Jul
2

Evangelical Ethos of Parachurch Entitlement

written by JD

I have always been supportive of parachurch organizations.

I was heavily involved in a Christian organization while a student at the University of Kentucky.

I earned two degrees from a seminary.

I served with a mission agency for nine years.

I taught as a Bible college professor (at three different schools) and seminary professor for fourteen years.

I am an adjunct professor for a seminary.

I speak several times each year to parachurch leaders and members of their organizations.

Every church I’ve pastored has financially supported the parachurch agencies and institutions of my denomination.

Our church partners with several different parachurch organizations.

Much of my ministry has been (and continues to be) connected to parachurch ministries.

I have always been supportive of parachurch organizations.

However, my concern is that many parachurch organizations have not worked toward the completion of the parachurch purpose, but have created an evangelical ethos of parachurch entitlement.  Rather than empowering local churches, many have become an end unto themselves.

Ask most parachurch leaders if God’s plan is about the church or the parachurch and they will immediately say, “The Church, of course!”

The Church is Plan A. There is no Plan B.  We know that.

Everything needed to make disciples of all nations is found within the Church.  Everything needed for the sanctification of the saints is found within the Church.  God did not birth the Church and the Parachurch.

Such Kingdom innovations are not necessarily bad things if done within the context of Kingdom parameters.

But if parachurch groups establish definitions of successful ministry that local churches are unable to achieve, then we have a problem.  The problem becomes compounded if local churches agree to such definitions.  When the latter happens, we find ourselves in an atmosphere of parachurch entitlement.

(Lord willing, I plan to continue this thought in my next post.)

7 Responses to “Evangelical Ethos of Parachurch Entitlement”

  1. JD – totally agree! I like to use a second term for those of us who exist “outside” the local church besides parachurch. The phrase I use is “pro-church.” It speaks to the essential posture of the parachurch entities towards the church. No longer extracting human and financial resources for its own mission but deferential, existing to serve and make the church effective and fruitful, moving beyond seeing the church as a partner of convenience to an indispensable partner.

    That said, as a pro-church guy I have been grieved over and over by local churches who delegate or even abdicate responsibility (particularly to the vulnerable or those on the margins) to parachurch organizations. This grief in me has sometimes been further compounded by these same churches later choosing to launch out on their own without so much as a thanks, apology, or a listening ear to learn some of the hard-fought lessons that we have through the years.

  2. I hope you do continue this post. As it stands, I think you’ve been a bit unfair (not least by painting all parachurch organizations with the same broad brush). I’ll just point to one conceptual difficulty with your argument:

    “But if parachurch groups establish definitions of successful ministry that local churches are unable to achieve, then we have a problem.” Ok. My wife works in a parachurch ministry that provides survivors of sex trafficking in India and Cambodia with opportunities to break free of the cycle of poverty and prostitution. For them, ministry success is rescuing as many of these women as possible. This is not the definition of ministry success for the church we attend here in Brooklyn, nor could it be. Where’s the problem here exactly?

  3. JD

    Thanks, Damon. Good words!

  4. JD

    Thanks, David, for your response. Re-read the post. I do not categorize all parachurch organizations into the same category–hence the use of the word “many”. I would expect local churches here and in Asia would be engaged in this important work that your wife is engaged in. May her tribe increase!

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