Pastor Greg Laurie details how John Lennon found God — and why it matters today
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In addition to his work as pastor and founder of the Harvest churches in California and Hawaii and of Harvest Crusades, evangelist Greg Laurie is a best-selling author and movie producer.
His newest book is "Lennon, Dylan, Alice & Jesus: The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll," co-authored with Marshall Terrill and published in May 2022 by Salem Books.
Pastor Laurie explained to Fox News Digital exactly why he wrote this book today, more than 41 years after John Lennon's untimely death in December 1980.
"People are fascinated with celebrity and fame," he said — particularly many young people. "But is fame all that it's cracked up to be?"
Laurie said he tried to answer that question "by looking at the lives of those who have ‘been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.’ In many cases, these rock icons were the T-shirt," he added.
"At the peak of his fame and success with the Beatles, John Lennon wrote the song ‘Help,’ which Lennon said was an actual cry for help, but most missed it because of its catchy beat," said the pastor and evangelical leader.
He said that many of the rock stars he studied "climbed the mountain of fame and found out there was nothing at the top. They experienced unimaginable success and wealth — and, sadly, so many of them died at an early age, from Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison to Curt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Avicii and most recently [Foo Fighters drummer] Taylor Hawkins."
Yet "new generations," said Laurie, "buy into this mythology of thinking success and fame will fill the hole in their heart. Only God can do that."
"I was brought up a Christian and I only now understand some of the things that Christ was saying in those parables." — John Lennon
The pastor said he included "inspiring, redemptive stories of rock icons who turned to God and found redemption and a second chance in life — such as Alice Cooper, who literally was at death's door and could have so easily been another rock star statistic."
What is he hoping that readers will take from this book in 2022 and beyond?
Pastor Greg Laurie, shown here with his wife, shared thoughts with Fox News Digital about his newest book, "Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus." (Harvest Church/Pastor Greg Laurie)
"My larger message is this: No one is beyond the reach of God. I have had people say to me, 'Why write a book about rock? Don't you know that these people sold their souls to the devil?' First of all, you can't ‘sell your soul to the devil.' Your soul belongs to God, not you."
Added Laurie, "He says in Scripture, ‘All souls are mine!’ (Ezek. 18:4). God will forgive us if we will call out to him — no matter what we have done."
Said Pastor Laurie, "In our limited knowledge, we are way too quick to judge what is happening in a person's life spiritually. It's important that we understand that everyone's life is still a work in progress."
He continued, "Yes, John Lennon famously said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus — but he said a lot more after that about God that might surprise you."
Read an excerpt from Pastor Laurie's new book
Greg Laurie in "Lennon, Dylan, Alice & Jesus":The Beatles broke up at the start of the 1970s, and John Lennon famously wrote, "God is a concept by which we measure our own pain."
He also wrote that he didn’t believe in Elvis, Zimmerman (Bob Dylan), Buddha, Kennedy, the Beatles or the Bible.
John Lennon, shown with Paul McCartney, famously wrote, "God is a concept by which we measure our own pain." (Getty Images)
At that time in his life, the ex-Beatle didn’t believe in anything — but he sampled everything.
Lennon was always a searcher. He wrote the song "Help," sharing a title with one of the Beatles' films, but John said that it really was a personal appeal.
The man who once said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus apparently came to Jesus in the spring of 1977 after watching a televised Billy Graham crusade.
Abandoned by his father and his mother, who ironically lived only blocks away from where he was raised by his Aunt Mimi, Lennon allowed his hurt to influence his art.
Extraordinarily talented but internally tormented, he made his mark on the world. He met Paul McCartney, and together, they made musical magic.
By the mid-1970s, Lennon was dabbling in anything spiritual, no matter how far out or offbeat, including psychic readings, witchcraft and the occult.
When Lennon wasn’t sleeping or blissed out, he explored yoga, fasting, mysticism, vegetarianism and various forms of religion. (Near the end of his life, he referred to himself as a "Zen pagan.")
John Lennon and Paul McCartney. "Apparently, [Billy] Graham’s words got through to [Lennon in 1977] and he accepted Jesus. It drove him to tears of joy and ecstasy. He was born again," writes Pastor Greg Laurie in a new book. (AP)
But then the impossible happened. The man who once said the Beatles were more popular than Jesus apparently came to Jesus in the spring of 1977 after watching a televised Billy Graham crusade.
In his book, Robert Rosen, author of "Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon," wrote, "[Lennon] was watching Billy Graham sermons on TV because he found them entertaining. Then he had an epiphany. Apparently, Graham’s words got through to him and he accepted Jesus. It drove him to tears of joy and ecstasy. He was born again."
In that two-week period, the former Beatle considered himself a Christian and took his wife and their child to an Easter Sunday service.
This phase lasted about two weeks, according to Rosen.
In that two-week period, the former Beatle considered himself a Christian and took his wife and their child to an Easter Sunday service. He even called the prayer line of "The 700 Club," Pat Robertson’s evangelistic network.
This new spark in Lennon’s life inspired him to write a song called "Amen," which was his musical version of "The Lord’s Prayer."
The Beatles are shown on an album cover in 1965. (The Associated Press)
But according to one of the last major interviews he gave, Lennon said he was no more a Buddhist than he was a Christian.
"I’m a most religious fellow," Lennon said. "I was brought up a Christian and I only now understand some of the things that Christ was saying in those parables. Because people got hooked on the teacher and missed the message."
"Lennon sings about being plagued by destruction — most likely self-destruction, of which he was acutely aware — but also of being close to the Lord."
In a track that didn’t make the final cut on his album "Double Fantasy," Lennon sings about being plagued by destruction — most likely self-destruction, of which he was acutely aware — but also of being close to the Lord.
He knows he has always been close to God ("the leaves are shining in the sun"), that they never parted. The song was titled "Help Me to Help Myself."
But no one was there to help John Lennon. They just wanted him to write the next hit.
Former Beatle John Lennon posed with his wife, Yoko Ono, and their son, Sean Lennon, in 1977 in New York City. (Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Then, on Dec, 8, 1980, a deranged so-called fan prematurely ended John Lennon’s tumultuous life.
Mark David Chapman stood outside the Dakota building in New York City, where John and Yoko lived, waiting for them to walk out. When they did, Chapman thrust his copy of John’s new album toward the former Beatle. John was gracious enough to sign it, even asking, "Do you need anything else?"
"I hope that John Lennon remembered the moment when he proudly proclaimed that he believed in Jesus in the final moments of his life."
As they approached the building again after a recording session at the Record Factory, Chapman fired five hollow-point bullets from a .38 revolver into the musical legend’s back. Lennon was rushed to in a police car.
Despite the surgeons’ frantic efforts to save him, Lennon succumbed to his wounds in Roosevelt Hospital.
"Is John Lennon in heaven?" writes Pastor Greg Laurie. "I don't know — but I know that God in heaven loved him." (The Associated Press)
I have visited many people on their deathbeds over the years. When people know eternity is near, they generally want to know they can go to heaven. I have prayed with many to do that very thing.
I only hope that John Lennon remembered the moment when he proudly proclaimed that he believed in Jesus in the final moments of his life.
The Bible tells the story of Jesus being crucified between two hardened criminals. One of them turned to Christ and said, "Lord, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom." Jesus said in response, "Truly I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise!"
"I know that the Lord bestowed upon him extraordinary talents."
There will be three surprises when we get to heaven. Some of the people we thought would be there, won’t be. Some of the people we never thought would be there will be. And surprise number three, we will be there.
Is John Lennon in heaven? I don’t know — but I know that God in heaven loved him.
I know that the Lord bestowed upon him extraordinary talents. And I know that if John Lennon called out to Jesus, even in the last moments of his life, his prayer was heard.
I sincerely hope to see him on the other side.
Excerpted with permission from the new book, "Lennon, Dylan, Alice & Jesus" (Salem Books) by Greg Laurie, copyright © 2022 by Greg Laurie. All rights reserved.
Maureen Mackey is managing editor of lifestyle for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent on Twitter at @maurmack.