Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusade kicked off its 2011 season in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday. The event is billed by organizers as the largest outreach of its kind since Billy Graham visited the area in 1959 and 1969.
Some 10,000 people came to Vector Arena on the first night to hear Laurie preach and music by Jeremy Camp, Phil Joel, Martin Smith, and The Katinas. According to the Harvest Crusade blog, 1,429 people came forward to commit or recommit their lives to Jesus. Another 102 online viewers indicated decisions to follow Christ during the live webcast of the event.
Laurie last visited Auckland in August 2010 when he spoke at a pair of outreach preview events-held at ASB Theater in Aotea Center and Life Convention Center, which was attended by 2,750 people.
“My message for the Kiwis is simple,” Laurie stated in a recent blog post. “I am going to tell them about who Jesus Christ is and how to come into a relationship with Him.”
About 200 churches from a variety of denominations throughout Auckland and surrounding areas are helping to host the free event called the "Greg Laurie: Auckland Harvest." Both nights of the outreach can also be viewed live by webcast at the Harvest.org site. Saturday’s event begins at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m. local time in Auckland New Zealand. (3 a.m and 2 a.m. EST)
"Our congregation was part of the early planning for the Greg Laurie outreach and had an opportunity to hear Greg first hand at launch event in 2010. Greg communicates very well to the kiwi culture and his message was received very warmly," said the Rev. Andrew Norton, senior pastor of St Columba Presbyterian Botany Downs. "A number of people from St Columba went along and it was an absolute delight to see so many people respond to an invitation to become followers of Christ."
Founded in 1990, the “Harvest with Greg Laurie” events have drawn more than 4.2 million people in attendance, the organization states on its website. In 2010, online crusade attendance surpassed in-person attendance for the first time, doubling the amount of participants at events last year.
Laurie was interviewed this week by a New Zealand radio station and said that his Sunday message would focus on suffering. “People know a little about this subject of suffering with the crisis that’s happened in Christ Church and all the loss of life,” he said. “A lot of people are wondering about why there’s all the suffering in the world. I may not have all the answers to people’s questions, but I know that Jesus is the answer.”