(Photo: Harvest Ministries)
Evangelist Greg Laurie plans once again to give the message of hope found in having a relationship with Jesus Christ for the 25th consecutive year of large scale events he leads during the three-night "2014 SoCal Harvest" beginning Friday at the 45,000-seat Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.
Laurie told The Christian Post in an exclusive interview just one week before the event that he would like Christians to recognize its significance.
"This is something really amazing that God has done," Laurie said. "I don't know of another ongoing evangelistic event like this anywhere in the world that's happened for 25 years – a large scale overt evangelistic event. I would say don't take this for granted.
"I would encourage my Christian friends to, at the very least, pray for this event, but even better, attend it and bring someone with them that does not know the Lord."
Organizers say the event, planned for August 15-17, will feature "the trademark message of hope that has been delivered by pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie at every Harvest Crusades event since 1990."
"For 25 years, it has been a privilege to deliver a message of hope to millions of people across Southern California and around the world through the Harvest Crusades, and to watch God work in ways we never could have imagined," said Laurie earlier this summer. "The Gospel message we've delivered at each and every Harvest event since 1990 is simple and unchanging, and as a result, more than 421,000 people worldwide have made commitments to put their faith in Christ."
Laurie's full interview with CP is below.
The Christian Post: Can you give us a preview summary of the messages for each night of SoCal Harvest?
Greg Laurie: There are certain things I return to every year, as people know who have attended one of these events. I will usually get to the meaning of life, what happens beyond the grave, and to fill the void in your life. But each year, I try to develop a different text and hopefully have some fresh illustrations and other things to bring it home. There are certain timeless truths that I really need to keep bringing back because it is just basically the Gospel. There's always new people that have never heard these things before.
My theme (title) on Friday night is "The God Who Loves and Forgives." I plan to interview Michael Franceze, who was a member of the Columbo crime family, an actual made man, and mobster, and how God transformed his life. I'm going to transition from that interview intto talking about how God can change any life. I will base it on the story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus who was one of the most notorious sinners and Christian killers. I'm going to talk about how the Christian killer became the servant of the Lord. No matter what you've done, God can forgive you.
On another night, I'm going to talk about the message called, "Jesus and You." I'm going to contrast two characters in the Bible – the woman at the well and Nicodemus. One (the woman at the well) was immoral, one (Nicodemus) was very moral. One was infamous (the woman at the well), the other was famous (Nicodemus). The thing is that even though their lives were so different both needed Jesus. I'm going to talk about how everyone needs Jesus – how He can change a person's life.
The third night, Sunday night, is a big celebration. I know I'm going to deal with the theme of the afterlife, the hope of heaven, and the imminent return of Jesus Christ. I just haven't completely finished that message yet.
CP: It seems like the intensity of tragedies both natural and man-made in the world are more intense than ever right now. What are your thoughts on this?
Laurie: Well, I actually read an article in The Christian Post about this terrorist army called ISIS hunting down Christians and when they found their homes they put the letter "N" on the home for "Nazarene" and I thought, boy, things haven't changed that much in 2,000 years. There's the apostle Paul who was hunting down followers of the Nazarene. There is global chaos, there is this situation happening in the Middle East, and then of course, there's this continuing violence on our own culture, and all matter of tragedy and heartache it seems every day. It's just a reminder that, you know what, we really do need God when the day is done. I want to offer a message of hope. It's been said that if you preach to hurting people you will never lack for an audience. And then there's those personal tragedies that people face – the loss of a loved one or bad news from a doctor or marital problems or whatever it might be. My message is one of hope and turning to God and putting your faith in Him and how He gets you through the hardest times of life, makes you stronger as a result, but more importantly, we have hope for the life beyond this one for a Christian.
CP: We have it pretty cushy in So Cal, is it harder to evangelize in such a seemingly comfortable part of the world?
Laurie: Well, I think it's uncomfortable and comfortable. I mean I guess it depends on where in Southern California you live, but what I recognize is that this crusade is more than just a Southern California event. It really is a national and international event. Our web audience exceeds our live audience in attendance. We will have well over 500,000 people watching live online or in archive form later. So, I recognize that when I'm speaking I'm not just talking to Southern California people, but the people all over the world.
There's all matter of struggles. I mean you may be a relatively affluent person and outwardly, at least, have a great life, but there may be a lot of personal problems or addictions or struggles. Then, of course, there are those certainly with struggles of the issues of day-to-day life, like finding a job or resolving a marital conflict or problems with their kids so I just always keep those things in mind when I speak to people. It's not about a big crowd, it's about individual people and the challenges they are facing and the hope of the Gospel.
CP: What would you like to share most about heading into this Harvest?
Laurie: I'd like to say to Christians out there that this is something really amazing that God has done. I don't know of another ongoing evangelistic event like this anywhere in the world that's happened for 25 years – a large scale overt evangelistic event. I would say don't take this for granted. I would encourage my Christian friends to, at the very least, pray for this event, but even better, attend it and bring someone with them that does not know the Lord. For those that are out of state, to take the live HD video feed that will be coming from Angel Stadium and watch it and have their friends watch it, or send a link to it later, and use it as a tool to reach your friends with the Gospel because all of us as Christians have been commanded to go into all the world and preach the Gospel.
Jesus did not say the whole world should go to church, but He did say the church should go to the whole world, so let's use this great resource together.
CP: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Laurie: This is always an evangelistic event, but it is a celebration this year as well. We are going to have a great fireworks show on Sunday night. We are going to have some amazing rollout videos of dramatic stories of lives that have been changed over the last 25 years. So, we are going to pause to celebrate this milestone, but then hope to make this the best crusade it can be this year.