[SLIDESHOW=42180,42181]ARLINGTON, Texas (BP) — Overflow crowds swelled Arlington’s AT&T Stadium for Harvest America, a North Texas evangelistic event months in the making. Following an evening of worship and a call to follow Christ as Savior by California mega-church pastor Greg Laurie, more than 25,000 professions of faith were reported.
Hundreds of thousands in 123 countries also tuned in for the March 6 event via radio, television, Internet stream or remote broadcast at 7,200 host locations, crusade organizers reported, adding that 750 local churches were involved in bringing Harvest America to Texas. More than 350,000 attended or viewed it at a host location or via webcast.
Groups from Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches joined the 82,000 in attendance inside the stadium and out to hear Laurie’s message of hope and salvation from Scripture. SBTC churches also numbered among those providing nearly 5,000 counselors and volunteers that evening.
With the stadium reaching capacity, hundreds milled around large screens outside to watch Laurie’s message and Christian entertainers Switchfoot, MercyMe, Lecrae and Chris Tomlin as events within the venue were streamed live on the plaza.
Event organizers reported that 6,300 in attendance responded to the Gospel invitation issued by Laurie. Additionally, more than 18,000 professions of faith were made at host locations and 1,042 more were made through the online webcast, bringing the total number of professions of faith to more than 25,000.
Laurie’s message focused on John 3 but included personal illustrations of his childhood with his often-divorced mother and kindly stepfather.
Referencing Clint Eastwood’s “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” Laurie explained that until her salvation, his mother was “the bad,” not unlike the woman at the well in Samaria. His stepfather was “the good,” an educated, moral professional who still needed Jesus. As for “the ugly,” Laurie explained that this meant, “you and me. You need Jesus.”
“The good, the bad, the ugly, that’s all of us because of sin,” said Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif.
“Everybody needs Jesus, and that means you,” he noted. “You need Jesus.”
“Everyone is lonely”
Alluding to the millennial generation as “increasingly lonely,” and referencing Pew Research Center findings, Laurie said millennials spend 6.5 hours a day on social media. “They have large numbers of friends but an increasing sense of loneliness.”
Affirming salvation through faith, Laurie underscored the insufficiency of religious beliefs for salvation. “Heaven is not for good people,” he said. “Heaven is for forgiven people. You don’t need a little religion. You need a lot of Jesus.”
Laurie emphasized John 3:16, focusing on God’s love. “The thief on the cross was probably a murderer, a terrorist, planning to overthrow Rome,” he said. “Jesus said, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’ It’s a gift.”
Laurie closed by presenting the plan of salvation and an invitation to the assembled crowd to confess their sins and acknowledge Christ as savior.
“Today is the day of salvation. Now is your time,” he said. “Acknowledge that Jesus died for you. Repent. Change your direction. Hang a U-turn in the road of life, and go to God.”
Those receiving counseling and prayer also received Bibles from Harvest America staff and volunteers. Among volunteers and those in attendance from SBTC churches, were Prestonwood Baptist in Plano and First Baptist Dallas.
Prestonwood Baptist Church of Plano supplied nearly 1,000 volunteers as decision counselors, choir members, ushers, security staff and parking attendants in addition to contributing more than $100,000 to help cover Harvest America expenses before the event.
“Harvest America was exceedingly more than we could have asked for or expected,” said Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham after the event. “To see thousands streaming down to the field at AT&T Stadium after the invitation is a sight that will be etched in our memories forever. My prayer is that Harvest America will be a catalyst for a renewed commitment to evangelism by churches all over the world.”
Graham noted, “As for Prestonwood, our involvement and preparation for months leading up to March 6 were truly a blessing as they led us to become even more evangelistic in our approach to everyday ministry.”
“Harvest America has come and gone,” Graham said, “but the harvest is still plentiful in North Texas and there is much to do as the Church.”
Smaller churches were engaged as well. First Baptist Church of Bullard brought eight adults and 24 youth, one of whom made a profession of faith.
“We were surprised by the turnout,” said Tony Shafer, First Baptist Church’s youth pastor. “We arrived an hour before the event and barely got seats behind the black curtain. We watched the evening on the Jumbotron. This did not ruin the evening at all. Just being there, bringing students from a small town, seeing [82,000] people worshiping God, made a huge impact. The message was spot on. God touched us and moved us. I know the evening will have an impact on lives moving forward.”
Amy Fullen, who attended as a volunteer from First Baptist with her daughter, a high school senior, echoed Shafer’s enthusiasm. “It was wonderful to be in the mass of Christians like we’ve never seen and good to see the diversity, too,” she said. “People came from all walks of life. The message was just what our group needed.”
SBTC Director of Evangelism Nathan Lorick said Harvest America “was a great example of how God uses churches working together for the common goal of the Gospel being proclaimed.”
“I am convinced that God will continue to use SBTC churches in the same way across Texas,” he said, “as we work together to see one million homes reached with the Gospel.”
Watch the archived webcast at http://harvestamerica.com/texas-2016/home.html.