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Steve Jobs and your church

August 30, 2011

Last week Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple and handed the reigns over to his former COO. That day, the stock dropped by 5%. The talk around the digital world is whether Apple can keep up their winning streak without their visionary leader manning the day-to-day world of the company. Here’s why I think they’ll not only weather the storm, but continue on:

Here are Apple’s core values:

  • We believe that we’re on the face of the Earth to make great products.
  • We believe in the simple, not the complex.
  • We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.
  • We participate only in markets where we can make a significant contribution.
  • We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.
  • We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.
  • We don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change.
What Apple has done is created a CULTURE of innovation, design and collaboration. There is no doubt that Jobs is a genius and is responsible for Apple’s meteoric rise. However, what he has done more than anything else (and probably won’t get credit for until now) is created a culture that can consistently produce products and services that have enchanted people the world over. It’s Jobs DNA, through and through, in the life of that culture.
It makes me wonder if we, we leaders in our church communities, are seeking to do the same kind of thing. Are we seeking to create a culture where everyone is a producer, where the culture of the community will far outlast us? Where the DNA of discipleship and mission has a kind of half-life that is born into the heart and soul of our people and our communities so that it takes on a life of its’ own.
Are we seeking to create that kind of culture?
12 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Ede permalink
    August 30, 2011 1:53 pm

    Hi Mike, thanks for these thoughts, which focus on what the church can learn from Apple, and which are helpful. I guess I believe that good contextualisation not only seeks to affirm from culture what is good for the church, but also seeks to critique culture from the revelation of scripture and our inherited traditions. Otherwise the danger is that the church simply syncretises its practice to the prevailing culture of its day.

    You have posted elsewhere strong critiques of Western culture in general (commercialism, competition and celebrity) drawn from a theological reading of that culture, and yet on the level of leadership and organisational theory there is a tendency (from what I have read so far) to want to accept unconditionally theory promulgated by the very same culture that you have so strongly critiqued. Sometimes this feels a little schizophrenic…you encourage the church to resist and redeem commercialism, competition and celebrity, but then encourage us to use methods and theories derived from that very culture to lead that resistance. Personally, I would have thought that we would need to construct our methods of organisation and leadership from a very different foundation than the corporate world if we are to be successful at resisting the very culture that the corporate world affirms. Or am I wrong in that assumption?

    Would you therefore be so kind as to post your thoughts about what the church might have to say in critique of Apple on the level of leadership and organisational theory, realising that Apple itself is embedded in and generative of the western culture of commercialism, competition and celebrity that it reinforces and promulgates? What in your opinion (on the level of organisational theory and leadership) should we NOT take on board of the culture of Apple in light of Christian theology: ecclesiology, missiology and ethics?

    • August 30, 2011 5:31 pm

      Paul, I probably won’t have time to go into that kind of detail at this point, but I like what you’re saying about critiquing and accepting. I think the main thing I drew from the Apple analogy was this: Apple has established a CULTURE that will outlast their leader. What I want for the church is for them to build a discipling culture that outlasts any of their leaders and goes beyond the purview of “the church.” In other words, it becomes movemental. I’m not saying we become consumeristic, I’m suggesting we see how someone has successfully created a culture…hence the book I’ve written “Building a Discipling Culture.” hope that’s helpful!

      • Paul permalink
        August 30, 2011 10:59 pm

        Thanks Mike, I’ll get hold of a copy of the book 😉

  2. August 30, 2011 3:49 pm

    Good article!
    Here’s two somewhat related articles.

    The 6 Things that DIVIDE Christians

    The 6 Things that UNITE Christians

  3. TEDDY permalink
    August 30, 2011 4:35 pm

    I doubt if the church is willing to do that. When was the last time we heard a modern day preacher step down from his pulpit for other colleagues of his to take over?
    If they do, they hand over to their wives or sons.The empire continues.

  4. Gordon Wynne permalink
    August 30, 2011 7:06 pm

    Interesting Blog. There is a lot to learn from Steve Jobs and Apple, but we’ll have to see whether it will actually continue.

    The other key things about Apple is that they have cultivated an image, attracting customers who want to be seen as cool and a bit different. Macs are fantastic in certain spheres and are market leaders for particular tasks. However there are other times when people buy one just because it is Apple, and could have got something else far cheaper that would have done the job required. Is that a lesson for the church too?

  5. August 30, 2011 8:17 pm

    Spot on assessment of Jobs.

  6. August 30, 2011 8:33 pm

    A big move forward for me was recognizing that you did not just need leaders who could take over after the original leadership left, but you also needed new leaders who could train replacements for themselves. I think we often miss that, but when discipleship is wired into the culture of a place, the new leaders are much more likely to prepare leaders who can follow them.

    The ironic thing is that church leaders who refuse to allow others to step in and lead typically do so because they think they are great leaders. But if the leader cannot create a culture of new leaders who will one day replace him, he has failed as a leader.

  7. August 31, 2011 3:47 pm

    Is there a chance you are underestimating the power of a charismatic leader?

    History seems to suggest that a great leader may start a movement, but to stay faithful to the culture that is created after that leader has passed/moved on over time the movement becomes a monument. For all the good they have done, look at the Franciscans as an example. And Romero’s book ‘The Charism of the Founder’.

    Of course, a great leader like Steve Jobs, say, would want to empower their own movement to believe they can outlast him in the long term, but it will take someone equally charismatic and leadery to move it passed remembering the culture Jobs had created.

  8. September 6, 2011 1:50 am

    Excellent analysis and analogy, Mike. I enjoyed hearing you speak last week at Grace, in Snellville. You were spot on and God spoke through you and talked to me. I was impressed by you and 3DM and if there’s ever anything I can do for you, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Peace.

  9. October 6, 2011 1:05 am

    Thanks for posting these values!


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