The end of the beginning; Steve Jobs

“The study of man unmediated by religion marked the end of the middle ages and saw the beginning of the modern world.” (Rebecca Fraser in The History of Britain) It is easy for historians to look back and see the end of one way of thinking and the beginning of another. It doesn’t happen at one date, with one mind-shattering event. But, in hindsight one can see the beginning of the end of the old thinking, and the end of the beginning of the new way. Or as the sports vernacular has it,”a shift in momentum from one team to another.”

You can easily see that ‘shift in momentum’ in Steve Jobs accomplishments. Due to his creativitiy, computing became truly personal, mobile and a part of life rather than a calculating adjunct. Historians will surely look back and see his accomplishments as opening up a new paradigm, as Thomas Kuhn called it,  in not only technology but human life. We are at the beginning of an expanded way of living daily possibilities that will change our most fundamental concepts.  Stay tuned.

What does this have to do with the transformation of local churches? I think you can guess. If our way of living daily is changing radically, surely this signals the end of one way of thinking about church and the beginning of another. Whether the momentum is with the new way yet will be left to historians in the future, but there is no doubt in my mind that the old way of thinking about local church doesn’t work anymore. There are too many questions and too few answers. This is a sure sign of an impending paradigm shift according to Kuhn.

It is too easy for Christians to answer all this by saying that there are eternal verities that do not change, and we must seek them. True, but our seeking is strongly shaped by our mental models, which are strongly shaped by the world in which we live. Ths is sociology 101. If churches are to change, surely they must find ways to relate to the hyper-expanding communities of the new techno-social world many people now live in. That goes way beyond ministries to young people, who are at the leading edge of this change. Shouldn’t we be looking at the ideas and boundaries that hem in our local church community, and keep it from influencing people as widely as Facebook and Twitter? Can we become as revolutionary as Steve Jobs in our view of our “customers” and our ability to bring them new “products and experiences” that will change their lives?

Are there any people in your local church even talking about these things?

2 Replies to “The end of the beginning; Steve Jobs”

  1. I think it’s a very good question. We need to be asking the question, what does it mean to be a Christian in the 21st century? If we were truly living out the call of Jesus, it would have to be in ways much more radical than current church structures are able to accommodate and, frankly, it would endanger the very structures themselves. Maybe that’s why people don’t talk about it so much.

    1. It means being in touch with the reality of our lives, not pretending that for 1 day a week, for a few hours we are living a special life then the rest of the time not. Steve Jobs seemed to be a very honest man, his own man, “what you see is what you get.” Cant we be a very special Christian man or woman, apologizing to no one, not being defensive, at home with everyone regardless of their belief, engaged in “transforming the world” around us — and be part of a Christian community that encourages us in this? Why would the structure of the church have to change? Couldn’t people do that within the structure? Speaking for myself, I think I invent the structure and other restrictions of local churches as ways to avoid being a transformational change agent, right where I’m at.

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