Earlier this week, before we learned of the death of Steve Jobs, someone I hadn’t seen for many years saw my laptop and said, “I remember when you used to brag about not using Apple products.”
“Yeah,” I replied, “Then I saw the light.
It’s true, I used to joke about how I was the only person in the emerging church movement who didn’t have a Mac. I used Dells and Gateways, and I had a Verizon flip phone. My standard line was, “A computer is a tool, not a piece of art.” That always got laughs, and sometime even applause from the PC people in the crowd.
But then along came the iPhone. It could do so, so much more than any other phone. And it did it beautifully and easily. It made what I did with it — business — enjoyable.
We Americans are pragmatic. That’s one of the things that has made us an exceptional nation. But sometimes, we sacrifice beauty in the face of efficiency. Italians don’t have that problem. Americans do.
For a while there, the church in America fell into that trap. We built ugly churches for much of the second half of the 20th century. I remember a conversation with Brian McLaren about Cedar Ridge Community Church, which he planted and pastored for two decades. He told me that he regretted that the building that they built to house the church was unexceptional, and unbeautiful — little more than a prefab building. But it sure is efficient.
Steve Jobs didn’t seem to fall into this quintessentially American trap. He knew that beauty didn’t have to be sacrificed for efficiency. He also knew that would cost more than ugly and efficient, but he made no apologies about that.
The church could learn a lesson from Steve Jobs, of blessed memory.