The Ad (reading Steve Jobs’ Biography)

I was one of the 96 million people who saw the Macintosh 1984 commercial during Super Bowl XVIII. I was seven years old, and I was watching the Super Bowl with my dad. Even at that age, I knew this commercial was significantly different from anything else I had ever seen.

It would be another seven years before I read 1984 and came to understand the significance of the imagery. All I knew was that the commercial was stunning and unique.

Now that I am reading Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, I understand a little better just how different it was and how close it came to never airing. As a Mac user, I am glad it did.

The Macintosh ultimately changed the landscape of personal computing on a scale that most users don’t understand. It ushered in an era of competition that ignored all that came before. In a swoop, IBM became an insignificant player as Microsoft and Apple took over the market.

Unknown to IBM the other blue chip companies building computers, the era of the renegade had come into its own. It was the guys who didn’t play be the rules, the companies willing to change the game entirely that would dominate the next two decades.

Of course, they would become the new blue chips, but while Microsoft would embrace its big company image, Steve Jobs would continue to rebel. His own renegade style would distance him from his own company’s upper management and eventually lead to his dismissal (and Apple’s nadir).

In the church, congregations become the it church. The wealthy and powerful are attracted to your congregation and your church becomes the place to be. I remember being in Bible college and hearing a pastor talk about this positively. My own rebellious streak kicked in, and I gave the guy a really hard time about it. It felt too much like a violation of James 1-2 to cater to the powerful of this world.

Now I am watching this happy with the crazy, hungry church leaders of my own generation, even among people I call friends. They go from being wild and unpredictable to being “grownups” who tow the party line, publish their user-friendly books and institutionalize controversy.

Steve Jobs was difficult to work with, and probably would have driven me crazy, but he was never anything but innovative and iconoclastic – even when the icon was the company he had built himself! He was, in every sense of the word, a renegade. (After all, he found a loophole that allowed him to drive his car without a license plate. How much more of a renegade can you be than to defy the DMV?)

We church leaders need to remember that we are not called to be the cutting edge of “cool” or adhering to the newest fad. We should be creative, innovative and renegade in our pursuit of excellence and beauty.

People say, “It’s just church” just like they said, “It’s just a computer.” The mundane is acceptable, especially if it is affordable.

We cannot think that way. The gospel has not changed, but our packaging and presentation must. We must be artists who create something beautiful and worth sharing.

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