ANAHEIM, Calif. Near-capacity crowds filled Angel Stadium Aug. 25 and 26 and the only pitch they heard was about Jesus.
With the Angel’s baseball team on the road in Detroit, Harvest Crusade brought its annual event to the venue, but this year the evangelistic outreach widened its reach beyond the concrete confines of the stadium with its Aug. 26 Harvest America, aimed at reaching a quarter-of-a-million people simultaneously hearing the gospel.
The day before, however, the event kicked off with Harvest Crusade’s signature outreach. In a stadium with a capacity of just over 45,000, more than 41,000 attended, with 4,288 coming forward and making commitments to follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior during the Saturday opener.
The thunder of the amps warming gave a pre-crusade anticipation to the thousands anxiously waiting in the parking lotwhich had been full for hoursfor the gates to be opened. The Harvest Praise Band welcomed people as they flooded into the stadium two hours before the crusade’s start.
David Crowder took the stage next, giving permission for the audience to use their outside voices to sing along. Crowder, in his signature beard, cap and boots, drew from his experience of being able to read the audience and threw in a Hank Williams, “I Saw the Light” rendition that got everyone on their feet. Gungor and Third Day, both multiple award-winning Christian entertainment, took the stage next with Christian music that set the mood and introduced Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, and founder of the Harvest Crusades.
On Sunday, the ballpark was more subdued as the time for the inaugural Harvest America crusade approached. More than 700 ushers took their places to help in the orderly seating of thousands of guests. Grounds keepers maintained the track surrounding the main stage as others cordoned off the infield in an attempt to preserve the turf. More than 2,100 venues across Americaincluding more than 1,000 churches, 600 radio stations and nine television stationsreadied their equipment to receive Harvest America live from the satellite-feed in Anaheim stadium.
The Harvest Praise Band again welcomed the attendees as they flooded into the stadium. Once most of people were in, they were encouraged to, “Get on your feet and say hello to America!” as the seconds ticked down and Harvest America went live across the nation.
The church and the arena
Pastor Levi Lusko, from Fresh Life Church in Montana, welcomed attendees before introducing Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement. Smith, who has been battling cancer, was given an extended standing ovation before presenting the opening prayer.
Jeremy Camp led several songs and shared his life-verse, Acts 20:24: “But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesusthe work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
As a prelude to the message by Laurie, a declaration was made that the church no longer has to come to the arena, but the arena can come to the church, an illustration of the technology making it possible for Harvest America to be shared nationwide. It also underscored Laurie’s intent to use any means to share the gospel and bring people to a relationship with Christ.
Mercy Me, the lead-in to Laurie’s message, took time between songs to share that we all have one thing in commonthe ultimate healer, Jesus Christ.
Upon taking the stage, Laurie shared that the phrase “Is it possible to change my life” had been typed into Google search more than a billion times, demonstrating how unhappy people are with their own lives.
Holding up his Bible, Laurie pronounced that only the Bible has the answer, and even though nine out of 10 American homes have a Bible, the people don’t know it. And, because they don’t know their Bible, they don’t know He who is the author. Laurie said that each of us are designed to know Him, and that only God can fill that void.
Laurie used the passage of Nicodemus and Jesus from John 3 to highlight the real need for salvation. In it, Nicodemus recognized who Jesus was in an admiring way, but Jesus did not come to be admired, Laurie said, He came to be followed. Laurie made clear that you cannot be a Christian without being born again.
Beyond the stadium
At Laurie’s invitation, thousands of people filled the outfield of Anaheim stadium, indicating their desire to know Christ. By the end of the altar call 3,853 souls were added to the kingdom as a result of the in-stadium portion of Harvest America, bringing the weekend total to 8,141. Salvation and rededication figures for the broadcast portion of Harvest America were not available at press time.
Southern California will get one more opportunity to experience Harvest Crusade with a two-day campaign at Dodger Stadium on Sept. 8 and 9. Bands for that crusade will include the Newsboys, Jeremy Camp, Steven Curtis Chapman, David Crowder, Phil Wickham and the Katinas. Evangelist Nick Vujicic will also speak. Parking is also $15 at the Los Angeles ballpark.
Since 1990, Harvest Ministries have held large-scale evangelistic outreaches across the United States, and in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. More than 4,500,000 people have attended a Harvest event in person, with more than 450,000 having registered decisions of faith in Jesus Christ.
For more information about the events visit www.harvest.org or www.harvestamerica.com.