Thursday, November 06, 2008


A friend of mine asked me if I had noticed the difference between the television ads for Macintosh and Microsoft. I told him I hadn't really paid attention, except that I'm a Mac fan and have found their "I'm a Mac....I'm a PC" ads pretty clever. He agreed with me that the Mac ads are killing the PC ads in popularity, and then he asked me a pretty good question. "Which ad is substance, and which ad is style?" I had to admit that the Mac ad is really all about style. A cool looking and acting actor (Mac guy) is pitted against a backward looking and acting actor (PC guy). The Mac guy seems totally relaxed and helpful. The PC guy is never quite at ease, seems scattered, self-absorbed and stupid. But there really isn't much in these ads about the actual difference between using a Macintosh computer or a PC. From watching these Mac ads you just come away with a feeling (not really much in the way of facts) that points you to the Mac as the "better" choice. What does this say about the culture we're in?

Prior to the presidential election a high school teacher I know gave his class a paper with the political positions of the two candidates presented side by side. At the top of the page was simply "Candidate A" and "Candidate B." Based on the positions the men took, the class favored Candidate A. The teacher then asked whether the class was voting for Senator Obama or McCain. This particular group of High Schoolers was overwhelmingly for Obama. Why? They said he was "young" and "has fresh ideas" and they "liked him better." They were shocked to find out that he was Candidate B. They were "for" him, not based on substance, but style.

Also, be aware that if you present a substantive idea, and expect people to get it "based on the merits," you'll be seriously disappointed. As a Christian leader, don't assume the people you're leading are thinking deeply about what really matters. They probably aren't. So for the time being, unless you are politically savvy enough to run a good campaign, you can expect defeat. Most pastors I know have ideas that are good to great. Many times those great ideas are dead on arrival because the pastor has assumed that people will think as deeply about the issue as s/he has, and they have not learned the importance of building a coalition, selling the sizzle, and answering the question that people keep asking (even if we wish they weren't): "What's in it for me?" This is not a Jesus question, of course, and never will be. But who's job is it to get people asking better, more noble, questions? Yup.

There is no question that people today lack critical thinking skills. This can either be extremely discouraging to you (it often is for me), or it can challenge you "get after it" and to teach people to think. Not what to think. How to think.

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