Angel Stadium Packed for 25th Annual Harvest Crusades, Greg Laurie Leads Thousands to Accept Christ

Helen Zacker and Vince Baumann of Riverside take a silent moment to reflect as Phil Wickham takes the stage on the first night of the 25th annual Harvest Crusades held at Angel Stadium on Friday. About 28,000 attended the crusade Friday night, Harvest said. CHRISTINE COTTER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Helen Zacker and Vince Baumann of Riverside take a silent moment to reflect as Phil Wickham takes the stage on the first night of the 25th annual Harvest Crusades held at Angel Stadium on Friday. About 28,000 attended the crusade Friday night, Harvest said.
CHRISTINE COTTER , STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Even if you’ve never attended one of the Harvest Crusades, you’ve probably seen a bumper sticker advertising the event as you’re driving down the freeway.

The 100,000 bumper stickers and half-million fliers and invitations produced every year and distributed throughout Southern California are part of an extensive and sophisticated promotional effort by the evangelical Christian gathering, which celebrated its 25th year Friday night at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.

About 28,000 attended the crusade Friday night, Harvest said. The gatherings, a ministry of Riverside’s Harvest Christian Fellowship that typically attracts more than 100,000 people to Angel Stadium each August, continue Saturday and Sunday nights.

The bumper stickers are the most visible sign of the crusades. But Harvest doesn’t expect the stickers in themselves to spur non-Christians to attend the events, although that sometimes happens, said pastor John Collins, crusades executive director.

Bringing in non-believers in the hopes they’ll accept Jesus as their savior is the chief reason for the crusades; the stickers and other promotional materials primarily are designed to set the stage for Christians to invite a friend, family member or co-worker to the gatherings, Collins said.

“We’re promoting the event, giving it some kind of recognition in the community, so that when a believer asks a person to come to the event, they’ll be familiar with it,” he said. “They can say, ‘I’ve seen the bumper stickers.’”

Christians are informed of the crusades through DVDs, posters, fliers and other materials distributed to churches. Pastors make announcements encouraging congregants to invite non-believers.

“There’s a huge relational component here,” Collins said. “It’s getting believers to leverage their relationships to bring people along to the crusades to hear the message of the Gospel.”

That’s been true since the beginning. The template for the promotion strategy came from the Billy Graham Crusades, he said.

“In the first year, we didn’t have the organization they had,” Collins said. “But we stripped it down and made it work for us.”

For this year’s Anaheim gatherings, the crusades will rely on more than 5,000 volunteers, about 10 year-round staff members and about 50 others from Harvest Christian Fellowship who assist with the event as needed.

Over the years, crusade organizers have learned from mistakes.

For example, the bumper stickers for the first crusades, in 1990, had mixed results. They were florescent pink and printed on paper. The paint on the stickers faded within a few days and were difficult to remove.

“By the second year, we learned vinyl is the way to go,” Collins said.

Revolutionary technological changes have transformed Harvest’s marketing campaigns.

The crusades now rely on Christians using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media to promote the gatherings.

As Jennifer Hagman, 35, of Menifee, listened to pastor Greg Laurie preach Friday night, she was posting about the crusade on Facebook. She was trying to reach both Christian and non-believer friends and family.

“For non-believers, it’s so they can have the hope they’re looking for,” she said.

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SOURCE: The Orange County Register
David Olson

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