An advertisement for a writer's retreat.

Yesterday I braved the iPhone-crazy crowds in Raleigh’s Apple Store to pick up my three-year-old MacBook, which I’d taken in for repairs less than a week before my “Apple Care” extended warranty ran out.

I’d made a “Time Machine” backup (a feature of the “Leopard” operating system) before taking it in because there were a few visible cracks in the white plastic bottom case, and the ethernet port, while rarely used, wasn’t working.

What I got back was a nearly new computer. Technicians at the repair center replaced the bottom case (the plastic shell) and the top case (the part containing the keyboard). They also replaced the main logic board (a.k.a. “motherboard”), the Airport (wireless) card, the bezel (I’m not sure what that is), and some sort of connector. In addition, they found a bad sector in my old hard drive and popped in a new one — with 20 gigabytes more storage space than before. The Apple folks then reinstalled a recent version of the operating system, so all I had to do was restore the data from my latest backup, run a few updates, and be back in business.

That’s one case in which purchasing the extended warranty was well worth the price — everything was covered.

My laptop’s successful and practically painless makeover stands in contrast to the more difficult overhauls that face us. What will it take to get the nation’s economic engines successfully up to speed, for example, and put people back to work? In North Carolina, the jobless rate is more than 11 percent, even lawyers are being laid off, and teaching fellows who received scholarship money for college in return for teaching in the state can’t find positions. There’s no extended warranty for that kind of problem.

In Louisville this week, Southern Baptists will looking at ways to reverse a clear decline in baptisms and membership. Some are putting their hopes in what they’re calling a “Great Commission Resurgence,” a multi-point plan that seeks to reinforce the Convention’s fundamentalist direction while looking at ways to pare down its bureaucracy. While many SBC leaders including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin have indicated support, a power bloc led by Southwestern Seminary president Paige Patterson has pointedly refrained.

Aaron Weaver has aptly noted how this illustrates a growing rift between the old fundamentalists with their Landmarkist leanings, and younger fundamentalists who tend to be more Calvinist in theology and friendly to contemporary approaches to doing church. Those who drove the inerrancy bandwagon 30 years ago gave the impression that getting rid of “liberals” (anyone who doesn’t ascribe to inerrancy) would be the ticket to a glorious future, but fractiousness persists within the Convention, and postmoderns simply aren’t buying the closed system that they’re selling.

I could go on about difficult makeovers, including intractable troubles in many congregations, and the efforts many of us are making to overhaul bad habits and improve our health. It would be nice, I suppose, if there was a great Apple Care Repair Center in the sky to which we could ship all our ungainly issues.

But, it doesn’t work that way. Whether it’s invigorating the economy, revitalizing a denomination, healing a congregation or revamping our eating habits, the solutions will have to come from within, and they’ll take a lot of work.

They’re also worth the effort. As my friend Johnny Brown often says, “Push on, push on!”

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