By Michael Ireland
In what has been billed as the largest outreach of its kind since Billy Graham visited New Zealand more than 40 years ago, evangelist Greg Laurie saw more than 2,500 Kiwis make decisions of faith this past weekend.
Some 200 churches throughout the Auckland, New Zealand area watched and prayed expectantly this past weekend, June 25 – 26, as they hosted the Greg Laurie: Auckland Harvest at Vector Arena-the largest outreach of its kind since Billy Graham visited the area in 1959 and 1969.
As if recovering from a drought, the people of Auckland exhibited an incredible thirst for the Gospel message of salvation presented, according to a media release from Laurie’s Harvest Crusade organization.
The release states: “The prayers of many were answered as Vector Arena filled to overflowing both nights of the outreach, with more than 21,000 people in attendance throughout the weekend and another 2,000 directed to an overflow area. By the end of the two-night evangelistic outreach, 2,777 people made decisions to put their faith in Christ, while another 170 made the same decision via an online broadcast.”
Auckland Harvest evangelist and Southern California pastor Greg Laurie noted on his blog the unusually high response to the message of salvation presented during the outreach, but was particularly struck by the volume of those who came forward to indicate commitments of faith on Friday evening.
“The Kiwis are amazingly attentive and responded [to the Gospel] in a way that quite frankly shocked me,” said Laurie. “Out of a crowd of 9,800 people in attendance on Friday, 1,429 people responded to the invitation to commit their lives to Christ (17 percent of the crowd). This may be the highest percentage of people c oming to Christ at a Harvest event, ever.”
During the two-night Auckland Harvest, Laurie spoke on topics that are universally relevant to anyone-making a new beginning and finding hope in the midst of pain and suffering, the release stated.
Drawing on his personal experience of suffering after the 2008 death of his eldest son, Christopher, Laurie appealed to the audience gathered at the arena, “To say that day was the worst day in my life is an understatement. The day my son died it felt like the air was sucked out of the room that I was in. But it is God’s word that sustained me and it is God’s word that can sustain you during your time of suffering.”
In addition to a nightly talk from Laurie, the Greg Laurie: Auckland Harvest featured music from top Christian musicians including: Jeremy Camp, Phil Joel, Parachute Band with Martin Smith, and The Katinas.
Apart from the crowds gathered at Vector Arena, the Greg Laurie: Auckland Harvest was broadcast across the nation on the New Zealand Christian TV station, Shine TV, as well as on the internet, where people from 44 countries around the world watched the Harvest outreach live, with 19,971 connections made to the live Harvest HD webcast.
In addition, 170 webcast viewers filled out online cards indicating that they prayed with Laurie to make a commitment of faith. Both evenings of the Harvest outreach are archived and available for viewing at www.harvest.org
Video podcasts and blog accounts of each message were also made available at http://blog.greglaurie.com/ , as well as “behind the scenes” updates from Greg Laurie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/greglaurie and on Facebook.
Laurie, who founded the evangelistic Harvest Crusade events in 1990, also serves as senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, one of the largest churches in the U.S.
During the past 22 years, the Harvest Crusades have drawn some 4.2 million people to events in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Laurie also serves on the board of directors for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.
2011 Harvest Crusade events are also scheduled for Anaheim, California (Angel Stadium of Anaheim, August 12 – 14) and Los Angeles (Dodger Stadium, September 10).