PROVIDING ANSWERS IN TROUBLED TIMES, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA HARVEST CRUSADE DRAWS 102,000 OVER WEEKEND
17th Annual Southern California Harvest, Aug. 11–13, Reaches 40,000 More Through Creative Use of Webcasts and Podcasts
RIVERSIDE, Calif., Aug. 14, 2006—In the midst of a week fraught with talk of terrorism, war in the Middle East, and code orange airline delays, people arrived at the 17th annual Southern California Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium of Anaheim this weekend, Aug. 11–13, looking for answers to their spiritual questions. Some 102,000 people attended the three-night Harvest Crusade featuring a nightly talk from evangelist Greg Laurie, while another 40,000 watched or listened to the outreach via live internet broadcasts and podcasts.
Throughout the weekend Laurie spoke on topics including, "What's Your Question?" "What is the Meaning of Life?" and "Is the End of the World Near?" giving scripture reference (Matthew 24) that current world events serve as a "sign of the times" that the return of Christ is near.
Commenting to The Orange County Register (August 10, 2006) last week, Laurie said, "We don't know what's going to happen. But the end of your own personal world might be near, and my objective is simply to prepare people to meet God through a relationship with Jesus Christ."
Indeed, the central theme of each night's Harvest Crusade was focused on a message of God's love and free gift of salvation, and through the course of the crusade, 9,233 people walked on to the field of Angel Stadium to make public their newfound relationship with Jesus Christ.
In addition to Laurie's nightly talks, the Southern California Harvest also featured music from some of Christian music's most popular artists, including newsboys, David Crowder Band, Joy Williams, Todd Agnew, Kutless, Crystal Lewis, Hawk Nelson, and MercyMe.
Amplify Youth Night: Sending the Message Loud and Clear
Harvest's Saturday night program geared toward youth, called Amplify, lived up to its name as 45,000 people packed out Angel Stadium to rock out at high decibel to favorite Christian bands Hawk Nelson, Kutless, and the David Crowder Band. And the stadium balconies literally rocked and swayed as the crowd jumped, danced, and sang along to the music before settling in to listen to a message from Harvest Crusade evangelist Greg Laurie entitled, "What is the Meaning of Life?"
"We are all searching for meaning and purpose in life," said Laurie. "Maybe some of you were let down by your parents or come from a broken home. The world doesn't have the solution. The answer is not within, the problem is within. God offers you a new life tonight, not just beyond the grave but now--a life worth living."
High-Tech Tools Help Harvest Reach Around the World
Throughout the crusade, Harvest continued to broaden its reach by pioneering the use of live internet broadcasts and podcasts. "We want to use all the tools at our disposal to share the good news of the gospel," said technology director Paul Eaton. In addition to providing banner ads for blogs and Web sites, Harvest also generated live webcasts and a variety of podcasts throughout the weekend outreach that were available for download on iTunes. The podcasts showed the "behind the scenes" side of Harvest?including back stage interviews with musicians, volunteers, and others who work to put together each crusade.
One woman who watched the live internet broadcast from her home in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., e-mailed: "Thank you so much for this [webcast]! It was quite the emotional night last night. I cried big tears with the online counselor, felt a huge weight lifted, and then tears turned to laughter after I said my salvation prayer. I want to thank all of you who put together the Harvest Crusade--especially Greg Laurie for delivering such a wonderful talk."
This year's Harvest Crusade drew 102,000 in person, while another 40,000 watched remotely from 67 countries. Some 81 people made decisions for Christ after viewing the Harvest Crusade online.
"It's fantastic to think how many people all over the world can now hear the gospel message of hope in Christ through local Harvest Crusade events," said Greg Laurie. "It's literally as easy as downloading a podcast onto your MP3 player."
"SWAT Team" Takes Southern California by Storm
In addition to using high-tech tools to reach the masses, Harvest also mobilized more than 50 high-school and college students who passed out invitations the old-fashioned way?by hand. Their commitment paid off as some 92 people they conversed with throughout the weekend made commitments to put their faith in Christ.
For each Harvest Crusade, a group of SWAT Team (Students with a Testimony) teenagers pay their own way to travel to the crusade city to share the message of the gospel with people on the streets, on the beach, in coffee shops, malls, and other hot spots where youth hang out. The Southern California Harvest's SWAT team, which included three New Zealand natives who came as a result of Harvest's April event in Christchurch, New Zealand, passed out 15,000 invitations last week alone.
"Ultimately, it comes down to this," said Jason Powell, a high school ministry staff member. "We know the Word of God doesn't return void. The Word of God isn't a Harvest flyer. It's more than that. That's why it's always our goal to share more of Jesus than just handing them a flyer."
Reiterating that it's not just about inviting people to the crusade, SWAT Team member Rochelle Guillen said to The Orange County Register (Aug. 12, 2006), "You can't get discouraged by those who are ignoring you or mocking you. We're not out here just to bring people to Harvest. We're here to bring them to Christ."
Greg Laurie, who founded the evangelistic Harvest Crusade events in 1990, also serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., one of the 15 largest churches in the U.S. During the past 17 years, the Harvest Crusades have drawn more than 3.3 million people to events in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
In addition to holding crusades this year in Christchurch, New Zealand (April 28–30) and Anaheim (Aug. 11–13), Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie will visit San Jose, Calif. (Oct. 13–15).