Yahoo, WordPerfect, Netscape, and Christianity


(Above: Commodore VIC-20)


I’VE BEEN INTO COMPUTERS practically from Day One. Not in the geeky sense—but more as, first, an area of “hobby”-style interest—and later, as someone whose livelihood is computer-based.

My first computer was a Commodore VIC-20. I attended the first computer faire in San Francisco in 1982 and the first Seybold Computer Publishing exposition there a couple of years later.

I progressed through a Commodore 64, then the first floppy-drive-only IBM PC, and on through several hardware changes to my present HP widescreen laptop and an HP desktop with all the bells and whistles.

But it’s in the software arena that I’ve lived through something that has implications for every living Christian—myself included.

Repeatedly, I’ve seen a software package become dominant in its class, only to lose its perch in time to a competitor. Early on, dBase had the database field almost entirely to itself. Then it couldn’t figure out how to move from DOS to the newfangled Windows operating system fast enough, and was soon passed up by programs like Paradox, FoxPro, and Access.

Even in pre-Windows days, those of us who cut our teeth on DOS used only one word processor: WordPerfect. It ruled with nearly total hegemony. Then the company was sold and resold, lost its vision, and Microsoft Word passed it up and still dominates the category.

When the Internet burst on the scene in the mid-90s, it wasn’t long before Netscape was the 1,000-pound gorilla of browsers. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer started with microscopic market share, but persisted till it utterly replaced Netscape, which a few days ago announced the end of any support for the browser. These days, we may be witnessing a repeat of this cycle, as Firefox continues to gain market share on IE.

The same has happened with Lotus 1-2-3 to Excel, or Ventura Publisher to InDesign. And now we’re watching the same thing happen as Google has sent Yahoo reeling.

Many factors figure in the decline of once-dominant companies or software packages. Slowness to adapt, buyouts by companies who don’t know or care how to make their purchase work, or sudden technology shifts that bring instant obsolescence.

But perhaps the most needless and deadly reason giants fall is because of one word: complacency. Taking their success and customers for granted, companies get lazy. Once lean and responsive, they become hobbled in bureaucracy and process charts and paper shuffling.

Complacency: the great enemy of success. It’s deadly to companies. But also to relationships, to personal accomplishment, and—here’s the link to Christianity—to churches and individual Christians.

Both churches and individual members lose the vision and passion and motivation that drove them to do “whatever it takes” to achieve their goals or mission. They begin to get lazy, to coast, to take for granted, to rest on their laurels, to refuse to change, to feel they can do no wrong, to quit caring. They become . . . complacent.

Ancient Israel did it. Many parts of Israel No. 2 today are doing it again. Yes, the cliché is true: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. We’ve heard it too: We have nothing to fear for the future but forgetting how God has led us.

First love is ecstatic. But unless carefully tended from both sides—unless made the highest priority—it can slowly die into embers. The “forever love” becomes only temporary. That’s true not just of human relationships but of our connection with the One who made us.

Is the Church complacent? In some ways and places, perhaps yes. But the far more important question is: In my relationship with God, am I complacent?


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