God's Own Party

Everything's divine in Arvada, where the GOP has veered sharply to the religious right.

Then Robert invited George to his wedding in Denver. George sought to combine business with pleasure, cooking up a drug deal with his brother David. "I went down to Mexico, bought suitcases full of marijuana," he said. "We wrapped it up in newspaper and poured wax over it so the dogs wouldn't sniff it and I put my Marine Corps uniform on and I'm headed for Pennsylvania and I'm going to sell it for three times the price." David, meanwhile, would drive George's VW to Denver. After the wedding they'd split the proceeds, return to California and, when George's hitch was finally up, move to Canada.

"Everything went as smooth as possible," said George, "and I flew to Denver. My brother David picks me up at Stapleton Airport, but this guy is completely changed." David, it seems, had been saved by Jesus.

Guess who was next.
It happened at the wedding, which took place in downtown Denver at a little church at Ninth Avenue and Acoma called Faith Bible Chapel. Pastor Bob Hooley took George on a tour of the building, but it didn't take--at least not right away. "I said, 'Listen, this is fine for all you guys, but I don't want anything to do with this church stuff,'" Morrison recalled saying.

The miracle of 1971 happened during the ceremony itself. "I looked up," recalled Morrison, "and I saw this cloud come out of the ceiling, and this cloud began to descend down in front of my eyes and it came down and sat on my brother and his wife and the pastor. And when I saw this cloud, I just began to cry uncontrollably. I didn't know what was happening, whether I was flashing back or tripping out." Church members told him it was the "presence of God," but George thought "they were all crazy."

But as he drove back to California, the transformation was already under way. "I had terrible language, I smoked, I did drugs, I had cocaine in the car," he recalled, "and yet I go to open my mouth, and as I go to speak a cuss word, this voice would tell me, 'You're not going to talk like that anymore.' Weird things were happening inside me. I pulled this cocaine out, and this voice would say, 'I don't want you to do drugs anymore.' I gave the cocaine to this hitchhiker. He was the happiest hitchhiker you've ever seen."

Back in Southern California, George went to a "hippie Jesus rally" led by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, a legendary preacher from that era.

"This voice that I told you about? It told me to go on a thirty-day fast, and all I did was read the Bible for seven hours a day," Morrison later told his congregation. "God was taking all that junk out of my mind and replacing it with the word of God."

Morrison was still living with his drug-dealing buddies, but he spent his days selling Christ on the beaches and streets. Then one day, while he was sitting in the house reading the Bible, he answered a knock at the door, and drug agents stormed in.

"I went back to that chair in the living room and I picked up my Bible and I just kept reading my Bible," he recalled. "But going on around me were these narcotic agents, and they had everybody against the wall. I don't know whether it was thirty seconds or thirty minutes or thirty hours--I really don't know--but the next thing I heard was the door just shut, and it was complete silence. And God said, 'I blinded their eyes from seeing you. Now I want you out of here.'"

God also told him to return to Denver, where he hooked up with the little FBC and met his wife, Cheryl. "I started working in the church, working with young people, witnessing on the street and started a construction company," he said. "Never touched a hammer before in my life, but God blessed it for some reason and prospered us."

His company built FBC's main church near 64th Avenue and Ward Road in Arvada in the late Seventies, and Morrison started working as a pastor under Hooley. Then, in October 1984, Hooley resigned and Morrison took his place.

Untrained by any seminary, Morrison is a sunny fellow who preaches an unadorned, upbeat message of believing in Jesus; he urges his flock to tell others to do the same. FBC services are full of amplified music and middle-of-the-road Christian songs. But Morrison's casual style and informal cheeriness mask a burning ambition to grow, grow, grow. Crowds overflow at FBC's main church--Morrison attracts more than 4,000 on a typical Sunday. During the dozen years he's been in charge, FBC also has sprouted half a dozen churches and a TV station (KRMT/ Channel 41), a school system stretching from daycare through Faith Christian Academy high school, a Bible institute and dreams of many more branches and a college. Younger brother Robert, the former hippie Bluejay Morningstar, is pastor of an FBC spinoff.

Morrison is a born networker; he's scheduled to preach on a cruise this summer with former football coach and current PromiseKeeper Bill McCartney. Unlike some preachers, he seeks to unite all evangelicals. He touts other churches, including the mammoth Heritage Christian Center in the southeast metro area and the upscale Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch.

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