Monday, October 24, 2011


Over the last week I’ve watched two different documentaries on the life and legacy of Steve Jobs, including an interview with his biographer. To say the least, they’ve left my head swimming with numerous thoughts and ideas. Prone to bouts of anomie, Steve Jobs’ story paints him as being neither the happiest, nor the easiest of people to get along with. Adopted by a blue collar couple in northern California, his father drilled into him the need to be ‘perfect’ at everything he did, and as he grew older, this value made him extremely intolerant of imperfections and perceived weakness.

But for all his perceived weltschmerz, Steve Jobs was arguably the greatest visionary of our time. He single handedly reshaped our world with his vision of simple, elegant, and user friendly technology. Amazingly, Steve and Apple didn’t actually invent the personal computer or the mp3 player, but simply envisioned how they could improve upon existing technology. The ipod, the iphone, the ipad, the imac all changed our world and how we interface with technology and each other.

Imagine being the one responsible for restructuring and reshaping how recording companies do business. Imagine telling them what they are going to charge for their music and, indeed that they’re going to have to sell individual songs and not just whole albums! That’s what Steve Jobs did when he started the ipod and itunes revolution. But the appeal of the i-products is so much more than just functionality, as the aesthetic appeal has made it almost unacceptable not to own one. It would appear that your social status is enhanced simply because you own an i-product. From owning a mere 6% market share of personal computers, and 90 days away from filing for bankrupcy when he returned to Apple, Jobs turned the company into the second largest corporation in the world, second only to Exxon Mobil.

Apple’s i-product appeal has gone global and Jobs’ influence reaches far beyond the shores of the USA. At his death, people held vigils with their ipads burning eternal candles with flickering flames. But it’s not just the music, phone, and computer industries that have been revolutionized because of Steve Jobs’ vision; even the education industry has been revolutionized (especially in the area of teaching autistic children) because of the introduction of the ipad tablet in response to Kindle’s book reader. Where Kindle saw a revolutionary book reader, Steve Jobs saw a life changing tablet.

“How on earth do you propose to weave all that into i-gospel,” I hear you ask? Well, consider this: As Christ followers we’re invited to be part of a revolution that changes our world in every strata of society much like Jobs has done with his ‘i-product’ technology, except that what we offer has eternal value. Richard Stearns, in his book, The Hole In Our Gospel, puts it like this;

Didn’t Jesus always care about the whole person—one’s health, family, work, values, relationships, behavior toward others—and his or her soul? Jesus’ view of the gospel went beyond a bingo card transaction; it embraced a revolutionary new view of the world, an earth transformed by transformed people, His “disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19 NKJV), who would usher in the revolutionary kingdom of God. Those words from the Lord’s Prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” were and are a clarion call to Jesus’ followers not just to proclaim the good news but to be the good news, here and now (Matt. 6:10). This gospel—the whole gospel—means much more than the personal salvation of individuals. It means a social revolution.

Remember that Jesus’ mission statement simply reads; “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) This means that the message of God’s love is designed simply, elegantly, and functionally, so that it can be embraced by all people, beginning a revolution that changes the status quo. The thing is though, you may be the only ‘i-gospel’ some people will ever see. So what do they see when they see you? A revolutionary 'product' like the iphone or the ipad that they long to possess, or an old MS DOS word processor that serves no useful purpose in a world of i-products? Hey, I’m just the messenger!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Hole In Our Gospel!

Over the course of my journey in Christ, I’ve constantly been shaped and reshaped. My thinking has continually been challenged and modified and then challenged again. My interpretation of God’s purpose for my life has vacillated back and forth like a yoyo, and at the worst of times, I’ve wondered if He does indeed have a purpose for my life at all!

At different junctures of my life, when it would appear that I’ve just about run out of answers, I’ve often found a book that profoundly influenced my life and reshaped my thinking and my approach to living out the gospel message. Chuck Colson’s How Now Shall We Live was one such book, as was Mark Batterson’s In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day.... Of course, the problem is, once I start naming books that have impacted me at significant moments in my life, it’s difficult to find the appropriate stopping point, and so I’ll just stop at those two books and apologize to the amazing author’s whose books I’ve not mentioned but who have had a profound impact in my life.

This past weekend I was in San Antonio, TX speaking for a dear friend of mine. As I waited in his office before the start of service, I browsed his bookshelf and came upon a book with an intriguing title (If you ever want to get me to read a book, just tell me it has an off-the-wall title and I’m usually sold). It shouted off the bookshelf amongst all the other books as it declared: The Hole in Our Gospel. “I wonder what that’s about,” I thought to myself, and so I picked it up and haven’t put it down since (No I didn’t steal it, my friend let me borrow it).

It’s written by Richard Stearns (President of World Vision since 1998, and former President of Parker Brother’s Games at the tender age of 33). The thing about this book is that it screams at me in words similar to ones that I’ve spoken for quite a while now, and so it was hugely inspiring to find someone else, someone with a lot more ‘street credibility’ than me, echoing the same sentiments. Here’s an excerpt from the book that spoke to me powerfully (and I hadn’t even gotten past the introduction yet);

"You might imagine the author of a book challenging you to respond to the great needs of the poorest people in our world—an author who, in fact, leads a large, global humanitarian organization that feeds the hungry, assists disaster victims, and cares for widows and orphans across the planet—to be some kind of spiritual hero or saint. You might even be inclined to think of me as a “Mother Teresa” in a business suit. But if you have any of those impressions, you are sorely mistaken. Let me clear that up right at the outset. I, too, have had a lifelong battle trying to “walk the talk.” I am certainly no saint or hero, and I never set out to “save the world”—I didn’t have that kind of courage or imagination. I was a most reluctant recruit to this cause—in many ways a coward. But as you read a little more about my story, my hope is that you’ll learn from my mistakes and laugh a little at my failures. That God still chooses to use flawed human beings like me is both astonishing and encouraging. And if He can use me, He can use you."

If you’re even remotely like me in that you so desperately want to fulfill God’s purpose for your life, these words probably speak to you just as powerfully because they remind you that even after all the boneheaded decisions and poor choices you’ve made along the course of your journey, God can and will still use you. These words remind us that our failures and our mistakes are all part of shaping our story, and it’s been said ad naseum that, “He who tells the best story, wins the world.” Your story is integral in helping others shape their destiny, especially the seemingly unsavory and difficult parts, the failures, and the uncertainties. Why? Because they make you just as human as the next person and reassures them that if you can navigate the pitfalls of life successfully, so can they!