There’s a battle that’s been raging for years now, over computer architecture. Most computer users don’t even know about it since it’s a battle between computer architectures that are “proprietary” vs. those which are “Open Source”. Oddly enough, this same battle goes on amongst churches. But let’s understand this battle first in terms of your computer.
Non-techi people might think that “computer architecture” must refer to what the outside of the “computer” looks like, or even the design of the motherboard. But “computer architecture” is pretty much invisible to the end-user.
One definition is this:
The conceptual structure around which a given computer is designed.
Basically — no one can build a computer on a workbench without first having the plans for that computer. But no one can draw up a set of plans without first having mentally conceived of what the computer is supposed to do, what hardware exists (processing chips, hard drives, etc.) that can be combined together to do the job, and what software exists (or has to be written) in order to make the various parts do what the designers expect.
The whole shebang is called a “computer system” and its design is referred to as “computer architecture”. In today’s world, many companies involved with designing and building new computers deliberately keep everything they do secret. They want to produce a computer that people buy, go and use without anyone other than themselves knowing how they did it. The “architecture” of that computer is known as “proprietary” which today often refers to keeping the design and production of a new computer as much of a trade secret as possible.
Here’s where the battle between secrecy and Open Source comes into the picture. Many people (Open Source) think that the fundamental design of computers (and computer accessories) should be open to all developers. Whatever is kept secret can be improved on only by whoever’s in on “the secret”. But when computer systems are being designed “in the open”, there may be hundreds or even thousands around the world who go to work to solve problems in the design and bring a wealth of improvements to its development.
Now — churches are designed in a similar manner: each has its own, foundational “church architecture”. People who go to church usually don’t even realize that — just as a computer has a “conceptual structure” around which it’s designed — churches have an internal “architecture” as well. And most churches keep their “church architecture” so private that often not even their pastors are aware of the demands and restrictions of that fundamental, internal design.
Here’s an example of that similarity in action: You go to a computer store to look over the available computers. (Each one is different from the other because their designs are different — their “computer architecture” or internal “conceptual structures” are different.) One strikes your fancy and you buy it and take it home. After unpacking it and setting it up, plugging it in and turning it on, you set out to download email.
Do you ask yourself, “I wonder how this computer’s conceptual design makes it different from any other computer?” No. You don’t care. You don’t think, “Would another computer — built according to a different ‘architecture’ — would it be more to my liking?”
No. You just use it. But if after a day or so you realize you wanted it to record videos through the built-in video cam, and it apparently can’t so that, you might want to return it. Only then does it dawn on you that it might not be as easy to get out of the purchase as it was to get into it. What’s the return policy of the store? Can you return it and simply say you don’t like it so you want out of the deal?
Suddenly, the significance of that computer’s “architecture” whaps you across the forehead. You STILL don’t know what “computer architecture” is but you feel the impact of it anyway. Your new computer’s design — from the beginning — never had been designed to do the one function you mostly wanted: videocam. And you might just be stuck with it.
Switch over now to going to a church. If you already have one, what is its “internal architecture” and does that “fundamental design fit what you want spiritually?
Look again at the definition of “computer architecture”-but reshaped to fit “church architecture”:
The conceptual structure around which a given church is designed.
Do you think any church you go to hasn’t been “designed” by someone? Certainly, when you walk up from the parking lot and look at its steeple, you know someone conceptualized that ornament before anyone bought the materials and built it. And those stained glass windows or even the pretty Lucite pulpit up front, shining in the stage lights: all these elements were conceptualized by an architect before anyone installed them.