The Harvest Crusader

The Harvest Crusades are evangelical Christian events held across the United States and in other countries at the invitation of local churches and Christian leaders. Since 1990, they have been attended by over 4 million people in stadiums, amphitheaters, and like venues. Greg Laurie is the founder and primary speaker. These events also feature performances from Christian musical artists such as Dennis Agajanian, Jars of Clay, Delirious?, The Katinas, Crystal Lewis, Jeremy Camp, Toby Mac, Kutless, P.O.D., Skillet, Switchfoot and Steven Curtis Chapman.

The group was founded in 1990 by a group of Southern Californians with the intent to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a non-traditional, non-church environment. With limited resources, the group pursued a strategy of presenting their interpretation of Christ's message in a contemporary format featuring a casual atmosphere, upbeat music, worship, and a clear presentation of biblical messages.

At the time, many in America were questioning the effectiveness and the future of modern crusade evangelism.[citation needed] Nevertheless,Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside (currently one of the 12 largest churches in America) believed that the Harvest Crusades had great potential to reach younger Americans. The format was therefore open to all but designed to appeal particularly to youth.

The two preachers rented the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, CA for several nights in the summer of 1990, not knowing how many people would show up for the event. More than 90,000 people attended what was to be the first Harvest Crusade, featuring Greg Laurie as the evangelist. Laurie interpreted this as confirmation of his belief that people are still interested in hearing straight talk about life's challenges and problems.

In addition to the yearly Southern California event, now held at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, Harvest Crusades are also held in venues as far from California as Australia and New Zealand. The events have cumulatively drawn several million attendees since 1990. These attendees are presented with a simple gospel message and given an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. Over 300,000 people have responded to this call during these events and come forward to pray and profess their faith in Christ.

A typical Harvest Crusade begins with worship a foundation that Laurie believes to be very important. After opening worship, songs from the Harvest Crusade Band (or local "praise teams" depending on the venue) and featured guest musicians perform and share stories of how they believe God has changed their lives. Since all Harvest Crusades are held at the invitation of local churches, it is not uncommon for local pastors and other special guests to offer prayers between musical performances. After the music is finished, Laurie presents a simple evangelical gospel message from the Bible, often advertised as a "down to earth talk about heaven." At the end of this message, Laurie invites the attendees to come forward toward the stage and publicly repent from their sins, profess their trust in Jesus Christ, and ask for salvation. After coming forward, each individual is greeted by a trained volunteer "decision follow-up counselor" from a local church. These counselors pray with the supplicants, answer questions, and provide them with free materials including a Bible.

Harvest Crusades are always free and open to the public. Some venues the organization has used charge for parking, but Harvest Crusades receives no compensation from these venues. Instead, the organization is supported by private donations.

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