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Chicago's History of Evangelism Repeats Itself: 47,600 Gather at Allstate Arena Over Weekend for Greg Laurie: Chicago Harvest
"The Harvest Crusade is Chicago-Area Christians at their finest." —Rev. James MeeksRIVERSIDE, Calif., September 27, 2010—Chicago's rich history of evangelism repeated itself this past weekend, September 24–26, when 47,600 Chicagoland residents descended upon Allstate Arena to listen to a message of hope presented by Southern California pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie during the first-ever Greg Laurie: Chicago Harvest. By the end of the three-day event, 4,758 people made decisions to put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The Chicago Harvest was hosted by more than 220 area churches—from the Southside of Chicago to neighboring cities like Naperville, Crystal Lake, and Lake Forest—and united congregations across denominational and cultural lines. "The Harvest Crusade is Chicago-area Christians at their finest," said Reverend James Meeks of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago during the opening night of the Chicago Harvest. Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows commented, "I've been a pastor in Chicago for 25 years and this is an unprecedented show of support among churches in our community."
As soon as the doors of Allstate Arena opened on Friday evening, crowds streamed into the venue, and by Sunday evening there was standing room only. Many of those in attendance came to listen to music from top Christian recording artists like the David Crowder Band, Kirk Franklin, and Steven Curtis Chapman, but the crux of the event was the message presented each night by Laurie. Laurie's messages addressed topics like, "What Do You Live For?" and "A Second Chance at Life," as he explained how each of us can put our faith in Jesus Christ.
The Sunday night program, called "An Evening of Hope," repeated this message in a unique way as Greg Laurie joined with musicians Steven Curtis Chapman and Jeremy Camp to vulnerably discuss issues of sorrow and the hope that can be found in Christ in the midst of crisis. Both Chapman and Laurie lost children in automobile accidents in 2008, and share a common desire to offer encouragement to people who are suffering loss of any kind.
Speaking from personal experience about the death of his son, Christopher, Laurie told the crowd gathered, "No matter what you are going through, you are not alone in your grief and pain—God is with you. Maybe you've come here tonight with a troubled or broken heart, but you don't have to have a troubled heart if you put your faith in Jesus."
Laurie continued, "Which would you prefer: a nice, safe flight and a crash landing, or a bumpy flight and a soft landing? If you don't believe in Jesus, this life is as good as it gets, so enjoy it. If you are a believer, this is as bad as it will ever be."
Apart from the crowds gathered at Allstate Arena, people from 37 countries around the world watched the Chicago Harvest live, with 105,773 connections made to the live Harvest HD webcast. In addition, 1,042 webcast viewers filled out online cards indicating that they prayed with Laurie to make a commitment of faith. Each evening of the Harvest Crusade is archived and available for viewing at www.harvest.org.
Video podcasts and blog accounts of each message were also made available at http://blog.greglaurie.com/, as well as "behind the scenes" updates from Greg Laurie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/greglaurie and on Facebook.
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 largest churches in the U.S. During the past 21 years, the Harvest Crusades have drawn some 4.1 million people to events in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Laurie also serves on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse.
The final 2010 Harvest Crusade event is scheduled for Seattle, November 5–7.