Eddie and Sue Arthur

Lessons for the Church from Steve Jobs: Distraction

JR Woodward has just started writing a series of posts about Steve Jobs and mission, which I’m sure will make great reading. His opening post in the series includes this rather interesting statement:

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.”

I’m sure that he has hit the nail on the head as far as the readership of his blog is concerned. However, most people in the world will never, ever have done any of the things that are mentioned here, nor will they. As I said in an earlier post:

The majority of the world’s population are far too busy making a living and putting food on the table to afford the high-end consumer goods that Apple produces. Those who can afford mobile phones or computers will generally go for cheaper, less-fashionable brands. Viewed from the perspective of the whole world, Apple design and produce wonderful, expensive toys for rich people.

Steve Jobs made significant changes to the lives of some people in the rich parts of the world, but most human beings just got on with their lives in the same way as they always did. So much of what counts for important, novel or ground breaking in our part of the world is actually irrelevant to most people with whom we share the planet.

Sadly, the same is true of much of what passes for Church activity in the rich West. Our theological arguments, our exciting new forms of ministry and our big conferences and get-togethers create a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, but what impact do they have on the wider world?

The majority of the world’s population will never own an iPhone and the majority of the world’s Christians live in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The problem is, we let our enthusiasm for our shiny new gadgets (be they iPads or multi-media ministries) distract us from the amazing things that are happening in the big wide world and we end up believing that the world revolves around our technology.

Steve Jobs and Apple have done an amazing job of manufacturing and selling equipment and making us believe that they are much more important than they really are. In the same way, I fear that much Christian activity in the West makes us feel that we are at the centre of things, when increasingly we live at the margin.


This post is more than a year old. It is quite possible that any links to other websites, pictures or media content will no longer be valid. Things change on the web and it is impossible for us to keep up to date with everything.

2 Comments on “Lessons for the Church from Steve Jobs: Distraction

  1. Eddie,

    Hey my friend. I appreciate your article here. When it comes to products that we buy, they certainly can be a distraction from mission, but they can also be a help to mission. Sounds like you use an Android phone and enjoy it. It is likely it would not be what it is, had not Apple created the iphone. As a co-founder of a foundation doing work in the Turkana region of Kenya, a very remote place, where even Kenyan’s hardly travel to, I can tell you that many of them have seen an animated movie (through small business we help to fund), and a couple have ipods. But that of course isn’t the main point.

    Jobs has accomplished some fascinating feats with his life, that have shaped our world in many ways, and like anyone else, we have much to learn from him. But make no mistake, as I quoted on the outset of my article, “he as not a model boss or human being, tidily packaged for emulation.”

    That being said, God has placed me at this moment in time in the West, to seek to reach people here, as well as help them be more in touch with what is happening in the global south. I’m seeking to urge them to be on mission, using current events, like the release of the best selling book on the life of Steve Jobs. If Jesus says we can use money to further the kingdom, certainly we can use the life of Steve Jobs, one made in his image to further the kingdom as well.

    Much grace in your work with Wycliffe. That must be very rewarding. I look forward to your series and appreciate the interaction. Peace to you.

  2. Thanks for stopping by JR. I don’t think I disagree with any of what you are saying here. Though my phone is Android, I’m not anti-Apple (the iPad in the picture is mine). I certainly in agreement with you that we need to get insights from all sorts of people, not least Steve Jobs, for our mission. That’s why I linked to your posts, I’m looking forward to what you have to say.

    I’ve been trying to take a rather more quirky angle things, partly in reaction to some stuff I’ve seen on Facebook (see the first of my pieces on this theme).

    This is probably the end of my stuff on Steve, unless further inspriation strikes!

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