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Greg Laurie on Entertainment and Evangelism, Culture, Antisemitism, and More

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
March 2, 2024 3:00 am

Greg Laurie on Entertainment and Evangelism, Culture, Antisemitism, and More

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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March 2, 2024 3:00 am

Pastor Greg Laurie speaks with Billy Hallowell on various topics, including his new cartoon.

Watch The Adventures of Ben Born Again & YellowDog on Harvest+


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Greg, Lori, lots to talk about today, but I want to start at a place that some people might not realize. You are not only a pastor, an evangelist, you do a whole lot, but you're also an artist, which is a really intriguing piece of your past and your story.

Talk a little bit about your art. How did you realize you first had an affinity for it? Well, it goes back to my childhood.

If you saw the Jesus Revolution film, you remember that young Greg was always drawing, and that's actually very true. When I'd be waiting for my mom in smoky bars late hours into the night, I had to do something to amuse myself iPads hadn't been invented yet. So I just always had a tablet, paper, and my pens, and I created my own alternate universe, our cartoon world that effectively I would retreat to. You know, I think that you will find sometimes when comedians are interviewed, it shouldn't surprise you to find out they came from troubled childhoods and developed humor as sort of a defense mechanism, a way to cope in life. Well, that was certainly true of me. I used humor as a way to deflect pain and just live, and so I love drawing, and I had great admiration for Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts and Walt Disney, and I just love cartoons, and so it was my goal in life to one day become a professional cartoonist.

And I was serious about it. I was doing full-blown comic strips when I was still very young, and I was a cartoonist in the school paper, and I got some of my cartoons published. And then I became a Christian at age 17, so it was a big shift in my life, and I thought, well, I should use this ability I have to amuse people, to communicate with people through cartooning for the gospel. So I came up with an idea for a little booklet called Living Water.

It was actually an art assignment I had in high school to do a comic strip, and I'd heard Pastor Chuck Smith speak on John 4 with a woman at the well, and Jesus said to her, if you drink of the water I give, you'll never thirst again, and it will be a well of living water. And I thought, oh, that'd be a great title for my little cartoon booklet. So I drew it up, and I showed it to Chuck, and he liked it so much he said, could you redraw it in a different format, which I did, and we published it. And I think we published maybe 10,000 of them, and they were gone immediately.

Then we printed 100,000, and they too were gone in no time at all. And ultimately, well over a million went all around the world, so I continued to do artwork when I started to speak. And so that was sort of my way of sewing tents, if you will remember, Paul the Apostle sewed tents. So that was kind of my way to supplement my income, which was nonexistent as a preacher. And so, you know, that was a way to kind of get by. And then as time passed, I drew less and less, and I preached more and more.

And so now fast forward to today. I mean, I still draw, and I've always drawn, and we have an art department. I get very involved in all of our design.

I'm really opinionated about it, and so love to play in that world. But the opportunity came for us to animate my characters. Ben born again in Yellow Dog, and I jumped at the idea. And so now we have our first one out, and the best way to watch it is go download our Harvest Plus app. Just go to the app store on your phone or your device. It's there for iOS and Android, et cetera.

And you can download it for your TV, for your tablet, for your phone. We have a lot of great resources on our Harvest Plus app, our movies like Steve McQueen, The Salvation of an American Icon, Johnny Cash, The Redemption of an American Icon. Our newest film called Fame, another one called A Rush of Hope, but all of my sermons too. But now we have this cartoon, and the title of the cartoon is The Bridge is Out.

It's seven minutes long. We're getting great response. One lady just wrote me and she said she has an autistic son, and it's very hard for her to communicate with him, but they watch this cartoon together. And they were able to have a wonderful conversation about the Lord that they'd never been able to have before. I've already heard stories of kids coming to the Lord watching this cartoon because it's entertaining, it's fun, and it's evangelistic. And I don't know that I've ever seen an evangelistic cartoon. Yeah, I really haven't either. There have been a few series over the years that have been really interesting and sort of fun for kids, but this is different and it's new. And again, it's The Adventures of Ben, Born Again, and I love that name, and Yellow Dog.

Tell us a little bit about these characters that you've created. Who are they and what do you think kids and families are going to take away from it? Well, you know, a lot of times in comedy you'll have a comedy duo. There's a straight man and then there's the guy with the joke.

So Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin distates me, but Martin was a straight guy, Jerry Lewis was the funny guy. Abbott and Costello. Costello was the funny guy. Or was it Abbott?

I can't remember. But Abbott was the funny guy. So on it goes. There's always the funny guy and the straight man. Okay, so Ben Born Again is a straight man.

Yellow Dog is there for the jokes. Ben Born Again is my alter ego. I think you'll find a lot of times when cartoonists have a main character, it's usually them, and they're expressing themselves through that character.

For Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown was an expression of him and he said so. Same with Disney and Mickey Mouse. Ben Born Again is me in cartoon form back when I was a kid. So he has long hair. He's dated. His hairstyle is very dated. And we debated as to whether or not we should modernize Ben.

We decided to leave him the way he was originally drawn. But Yellow Dog is always getting himself into trouble and into mischief and has lots of questions. And so we use Ben as a narrator to share truth and Yellow Dog to ask questions and get himself into crazy little adventures. And so I think people will find that it's really fun and you're going to laugh.

But then it gets really serious. And each one that we've done, we have five in production so far. But in every one, we tell a little Bible story in cartoon form. So Ben will, they'll start with a premise like on the first one, the bridge is out. I don't want to give the whole cartoon away.

I want you to watch it. But Ben and Yellow Dog are driving in their little VW bus and they come to the edge of a cliff and the bridge is not there. And so Yellow Dog tries to get across the chasm with all these crazy ways of doing it, gets himself into all kinds of trouble similar to what you would see in one of those Roadrunner cartoons, you know.

But then Ben uses it as an illustration. You know what, Yellow Dog? This is a lot like us trying to reach God in our own ability. And then he shares the gospel with Yellow Dog. So going back to that Living Water track, we animated the whole booklet.

And that was something I've always wanted to do. But in further adventures of Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog, we tell the story of David and Goliath and Joseph and much more. So I think people are going to really find it's a great tool to teach their little kids stories from the Bible. But here's a really cool thing, Billy, is in the first one we have Ben Born Again leading the viewer in a prayer to accept Jesus Christ. And we showed it in a classroom of a bunch of young kids. And when that prayer was being prayed, some of those kids were praying and asking Jesus to come into their life.

So our hope is that God will use this as a tool. It's sort of unexpected, but if you know me, it's not that surprising that I would do a cartoon. Well, and I loved in Jesus Revolution, as you were describing before, watching the actor portraying you, your drawing. It was just part of who he was. It was part of that narrative. You'd see it come up in the film.

And obviously I've known this about your life. Again, I think some people will be surprised about this. But another thing, and it's related to this, obviously, Jesus Revolution, you have this animated series. You've done a number of films, documentaries, and a lot of your work has been focused on musicians, entertainers, people in Hollywood who have come to the Lord. And it is really interesting to me because you kind of colored outside the lines of evangelism in a very positive way by looking for ways to bring people to entertainment and entertainment to people. And the gospel message at the heart of that. Why do you think it is so important to bring entertainment in when you're trying to spread the gospel? Well, I think we live in this culture, in this world, and I want to build bridges to people.

And not just people my age, but to young people. So I try to keep up on what's going on. Here's a good biblical template for it. In the book of Acts chapter 17, the Apostle Paul goes to Athens. Athens at the time was the intellectual and religious capital of the world.

The great philosophers were there. And so he goes to a place called the Areopagus, Mars Hill. And he speaks to them.

And he builds a bridge. Paul took the time to look around Athens and to see all of the altars erected to false gods. And he said, I've been walking around and I see your very religious people. And I want to talk to you today about one altar I saw erected to the unknown god. And then he begins to preach the gospel. And he even quotes one of their own secular philosophers.

I do that as well. Am I preaching? Often I'll quote a celebrity who will say something that will illustrate a point I'm going to make from scripture. As an example, I've quoted, I'm blanking out on his first name, Jim Carrey. There it is, Jim Carrey.

The comedian actor, he said, I wish everyone could become rich and famous and have all they ever dreamed of so they could see it's not what they hoped it would be. That's a loose paraphrase. So I'll use a quote like that and then I'll talk about what the Bible says along the same line. So it's a way to kind of arrest the interest of my listeners.

But, you know, the other reason is I just like music and I like culture and I like movies and it interests me. And so I'm always looking for ways to take these mediums, these tools, and use them for the gospel. So I've had a great friend and partner in John Irwin, the director of Jesus Revolution, who knows how to do this professionally. You know, I could never have done this on my own, but working with him on Jesus Revolution and on some of our documentary films has been so helpful. But this is kind of our mission statement to reach unexpected people in unexpected places with an unexpected message.

That's what Paul did on Mars Hill and that's what I want to do. All of our culture is like Mars Hill now. People are searching for truth. People are hurting, especially the younger generation. So, you know, I used to be able to relate to them as a peer, then maybe as a dad. Now I'm sort of like their grandfather maybe. But, you know, the truth of the Word of God is true for every generation.

It never changes, right? And I think what you're talking about, the culture, where we are. I want to ask you two things before we go that I think are really important because we just came off of a year of watching revival. I mean, you had the largest baptism potentially in world history, definitely in American history, with over 4,500 people getting baptized. That was a big event.

Even a couple of weeks before that, there was another one that broke records, then you broke that record. You know, so Asbir, you go down the line and in the middle of all this chaos, then have these revival moments. So the first question for you is more of the negative and that is when you look at culture and you look at the chaos of culture, what is it that most concerns you today? Well, it's everything's moving the wrong direction. And social media is like gasoline that's been poured on top of it. And I just feel that everybody's looking down. They're looking down at screens and they have a word to describe hearing bad news on your phone.

It's called doom scrolling. And, you know, and you hear all this bad news around the world, the conflicts, the war, the turmoil, the terrorism, the crime rising in our streets, and on it goes. And Jesus said, when you see these things begin to happen, look up for your redemption is drawing near. So I think we need to look up and we need to look specifically to God. And I want to do everything I can to bring the message of the gospel into our culture.

I think it's so important and we do need another spiritual awakening. The last spiritual awakening known as the Jesus movement, and that's what the Jesus revolution film was about, what really changed the course of our nation. Everything was going the wrong direction back then. In fact, if I were to pick a parallel time to today, I would not pick the 90s. I would not pick the 80s.

I would pick the late 60s, early 70s, very close in many ways to the time we're living in right now. God sent a spiritual awakening. We need another one.

We need to pray for another one desperately. Well, and you see those parallels when you watch Jesus revolution and read your books on the matter and you look at where we are now and what was happening last year on the positive front. In light of seeing those things, I know a lot of people have been careful not to say, OK, it's a real revival. Maybe it's an outpouring.

They're all from terms that are being used. But what encourages you about where we are right now? Well, I applaud any kind of movement of people toward God.

So when I hear of hundreds and thousands of people praying in a college campus like Asbury, how can I not rejoice about something like that, a spontaneous gathering of people? You know, right now we're having some rain in California. By the way, it's not as bad as people think it is. The news always seems to exaggerate weather, but we're having rain.

Right. So you walk out and a drop of rain hits here and a drop of rain hits there. And then it gets stronger and you have a downpour. I see these little things happening like our baptism, what happened at Asbury campus, something else you hear about somewhere else is like little drops of rain here and there. And I'm praying that they will increase and it will become a spiritual downpour.

God does promise in the last days to pour his spirit out on all flesh. So we're praying that happens again, but I feel it's a mistake to critique and nitpick these things, but rather we should pray for more of them happening everywhere because we need it. Yeah. And last question for you, because probably gosh, nearing towards 10 years now, eight years ago, you were a source in a book that I wrote called Armageddon Code.

Yeah. You gave great interviews talking about the end of days. And you know, I look back then just eight years ago or seven years ago and I look at where we are now and a lot of people obviously they're wondering, and of course we don't know the day or the hour, where are we?

But when you look out there and you see all these things happening, what goes through your mind in terms of maybe the proximity that we are towards the end of days? Well, the Bible tells us in the end times that Israel would be isolated and ultimately she would be attacked from her neighbor to her north, identified as Magog. Many scholars believe Magog is modern day Russia.

I would tend to agree with that. But regardless of if Russia is Magog or not, this large force will attack her and God says he's going to intervene on her behalf. But I would say the rise of anti-Semitism is a real sign of the times. And I have to admit, Billy, even I have been shocked by the extreme anti-Semitism we've seen recently. Of course, when Israel was attacked on October 7th by this horrible terrorist organization, Hamas, it was a very coordinated attack that left 1,300 people dead, many taken hostage.

And so that was shocking. But what has been as shocking, perhaps, is protests around the world, largely among young people, in favor of Hamas. Who would have ever thought in the modern day, in 2024, we would hear people chant phrases like, gas the Jews? You know, the Holocaust was not that long ago. There are still people alive today that remember the Holocaust.

And to see this same kind of mentality, this hatred of Jewish people that really was happening before the Jewish people were sent off to those camps like Auschwitz and Ravensbrück and Treblinka and many others. And so the Christian needs to speak up for the Jewish people. And God has promised a blessing to those who would bless the Jews and a curse for those who would curse the Jews. God says to Abraham and his descendants, I'll bless those that bless you and curse those that curse you. Billy, I was speaking with some gentlemen recently from Israel.

They were from the University of Hype. We were having a discussion about the relationship between evangelicals and Christians. And I said, you know, there's a misconception about Christians and our support of Israel. And they said, please, tell us what you think it is. I said, the perception is, is the reason Christians support Israel is because we want Armageddon to come, we want war to come, so Christ will come.

I said, nothing can be further from the truth. We want to see peace in that part of the world. The Bible even tells us specifically to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. But having said that, we do believe, and I'm saying this to these Jewish men, we do believe God has placed you in the land as a fulfillment of Bible prophecy, Ezekiel 37, 38. We do believe that we're seeing events happening that the Bible predicted would be happening.

But we care about you and we love you because our Bible came through you, our Messiah was Jewish. And they're like in agreement saying, yes, we see that. And then one of the men said, there's one good thing that came despite that horrible attack on Israel by Hamas.

I said, what's that? He said, we know who our true friends are now. And by that he was saying, our true friends are the evangelicals. So I appeal to all my Christian friends. I appeal specifically to pastors out there to speak on this topic, talk to your people about it. And it's important that we love the Jewish people and that we support the nation Israel.

But coming back to your original question. Well, obviously, we've never been closer than we are right now to the Lord's return. And in my view, the next event on the prophetic calendar is the rapture of the church, which could happen at any moment.

At any moment. And you have wonderful sermons on this. You've done series on this and people can check that out. And also, obviously, we were here today to talk about the adventures of Ben Born Again and Yellow Dog. And people can head over to the Harvest Plus app, download it and watch the show. Greg, as always, it was wonderful chat with you today. Thanks, Billy.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-02 04:31:05 / 2024-03-02 04:39:20 / 8

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