Steve Who?

Steve Who?

Malcolm Gladwell created a bit of a stir recently. Not that he doesn’t do that regularly. Gladwell is the author of such provocative and bestselling books as The Tipping Point and Outliers.

His latest provocation?

Gladwell claims that in 50 years, no one will remember Steve Jobs, but statues to Bill Gates will fill the Third World.


Gates is spending his fortune on what will most likely wipe out malaria in the world, saving countless lives. Jobs spent his on… well, nothing.

Yes, he came up with cool gadgets. Or his company did while he was CEO. In truth, he stole most of the ideas (read the biographies) and was infamous for his ruthless treatment of fellow humans.

So for the next few months -- maybe years -- we will idolize all things Apple. And when it comes to Gates, in the short term we may still think merely of Microsoft and perhaps its waning place in the world of software. 

But over time it won’t be iPods or Windows that we remember.

Gladwell is right. What we will remember is the way a man spent his money, and the good it did the world. 

What do you want your legacy to be? 

I’ll speak personally.

When I am dead and gone, it won’t be the size of the church I led, but the lives that were changed through it.

It won’t be the number of conferences I spoke at, but the encouragement they brought to those in attendance.

It won’t be the number of books I sold, but the value of those books to those who read them.


Because books published, conferences headlined, and numbers charted mean very little compared to a world changed, orphans served, widows attended, homeless housed, hungry fed, naked clothed, and those lost proclaimed the gospel.

Don’t get me wrong – I am giving my life to those very things. But that’s the key: giving myself to those things, and not the trappings of success.

As Mother Teresa famously intoned, God does not call us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful.

You are spending your life. What are you spending it on? Is it something that is achieving quick, ready acclaim, or something that will have statues erected in your honor throughout your sphere of influence?

Jobs is famous for saying, “Oh, wow. Oh, wow. Oh, wow.” just before he died.

We don’t know what he meant. 

But maybe, just maybe, if he had lived a moment longer past what he was glimpsing of life after death, he was going to then say,

“Oh, wow. What I could have done with my one and only life… and didn’t.”

James Emery White



Brandon Griggs, “In 50 years, people will forget Steve Jobs,” June 9, 2012, CNN, read online.

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs.

“Steve Jobs’s last words: ‘Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.’”, Hayley Tsukayama, The Washington Post, October 31, 2011, read online.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.