I went to the Macintosh show in San Francisco in January. Since he no longer sees me very often, my father drove up from San Luis Obispo and went to the show with me. He brought with him a friend, Rick, who was thinking about buying a computer -- probably a Commodore Amiga, but maybe an Atari. Rick went home with a new Macintosh computer.
I got to thinking about all the people in the last 18 months who have been influenced by me to buy Macintosh. Rick is only the most recent. My father was considering an IBM-compatible; he bought Mac. Three people at my church bought Macs; one of them bought a second one for his brother. A business associate bought a Mac XL when I found him a good deal. The pastor of a church in Petaluma bought a Mac. The university here thought Macs were "toys" until I came; they have since bought thirteen Macs and a LaserWriter printer -- seven or eight Macs for faculty offices, the others for student use.
Twenty-one Macintoshes that would not have been sold but for my enthusiastic support.
Apple Computer has never paid me a cent to promote their computer. I have gotten no special deals from Apple. I just happen to think that the Mac is the easiest-to-use, fastest, most-sophisticated, best-valued personal computer you can buy today, and I say so. IBM, Amiga, Tandy, they don't hold a candle to the Mac. Fifteen people believed me -- maybe more, I don't know.
I have had my Mac a year and a half -- 18 months. I have been a Christian (up and down) for something like 36 years, and serious about it maybe half that, certainly the last eight or nine years. I like to think that there is very little I do that is not designed to promote the sovereignty of Jesus Christ in my life. Yet in all that time, I cannot point to one person who I influenced to buy into Christianity, not one.
Not that I have not tried. My business contacts all know that I am a committed Christian, and I often inject the Christian perspective into my conversations with them. Two recent books that mention my name refer significantly to my religious beliefs; neither book speaks of any other person's religion. For a couple years I carried on an extended dialog with a young Mormon to whom I tried to show the uniqueness of the Christian message. I thought he was receptive, but in his last letter he said he appreciated that, unlike other Christians, I was not trying to convert him.
Thirty-six years and zero converts to Christ. Less than two years and fifteen converts to Macintosh, 21 machines. That bothers me.
Postscript. I wrote this essay in 1985. Seven years later the facts have not changed, but I begin to believe that not all parts of the body are the mouth to speak the gospel. God has made me a very good programmer and a rotten evangelist. So I write programs. But I still think evangelism (for God, not Apple) is more important than programming. Some of us are vessels to dishonor, but it's not my place to tell God where I belong in the body.
See also "Open Mac" and my 2003 Sep 16 blog post on why I like the Mac so much.
2010 Update. I no longer place a higher value on evangelism than, for example, computer programming. The most important thing you can do is whatever God calls you to do, and if you do something else -- such as evangelizing somebody God did not call you to -- then you are living in sin. Don't do that.
Knowing what God called you to do often seems rather more difficult than just doing it, but I am convinced it boils down to these two factors, and nothing else:
1. Does this activity glorify God? Is it in obedience to His Word written (the Bible), or does it seek to evade God's commands? Much of the time, this is a clear issue. If not, then
2. Does it help other people? Does it do for somebody what you would want done to you if you were in their place? Most of us have a pretty good idea when something is selfish or altruistic. It's a no-brainer.
If you have a choice of activities that serve God and also help other people, then pick the one that's in front of you. When asked "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told about a guy who needed help and three people were there and could have done something about it; one of them did. He was a Samaritan. You can do that.
2010 September 9