Last weekend I attended the two-night Harvest Crusade in Anaheim, CA. On Sunday the program was broadcast live to over 2,400 host sites all across the US, in a unique event called Harvest America. A ministry of Pastor Greg Laurie and Harvest Christian Fellowship, the annual crusades reach thousands of people each year, sharing with them the gospel message and the love of Jesus Christ. When the events first began, viewing was limited to just those attending, but in recent years advances in technology have dramatically expanded the viewing audience. With Harvest America the goal was to increase that viewership even further by partnering with churches and other venues to broadcast live via satellite and internet streaming. The result: one day, one church, one message.
Beloved founder of the first Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA, Pastor Chuck Smith invites the crowd to join him in a word of prayer.
The phenomenal Jeremy Camp sings about a day when there will be no more pain and no more tears. Later, the crowd joins hands and raises them in praise, singing about God’s awesome power and glory. Seeing thousands of lifted hands all raised in worship was a magnificent sight! After hearing so many Jeremy Camp songs on the radio, it was great to hear him in person. The same was true for the popular Christian band MercyMe!
Starting with a shout, “There is nothing too big for my Jesus!” Bart Millard leads the group through some of their most popular songs. The Hurt and the Healer is one of my favorites and hearing it live was soul-stirring. However, it was the song I Can Only Imagine that set the house on fire! The sweet sound of a whole stadium full of people singing along with MercyMe was just incredible and brought me to tears! For some of us who’s loved ones no longer have to imagine, this song always brings a few tears anyway, but to hear a palpable longing for home in thousands of voices, was truly inspiring.
Pastor Greg Laurie takes the stage, offering hope to a hurting world that needs Christ. To a live and streaming audience of roughly 272,000 people, he begins his message, “The Gospel is good news in a bad world.”
Telling the story of the religious leader Nicodemus who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to be saved, Pastor Greg tells the audience, “You can’t be a Christian unless you are born again.” Like Nicodemus, salvation cannot be gained by being religious, by being a good person, by doing more good things than bad things, by going to church or by being baptized. We must recognize that we are sinners, ask to be forgiven and follow Christ.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9, NIV
As the sun sets in Anaheim, Pastor Greg invites those attending and watching, to come forward if they want to turn from their sins and accept the free gift of salvation Jesus offers. Thousands respond to the call.
In the stadium, fireworks and cheers celebrate those who made the most important decision of their lives. Additional professions are reported from venues across the country. Thanks to modern technology and social media, Harvest America was watched live, tweeted about, and shared on facebook in real time. During the event, the twitter stream just exploded and organizers report that #HarvestAmerica was trending #1 for a time. The tweets were flying fast and furious—so much so that I couldn’t keep up with all of them, but a few notable tweets did catch my eye! I was delighted to see Sheila Walsh posting updates of a streaming event in Texas, and that Max Lucado watched Harvest America from 26,000 feet on United Airlines in-flight television! Many other tweets reflected how blessed people were by the program, while others reported numerous decisions for Christ made during the event. One tweet originating from the stadium posted a picture of the crowded field with a caption that spoke volumes, “This is what thousands of answered prayers look like.”
Each one of those “answered prayers” receives a Start Bible, to help them get started on their new life in Christ. In addition to the 4000+ decisions made on the field that night, another 14,000 people across the US responded to the gospel in one of the host venues.
There is nothing more beautiful than the sight of people streaming forward to accept Christ as their savior, and since the Bible speaks of the angels rejoicing for every sinner who repents, perhaps it is humorously appropriate that Harvest America should be broadcast from Angel Stadium.
UPDATE as of September 10, 2012: According to the official press release, the 2012 Harvest Crusade drew an audience of approximately 500,000 people via stadium events, live satellite and internet broadcasts to over 2,400 venues, making it one of the largest evangelical outreaches in US history. Over the four nights it is estimated that over 15,000 people made professions of faith during the Anaheim events, while another 7,000 made decisions during the Los Angeles events. God is reaping a harvest indeed!
On the journey toward Home,