For many years I struggled through the world of prehistoric personal computers – my dad even liked to keep a couple ancient Commodore and TI 386 computer models around the basement for solid doorstops. But then a whole new window of opportunity opened, or so we thought: Microsoft Windows 3.1. Probably everyone born after 1983 doesn’t even remember the simplistic beauty of this revolutionary operating system. Soon came Windows 95, 98, and on the story goes into contemporary history and into Bill Gates’ bulging wallet.
Yet amid my tinkering with numerous Windows-based machines I found that frustration and angst were more common emotional results, rather than ease, delight, and satisfaction. My observation of classmates, relatives, and co-workers who adored their Apple products was first accompanied by looks of doubt and bewilderment – who would want to pay $1200 for a Macbook when you can get a perfectly good Windows-based laptop for $600? But eventually my dirty looks became stares of amazement and even a bit of envy. I marveled at the ease and delight my friends found in their Apple products. They simply worked. I watched them “power-up” their Apple products and almost immediately go to work writing their class assignments or checking up on social media. Meanwhile I busied myself with thumb twiddling while I waited around (trying not to look obvious) for my Dell or Lenovo laptop to kick into gear, launch Windows, and drip into full-operation mode.
Entering the Orchard
The crucible arrived when my rather new Lenovo IdeaPad died from multiple internal diseases caused by poor manufacturing and ever-problematic Windows programming. And so I moved out into the fresh air of the yard – from the mechanic’s shed to the orchard. Sweet breezes seemed to be blowing through my soul as a purchased my first Macbook Pro, then an iPhone, and another iPhone, and then an iPad. My wife and I were thoroughly sold. After jumping over the initial hurdles of Windows-rooted computing arthritis, we were sailing along without a hitch. Writing, recording, editing, and surfing all became simple, smooth, and delightful.
And too be totally honest, we are still enjoying the smooth, simple sailing of the Apple orchard. However, just as soon as we jumped on-board we began to hear rumblings that Steve Jobs was ill – very ill; that the company could be headed for demise; and that the snarling pack of competitors was nipping at Apple’s heels. Prophetic voices from PC think tanks announced dire predictions, sometimes with obvious dereliction. But nevertheless, it seemed they had a point: a few bad mistakes conjoined with the death of the immensely creative and charismatic leader, Steve Jobs, could lead to great collapse. Steve Jobs was the face of Apple. He was the leader of every launch. He was always ahead of the pack. But he soon would be gone.
And rather quickly, he did depart. Gone forever. A few disgruntled gurus said, “good riddance.” But most everyone lamented his family’s loss and honored the work of the incredibly innovative, technological genius.
More predictions immediately stormed the blogosphere (most of them probably funded by Microsoft or Google’s Android department). Proving these loud-mouth critics right, several mistakes rapidly piled up on the scale: (1) the iPhone 4s drastically failed to meet expectations and seemed clunky next to the competition, (2) the new Apple maps app for the latest iOS was a complete failure. Everyone (including me) felt the mind-numbing frustration of arriving at the totally wrong location – over and over again, and (3) the newest version of iTunes appears far less intuitive and feels disconnected from the community engagement that was so unique with the old iTunes world. Not to mention promises made by Apple via Jobs before his death going unfulfilled.
Why all of this gum flapping about computers, PCs, and Apple? One reason. The community and context of the Apple world was a socio-phenomenon, a movement, almost a cult in the broadest sense of the term. We didn’t just buy Apple products, we invested in a community of common needs and delight-oriented engagement. But what many investors and computer geeks are realizing is this: Steve Jobs was the core of the movement. He was the leader of the “band,” the final equation between concept and reality. Steve Jobs was Apple.
We should not be surprised that Apple Corporation stands in a precarious, volatile position. Every major company, movement, or nation that has built itself around the singular genius or charisma of one man has eventually crumbled. Sure, Apple can re-build just like many other companies have done over the years. They may even grow beyond their current record-breaking market share. Yet still, generations will pass. People will change. And eventually Apple will be no more. The same will be true of Wal-Mart, Microsoft, McDonald’s, and even the United States of America.
The Romans thought the line of Caesars would prove eternal. The British believed the Royal line would continue with world-conquering power. Adolf Hitler apparently believed his rule of Nazism would take over the universe. Joseph Stalin provoked lofty dreams of never-ending socialistic community among his followers. Yet in the end, each man or woman eventually died – some rather suddenly. And with their deaths came the end of their movements. The end of the man eventually brought the end of the power and the dream. When the leader leaves – either by death or by retirement – so goes the socio-phenomenon. Gone with the leader, gone with the mission. Followers lose purpose when they no longer have someone to follow.
This has been the case for the entirety of human history, except with one singular man: Jesus Christ.
Flipping the Paradigm…Every time.
No other man has had such a short public life with such a perpetually expansive, never-ending affect. In fact, the ultimate mission of Jesus really did not begin within His followers until He was gone from this earth. Jesus throws the entire paradigm of leader-driven movements on its head. He deeply built his life into a small rag-tag bunch of guys for just three years, and then willingly died a despicable Roman cross-death in front of His followers. Confusion reigned. His right-hand man, Peter, denied accusations that he even knew Jesus. His little group scattered and ran into hiding for fear of their lives. I’m sure money-driven, power-lusting religious leaders (i.e. Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, etc.) were sneering with smiles of satisfaction. I can almost hear them rejoice, “Finally this Jesus guy is out of the way. Now we can get back to the normal, pious life we’re called to live. Certainly, we will never hear from those idiotic disciples of his…ever again. Whew.” I’m sure they supervised the whole vile scene to make absolutely certain that nothing went awry. No mistakes on this one. Jesus was dead. Gone.
But three days later the man, Jesus Christ, once again proved that He is both Lord and Christ, fully the God-man: Jesus rose from the dead by the power of the Spirit! After being seen by numerous witnesses over a period of forty-days, He then gathered his close followers together and gave them this last mission statement:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Jesus then ascended into heaven, where He is now seated at the right hand of the throne of the Father. He left. Do not hurry over this. The leader of all leaders was gone. But this time there was no rabid scattering, no running for cover, and certainly no triple-point denials. Instead, they all gathered with faith in prayer to wait for the Spirit power that would transform them and begin the movement of Jesus-followers that would forever change the world.
No other leader in human history has every come close to accomplishing what Jesus has done: more than 2 Billion present-day followers, and despite open and hostile persecution, famine, poverty, and a whole army of critics, the mission of Christ’s Gospel continues on, growing everyday. There is only one explanation for such shocking results: the power of God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ delivered and lived out by the Church on His mission. Jesus has done what Jobs could never do. Followers of Jesus are giving up their lives every single day for the cause of His mission. His kingdom message is expanding every single day.
So pastors and Christian leaders: let’s build the mission and local ministry around Jesus, not around ourselves – no matter how cool or attractive people may think we are. If Jesus is the center of our vision, the mission and ministry will continue long after we’re a sub-line in the annals of history.
And to all Christ-followers: we are part of a movement that transcends all time, language, people-group, and nation. So let’s live like there is no tomorrow for the sake of the Messiah and for the display of His message and mercy to the ends of the earth for the praise of His glory. We are on Jesus’ mission and there is no one like Him…and He is coming again.
*I enjoyed writing this article on my Apple Macbook Pro. Steve Jobs’ legacy of genius will surely be long-remembered. 🙂