Monday, March 12, 2007

Me, Myself and Bob

I just finished reading Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer. I haven’t described too many books this way but this book “rocked my world.” If you don’t know Phil Vischer is the creator of Veggie Tales®. This book is his retelling of the rise and "sort of" fall of Big Idea, the company he founded which produced Veggie Tales and other videos.
I was able to hear part of this story when he spoke at Children’s Pastors Conference in January, but the book goes into much more detail than his talk. The book has several profound messages and I believe every Christian should hear his story. However I can best share why the book meant so much to me.

First of all as a Children’s Pastor who began in the ministry in 1992 in the Chicago area I pretty much “grew up” in the ministry as Veggie Tales grew up. Phil talks bout the college student phenomena and how it really wasn’t young mothers who spread the word about Veggie Tales but rather college students. The videos were first distributed almost entirely through Christian bookstores and these bookstores usually had a children’s section with a TV and VCR to keep the little ones entertained. College students manned these stores and the video machines, and with a limited number of choices out there, soon discovered Veggie Tales and their off-beat sense of humor and well-crafted animation. They then would recommend this to parents and play the videos in the stores and helped launch a revolution.

I remember the first time I discovered Where’s God When I’m S-Scared. I was fairly new to the ministry and had a difficult time coming up with lessons for Sunday morning and Wednesday night out of my creative head every week so I was looking for something new to show the kids in club that week. I walked into Lemstone bookstore in Cherryvale Mall and asked the college kid working there what was new in the world of kid’s videos. He enthusiastically handed me this video and I’ve been a big supporter ever since. I think Phil missed one group of people who also helped spread the word though – Children’s Pastors. There were tons of us eagerly introducing families to this new series all over America.

As I read the book, it parralled so many events in my own life. I remember when Josh and the Big Wall came out and showing it in club one night and about 50 kids all singing “If you like to waltz with potatoes…” and getting the goose bumps. At a Group conference at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Phil, his wife Lisa and Mike Nawrocki were there at a booth talking up the videos and doing the voices and telling the story of how the song Where is my Hairbrush? was written (its in the book). At that conference two memorable things happened: we decided to launch a new children’s service at our church called Kid’s Junction and Phil Vischer became one my heroes! I could on and on about the memories, bit I digress.

The book is such a baring of Phil’s soul I feel like he’s my friend now. He told the story of the amazing success, the missteps and mistakes and the eventual bankruptcy and sale of Big Idea. He told of internal problems, of a personal ego problem, of dreams that grew off-centered and goals that were not God inspired. Through it all he takes the blame for the collapse and flat out apologizes for his role.

The hardest part to read though is Phil describing how God let Big Idea collapse and get taken over by another company. He describes how his dreams and goals and desire for impact were getting in the way of his relationships with God. I was riveted.

Here was the deal for me – I identified with this part of his journey too. You may not know that in the year 2000 my family moved to a community to plant a church. I was dreaming of being the next Willie George, of building a church with a focus on winning kids and families to Christ. I envisioned a church with a full sized Chuck-E Cheese thingie inside open on weekends for families to come and play games and eat pizza and watch – you guessed it Veggie Tales. I saw rooms with incredible themes and kids crawling through tubes to get to children’s church each morning. I could see an amazing outreach to kids with special needs where trained staff ministered to them and their families. I had a vision and God was working miracles to see this thing come together. A few people moved there with us and we were willing and ready. And then something funny happened, God stopped moving. The miracles, in terms of the church, dried up. In three years we had a total of 12 visitors to our church. We spent thousands on mailers and radio and no one even came to check us out. You see – I had let my dream become bigger than God and God loved me too much to let that continue. The church closed and that dream has died. It is now God’s to do with as He sees fit and I’m content to serve where I’m at.

I am still chewing on a lot of the book though. If I have any struggle it is that perhaps he is writing still out of his experience and maybe goes a little far to other side almost putting down dreams and goals and a desire for impact. It is a tough balance. God gives us these things. I know God inspired Phil to create Veggie Tales. But you see in the Bible over and over again how God gives a dream and then causes it to die. And then if the person lets go, sometimes he resurrects it. But at that point the dream isn’t as important anymore. It’s more about God and following him rather than saving the world and getting an ego trip along the way. So yeah I still want to make an impact on the world, but if I don't I have God and that is enough.
I know this a long review but I wrote as much for me to remember my thoughts as I did for anyone to read it. If you did read this I urge you to get the book!


Anonymous said...

Liked your post on Phil's book! I've read it as well. Very moving story. I think a lot of us have had similar experiences.

I do have a question though, which is probably going to make me look really stupid about the Bible, but I'm going to ask it anyway: can you give me examples from the Bible where God gave someone a dream, and then caused it to die? I would really like your input on that.

I had a dream once...(gosh those words sound so familiar, don't they?) but my dream died because of me, not because of God.

If you have the time, please respond to my question. I really would like to hear your input on that. Thank you, and God bless!

mmartin said...

Phil talks aout a couple f examples in hsi book. He talsk about the Shunammite wowman and Elisha in 2 Kings 4. she ahd no kids, God provided a son, a few years later the son dies in ehr arms. Elishe prays and the boy is brought back to life.

He also talks about Abrham, and Isaac and after waiting eyars for Isaac god then asks Abraham to sacrifice his son.

I also look to David who had a dream to build a temple but never did. But his son did.

Paul was saved and began preaching and the apostles told him to go and wait for awhile so he did in the town of Tarsus for 8 years. I would think in 8 years he had to to give that dream of reaching the gentiles over to God. Finally Barnabas remembered him.

This gets into a twist of theology and opinion but here we go. Eve knew that through one of her sons the savior would come into the earth. In fact she might have thought Cain or Abel would be that very savior. Remember God had promised this in Genesis 3:15. and then Cain goes and kills Abel. Neither son would be the savior nor would he even from their line. Then Seth came.

Hope this help anonymous!

mmartin said...

I wish you could edit these posts after you publish them!