Harvest Christian Fellowship to merge with Southern Baptist Convention

The 15,000-strong Harvest Christian Fellowship is set to merge with the Southern Baptist Convention as an extension of the ongoing partnership between the two bodies, the church's pastor and founder Rev. Greg Laurie announced.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Michael-David Bradford)The BH Carroll Memorial Building Rotunda at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. 8 June 2002.

In a statement issued last month, Rev. Laurie announced that Harvest Christian Fellowship would be joining the 15 million members of the SBC. Amid fears that the Riverside-based church could be overshadowed by the Baptists, Laurie assured people that the major step toward mainstream evangelism was merely an extension of their fellowship with other evangelical congregations, The Press Enterprise relayed.

"This decision does not change our theology, philosophy of ministry or our history," Rev. Laurie said in his statement in June. "It merely extends the reach of our fellowship within the Christian world at a time when the vision and mission of Harvest remains — as it has been for 42 years — focused on the teaching of God's word and the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Laurie's church has been collaborating with a network of Christian evangelical churches in its annual Harvest Crusades which attracts millions of people from all over the world. The next big event, the SoCal Harvest, will be held in Anaheim on Aug. 18 to 20.

Meanwhile, Southern Baptists welcomed Harvest Christian Fellowship's move as a positive development in the middle of its struggle with declining membership. They see Laurie as someone who will lead efforts to share the gospel to other people.

Last month, newly re-elected SBC president Steve Gaines called on delegates to its annual meeting to pour their efforts into winning souls for God. He also emphasized evangelism amid the falling number of its members and baptisms, Religion News Service reported.

The SBC is America's largest Protestant denomination, with its members hitting the 15.2 million mark. However, its membership has been falling for 10 consecutive years now, and there were fewer people who were baptized in nine out the past 10 years.