intentional about bringing the demographic up so we can reach more people in their late 20’s without losing the opportunity to reach students and we saw that reflected in this event very well. Loved this time in Santa Barbara and can’t wait to return, and until then those salmon tacos will be in my dreams.
This weekend we’re kicking off February with a brand new series called Gold From Golgotha! This series is all about Jesus’ brutal death on the cross and the gold that comes from what He has to say through it all. We’d love for you to join us at one of our locations or online.
Find details on our campuses in Kalispell, Whitefish, Billings, Missoula, Bozeman and online worship experiences as well as art for Instagram here.