Technology Churches, Religion, and Evangelism

Posted on April 12, 2012 by

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I watched an interview with John Willis recently where he brought up the “Church of DevOps”. This “church” was described as a passion and excitement for DevOps, that can often be mistaken for arrogance and intolerance for differing ideas. This idea is nothing new and we see it play out again and again in technology circles. Think about the “Church of Linux”, the “Church of Open Source”, the “Church of Agile”, and the “Church of Cloud”.

This “passion” often plays out different ways. First, the passion acts as a buffer to the entrance of new ideas into the “Church”. Often there is seen as one guiding principal that is required for acceptance into the “Church”. In the case of Open Source, the guiding principal is that software must be “free” (as in speech).

The second way the passion plays out is within the church itself. Members of the church will maintain the overarching guiding principle, but segmentation often occurs around secondary ideals or principles. In religious circles you can see this played out in the Catholic church with the many different orders of monks. The monks almost all maintain the overarching principles of Catholicism, but have secondary beliefs such as vows of silence, etc. The religion of Christianity is another example of segmentation. Wikipedia states that there are over 38,000 denominations, each with an overarching guiding principle, but with a unique interpretation of secondary matters.

Luckily for technologists, our churches aren’t as segmented as Christianity; although the Church of Cloud is starting to look that way. But segmentation does exist, and it often harms the overarching principles in which these technology churches seek to evangelize. As John mentioned in the above video, who cares if you do image based builds or programmatic builds, the Church of DevOps should still accept you, and help you begin to adopt the guiding principles. Instead the passion, which is misread as zealotry and bigotry by new converts, overshadows the benefits of DevOps.

Turning back to the religious analogy, a few years ago several leaders from the major Christian denominations in the US met to form Christian Churches Together. The goal of this organization was to further the overarching principles of the Christian church and put aside the petty differences. The leaders believed that it benefited Christianity (and the converts) more if they could simply get people into a church, no matter if it was Baptist or Catholic.

And that brings us back to the Churches of Technology. So often are the members of the church focused on the road to technology salvation, that we often overlook the end goal – saving those lost souls stuck in the sins of a technology past. In the end, does it really matter if the convert comes to church with Puppet, Chef or even (gasp!) a proprietary tool? It simply does not. Spiritual transformations of an Information Technology nature can take place many different ways, and if the overarching goal of serving the needs of the business is met, who cares how we got there. Sure there may be a better, faster, or cheaper way of doing things, but those lessons are sometimes best taught by experience, rather than the leaders of the church.

The Technology Evangelists of our Churches need to remember that the goal in the long run is to advance the mission of the Church (serving the needs of the business), and the members of the congregation need to remember that they are all evangelists, so go easy on the new people.

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Posted in: Michael's