3 lessons we can learn from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is a fascinating character – he’s seen as one of the most influential people of the last three decades. He’s changed the way that computing and technology intersects with the liberal arts street as he so often used to put it.

I love to read good biographies and I am fascinated by people’s stories. Not even necessarily famous people or key world leaders, I just love the story of someone’s life. Walter Isaacson does a fantastic job of truly getting underneath the surface of Steve Jobs – sharing the story, the values, the highs and the lows.

A few things jumped out at me:

FOCUS

Steve Jobs consistently developed news ideas, but it seems that very few of the ideas that and the brilliant Jony Ive (his main designer) came up with made it to even board level, let alone a product for consumers.

Too often I think in the church we try to use every idea for fear of missing an opportunity – we sometimes need to be pickier about the quality of those ideas. Equally, don’t be afraid of the radical ideas – the iPhone, the iPad, Pixar and Apple Stores were all ideas that were revolutionary in their own way – pushing the edge of our normal understanding.

TEAMS WORKING TOGETHER

Jobs didn’t organize Apple into separate divisions like, for example, Sony or Philips, instead he pushed his teams to work together under the one profit and loss line. My experience of working in the church is that we’re very quick to adopt a business model of silos: children’s and youth, worship, pastoral care, teaching, work with older people all have separate teams.

Instead, we need to be clear that whilst there are experts working in their own field that people must contribute to the one profit and loss for the company – we must contribute and work together for the vision and goals of the organization. Jobs uses to use phrases such as “deep collaboration” and “concurrent engineering” to describe the process. I’m deeply passionate that we need to see more of this in the 21st century church.

HAVE CONFIDENCE IN WHAT YOU’RE DEVELOPING

In today’s consumeristic world there’s a lot of focus on giving the customers what they want. Jobs challenged that. He took a quote from Henry Ford: “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’”. Jobs believed that people don’t know what they want until you show it to them and that’s why he didn’t place a large emphasis on market research.

Too often in youth ministry we’re tempted to swing from one iniative to the next trying to find the magic formula to get lots of young people to come to Christ and then grow in discipleship. Instead, Jobs believes that our task is to read things that are not yet on the page and that’s what youth ministry needs to be for the church – the prophetic voice that shows what the church should look like.

Leaders in business and politics have lots of to teach us, and we shouldn’t be afraid to learn from these leaders, but we also need to be clear that church isn’t an organization that can be run in the way a business or government can. Church has very different priorities, especially around values, in comparison with those organisations.

If you haven’t read Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson then do get a copy – it’s a fascinating insight into the change in technology and the arts that’s happened in the last 30 years.

Books I have read: Branding (Design Directories)

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Branding Directories

I am fascinated with how stories and companies are marketed, so I was interested to borrow Branding (Design Directories) by Helen Vaid from my local library.

Helen Vaid at the time of writing was Sales and Marketing Director at Tornado Productions Ltd., having been involved in branding for Vodafone, 3M, British Telecom, American Express and many other leading global organisations.

The first half of the book looked at how brands are created, and how the process of development works – for example the differences between branding a specific product and branding a service business.  Vaid then goes onto look in more detail at the main styles of branding through broadcast media, billboards, newspapers and magazines, sales promotions and the internet.

The second half of the book looks at a number of case studies.  Some of these are examined from a historical aspect – looking at how a particular brand has developed over time – for example, the development of the Shell, Apple, Coca Cola and others.  Others she looks at how particular areas are branded, e.g. news, fast food, coffee shops, and more.  These are helpful to see the changes, especially in the 1990s and early 2000s.

This is a helpful book, where the main disadvantage is that the book is quite dated, having been written in 2003 so misses out a decade’s worth of brand development, especially through the use of social media and viral adverts.

Books I have read: How to save an hour every day

How to save an hour every day

I recently borrowed How to save an hour every day by Michael Heppell from my local library.

In a nutshell his book presents a variety of different ideas to help you be more effective and save time, with the aim that eventually you can save an hour each day, every day.  Heppell is so convinced that he boasts on the back of the book:

“I’m so certain this book will help you save an hour every day, I guarantee it.  If you’ve read the book, put the ideas into action and yet somehow haven’t saved that vital hour, I’ll personally give you your money back.”

The book has a range of smaller ideas that might buy you 5-15 minutes each day, up to bigger ideas or models which affect more than just one task. It must be said however, that as I flicked through the different ideas, none of them were especially original or revolutionary, but they do work, and that’s the important thing.

If you’re struggling with time management or procrastinating then this is a good book to flick through to change up the way you organise your life.

Books I have read: Who do you think you are

Who do you think you are

Mark Driscoll is known as a controversial author and preacher, but I hadn’t ever read anything by him and so wanted to read him for myself.  He is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, among the fastest growing churches in the country, the creator of Resurgence (a Christian leadership website), and cofounder of the Acts 29 Network.

Who Do You Think You Are? focuses on the area of self-identity, something that is one of the biggest struggles in the UK.  The book attempts to answer how a Christian’s identity comes from a different perspective, and how that can influence the way we live.  To do this Driscoll uses the book of Ephesians.

The book is straightforward if a little boring – it certainly didn’t capture me and leave me wanting to read more.

Mark Driscoll Posts an Open Letter of Apology

Mark Driscoll

The ongoing saga of pastor Mark Driscoll’s public image has been the source of headlines. The frequently controversial leader of Seattle’s Mars Hill church has been accused of everything from plagiarism to gaming his way onto the New York Times Bestseller list. There have been troubling stories from inside the church, and a few tweets that might be described, at best, as “ill-advised” have made the rounds.

Sunday, Driscoll posted an open letter of apology in Mars Hills’ online social network The City, saying he has been “deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over” and acknowledging “that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution.” Driscoll also outlined plans for a new team of pastors to hold him accountable.

It’s worth noting that Driscoll issued a similar apology back in 2007.  Here is the letter in its entirety:

Dear Mars Hill Church,

Thank you.

I have received a great deal of love and encouragement from you for more than 17 years. I genuinely appreciate every person who prays for my family and me. Also, I continue to find great joy in teaching the Bible every week to people I have grown to love with a father’s affection.

For those of you who have been around for a while, it is amazing for us to see all that Jesus has done. People often ask if our church today resembles what I had originally planned. Not even close. The smallest location of a Mars Hill Church is bigger than what my total vision was for the whole church when we started.

As the church grew over the years, it was clear that both the church and I were unhealthy in some ways, despite some wonderful people and amazing things that the Holy Spirit was doing in and through them. For years, I felt a joy in teaching the Bible and love for the people, but frankly was overwhelmed on how to organize and lead all that was happening. I felt the crushing weight of responsibility but did not know what to do, and I lacked the abilities to figure it out. I was frustrated at my shortcomings, but needed help from people who were more experienced and mature. In my worst moments, I was angry in a sinful way. For those occasions, I am sorry. As I’ve expressed in several sermons, I needed to mature as a leader, and we needed to mature as a church.

In the last year or two, I have been deeply convicted by God that my angry-young-prophet days are over, to be replaced by a helpful, Bible-teaching spiritual father. Those closest to me have said they recognize a deep change, which has been encouraging because I hope to continually be sanctified by God’s grace. I understand that people who saw or experienced my sin during this season are hurt and in some cases have not yet come to a place of peace or resolution. I have been burdened by this for the past year and have had private meetings one at a time to learn from, apologize to, and reconcile with people. Many of those meetings were among the most encouraging moments in my time at our church. Sadly, not all of those relationships are yet mended, but I am praying that God is gracious to get us to that place of grace. Now that others have come forward, my desire is to have similar meetings with those who are willing.

In the past few years, we have also made significant improvements to how we are governed and organized as a church. This has been difficult, but long overdue. The Board of Advisors and Accountability is a great blessing to us all, as they combine wise counsel and strong oversight during this process. I have been a pastor for a long time, but have not had a close pastor since college. I now rejoice that God has been gracious to give me pastors for accountability and wise counsel. Through their counsel to confess my own sin, while not being distracted by the shortcomings of others, the Holy Spirit is making me a better man and pastor, which I pray helps us to become a better church. This is the truest and strongest pastoral love and accountability that I have ever had and I thank the Lord for it. Pastor Dave and Pastor Sutton have also joined me as Executive Elders. They have been very helpful in getting my team and me to the most unified, loving, and healthy place we have ever been. I really love our church, and I see where it was unhealthy, where it has gotten healthier, and where we can continue in that path. I am very encouraged by where we are and where we are going.

However, this process has required a lot of changes, and admittedly we did not handle all of these changes equally well. We are fully aware of and grieved by ways we could have done better with a more effective process and more patience, starting with me. I am deeply grieved and even depressed by the pain we have caused. Many have chosen to air their concerns online, and I apologize for any burden this may have brought on you, and I will do my best to clarify a few things without, I hope, being angry or defensive.

First, a marketing company called ResultSource was used in conjunction with the book Real Marriage, which was released in January 2012. My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church. In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong. I am sorry that I used this strategy, and will never use it again. I have also asked my publisher to not use the “#1 New York Times bestseller” status in future publications, and am working to remove this from past publications as well.

Second, in recent years, some have used the language of “celebrity pastor” to describe me and some other Christian leaders. In my experience, celebrity pastors eventually get enough speaking and writing opportunities outside the church that their focus on the church is compromised, until eventually they decide to leave and go do other things. Without judging any of those who have done this, let me be clear that my desires are exactly the opposite. I want to be under pastoral authority, in community, and a Bible-teaching pastor who grows as a loving spiritual father at home and in our church home for years to come. I don’t see how I can be both a celebrity and a pastor, and so I am happy to give up the former so that I can focus on the latter.

When I was a new Christian at the age of 19, God spoke to me and told me to do four things. Today, I see that calling as: Love Grace and our family, Preach the Bible Train leaders (especially men), Plant churches. Other things may be good, but I do not have the time or energy for them right now. My family and our church family need me focused and energized, and that is my deep desire. Therefore, I will be spending my energies growing in Christ-like character by grace, staying connected to Grace and our kids, loving and serving Mars Hill Church which continues to grow, teaching the Bible, and serving Christian leaders through such things as blogs and podcasts at Resurgence. Starting this fall, I will also be teaching at Corban University and Western Seminary in Bellevue to invest in young leaders. For a season, I want to pull back from many things in order for us to focus on the most important things: glorifying Jesus by making disciples and planting churches as a healthy, loving, and unified church, with our hands on the Bible and our eyes on Jesus.

To reset my life, I will not be on social media for at least the remainder of the year. The distractions it can cause for my family and our church family are not fruitful or helpful at this time. At the end of the year, I will consider if and when to reappear on social media, and I will seek the counsel of my pastors on this matter. In the meantime, Mars Hill and Resurgence will continue to post blogs, sermons, and podcasts on my social media accounts, but otherwise I’m going offline.

I will also be doing much less travel and speaking in the next season. In recent years, I have cut back significantly, but I will now cut back even more. I have cancelled some speaking events, and I am still determining the best course of action for a few that I’ve committed to, as they are evangelistic opportunities to invite people to salvation in Jesus Christ, which is something I care about deeply. I will be doing very few media interviews, if any. Also, I’m communicating with my publisher to determine how to meet my existing obligations and have a much less intense writing schedule.

Personally, I find this all relieving. The pressure and pace has increased every year since I started in 1996. I don’t want to be burned out or angry, and I want to become more like Jesus every year. I want to teach the Bible, love well, and run at a pace to finish my race many decades from now. My health is actually in the best place it has been in recent years. I have a skilled and unified team that loves you and can handle more responsibility, if I can free up the time and energy to love them and invest in them. Grace and the kids are doing very well, and my family is still my joy and priority. This year we will have three of our five kids as teenagers, and our oldest will be a senior preparing for college. I don’t want to miss this season, as these are years I can never get back. If I am going to err, I want it to be on the side of guarding too much time and energy for family and church family rather than not enough.

To be clear, these are decisions I have come to with our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ. I believe this is what He is asking of me, and so I want to obey Him. The first person I discussed this with was our first, and still best, church member, Grace. Her loving agreement and wise counsel only confirmed this wonderful opportunity to reset some aspects of our life. I want to publicly thank her, as it was 26 years ago this week that we had our first date. She is the greatest friend and biggest blessing in my life after Jesus. When we recently discussed this plan to reset our life together, late at night on the couch, she started crying tears of joy. She did not know how to make our life more sustainable, and did not want to discourage me, but had been praying that God would reveal to me a way to reset our life. Her prayer was answered, and for that we are both relieved at what a sustainable, joyful, and fruitful future could be. As an anniversary present, I want to give her more of her best friend.

I have also submitted these decisions to the Board of Advisors and Accountability. They have approved of this direction and are 100 percent supportive of these changes. It’s a wonderful thing to have true accountability and not be an independent decision maker regarding my ministry and, most importantly, our church.

Lastly, if God would lead you to pray for me, the Scripture he has impressed upon me this past year or two is 1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” As I get older, I am seeking to increasingly love our people as I do my own children in order for our church to be a great family, because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With the Father’s affection,

–Pastor Mark Driscoll

Books I have read: Building a Strategic Church

Building a Strategic Church

David Beer was one of those church leaders you wanted to learn from, one who I had the privilege of meeting and hearing speak several times.  In Building a Strategic Church he allows us to sit in a coffee shop with him and chat about lots of different areas of church ministry.

The book covers a huge number of areas with eleven chapters, each subdivided into little sections only a few pages long:

  • Why be strategic?
  • Strong leadership
  • Team spirit
  • Relational structures
  • Application preaching
  • Training and equipping
  • Exponential thinking
  • Generous attitude
  • Involvement with the local community
  • A caring heart
  • Putting it all together

After serving as Senior Pastor at Frinton Free Church (a church with approximately 600 members) he went on to head up the Purpose Driven Church movement in Europe.  This does mean that some parts of the book come across as overly American and reliant on the acrostics and structures that come from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church.

The book left me wanting more in several areas, I would want to bounce ideas with David Beer, understanding why he does things in certain ways, and what he thinks about some of my ideas.  If you’re looking for a helpful overview to the how of church then look no further.

Church Growth: from Anecdote to Evidence

From Anecdote to Evidence

The Summary Report of the findings from the Church Growth Research Programme has just been published. It makes for helpful and informative reading and will be a useful support in discerning our own diocesan and parish strategies for growth. You can download the report at: From Anecdote To Evidence – Findings from the Church Growth Research Programme 2011-2013

The website for the Research Programme is http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/

The Church Growth Research Programme is an 18 month research project exploring some of the factors that might explain church growth in the Church of England. Findings from this research should help equip and resource those in parish ministry and provide decision makers at every level of the Church with valuable evidence on how resources can be allocated to support growth.

Books I have read: Bono on Bono

Bono on Bono

Recently I have been reading Bono on Bono: Conversations with Michka Assayas.  Michka Assayas is a music journalist and novelist who lives and works in Paris.  He met Bono in London in 1980, and was the first journalist to champion US outside Ireland and the United Kingdom.  Bono and Michka spent two years putting the book together through telephone calls and meetings in Dublin, Paris, Bologna and on the French Riviera.

I’ve been a U2 fan for many years enjoying the depth and variety of their music – the way they share timeless truths in such current ways, so I was intrigued to read this book.  The book covers much of what has been written about before, but it brings it all into one place, and adds a new dimension or layer to some of the stories as Bono opens up under Michka’s questioning.

Included in the book is Bono’s mother’s death, his troubled upbringing, the start of U2, what each of the band would do if they weren’t in the band.  The usual topics of international aid and politics (although interestingly much less on the turmoil and politics of Ireland), economics, philanthropy, Bono’s Christian faith and his views on God are all spoken and written about.  But we also get to hear of some great anecdotes including sleeping in Brezhnev’s bed, having Gorbachov turn up for Sunday lunch (having forgotten he was coming and having not told his wife!), been chastised by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, giving sunglasses to the Pope and more.

Throughout the book Bono comes across as deeply rooted in his Christian faith, and it is that that he believes has helped to keep him grounded.  He is clearly a man with many ambitions, and has already had a lasting impact not just on the music industry, but also the way the Western world engages in international aid and brings poverty relief.

Books I have read: Jesus’ Christmas Party

Jesus' Christmas Party

One of my favourite resources for the Christmas season is Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan.

Nicholas Allan writes and illustrates the nativity through the eyes of a grumpy inn keeper who is unexpectedly at the centre of Jesus’ birth.  The story follows him as he is woken up repeatedly by Mary and Joseph and guests visiting the newborn.

I first heard of the book when I was a child and it was used for a Sunday School drama to present the Christmas narrative to the whole church.  As a children’s and youth worker I’ve used it numerous times, be it with young pre-school children, older teenagers, or non-Christian adults.  The book is easy for people to follow and join in, and yet still allows for profounds truths to be taught.

It can be bought in a number of sizes – from A6 just to fit in the pocket and use to tell a large group of people, to a large A4 size which a class of children can crowd around and look at the pictures.

Books I have read: Joy to the World

Joy to the World - preaching the Christmas story

A book I often use to plan my Christmas sermons is Joy to the world: Preaching the Christmas Story by Paul Beasley-Murray.

The book is full of Beasley-Murray’s summary exegesis of familiar passages from the gospels, the Old Testament prophecies and some of the reflections of the Good News in the New Testament letters.  This year I’ve spoken at four Christingle services, four Carol Services, seven assemblies, and four youth services – whilst there is some opportunity for repetition it is helpful to have other peoples suggestions and angles on how to share some of the Christmas story in different ways.

Certainly a helpful resource to keep on your study bookcase.

Books I have read: Shine on, Star of Bethlehem

Shine on, star of Bethlehem

Years ago when I was first in ministry I picked up a copy of Shine on, Star of Bethlehem by Geoffrey Duncan.  The book is a huge worship resource for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.

Geoffrey Duncan is well known for producing great prayer and worship anthologies, and this Christmas resource does not disappoint.  What makes this resource so helpful is the variety – both in terms of content – be it welcoming prayers to final blessings to full orders of services; but also in terms of style and age – I’ve felt very comfortable using this with children and young people as well as with older adults.

This is one of the resources I come back to time and time again during the Christmas season – if you don’t have it I recommend you get hold of it.

Books I have read: Leading on Empty

Leading on Empty

This week I’ve been reading Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro.  I was recommended this book by one of my previous colleagues who had been really encouraged by Cordeiro’s honesty and attitude.  The book starts by reflecting on his experience of burnout and how he realised that his life was not sustainable and needed to change.

For me the most helpful aspect of the book was his honesty both as he reflected with what he needed to change – that it ran deep within himself; and the depth at which Cordeiro explained practically how he managed this – especially with the Personal Retreat Days – something I will certainly be taking on board as we move into 2014.

The concept of a dashboard which helps to measure vital systems essential for health and success was interesting, he used: Faith life; marriage life; family life; office life; computer life; ministry life; financial life; social life; attitudinal life; author’s life; speaker’s life and physical life.  I found Cordeiro’s thoughts on the different questions we ask ourselves in our 20s, our 30s, our 40s, our 50s, our 60s and our 70s helpful to realise that after ten years in ministry who I am, and the questions I ask of myself have changed during this period.

With recommendations such as “This is a must-read for all leaders” by Bill Hybels it certainly isn’t one to ignore, and whilst there is nothing that you probably haven’t heard before, it will certainly encourage you and challenge you to make your life more sustainable instead of constantly leading on empty.