The Baptist Messenger recently sat down with renowned evangelist and pastor Greg Laurie, who has been holding Harvest Crusades, which are large-scale evangelistic outreach events throughout the United States and abroad, since 1990. In the interview, Laurie talks about the upcoming Harvest event in Phoenix.
Baptist Messenger: We are so excited about Harvest America evangelism event coming up to Phoenix, Arizona on June 11, which will be held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention Annual meeting. You have teamed up with the SBC and the North American Mission Board to promote this Harvest America event.
For our listeners who might be unfamiliar, can you talk about this outreach event and tell us what it is all about?
Greg Laurie: Kevin Ezell, who directs the North American Mission Board, came to us with the idea of Harvest Ministry to join forces, because we are all passionate about evangelism; we want to reach people. The problem for a lot of folks is how to get out there and do it.
You know, a lot of folks come in from around the country for the SBC convention, and one of the features of that is the Crossover event, they would reach out to us (Harvest America). Kevin thought it would be a good idea to have an event that would be a catalyst, something that we could bring people to, and we were looking for a place to do Harvest America.
It was a great combination. It will all happen in June at the University of Phoenix Stadium (on the evening of Sunday, June 11), and the Crossover event will proceed the Harvest America event.
Baptist Messenger: How does the event work?
Laurie: It works like this: folks will come in from around the country, we put them through a day of training prior to the event, and then we unleash them onto the streets of Phoenix (bring your sunscreen!). They go out and share their faith.
First of all, we (will) train them, then we are going to team them up with seasoned people who have done this before. Not preachers I might add, just regular folks who love the Lord but who have experience in street evangelism or “one on one” evangelism.
The great thing is that no matter what, you’re going to have a great experience sharing your faith. You’re going to learn things and you might even have the privilege of leading someone to Christ. This is a great opportunity and were glad to join forces with SBC and see what the Lord will do.
Baptist Messenger: I noticed that NEEDTOBREATHE, Phil Wickham, Trip Lee and several others will be there. It is going to be a great event.
Thinking about your Harvest America events in general, you have sometimes been mentioned in the same sentence as Billy Graham. Could you talk about what you have been seeing with these events as you put them on, the people attracted and the kind of response you are seeing the Lord do?
Laurie: Sure. Just a word about Billy Graham. No one will ever take Billy Graham’s place. I think he is a singular figure in evangelistic and American history.
Having said that, it has been my privilege to have gotten to know Billy throughout the last 25 years, having served on his board of directors for more than 20 years, and as he was ending his ministry in the mid-90s and our ministry was starting, he asked me to help him with some of his sermon prep. I was working with him, helping him find current illustrations and things like that, because I was already doing it for my messages.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was attending the finest evangelistic “university” on planet earth. I was having access to the guy who was the gold standard of evangelism, Billy Graham, working with him and with his organization and learning so much. And I didn’t realize that I was being trained for something that I myself would do on the scale we are doing it.
There are so many things I learned from Billy, not just on the platform but privately, and even hanging out with him and learning how to do this sort of thing. He has been my inspiration. He is my model for everything that I do. All I am trying to do is take principles I learned from him, and more importantly, from scripture and in the grand tradition of evangelism events. Mr. Graham coined the phrase “crusade.”
What is unique about what we do is, from the beginning to the end, it is an evangelistic event. It is not a conference. It isn’t even a concert, although it has music in it. From the beginning of the night to the moment I get up to speak, we are setting the stage for the proclamation of the Gospel. When I step up on that stage I give a very simple message. This is the proclamation of the essential Gospel in the most understandable way I can bring it, and asking people to make a decision for or against Jesus Christ.
Baptist Messenger: Would you share even more with us about the heart behind Harvest America?
Laurie: My heart is to reach our country, because I think our country needs a spiritual awakening badly. Apart from this spiritual awakening, I don’t know how we can turn this country around.
We are living in frightening times right now. Tension in the Middle East, friction with Russia. We have major tension with North Korea and Iran. People are scared. I read the other day that the number one phrase being googled right now is “Is World War III near?” People are afraid, and we have a message.
You know, we live in a time with big news, scary news, and we have good news in a bad world—that is the Good News of the Gospel. I think people really want to hear it. They want to hear something hopeful.
This is not a political message; this is a spiritual message. My heart is to bring the Gospel to as many people in America as possible. Conventional wisdom would say, most Americans have heard the Gospel. I would beg to differ.
I believe Americans have heard preaching of some kind. Maybe they’ve heard mention of the word Gospel, but have they heard a biblical presentation of what the Gospel really is? I don’t think they have. I want people to make a decision for Christ based on an accurate presentation of the Gospel as opposed to what they may think the Gospel is.
Baptist Messenger: Why is it important that you are also presenting a nationwide simulcast of the event?
Laurie: We are using all the media that is out there, it will be broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and there is a dedicated webcast that will go out, so we describe it as the Super Bowl of evangelism.
On Super Bowl Sunday, everyone watches the game, at least most do. You might have a little party at your house either before or after. The idea is that we can all participate in this event simultaneously and across the country.
You can pull the signal into a church sanctuary, at a theater; some have done it in a field with screens. Wherever you do it, you invite people over to hear the preaching of the Gospel.
I am not just preaching at the University of Phoenix Stadium, I am preaching the Gospel to the crowd of people wherever they are. I am not just giving the invitation in the stadium; I am giving it to wherever people are watching it.
Last year we had a live attendance, meaning people who were in AT&T Stadium or people who were watching in a church sanctuary, we had 350,000 watching the thing live. We had 25,000 professions of faith that we know of. Now that we are broadcasting it live, that number will be much higher.
Baptist Messenger: Pastor Greg, thank you for sharing your heart and for all you do for the advance of the Gospel in the world today. We would encourage anyone who is anywhere near the Phoenix area on June 11 to check out details about this event. You can also watch it online at harvestamerica.com.
To hear the full interview, visit www.baptistmessenger.com/insight.