Greg Laurie’s Gospel Cartoons

Evangelist reimagines high school art project for a new generation

Greg Laurie’s Gospel Cartoons

Evangelist reimagines high school art project for a new generation

For six decades, Greg Laurie has been sharing the Gospel with the masses while employing the latest communication technologies and platforms to deliver God’s timeless message.

But Laurie’s latest evangelistic strategy has the Southern California pastor, crusade evangelist and prolific author of more than 70 books returning to his drawing board—literally.  

“I’m a cartoonist, who became a Christian, and then I became a preacher,” he tells Decision. “For years, I was known as the cartoonist who preaches.”

Laurie’s unassuming foray into mass evangelism, birthed more than 50 years ago from a high school art project, is now the inspiration for a newly released cartoon called The Bridge Is Out: The Adventures of Ben Born Again & YellowDog. The seven-minute cartoon—created by Laurie with the help of a team of animation specialists and a voice actor—presents the story of Ben and YellowDog encountering a collapsed bridge on their way home from a day of surfing. After YellowDog makes several hilarious attempts to make it over the bridgeless chasm, Ben realizes that their situation is analogous to their greater need for Jesus, who came to be humanity’s bridge to God through the cross. The cartoon, which features the same two characters from Laurie’s cartoon strip creation in high school, has also been released in a printed comic book format.

Laurie’s first cartoon in the six-part series is currently available for free on his ministry’s “Harvest +” App as well as streaming platforms everywhere. Other episodes, still in production, address issues such as temptation, fear, hardship and loneliness. He hopes that Christians around the world will share the digital links to the animated series as a means of spreading the Gospel.

“A lot of these cartoons are based on illustrations that I’ve used before,” he says. “But now we have characters, and we have an animated world to present them in. So, I want to evangelize with this, but I also want to entertain. I want this to be a legitimate cartoon that causes you to laugh and is fun and enjoyable, but at the same time I want to get enough content in it where it could tell a person how to come into a relationship with Christ.”

Laurie says the storylines, in part, are sometimes inspired by real-life happenings, like when his grandson kissed a jellyfish or when Laurie’s childhood pet snake got loose in his mom’s vehicle. Combining humor with Bible stories to share the Gospel, he says, is an effective way to evangelize people. 

“I think when you get them laughing, they drop their defenses, and so it’s a great way to disarm an audience or an individual as you’re going to share the Gospel, because Christians can sometimes come off as really uptight—sort of anti-fun, anti-enjoyment—and I think the reality is that no one should enjoy life more than a Christian,” he says. “You know, the Bible says ‘God has given us all things richly to enjoy.’ The Christian can enjoy life more because we know the God who created it.”

Laurie acknowledges that his penchant for humor was developed in childhood as a coping mechanism. “I was trying to make people laugh, because I was trying to diffuse tension,” he says. “My mother was married and divorced seven times, and she had a bunch of boyfriends in between, and she would pretty much get drunk every night and fight with whoever she was married to or with at that time. And when I say fight, I mean fight; physical altercations—hitting, slapping.”

As an 8-year-old, Laurie found that drawing and sketching became another coping mechanism. “The reason I became an artist was to escape from my mother’s crazy world of drinking, because when I was out with her in smoky bars until the early hours of the morning waiting for her, I had to find something to distract me,” he says. “So, I created a cartoon world. I was drawing a little amusement park, and it was based on Disneyland, but I called it Laurie Land. Basically, I was creating an alternate universe to live in.”

To Watch The Adventures of Ben Born Again & YellowDog, download the Harvest+ App.

By age 12, Laurie was submitting his cartoons to magazines for occasional publication. He even corresponded with Charles Schulz, the creator of the “Peanuts” cartoon strip.

“I still have one of the letters framed,” he says. “I would send him my art. I would ask him for his opinions, and then I would ask him for things. He sent me original, signed art, and I lost it. I would ask him obscure questions. This went on for a while. There were a number of letters. I only saved one, but when I got one of those letters in my mailbox, it was like a letter from Heaven to me because I admired him so much. I was so impressed that this world-famous artist took the time to respond. Now, maybe it was his secretary. All I know is I got letters back from Schulz, signed by Schulz, granting the requests I had asked of him—some of which seem absurd now looking back on them.”

In 1970, Laurie’s artistic aspirations took on an eternal purpose when he was a 17-year-old senior at Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach, California. That’s where he prayed to receive Christ as his Savior and Lord during a lunchtime break on the front lawn of the school campus. From a few feet away, he had been watching a group of students, who were called “Jesus Freaks” by their peers, singing joyfully and talking about God. When the group leader quoted Jesus saying, “You’re either for Me or against Me,” Laurie walked forward to join in a prayer of repentance and faith.

Sometime later, his high school art teacher assigned the class to sketch an original cartoon strip. Laurie had recently heard a sermon by his pastor, Chuck Smith, from John chapter 4 about Jesus offering His “living water” to a Samaritan woman at a well. So, Laurie, eager to share his newfound faith, created an evangelistic tract based on the Gospel passage. When he showed it to his pastor, Smith had him redraw it larger and began publishing the “Living Water” tract for distribution.

“We printed 10,000, and they were gone immediately, so we printed 100,000 and they, too, were gone in no time at all,” Laurie says. “Ultimately, we probably printed well over a million, and they went all around the world.” 

Looking back on Laurie’s spiritual journey—which includes Cathe, his wife of 50 years—has proven quite entertaining and inspirational. In February 2023, a biopic about Laurie’s life titled Jesus Revolution debuted in theaters as the third-highest grossing box office movie that weekend, with $15.5 million in ticket sales. More than a year later, the movie he helped produce has earned more than $50 million worldwide, a coveted industry benchmark. “I try to go to unexpected people in unexpected places with an unexpected message,” he says.

For example, when California churches shuttered during the COVID pandemic in 2020, Laurie’s church, Harvest Christian Fellowship—with campuses in California and Hawaii—streamed an online church program, Harvest at Home, that was such a viral success that its Palm Sunday webcast drew 1.3 million viewers. That same year, his first-ever cinematic crusade, A Rush of Hope, was viewed by more than 2 million people in its opening weekend in theaters. Eight years earlier, Laurie shared the Gospel on the internet to more than 300,000 viewers during a live simulcast event called Harvest America. His nationally syndicated radio program, A New Beginning, is broadcast on more than 1,200 radio outlets worldwide. And his weekly television program Harvest + Greg Laurie is carried on networks such as Lifetime, Fox Business, Daystar, Newsmax and Trinity Broadcasting Network.

Laurie, who serves on the board of directors with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and wrote a book titled Billy Graham: The Man I Knew, credits his evangelistic hero as his example for taking risks to expand the Gospel’s reach. “Billy, actually, was a very creative, innovative person,” says Laurie. “He pioneered things before anyone else did them. He was the first on television. He had a movie studio, and they were creating films that were being released in theaters long before it was happening anywhere else. And right now, there’s sort of a renaissance of Christian films; Christian films are entering the mainstream. Billy was doing that back in the ’60s and ’70s, long before anybody else was, and also, he was an early adopter of satellite technology.”

At 71, Laurie is as energetic and passionate to share the Gospel as he was as a new Christ-follower during the “Jesus Movement” of the late 1960s and ’70s. The Bible study group of 30 people he began pastoring at age 19 now numbers some 9,000 congregants. 

“I think I’ve always been a child at heart,” he says. “And still, you know, I’m a creative. It’s the way I’m built, the way I’m designed. And of course, the advantage of being creative is you always have new ideas.”  ©2024 BGEA

To Watch The Adventures of Ben Born Again & YellowDog, download the Harvest+ App. 

Photo: Courtesy of Greg Laurie

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