Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian evangelizing crusades have drawn comparisons to the Billy Graham crusades popular in the mid- to late-20th century. It’s no coincidence. Laurie serves on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and notes on his website that Graham called him the “evangelist of the future.”
First Baptist Stone Mountain is among nearly 200 area churches from a wide variety of Christian denominations supporting Harvest Georgia as it comes to Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth, Sept. 23 – 25. Pastor Ken Magness said his church has been involved in publicizing and organizing the event and some members of his congregation will sing in choir.
“Billy Graham used events like this as a vital part of God’s work. Many people have come to know Christ through events such as this and I believe they still an effective way to reach people,” Magness said. “If ever there was a time in this nation when we needed a revival, if ever there was a time when we needed to cry out to God, it’s now.”
Like the Graham crusades, Laurie’s Harvest crusades are free and open to the public and include music as well as a keynote sermon. According to material distributed by his organization, Laurie presents “a clear gospel message in a culturally relevant format, drawing on current events, contemporary Christian music, and technology.”
California native Laurie overcame a troubled childhood and drug-laced adolescence to become an evangelist and preacher, founding Harvest Christian Fellowship, according to his biography.
Amanda Bearden, an administrative aide at Crossroads Church in Dunwoody, which also is supporting Harvest Georgia, commented such events are a no-pressure opportunity for those considering becoming Christians to learn more. “They are also enjoyable gatherings for those of us who are already Christians,” she added.
Bearden, who said her church has been involved in recruiting volunteers as well as publicizing the event, said she has not attended a Harvest crusade though she has attended similar events. “I’m definitely planning to be at this one,” she added.
This month’s Harvest Georgia will be the first since Laurie visited the state in 2005 for Harvest events at the Augusta Civic Center and at Stegeman Coliseum at the University of Georgia in Athens.
According to material released by Laurie’s organization, the Harvest crusades represent the longest running annual evangelistic outreach in U.S. history. The organization says that since 1990, its events have drawn more than 5.6 million people to stadiums and arenas around the world, with an additional 1.8 million people attending virtually through Internet connections.
James Chapman, an associate pastor at Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain, which is supporting Harvest Georgia with volunteers and other means, said while crusades aren’t the main avenue for evangelical work, they have a significant role. “Approximately 80 percent of people who start attending church do so because a friend invited them. The number of people who come to church for the first time or return to church after a long absence because of an evangelizing crusade is relatively small. Still, it’s important to have big events that bring large numbers of Christians together.”
Pastor Tyrone King of Higher Level Worship Church in Stone Mountain said reaching large numbers of people over a three-day period is a great opportunity for Christian churches. King, who also has worked with the Billy Graham organization, said, “People who do not already have a church home may come because they are hurting and need help. They may be suffering with financial and family troubles and need someplace to turn.
“Also, we see so many acts of hatred and violence out there; they are in the news every day. If we can shine the light of love, maybe we can stop some of these things before they happen,” King said.
Those who attend the Harvest events and are seeking affiliation with a local church are referred to the churches supporting the crusade.
According to Laurie’s organization, Harvest Georgia 2016 has been more than a year in the making. Preparation for the three-night outreach has involved sending more than 140,000 invitations, distributing approximately 30,000 bumper stickers and training and organizing more than 2,800 volunteers.
Harvest Georgia 2016 begins at 7 p.m. each evening with gates opening at 5:30 p.m. There will be signing for the deaf at each service. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/harvestcrusades.
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