More than 6,000 people made professions of faith as evangelist and megachurch pastor Greg Laurie resumed his ministry's annual outreach event in Southern California, SoCal Harvest, Sunday after a gap of one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
SoCal Harvest drew over 40,000 people to Angel Stadium in Anaheim and 200,000 online, according to a statement released by Harvest. The night featured performances from Christian artists for King & County and Phil Wickham and a Gospel message from Laurie, the senior pastor of the multi-campus Harvest Christian Fellowship.
Preaching on the empty promises of fame, Laurie's sermon underlined that fulfillment could only come from being known by God.
"The reason so many seek fame is because deep down inside, we have a desire to make our mark and distinguish ourselves," Laurie told the crowd. "We want our life to count for something. We are seeking significance. The answer is not in fame or more followers on your social media account. The answer is in knowing and following Jesus."
The pastor paid tribute to Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, one of the 13 soldiers killed in a terror attack in Afghanistan on Aug. 26. Nikoui attended a Harvest Crusade in 2016, where he and his family gave their lives to Christ.
Nikoui's funeral was held at Harvest's Riverside campus and officiated by Laurie.
"Kareem went to Heaven because he put his faith in Christ," Laurie said during the evangelistic event. "And that's the hope that the Christian has."
After his sermon, Laurie invited attendees to make a public profession of faith.
"You're noticed by God. You're loved by God. And your life can have significance," said Laurie. "No matter what sin you have committed, God will forgive you tonight if you will ask for his forgiveness."
Over 600 radio outlets nationwide broadcasted the event livestreamed on over 100 Facebook pages. The event was aided by volunteers from over 170 Southern California churches.
Laurie, who came to faith as a teenager during the Jesus Movement of the '60s and '70s, founded the large outreach events called Harvest Crusades in the 1990s with Pastor Chuck Smith. Since then, Harvest has held crusades in large stadiums worldwide, seeking to bring people to Christ. It has become the longest-running crusade outreach in the U.S.
According to the ministry, over 8 million have attended those crusades in person, while millions more have participated online. The ministry reports that over 700,000 people have made professions of faith in Christ through Harvest outreaches.
After a long year filled with lockdowns and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, Laurie told The Christian Post last month that resuming SoCal Harvest as an in-person event "means a lot to everybody."
"With this pandemic, all the wrong things are up. Drug use is up, alcohol use is up, self-harm is up, suicides are up, divorce is up, and it's because people feel down," he said. "And Jesus said, 'Look up because your redemption is drawing near.' I think it's important for us to get together in person because we're better together."