Here is the On a Journey meditation I wrote after learning about the death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer, at the age of 56.
Jesus said, “Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22.10)
I met Steve Jobs, as millions met him, through a device that changed my life.
I was using paper, pencil, typewriter and land-line telephone to lead a fearful congregation. A friend thought I should learn computing, so he loaned me his Apple Macintosh. I found the Mac cutesy and cloying. But computing itself was transformative. I never looked back.
I bought my first personal computer in 1985 and began to track attendance at my new church in St. Louis. I discovered the ushers were routinely submitting a count at least 20% smaller than actual. They were furious when data revealed their effort to deny any proof of growth.
I bought more computers, each one more transformative of my work. I avoided Apple, because its products seemed designed for hobbyists and graphic specialists.
Then Apple brought founder Steve Jobs back as CEO to rescue a failing firm. He understood that computers could be more than useful boxes. They could be magic, they could inspire people to creativity, they could change lives.
My first Apple purchase was an iPhone. I was amazed at its magical aura. Soon I bought an iPad. Computing took on a whole new dimension. My next computer will be a MacBook.
I never met Steve Jobs, of course. But in my reading I saw that he was imagining a magical future. I became fascinated with what Apple would produce next.
On Tuesday, the magic slipped a bit, when Apple’s new management unveiled a non-magical new iPhone, which had great technology but no sizzle. The next day Steve Jobs died.
Jobs brought computing to the masses, as Jesus brought faith to the masses, by taking the masses seriously.
Jesus portrayed God, not as the prickly custodian of closed-off holy places, but the host whose wedding banquet was wildly open and inclusive. Jobs did it not by cheapening, but by seeing his customers as capable, inventive, his partners in transformation.
In my ministry, I have faced constant pressure to back off, to keep the enterprise small, to “leave well enough alone,” to avoid “change for the sake of change,” and to resist humankind’s restless need to “reinvent the wheel.”
Now the church I love is dying, dragged down by its resistance to change and its self-serving. Most longtime players in technology are dying, too, and for the same reasons. Only Apple has kept growing, and it did so by putting a visionary at its helm, not a bean-counter or technician.
Coming one day after a disappointing launch of nothing special, Jobs death was doubly sad. The dreamer of magical things was gone, leaving cautious technicians in his place.