The week Steve Jobs died was a bit of a whirlwind for me. I had been at a “vision day” with fresh expressions and came away incredibly encouraged, the next day Steve Jobs pass away and as I looked back on his life and accomplishments I was struck by (infamous?) passion to never compromise on the vision he had for Apple. The sermon ended with the graphic depicted here, “Believe different.” It’s an obvious homage to Apple’s iconic ad campaign which helped spark Apple’s resurgence – but it’s more than a cheesy slogan or homage. Let me spend some time unpacking the thought behind “Believe different.”
Does “Believe different” mean we need to dump all the old things we do in worship and focus on new practices?
The answer to that is, “No, I don’t think so.” Even if I didn’t feel spiritually bound to the generations of Christians who came before me, my love of history would probably prevent me from tossing out generations-old worship practices for something that has “it’s new” as it’s strongest selling point. I’m just not put together that way. On the other hand, I do think “Believe different” means we should take a long look at worship practices that we’re accustomed to, or simply find appealing. It may be that some of our practices need to be reconnected to the heritage from which they sprang, and we might find that some practices we “like” need to be re-thought entirely. Any time I connect “Believe different” with the practice of worship, I always foresee a fusion of ancient and future.
Does “Believe different” mean we we’ve been doing it wrong all along?
No! There’s a reason why a congregation has been around for over one hundred years – for the bulk of it’s existance people experienced a genuine connection to Christ and his Kingdom there. Just as with worship, that heritage needs to be cherished. There is also a reason, however, why a great man mature expressions of the Church begin to decay slowly over time. It’s my contention that the pressures are as much from within as from without. A good many congregations stop cherishing their heritage, and begin coveting it. “Believe different” will entail a fresh look at a congregation’s heritage to better appreciate, and more healthily critique, it’s unique expression of the Church.
Does “Believe different” mean that my favorite ministry will be taken from me?
Seizing a cherished expression of faith from someone seems a lot like theft, to me. Lee Spitzer once told me he dislike the title “executive minister” because didn’t want to “execute anything.” Adding, “I’m not an executioner, I’m a pastor.” I agree with his thoughts. Where there is energy to keep doing a ministry, ordering it shut down doesn’t seem very appealing to me. On the other hand, “Believe different” may point out to us that some of our cherished expressions of faith are being kept alive on life-support long after they were effective in their mission. Perhaps we’ll even discover the wisdom strength to allow some ministries to “die well” – only to discover that the impulses from which they first sprung have been waiting for a moment of resurrection!
Does “Believe different” mean I don’t have a place anymore because I’m old?
Let me be clear. One of the greatest sins I’ve seen in this culture (both within the Church and without) is the belief that “old people” have no value and need to get out of the way for the “new guard.” I do not believe that for an instant, and the moments when I’ve had that thought projected on to me have been some of the most painful of my life. My best friend, up until I turned 28 years old, was my paternal grandfather (who died in his 90’s). He was old, one of the oldest people I’d ever known until I became a pastor, but he knew how to dream. He was loving, energetic, loved his neighbors, and ran the neighborhood bicycle pump for the kids in a 2 block radius. It is love of life and friendship always sends me for a loop when I hear people say things like, “I’m old, I can’t do anything new now.” This simply isn’t the case, and when I hear it I grieve deeply. I can only ask, “Why would you sell yourself so short as to think God doesn’t want you to keep moving on the journey?”
What if I don’t want to “Believe different” because I’m happy with the way things are?
The baptismal is dry more than it’s filled. Worship attendance is down. The stress of life is way-up. People are tired. A great many churches have lost any hope for good ministry in the present and future. If we don’t “Believe different” and take an honest look at ourselves we’re going to get run over. Don’t settle for hanging on and slowly withering away in peace and quiet – the Lord of the Church has more in store for us than that!