Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Pastoral challenge from the life of Steve Jobs.

In this age when most people are career preachers and pastors instead of being men and women really called by God to serve His Church; highly conscious of their positions in the organizations they work instead of serving the people God has put into their charge, many have driven men away from the Light instead of drawing them closer. Many fight whatever they do not understand and try to bring down whatever seems to intimidate them. If you do something the pastor may not be able to do, you will be seen as a threat instead of a complement. If you ask a difficult question, you will be branded and brought low and nobody will care to address your concerns. If you behave differently (Not sinful anyway) or raise biblical issues that are not ‘comfortable’ to the denomination or issues they consider ‘no go areas’, you will be seen as a non-conformist and a trouble maker. All these put together have affected our attitudes in leadership and the way we treat people. They have equally hindered us from training the men that God brings around us. We see the power plays within the pulpits, between the pulpits and the pews and within the pews and ask ourselves, “what would the Lord Jesus do if He were to be around today in the Church?”

My heart was broken when I read a write up on the life of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, by Gordon MacDonald, the editor at large of Leadership Journal and chancellor of Denver Seminary, The Soul of Steve Jobs. Gordon just finished reading Steve’s biography written by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs. I admired Steve Jobs and his accomplishments and have listened to one or two of his motivational messages but that is not the focus of my discourse here. What really moved me to write this piece is the comparison Gordon made on the three major influences Steve had early growing up as a young boy:

“"(My father) loved doing things right," Jobs reflected. "He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn't see." Decades later this principle learned in boyhood would shape the development of Apple devices. Jobs always insisted that the inner parts of anything bearing the Apple name be as perfectly designed and built as the outer parts, even though a customer would never see them…

When Jobs began school, his parents and teachers soon discovered that he was a "problem child." It showed in his rebelliousness, in his boredom with the curriculum, in his unwillingness to fit into ordinary classroom regimens. He resisted learning in the traditional cookie-cutter ways.
It's startling to realize that Steve Jobs might have ended up a social discard—a delinquent—had it not been for an observant teacher who suspected that she had an exceptional child in her classroom. Under her guidance Jobs quickly accelerated in his learning experiences. "I just wanted to learn and to please her," Jobs said, looking back on her efforts.
Unfortunately the same did not happen in his church experience. When Jobs was 13, he asked his pastor a simple (yet not so simple) question.

Isaacson writes: "In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church's pastor, 'If I raise my finger, will God know which one I'm going to raise even before I do it?'

"The pastor answers, 'Yes, God knows everything.'

"Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, 'Well, does God know about this and what's going to happen to those children?'

"'Steve, I know you don't understand, but yes, God knows about that.'"

The pastor's answer badly underestimated the young teen's intellect and left him unsatisfied. According to Isaacson, Jobs walked away from the church that day and never returned.”

Gordon MacDonald now made a prayer which I will encourage every reader, who is a leader to pray:

"Lord, make me aware of the implications of any (any!) word I say to people during the course of the day. Who can know when a spoken word directs someone toward the right path … or the wrong one?"

As I read this, I wondered how many young people we must have not listened to, how many yearning hearts we may have carelessly by-passed without noticing what God was doing in their lives, how many souls we have not paid attention to in their struggles. Externally, we only saw a ‘rebellious person’ who refused to agree with us, but we couldn’t see the needy person inside. We saw a church member ‘fighting’ us but couldn’t see the struggling man inside. We saw a man that must be condemned but couldn’t see the man inside that is crying for freedom. The list can go on and on. Today, there are some things I taught years ago that I wish time will rewind so that I give better explanations. Imagine what would have happened if Steve’s pastor in 1968 saw in him a needy inquisitive young boy that needed discipleship and took time to address his questions and not just telling him ‘'Steve, I know you don't understand…”.

The hard working and detailed father did his lot on Steve Jobs. His observant teacher in school did her part. It was the pastor that failed in his own contribution to his life. Maybe as he left church, the pastor felt a relief that the issue of the ‘problem child’ has finally been solved and no one bothered to look for him. My pain is not that it happened in 1968 and Steve Jobs walked away from the church that day and never returned. My pain is that such and related stories seem to be repeating themselves in our churches today.

May God help us to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and to raise men for Him setting aside all these distractions driven by fear and competitions.

Please make sure you pray that prayer in your own words. The next time a church member or a participant in your Bible Class asks a question, concentrate and listen, no matter how ‘silly’. You may never know when someone is on a brink of a defining moment, an important turn in his life. Your answer may be what will determine the direction of the turn – right or wrong.

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