Harvest America: Pastor ‘overwhelmed’ by AT&T Stadium’s huge crowd

More than 82,000 people attended Sunday’s event at A&T Stadium.
More than 82,000 people attended Sunday’s event at A&T Stadium. Harvest America

When Shanai Slover walked into AT&T Stadium to attend Harvest America on Sunday night, just about every seat was taken.

But she and a group of friends fortunately located a standing area near the stage and pulpit for the event that officials say was watched by more than 350,000 people in person or via live broadcast.

Slover, a 26-year-old dental hygienist from Denton, was among 82,000 who filled AT&T Stadium.

It was the largest Christian stadium evangelism event in North Texas in 14 years. In 2002, about 255,000 attended the four-day Billy Graham Mission, an average of almost 64,000 for each service.

It was crazy awesome.

Shanai Slover, on Harvest America

“It was crazy awesome,” Slover said of Harvest America. “I was so surprised with how many people who came. I couldn’t believe it.”

She said one reason she was drawn to Harvest America was an appearance by contemporary Christian singer Chris Tomlin. Slover also wanted to hear more from the Rev. Greg Laurie after recently listening to the Southern California pastor/evangelist preach at Gateway Church in Southlake.

Laurie said he was moved by the great turnout. In the hour before Harvest America began, every allotted seat and standing area was filled, and officials locked the doors and asked the overflow crowd to stand outside the stadium and listen.

"Frankly, I am overwhelmed at both the attendance and response — not only from the Metroplex but all around the country,” Laurie said. “To see the massive AT&T Stadium overflowing was indeed a sight to behold. I found the wonderful people of Texas to be warm and very receptive, not only in the event but out and about, wherever we went.”

Broadcasts were popular

The Arlington event also was broadcast to more than 7,200 host locations worldwide, according to A. Larry Ross Communications, a Carrollton-based media firm that kept statistics on the Harvest America event.

82,000people attended Harvest America at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Sunday.

In addition to the more than 80,000 who filled AT&T Stadium, about 180,000 participated in some type of venue that carried the broadcast, and about 90,000 viewed the webcast on Harvest America’s website.

Larry Ross, who also accommodated the media at Billy Graham’s stadium evangelistic meetings for more than three decades, said Harvest America was similar to a Graham mission because organizers used the latest technology to broadcast the event worldwide. Harvest America thrives on utilizing the Internet.

“Because of that extension [live streaming over the Internet], the audience in Texas was magnified more than five times,” Ross said. “These are live audiences gathering in some type of host location and they are getting the signal. For example, we have a woman in our office whose church in The Colony carried it. They were a live link site that brought the … signal into their church where they all gathered. They all watched it on a big screen and it reportedly was well received.”

The event was also broadcast live on 600 radio stations and on JUCE TV, a Christian network.

All in all, about 25,000 people (at least 6,000 who attended the Arlington event and another 19,000 who watched the broadcast) reportedly made commitments to embrace the Christian faith after hearing Laurie’s message called “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.”

Next big event in Atlanta

Laurie is the pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside and Irvine, Calif. He’s also the author of the book Tell Someone: You Can Share The Good News.

Just because you go to church doesn’t make you a Christian.

Pastor Greg Laurie

As the 63-year-old Laurie preached his sermon at AT&T Stadium, the evangelist tailored his message with illustrations that were familiar to Texans.

“Just because you wear a cowboy hat, doesn’t make you a Texan,” Laurie said during his sermon. “Just because you go to church doesn’t make you a Christian.”

The Rev. Jack Graham, the senior pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano who served as a key organizer, said a main reason Harvest America was successful was because more than 750 regional and local churches supported the event. The aid from local churches included 3,400 volunteer counselors and a choir with 2,500 singers.

“It proves that when the churches of the Metroplex get together, then great things can happen.” Graham said. “I also believe that this can be a catalyst for increased evangelism at our churches. When you have a big day like this, people see what can happen. Their faith is stretched, and we’re able to  look beyond the ordinary and see the extraordinary things that God can do when we work together.”

The next Harvest America stadium event is scheduled for Sept. 24-25 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Asked if another Harvest America event is being planned in the near future in the Metroplex, Graham could not cite specifics. But he said Laurie has a highly effective ministry and he will support any future Harvest America event wherever it’s held.

The next Harvest America stadium event is scheduled for Sept. 24-25 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

“The idea is to use big event stadium or the arena, and then broadcast from there,” Graham said. “That’s what happens and will happen in the future.”