Preaching the Gospel to Steve Jobs
No, I have not preached the gospel to Steve Jobs and I don’t know know anyone personally who did, although I trust that somewhere along his course in life someone at someplace at sometime announced Christ to him. Whether he received Christ in his heart is unknown to me, and it is not my job to speculate here.
But since his passing I have occasionally thought to myself, How would one preach the gospel to someone like Steve Jobs?
This consideration has coincided with my campus ministry’s year-long exploration into “The Life and Letters of the Apostle Paul“. This past week we were on the topic of Paul’s visit to Athens in Acts 17:14-34. It’s a famously rich portion which gives insight into how the apostle Paul preached the gospel to the secular intellectuals of his time. Three insights which freshly stand out to me are the following:
1. Before you preach the gospel to someone, you have to know what that person worships.
Paul in his brief time there in Athens did not retire or disengage from the populace and its culture. He was in the marketplace daily interacting with the Athenians. He was a keen observer of their idols, their architecture, their philosophy, and even their poetry. The subtitle of this blog — “carefully observing the objects of your worship” — is a reference to Paul’s thoughtfulness in observing the Athenian culture. He entered into their situation and condition and could speak to them respectfully with an understanding of their culture.
2. Being able to point out that the object of worship is a reflection of a deep desire to know God, which was implanted and put within man at the time of creation.
Paul did not haughtily dismiss the multitude of idols surrounding him in the city. Informed by his classical training in his youth, and with an insight honed and whetted through the exercise of his regenerated spirit, Paul could see behind the idols and diagnose the Athenian condition as that unique longing of man — to know God. Paul artfully presents God first as the universal Creator, in whom we live and for whom we all grope after during an appointed season in our life. Paul shrewdly identified the commonality between Jew and Greek — two groups which each pride themselves on their distinctiveness — and in effect said to them, “We are all of One, and we are all seeking the same One.”
3. Being bold to announce God’s commandment that all men repent today or face judgment in righteousness by Christ.
Paul concluded his message not with human words of wisdom but a faithful word of repentance. Repent today and know the resurrected Christ as your gracious Lord, or delay and meet the same One in the future as a righteous Judge. This kind of speaking sobers the audience. Thoughtful men think of their own mortality. It is no shame, and it is the pattern of the apostle, to preach a gospel that ends with the faithful charge — which is God’s commandment – to repent and receive Christ today. Or else…
So with that as a background, let’s come back to the initial question: How would one preach the gospel to Steve Jobs?
I’m sure there are many ways. But considering the three points above, this is what I humbly suggest as one viable way to share the gospel to someone like Steve Jobs.
First, what does he worship? Based on my reading and observations, perhaps chief among the many virtues he extols is beauty. Steve Jobs is a worshipper of beauty. He loved to create beautiful products and could not countenance what other manufacturers did — even if functional — if only because they were ugly. He was obsessive, demanding, petulant, and unyielding, in his relentless pursuit for beauty.
Second, knowing that Steve Jobs worships beauty, we would then have to show how beauty has its source in God, the unique Creator and original Inventor. This beautiful universe we live in, and our capacity to identify beauty, and even to create something beautiful, has its source in a God of beauty.
There is a very touching moment in his biography where the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was adored by Jobs, made a personal visit to Jobs’ house:
Jobs tended to be deeply moved by artists who displayed purity, and he became a fan. He invited Ma to play at his wedding, but he was out of the country on tour. He came by the Jobs house a few years later, sat in the living room, pulled out his 1733 Stradivarius cello, and played Bach. “This is what I would have played for your wedding,” he told them. Jobs teared up and told him, “Your playing is the best argument I’ve ever heard for the existence of God, because I don’t really believe a human alone can do this.” (p. 474)
Last, and finally, having established that the desire for beauty is ultimately a desire for the eternal, we would have to conclude with the charge to repent and receive Christ today, before a future day of judgment. No man, even a giant among men like Steve Jobs, can escape his own mortality. Here is a man who loved to control everything about his products — their design, their manufacturing, their retailing, and even their use by end users. But the matter of death and what lay beyond is not something he could control.
Again, I refer to a point in his biography where he had been first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer:
One of his first calls was to Larry Brilliant, whom he first met at the ashram in India. “Do you still believe in God?” Jobs asked him….Then Brilliant asked Jobs what was wrong. “I have cancer,” Jobs replied. (p. 453)
I would love to hear others’ considerations about how they would preach the gospel to someone like Steve Jobs. We may never have the chance to speak the gospel to someone famous like him, but we are surrounded by men like him, like those in Athens centuries ago, who “worship without knowing” (Acts 17:23). Let us learn to announce the unknown God to such ones everywhere.
Posted on November 18, 2011, in Bible Studies, Christianity, Culture and tagged acts 17, areopagus, athens, believe in God, God, gospel, paul, preaching the gospel, salvation, saved, steve jobs. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.