“This is the time for us to advance with the gospel; this is not the time for us isolate. This is the time for us to infiltrate and to permeate the culture and offer theology without apology,” Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., said during a celebration service at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on June 13.
Photo by Matt Miller
Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., gives a message June 13 at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Phoenix Convention Center. “Every church will not be large,” Laurie said, but every church should “have a constant flow of new believers coming in … We can evangelize or we can fossilize.”
“This is our time together to reach our world,” Laurie said in a message on proclamation evangelism titled “The time is now.”
Laurie, who has announced his church’s affiliation with the SBC, was the speaker at the Harvest America crusade June 11 at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale, which drew 38,000 in attendance and, combined with SBC-related Crossover outreach events, totaled 3,549 professions of faith.
Citing Billy Graham as one of his mentors, Laurie spoke on “how to extend an invitation and see people come to Christ in settings large and small.”
Laurie shared his testimony of “having to grow up fast” in the home of an alcoholic mother and a series of abusive stepfathers. In high school, he had no interest in religion, but because a group of unaffectionately termed “Jesus Freaks” hosted a meeting where the gospel was clearly presented and an invitation was given, he walked forward and responded to the gospel.
He would not have turned to Jesus as a 17-year-old had the preacher not had an invitation, he said.
“So I came to Jesus because someone invaded my world with the gospel and called me to Jesus Christ,” Laurie said. “That’s what we need to be doing right now. This will never be outdated. This will never be irrelevant because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.”
Two reasons Laurie sees why Christians, pastors in particular, don’t clearly invite people to respond to the gospel is because “we don’t care” and/or “a fear of failure.” He said he understands the intimidation pastors feel when they extend an invitation and no one responds. He also challenged pastors to consider how often they share the gospel and invite people to respond “off the clock.”
Sharing the story of Peter’s sermon from Acts 2, Laurie listed four reasons why this particular sermon yielded 3,000 new believers.
1. Peter was filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
“If you want to be effective following Christ and preaching Christ, you need to be filled again and again with the Spirit,” Laurie stated.
2. Peter preached Christ and Him crucified.
“That doesn’t mean that every message has to be evangelistic,” Laurie said, noting that preaching expository messages through books of the Bible gives people the whole counsel of God. Nevertheless, he encouraged preachers to “always save an evangelistic hook for the end,” no matter the topic.
He added, “You always want to get to the message of the cross of Jesus Christ because that is where the power is.”
3. Peter preached for a decision.
“My job, your job, our job is to preach the gospel. God’s job is to convert people,” Laurie said. “But as a part of preaching the gospel, we need to call people to Jesus.”
4. Peter articulated the gospel.
Laurie noted that there are many ways to hold an invitation, but he admonished that in any way it’s done to be “clear in your invitation as you call them to Christ.”
“You never know who is out in that audience,” he said.
He continued, “You can do this. You can see people start coming to Christ next Sunday. But you need to be intentional … proactive … clear in your invitations … preach Christ and Him crucified … you need to be urgent as you tell people that they need to come to come to Jesus.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Myriah Snyder is assistant editor of the Western Recorder, newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.)