ANAHEIM, Calif. – More than 11,000 people in Southern California accepted their "tickets" to Heaven over the weekend at an annual event that has helped some 298,000 people commit their life to Christ since 1990.
On Sunday, the final night of the 19th annual Southern California Harvest Crusade, 3,704 made their first-time commitments or rededicated their lives to Christ before a crowd of more than 30,000. The first and second night of the event witnessed 2,750 and 4,630 decisions, respectively, and over 29,000 and 46,000 attendees.
"Heaven is not your default destination," explained evangelist Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., Sunday night, as he did the previous two nights.
"You have to make the decision to go there," he exclaimed.
Like the messages delivered over the first two nights, Laurie's message Sunday, entitled "Hope for Hurting Hearts," served as a reminder to the thousands listening live or watching via webcast of the brevity of life on earth, which can literally end at any minute – as his son's had less than one month earlier.
Laurie further reminded the crowd that earth is merely the place where people decide where they want the final destination of their immortal souls to be, following up with the message he delivered the night before.
"Here's something to consider. Everybody will live forever. Did you know that? I mean everyone. I don't care if you're a believer or non-believer, an agnostic. Everybody will live forever. In effect, we are all immortal," he said Saturday.
"You say 'Oh, that's cool; that's good news.' Well, not necessarily," he added.
Using a five-day, all-expenses-paid trip as an example, Laurie had noted Saturday that more important than the length of stay is the destination.
"The issue is not 'Will I live forever?' The question is 'Where will you live forever?'" he pointed out.
Laurie also made clear that once the destination has been decided upon, what is then needed is a "ticket."
"You can't just walk in," Laurie said Saturday, using Disneyland as an example. But the price of the "ticket" is more than any person can afford.
"You can't buy it. In fact, you can't afford it. But the good news is Jesus Christ bought your ticket to Heaven when he shed his blood on the cross at Calvary and he offers it as a free gift to you right now. Do you want it?" Laurie asked.
In his follow-up on Sunday, Laurie further noted that there is only one way to get to Heaven – through Jesus Christ. And even though some might feel that belief is "narrow," the evangelist pointed to examples where "narrow" is necessary and dangerous to be without. Airplane pilots and doctors, for example, have a precise course to take and precise procedure to follow in order to arrive at the correct destination and to keep patients alive during an operation.
"Don't tell me that it's narrow to believe what God has said. God has given us one way to know Him. One rope has been dropped, if you will, or a life line. And that's the one you have to grab if you want to go to Heaven when you die," he said.
"Have you grabbed it yet?"
Following the conclusion Laurie's sermon, the Southern California Harvest 2008 wrapped up Sunday with more than 3,700 crusade attendees publicly proclaiming their decision for Christ in the outfield of Angel Stadium as hundreds of volunteer counselors ministered to them. Each person who walked down from the stands was given a New Believers Bible and was asked to leave their contact information for future follow ups.
Sunday also marked the first Harvest appearance by the award-winning artist Michael W. Smith, who led worship together with Leeland, Crystal Lewis, Marty Goetz, and the Katinas.
The next Harvest event will take place Oct. 3-5 in Philadelphia.