DULUTH — After a year of planning and prayer, more than 200 churches throughout Atlanta and North Georgia united in faith this past weekend, Sept. 23-25, to host Harvest Georgia 2016 at Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth. The Harvest Georgia outreach drew more than 24,000 people over the course of the weekend – both in-person and via the Internet – with crowds gathering to hear a nightly message of hope from Southern California pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie and music from top Christian artists including Lecrae, Chris Tomlin, THIRD DAY, and Phil Wickham.
"The response was amazing," said Duke Forster, pastor of Cedar Creek Baptist Church in Winder. "Seeing so many people in one place at one time respond to the gospel was an experience I'll never forget. It truly was a harvest.
"The music was incredible and it was a straightforward presentation of the gospel," he added. "Greg Laurie is a gifted communicator. It showed how people simply need the Lord and, for me, brought a renewed commitment to evangelism. I was humbled that people came all the way from California to reach people here in Georgia."
Community connections were strong at the Harvest Georgia outreach as a local 500-voice choir comprised of singers from 15 area churches backed up Atlanta local and Grammy Award winning worship leader Chris Tomlin during the Sunday evening program. Lecrae and THIRD DAY also have ties to Atlanta.
Members of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville joined that Sunday evening choir. Pastor Frank Cox, who served on the advisory group for the crusade, expects the experience to spur them on as a follow-up church.
"My prayer is North Metro people will see that evangelism still works. I believe the unchurched culture in America will respond if the church culture invites them in.
"Greg is masterful at presenting the gospel in a simple way that speaks to everyone. He's the Billy Graham of his time. Gwinnett County presents a diverse population, and I saw diversity in the response to Greg's message. I stood there watching and thought this is what Heaven will be like – people of all nations together."
Other pastors from the area participated in the three-day Harvest Georgia outreach by leading times of prayer, including James Merritt of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Sandy Adams of Calvary Chapel Stone Mountain, and Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church of Woodstock. Passion City Church, Atlanta pastor Louis Giglio also took the stage on Sunday evening to thank Laurie for bringing Harvest Georgia to the state, commenting, “What Greg and his team are doing here is extraordinary … We are living in an amazing time in the history of the world. I’m convinced that we are in the middle of revival and Harvest is at the forefront of that.”
Laurie told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sept. 23 that the Harvest events are not just for people who go to church every Sunday. “This event is also for people who may be skeptical or perhaps never darkened the doorway of a church, yet have questions about life and about God.” This was indeed the case at Harvest Georgia as many attendees heeded the call to “bring a friend,” and invited family, neighbors, and co-workers to hear Laurie’s nightly presentation of the Good News of the Gospel.
Laurie’s messages throughout the weekend addressed the big questions in life many people ask: Why am I here? What is the meaning of my life? What happens when I die? “The statistics on death are pretty impressive, one out of one people dies,” Laurie told crowds gathered at Infinite Energy Arena. “Everyone dies, no matter who you are. But death died when Christ rose.”
Laurie continued, “I’ve been up close and personal with death and if I didn’t have Christ in my life, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it. But I know I will see my son and others on the other side of heaven. I hope you have that hope as well. Heaven is not the default destination of every person, it is the destination of those who know Christ.”
“Heaven is not for good people, it is for forgiven people,” said Laurie. “The Gospel truth is that God loves you and will forgive you if you will turn from your sin and believe in Him. You can literally change your spiritual address tonight.”
Cedar Creek in Winder takes a position as one of those churches following up on decisions. "We're tasked to encourage the new believers to do four things," explained Duke. "We need them to pray, read their Bibles, get involved in a local church, and tell others about their decision. A new army of believers can have a profound impact in our state."
Cox attested to the timelines of the crusade.
"So many in our country feel there's no hope. They're struggling economically. Politicians can say all they want that the Recession is over, but we see differently. Family structures are struggling. You don't see the home lives of Americans like 30 years ago. Everywhere you turn people are looking for hope.
"The message given this weekend is Jesus is still on His throne and changes lives. This gives hope."
Those struggles won't go away anytime soon, he said. So will neither the need for the gospel.
"I hope Georgia Baptists will consider planning these kind of events periodically throughout our state in order to pierce the darkness. Our state is becoming more lost spiritually, and my prayer is we can put together strategies to fight that."
Over three nights, 913 literally did change their spiritual address as they walked from the stands onto the floor of the arena to publicly make commitments of faith. Another 139 made decisions of faith via live Internet broadcasts.
All nights of the 2016 SoCal Harvest were broadcast on the Internet, and 11,966 people watched live from 138 countries and all 50 states. In addition, 51,305 viewers participated through Facebook Live. The 2016 SoCal Harvest is archived and available for viewing at www.harvest.org. Each night of Harvest Georgia 2016 was broadcast live on God TV (god.tv/tunein/us), and JUCE-TV (jucetv.com).
With a trademark ability to present a clear gospel message in a culturally relevant format, drawing on the latest in current events, contemporary Christian music, and technology, Greg Laurie’s Harvest events have drawn more than 5.7 million people to stadiums and arenas around the world since 1990, with another 1.8 million people attending virtually via the Internet. In addition to founding the Harvest Crusades – the longest-running annual evangelistic outreach in U.S. history – Laurie also serves as senior pastor of one of the largest churches in America, Harvest Christian Fellowship, which has campuses in Riverside and Irvine, CA, and Maui, HI. He serves on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie will hold its next outreach, Harvest America 2017, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, AZ on June 10, 2017.
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