Hardware, middleware, software

2 April 2013

We’re about to start a new preaching mini-series at TCC, on ‘church’.

But it’s not a series about primarily about baptism, the Lord’s supper, elders or deacons. Nor is it a series primarily about children’s ministry, evangelism programs, or what a Sunday service should look like.

We will cover those things, but the primary emphasis of this series is to teach our ‘middleware’; our DNA, our operating system. And not just that, but to show how our philosophy is deeply rooted in the Scriptures.

In his recent book, Centre Church, Tim Keller makes the distinction between ‘hardware, middleware, and software’. We’re familiar with the difference between hardware and software. But we often overlook the importance of middleware, which are the operating systems and platforms ‘in between’ hardware and software.

I have a samsung phone, which I think is great (my hardware). On it I can run various apps, like evernote (my software). But without its android operating system (the middleware), my phone would be really ineffective. In other words, middleware is what ‘translates’ and channels the power of the hardware into useful functions (the software).

In a church context, ‘hardware’ are the doctrinal¬†and theological foundations; convictions around justification, the church, God’s character, and so on. ‘Software’ are the actual ministries and programs that a church does. And ‘middleware’ is the philosophy of ministry; it’s the set of core values that provide an ‘operating system’, and translate the theological underpinnings into day to day life and mission.¬†Interestingly, differences in middleware – not hardware – can sadly lead to strong disagreements among Christians who may otherwise have almost identical doctrine.

Crucially then, middleware provides flexibility and robustness at the same time; my phone is able to run apps that suit my lifestyle and needs excellently. If you had the same phone, you would no doubt run apps that suited your needs well too. In the same way, a reflective and explicit ministry philosophy enables fruitful, intentional ministry for different Christians and churches in different contexts.

At TCC, our theological underpinnings are orthodox, robust, reformed, and historic. They are our hardware, our foundation. Deny that Jesus rose from the dead and you break everything, like pouring water into your phone. Our three core values are our middleware: we are a gospel-centred church, a disciple-making church, and a simple church. Our new series will explain where these values come from in the Bible, what they mean, and how they provide us with a philosophy of life and mission that is both flexible and robust.

This blog post was written by Dan Martin.