ANAHEIM, California — Prior to addressing a crowd of 37,000 at SoCal Harvest in Angel Stadium Saturday night, leading evangelist and author Greg Laurie sat down with The Christian Post and discussed a number of hot-button topics and offered explanations on how some of them play into biblical prophecy.
Below is the complete transcript of Laurie's interview with CP.
The Christian Post: Do you believe that it is more urgent than ever for Christians to share the gospel and lead non-believers to Christ?
Greg Laurie: I think from the day Jesus gave us the commission, I think there has been an urgency in every generation. I think there is always new people that have never heard the gospel before that need to have it because the gospel – which is the death, resurrection of Christ and the message of his forgiveness – is the only hope for a person knowing that they will go to Heaven and then finding the meaning and purpose they search for in life.
The gospel is only good news if it gets there on time. I think if we don't deliver this message, it's negligence of the highest order. It would be like if you were walking down the street and a house was on fire and you heard screams coming from inside and you just kept walking. How irresponsible is that? At the very least, call 911 but better yet, you might run in and try to save the people.
To just ignore it is to me, just unacceptable. Every Christian is called to preach the gospel. We need to take the commission seriously. We all have our own sphere of influence and we need to at least share the message with them lovingly and accurately, biblically and pray that God will use it in their lives. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.
CP: So, would you consider it irresponsible for Christians not to share the gospel?
Laurie: I would take it a step further. I don't thinks it's irresponsible, I think it is sinful to not share. Because to me, it is a sin of omission. The Bible speaks of the sense of commission, which is doing what you should not do, instead of omission, which is not doing what you should do. It says in the book of James that if you know to do good and don't do it, it is sin. So, we know we are supposed to share the gospel. So, I believe it can actually be a sinful thing to not do it.
CP: Many Christians today feel like they don't want to impose their beliefs on others. What does the Bible say about what happens to Christians that don't spread the gospel or partake in the Great Commission?
Laurie: I don't think I have to impose my belief to share with a person. My objective is to build a bridge to a person, to establish a dialogue. Sharing my faith is not a monologue, it is a dialogue. When I get up to speak tonight, it's kind of a monologue. When I am talking with someone one-on-one, it's a dialogue. I ask them questions; I listen; I respond appropriately. I think we can do it in a loving way. If you want to win some, you have to be winsome — be nice, be friendly and then appropriately apply the gospel.
I don't think we have to impose or pressure in anyway but I do think we have to engage people and try to help them to understand what the gospel even is.
CP: In you message Friday night, you talked a little bit about how religion drives people away from God. What exactly did you mean by that and does that apply to Christians or just people of other faiths?
Laurie: I think religion however it is expressed. I think any belief system that says to a person, "I don't need Jesus because I have my ritual" is a problem. Ultimately, we know that the way a person finds salvation, the way a person comes into a relationship with God is by admitting their sin and turning to Christ. So, I think because they have done religious ritual A or B or C and think that is sufficient and that's all that is expected, now religion has become a barrier instead of a bridge and gives a false sense of satisfaction.
It could be Christianity. I think it would be a distorted version of Christianity or it could be another religion. I know it sounds cliche but I believe in an essential way, it's very true that being a Christian is having a relationship with God through Christ. Sure, Christianity is a world religion and I don't deny that. But having said that, this is, when it is all said and done, a relationship with God.
It has been said before and I will say it again. Religion is man's attempt to reach God and Christianity is God's attempt to reach man.
CP: Do you feel that overzealous believers, overzealous Christians make it harder to convert non-Christians in the sense that non-believers become turned off by looking at some of the things that are said?
Laurie: Yes, but in my experience, I don't think the problem that we have today is overzealous believers. I think the problem we have is underzealous believers. I think we have people that are not even leaving their comfort zone to engage people with the gospel. I don't know if you can be overzealous, but you can be unwise in the way you do it. I appreciate zeal and energy and passion but in our zeal, we just need to do it in a loving way and do it in a compassionate way, not share our faith in a robotic or mechanical way, but interact with the person, listen to them, and respond appropriately to their questions.
To me, the model example of how to share your faith is Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4. He was patient with her. He took time for her. To some degree, she was kind of disrespectful to Him at first, initially kind of blowing off what he said and blowing off what he was saying to her. But then, as it continued on, she began to understand and ultimately believed.
The Bible says that the servant of the Lord must be patient. Not everyone believes immediately. Sometimes, God is going to have you sow a seed. Sometimes, God is going to have you water a seed that someone else sows. Sometimes, God is going to have you reap where others have sowed and watered.
When I get up here and speak at these crusades, like last night we saw 3,000 people come forward, I understand that is a result of a lot of prayer, effort, evangelism on the part of the people that brought these folks. I have the privilege as throwing the net, but I understand that I am just a part of this process and ultimately, it is God that does the work.
CP: You said not too long ago that we could be living in the last of days, what exactly did you mean by that and does that make events like SoCal Harvest even more crucial?
Laurie: I do believe that we are living in the last days. I know this has been said before but there are events happening in our world right now that, to me, are what we call signs of the times.
The Bible says there are things that we should look for that signal the last days and one of them of course is the scattering and regathering of the nation of Israel, which we all know happened in 1948 when Israel was declared a nation. But the Bible tells us, for instance, that there is going to be a cashless society. The Bible tells us that there is going to be global instability and excessive violence in the End Times. As we look around right now at the way the world is changing, we look at the change economically, we look at the emergence of radical terrorist groups like ISIS that are incomprehensibly barbaric in the things that they do to people.
I just read today in The Christian Post about how they were using a blowtorch to kill people that defected. I can't remember a time that we heard anything this awful since the Nazis. Now, with social media, which they use quite adeptly, this horror and wickedness has spread and people are radicalized online. Who would have even thought of such a thing 25 years ago. Yet, here it is happening right now.
The Bible says that in the last days that it will be like labor pains. As a woman is ready to give birth, the labor pains get closer and closer together. That's what I think we are seeing that says we are in, maybe now, the last hours because the events are getting closer together. Maybe 20 years ago, there would be an event every few months or so, maybe once a year. Now, it just seems like every week there are things happening that remind us that Bible prophecy is being fulfilled and Christ is coming. Having said that, I think that should produce in the Christians, an urgency to share their faith.
Look, I don't know when the end of the world is, but there are people that I speak to every night, the end of their world could be tomorrow because we don't know when life will end. So, I preach as a dying man to dying men.
CP: We hear a lot about the increasing secularization of America today but do you feel like some of the compromises that mainline denominations have made on biblical teachings are helping lead America away from God?
Laurie: Yes, I do. I mean, I just read in The Christian Post, which I read everyday … I was reading about some minister that has written a book that says that it is OK for people who aren't married to have premarital sex. Then, another article pointed out that she doesn't believe in the authority of scripture.
Yes, this is a problem because they are misrepresenting God. So, someone might believe something like that or another idea that says that they can do whatever they want regardless of what scripture teaches and this now becomes something that can push people away from God or keep them from understanding what a real Christian really is.
We see mainline denominations in many ways dying. The churches that are growing and thriving are churches that I would call evangelical and orthodox for the most part in their beliefs. They are churches that tend to evangelize … and encourage their people to share their faith. These are the churches that are actually growing. The ones that are shrinking are the ones that are compromising and watering down what the word of God says.
Actually, that too is a sign of the times because the Bible says that in the last days, there would be false teachers. And, it also says that in the End Times that ... there would be an apostasy. When someone gets up and says that the Bible is not the word of God, I really don't care what their point is. That, to me, is apostasy.
When someone says that the Bible is not the word of God and that we can make things up as we go, pick and choose what parts of the Bible we want to believe, that to me is apostasy.
CP: Along with the feeling that the world could be coming to an end one of these days, you've said that the worst is yet to come. What does the worst entail? Is that something we don't know?
Laurie: We do know because it's in the book of Revelation. You know, it is not God's desire to conceal but to reveal. The word revelation means "unveiling." So, there God tells us exactly what is going to happen and scripture tells us that there is going to come a world leader who will initially bring overtures of peace. He will help the Jewish people rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. He will have a new economic system where you don't buy or sell without his mark. Initially, for some, it will look like a good deal because there will be peace, as I said.
But at the three-and-a-half mark of the tribulation period that really begins with the emergence of Antichrist, he shows his true colors. He performs what is called the "abomination of desolation," where he erects an image of himself and commands people to worship it. Then, God's judgement begins to fall on the Earth.
It's going to be a horrible time and millions of people are going to die in the tribulation period. But having said that, it is also true that millions of people are going to come to Jesus. Sometimes, it is falsely said that the Holy Spirit will be taken off the Earth during the tribulation period. But the Bible does not teach that. The scripture teaches that he who now restrains will continue to do so until he is taken out of the way. That is from Thessalonians.
I believe that the work of the Holy Spirit, through the church, will continue on. Then, the Lord will remove the church but the Holy Spirit will still be working on planet Earth, bringing people into the kingdom. So, it is going to get worse before it gets better. But I have read the last page of the Bible and I know for sure that we win in the end.
CP: Many Evangelical Christians feel that they are stuck between a rock and a hard place with the 2016 election. Since you say that America needs a spiritual revival, what kind of advice would you give to Christians as they go to the polls this November?
Laurie: I think every Christian should register and vote. I think it is very important to do so. I know this is a tough election for many. It is a very unusual election. I have never seen anything like it in my lifetime.
I think what we have to do is sit down and look at the positions of the candidates. One thing that is of the greatest importance is that next president of the United States will appoint, we don't know how many but it could be quite a few new members to the Supreme Court.
Well, that's of the greatest importance because that could tilt it in the wrong direction. We need people who will strictly interpret the law and not be promoting an agenda, as is the danger right now with some members of the Supreme Court. That alone, to me, is a major issue and I think we need to look at what candidate best represents our positions when it comes to appointing new members of the Supreme Court.
There is other issues that I could delve into but I would just say this: every Christian needs to be informed, every Christian needs to register and every Christian should absolutely vote.
CP: That's all the questions. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Laurie: I would just like to say that I appreciate The Christian Post. I really do read it everyday because I love the way that it is constantly refreshing its page with new articles. It's very current. It's very on top of what's happening in the world.
I am a bit of a news junkie and I look at a lot of news sites and I stay up and a lot of times I find out things first on The Christian Post. This is a Christian website that is first, a really good website. Secondly and importantly, it looks at these things from a biblical worldview. I appreciate the balanced approach of those who have responsibilities of making editorial decisions at CP. I am often reading and using things I find in the Post in my messages and retweeting articles I read.