Leadership at JBU: Phil Vischer
For one day last week, I had the opportunity to be a college student again. On Tuesday, I went to the campus of John Brown University (JBU) in Siloam Springs to attend chapel. Why? Well, last week was leadership week at JBU, and they invited Phil Vischer, the creator of Veggie Tales and Big Idea Productions, to come and speak to the students. If you know me well, you know I’m a big fan of Veggie Tales – have been from the beginning when a tomato named Bob and a cucumber named Larry hit the video scene. I was singing silly songs before my kids were even born!
I was so excited to have the opportunity to hear from Mr. Vischer and get his insights on leadership. He came on stage speaking in the voices of his various Veggie Tales characters, and the crowd of students roared with applause. He then rattled off several statistics about Veggie Tales, one of which I thought was particularly surprising. Did you know that Veggie Tales DVD’s are the most watched DVD’s on college campuses? That’s pretty cool!
The stats and sales, however, were not the purpose of Mr. Vischer’s presentation. He shared a different view of leadership. His view of leadership was based on what he learned the hard way. He started Veggie Tales and Big Idea Productions to make a difference for Christ in this world. He talked about how he wanted to influence kids for God’s kingdom. With a very low budget to start, Big Idea Productions basically exploded on the scene when their direct-to-sales videos hit the market in the mid 1990’s. He built the brand, he built a new company, and he was making a big impact on families, but his dream started to come crashing down after the company got spread too thin with all sorts of different initiatives. Then, a final blow came from a lawsuit filed over their video production rights. In 2003, ten years after the start of Big Idea, Mr. Vischer had to file bankruptcy and watch his characters and company be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
At this point, this might sound like a tragic story. You might ask why was he invited to give a leadership talk at JBU when his company went bankrupt. Well, you should also note that JBU is a Christian college, so what Mr. Vischer testified to next was the reason JBU asked him to speak. He stated several times, “Watch out for your dreams; they may be your idols.” What? Aren’t we supposed to dream big and reach for our goals? Well, yes, if they are what God wants for us. Mr. Visher was doing “good things”, but his success caused him to lose perspective. He was building a name for Big Idea Productions; he was building a name for himself, and pride was getting the best of him. God did not want him to be the next Walt Disney. God was asking Phil to trust Him with everything.
What a powerful concept! If we lose sight of why we are doing things and for whom we are doing them, we are lost. We are nothing without God. We will have nothing of eternal value if we follow our dreams without God. God truly is enough – He is the Creator and Sustainer of life. Whoa! What a “Big Idea”! If we fully surrender our lives to Christ and allow Him to accomplish His will in us, working in His strength, then we will be pointing others to God. Isn’t that what the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is telling us we ought to be doing – leading others to God?
Yes, Phil Vischer was an excellent candidate to speak on leadership at JBU. “Attitude reflect leadership” is one of my favorite lines in the movie Remember the Titans. We need more leaders in this world who will lead us to follow God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – even if that does not allow us to accomplish our dreams. Thanks so much for the encouragement Mr. Vischer!
Oh, by the way, Bob the Tomato & Larry the Cucumber are still going strong in spite of the bankruptcy. Phil Vischer is still creatively writing scripts for Big Idea Productions and providing voices to Veggie Tales characters. He also has a few other projects keeping him busy but with a new perspective – to God be the glory and God is truly enough!
For more information, I highly recommend reading Phil Vischer’s autobiography titled Me, Myself, and Bob.
All photos © 2012 Capture Me Photography by Nicole, LLC
Devoted Believer. Blessed Wife & Mother. Degreed Engineer. Passionate Photographer.