Preaching his well-known Harvest message for the first time in San Jose, Calif., Greg Laurie opened the way for 10,000 people Friday night in Silicon Valley - a region he had called a "pretty secular environment."
The opening night of the Greater Silicon Valley Harvest crusade saw a lively crowd of thousands - some believers and some not. At the pulpit, or the HP Pavilion stage, stood the invited evangelist whose relaxed manner and famed simple message drew in the interest of the crowd.
Laurie called them the "most responsive Friday night group" that he's ever had in any crusade with applause following the message of the gospel and laughter following his jokes. With a concerted effort of more than 270 churches, this is the first time the Harvest Crusade came to Silicon Valley where only 7 percent of the people attend church on a Sunday morning, which is far below the 25 percent seen in other communities, Laurie had noted. But he enjoys speaking to people who have no background in Christianity, he said in an interview with U.K.-based Christian Today.
His down-to-earth preaching is the same across U.S. cities and around the world, with updated information from the latest headlines for a timely message. Although renowned Christian bands like Newsboys hit the Harvest stage and Laurie's preaching style is praised as his messages speak directly to modern audiences, the question still asked is: why are the crusades so effective?
John Collins, executive director of Harvest Ministries, says it's the "grace of God" and the work of thousands of volunteers who plan, prepare and run the crusade locally and the thousands around the world who pray for it all throughout the crusade weekend.
Plus, they're "not ashamed of the gospel."
The Harvest Crusades have visited 35 cities, 16 states and four different countries in the past 17 years. To date, the evangelistic events have seen more than 3.4 million people in attendance and over 276,000 public decisions for Christ.
Added to those numbers of public professions are the 1,033 people who came out to the front of the stage Friday night and the 2,751 who accepted Christ via webcast.
Laurie had never imagined becoming a pastor, he told Christian Today. He was more headed towards being a professional cartoonist or owning a pet store. But today, his heart leans toward making God known.
"Let not your heart be troubled," said Laurie, quoting from the gospel of John in the context of the continuing war in Iraq and North Korea's claimed nuclear test success along with personal fears.
"Why should I not be freaking out right now?" he asked the Silicon Valley audience. "Because God's Word is true."
Saturday afternoon, the Harvest ministry will hold its first crusade entirely in Spanish. By the request of many of Bay Area's Latino pastors, the crusade will no longer be interpreted through headphones, but it will come to Spanish audiences live with Spanish-language Christian bands and a live interpreter behind Laurie.
If a success, the Latino crusade service is expected to be replicated across the country, according to The San Jose Mercury News.
The Harvest Crusade is featuring a youth-oriented Amplify night on Saturday and will conclude with a message on what happens beyond earth on Sunday.