Tens of Thousands Attend 'Harvest America' Evangelistic Event, with Almost 3,000 Committing to Christ
(Photo : Courtesy of Trever Hoehne for Harvest Ministries) Attendees pray together at Harvest America 2016.
"Christ is the answer for all of your problems, and he can change your life," said Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship to an audience of tens of thousands at the University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.
Among those who attended the annual Harvest America evangelistic event, almost 3,000 made decisions to accept Christ, the event organizers said.
In a message titled, "What Is the Meaning of Life?" Laurie spoke from the passage in Luke chapter 15 in which Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son. The father figure in the story, who embraces the son after he returns home from a lifestyle of wasteful spending, is an accurate portrait of God's love, he said.
"People have a lot of weird ideas about God," Laurie said, "like he's perpetually in a bad mood, and wants to ruin our lives."
"Nothing can be further from the truth ... You want to know what God is like, look at Jesus," he added.
"Just like the father ran to the son [when he returned home] - that's what God will do for you when you come back to him."
Though some might believe they need to "clean themselves up" before coming back to God, Laurie said, on the contrary, "You need to come to God and he'll clean your life up."
Laurie recounted his own story. Having grown up in a "dysfunctional" family with a "raging alcoholic" mother who was married and divorced seven times, Laurie also had engaged in a "party lifestyle," smoking marijuana regularly and taking LSD on the weekends. But after deciding to come back to God at 17 years old, God changed his life, Laurie said.
"Jesus said you're either for me or against me," he recounted a preacher saying at the time he made the decision to accept Christ. "I wasn't for Jesus - did that mean I was against him? Actually, it did, and that was the last thing I wanted to do."
To "say yes" to God, Laurie said, "You have to admit you're a sinner," realize that "Jesus Christ died on the cross for you," and "repent of your sin."
"Being a Christian is not just believing a creed ... or carrying a Bible ... or going to church," he said. "There has to be a change in your heart. Being a Christian is asking Christ himself to come and live inside of you."
Meanwhile, the event was also available as a livestream on the event website. Numerous Christian music artists, including Trip Lee, Phil Wickham, Jordin Sparks, MercyMe, and NEEDTOBREATHE were also featured at the event.
Laurie launched 'Harvest Crusade' events in 1990, which initially took place only in Southern California. 'Harvest America' events began in 2012, which took place in various locations across the country and has been livestreamed in more than 7,200 locations, according to organizers.