Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

What Church Planters Can Learn from Steve Jobs – Part I

iKnow, iKnow, Steve Jobs was no saint. As his biographer Walter Issaacson has written, “He was not a model boss or human being, tidily packaged for emulation. Driven by demons, he could drive those around him to fury and despair.” But we can learn from every human being who has walked the planet, and we can learn much from Steve Jobs.  Not just from his success, but his failures.

As I am on Sabbatical and taking the time to reflect on my life, I’ve found that it is a good time to read some biographies.  I’m reading a book on Henri Nouwen’s life as well as some books on the life of Lesslie Newbigin (a personal hero).  In addition to these biographies, I just downloaded an iBook on Steve Job’s authorized biography by Walter Isaacson last night at 9 p.m. PST(12 midnight EST) on my iPad, for I find his life fascinating. Steve Jobs, the book, drops today, Monday, October 24th, ahead of schedule, in light of his recent death.  It’s the best selling book on amazon at this time and as been 44 days on the top 100 list before it has even been available.

Steve Jobs has undoubtedly touched all of our lives in some way, whether you have downloaded a song on iTunes, watched an animated movie produced by Pixar – like Toy Story, bought an iPhone, used an iPad, or (as I am doing),  typed up a blog entry on your Macbook Pro.  (Okay, I probably have way too many Apple devices.)  As the former managing editor of Time Magazine and chairman of CNN, Isaacson has said, Steve Jobs “revolutionized personal computers, animated movies, music, phones tablet computing, and digital publishing. You might even add a seventh, retail stores, which Jobs did not quite revolutionize but did reimagine.”

This biography by Isaacson was “based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years – as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues.”  Jobs picked Isaacson to write his biography, because of his award winning biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein.  Jobs didn’t want to hide anything from Isaacson and gave him permission to pull out all of the skeleton’s in his closet.  Jobs  gave Isaacson complete control over what he wrote, and even gave up the right to read it in advance.

So what can church planters learn from Steve Jobs? There are many things, but in this series, I will just share five things that come to my mind, which have the potential to shape us significantly. Today I will share the first.

1. We can learn how to reimagine what it means to be the church on mission.
Isaacson says that Steve Jobs “stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness, imagination, and sustained innovation.” He and his colleagues at Apple were able to “think differently”. Hirsch and Frost near the end of their book, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church, write of the importance of imagination in the leadership task. As I have traveled around the country connecting with church planters, I see some signs of people reimagining the church, which is encouraging. But I also see a lot of people settling for pre-packaged ways of “doing” church. We need to learn to rely more on the creativity of the Holy Spirit, so that we might hear God’s unique calling for how He wants us to be the church in our neighborhood. While Jobs was not a Christ follower, he learned the importance of his intuition, and relied on it often. It gave him a creative edge. As people who are indwelt by the Spirit of God, we ought to be some of the most creative people on earth. If we want to grow in our creativity, one of the ways we can to this is by culitvating a way of life where we learn to listen to the Spirit as we plant churches. I engage in an adapted Ignatius practice to help me with this. I use a simple format.

Stop: Quieting myself, asking for the Spirit’s guidance (being in a meditative environment is helpful).
Look: Take a look at my life, the life of the church over the last day or week, to see what God is doing in and around us, in order to find the fingerprint of God.
Listen: Listen to what the Spirit is wanting to say to me, discerning what movement or response comes to my heart.

Hirsch and Frost encourage us to do many things, including: learning from mistakes, trying a different approach, getting out of our box, combining different ideas, digging deeper, try a lot of stuff and keep what works, adopt a genius, and brainstorm.

Tim Keel in his book Intuitive Leadership also gives us much help in this area by describing different postures we ought to have as leaders.  I reviewed his book a while back, and here are some links to his helpful thoughts.

Part 1A Posture of Learning: From Answers to Questions, A Posture of Vulnerability: From the Head to the Heart
Part 2A Posture of Availability: From Spoken Words to Living Words, A Posture of Stillness: From Preparation to Meditation
Part 3A Posture of Surrender: From Control to Chaos, A Posture of Cultivation: From Programmer to Environmentalist
Part 4A Posture of Trust: From Defensiveness to Creativity, A Posture of Joy: From Work to Play
Part 5A Posture of Dependence: From Resolution to Tension – and Back Again

God has gifted you and your team in a unique way and put you in a specific neighborhood so that you would bless that neighborhood in a way which no one else does. We are all familiar with the original sin. Too often we commit the unoriginal sin, by failing to connecting meaningfully to the Holy Spirit and follow his lead. He was at the creation of the world and he is here for the creation of a new world. May we open our ears to hear what the Spirit has to say to us so that we might heed his unique calling for us and incarnate the good news in our neighborhood with spirit-saturated imaginations.  Check out the second thing church planters can learn from Steve Jobs.

3 Responses to What Church Planters Can Learn from Steve Jobs – Part I

  1. Pingback: Lessons for the Church from Steve Jobs: Distraction

  2. Jonathan King says:

    Some of Jobs’ parting words, spoken just weeks before his death to his Apple successors and torch bearers, have stuck with me: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” Applying that to my own life and context, as a follower of Christ, I want to stay hungry for the Spirit and his Word and to stay foolish in the eyes of the world that Christ and his kingdom may shine brightly and provocatively!

  3. JR Woodward says:

    Jonathan. Good to hear from you. Yeah, I was going to share those words in an upcoming post. He shared them at a Stanford commencement as well. They came from a magazine back in the day.

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