By Chris Moon
Mitch Chitwood grew up in the Restoration Movement.
He spent his childhood attending independent Christian churches in Arizona and Nebraska. His father has served for decades as a Christian church pastor. And Chitwood today works as the operations and multisite pastor for StoneBridge Christian Church in Omaha, Nebraska.
Needless to say, the 27-year-old is very familiar with the movement of Christian churches and churches of Christ that spans the United States.
But for his first several years in ministry, Chitwood never fully felt part of that movement.
“I always had that one-step barrier,” he says.
Chitwood attributes that to the fact he didn’t attend one of the movement’s many Bible colleges, opting instead to obtain his theology degree from a Baptist university.
Our Bible colleges often are considered the glue that holds our movement together. Pastors who attend those colleges often forge lifelong bonds with their classmates, who also enter ministry. And so they lead in a familiar network of friends and colleagues.
Pastors without that Bible college experience may lack that network. And so Chitwood says he felt a “gap” between himself and the movement. He longed to find a way to cross it.
And then he attended the NACC in July 2016 in Anaheim, California.
“What the North American Christian Convention did is bridge that gap for me. It brought me back to connect [to the Christian church movement],” he says.
Through the main sessions, with their worship and keynote speakers, and the workshops, with their practical emphasis on ministry and leadership, Chitwood says he was able to experience in a deeper way the connection that exists among the churches of the Restoration Movement.
“The collaboration and unity was incredible,” he says, adding, “I am on a bigger team, and that team is alive and well and pushing forward.”
Chitwood envisions his future ministry as one of leadership from the “second chair.” His calling is in the crucial role of executive leadership.
And so he soaked up NACC workshops led by the likes of Jeremy Jernigan, Jeff Vines, Rick Rusaw, and Mel McGowan on leadership and communication within the congregation.
“It was those smaller rooms, and being able to hear from those really high-capacity leaders, that benefited me,” Chitwood says.
Chitwood is planning this year to bring most of his church’s staff to the 2017 NACC, set for June 27-29 in Kansas City, Missouri. He sees it as a good time for them to learn, fellowship, and worship together.
And that last element—worshipping together—is key.
“A lot of times we’re all working on Sundays. So as a staff, we don’t ever worship together. It’s something we’re really looking forward to doing,” he says.
Chitwood encourages other Christian church leaders to do the same.
“The NACC is a time for rest for pastors and lay leaders,” he says. “But more than that, it’s a time of encouragement—to get new ideas, to feel refreshed, to hear from leaders in our group—and a time to worship God for what he’s done and what he’s going to do.”
Chris Moon serves as pastor with Stanton (Kentucky) Christian Church.