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It's not about the dream

"It's not about the dream" Continued...

Issue: "All tied up," Sept. 24, 2011

Though I couldn't have pinpointed it at the time, it was enormously influential in my thinking of, "OK, sure this is great, but how do I make it bigger? How can I do more faster?" Unfortunately, the question I ignored was, "How did God wire me?" Because He didn't necessarily call me to see how big an organization I could build.

Today when I talk to people, I spend a lot of time trying to get them to consider what is driving them. Why do you want to do what you say you want to do? Do you have peace in your life? Because if you're stressed, if you're worried, if you're anxious, something ain't right. Those aren't the fruits of the Spirit. I wish someone had sat me down at some point and asked me those questions.

How are you applying your experience with Big Idea to your new venture, Jellyfish Labs? My new company is called Jellyfish Labs because jellyfish can't locomote. They can't choose their own course. They can't go from point A to point B. They can only stay in the current and trust the current to carry them where they need to be. Looking back on Big Idea, I was conceiving of myself as a big studly barracuda saying, "All right God, here's what I'm going to do for you. Now you just stand back and bless it and watch me go!"

After the bankruptcy I had kind of a forced sabbatical of three or four months of spending time with God and listening to Him. I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, "Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so," or "Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!" But that isn't Christianity, it's morality.

That realization led me to a quest to say, all right, I need a new vehicle for teaching where I can go in much, much deeper but still in a fun, lighthearted, witty way. For my new series, What's in the Bible, I wanted to create the equivalent of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. It was this groundbreaking miniseries in the '80s that explained the entire world, the entire universe, to families. I want to do that with the Bible, not just for kids but for families. It's not a kids' show, it's a family show.

So I was acting like a big barracuda when in reality I'm a brainless, spineless bag of goo. And I only get my form when I stay in the current of God's will and allow Him to carry me where He wants me to be. And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We're drinking a cocktail that's a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we've intertwined them so completely that we can't tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It's the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I'm not supposed to be pursuing impact, I'm supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have.

Is there any place then for long-range ambitions and large goals, for "big ideas"? The goal at Jellyfish is to do no long-range planning, which is a little counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. But the way Paul and Barnabas did a ministry was to walk to a town, and if that town didn't want them they'd shake the dust off their sandals. They wouldn't sit there plotting for 10 years on how to take over the town, they'd just say, "OK, the Holy Spirit is taking us elsewhere." We have this American industrial thing where we want to build the McDonalds and Coca-Colas of evangelism and come up with formulas and systems that are guaranteed to work and it can be highly effective, but I don't know that it's highly Christian.

That sounds pretty radical in the current Christian business culture. I no longer use the word dream as a noun describing a goal. We misinterpret passages from the Bible like, "For lack of vision the people perish." From that we run off and go, "Oh, we've got to have vision, we've got to have dreams!" But it was Henry Blackaby who first pointed out to me that when we interpret that verse to apply to our ambitions, we're completely misinterpreting it. A better, contemporary translation is, "For lack of revelation the people throw off restraint."

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