(Photo: Harvest Ministries)
LOS ANGELES – Holding his first Harvest Crusades outreach event in the media hub nicknamed "City of Angels," Greg Laurie brought his message of hope in Jesus Christ to an estimated 50,000 people at Dodger Stadium Saturday evening.
On the eve of the nation’s 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedies, Laurie said he came to Los Angeles to "influence the influencers." He also said that even though prayer by clergy was not allowed at the memorial ceremony at ground zero Sunday “we will be praying in Los Angeles tonight.”
Founding Calvary Chapel Pastor Chuck Smith, who mentored Laurie even before he became a church and evangelist leader, led the crowd in prayer for the families who lost loved ones during the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Many in attendance raised their smart phones toward the sky with browsers set to a “virtual candle” app, an image made available by the Harvest tech team.
"We pray that we as a nation become more aware for our need for God," said Smith from the massive stage centered in the second-base area of the baseball field.
He prayed, "Father, as we are here on the eve of 9/11 and so vividly remember that day of infamy, with men for their religion who were willing to give their lives in order that they might take the lives of 3,000 people … Father, we pray for the families of those 3,000 people.”
"We know that the pain of death does last so long. May they feel your comfort and your presence tonight, Lord,” he continued. “We pray for our nation. We thank you, Lord, for the wake-up call and at that time so many people turned to you. The churches were full the next Sunday. Lord, people began to realize how much we need you.
"Lord, how soon we forget and how many times this year as we are needing you again. Somehow, Lord, we sort of declared our independence from you. Lord, we want you to know that we feel very dependent upon you. Lord, we ask that tonight your blessing would be upon America.”
Smith concluded by praying for those inside the stadium who had just prayed to accept and follow Jesus.
Having held Harvest events in neighboring Orange County for 22 consecutive years, Laurie brought along a bevy of chart-topping Christian music performers and high-end technology.
After Smith’s prayer, the stadium lights were darkened and the crowd, led by The Katinas, sang "God Bless America." Chris Tomlin ended the event, leading attendees in a set of favorite worship songs.
Earlier in the evening and before Laurie spoke, rousing performances by The Katinas, Kirk Franklin, and Jeremy Camp had the audience jumping, causing those in the upper decks of Dodger Stadium to feel the vibration.
Laurie said his desire was to address everyone in Los Angeles, “from the up-and-comers of Rodeo Drive to the down-and-outers of Skid Row,” on the topic of dealing with tragedy such as of the loss of life during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"Whatever you are facing, you have something better in Christ," Laurie told the crowd. "You don't go to heaven to find Christ, you go to Christ to find heaven. Only one road leads to heaven and that's Jesus Christ."
Laurie said he does not have the answer to why God allows tragedy. "Maybe the question should be, 'Who do you go to when tragedy happens?' I know the answer to that one. You go to Jesus Christ."
In another first, Laurie's altar call to the field drew so many thousands of people to the outfield grass that a Los Angeles fire marshal prompted Harvest officials to close off the area. Those still making their way to the field were told to remain standing and a Harvest counselor would come by.
Event organizers said 5,934 came down to the field to make professions of faith in Christ. This is the largest number of decisions for a single night of Harvest Crusades. Additionally, 119 online viewers registered decisions to follow Jesus, organizers said.