Are Para-church Ministries Biblical?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Tom Butler, Sep 4, 2009.

  1. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
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    In another thread, Lux et veritas made the following comment:
    Lux was writing in connection with the Emmaus Walk. So let's expand it to include any para-church ministry.

    Are those ministries supported by scriptural examples?
    Should any para-church ministry operate independently of a local church?
    Is a board of directors sufficient to meet accountability requirements?

    Such independent ministries proliferate, and many are greatly successful. And many claim that their ministries have resulted in many conversions.

    Is success enough validation? What role should a local church play?

    To boil it down, did Billy Graham get it wrong?
     
  2. Johnv

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    Parachurch organizations are neither biblically mandated not biblically condemned. It boils down to a matter of practicality. If the existence of a para-church organization is able to assist a church or ministry in its work, then have at it. The local church can't be expected to do it all.

    One of the largest and most well known parachurch organizations is Salvation Army Charities. Although affiliated, they operate independently of the Salvation Army Church. Other well known parachurch organizations inclide World Vision and Habitat for Humanity. There's nothing in scripture condemning their existence.
     
  3. swaimj

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    Very interesting topic, Tom.

    I grew up in the school of thought that said "everything and anything that needs to be done ought to be done by and through the local church".

    But, I've come more to the view that the church has a pretty simple and limited function and that as unique, targeted ministries develop, they are better done by people who are members of a local church, but who operate the targeted ministry outside its direct authority/control.

    The reason is that targeted ministries come and go as needs change in the culture, but the simple basic work of the church never changes. When a church tries to run a parachurch ministry, often the need for the ministry comes to an end, but the church is overcommitted and cannot let it go. At this point, the church's eye is off the ball as to what they should be doing.

    I must admit I have not thought all of this through thoroughly, but this has become my view "from the gut".
     
  4. Johnv

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    Exactly. If the local church wants to feed the poor, and there's a local soup kitchen that is in deparate need of volunteers, the church will probably be more effective at feeding the poor by volunteering at the local soup kitchen.
     
  5. Salty

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    Another good example would be a Christian School. There are two or three very, very small schools operated by Baptist Churches. Also, there is area Christian School, Faith Heritage School which has support of many churches in the area. The school is independent and has done an excellent job over the past thirty years.

    Yet, there are Baptists who say that only a local church should operate a Christian School.
     
  6. Aaron

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    Education and charity are of a wholly different nature than teaching ministries, and, yes, all teaching ministries should operate under the auspices of a local church.
     
  7. Salty

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    Why?

    Besides, all Christian charity charities should have teaching as part of their ministry.
     
  8. Johnv

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    Not necessarily. My wife is a teacher at a local Christian school. When the school first formed, some 40 years ago, they were part of a church. About 10 years later, the church ceased, but the school continued. Up through today, the school continues to be a Christian school which is not affiliated with any particular Christian church.
     
  9. Aaron

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    I meant doctrinal ministries, not teaching as in the Three R's.
     
  10. swaimj

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    Then, are you saying that a church has no business running a Christian school because it has no business teaching the "three R's"?
     
  11. Salty

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    Let me re ask - Should Christian charities have teaching as part of their ministry?
     
  12. Johnv

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    If you're referring to the verbal act of instruction, no, teaching is not a prerequisite for simply being a ministry. If I can use the "soup kitchen" example, the ministry is to feed people. So they should feed people. There's no need to require teaching at that time. Jesus says to share the gospel. We do that most effectively with our hands and feet. That should be teaching enough.
     
  13. Lux et veritas

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    The following is an article at www.thechristianobserver.com

    “What do you think of parachurch groups?” I was recently asked this question. It wasn’t the first time, and it most likely will not be the last! If I were to rephrase the question this way, and ask myself, “Do you think parachurch organizations are good or bad, beneficial or harmful, a blessing or a curse?” My answer would be a resounding, “YES!” (What a perfect political response that would be).

    But seriously, parachurch groups can have all the above qualities. And if they do not actually manifest them, they often inherently possess them. That is because they usually are a result of concerned Christians seeing a lack in some area of activity in the local church. While it is commendable that Christians see that, and want to do something about it, (that’s good!) the danger is that far too often parachurch organizations tend to become ‘issue-oriented’ and often it is ‘single-issue-oriented’ (that’s bad).

    God’s purpose in this world is to be worked out in and through His Church – the local church. And while I would be in total agreement with those who believe that many, many churches have departed from biblical doctrine and practice (and it usually goes in that order), that does not mean that God has given up on His church. Just because there is a high divorce rate in our society, does not mean we give up on the institution of marriage; and so it ought to be with the real and perceived problems with local churches.

    The Church is mandated to proclaim the “whole counsel of God”. It cannot be single-issue focussed without abdicating its responsibility to its Head – Jesus Christ. Let me give two examples:

    (1) A local church cannot focus on evangelism and neglect the discipling of new converts. Many “evanglistic” parachurch organizations only “do evangelism” and almost totally ignore the equally important ministry of discipleship.

    (2) Neither can the Church focus only on doctrinal teaching / apologetics and not give equal attention to practical teaching that gives down-to-earth practical helps for its members to put those great doctrines into practice. Parachurch organizations tend to do one or the other.

    Briefly then, while I thank God for the good that does come from those few parachurch organizations that understand their own limitations, are accountable to the elders of a local church, and do not in any way detract from the authority and mandate of the local church as God’s chosen way to carry on His work in the world, I am also very concerned that due to the over-emphasis of ’single-issues’ by parachurch organizations, that many well-meaning Christians are unwittingly undermining the real work of God, and in fact, may be doing more harm than good. And one of the saddest manifestations of this is that, all too often, Christians often show more loyalty and zeal towards parachurch groups – which are created by fallible men and women, and take their involvement in them more seriously, than they do to the local church - which was instituted by God. And that can never be good.
     
  14. gb93433

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    What local churches are on naval ships in the middle of the ocean?
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    Our congregation contributes funds to two local social service ministries. One is a Christian pro-life crisis pregnancy counseling center, the other is a cooperative among churches which provides food and temporary living accommodations for the needy.

    They are uniquely equipped, organized and qualified to administer those services. Our church could not match the scale of the services they offer.

    On the other hand, local Baptist churches are able to join together in cooperative ventures at the local, state, and convention levels. And their polity allows for local churches to be the ultimate authority.

    In my Association, there is no Baptist social ministry to match the scale of the two I mentioned. At the Kentucky Baptist Convention level, there are orphanages, disaster relief ministries, among others. Again, the ultimate authority is from local churches cooperating.

    With regard to evangelistic ministries. I suggest that anyone called to evangelism place himself under a local church, instead of running off and forming an independent ministry. You want to do an outreach to bikers? Some local church will do it. Find it and go for it.

    Jesus didn't die for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He did die for the local churches. He gave the commission to local churches. We would do well to remember that.
     
    #15 Tom Butler, Sep 4, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2009
  16. gb93433

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    How many churches are you aware of that have hired an evangelist as one of their staff of pastors and treats that person as they would any other pastor?
     
  17. webdog

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    For matters of discipleship, I do not believe a parachurch should be involved. That should be left to the local church.

    For issues other than that, I think it would depend on the situation. Meeting the physical needs of "the least of these" would be one instance where a parachurch's involvement would be beneficial.
     
  18. annsni

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    I think they can be good and bad. They can step in where churches cannot. But then there are ways that churches are better.

    My husband and I met through Youth for Christ/Campus Life. It was a great organization that touched MANY teen's lives for Christ because it wasn't a church. It was less...scary for kids to get involved in.

    Our church started a crisis pregnancy center but eventually launched it to be independent. Why? Because no other churches felt the need to support it if we were involved. By making it independent, other churches then began supporting it along with us and it allowed it to grow. They're now located across the street (literally) from Planned Parenthood.

    So I think they can be good. I also think they can be not so good. It's totally depending on so many factors that it would be a case-to-case basis.
     
  19. Lux et veritas

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    Your argument is based on pragmatism. That really should not be the basis of a Christian's decision. Rather, it should be, "What saith the Scripture?"
     
  20. saturneptune

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    I conducted the Protestant worship services on board a naval ship for several years. The local churches that are on naval ships are the local churches that each one attending belongs to back home. What do you expect with people from all backgrounds stuck out in the middle of an ocean for months? What do services on board a ship have to do with the issue of this thread, the importance of the local church? When these members are discharged, they return to their local church. They do not go join the yacht club on Sunday and read a Bible.

    By the way, how long did you serve? Have you ever served on a US Naval vessel? If not, why are you talking about it?
     

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