'Harvest America' takes novel, mobile approach for promoting crusade

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — When most farmers cultivate their fields they take to tractors and plows. The folks at Harvest America have taken to an 18-wheeler.

A semi to reap the harvest?

"It's been fun," said Scot Camden, a ministry spokesman for Harvest Ministries. "We've never done anything like this before. We never really even considered getting a big rig and wrapping it in Harvest America or Harvest art and driving it around to bring people out."

It certainly draws attention. The rig, dubbed the "Harvest America Mobile Theater," is a 53-foot traveling billboard of sorts. It is equipped with 27 seats and sound and video equipment, used for a 45-minute presentation that includes a video.

"It's fully kitted out," Camden said. "It literally looks like you are walking into a stadium-seated movie theater (with) fold down chairs, wall sconces and a 16- by 9-screen at the end of what would be the back of the theater. It's great. It's all insulated and air conditioned. It's a great environment to hold a meeting in. It's a great way to set up a cool vibe."

Guests are treated to free popcorn.

The mobile theater is the brainchild of evangelist Greg Laurie, the founder of both the Harvest Crusades and Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, and his executive pastor John Collins. The trailer is being used to promote Harvest America, a national simulcast of Harvest Crusade that was launched last year after being developed by Collins.

The one-night event, held at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, was broadcast live to more than 2,200 locations. In addition to host churches, two television and 600 radio stations picked up the feed.

This year's event has expanded to two nights and will be held Sept. 28 and 29 in Philadelphia.

Now in its 24th year, the crusade and its fledgling Harvest America, have registered 391,000 decisions of faith. A key to that success has been pre-crusade pledges by local churches and Christian organizations to help support the work of the crusade teams.

"For the last 23 years we've gone out to communities and held meetings in local churches and invited church leaders out to that," Camden said. "But as we are able to message it properly and get out and promote the mobile theater, people understand it."

In addition to the extensive publicity the standout trailer provides, the presentations serve as a catalyst to get churches and other organizations to host simulcast sites.

"One of the strong suits that we are finding is that we are able to partner with radio stations across the nation who are wanting to combine efforts," Camden said.

Those stations are not only publicizing the theater's stops, but they are also sharing their pastoral and community networks with the Harvest America team.

As part of its six-month tour across the country, the theater is stopping at the National Worship Leader Conference, the Southern California Catalyst Conference, Church Growth Conference, the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Harvest Crusade Kick-off event in Philadelphia, Lancaster (Pa.) Bible College, several seminaries, prayer breakfasts, lunch gatherings, pastors meetings, Christian concerts, a film studio, a Honda dealership and several NASCAR events.

"Praise the Lord that we have always had successful pastoral leadership meetings to promote an event, but we feel that this is a new way to attract both church leadership and also to attract the public out to a meeting," Camden said. "It helps us because we are able to not only hold a meeting at a location but, while we are there to (also) advertise the event."

Although the theater is headed toward the East Coast, it will be back in time for the Aug. 23 to 25 crusade at Anaheim Stadium, plus other locations if time permits.

For more information, visit www.harvest.org/crusades.