Lutherans in the Twin Cities

A cartoonist with a purpose

John Engholm uses a comic strip to encourage reading of scripture

God wants us to laugh. In fact, the Gospel of Luke even offers up a blessing
that encourages laughter — “blessed are you who weep now, for you will
laugh.” (Luke 6:21).

Recognizing that humor can also be a means for conveying the gospel, Metro
Lutheran includes the offerings of staff cartoonist John Engholm each month.
His “Yolkfellow Falls” strip tells the story of the good-hearted Christians of
the Yolkfellow Falls community. The characters bring a humorous take on
many of the questions that Christians deal with each and every day.

A member of the Professional Cartoonist Network, Engholm also has had his
cartoon strip appear in the Minnesota Christian Chronicle, and Falls is familiar
to members of his congregation, Cross View Lutheran Church, Edina,
Minnesota, as the strip has appeared in the congregation’s newsletter. To
support his cartoon ministry, Engholm said he creates about 12 to 15 new
cartoons in a given year.

Pastor Steve Wheeler, senior pastor at Cross View Lutheran Church, says of
Engholm, “John … is a wonderful man of God who is extremely creative. What
I love about John is that he is really willing to take the gifts that God has given
him for the use of his people. He’s taken that ‘sweet spot’ that God has given
him and really uses it. [You don’t have] to pray it out of him, he just takes it
and uses it.”

Wheeler says a cartoon Engholm created on cheerful giving was a helpful
accompaniment to their stewardship drive. In the cartoon, a horse raises a
hoof to ask, “What is the least amount I can give and still be a cheerful giver?”
Wheeler says of the comic, “It is a truth we can laugh about, but still makes
the point. It’s a backdoor entry to touching serious issues in a non-
threatening way.”

Metro Lutheran recently talked with Engholm to learn more about his cartoon
ministry.

Q: What inspired you to do cartoon ministry?

I grew up reading comic strips and comic books and I’ve remained a fan to
this day. Combining this passion with a way to serve Christ seemed like a
good fit.

Q: Cartoons often inspire people to think humorously. How do you tie the
idea of humor to your cartoon ministry?

I always try [to] remain respectful of the Bible and use good-natured humor
to examine the ups, downs, and funny situations [in which] we, as the body
of Christ, often find ourselves.

The themes … are [all] issues that Christians [deal with everyday]. [I examine]
issues [like] trusting in the Lord, giving our first fruits to God and reading the
Bible. Each strip ends with a [verse from] Scripture. [My intention is] to point
the reader to the Bible, where they can learn what God says about the
humorous situation they just read.

In the end, my sincerest hope is that the reader will find humor in this comic
strip, think about how the theme discussed applies to their life, and look up
the verses listed in scripture to find out more.

Q: Where do you seek the ideas for your cartoon ministry?

The ideas for my comic strip come mostly from faith issues I’ve dealt with
myself! I believe the themes examined in this strip are issues that we all deal
with every day as Christians. I [also] get some ideas from current events and
[my] personal interactions.

Q: Have you ever given any memorable speeches about your comic strip?

I was asked to talk about my comic strip, and serving Christ, [to] my son’s
first grade class at Wayzata Redeemer Lutheran School this past year. I
presented about a dozen strips to them and we discussed what they meant.
We laughed and talked about how the themes related to their walk of faith.
The kids were great and I got so much out of our time together!

Q: How does this ministry bring you spiritual fulfillment?

I get great joy out of serving Christ while getting to do something I love! It’s
very satisfying to take an idea all the way from a rough sketch to seeing it in
its final form printed in the newspaper. Whenever I hear feedback from a
reader it helps me to know I’m reaching someone and hopefully they are
thinking more about the themes I’m exploring in the comic strip as well.

Engholm welcomes feedback on his cartoon strip from Metro Lutheran
readers. He can be reached at jengholm@usfamily.net.