Interview: Greg Laurie - Cartoons, Hedonism, and the True Meaning of Life

|PIC1|Greg Laurie was a teenager with a lot of dreams, often occupying himself with drawing cartoons to escape from the broken reality he had to face. His earnest desire was to break the tension in his home and make people laugh through his artwork. Then one day, while pondering on the meaning of life, he was drawn to a Christian meeting on his high school campus, and eventually ended up giving his life to Christ.

Having frequently corresponded with the legendary cartoonist Charles Schultz in the past, perhaps Greg could have become a world famous artist himself. But God had bigger plans for him, and drove his creative energies towards a higher purpose. He still makes people laugh.

Now a world-renowned pastor and head of Harvest Ministry, Greg is set to overturn the Silicon Valley in San Jose this weekend with his highly anticipated crusade. In this interview with Christian Today, Greg reveals a heart-warming scoop on his past and future, while expressing his intelligent humour as he talks about his family, hobbies, and the upcoming crusade.

How did you feel when the ultimate question 'What is the meaning of life?' hit you?

Well, when I was asking that question, I was a 17-year-old boy and I felt like I was 70. I felt as though I was much older than I was because of all that I had seen and experienced. At home, my mum was an alcoholic, marrying several different times. It was such a strange environment for a child to live in. So I had to learn to fend for myself and take care of myself. I was grappling with the big issues of life in a very serious way. For me it had become something of a process of elimination at that point. I had seen the 'hedonistic', 'rat pack' life my mum was living. By rat pack, I mean that sort of swinging life-style that was emulated by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin; a life of affluence and alcohol and multiple marriage partners... and I knew the answer was not in that. I knew that wasn't the life I wanted to live.

Did you change immediately after you had accepted Christ at your high school campus, or was there another process that followed?

It would almost be described as immediate. I mean, when I prayed this prayer at my high school campus, I knew something had happened but I wasn't quite sure what because there was no one there to explain it to me. But I felt an immediate peace in my heart and I felt as though a huge load had been lifted off my shoulders. I remember having that distinct sensation. And it wasn't until later that I understood that God has forgiven my sins and taken my burdens from me. I didn't know what to do, though, because in my case, no one gave me a Bible or told me I needed to go to church - my prayer ended because the bell rang for the next period class. I just wandered about aimlessly for the next few days - not sure what had happened to me. But thankfully, a Christian who had seen me make this commitment sought me out, befriended me, and personally discipled me. His name is Mark, I never met him before, but he kind of took me under his wing.

Did you ever imagine you were going to become a pastor?

No, never. It's a funny thing. I either wanted to be a professional cartoonist or open up a pet store. I really loved animals. That was sort of my fallback- 'if the cartooning thing doesn't work, I can always start a pet store.' I used to correspond with Charles Shultz, creator of Peanuts (Charlie Brown, Snoopy). He used to always write me letters -he was very gracious - I would ask him questions and he would write me back... that was very encouraging to me. That was really my goal - cartoons and graphic designs in general. The interesting thing was, my cartoons were a way of escaping from the world I lived in. My mum would sometimes be in the bars until 3 in the morning, and I had to occupy myself. I would get out a piece of paper and pen and escape into my own little universe that I had created for myself. It was a way of coping with what I was exposed to. Also, I wanted to make people laugh through my cartoons. I sort of liked to entertain and get people was a way to diffuse tension. There was so much fighting and tension with the environment my mum was in. I used to want to make people happy and help them get along better. I just hated that hostile environment.

It definitely seems like God is using you in a much greater way now. And you still make people laugh through your drawings.

Yeah, I doodle a little bit on the side. I'm channelling those creative energies through other ways. They're still there. I'm involved in the design aspect of our ministry - I really pay a lot of attention to how the website looks, how our visuals look, and the way our music sounds - I'm very oriented towards the artistic expression of what we do. My older son, Christopher, is actually a graphic designer; he runs the graphics department at our church.

Did your sons ever mention plans to follow your path as a pastor?

They've both been obviously raised in our home and thankfully both are following the Lord. That's the most important thing. We never press on them the idea that they're supposed to be preachers. But we did press on them the idea that, number one, they are to be Christian, and number two, they are to glorify God with their lives in whatever they do. So my oldest son Christopher, 31, is using his graphic designing abilities for the work of the Kingdom. And our younger son Jonathan, who is 20, is actually working in our Crusades' department, as sort of an intern. So they're both serving the Lord in ministry, which I am very thankful for.

Let's talk about the main theme of the Silicon Valley Crusade.

The main theme is the mission statement of the Harvest Ministry, 'Knowing Him and Making Him Known'. Silicon Valley is probably home of many manufacturers and computers. Obviously this is a very influential culture. Statistically, I heard that only 7 per cent of the people in Silicon Valley attend church on a Sunday morning. That is low. In America we'll have much higher numbers in other communities, up to 25 per cent. I think this is a pretty secular environment that I'm going to be holding this crusade in, which to me is a great place to do it. I actually enjoy speaking to people who have no background of Christianity because I can relate to them. Sometimes speaking to people who carry a lot of religious baggage with them can get in the way of a relationship with God. Because they could say, 'oh I was raised in this church, I heard this, I know that,' when in reality, they don't really know all that much. When you're talking to a non-believer, however, they will acknowledge that they know little or nothing about Christianity.

Your books and sermons seem to constantly overflow with issues relevant to today's society. How do you come up with the themes?

I try to keep up with what's going on in the world around me. I'm an avid reader, and kind of an observer of culture. I will read multiple newspapers, I'll check tons of websites each day, I'll watch television. I like to know what's going on in the world around me. I want to show the relevance of what the Bible has to say to what we're facing in our world and culture today. Sometimes I think the preachers are answering questions that no one is asking and they are not answering the ones that are being asked. So I want to delve into a lot of categories and be aware of what people are thinking and wondering about, and show what God has to say about it.

Whose sermons did you grow up listening to?

Multiple people. I was attending the church pastored by Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel in California. I started listening to people like Billy Graham - whom I've been very influenced by - Chuck Swindoll and John MacArthur... I would read books from people like John Stott and C.H. Spurgeon. Actually some of my all-time favourite preachers are British, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, C.H. Spurgeon, and G. Campbell Morgan. I just thought some of the greatest preaching and teachings ever came from British preachers and expositors.

Where do you see yourself 10 years later?

Probably with even less hair than I have now (he laughs). It's hard to say. I don't know if the Lord is going to help one aspect of ministry or open up another, but I assume that I'll be doing something very similar to what I'm doing now. Perhaps it will be on a larger scale, maybe even a smaller scale - that's for the Lord to determine. What I hope to be doing from 10 years now is still preaching the gospel and teaching the Word.

Is there any particular part of the globe you would like to preach in?

I would like to preach in England. I've been there before and I've spoken to churches, but I would love to one day come and hold a crusade there. I would love to do more in Europe frankly. Apart from that, I would love to do some crusades in Asia.

For updates on Harvest Crusades and to watch the live webcast, go to
To know more about Greg Laurie and to view his artwork, go to