His ears are pierced, his hair flips back like a wave, and his clothes look like those worn by any other millennial you might find in Southern California. He’s as relatable as he is transparent and his message is clear: The gospel is for everyone.
Jarrid Wilson, an author and pastor with Harvest Christian Fellowship, grew up not too far from evangelist Greg Laurie’s church in Riverside County, though he had trouble relating to the Christian faith when he was younger.
Then in 2002, he attended his first Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, where, for the first time, Wilson told Faithwire, he “truly heard the message of the gospel.” He said Laurie shared the truth of salvation with “relevancy and passion.”
Wilson, who struggled with severe clinical depression, said he was in a “pretty rough place” and felt “really far from God” when he first attended the event, which he said led to his ultimate decision to become a Christian in 2007.
“I was sitting in my car, as I’ve shared many times before, Googling painless ways to commit suicide, and this flood of emotions and wisdom and guidance and God’s presence just began to infiltrate my life,” Wilson recalled, “and I started remembering the things I’d heard from the crusades and the passages of Scripture I had memorized, the Bible studies I had been to, devotionals I had read and the conversations I had with my family.”
Looking back, the 29-year-old pastor said he’s “humbled” now to be part of the Harvest Crusade that just a handful of years ago radically altered the trajectory of his own life. This weekend, from Aug. 17-19, Wilson will play a role in the 29th SoCal Harvest Crusade at Angel Stadium.
Every year, the Billy Graham-esque event draws tens of thousands of attendees and this year will feature performances from artists like MercyMe, Andy Mineo, Phil Wickham, Madeline Carrol, and more.
In this divisive era, where even banners promoting this very event were censored, Wilson said the gospel is the only thing that can truly heal our cultural sickness, noting the many problems plaguing our society don’t have human solutions. The “only thing” capable of fixing and redeeming our culture “is Jesus.”
“I believe that with all of my heart,” he said. “Can man step into situations with the gospel and help bring unity? Yes. But at the end of the day, the only thing that will actually transform lives is the message of the gospel.”
While the Harvest Crusades might seem flashy and extravagant, Wilson said the goal is to reach as many people as possible with the Christian message. In fact, he said many younger Americans have been turned off by the church because it’s come across less like a ministry and more like a business.
For many, the SoCal Harvest Crusade might just be the shock to the system they so desperately need.
“I believe if we can get back to the roots of things that, honestly, Greg Laurie is doing right now, things that he did in the Jesus Movement back in the ’70s, things that Billy Graham did with his crusades, I believe that is how young people will come back to church — not church as a building, but church as the local body,” Wilson said.
And though the crusade will only last for the weekend, the impact will carry on.
Anyone who becomes a Christian during the SoCal Harvest Crusade, Wilson explained, will be linked with a church “within a mile radius of their home.”
“We’re actually following up with every single person who walks down, gives their life to Christ, and then we’re connecting them with partner churches all throughout the state of California that they can go to to continue their walk with Jesus and to be discipled and to find community,” he said.
Wilson said he, Laurie, and everyone else involved in the crusades believes both evangelism and discipleship are critically important. While events alone “are not enough,” they are important opportunities “to present the gospel to people who don’t know Jesus.”
That’s exactly what happened for Wilson. He attended the SoCal Harvest Crusade and encountered a Jesus he had never met before.
“If someone like me, who was contemplating suicide, thought I had no purpose in this world, thought I was just a piece of trash, could encounter the love of God and be used in a mighty way, if someone like Paul who was once persecuting Christians could be used in a mighty way,” Wilson said, “that’s what fuels me, is letting people know, ‘You’re never too far gone for the love of God.’”
Now, with all the swagger of the quintessential 20-something, he’s sharing that message of hope and transformation — the gospel — with anyone willing to listen.