The goal: Bring hope to a nation desperately in need of it, and help those in the crowd to replace daily stress with a more meaningful life.
Because the event is happening in a football stadium, it could be called the Super Bowl Sunday of Christianity.
Harvest America 2017, billed as “the nation’s largest one-day evangelistic outreach,” is expected to fill University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday.
Evangelist Greg Laurie and a half-dozen musical performers, including Glendale native Jordin Sparks, will appear at the free event, which comes at the start of the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Phoenix.
Laurie said he believed the United States has never been more stressed.
“I want to talk to people who are asking, ‘What am I living for?’ We are all just people searching,” Laurie said.
Laurie will focus on Christian teachings on life, death and life after death.
More than 400 Phoenix-area churches are involved with the event, and 7,000 volunteers are projected to staff it. The event also will be livestreamed to thousands of participating locations across the country and broadcast on the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
The annual free event brought a capacity crowd of 82,000 people to AT&T Stadium in Dallas in 2016.
For Laurie, speaking in front of thousands is second nature.
“I speak in a way where I’m having a one-on-one conversation,” Laurie said. “I ignore the venue and I think I’m talking to a person who needs to hear this. It’s not a performance. It’s a conversation.”
In a sneak peak of his message, he said he would talk about the parable of the Prodigal Son, a story that Jesus Christ told to his disciples, followers and religious leaders.
Laurie described the story as Jesus giving us “a selfie of God.”
The event is open to those of all religions.
“This is the perfect event for someone who has wondered about Jesus Christ,” Laurie said. “It is perfect for them to hear who Jesus is; then they could make an intelligent decision based on the facts.”
Sparks, the former American Idol champion, was raised attending Calvary Community Church in Phoenix and Glendale.
Mark Martin, the senior pastor there, was part of the Harvest America advisory board, the planning committee that attracted Harvest America to Phoenix.
“What’s important is what it does to the community,” Martin said. “The aftermath is important because of what it does to people. What happens when someone is changed, they change others. It’s really a ripple effect.”
Many of his church’s members will be among the volunteer participants who will be setting up the event, ushering, participating in prayer teams, singing and providing security.
Joining Sparks as musical performers are NEEDTOBREATHE, MercyMe, Trip Lee, Phil Wickham and Brennley Brown.
The event itself is free, but parking will cost $10. Gates open at 2 p.m., and the event is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m.
Translations will be available in Spanish and sign language.