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From the Archives: Greg Laurie on Influences, Hardships, and Humor

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
October 17, 2020 3:00 am

From the Archives: Greg Laurie on Influences, Hardships, and Humor

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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October 17, 2020 3:00 am

In this classic conversation, Greg Laurie is interviewed by Paul Eaton, a fellow pastor at Harvest Church, on his start in ministry and shares stories of his experiences along the way.

In this compelling interview, Paul asks Pastor Greg about his influences, his most embarrassing public moments, and his hardest moments in ministry. Then you’ll hear a handful of lighthearted questions, such as:

What’s your favorite food?

What’s your favorite color?

What’s your favorite song?

You’ll receive encouragement on where to start in ministry, the importance of godly mentors, and you’ll learn many things you may not have known before about Pastor Greg. 


Learn more about Greg Laurie and Harvest Ministries at

This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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Everybody Greg Laurie here. You're listening to the Greg Laurie podcast and my objective is to deliver hopefully compelling practical insights and faith culture and current events.

From a biblical perspective to find out more about our ministry. Just go to our website so thanks for joining me for this podcast I pastor Paul Eaton and I'm one of the administrative pastors.

Harvest and thank you for that one can't override although I think you and I never look the privilege of overseeing the communications department harvest. I love harvest I been for harvest since the early 80s and that tonight we have a special night.

We have a night of vision we have a night of perspective. We have a night of insight and night of amazement. Are you ready for it and we have pastor Greg come in number to talk to him. Pastor Greg is been my pastor for 35 years and so the faithful guy and he he is just a great man of wisdom. He's a great man of insights and our leader and he is funny and I'm inspired by Greg II inspired me of my haircut so I'm inspired by that time inspired I'm inspired by his humor is matter fact Greg if he likes you he mocks you, so don't be offended by that. So if you're walking out of the bathroom and he somehow attaches toilet paper to your shoe is your walking along, that means he loves you, or if he says he'll give you $10 to go do this and you make a full of yourself or my amazement will never really pay you for that. But it's fine. So let's invite Pastor Greg outcome on a survey arrive. This would've been a great moment to come out with toilet paper. I would've thought I would've done it all right. I got some questions for you. But before you do not want to kind of overview the fact that the Lord has used you in such an amazing way. There's a trajectory he's put you on, like an old rocketship that is been launched into the world and into our lives and you came to the Lord on your high school campus under Lonnie Frisbee and the Lord wants you into the faith and then you ended up at Calvary Costa Mesa during the Jesus people movement, Jesus people revolution really under Chuck Smith and you soaked in and soaked in and so obviously adapted his hairline and you became an evangelist you shared what you learned in the Lord gifted you with the ability to share the gospel with others and they responded and you actually were used with many of the early bands in the Jesus people movement right where you going out with them and you you preach the gospel and took opportunity, and people came to the Lord.

And so the Lord wants you as an evangelist and then you heard about the Bible study in Riverside that nobody want to go to and he sent you out there and it exploded and the Lord lunch. She was a pastor and now there are three campuses main campuses Riverside OC Maui three satellite campuses 15,000 people.

Amazing. And the Lord launched you into the ministry of harvest Crusade and we've had 5,700,000 people in attendance at the numbers on the website day professions of faith are of 472,000 professions of faith.

So we recognize those aren't all Christians know those are beginning and so the Lord used you to help people start in there that I was generally okay there you so so the Lord just as launched you and launched you and launched you and personally the Lord wants you to my life.

In 1981 gave me a challenging message. It was lot in the compromise life and I was living a compromise life, my girlfriend at the time and I and we responded to Christ returned her life around.

We got married we been under your ministry ever since.

So it's amazing what the Lord has done. I want to start by saying thank you for your faithfulness and thank you for the way the Lord, the Lord has used you for all of those years.

So amazing amazing so I'm your husband and your grandfather and father you're an author, yes, yes. So my first question is what is look like from your perspective might well you know the last thing I ever plan on becoming was a preacher. First of all I never plan to becoming a Christian. But, of course, Lord had different ideas and I'm so glad his plans are so much a part of the mind.

I came to Christ. I'm sure that story before but you know I feel myself out talking about my faith immediately and that was not the normal thing for me, but I have something to talk about.

Like most people, I have a fear of public speaking. I think when you read polls. It's like number one fear is public speaking number to his death which I've always found amazing brother die like I did want to speak publicly, but you know when the Lord started opening up doors for me. Like to do little Bible studies and speak to groups of people and soon prospering the church I wanted to speak publicly only because now I had something to say that's the difference. It's not about public speaking. It's about having something to say and when you have something to say and we all have that something the gospel that's worth overcoming your fears for and overcoming your timidity and all that. And as Paul said to Timothy, God is not given us a spirit of fear but of power love and a sound mind.

So that sort of started me and speaking publicly and initially I thought God was calling me to be an evangelist because I love doing that I travel with the band. As you said and I will be starting our church. I was sort of thinking. This was something I was going to hand off to someone else and you begin to grow. I'm 19 years old and I realize it's turning into a church that was not my intention to start a church I wasn't planting a church I was teaching a Bible study of young people we were all in our 20s but as it continued to grow. People are calling me Pastor Greg and like working is another great Jeremy that can't be me, but again occur to me art I begin to realize that I'm called to be a pastor. Then I kind of, you know, thought a lot about that.

How does this work in my pastor was an evangelist or a man evangelist is a pastor, I just came to the conclusion about an on call to be both, but my primary calling is to be a pastor and now in the last 27 years. The doors of (the go around the country and around the world in these harvest events and do my evangelism which I love. But I always look forward to coming home right in those early years who was most influential in helping you to establish the habits that you needed to be the pastor you know how to be you just barely knew how to be a Christian.

At that point right so how did that work you know one thing I would say Paul is know as a young person when I was I became a Christian at 17 and was attending church.

I hung around a lot of older people you know I made it a point to befriend older people who could help me in the early days hanging out at Calvary Chapel lighting around pastor talk and there was another pastor there named Pastor Romain and he is to be a sergeant in the Marine Corps and you know in this tough exterior but yet this heart of gold and I spent a lot of time hanging out with him and people. Lord, 10 years, 15 years older than me as I thought wind around young people all the time. One of a no no. I don't know if they know any more than I know.

But older folks. They lived life and I want to learn how to be a strong Christian and and how to grow and mature in my faith, and so I would say the most influential people in my life as far as pastoring goes, it would be Pastor Chuck Smith, you know, he gave me sort of the template and I first learned my theological grid from him and philosophical grid and then the most influential person in my life in evangelism was Billy Graham so they were like my two fathers of sort, you know that I emulated in and learn from and I just had said you know such a privilege to be with Billy in the last years of his public ministry at psych I went to the finest evangelistic university on earth and I was in the school. It was hanging around with Billy Graham and being on his board for the last 20 years and then having Billy asked me to help him with the sermons for the end of his ministry. I would sort of find current illustrations and things I can a lot of time with Billy and I talked to him and get access to him. I mean, was it somebody who knew what you did and knew he wasn't guys together was through his son Franklin Franklin and I became friends and our crusade ministry was beginning to Billy became aware of it right and so I was invited to meet him and I I met him that spent some time with them and then I was asked to be on the board and once I was on the Board of Directors. I have a lot more access and then when he asked me to help with sermon prep. I'd even more access. So you know it was just such a time of learning because some things are caught in some things are taught. So sometimes you can learn by listening and other times you learn by observing and so I watched him on the stage. You know speaking. I saw him before and some after some in the afternoon and so I learned a lot about how to do what were doing today and and I couldn't of been in a better place to learn. I didn't know I was being prepared to do this on the scale were doing it, but I was in so you know it's weird in life because things often don't make sense to see how does this work in the grand scheme of things, but then as time passes.

One of the few advantages of getting older is a lot of disadvantages to one of the few advantages that you're able to look back and see God's hand was on you the whole time Eddie was guiding you toward a certain course, I mean a certain goal, and I can see that looking back now from even my childhood which I wouldn't wish on anyone.

But even that prepared because I can empathize emphasize emphasis emphasize empathize Isaac. I can't speak. I'm a public speaker, how that he shall train people to do their you know I could connect with people because I had a sense of it, and I've never forgot where he came from and so that I think even that help to prepare me for what God had and has in store. And you know it's it's taught it's caught but it's also a lot of work and I'm amazed that you're always on your always focus your always working on it is matter fact I don't know when you sleep, I'll get an email from you or text from you late at night and then my phone goes off. It for 30 you're on the East Coast, which makes it worse and I like my wife's who is not texting I'm sure it's right with an idea he's got great ideas like that sounded great. I know he is great is great when you will always great idea. My heart would not agree. You're all it's like when you sleep, I sleep. I go to bed around 1030 or so wake up around five or 530.

I don't need a lot of sleep. I shouldn't admit this, but I've learned the art of taking nap. I don't take a lot of naps and there not long but honestly, I can't put my feet up on me that's close my eyes in sleep for maybe eight minutes a minute just kind of open love. All that I know John there. You know you're my point is, you're always thinking about the ministry do not like I clock in and I can't now it's like it's a lifestyle. I love focused on and I wouldn't do that if I didn't love it, it's right. It's still my passion and and II love seeing God work in and I'm always looking for new and creative ways to be even more effective than don't feel like we should live in the past, our rest on our laurels are thankful for what God is done but there's so much still to do. And so I want to take advantage of those opportunities that God has given me right and more people in the Lord. They do, then MMN numbers growing as a hunger for what we have and I always need to realize that and we get a little space will start to think everyone's heard the gospel when I heard the gospel for the first time I thought I knew the gospel.

I didn't until it was explained to me like that's different than what the world is nothing most Americans approve the gospel right and some would disagree with a prayer preaching the word gospel. They were written to the really understand what the gospel that the stereotype of the gospel or their saturation of the golf right so I feel a responsibility get to give their concise, understandable, yet very biblical presentation of the gospel, and it seems simple. When I shared and that's my intent but up but I'm I'm very careful about what I say what I don't say and you know III believe I have a responsibility to deliver this message I want to do it accurately, lovingly, hopefully in a way that people can totally understand that Lee so if they reject the gospel.

It's not because they reject because they haven't understood it, it's because the chosen reject them as I am presenting.

I think sometimes people present the gospel because of reject the gospel because they don't understand the gospel right we did in the weird way or something like right you have talked about the art of simplicity in the art of not using our Christian vocabulary by the vocabulary that people understand what I mean when I say this in it so easy for us to find ourselves using the this terminology, this insider languages that no one understands but us through so I want to ask you some broad overview questions and contacts question what is the best decision you've ever made in your life will clearly accepting Christ in number two marrying Kathy in the question how I and my wife would get mad if I reversed the order. By the way, and she would hopefully save the same as you know, because is no question that I could not do what I do without Kathy by my side. I mean she well were just were like one person I sometimes joke between us. We have one complete brain. It's amazing how I forget who was the name of the person shall remember that you forget something I'll remember in you know we've been together so long. But in I love her more today than yesterday, but not just to Manuel right so that's what she shall also tell me the truth right you know and so I can say what did you think about this or that she will give me an honest sometimes a little too honest but very straightforward response and I need that you know what I need people to tell me things like that so that was my second best decision. While I've seen you guys mutually third hiring you for sharing so absolutely very I was actually in my notes for me check that off now. Okay most influential person we kinda hit that are ready as far as we had a few more names on that list. He clearly Chuck Smith, Billy Graham just people that I never met, but I was influenced by the writings of CH Spurgeon. Of course, feel moody, great evangelist from years gone by Alan Redpath who was sort of one of those voices from the past two I met in the later years of his ministry. Wonderful British preacher, teacher, fantastic G. Campbell Morgan is rock now became to harvest that one yes yes yes yes he did and he was a wonderful guy who also had a great sense of humor which I appreciated about him but are a great preacher and teacher and a lot of friends. I just gotten over the years, you know, it's just so wonderful that they have friends that are preachers as well.

People like you know skip heights again real reason Jack Graham and James Meredith. You know, we hang out we have fun together but also the great guys to call in and get feedback from the we help one another and and there's a much broader circle than that, but I appreciate all these people most embarrassing moment or so men in Nepal that would say moment, I would say there's quite a few actually the one when I was speaking at an event and I just given an evangelistic message and I was done and I said let's be said of let's pray.

I said I've never thought so that was that. And thankfully, no one took me up on that another time I was talking about the prophet Amos in walk with God, and I quote a premium is three and I said the prophet Amos will be my first bluebird that people still remember this day everyone says they were there when I did it again. All of been there but that when I was speaking on Ephesians 6 is one of the first times I preached and I instead of saying that fiery darts of the wicked. When I said the diary parts of the wicked one as well, embarrassing moments in know what you think is you know what you do, you just gotta keep going. I have one you are here again you is this when you're bursting my mind, yeah I was at a funeral yes and I was wrapping it up. There's a great passage in Revelation. I turned to it and it's about you know the dead in Christ rising in and I was looking at for that passage and I got to the passage in front of it and started the reading with them the keys to the bottomless pit wasn't a good moment. Now isn't a good moment what time I was speaking to Max he said and GC said I think I like them. It's my nickname cheesy in the name of Jesus I get that a little more serious. The hardest moment in your life will there's no doubt it was when Christopher died in I told the story before but you know moment like that just never leaves you because you know someone who was so part of your life is suddenly gone. And with so hard to even today.

It's been eight years instills very hard for me.

People are maybe surprised to know that but I don't think any parent who's lost a child surprised to know that I think someone the young.

Maybe they knew Christopher and miss him but they moved on. But you know, like a part of me was taken from me and and that was and I've had a hard moment.

In fact, very hard moments.

Up to that point, but it eclipsed by far any pain or hardship. I faced up to that point it was like I went to the bottom of the bottom to the point of work. I questioned if I could survive it.

It was so bad and he gave me a new compassion for parents of lost children and I knew it was hard but I never even had a remote sense of how hard and so that was the hardest moment, but God was there and in if somehow my faith did not work. At that time. Guaranteed. I would've given up preaching, but if course it did and he was there and got me through it. It gets me through it. If you know you don't ever get over the loss of a child, but you get through it day by day.

At first to get through it hour by hour, then maybe you know, week by week or month by month, but but still it's something that I think about every day and I miss him. I look forward to the dam and I'll see him again and it affected me in many ways in my life and I think there's some actually some things that happened in my life that were very good things and I said to someone, I would second of all the good things that came out of that and Christopher and then it would be perfect. You know if I can have him in one of the good things well first of all I think I can had something happen internally were. I had like a sense of okay I face the worst thing imaginable. How back and anything else be. So I started taking huge risks of faith that I would not have normally taken because I was more cautious and I think as you get older you become more conservative and more careful. And you know that it's often said, you know, youth is wasted on the young right. One of the traits of youth is to try to stop you know Mike grandson Christopher to jump off a tree. Don't do that, you know, you know, even in ministry when you're young, let's try this. That's pray that as you get older and maybe if you had some success.

Let's not jeopardize this. Let's not risk anything you know but I found myself let's try this a try that in a let's see what the Lord doesn't gotten people in many ways it certainly given me a greater compassion for others to lost children were just lost loved ones in general. I never wanted to be that guy who had a ministry to people who are grieving but I am that guy and not the only guy, but I'm one that helps and you know when people who lost loved ones, especially children come to me always take time for them and and want to help them and I know that many magic words for them, but they know and I know were in the club. We know you know and and I just tried to find the right words to share in the moment and there's a lot of other things I would add lights. My faith grew stronger faith grows in the garden of adversity and it grows through difficulty.

I and my faith grew my trust in God grew our marriage got stronger. We came closer together or not. It didn't drive us apart and so you know there's good things that have, because God promises to work all things together for good. That doesn't mean he makes bad things good that things are still bad and I'll always look at that event on July 24, 2008 as is the tragedy in my life, but also look at it is the moment when God came through for me and and something that affects me to this day a look at that moment remembering three words that you said on the Sunday following his death you said, I still believe you came to our congregation in that place and it was such an inspiration for us and not only did you say it, then demonstrated it since then and I think were in the campus that wouldn't maybe be here in less you are saying no is trying something I this, it wouldn't yes but this church would not exist because we face a lot of obstacles on this. Believe it or not that I'm going to write and it wasn't easy and but we believe this is what the Lord wanted and you Nepal Christopher work you over the graphics department. Christopher was the lead designer. You spent a lot of time with them just so much fun you know just the force of life is two daughters are reflections of different aspects of his personality. Stella Lucy and you know you just such such a joy and just let you know always getting in as a little boy getting into trouble and he was just he was something that and but you know what that's like that but knowing this church as a result of that, because in a way it started in the front room. He started a little Bible study right and die in that kind of inspired me. We should do a church or and so here we are. So he plays a part in this church. Amen. Just one more thing we can move on to different topic to be like. But you keep me in a strange way and added energy which I have a lot of infancy and and and kind of like this.

Let's do this thing that almost came as a result of that, I don't understand. That way, but I've talk to other people who have lost publics in an event like that happens at so dramatic it is to reevaluate your life like what am I doing where my going and for me it just became okay. I don't know how many years I have left my son went to heaven when he was 33 and I am now 63, so I'm looking at my life.

How many drive 20 years or 25 years by 10 years either no, but I want to make it count. And so I I am kind of on a mission marching forward not knowing exactly what's going to happen. But knowing what I'm called to do and so it gave me sort of a renewed energy and passion to do what we do well in amen when the harvest refresh right now. Today's national copy so I also drink coffee and I wanted to have coffee every morning. Sometimes in the afternoon okay rapidfire questions favorite food, favorite food all my well usually I would say bad then followed by all the foods I like I like hamburgers I like Mexican food I like Italian food I like sushi but kind of in that order. I'm you love pizza love hamburgers. I'm always drawn to the wrong foods. My wife is it when you get a nice salad to me.

Nice salad salad is like practice for real food and how you see something I can order food now, but I am attracted to the wrong foods. I have to admit that the color definitely blue. Yes I okay how many of you love blue Diablo.

I have followed by green green second favorite and I love blue and green together gray color combination.

Why you told me why wants to remember you said I love blue and green because God you so much of it is true everywhere you got favorite song favorite song all my there's so many that I mean I have lots of favorite songs.

I don't know why but I have so many songs in my brain. Lyrics of songs going back to my earliest childhood to the present day rock songs pop songs stupid commercial funds that which I didn't know. Still tons of praise songs, hymns are mixed in there as well. It would be really hard for me to identify one single song, it would probably be I just can't. I can't think of one right there so many so many I can pick one you love art, fine arts, was your favorite artist. Well I you know there's a lot of people I admire. There are, and I mean that I'm a cartoonist so it's kind of a use the term art artist loosely.

The cartoonists are artist, sort of, but it's a kind of art you know but and there's cartoonists.

I love like Charles Schultz who I used to correspond with as a kid.

Get used to the originator, peanuts and I was very gracious and wrote me a letter sent encourage me but probably a people we would consider more of a fine artist Vincent van Gogh and Ali Wendy is museum but we were in Holland a number of years ago for Christopher and I went and got Christopher was headed in the van Gogh and I went along while I love this guy. You know it is working so contemporary to me. So I guess it would be him of artists of these come by in ministry you do a lot of things.

What are you most passionate maybe favorite thing to do your in front of thousands of the big crusades sharing the gospel pretty spectacular.

But you personally. What's your favorite eating.

If I could find a way to eat and where there no, that would be gross over Beulah watches him okay this might be surprising. You would think that the favorite mom would be preaching in a Crusade right that isn't my favorite moment and I'll tell you why, because when I speak I look at people like I hear the reaction I like to be in a room where I can see and hear people and when you're Crusade setting you can't really hear or see anybody. When I spoke at AT&T Stadium. It's like I was speaking in the giant you know airplane hangar and in the sound was very far away.

I can see a single person and so I just kind of look in the direction of the camera, knowing that people are looking at the screen and I talked to the camera and think of people watching. So it that's not a lot of fun but it's you know it, for it accomplishes something that's wonderful, which is reaching more people, but I need the other week would probably rather be doing a Bible study like we do here in Thursdays are Sunday mornings where I I'm with people that I know people that love the word of God that want to hear what the word says that that's my sweet spot that I enjoy. But the rest is important and I do that as well.

But I enjoy teaching Bible studies more than I maybe enjoy evangelistic preaching, but there are times when I'm preaching evangelistic when I'm having fun to I can get that little spot that sweet spot is I said so it depends what I've also learned to not attach a lot of my emotions when I preach because our times, and honestly all feel after message that would really badly and it went better than I thought there been a few times I thought it went really well and it wasn't as good as I thought, so I Tells you yet that's how sore know she never says that.

But silly. It's I try not to, you know, be too swayed by my emotions, but I would say Bible studies. Speaking of humor you know and having fun.

You, your humor is is very unique. It's good as a negative come from, you know it's funny I've seen interviews that are done with comedians analyst every comedian that you've never heard came from a horrible childhood and in it so it shouldn't surprise you when you read that about somebody that's funny you develop, sometimes people develop humor is a defense mechanism, and so because of my crazy upbringing.

I learned to joke about everything and sometimes it's almost strange.

The humor like where you can find humor in this. How would you find a joke there, but I do and I tend to see the absurd and that was reflected early on in my cartooning and then because my cartoons were like. I work for the school paper and I mocked everybody I just was on marker I when I was in the South. A while ago I went drove by a town called Knoxville not be a marker so when I get up affords a Christian I mocked Christians and all of a sudden I'm one of them will mark them anymore so you know note.

Sometimes I mark nonbelievers not to believe them. The people themselves absurd ideas that nonbelievers have an I just tried it.

I think you would just comes out and will try to be funny sometimes I think I'm funny when I'm not funny. Usually when I'm telling the joke but a lot of times I just can it comes out in the moment I suppress a lot of it. There's a lot of things that enter in my mind that I don't say because I was at things in your life you look at me and you go.

I'm not even any other matter.

To say it like five things are like loaded and ready dial I just you know I like the font you know you were busy working hard so I can find a moment to have a laugh.

I look for those things and enjoy it anyway catch up on doing all that you know when you're in ministry. You know you're exposed to a lot of hard things you know people going to hard things in their life sad stories and also very happy things. You know what you're exposed to a lot and so I try to find humor when I can make it a little bit easier. I think some people just take themselves a little too seriously. I try not to take myself seriously but I take my message very seriously, and sometimes it's good to just lighten up a little. Amen.

Everybody Greg Laurie here. Thanks for listening to our podcast and to learn more about harvest ministries.

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