- (Photo: Harvest)
After reaching more than 3.8 million people with the Gospel, evangelist Greg Laurie will mark his 20th annual Southern California Harvest Crusade this weekend at Angel Stadium.
And Laurie is bringing the same message of sin and forgiveness that he's been preaching over the last two decades.
"The message hasn't changed. Lives have," says the promotional message for the evangelistic event.
Tami Quattrone was stuck in an abusive relationship before she accepted Christ. Her boyfriend for six years would beat her, drown her and threaten her life with guns to her head. She turned to drugs as she faced abuse daily.
In 1996, she attended the Southern California Harvest, ironically forced by her husband who claimed he recently became a Christian.
Unexpectedly, the event changed her life and led her to leave her abusive relationship and life of drugs.
"I wasn’t planning on changing my life in any way," Quattrone said. "The crusade turned my life upside-down, or right-side up."
Hoping to see more lives changed, Laurie has been visiting several churches in the weeks leading up to the 20th anniversary event, encouraging Christians to invite someone who has not heard of Christ to the crusade.
He says 85 percent of those who come forward at the invitation to follow Christ were brought by a friend. And he stresses that every believer is called to share their faith and bring people to the Lord.
"God reaches people through people," Laurie wrote in his blog. "This message God has given us was meant to be shared not hoarded. You were blessed to be a blessing."
He noted, "This is not 'The Great Suggestion,' but rather 'The Great Commission.' If I am His disciple, I am commanded to go and make disciples of others. If I am not making disciples of others, then I’m not really being the disciple He wants me to be!"
There are many excuses people give for not growing closer to God or attending church. The most often used excuse, Laurie says, is the "church is full of hypocrites" one.
But Laurie cautioned, "That's not going to hold water on judgment day."
"Jesus did not say 'follow my people.' He said 'follow me,'" the evangelist stressed during this past Sunday's worship services at Saddleback Church.
The three-day Anaheim Harvest Crusade opens Friday and is free to the public. Featured musicians include Third Day, The Katinas, Relient K, Skillet, Chris Tomlin and Crystal Lewis.
Despite the musical performances, Laurie stresses that the event is not a festival or a concert. It's a crusade.
"We use that word 'crusade' intentionally," he said at Saddleback. "We're going back to the tradition of crusade evangelism with people like Billy Sunday, D.L. Moody, Billy Graham.
"It's an evangelistic event that is designed from beginning to end to present the Gospel."
Although many evangelists have been dubbed the new Billy Graham – whose last crusade was held in June 2005 – Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church believes the title is most appropriate for Laurie.
"If anybody deserves the mantle of Billy Graham for crusade evangelism, I think it's Greg," Warren said.
The Aug. 14-16 Harvest Crusade will be broadcast live on the internet at www.harvest.org and, for the first time, streamed live to iPhones.