Ode to Bob the Tomato OR Making an Idol out of Impact

This last week I was asked, "Who has been your favorite interview?" And I surprised myself with who immediately came to mind: "Phil Vischer," I replied, "the creator of VeggieTales." And here's why…it's the picture of the ruthless love of God that comes through Phil's story, Me, Myself and Bob."

This last week I was asked, "Who has been one of your favorite interviews?" And I surprised myself with who immediately came to mind: "Phil Vischer," I replied, "the creator of VeggieTales." And here’s why…it’s the picture of the ruthless love of God that comes through Phil’s story, Me, Myself & Bob.


Phil will be the first to tell you that God cares a lot more for his heart than for his potential to create a Christian Disney-style empire in an entertainment culture that sorely needs it. As VeggieTales grew and Phil’s cultural impact soared, God allowed his Veggie company, Big Idea, to fail.


Phil told us that the hardest part of his bankruptcy was asking the question, "What kind of God would stand back and watch a dreama good dream, for Ministry and impactfall apart?" This is one of those questions that I’ve leveled at God too. And Phil wrote that, in time, God began to whisper an answer: "Beware of your dreams, for dreams make dangerous friends. We all have them…but dreams are, I have come to believe, misplaced longings…Because God is enough. Just God… And he isn’t ‘enough’ just because he can make your dreams come true…The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when were pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God…I realized God had let my dreams die, not because he didn’t love me, but because I was actually more important to him than any ‘good work’ I could possibly accomplish."


Another Phil we have interviewed, former Supreme Court clerk and Berkeley Law Professor Phillip Johnson, has echoed the same sentiment. God didn’t seem to care nearly as much about Phil’s unique ability to challenge Darwinian evolution as the chief strategist for the Intelligent Design movement as he did that Phil would come to know and worship him more deeply. As Phil’s impact on college campuses, scientists and premier news outlets soared, God allowed him to suffer a stroke.


In The Right Questions (and A Faith and Culture Devotional) Phil offers this confession, a moment of clarity in his hospital bed the night after his stroke: "I had always prided myself on being self-reliant, and my brain was what I had relied on. Now the self with its brain was exposed as the shaky instrument it had always been. I was a Christian, but now all the smoke was blown away and I knew myself to be not so much a believer in Christ as a skeptic about everything else, a recovering rationalist who had lost his faith in the world's definition of reason but who knew only the world's Jesus. I had to decide then and for eternity where my hope was based, or whether I had any. As Kate finished [singing On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand], I knew that I had found solid rock and that I was already standing on it."


We groan at the damage done by the secular entertainment culture and the scientific establishment’s commitment to a reductionist, materialist worldview and might think, Oh Lord, we NEED champions. Why would you allow these men to be taken out? They are followers of Christ…do they really need to go deeper with you through the pain of these ordeals when they could have had SO MUCH MORE IMPACT?


I can only conclude that while I am deeply concerned about the impact of the gospel on our culture (read other people's lives) and being a voice of redemption, God cares so much more for the triumph of the gospel in my own life. He cares far more about my worship than my impact. Not because he needs it. But because I do. So many dreams have died because of my rheumatoid arthritis. But God has given me so much more of himself, so much more joy and Lifethe "true riches."


Phil Vischer still writes for VeggieTales and is the voice for many of the leading characters. He is also at work on a ripping new project, Jelly Telly. Phillip Johnson still networks and mentors others in the continuing work of the Intelligent Design movement. And they are both grateful for God’s radical pursuit of their hearts. I am too.

Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.


  • Kathy Collard Miller

    heart is of utmost importance
    thank you, Lael, for this very important truth. The heart! The heart! it’s all about the heart! You have always been an example to me of seeking God at a heart level. Thank you!

  • Sue Bohlin

    Worship vs. impact

    What wonderful insight, Lael, earned the hard way through suffering!

    It made me think of an Oswald Chambers passage that Ray always quotes from in his "Campus Christianity" lecture:

    Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of
    the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say