Harvest Crusades to Kick Off 20th Year with Black Hills Event

Megachurch pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie is kicking off his ministry's 2009 evangelistic crusade season with an event over the weekend in Rapid City, S.D., where tens of thousands are expected to gather for three nights of music and messages.

Over 70 local area churches invited Laurie and the Harvest Crusades team to partner with them for an evangelistic outreach in the Black Hills area, less than 60 miles northeast of Mt. Rushmore.

"I'm told there that there is a very high percentage of 'unchurched' people in Rapid City," Laurie reported Friday, just hours ahead of the opening night.

"That is perfect! Just the kind of person I love to speak to," he added. "That is because a Harvest Crusades event is for the person who would not normally darken the doorway of a church, but has questions and is seeking truth."

For more than 19 years, Harvest Crusades has put on large-scale evangelistic outreaches around the United States and in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More than 3.8 million people have reportedly attended a Harvest Crusades event in person, and more than 314,000 people have registered decisions of faith in Jesus Christ.

Over the past few years, Harvest Crusades has also been reaching out to people outside of the venues it visits through live webcasts, as it will also do with this weekend's Black Hills Harvest, which has been scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. MT.

In addition to nightly messages from Laurie, this weekend's event will feature music from some of the nation's top Christian artists, including Third Day, Relient K, Jeremy Camp, and the Katinas.

"From the first prayer prayed, to the music performed, and finally the message that I will give, everything about a Harvest Crusades event is designed to present who Jesus Christ is, what He said, and make the gospel understandable," explained Laurie.

This year marks the 20th year that Harvest Crusades has held large-scale evangelistic events and will also include stops at Long Island, N.Y., and Anaheim, Calif.

Though the venue for the Black Hills Harvest – the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center – is smaller than those that typically host crusades, seating about 5,000 with an overflow room for another 4,000, Laurie told the local press that "it's not only about big."

"We want to go where we'll be strategic and effective," the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., told the Rapid City Journal. "I'm happier to speak to an audience that is not churched or religious."

Aside from the three-night crusade, a number of events have been held in the days and months leading to it, including the youth-oriented Amplify Rally in March and the G3 (Gideon's 300) training program, which mobilized over 300 young people to reach out to their community.

Programs such as G3 and "Love Thy Neighbor" are expected to continue well past this weekend's event.