(Photo: Harvest Crusade)
The Harvest Crusades, which is led by evangelist Greg Laurie and opens in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, has been drawing such a massive response on the Web that organizers are planning for broadcast venues throughout the United States.
Harvest Crusades Executive Director John Collins told The Christian Post Wednesday that the success of webcasting a live video stream of the crusades, the most recent one being from New Zealand, has opened up the door for the possibility of large churches and neutral venues hosting the event starting next year.
More than 130,000 people viewed the live broadcast on the Internet of the crusade from Anaheim last year and the number of viewers bumped up to a half-million who watched the archived video, Collins said.
“We are gearing up for a larger response this year, which will then prepare us for an initiative we are doing next year called ‘Harvest America,’" he said. “The plan is to next year to take the live-streaming concept to a whole other level where we will actually do 10-15 live venues around the country.”
He explained that various communities around the country would receive the live video stream from Anaheim of Laurie’s evangelistic message, but they would also have live worship music at the locations “so it becomes an event in and of itself.”
Social media has also played a major role in not only bringing people to the physical location of the Harvest crusades held throughout the year, but to the outreach ministry’s website which hosts the live and archived videos as well, Collins said.
“We’ve had good success over the previous years of drawing a larger online audience. We are finding that a lot of people are being driven to the site by social media via Facebook, email invites, texting, and tweeting,” he said. “We are going to be putting a little more weight on that.”
Harvest’s tech team is comprised of many volunteers and the ministry actively recruits talented people from all aspects of website and video production, according to Collins. “They also need to have a heart for what we do in spreading the Gospel message,” he added.
This weekend’s event in Anaheim marks the Harvest Crusades’ 22nd consecutive year for the outreach event in Southern California. Next month, the crusade will make its first appearance at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
The crusades take thousands of volunteers to produce and help with services such as individual counselors at the time of Laurie’s call to non-believers and those wavering from their faith to come onto the field and make a profession to Jesus.
The outreach in Anaheim includes a nightly message from Laurie, who is also the lead pastor at Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif. The event will also feature performances from Christian musicians, including: David Crowder Band, Kutless and Crystal Lewis (Friday); Phil Wickham, Red, and Lincoln Brewster (Saturday); Jeremy Camp, Jars of Clay, and Francesca Battistelli (Sunday).
It was announced this week that pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton, whose story of losing her arm in a shark attack was made into the movie Soul Surfer, will be interviewed by Laurie onstage Friday evening. The Sunday night program includes plans for Louis Zamperini, who is a World War II prisoner of war survivor and a former American Olympic long-distance runner (1936, Berlin), to share his story of faith.
Laurie’s Harvest events have drawn more than 4.2 million people to stadiums and arenas around the world since 1990, according to organizers. Laurie also serves on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
All three evenings are free of charge and video podcasts and blog accounts of each message will be made available at http://blog.greglaurie.com/. “Behind the scenes” updates from Greg Laurie leading up to each Harvest event will also be available on Facebook and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/greglaurie.