At least 100,000 people gathered at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for Harvest America 2016 on Sunday evening, according to Pastor Greg Laurie, and thousands of them responded to the California pastor's invitation to pray to accept Jesus into their lives.
"I know a few things about you," Laurie, senior pastor of the Harvest Christian Fellowship megachurch in California, told the cheering crowd in his message titled, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," which was also livestreamed to thousands of host locations across the country .
You're empty, you're lonely, you feel guilty and you fear death, the pastor told the gathering, which according to The Dallas Morning News was "the largest evangelical outreach in North Texas since Billy Graham drew 255,000 people to Texas Stadium."
The Rev. Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, tweeted before the event, "Near Arlington, TX tomorrow? Take your friends & anyone who needs a relationship with Jesus Christ to #HarvestAmerica with @GregLaurie."
We're all born empty, Laurie continued, pointing out that the Bible says no matter what you get, you're going to be empty from the inside. It's no wonder that the most Google-searched terms during the nights are "porn, lonely and suicide," he added.
Everybody feels guilt because "you have a conscience, and because you're guilty," he said, explaining that the Bible says we've all sinned.
Our fear of death is actually the fear of the unknown, Laurie added. But we will all die, and pass over to the other side.
He shared the story of a Samaritan woman, found in John 4:3-10: "So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.'"
Laurie then told attendees, "My mother was like this woman at the well." He added that he was able to lead his mother to Jesus about a month before she died.
The pastor also talked about Nicodemus, who is mentioned in John 3:1-7: "Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.' Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.' 'How can someone be born when they are old?' Nicodemus asked. 'Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother's womb to be born!' Jesus answered, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'"
Just because you've got a cowboy hat doesn't mean you're a Texan, Laurie said. Going to a church doesn't make you a Christian either, he said. Nor does reading the Bible, he added, stressing that there has to be a moment when you put your faith in Jesus.
Religious beliefs are not enough, as religion is an attempt of humans to reach God, but Christianity is God's initiative to reach humans, Laurie said, adding he's not a religious person and nor does he want to become one.
Laurie briefly explained what the Gospel is. We're all sinners and separated from God, and can never reach God on our own, he said. But God loved us so much that He sent His Son to this Earth on a rescue operation. Jesus walked on our shoes, and He lived our life, and then He died our death. On the third day, He rose again from the dead. If we turn from our sin and ask Christ to come into our life, we can know we'll go to Heaven.
"I hope you're born again tonight. I hope this is the night your life changes," he told the crowd, and said, "Heaven is not for good people, it's for forgiven people."
Pastor Laurie led people to pray to invite Jesus into their hearts, and then encouraged those who prayed to leave their seats and come to the ground in front of the stage. Thousands came forward to proclaim their decision.
After the message, Dr. Robert Jeffress, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, tweeted: "Praise God for the thousands of lives forever changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ tonight at #HarvestAmerica!"
Pastor Laurie spoke to The Christian Post a few days before the event.
"When I speak, I'm not so much addressing a crowd, I think of an individual," Laurie told CP. "It's hard to wrap your mind around a crowd of 30-, 40-, 50-, 60 thousand people — in fact you can't. So what I do is I think about that person that is cynical that didn't even want to come in the first place ... Though I'm speaking to a crowd in reality, I direct my remarks as though we were having a conversation — me and that person that's in attendance."