"Why?" is proclamation's starting place

Bishop Scott Benhase of Georgia reflects (via Facebook) on the impact of Steve Jobs approach to innovation and how this relates to how we might communicate the gospel.

Much has been written about Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, after he recently passed away. I have not read Walter Issacson’s biography of Jobs, but I have heard him interviewed and the picture he paints of Jobs and the company he led for many years is fascinating, and I might I add, it offers some wisdom for us in the Church.

Lots of other companies have been in the market place for decades making computers, smart phones, and other personal electronic devices to store and play music, lectures, radio programs, etc. Apple, however, has exceeded their competitor’s success. I have heard many people offer reasons why Apple has been so successful. I have heard things like: “The I-Phone, I-Pad, and Macbook are cool, intuitive, and user-friendly” (full disclosure: I have a MacBook and I-Pad). Still, there are other competitive, very good choices out there for people’s use, so that does not explain the phenomenal success of Apple. To be sure, Apple would not have had its success if its products had not been cool, intuitive, and user-friendly, but that alone does not explain its success.

I think Apple and Jobs touched something far deeper in people. Whether we are selling a product or making a case for something, we tend focus first on the “what,” that is, what we are selling or making the case for. Then, we move on to the “how.” How will this product I am selling or claim I am making be of use to you. And then, eventually, we get around to the “why.” Why is it so important to you to have this product I am selling or accept the claim I am making. So, for example, the pattern usually goes: This is a widget (what), it allows you to clean your pet’s teeth (how), and it will make you and your pet more content and better off (why).

What Apple did was begin with the “why,” which is an identity, purpose, and destiny question. “What” and “how” are questions that focus on content and methodology. Now content and methodology are important, but those questions do not address people at their core, which is a “why” question. When Apple and Jobs rolled out the I-Pad, the world was not demanding it. As I recall, there were many jokes about it when it was first introduced. But Apple basically said: “Here is the I-Pad and it will change your life. You need one of these.” The secondary questions were what it did and how it worked. The marketing was about the person’s identity, purpose, and destiny in the world.

That is what we claim in baptism about following Jesus as Lord & Savior. It’s a question of identity, purpose, and destiny in the world. It is a “why” question. I think we make a huge mistake in making our claim to the world about the truth of God in Jesus when we focus first on the “what” and then on the “how,” that is, what you need to do to become a Christian and then how you go about doing that. People at their core identity want to answer the “why” question first (which is why Apple has succeeded). Why should I be Christian? If our only answer is: “doing so will save you from Hell,” then we will fail miserably.” The answer must be from the via positiva: “We follow Jesus as Savior & Lord because it is the way God has given us to share eternally in the life of God.” Then and only then, can we work on being cool, intuitive, and user-friendly.

+Scott

Comments (1)

Yes! We've forgotten to ask "Why?" because we've lived inside the situation for a long time.

But I think we have to ask this question daily, in fact - if only to understand things better ourselves. Perhaps we've misunderstood things, too.

"Unless ye become as little children...." the man advised, after all. That means, to me: forget everything you think you know, and start asking the deep questions again.

Excellent post. (Not a fan of the Apple thing, personally, so it was a bit hard to identify with that comparison! - but I definitely appreciate "Why?")

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