A Cutting-Edge Way to Find New Ministry Partners Online . . . and in Person
By Mark Kitts
I’m still smarting from the recent closing of my alma mater, once known as “the Flagship College” of the independent Christian churches (ICC). Our schools, publications, and national gatherings have historically been unifying bastions of the Restoration Movement. But these institutions have been losing influence as people have voted with their feet and their wallets. Is it because Restoration ideals have lost their relevance? I don’t think so. I see these ideals being adopted as never before.
Denominationalism is declining at an amazing rate as tens of thousands of churches are dropping their affiliations and becoming truly independent churches. It’s estimated as many as 80,000 churches in America now identify as independent and/or nondenominational and are truly breaking bonds with national headquarters.
Theologically, the church in America has suffered tremendously from liberal ideology for more than 100 years. The latest challenges center around postmodernism and the progressive evangelicals. But that has given rise to a desire to return to, or recommit to, simple, biblical Christianity. Liberal churches fail. Bible-believing churches grow (or at least persevere). Is this not at the heart of what ICCs have been about since the 1800s?
Embracing New Ways to Unite and Connect
We must embrace new ways of uniting and connecting around our common ideals and encourage like-minded leaders of churches that want to grow by fulfilling the Great Commission. This is the vision behind the Spire Network. You may have heard the board of stewards of the North American Christian Convention decided to take on this enormous challenge and give birth to this new enterprise now called Spire. The idea was to create an online place where we can connect, collaborate, and contribute.
Spire is open 24/7, not just once a year at a single gathering. (By the way, the annual gathering still exists! See http://spire.network). It’s a place where any church leader can give and get help with the myriad challenges of ministry. It’s designed to give voice to great ideas, whether they originate in a small church or a megachurch. We’ve always been a pioneering movement that adopts results-oriented solutions and abandons those that do not produce fruit.
One of the greatest things about my college—Cincinnati Christian University—and the NACC were the relationships I formed and maintained because of those institutions. Our dream is for Spire to become a place where new relationships are formed and old ones are strengthened.
Though online relationships cannot replace in-person relationships, it’s now commonplace for people to meet online before meeting in person. Many marriages today started as online relationships! That’s why we intend to continue in-person gatherings. In fact, Spire is increasing the number of get-togethers; the Topgolf events taking place all across the country are just one example.
I have already experienced the power of Spire as an online connection place. I do ministry and technology consulting. I recently posted an article on the Spire platform about best practices using church management software. Soon after, an IT administrator at a Dallas church messaged me to ask if we could talk. I called him and had a great conversation as we worked through some challenges his church is facing. Then, just a couple of weeks later, we met each other at the SpireConference in Orlando. A new friendship was formed. I look forward to building this relationship and seeing their church grow to the next level with ministry technology.
Leveraging New Technologies
We’ve all experienced the power of social media to connect people and augment existing and new relationships. (Have you heard that Facebook now has more than 2 billion users? As a technology guy, that blows my mind.) We now live in a crazy world where teens and adults carry around a powerful, pocket-sized computing and communication device. Our smartphones are nearly indispensable to everyday life. Of course, these new realities have created certain problems, but we must bravely and prudently move ahead to harness their power for gospel purposes.
Spire is intently trying to leverage these new capabilities while reducing the annoyances of social media we all hate. We strongly encourage all ministry leaders to set up a new account by logging in to http://spireapp.network. You will notice right away that all the content is centered around ministry in the local church. There are no cat pictures, no multilevel marketing ploys, and no politics! It is a place for kingdom leaders by kingdom leaders. It’s a place for pastors, elders, Bible college staff, parachurch leaders, authors, speakers, missionaries, church planters, and all other ministry-minded people who want to see the kingdom of God grow.
Spire is not owned by any corporation. It’s a nonprofit led by ICC leaders who want nothing more than to see churches grow and their leaders mature in their walk with Christ. The Spire app was designed by the Spire team and programmed by a great, ministry-minded software development company in Joplin, Missouri. Unlike secular tech corporations that misuse and sell your data, Spire is not in the business of selling user data or misusing it for nonkingdom purposes. Our goal is to be self-funded by providing a tremendous ministry service for church leaders. And yes, we are accepting donations to help get Spire off the ground! The beta version officially launched in October 2019 at the SpireConference. Many new features are coming in the years ahead.
So, what’s in it for you right now? I could launch into a long list of all the benefits, but I will suggest one reason: friends. We all need ministry friends. We all need fellow pastors and church leaders who are doing their best to lead others to Jesus and who don’t want to walk this leadership journey alone. So get onboard. Contribute what you’ve been learning, connect with other leaders, and collaborate on eternal kingdom work. See you online!
Mark Kitts was a founding pastor at a North Carolina church that grew from 0 to 2,000 while he was on the lead team. He was the founder and CEO of a church management software company for 13 years. He now does ministry and tech consulting.