Here goes. I know I am going to make some enemies, but I can’t stop myself. I am about to incite a powerful army of zealots. Many will shake their heads in disbelief at my ignorance and naiveté and look at me with pity. Some will choose to shun me from this day forward. A few will become defensive and attack me. I know all this, but I can’t stop myself.
A couple of months ago the President of the organization for which my wife, Gwyn, raises money decided that everyone on staff would switch to Macs. Soon a stylish box containing a sleek, white computer arrived at our home. Just holding it made you feel smart, sophisticated and superior.
Don’t worry, there is a bit of a learning curve but even you Neanderthals who have been using PCs can learn to do things “the Apple way.” Oh, yes, and don’t worry about your data. Apple has a smart little app that migrates everything from Microsoft to the far superior Apple OS and programs. That is unless you are so backward as to have Microsoft’s Vista operating system; in that case we cannot transfer your data, unless… that is, unless you pay an additional $200 for the “Windows for Apple” program.
Four weeks and countless trips to the Apple store later, I have formed some opinions about the wonderful world of Apple. My observations and opinions about Apple got me to thinking about how the uninitiated and unconvinced might sometimes view us as Christians.
The Apple World is not a Perfect World
The voice on the line at tech support said, “Apple computers don’t lock up.” But after a series of instructions failed to make anything happen, the voice admitted, “Your Mac has frozen up.” It took 30 minutes and countless steps to get Gwyn’s computer out of the endless loop it was in.
That was the first of many events that led me to the conclusion, that no matter how much Apple and its devotees want you to believe, the Apple world is NOT a perfect world. I now smile a skeptical little smile whenever a Mac user tells me, “I’ve never had a problem since I switched from a PC to my Mac.”
This experience got me to thinking, Christians and churches are not perfect either. But sometimes we think, talk and act like we are. I now have a better understanding of how the unchurched and de-churched think and feel when we live in our little world of Christian fantasy. I now better understand how counter-productive to the Gospel that is.
I am convinced anew that we will be more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission when we chose to be real, open, honest, and human. Perfection is not attractive to those who know they are not.
Smugness is not a Winsome Trait
I trust it’s not merely defensiveness on my part, but I found the effervescent staff at the white castle of Apple more than a little smug. The initial conversation went like this. “We’re here to compare the Airbook with a Mac. Do you currently own a Mac?” We replied, “No, we use PCs.” That’s when my smugness meter registered an 8.2 on the Richter scale. They might as well have said, “Oh, that’s too bad. We’ll slow down and not use big words so you can better understand.” But the more they talked, the faster they spoke and the more Apple jargon they used.
Suddenly, I realized I am no longer listening. I can’t understand him and he’s so excited to be telling me this he doesn’t have a clue that he has lost me and I am no longer hearing a word he is saying. Had he taken the time to ask a few questions, he might have been saying something we actually wanted and needed to hear. I found myself wondering, “Is this how we Christians come across to unbelieving people?”
I know over the years I have been way too quick to talk and way too slow to listen. Given the opportunity, I have been way too quick to tell and way too slow to ask. And the jargon! We are so used to “talking Christian” that we have no idea when we lapse into using church lingo instead of common everyday English. Do you think anyone other than church folk understand what we mean when we say, “Let’s lift our sister up in prayer this morning,” or “Are you walking with Jesus today?” or “I was so moved by the Spirit,” or “I am so glad to be part of this fellowship of believers?”
Let’s care enough about others to ask first, listen more, talk less and live more humbly. The more we live like that, the more winsome we will be.
Apple Devotees Only Know the Apple World
The “help” at the Apple Store said a number of unhelpful things to us. “I don’t know anything about Outlook.” The unspoken, but very clear subtext to that statement was, “…and I am not about to learn.” Another monumentally unhelpful statement was, “I don’t know anything about Google Apps.” The unspoken subtext to that remark was “why would I when I get to live in the iCLoud?”
If you are going to help us emigrate to the wonderful world of Apple, you will be more effective in helping us if you actually knew something about the land in which we have been living. One “helper” actually said, “I have been using Apple computers for so long I can’t remember what Microsoft is like.”
Wow, how many of us have been Christians so long we can’t even remember what it was like to “live in the world” (speaking of Christian lingo)? “I started using an Apple as a kid…” “I became a believer when I was a kid…”
How easy for us to become so enmeshed in the life of the church that we no longer even really know an unbeliever. We have unchurched, unbelieving acquaintances, but we don’t really know them. Maybe a key to being more effective at evangelism is to become reacquainted with some unbelieving people and the world in which they live.
There are No Geniuses at the “Genius Bar”
Gwyn and I went in for a “training session” on email. After about twenty minutes, the trainer admitted he could not train us because our email was not working properly. We told him that when we came in, but it took him twenty minutes to find out for himself. “We need to take this over to the ‘Genius Bar,’” he said.
There’s a long story, believe me, but I’ll share only the short one. After more trips to the “Genius Bar” than we can remember, we have concluded there are no geniuses at the “Genius Bar!”
I suspect that many, after encountering a few overt Christians and visiting a couple of churches, have concluded there are no geniuses in the church either. I wouldn’t feel so negative about the “geniuses” at Apple’s “Genius Bar” had they not pretended to know it all. The only productive times at the “Genius Bar” came when the genius admitted, “I don’t know,” and began to ask us questions and ask questions of others more experienced than they.
This caused me to reflect on Christians and the church once again. What would happen if we stopped thinking and acting like we have all the answers and that we are better than the common folk because we “know” the Bible and we “know” Jesus? What would happen if we became fellow-travelers with others on their spiritual journeys rather than salespeople with Jesus as our “product?” What would happen if we once again became nothing more than one poor, hungry beggar helping another find spiritual food?