By Jamin Osborne
Motivated by a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and being witnesses to the transformational power of God’s Spirit, many Christians desire to celebrate a spiritual reality and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Harvest Crusades are events that facilitates such a celebration and proclamation.
Led by the gifting and vision of their senior pastor Greg Laurie, Harvest Christian Fellowship is blessed to be offering the 25th Southern California Harvest Crusade to Southern California at the 45,000 seat Angel Stadium, August 15-17. Additionally, a nationwide Harvest Crusade, Harvest America, will be held October 5 from American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
Many hours of planning and preparation have gone into the large scale events which parallel in size and scope with today’s big budget music concerts. A massive allocation of additional hours will be put in after the events to follow up with the thousands of people who will decide to look to Jesus as their Savior when they respond to the message of salvation presented at the closing of the Harvest Crusade event each night.
At the Southern California event it’s not uncommon to see caravans and bus loads of supporters crossing multiple state borders to attend. They come to celebrate and labor alongside other Christians with the hope that God will use the Harvest Crusade to manifest His love and Spirit, causing lives to be transformed for the glory of God.
“Salvation is not merely an ascent to knowledge but a living reality,” says Chris Bodiford, a student at Bethel Seminary, and an active member of Saint Paul’s City Church in Murrieta. Chris has attended Harvest Crusades in the past and says for him the event is an opportunity for people to hear a message that can alter their path. “Although salvation includes the realities of right thinking, it is also about building a relationship with God,” he adds.
The more than 5,000 people comprising the staff and volunteers participating in the Southern California event, recognize the importance of supporting this relationship building process between individuals and Jesus Christ. With the support of hundreds of local area churches, steps are taken to connect new believers who desire to move forward with their decision to follow Jesus, with participating churches. The hopes are to connect new believers with mature Christians who can assist them in growing in their new faith.
Helen Ahn has served in various roles at Harvest Crusades for the last seven years and says, “The Harvest Crusade is an opportunity for non-believers to see Christians worshiping God and to hear the Gospel message.” Helen will be serving this year by interacting live over the Internet during the event responding to individuals seeking answers to questions and counseling.
In addition to the Gospel message, many Christians will be attending the Southern California Harvest Crusade to celebrate Jesus Christ in song with popular Christian music artists. Chris Tomlin, NEEDTOBREATHE, Skillet, For King & Country, Sidewalk Prophets, Phil Wickham, and Crystal Lewis will be leading the thousands in attendance with passionate praise and worship.
There will also be opportunities to hear incredible testimonies of those who have had their lives transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. One personal testimony exemplifying such a transformation will be from Michael Franzese. Once a high-ranking member of one of New York’s most violent and ruthless crime families, Franzese will share the story of how he discovered the love and transforming power of Jesus while in prison.
Although, the Harvest Crusades attract thousands of people, the emphasis has always been on individuals. There is a year-round focus on prayers, planning, preparation, and the presentation, all centered on penetrating the hearts of individuals with the message of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness and freedom from the past, hope for the future, love in the moment, and an inheritance of eternal promises are some of the themes that will be shared throughout the events.
At the closing of his message, Greg Laurie will provide an invitation for people to come forward and actively respond to the call of God. The moment will be powerful. Some may describe it as supernatural. Emotion will run high and will be expressed through laughter, tears, hugs and prayers.
Those that walk down the aisles of Angel Stadium and American Airlines Center in Dallas will be greeted by volunteers distributing Bibles, offering prayer, and providing direction for future follow-up. The singles ministry at Harvest Christian Fellowship has been working hard to prepare for the events by placing decision follow-up cards in each of the thousands of Bibles that will be handed out each night.
Some people who have made decisions to follow Christ at previous Harvest Crusades are now leaders in their churches. Some have become pastors. Others who have made decisions to follow Christ at a Harvest Crusade have, for various reasons, not yet experienced the life transformation that takes place when the message of Jesus Christ takes root in the heart. The Harvest Crusades provides an opportunity for change. But it comes down to the individual’s cooperation with the Holy Spirit for lasting results.
As Southern Californians, we are exposed to many cultures, worldviews, and life style choices. Many of these paths, although supported and approved by the general public, the media, and even the government, are recognized by Christians as destructive, both personally and socially. The Harvest Crusades present people with the path of a spiritual reality that provides a life of healing and a life that thrives. Bob Yanta, a dedicated believer and a committed volunteer at Harvest Crusades for the last thirteen years prefers to keep it simple and says, “The Harvest Crusade is about the message of Jesus Christ.”
For more information about the Harvest Crusades, visit http://www.harvest.org/crusades/