Monday, March 23, 2009

The Trouble with "Impact!": The Vision of the VeggieTales Visionary

Shaun Groves has an excellent post today called Phil Vischer's Jesus, sharing excerpts from Skye Jethani's book The Divine Commodity (which is on my must-get list). I hope Shaun won't mind if I reprint pretty much the whole thing.
“The Christians my grandparents admired - D.L. Moody, R.G. LeTourneau, Bill Bright - were fantastically enterprising. The Rockefellers of the Christian world. Occasionally I would read about different sorts of Christians that would confuse me, like, say, Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa seemed like a great woman, but her approach struck me as highly inefficient. I mean, she was literally feeding the poor. One at a time. Didn’t she see that her impact would be much greater if she developed some sort of system for feeding the poor that could be franchised around the world? She could be the Ray Kroc of world hunger! Wouldn’t that be better?”

After the financial collapse of Phil‘s company Big Idea Entertainment, makers of Veggie Tales, Phil explained the belief system that had driven him to make the motion picture that caused it all:
“God would never call us from greater impact to lesser impact! Impact is everything! How many kids did you invite to Sunday school? How many souls have you won? How big is your church? How many videos/record/books have you sold? How many people will be in heaven because of your efforts? Impact, man!”

He began questioning this belief system:
“The more I dove into Scripture, the more I realized I had been deluded. I had grown up drinking a dangerous cocktail - a mix of the gospel, the Protestant work ethic, and the American dream… The Savior I was following seemed, in hindsight, equal parts Jesus, Ben Franklin, and Henry Ford. My Eternal value was rooted in what I could accomplish.”

He eventually concluded that the Christian life “wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience.”


Anonymous said...

Phil came to Baylor last semester and gave a great talk along the same lines. For the first 15 minutes or so, I figured it was going to be a brief history of Veggie Tales, and how he got to live out his dream and made an impact, and so forth. I loved Veggie Tales growing up, so that was fine with me, but near the 15-20 minute mark, something changed, and he began sharing his failures and shortcomings, culminating in the collapse of BIg Idea. About 5 minutes later, he was sharing the Gospel. It was like getting hit in the face by a freight train.

Of all the chapel speakers I watched, he was one of the only ones who really blessed me.

Randi Jo :) said...

That's awesome. I've been in discussion this week about "big" --- when God wants to do something "big" --- what that means. and I don't think it's "impact" or "numbers" or even something that we can measure on our terms...

Big to me is something so much.. "bigger" than all that :)

Thanks pastor Jared!