At the 2023 Church Ministries Conference, I had the privilege to do a workshop on the Church and Parachurch with Rochelle Visser
The basis of the workshop information was birthed out of 9Marks April 2011 journal - "Church and Parachurch: Friends or Foes."
|Click Image for the full journal
During the workshop, we wanted to share some basic information and also have some discussions with ministry leaders about how to build partnerships. I love the growing, not perfect, relationship Trinity Baptist Church has with various parachurch organizations, so I wanted Rochelle, who actively serves at Trinity and also at Camp Michawana, Bible Club, Community Kids, and various Pro-Life Organizations.
If you want more about the practical side of the workshop, contact Rochelle, or me, or leave a comment on this post.
Some of the topics and issues discussed but not solved were adoption agencies, college campus ministries, and things to consider in doctrinal statements.
Now here are some things shared during the workshop.
The key word to remember as we talk about healthy church and parachurch relationships is PARTNERSHIP.
Here are two descriptions to consider:
- A healthy church is about sharing the Gospel and equipping believers for the glory of God.
- "A healthy parachurch ministry knows that it exists primarily to protect the church." J. Mack Stiles.
To continue this PARTNERSHIP theme there are three words to consider:
The church is essential because it is biblical. The church is not a man-made construct.
The church is referred to in scripture as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-27).
As the church, we are adopted (Galatians 4:4-5) brought into the family of God (1 John 3:1-12; Galatians 4:6-7).
You may have heard it said the church is not the building, the physical location and address of the church building. However, the Bible does say "in [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit." (Ephesians 2:22, see also 1 Peter 2:4-5)
Finally, the church is a body. First Corinthians 12:12 says "just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." Romans 12:4 says "for just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function."
"[Parachurch organizations] serve churches in a variety of practical ways that allow those churches to focus on and fulfill their primary responsibilities." (John Bloom, What is a Parachurch Ministry?) Recent history demonstrates how parachurch organizations have helped Christ's Church with ministry to children, youth, missions, translation work and so much more. Because something is not in the Bible doesn't mean it un-biblical and antibiblical. However, it does mean it should never take the place of Biblical things.
So which of these two is harmful? The church or the parachurch? I pray you would not believe that God's bride and plan - the church - is not harmful. You may want to say that the parachurch organizations are harmful. I believe the harm and problems come when the church or parachurch do not understand their roles. When a church gives up its role to another organization that is a problem. When a parachurch organization oversteps its role, there is a problem. Carl Trueman's 9Marks journal article, How a parachurch ministries go off the rails, is a good resource to check out.
- One of 9Marks' journals is specifically about this relationship. Here is the link to the whole journal, followed by some specific articles - https://www.9marks.org/journal/church-and-parachurch-friends-or-foes/
The Vine Movement: Supporting Gospel Growth Beyond Your Church,
- Review of the book - https://au.thegospelcoalition.org/book-review/the-dance-church-and-parachurch/
- Ordering the book - https://matthiasmedia.com/products/the-vine-movement?fbclid=IwAR1fxi_P0-XVs2Z-d6qq0UYMzPydIg1O-hQRmcw_1LXpkySKCnh7LcIy4lQ
- What is a parachurch ministry? - https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-a-parachurch-ministry