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Originally published Tuesday, November 2, 2010 at 4:48 PM

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Evangelical churches bring Greg Laurie to KeyArena

Hundreds of local churches are involved in "Greg Laurie: Seattle Harvest," an evangelical outreach event at KeyArena Friday through Sunday that organizers hope will draw 42,000 people.

Seattle Times staff reporter

"Greg Laurie: Seattle Harvest"

Where: Seattle Center KeyArena, 305 Harrison St.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday (doors open at 6 p.m.); 7:30 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 6 p.m.); 6 p.m. Sunday (doors open at 4:30 p.m.)

Cost: free and open to the public

Information: http://www.harvest.org/crusades/2010/seattle/event-information/home.html

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The last time California megachurch pastor Greg Laurie was in Seattle 18 years ago, about 12,000 people attended his Billy Graham Crusade-style gatherings over three days at Memorial Stadium.

This Friday through Sunday, event organizers hope to draw some 42,000 folks over three nights to KeyArena for "Greg Laurie: Seattle Harvest."

It's a sign of the growth not only of the Laurie outreach events, now in their 21st year, but in the size and number of Seattle's evangelical churches, nearly 300 of which have signed on to bring Laurie here or publicize the event.

"The climate here in our city was ripe," said one of the lead local organizers, Senior Pastor Wayne Taylor of Calvary Fellowship in Mountlake Terrace. "There are so many churches throughout the region that are really flourishing and new and younger churches that weren't here when we last did it."

Still, organizers face challenges, including an economy that's made fundraising tough and a headliner whose name isn't as familiar to most, as say, Graham's.

Laurie, 57, is founder and pastor of the nondenominational Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., which draws about 15,000 weekly.

Since 1990, he has brought his "Harvest Crusades" to three to five cities a year, speaking to more than 4.1 million people, according to his organization.

In Seattle, each night will follow a similar format: 90 minutes to two hours of music, speakers and a sermon from Laurie.

Friday night is geared to all ages, with musicians including Jeremy Camp and the Katinas. Saturday night has a youth focus, with bands including Kutlass and Revive. Sunday night focuses on sorrow, loss and hope, with Laurie talking about his son, Christopher, who died in an automobile accident in 2008; and guest Nick Vujicic, a man born with no arms or legs. Musicians Sunday include MercyMe and Jars of Clay.

All three nights are free and open to the public.

Organizers hope to reach many who don't already attend church — though gatherings of this type are "by and large, speaking to the faithful," said Jeff Keuss, professor of Christian ministry, theology and culture at Seattle Pacific University.

But perhaps just as important, organizers say, this is the first time many of the evangelical churches here have had the chance to work together on something of this scale.

At Taylor's church, some 400 people have gone through the Harvest Crusades' volunteer training, and church members have been inviting friends, neighbors and co-workers to the event.

Still, challenges remain.

Organizers are about $200,000 short of the $730,000 fundraising goal, though that could change with the offerings collected at KeyArena over the weekend.

And though several hundred churches have expressed interest in the Laurie event, participation levels vary. Some churches merely display fliers about the event; others — about 100 churches — have members who have signed on as volunteers for the event or have committed to holding follow-up classes for new Christians.

Laurie recognizes that the Seattle area has a large percentage of people who don't identify with any particular religion, and the weekend's events are designed so such people can "give us a clear hearing," said John Collins, executive director of Harvest Crusades.

But organizers hope the event will have an impact beyond this weekend.

"We have to leave behind a group of churches that will follow up on people who inquire about what it means to be Christian," Collins said.

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

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