Big Ideas for Learning: Phil Vischer

by Emily Shirk '10

For most college students, a day off from school consists of sleeping in until the afternoon sunshine makes its way through the window, closing the textbooks and finding the television remote, and maybe even slipping on some flip flops and sunglasses on the way to the beach with a group of friends.

However, on Wednesday, March 7, the students of Azusa Pacific University were given a day off of their regular class schedules with the opportunity to attend lectures, films, and debates around campus. This may seem like an unusual concept, but each year on the first Wednesday of March, APU provides a refreshing change of routine through Common Day of Learning (CDL), bringing students and faculty together to discuss and learn about significant issues applicable to their daily lives at the university and in the community. This year, at the 15th Annual CDL, Phil Vischer, the founder of Big Idea Productions and VeggieTales, delivered the keynote speech on the theme “Connect: Transform Your Passions for a Purpose.”

An upbeat and energetic speaker, Vischer immediately captured the audience’s attention and admiration at Wednesday’s morning chapel as he described his past accomplishments and work experiences. He excitedly told the story of how his aspirations and visions became realities, as the business he created found immediate success. He quickly found himself as the leader of the largest animation studio in the country after producing the #1 Warner Brother’s selling kids’ series. However, to the students’ surprise, his message did not take the typical, inspirational route of “sticking to your dreams until you find success.”

“Why would God ask you to give up your dreams?” Vischer abruptly asked as he looked up and scanned his audience carefully. Although Vischer’s lists of successes are cause for anyone to brag, he did not hesitate to relate himself to his audience through honesty and humility. After joking about how he was dismissed after three semesters from a Bible college because he “failed chapel,” he also admitted to watching his business, creation, and passion fall to bankruptcy.

“So they don’t become your idols,” he said. “When God hands you your dream, and then it dies, maybe God wants to know what you love more—the dream, or Him.”

Through all of his triumphs and failures in his life and career, he portrayed a message that encouraged the students to use their talents and live out their passions for God’s purpose instead of their own.

“The impact that God has planned doesn’t occur when you work for impact, but when you work for God,” he explained.

After chapel, from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., students were able to attend lectures ranging over two-dozen topics, including, " Connections to the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," "The Spirituality of Sport," and "Leading from Your Strengths: Transforming Passions into Peak Performance." Vischer urged the students to take advantage of this common day of learning, but reminded them that they all have different gifts and talents, according to the grace given to them by God.

“Hold everything loosely—except for God, Himself,” Vischer shared, leaving students with his biggest idea and last piece of advice before they headed their separated ways.