By Patrick Scriven | Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministries
[dropcap type=”1″]Y[/dropcap]esterday, Apple announced their new iPhones and the long-rumored Apple Watch. Regardless of how you feel about either announcement, or the company in general, it is impossible to deny their continued effectiveness in dominating a news cycle. After all, tech companies release new products all the time, but very rarely does the world stop and take note as they do for Apple, Inc.
Despite the strong product offerings, I was moved most by the 2 minute video clip they started the day with entailed ‘Perspective.’ I’ve transcribed the text below. It was an excellent, secular example of an effective opening liturgy.
Why did I describe it as effective? It prepared the gathered people for what they were about to experience, actively told a story that compelled them to find some space within it, and communicated the public values of the company – while also serving to minimize less attractive values. For example, the words “profit” and “dividend” were nowhere to be found.
Finally, it was effective because it forced me to think: if they can do this for a watch, why do we struggle to share the Gospel as convincingly?
And then I remembered.
Apple Inc. is a company that values innovation. To be fair, it isn’t because they are better than us; they developed this trait because they had to. Before Steve Jobs’ triumphant return they were a company on the ropes. They innovated early, developed a strong sense of who they were, and became complacent. Sound familiar? When I first encountered the company, their narrative was one of the little guy who had the best idea in the world only to have the big, evil corporation (Microsoft) steal it from them.
When Jobs returned, Apple began to innovate again. He brought back with him values that had been refined during his years of exodus away from the company; simplicity, perfection, and an obsessive focus on the liminal space between the user and the device. Some of these values had been present in Jobs’ early work with the company but now they were more refined and clearly took more precedence.
But this post isn’t really about Apple. It is about us.
Innovation has been a buzzword in some Christian circles for a while now. And to be fair, I’ve seen some churches take some big risks and stretch in ways that express a real commitment to change. Sadly, it is also true that many churches refuse to change a single thing as if Jesus himself blessed the use of church pews and the particular hymnal they’ve grown accustomed to.
But I worry that too much of our innovation, when it is even happening at all, is taking place at the wrong level.
At the end of the day, does it really matter how we worship? The time of day? The instruments at play? Are these the types of things that really scream innovation or are they simply iterative change grown pronounced in its importance because of our refusal to address what is truly needed?
[quote_box_right]Simply put, as our collective understanding of our world and universe have grown, the God we preach hasn’t kept pace. [/quote_box_right]What I’m struck with most in watching Apple’s slick, PR piece is how unwieldily and clumsy our messaging, and subsequently at its core, our theology, is in comparison. Despite a rich history of Christian theological innovation, at some point we decided to stop and adopt a nostalgic reverence as our idol in place of a living God who is continually engaged with the world.
Simply put, as our collective understanding of our world and universe have grown, the God we preach hasn’t kept pace.
Of course, we aren’t all like this, (last year, Rob Bell published a great accessible exception) but those with the loudest voices continue to demand that the iPod with the original click wheel is the only real iPod, so to speak. And, shamefully, too many of the rest of us continue to pretend that that is today, and not was, an equally valid way to shuffle through the proverbial music collections that make up our lives.
If we want to bring about the church the world needs today, we need to live in the present with an eye ever toward the future. This is the world God loves filled with a people who need love, meaning, and redemption as much as any generation that preceded them.
Demanding that people accept the millstone of yesteryear’s innovations, as the end of today’s conversation, may be the least faithful thing we can do in a world that is changing so rapidly.
Would it hurt us to think different?
At the end of the day, we might find some inspiration in the perspective Apple offers.
May we be known, once again, as a people whose relentless optimism moves the world forward.
Apple – Perspective (Link)
Here’s to those who have always seen things differently.
The ones who follow a vision, not a path.
Where others perceive first, first, first as valuable, you value the first thing that actually matters.
While others are distracted by the new, you focus on the significance of a whole new take.
Even before you could see how, you never doubted we would change things.
And then we did together. Again, and again, and again.
Relentless optimism is what moves the world forward.
So keep seeing things differently.
Keep trusting there is always another way. A better way.
One that lifts up humanity. Breaks down our barriers and heals the landscape.
You are the difference between the world as it was and the better place it will become.
And different is the one thing about us that will always be the same.