Evangelist Greg Laurie and his congregation plan to celebrate a milestone observance this coming weekend (March 16,17) in honor of four decades of ministry led by the Harvest church and crusades leader.
"Looking back," says Laurie, whose church is based in Riverside, Calif., "I can see God's hand at work from the very beginning. It has always been a part of God's plan for us to know Him and make Him known."
As the church observes its 40th anniversary with "ReEnvision Weekend," it plans to look ahead at what the future may hold.
Over the past 40 years, Harvest Christian Fellowship has grown into one of the largest churches in America with locations in Riverside, Corona and Orange County. Harvest has ministered to millions of people through weekly services, radio and television programs, and worldwide evangelistic outreach events.
ReEnvision Weekend is scheduled to begin with a "Reflecting on the Past" concert at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside on Saturday at 6 p.m. Organizers say this will be a celebration of the musical history of Harvest, featuring performances by Marty Goetz, Crystal Lewis, Benny Hester, the Maranatha! Praise Band, and more.
Weekend church services, "Preparing for the Future," will feature Pastor Bob Coy sharing a message on reaching forward to the things ahead, with a musical guest appearance by Phil Wickham. Service times are at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in Riverside and at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. in Orange County.
The ReEnvision Weekend will conclude on Sunday with a 5 p.m. service in Riverside, and starting at 7 pm in Orange County (Irvine), with a special message by Laurie, concert by Phil Wickham, and a first look at the trailer for Harvest's new documentary film, "Hope for Hurting Hearts."
In 1973, a 19-year-old Laurie started a home Bible study in Riverside "with no other purpose than to know God and make Him known." Today, Harvest Christian Fellowship is a church of some 15,000 people and houses more than 80 ministries. In 1990, Laurie began holding large-scale public evangelistic events called Harvest Crusades. More than 4.5 million people have attended Harvest Crusades in stadiums and arenas across the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Laurie is the featured speaker of the nationally syndicated radio program, A New Beginning. He is also featured in a weekly television program called GregLaurie.tv. He has authored more than 70 books on Christian living, the church, and foundations of the faith.
Laurie answered a few questions from The Christian Post via email on Wednesday. The interview is below.
CP: As you reflect on the last 40 years of ministry, what comes to the forefront of your thoughts?
Laurie: I am absolutely amazed that 40 entire years have already passed! In some ways I feel as though I have already lived three lifetimes, and in other ways it all seems like it happened yesterday.
We are calling this weekend celebration "ReEnvision: Reflecting on the Past and Preparing for the Future." I have never been one to dwell in the past. I barely live in the present, because I am always thinking about the future! However, in preparing this weekend's message in which I look back on 40 years of ministry, it's evident that there is so much to give thanks for.
I'm reminded of how after Israel crossed over the Jordan River, they were told to stack up twelve stones. The purpose of these stones was to mark what God had done so that, when their descendants saw those stones and asked why they were there, they could be told of how God was so faithful to lead Israel through that rushing river.
We will do something similar on Saturday with a message I will give that will identify key principles or "stepping stones" that we have followed since our beginning at Harvest. We are also going to have a flyover of 40 years of worship styles with many special guests like Crystal Lewis, Benny Hester, Marty Goetz, and the Tommy Coomes Band.
On Sunday night, we will focus more on looking forward. I will be giving a message about what I see as the future for our church – and really the whole church – in the days ahead. We will also be showing a trailer for an upcoming film we have been working on called Hope for Hurting Hearts, which will release later this year.
This film was shot on location in Italy, New York City, Hawaii, and here in Southern California. It is designed to bring hope for those facing crisis and it will feature the stories of Jeremy Camp, whose wife died of cancer, Nick Vujicic, who was born without limbs, as well as our own story of our son Christopher being called to heaven. This film will feature narration by Dr. James Dobson as well.
On Sunday night, we will also unveil plans for our Harvest America outreach, and we will enjoy a special concert by Phil Wickham as well.
CP: What do you look forward to most about the celebration this weekend?
Laurie: I look forward to seeing family and friends as we all celebrate the faithfulness of God and look ahead to even greater opportunities to glorify Him.
CP: What do you see happening with Harvest for the next 40 years?
Laurie: My hope is that Harvest will remain grounded on the biblical principles it started with, yet remain culturally connected in effectively reaching our generation. Our mission statement still rings true: "Knowing God and making Him known."
On the Web: http://harvest.org/.