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From the Archives: Greg Laurie and Chuck Smith on the Harvest Crusades

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
August 1, 2020 3:00 am

From the Archives: Greg Laurie and Chuck Smith on the Harvest Crusades

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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August 1, 2020 3:00 am

In this classic interview, Greg Laurie sits down with his mentor, the late Pastor Chuck Smith, to discuss the origins of the Harvest Crusade and share stories of God’s faithfulness. 

Encouraged by Pastor Chuck, Greg Laurie held the very first “Summer Harvest” in 1990 at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa, California. Since then, more than 9.8 million people have participated in Harvest Crusade events in person or online around the United States.

Pastor Chuck Smith, who went to be with the Lord in 2013, was the founder of Calvary Chapel and speaker of the radio broadcast, The Word for Today.

Learn more about this year’s “cinematic crusade,” A Rush of Hope, at


Learn more about Greg Laurie and Harvest Ministries at

This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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Everybody Greg Laurie here.

You're listening to the Greg Laurie podcast and my objective is to deliver hopefully compelling practical insights and faith culture and current events. From a biblical perspective to find out more about our ministry. Just go to our website so thanks for joining me for this podcast evangelism can happen neighbor to neighbor or speaker to stadium God to touch hearts with his words had to music stringed instruments or clanging symbols, pipe organs or Fender Stratocaster's today we want to focus on one slice of church history how the Lord use those tools to touch hundreds of thousands of lives through a move of God called the harvest Crusade and I'm happy to introduce a couple of gentlemen who know more about this move of God's hand, then perhaps anybody else this side of eternity. Pastor Chuck Smith is senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and the pastor Greg Laurie is senior pastor of harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside California and that the speaker of the harvest Crusade, thanks for talking with us today.

Good to be here. It's a joy will Pastor Chuck, let me ask you about this idea.

You came up with more than 260,000 people have made decisions for Christ through the Crusades.

How did this idea come to you and what did Greg say when you suggested to well. Greg was doing the Monday night studies for the young people here govern Chapel and the church was just crowded back to capacity and kids was outside in all, so I just was wondering and annoyed.

We took it to a larger venue just how many would come out. It was just a curious kind of a idea. My aunt's side of it, just how many would come so I talked to Greg about maybe getting the Pacific amphitheater and just do a one-week kind of a crusade to see what the Lord would do now contrasted the size of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa with the size of the Pacific amphitheater well covered Chapel Costa Mesa we can see the good sailors by 3000 kids coming on Monday night and Pacific amphitheater is 18,000 Attica faceted company in my responsible Chuck, that's a pretty big place is knit and chakra flight will greatly serve a pretty big God side effect you have appointed you, but it really was a bold step of faith to do something like that in Chuck envisioned. It is sort of the Billy Graham style Crusade, but you know a contemporary type, not the Billy Graham's Crusades on contemporary but to conduct an idea that where we would take sort of what was happening on the Monday nights reaching the younger people and then do it in a crusade style in a larger scale, and are obviously inviting people to Christ and the Lord honored and in fact, as I recall, on the first week. By the time we were done we have broken all attendance records of the Pacific amphitheater and the final night my hip place was overflowing that there were people he couldn't get in there was traffic backed up the streets.

It was pretty crazy shirt, fairground and sidestreets around the fairgrounds of some kind of religious event going on there tonight is called a hard prairie approach organized by a minister from Riverside, California.

If there's a religious revival underway in America. This may well be the leading the last night was just absolutely wild member what was happening. Then home. My guess is the first Persian Gulf War. Yes, so there was an urgency people you know all know this may be the narrow and it was just really though exciting because they had to finally just lock the gate out people outside we set up speakers for them and then people just couldn't get to the fairgrounds. The traffic was so heavy around the area that they just couldn't get inside out. It was just really far more than anything we had ever anticipated or expected. That's why the second year we decided we take the final night over the endive stadium now and so that we would have more room, you know four people on the final night. Go figure. You will you go from a 3000 seat venue to 18,000 seats and then you run out of room and go figure who I guess we deserve a big God pastor to his right. Pastor Chuck has a great human speaking for many years on on Monday nights at the church where your the senior pastor. When did you first start to notice that God was was using him in some kind of a unique way in bringing people to Christ. Well of course we were able to observe it out there in Riverside as God just had his hand upon Greg's life and the anointing of the Spirit on the messages and the way the church in Riverside was growing so successful. And then of course when he came down to take the money nights it was instant it was just right at the beginning it was packed to capacity where we just couldn't get anymore so what do you think makes his kind of a communication unique or effective. Well, I think that it is so relevant to the present day situation and there is it's very current and he uses great illustrations that people understand and you he uses of the the thoughts and the ideas of frustration that the art expressed by worldly people all the time but of famous people that you think these people really got it made. And you know when you hear of their frustrations and and all and he's very was very good at illustrating you know just the need that is basic within every man to really know and to have a understanding of what it is to be at peace with God and to have that security that is ours in Christ Jesus 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ the son of God went to the cross and died for the sin of the world.

He was torture.

He was humiliated.

Crude spikes were driven through his hands and feet and a crown of thorns placed around his head and fear of thrust it aside and he bled and died there.

Why because we are all separated from God by our sin that wasn't nailed that held Jesus to the cross. 2000 years ago.

It was love for you and for me, for God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. God loves the last thing he wants to be with you face. That is why he poured his judgment on his son died in your place.

But if you will turn from your sin and come to Jesus tonight.

You can be forgiven. I was listening intently when for me and it was very I just need him and I just need Elsa, I call, I just left my sister and I was sobbing and I got up and I just ran down there in just a plain neoprene for Jesus to come to my seat here and I did and I centrally and I knew I was saying.

Pastor Chuck more than 260,000 people made decisions just like that, more than 3.3 million walk through the turnstiles. Since you had that idea 1990 is is that what you expected to happen. No course.

The Lord always does exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or even think and so you take a step then then you just stand back and you have your mouth open know you just in awe of what God is doing and how far God is able to take something like that and just expanded and reach so many people I will on the Pastor Greg. Many of our listeners know that you grew up spiritually under Pastor Chuck's teaching try. He's your pastor.

Yes, what is it about his example that his influence you the most point out that's a hard question to answer because there's a lot of things I could say but just sort of tying it to this topic of evangelism, you know, I didn't come from a Christian background at all. He came from a rolled secular, hedonistic kind of a home is people may know, my mom was buried in divorce seven times alcoholic etc. so it was a completely godless environment and frankly even before I became a Christian I was really sick and tired of what this world had to offer and I knew there had to be answer somewhere distant nowhere and it was a youth pastor, the kingdom, a high school campus name Lonnie from Calvary Chapel that I first heard and I made the commitment to Christ will then when I started going to Calvary. I member I was sitting there and in Chuck came walking out on the Lonnie. Was I related to Lonnie because at the time I long hear what I just had here in the but you related to him as more of a pure okay he's cool but Chuck came out and he was more like the agent. My father would be so immediately that you know some adult on on the phone to hear this guy. I don't think I'm a really relate to this, etc. but what amazed me was chock had a way of just speaking in everyday terms but yet it was the Bible. In fact, it was Bible exposition.

I didn't know what it was. I never heard it before.

All I knew was I wanted to hear more. So I would go to basically every study every night at Calvary. At that time Chuck would speak on Sundays. Of course, and Sunday nights and I think took your due Monday night going on yesterday and you maybe between Thursdays is welded and in the tingle extended Friday nights and Lonnie was doing Wednesday nights. I think that every right and I went all of honey to every single one. Plus I listen to this new technology at the time called cassette tapes that is now outdated. Of course, but that was very edgy for the just don't forget we can from eight tracks of but generally I just couldn't get enough of it and I just found the Chuck you know. Interestingly, though he is a Bible teacher. People think of him that way. A lot of times people don't know that really in many ways. Chuck is also an evangelist.

He felt initially that he might be called to be an evangelist, but the Lord redirected him to be a pastor but so many times I would hear his messages these great presentations of the gospel in a way that I can understand and then use as I sought to show the gospel. In fact, it was one of the sermons that inspired me to make my first attempt into evangelism which was not preaching but it was using my abilities as a cartoonist and I do a little booklet called living water, so to me it was always it was biblical it was practical.

It was understandable. It was authentic and it impacted my life. And then I wanted to go and do the same for my generation, and now I'm older than a lot of the people I'm preaching to, so I'm trying to do the same thing for the next generation getting on stage tonight and maybe your life is falling apart and maybe you're trapped in a lifestyle you can get out of. Maybe your marriage is hanging by a thread. Maybe renting gang lifestyle right now. We had a guy come forward a member of a gang up to that point, but he accepted Christ in these turned away from that lifestyle.

God can change a man like that gang member tomorrow we will we will reach you to live a good person person. I play by the rules and recycle for you.

You know Christ because you will be asked that same question on the final day. This is not about how good of a life you live or help battle like that you live, you will always find someone worse off than you. This is about the sin that separates you from God because everyone is everyone of us have broken the commandments of God.

Every one of his then separated from a perfect and flawless God. But God love you so much in 2000 years ago. He said his son Jesus Christ not just a good man but God didn't die your shed his blood for you. You can be forgiven go to heaven when you talk through Pastor Chuck. You remember the first time you met Greg.

He mentioned a moment ago that he drawn an evangelistic track and that he he showed up on your porch without. I remember very well. We lived actually right near the high school Newport Harbor high and I do remember that he came to the door and he said that he had drawn up this cartoon I think was in one of the classes that I spent time and it was the previous Sunday morning message then sort of been a cartoon fashion.

We were speaking on out of his innermost being. There will gush torrents of living water, and so the track was called living water and the little guy with a heart and out of the heart hears is found the border shooting up and so I looked through the track and you know we were taught about how people are looking to find the answers. Find something that will fulfill the emptiness the void this within and how the kids got into drugs and got into sex and these are the things all within it an idea of trying to fill the void and sleep. Put that in the track and then how that you know through Jesus Christ.

This not only the void is filled but there flows forth. Then out of that empty area of fountain of living water, and so I said well this is great and so I had Greg redraw the art drawn in such a way that we could fold the cartoon so that they are in order. This forest turning pages now and we went on the Kinko's or someone is one of those shots and had 10,000 of them printed and we got a bunch of kids there at the church. We cut them in were stapling them in all and we set them out for the kids you noted to take Freda pass out to their friends and that first night all 10,000 work God and so we had 100,000 printed up and they were gone and then they'll 500,000 and they were gone, and that track just really had a very powerful impact on just kids all over the world not just thinking his truck was saying that in many ways what I was attempting to do then is not unlike what were doing to the Crusades.

They are just using different tools you know that I was taking cartooning.

But the idea was to build a bridge to a listener and to do in a way that they can relate to because back in those days you may remember Chuck that the kind of popular tracks that you know there were a lot of hellfire and brimstone type things you can track the flames on the know really anything as I'd read a couple of those before I was a Christian and I just threw it aside and let it out. It was a joke to me, so I was trying to do something that a person would actually maybe stop and read maybe been charcoal out a little bit this then also would hear the word and you know in the Crusades. That's essentially the same thing that were doing with with from you know if you got went to if you could go back in time to 1990. The harvest Crusade at the first specific number theater would look different than the harvest Crusade of today. It would be different in a number of ways that the music would be different. The look of the platform would be different but the essence of it is absolutely the same as it was, and I expect God willing her for doing these 10 years from today are 20 or some today in LW different musical styles that may be popular there might be different tools or resources or technologies we might utilize but it always comes down to just the message of the gospel and that's where you can't mess with that. You can't monkey with that. You can't toy with that you want to just keep it biblical. You want to keep it simple. You want to keep it in end of everyday language you know and then you want to give people an opportunity to respond to it. Yeah little story.

No no no no is no what he said really, really hard. Something said in my head made me and I had never except the Lord before the gospel told like that and the just absolutely blew me away.

Leave me away. I think that if you would go to the churches here in Orange County.

Those that are reedy evangelical teaching the word that you would find in every one of the churches here. People who had been introduced to Christ in the harvest Crusades. I can remember the one year that we had a huge baptism Donna krone Delmar right after one of the Crusades and the third crusader so the tide was so high I use the Pirates Cove so we had to go to the open beach and that we had a high don't know, over a thousand people, baptize, intercourse, and that the surf is up and I was just like high cut knocked over with a wave and went floating into the shore with some lady has, but it would have been nicer for that survey and it was it was really though, very, you know, and in our church there just so many people that made their commitment or were introduced or brought to Christ through the Crusades and so because we been going on, year after year, and thus it has a long lasting effect throughout the churches in so many of them. The people were first introduced to Christ in the Crusades setting.

So I think it's exciting.

It's an interesting thing. Also Dave is that I have met so many people now who are in ministry who came to Christ that the Crusades is in the church last week, speaking, and he was a youth pastor and he was introducing me. He accepted Christ in 1990 at our first Crusade there at the amphitheater and now is in full-time ministry I Christ in 1990 at the first summer harvest same and it was there that the very first time I realized that it was just what Jesus did on the cross for me that maybe right with God. After that I got involved in the local youth ministry and today I'm one of the pastors on staff at Mariners church in Irvine, California hi this is Jack Hibbs and I came to Christ, way back in 1977 on a Monday night as Greg Laurie gave the message. It was the first time I had ever heard the gospel and in responding.

I had no idea what God is going to do with my life, but some years later. Now I'm now senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, and by the grace of God been allowed to teach the Bible to thousands of people and I'm grateful to pastor Greg and all that the Lord is doing through his life and the evangelistic preaching of the word of God or the criticisms of large-scale evangelism as well. You think all those people continue on with the Lord will of course they don't. We don't say they do, that's what we describe those who have come forward over the years, not as conversions but as professions of faith. Time will tell of their conversions, but not our job is so to speak is to proclaim the word you know when the Lord told us to go so the seed the way they sowed seeds in those days as they were just going to randomly throw the seed out into a field and then the soil essentially determine how you would react to the sowing of the seed so I think our goal is to get the seed out to as many people as possible and then leave the results in the hands of God. But you know when you do that sure people come forward and don't continue on.

But there are those that come forward and only continue on with them. They commit their lives to service and other reaching people and then those people reach people and so the process continues.

So that's what's really exciting to me. With the passing of time to be able to see how that's happened for some reason I was stressing out one night and great Nina was talking about last time you have. No one had ever put it like that. No one in the church. I have been going to, or in the church that I ever said you need to make a decision. Greg was saying how good you are. You never want to scripturally said was managing is a whole world, so I will instruct my heart because that's exactly what was said is not like my heart was just opening said hey if you die, where would you go and it was pointed at the audience. It was almost like he was pointing me just the same hard. It was the way he was talking. It was like me and him to sit down.

This is my latest Jesus is in this incident touched my heart so deeply for long as the field galloping down and literally ran rain six years and father were astonished and men don't cry. That's all I did stop pastor Chuck Lemanski after hearing that what you say to people who think that large-scale evangelism is outdated. Well, I do think that people don't really understand so often, the Crusades, and again there are a lot of crusades that really don't produce long lasting results in no way the message is presented. If it is in a understandable and a logical way it sticks with people and and I think that emotions play a part, but I think that so many evangelist sort of tend to play upon people's emotions so that it is a emotional kind of reaction rather than a true being persuaded intellectually yes this is the way to go.

I mean, this makes sense and and I think that that's the gift that Greg has them making it makes sense. You have a lot of years of experience in service in God's kingdom. When pastor Greg gets to that point many years from now. What is your wish for him when he gets to that stage in his year of service to Christ.

Let me just say I just hope that he can have the same kind of satisfaction of realizing that I've played my part done what God is called me to do and have had the joy of seeing the fruit of the ministry and of course we Greg good. You know, his success came much earlier in life than mine did. I was actually 38 years old when we started Calvary Chapel and of course I was in my 40s than in mid 40s and all before I really began to see any really positive results in fruit of the ministry and so here's Greg and Owen is 20s began to see the explosive growth of the church there in Riverside and so he's going to have a lot more years of of being able to see the fruit the grandkids and the great Rankin spiritually but wonder how many generations you will be able to see Greg. By the time you get to be 79. Well, I know that I church I'm already dedicating children of children a dedicated CSO at first it was amazing. While heresies adult Sunday before me, you dedicate me as a child, but now as I'm dedicating their children and on. That's a glorious thing and really, what better way is there to spend our lives in sin and serving the Lord, and you never feel as though you've wasted anything amiss. I look back at my life and the go caregiver life to Christ in 17 OG did I miss some parties are some fun times and you know whatever I missed what few fun times are worried and in the world are nothing compared to all that the Lord is done and I did. I don't regret any of it affect. I wish I'd started even earlier. Though I started quite young, because you just look back and say man that's a good use of my time and of my life and you know wanting to see fruit that remains in, and frankly I was the beneficiary of Chuck's preparation years because he shared with us lessons he had learned early in life things to watch out for things to avoid things not to do as well as things to do and then to embrace etc. so, having built on that we were able to come to get what you would call a jump start in life and get up very early. I didn't have to unlearn anything. I didn't have any weird theological training or strange experiences in the church. I just came as a nonbeliever with a blank slate for a mind and I was saying okay, tell me what to do and fortunately I was under the teaching of one of the greatest Bible teachers ever who was able to come to frame my thinking and then I was able to move from there.

He told me, you know, these are some good books to read.

These are things to do, etc. and I pursued that and you know so it's it's prudent. I've always believed it's fruit to Chuck's account. You know it's the Lord that you know one cells another reaps a God gives the entry so it's ultimately God and we recognize her. But having said that, even Paul would say writing to the church you know your unit speak of his children in Christ and in so these people that are coming to faith it.

It really is true to Chuck's account as well because he set the framework for the crusade and I heard the word of God taught them for my earliest years there from Chuck and so you know we just praise the Lord for its offer his glory but but if you know it's all interconnected. So in a very cool way the Lord was set that all up and I'm just one of many I mean that you know there's so many others that God is using that are doing crusades as well. Like a real reason Mike McIntosh and and others from Calvary Chapel and that's at the mention though we know thousand 1500 2000 cal Chapel pastors are are many others that have been impacted by Chuck I'm just one of many well pastor Chuck before we close out would you lead us in a word of prayer. Be very happy to father.

What a joy it is to again enter into a another crusade in with the expectation and the anticipation of watching the spirit of God touch the lives of thousands of people, drawing them into a understanding of your love and the great plan that you have for their lives and they will just but submit themselves to. You anoint Greg's father for this crusade, given strength, giving wisdom, Lord, we pray that those that will be doing the music and all the fill one so anointed by your spirit people in Jesus everybody Greg Laurie here. Thanks for listening to our podcast and to learn more about harvest ministries. Please subscribe and consider supporting this show. Just go to By the way, if you want to find out how to come into a personal relationship with God. Go to know that's key NOW

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