Why Open Source Matters

Open source matters. I really believe that to be true. Now before you starting thinking that I’m one of those guys who only uses open source software because I never want to pay for licensing… well, that’s simply not true. At Watermark we do use a lot of open source software such as WordPress, Typo3, and countless others. At the same time, we license a lot of software. Fair enough? Ok, moving on.

Watermark is currently in the middle of a new open source project called Shadetree. Essentially this is a tool that is customized to our needs as a church and encapsulates targeted communications, spiritual formation, group formation, volunteer management, online learning, social connection, and other items important to the intersection of life and church. Understand that we aren’t trying to replace the church management systems of today, but rather fill the gaps that exist by integrating with them and other tools in use already.

With Shadetree, we feel that it will be a great product in the end. So why not bundle it up and sell it to other churches? Because Christ never called his disciples to sell things.

Ok did I hit a hot button? Maybe, but keep reading. Over the last decade I have noticed a trend to “build and sell to the church.” In addition, I’ve noticed a trend that products that are “built and sold” are dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. In other words, these products contain the base functionality that works for most churches, but at the same time really doesn’t meet the specific needs of anyone.

Isn’t it about time that churches came together and stopped spending money on solutions that don’t really work, don’t integrate with other tools, and leave ministries sitting in silos that restrict their growth? Wouldn’t it be powerful if churches collaborated together on tools and shared openly their learnings to help the Church at large?

Maybe the term open source scares you, or maybe you don’t really know what that means… Think for a minute about WordPress. It’s arguably the most popular blogging software on the planet. And it’s free. It’s open source and it has a HUGE community of developers around it. If you want certain functionality, just go look, because it’s probably already been written. There is POWER in community.

So why not the church? Why are we settling for buying tools from other churches and vendors when we have the talent to build and redeploy tools “by the church and for the church”? If you think about the early church in Acts, this was normal for them.

“All who believed were together and held everything in common, and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47

So why does open source matter? Because it’s our chance to live out our gathering together with a common goal, distributing our proceeds together, sharing with glad and humble hearts and trusting God to use us today by adding to our number daily those who are being saved.

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