“There is a tendency for the parachurch to become ... the functioning church of its participants."

The parachurch ministry "becomes the hub around which the Christian lives of its participants revolve. It is the place to which its people go for fellowship and instructions. It’s “members” are the people to which its participants go in time of crisis. The Bible study, the discipleship group, the prayer group becomes their church." - Ref21

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Kevin Miller's picture

After reading the article, I looked up Reformation21. It's a site owned by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which is itself a parachurch organization. I just found it interesting that a parachurch organization put out an article warning about parachurch organizations.

Well, the warning is actually about replacing the church with the parachurch organization, but I think most all parachurch organizations would agree that they don't want to be seen as a replacement for the church itself.

TylerR's picture

Editor

You're so silly. They're talking about other parachurch organizations  ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Perhaps we ought to ask why parachurches become the de facto churches for many.  I remember reading about this/hearing about this back into the 1980s, and my college pastor (at South Baptist in Lansing MI, still serving there) lamented the fact that something like 90% of those at Crusade/Cru, Intervarsity, and the like who did not have a church home would leave the faith altogether after college.

Now perhaps a bit of it is "itching ears" or comforts that should not be replicated in a church setting, but perhaps another part of the parachurch attraction is things that the church ought to be doing, but is not.  For my part, in one parachurch group I participated in in grad school, I found that there was a much stronger tendency towards relationship building than in the local church I attended at the time.  

One big warning about parachurch ministries is that they tend, even more than churches, to have a fairly narrow view of the theological world, and thus fail to confront believers whose only real spiritual "impact" is to drive their personal hobby horses.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew K's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

After reading the article, I looked up Reformation21. It's a site owned by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which is itself a parachurch organization. I just found it interesting that a parachurch organization put out an article warning about parachurch organizations.

Well, the warning is actually about replacing the church with the parachurch organization, but I think most all parachurch organizations would agree that they don't want to be seen as a replacement for the church itself.

Verbally, yes. In practice, no.

When a parachurch org. clarifies that they're not a church solely because they "don't baptize or administer the Lord's Supper," I suspect they're operating on a rather stunted understanding of the church.

For the record, Ref21 and the Alliance have both openly said numerous times that a) they are a parachurch org; and b) affirmed that parachurch orgs are both good and necessary--even vital. So the implication of "pot calling kettle" doesn't exactly stick here.

Kevin Miller's picture

Andrew K wrote:

 

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

After reading the article, I looked up Reformation21. It's a site owned by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which is itself a parachurch organization. I just found it interesting that a parachurch organization put out an article warning about parachurch organizations.

Well, the warning is actually about replacing the church with the parachurch organization, but I think most all parachurch organizations would agree that they don't want to be seen as a replacement for the church itself.

 

 

Verbally, yes. In practice, no.

So are you saying that some parachurch organizations practice as if they were a replacement for the church even though they say they aren't? In what manner are they acting as a replacement? Is it when they hold gatherings of believers for the purpose of instruction and Christian fellowship? The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals holds conferences, so would those gatherings be seen by you as replacement gatherings for the church?

Quote:
When a parachurch org. clarifies that they're not a church solely because they "don't baptize or administer the Lord's Supper," I suspect they're operating on a rather stunted understanding of the church.
Do you have some examples of parachurch organizations which clarify they are not a church solely because they don't baptize or practice the Lord's Supper.

Quote:
For the record, Ref21 and the Alliance have both openly said numerous times that a) they are a parachurch org; and b) affirmed that parachurch orgs are both good and necessary--even vital. So the implication of "pot calling kettle" doesn't exactly stick here. 
According to the article they published, they also say "The local church often has been weakened by the presence of the parachurch. Who can say if the net result has been positive or negative? We know the positives of parachurch organizations. However, if all those whose attention has been occupied by the parachurch had been pouring their time and energy into the local church, into its burden-bearing fellowship, its body-strengthening teaching, and its soul-saving outreach, what difference might that have made?" This doesn't sound like they are making a case that parachurch organizations are "necessary--even vital."

Andrew K's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Andrew K wrote:

 

 

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

After reading the article, I looked up Reformation21. It's a site owned by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, which is itself a parachurch organization. I just found it interesting that a parachurch organization put out an article warning about parachurch organizations.

Well, the warning is actually about replacing the church with the parachurch organization, but I think most all parachurch organizations would agree that they don't want to be seen as a replacement for the church itself.

 

 

Verbally, yes. In practice, no.

So are you saying that some parachurch organizations practice as if they were a replacement for the church even though they say they aren't? In what manner are they acting as a replacement? Is it when they hold gatherings of believers for the purpose of instruction and Christian fellowship? The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals holds conferences, so would those gatherings be seen by you as replacement gatherings for the church?

 

 

Quote:
When a parachurch org. clarifies that they're not a church solely because they "don't baptize or administer the Lord's Supper," I suspect they're operating on a rather stunted understanding of the church.

Do you have some examples of parachurch organizations which clarify they are not a church solely because they don't baptize or practice the Lord's Supper.

 

 

Quote:
For the record, Ref21 and the Alliance have both openly said numerous times that a) they are a parachurch org; and b) affirmed that parachurch orgs are both good and necessary--even vital. So the implication of "pot calling kettle" doesn't exactly stick here. 

According to the article they published, they also say "The local church often has been weakened by the presence of the parachurch. Who can say if the net result has been positive or negative? We know the positives of parachurch organizations. However, if all those whose attention has been occupied by the parachurch had been pouring their time and energy into the local church, into its burden-bearing fellowship, its body-strengthening teaching, and its soul-saving outreach, what difference might that have made?" This doesn't sound like they are making a case that parachurch organizations are "necessary--even vital."

 

1. Not by holding conferences, of course. That's just silly. By minimizing the importance of the local church in the role of sanctification of the believer. This is accomplished more through omission than commission.

2. If course I do or I wouldn't have said so. Two Christian schools at which I have worked and one Christian college, specifically.

3. The author is looking at net gains. I agree the probably overstates the case, but I've heard Alliance leadership explain on a number of occasions that para church orgs include Christian ed orgs and mission boards, and that small, churches and denoms could never accomplish much of the work of missions and Christian training without the work of those two types alone.

 

Kevin Miller's picture

Andrew K wrote:

1. Not by holding conferences, of course. That's just silly. By minimizing the importance of the local church in the role of sanctification of the believer. This is accomplished more through omission than commission.

I'm not sure why my conference question would be "just silly." If the Alliance holds all their conferences under the direct authority of a specific local church, then they wouldn't be minimizing the importance of the local church in sanctification. However, a lot of parachurch groups do hold there conferences and events in a way that would, by omission, potentially minimize the importance of the local church.

Quote:
2. If course I do or I wouldn't have said so. Two Christian schools at which I have worked and one Christian college, specifically.
Wow. I find it interesting that a school would even need to clarify that they are not a church, and it seems a bit odd that they would make that distinction solely because they do not baptize or administer the Lord's Supper. It seems to me they would be able to come up with a lot more reasons than just those.

Quote:
3. The author is looking at net gains. I agree the probably overstates the case, but I've heard Alliance leadership explain on a number of occasions that para church orgs include Christian ed orgs and mission boards, and that small, churches and denoms could never accomplish much of the work of missions and Christian training without the work of those two types alone.
Oh, I understand that point, but I've also heard the argument that churches should do more training of ministers rather than sending them off to some college or seminary to be trained. I've also heard discussions about whether mission boards have supplanted the responsibilities of local churches in sending missionaries. At least most mission boards state in their mission statements that they seek to assist churches. They have no intention of replacing the sending churches. At least I don't think any have that intention. I'm the Awana Director at my church, and the Awana organization states on their website that "Awana equips local volunteers in churches around the world with Biblical evangelism and discipleship solutions." So that organization is seeking to assist churches rather than replace them.

 

Andrew K's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Andrew K wrote:

 

1. Not by holding conferences, of course. That's just silly. By minimizing the importance of the local church in the role of sanctification of the believer. This is accomplished more through omission than commission.

I'm not sure why my conference question would be "just silly." If the Alliance holds all their conferences under the direct authority of a specific local church, then they wouldn't be minimizing the importance of the local church in sanctification. However, a lot of parachurch groups do hold there conferences and events in a way that would, by omission, potentially minimize the importance of the local church.

 

 

Quote:
2. If course I do or I wouldn't have said so. Two Christian schools at which I have worked and one Christian college, specifically.

Wow. I find it interesting that a school would even need to clarify that they are not a church, and it seems a bit odd that they would make that distinction solely because they do not baptize or administer the Lord's Supper. It seems to me they would be able to come up with a lot more reasons than just those.

 

 

Quote:
3. The author is looking at net gains. I agree the probably overstates the case, but I've heard Alliance leadership explain on a number of occasions that para church orgs include Christian ed orgs and mission boards, and that small, churches and denoms could never accomplish much of the work of missions and Christian training without the work of those two types alone.

Oh, I understand that point, but I've also heard the argument that churches should do more training of ministers rather than sending them off to some college or seminary to be trained. I've also heard discussions about whether mission boards have supplanted the responsibilities of local churches in sending missionaries. At least most mission boards state in their mission statements that they seek to assist churches. They have no intention of replacing the sending churches. At least I don't think any have that intention. I'm the Awana Director at my church, and the Awana organization states on their website that "Awana equips local volunteers in churches around the world with Biblical evangelism and discipleship solutions." So that organization is seeking to assist churches rather than replace them.

 

 

[/quote]

Sorry, your question wasn't silly. The notion that conferences inherently undermine the authority of the local church is silly.

Andrew K's picture

Kevin Miller wrote:

 

Andrew K wrote:

 

1. Not by holding conferences, of course. That's just silly. By minimizing the importance of the local church in the role of sanctification of the believer. This is accomplished more through omission than commission.

I'm not sure why my conference question would be "just silly." If the Alliance holds all their conferences under the direct authority of a specific local church, then they wouldn't be minimizing the importance of the local church in sanctification. However, a lot of parachurch groups do hold there conferences and events in a way that would, by omission, potentially minimize the importance of the local church.

 

 

Quote:
2. If course I do or I wouldn't have said so. Two Christian schools at which I have worked and one Christian college, specifically.

Wow. I find it interesting that a school would even need to clarify that they are not a church, and it seems a bit odd that they would make that distinction solely because they do not baptize or administer the Lord's Supper. It seems to me they would be able to come up with a lot more reasons than just those.

 

 

Quote:
3. The author is looking at net gains. I agree the probably overstates the case, but I've heard Alliance leadership explain on a number of occasions that para church orgs include Christian ed orgs and mission boards, and that small, churches and denoms could never accomplish much of the work of missions and Christian training without the work of those two types alone.

Oh, I understand that point, but I've also heard the argument that churches should do more training of ministers rather than sending them off to some college or seminary to be trained. I've also heard discussions about whether mission boards have supplanted the responsibilities of local churches in sending missionaries. At least most mission boards state in their mission statements that they seek to assist churches. They have no intention of replacing the sending churches. At least I don't think any have that intention. I'm the Awana Director at my church, and the Awana organization states on their website that "Awana equips local volunteers in churches around the world with Biblical evangelism and discipleship solutions." So that organization is seeking to assist churches rather than replace them.

 

 

Kevin, I move in more evangelical circles than you likely do; but I have heard, at least twice, Christian school teachers and administrators boldly state that a Christian school is a church and--from a school administrator who is one of my Linkedin connections--that "the church has failed and now it is time for Christian schools [and other parachurch organizations] to take over."

As for the notion that "mission boards have supplanted the responsibilities of local churches in sending missionaries," it's lovely to consider a small congregation supporting a missionary and providing for all his needs as he labors overseas. It would also be lovely if we could fly in paper airplanes and live on sawdust and seawater. Given the current reality of many overseas fields, it's completely unrealistic to consider a single church of any size has the expertise and the resources to provide everything a missionary needs. I say this as someone who has experience in restricted fields, but this now applies far more broadly.

I know several missionaries who are constantly relying on the advice and input of their sending org to simply stay in the country. About 1 day out of every 5 for documents, visa trips, etc. has become pretty standard. It ain't like it used to be.