As Phoenix-area Southern Baptists prepare for next summer's SBC annual meeting, they are praying that a new addition to Crossover activities could lead to long-lasting spiritual fruit.
At the invitation of the North American Mission Board, Southern California evangelist and pastor Greg Laurie has scheduled his national Harvest America outreach at the University of Phoenix Stadium for June 11, which will coincide with Southern Baptists' Crossover efforts.
The Crossover crusade, which will be simulcast nationally, will include a Gospel message by Laurie and music from top-name Christian artists.
More than 225 local church and parachurch leaders participated in a launch meeting Oct. 6 where Laurie shared his vision for the crusade. Harvest America and NAMB will host six other preparatory meetings in November.
"I firmly believe that the Lord is working in a mighty way through Greg Laurie," said Noe Garcia, senior pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church. "Just look at how God has used him in the past. It gets me excited for how He is going to use him here in Phoenix, especially for a place that desperately needs Jesus and needs restoration. We're excited as a church to encourage that, support that and be a part of what God is doing here in Phoenix."
Garcia serves on the local advisory team for Harvest America Arizona.
Southern Baptists who want to participate in Crossover Phoenix will be encouraged to fill much-needed volunteer roles in the crusade, according to Joel Southerland, NAMB's executive director of evangelism.
"Greg Laurie and his team have proven that crusade events can still work and are a great way to introduce people to Jesus," NAMB President Kevin Ezell said. "Hundreds of Southern Baptist churches have partnered with the Harvest Crusade over the years, and we are excited about partnering with them for this event."
Since 1990, Laurie's Harvest events have drawn more than 5.7 million people. Another 1.9 million have attended the events "virtually" through the internet. Harvest America calls the crusades the longest-running annual evangelistic outreach in American history.
"Never in American history have the Christian church and the Gospel message been tested as they are today to prove their value and place in our culture," Laurie said. "If we fail to meet the challenges of our time, I fear the consequences may be devastating for generations to come. It is for this reason that we are partnering with the North American Mission Board and Southern Baptist churches all across our nation in an attempt to elevate the Gospel."
Local Southern Baptists already have been organizing and praying that God will use the crusade in big ways.
"We believe this event could result in the largest evangelistic impact we have ever seen in Arizona," said David Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. "We are encouraging all of our churches in Arizona to participate and get involved either through challenging their people to pray, invite, attend and bring others with them or serving as volunteers or being a follow-up church—or all of the above!"
The crusade will overlap with the first evening of the 2017 SBC Pastors' Conference, with conference organizers urging local SBC churches to participate in the outreach.
"We hope local pastors will rally their churches, invite lost people and get as many people out to the crusade as possible," said Dave Miller, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa, and president of the 2017 SBC Pastors' Conference. "We would like nothing better than to see thousands of Arizona residents be introduced to Jesus through this event."
Ezell believes the two gatherings can work in harmony with one another.
"Dave Miller has been a blessing to work with on this, and I believe these events can coincide well," Ezell said. "The crusade is focused on reaching the Phoenix community."
Phoenix represents a critical mission field for Southern Baptists. It is one of 32 cities where NAMB is focusing resources through its Send North America church planting effort. According to NAMB's Center for Missional Research, there is only one Southern Baptist church for every 19,338 people in metro Phoenix.
"We need every Arizona pastor to get their churches behind this crusade," Ezell said. "This is an incredible opportunity for church members to invite unchurched co-workers, family members and friends to an event where they will hear the Gospel."
For more information about participating in the crusade, either in Phoenix or via simulcast, visit www.HarvestAmerica.com.
Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board (www.namb.net).