In today’s blog post I’m going to share 4 core values of the world’s most valuable company, Apple, that have not only led to their success, but could also help the church.

It took Apple 42 years to reach a $1 trillion valuation, and just 2 years to double to $2 trillion.  It is now the world’s most valuable company. Even more stunning is the fact that all of Apple’s second $1 trillion came in the past 21 weeks, while the global economy shrank faster than ever before in the coronavirus pandemic.

One of Jesus’ best-known teaching styles was the use of parables, which essentially, are made up stories that illustrate a point.  Jesus used parables from a wide perspective, but I’m particularly intrigued in how often Jesus would arrive at spiritual truths through the use of some of the popular businesses of His day.  He would use examples from:

Starting with a biblical worldview, we can draw spiritual truths out from the world in order to bring spiritual truths into the lives of those who follow Jesus.

On the heels of Apple splitting its stocks 4-1 for its shareholders, let’s explore 4 core values of Apple that the church and its leaders can learn from.

  1. Focus on a Few

After four decades of innovation that led Apple to a $1 trillion valuation, the past two years the company actually hasn’t done much of anything new.  Instead, they have focused on making a few great products better.  While innovation and creativity were key to their initial $1 trillion, it’s been their hyper-focus on making their premier products like iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks better that has led to their rapid next $1 trillion.

CEO Tim Cook summarizes one of their core values this way: We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us.

What does this mean for the church?

Rather than trying to do everything, churches would be wise to focus on doing a few things excellent.

What is it that your church does, or could do, excellently?

There is a time to be innovative and creative, but what would it look like for you to spend time refining and focusing and making the few things that you already do great that much greater?

Each individual expression of God’s church shouldn’t feel the pressure to do everything excellent, but rather, to identify what it is they can do with excellence.  Discovering this could be done through a survey, by looking at the natural gifts of the leadership, and assessing what the needs are in the community.  After discovering which few areas to focus and excel in, consider pouring more time, energy, staff, and budget to these endeavors.

Let’s remember that just as each individual expression of church has people that are filled with particular gifts, so too, in the “Capital C Church” are certain local churches uniquely gifted.  Not every church should do every thing.

  1. First Impressions Matter

In 2018, a study found that 72% of Americans believe the design of a product’s packaging influences their decision to purchase.  Apple hopes to create a sensory experience anytime a customer opens one of its products.  Truthfully, Apple products are one of the only products that I will purchase and feel somewhat guilty when I throw the packaging away.  In a world filled with clutter and constant bombardment, Apple creates first impressions that are simple, yet incredible.

Another of Apple’s core value statements says: We believe in the simple, not the complex. 

Simple doesn’t always mean easy.  In fact, Apple employs a designer whose sole job is packaging.  They are continually thinking, nitpicking, and strategizing about how to make this first impression experience for the customer even better.  Adam Lashinksy, executive editor of Fortune Magazine, gives us an example of how far they’ll go in this endeavor: “To fully grasp how seriously Apple executives sweat the small stuff, consider this: For months, a packaging designer was holed up in this room performing the most mundane of tasks – opening boxes.

What does this mean for the church?

Whether someone comes to a building or a website for a church experience, we need to be hyper-focused on creating a sensory experience from the moment we are engaging with people.  Multiple studies have shown that the first ten minutes is, far and away, the most important ten minutes of a visitor experiencing your church.  This tells us that no matter how excellent your preaching or music ministry is on a Sunday, visitors may not hear a single note or word before already having made a decision on whether they’ll be back.  We ought to spend ample time on sermon and music preparation but not at the expense of thinking, strategizing, and training around the first-time guest experience.

Teaming up with another local church, it’d be a great idea to swap a “secret shopper.”  This person can come in from another church with the sole focus to give you feedback about their first-time guest experience.  Getting clarity on these things can help your church create greater first impressions.

In the past, we have thought of the church experience existing in a building, but now we also should be devoting time to a proper welcome and introduction to our online visitors looks like.  Having an online host that greets people prior to the service and informs them on what to expect, how long the service will be, where they can engage in practical next steps, and even how to worship online feels very appropriate.

  1. Make it Easy

Apple products are so simple that many toddlers know how to operate them.   When they design their products, they keep the customer they are trying to reach in mind rather than acting upon their own preferences.

One of Steve Jobs’ initial core values of the company was this: Each person is important; each has the opportunity and the obligation to make a difference.

Keeping in mind the broader audience base they are trying to reach, they continually strive to make products that are easy to use and understand for the whole.

What does this mean for the church?

Identify who your target audience who is God calling you to reach, and create methods and strategies that are easy entry points for those people.   We should never apologize for making it easy for people to experience Jesus. 

Churches that make people jump through a lot of hoops and don’t speak the common language of the people they are trying to reach are only making it harder on themselves.  When a church leans more on their own preferences, as opposed to what is best for the ones they are called to reach, they are essentially closing the front door of their church.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 5:47 ring true today.  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

Jesus is reminding us that we aren’t about creating churches just for ourselves.  Our churches need to exist for others.  Let’s keep in mind that to do church the way God is instructing us always has a pull towards thinking about reaching those that aren’t even here yet.  Providing simple entry points with great next steps into following Jesus is crucial.

But what about the disciples already in our church?  Just as Apple makes simple products that are easy to understand, they also offer so many opportunities to learn, and to grow in a particular craft.  Similarly, churches can offer an easy entry point, and at the same time, offer experiences for disciples to grow deeper as well.

  1. Privacy is a Priority

Apple is committed to protecting the privacy of its customers.  Despite receiving national attention in many occurrences, both positive and negative, Apple will not budge when it comes to giving over user information without permission.

Their core value statements include the following: We believe that we need to own and control the primary technologies behind the products we make.

This core value has led to many legal battles and public arguments. Privacy may seem like an odd value to hold onto this tightly, but their business is certainly proving through history and time that this is one that will remain a priority.

Privacy is becoming more important in our world.  2020 has accelerated trends that had already begun.  Entertainment, grocery shopping, exercising (did you hear Apple is coming out with their own fitness app subscription?), and even church have all moved online and into our homes.  DuckDuckGo, which is a search engine that promises privacy, is the fastest growing search engine in the last quarter of 2020.  Not only this, but many people are considering leaving their public life in the city for a more private life in a less populated area.

What does this mean for the church?

Life is messy and the foundation of the church is still, and will always be, built upon the saving work of Jesus.  The Good News of Jesus is greater than broken marriages, sins, substance abuse issues, and a myriad of other problems.  As churches continue to bring Jesus into people’s lives, life change will happen.  It’s just that life change is not clean, it’s very messy.  It often times requires serious conversations, deep confessions, and many tears.  People need to know that their church is a safe place to fail, to be broken, and to be made whole.

Part of coming together is to help one another become whole through Jesus.  James, the brother of Jesus, writes: “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

If we are going to provide opportunities for confession and the life-changing Good News of Jesus then we must fight to keep our churches safe places for people to heal.  These spaces must not include gossip, breaking the confidentiality or trust of a person, or judgment.  Sadly, far too many churches are known more for those things than they are for grace, love, and trust.

If we go to all the work of doing a few things excellent, creating simple and incredible first impressions, making it easy for people to encounter Jesus, let’s also put in the hard work of ensuring that our church remains a safe place for all people to fall into the grace of Jesus.

I’m sure there are other values of Apple that may translate over to the church, and still others that wouldn’t.  As you think about where your church is right now, which of the four comes naturally for you, or that you are already doing well?  Which one could you use more help in?

Are there other core values of Apple that you think the church could learn from?