Over 8,000 Attend First Night of Greater Augusta Harvest

More than eight thousand packed the Augusta Civic Center Sunday for the first night of a four-night evangelistic crusade in Augusta, Georgia. The Greater Augusta Harvest with Greg Laurie, which is being held Apr. 17-20, is the first time in almost twenty years that an evangelistic event of this magnitude was held in the Georgian city.

“Every seat in the Civic Center was full for the Harvest Crusade,” wrote Tina Terry of the Augusta-based WAGT-TV News, which reported on the attendance figures. “Some came to hear award winning musicians like Crystal Lewis, Doyle Dykes and Mercy Me. Others came to hear a message of hope for those in need.”

According to event organizers, some 137 area churches of many denominations have worked over the past year to plan the Greater Augusta Harvest.

"This will be our first community-wide evangelistic event in nearly 20 years ago,” said local event organizer Pastor Mark Harris from Curtis Baptist Church, “and we are excited to see what God has in store."

Since 1990, Harvest Crusades, has drawn more than 3 million people to stadiums and arenas in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

"With Harvest, we intentionally engage popular culture, using it as a bridge to reach millions of people with the simple, timeless message of the gospel," said pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie, who founded the Harvest Crusade events and serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif. "We're especially glad to work alongside Augusta-area churches to offer this life-changing message that is relevant to adults, teens, and children alike."

According to Harvest, each crusade event features a message from Laurie and presents “traditional Christian beliefs in a culturally relevant way, employing of-the-moment methods like Internet technology, ultra-hip Christian music, and current event references.”

This week’s Harvest Crusade will feature a sampling of Christian music's hottest talents, spanning genres from rock to pop to bluegrass. Musicians will include Mercy Me, Jars of Clay, Jeremy Camp, Crystal Lewis, The Katinas, Doyle Dykes, Dennis Agajanian, and an Augusta community-wide choir.

Tonight’s festivities include an evening Harvest Jam designed especially for teens and young adults with music by top Christian musicians Mercy Me and Jeremy Camp. Volunteering at the Harvest Jam will be groups of teens from Harvest Christian Fellowship, known by the acronym “SWAT,” which stands for "Student With a Testimony." These SWAT teams travel to each Harvest Crusade to encourage local youth spiritually by teaming up with local church youth groups to pass out invitations to Harvest events.

This year, in addition to the Greater Augusta Harvest, Harvest will host 2005 events in Athens, Ga. (April 22); Santa Monica, Calif. (June 3–4); Anaheim, Calif. (July 15–17); and Newcastle, NSW, Australia (Sept. 8–11).

For those who are unable to attend this week's four-night crusade, Harvest will be archiving the event on the Internet and video. The archives may be accessed at www.harvest.org within 24 hours of the event.