I was not a Mac user growing up. My family had Windows PCs, and we were early adopters thanks to my dad’s geeky interest. As a teen in the early 1990s, I got my AOL email address before many of my friends, we had a blazing fast 28.8k modem, and my dad and I bargained over who got to stay up late playing Dune II. I also worked in churches since I was 19, and churches all had PCs thanks to Microsoft Publisher being the program of choice for bulletins and publications.
My first taste of the Mac world was when I got my first iPod in the early 2000s, when iTunes came out for the PC for music organization, and then I purchased a secondhand iPhone 3G to tinker with in 2010. When the iPhone 4 finally arrived on my cellular network carrier, I’ve bought every other model since. So I became an Apple fanboy from the accessories side.
Farefully, a former Mac reseller was in my new church when I moved from the Bible Belt to the West Coast. When I talked to him about replacing my aging PC laptop, he was emphatic and persuasive about getting a 2012 MacBook Air. He said it would outlast any PC on the market. He was right. I used it for 9 years up until the pandemic when an M1 Pro MacBook Pro finally replaced it. The Air now has a second life as a Zoom machine at my local church’s main conference room.
Fit in or Make room?
Systems administrators used to hate PC and Mac debates because they were not interchangeable: you designed a network for one or the other. The Church often is the same way.
A newcomer bringing a Mac onto a PC network that used MS Outlook was subject to rejection or ridicule, and pastors were no different carrying their colorful iMacs into new churches that were enmeshed in grey PC systems. One church I worked at had an entirely separate network for the creative’s Macs and their printers so the network admins wouldn’t have to figure out how to make PCs and Macs work together. While interoperability has increased significantly on hardware and software levels, there are still differences, even if they just linger in the network admin practices.
The same is true for folks bringing new ideas of how the church could be, or a new mission field idea, into an entrenched system of a local church. There’s already a network of ideas there. You have to fit your idea or mission field opportunity into the network structure. If it is too unlike the current system and can’t be adapted, then it is rejected, frowned upon, or encouraged elsewhere. It’s just too hard to learn a new language, to figure out how the mouse buttons work, and the keyboards are different.
At my church in 2012, starting when the Apple reseller converted the pastor, the PC network was slowly infiltrated by Mac users, such that most new computers were Macs. A sanctuary remodel included an entirely Mac-based system for the first time. Employees and volunteers were retrained to use and appreciate Macs. Churches could learn a lot from evangelism practices by Apple fans!
Likewise, when a church makes room for something new, an explosion of creativity can happen. It takes self-awareness to how the local church system is resistant to change, and the courage and investment to learn new things to make it more open. But it takes intentionality at the decision-making body level to streamline serpentine approval channels and to empower the missional decisions closer to the practitioner level. Like the new Mac operating systems recognizing Windows keyboards and adapting how they receive the signals to be more like a Mac, our systems have to change to accept new ideas.
Each of my churches since my 2012 conversion (LOL) can now swim in both PC and Mac worlds with ease, and being ambidextrous allows for greater capacity to express ideas, promote new ideas, and receive new volunteers who can find a platform that is accessible to them.
One of my blog’s first “series” was “What the Church can Learn from Apple” circa 2008. It was on a Blogger platform, so the photos and fonts didn’t hold up well on WordPress, but the content is still good (notice how the series shifts from “1 of 4” to “3 of 3” at the end, LOL).
- What the Church can Learn from Apple: Branding
- What the Church can Learn from Apple: Simplicity
- What the Church can Learn from Apple: Anticipation
The reality is that there is something critical about being able to Church Different even while enmeshed in a traditional system. To be willing to push a local church system of decision-making to embrace new mission fields is a worthy goal of any pastor, staff, or laity. The challenge is how to make the changes at the rate the congregation can handle, and to deliver on your promises when things do change incrementally.
One quote from the above series that is worth repeating to show the parallels between the two organizations:
- Apple seeks to integrate technology into your lifestyle;
the Church seeks to integrate spirituality into your lifestyle.
- Apple sells products that augment a lifestyle;
the Church offers ways of being that radically change a lifestyle.
- Apple embraces a brand that “thinks different”;
the Church embraces a Christ who “thought different.”
What ways have you seen your local church or ministry transform over the years? Sound off in the comments.
May we Church Different, seek new mission fields, adapt our local church processes to be open to even radically different operating systems, and stay true to the One who calls us to this work.
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