It All Starts with Our Experiences

Back in 1997, Steve Jobs was doing a presentation at a conference. It was a time when Apple was struggling: it had been in its worst economic throes since its founding. There were a lot of doubters. In fact, at the conference, Steve Jobs was asked a pretty insulting question: what exactly have you been doing for the last seven years?

He explained. They had made some mistakes and had learned some important lessons. The most important one was this: that you can’t start with the great technology and ideas that you have and then find a way to make a market for them. No, you have to start with the user experience, and then develop the technology that meets that experience and lifts it up. It was taking some time to go through that shift, but they were committed to it.

Several years later, along came iTunes, then the iPod. And then, of course, the iPhone, which changed the world. It all began with starting with their users’ experience first, and designing something out of their inspiration and expertise that engages people there and opens new pathways to do things that makes experiences better. You can’t start with your own ideas if you want to do or make something that lifts others up, that others will really want.

You have to start with their experiences.

A few years ago, Pope Francis initiated a big undertaking: a meeting and gathering of information within the whole church. It was about the experiences of people living in families. The idea was to get the voice of peoples’ real experiences in the church and outside, especially concerning marriage and the family. And why was this happening? Well, Mass attendance is at an all-time low. And it seemed that maybe the Pope was learning from the past: starting with bishops’ and priests’ and theologians’ great ideas, and trying to make them work out in the lives of people, just wasn’t working. You bring your inspiration and expertise to fruition, you can’t start with your own ideas and doctrines and theologies. To form a church that engages people and opens up the Way of Christ to the new experience of resurrected life, you have to do it completely differently.

You have to start with peoples’ experiences.

Did you ever notice that the four Gospels are actually all about stories? I mean, those 4 books that are the center of being Christian, the center of all of life (if you are a believer), is a collection of stories. Jesus didn’t arrive with a list of doctrines and programs. He arrived in the lives and experiences of everyone else, and out of that he showed a path in God that attracted them, that they were excited to embrace, that made life fuller. In fact, the whole church grew out of real peoples’ real life experiences. Because that’s how God creates a church that engages us and opens us up to a new path, to newer and more fulfilling life.

It all starts with our experiences.

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him. (Mk 1:16-18)

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