Cooperation Not Codependency 7

The following is the second-part of a two-part series I started last week.

As a fourth generation Baptist of the Southern Tribe, I’m all about cooperation–cooperation with those of my Tribe and cooperation with like-minded evangelicals (a.k.a. Great Commission Christians) of other Tribes.  Such cooperation is with other churches and with parachurch organizations.  It is biblical.  It provides synergy.  The wise Kingdom steward recognizes that making disciples of all nations is too much for one church to accomplish.

However, among some North American evangelicals (including some within my Tribe), cooperation has inadvertently resulted in cases of codependency.  Some parachurch organizations that originally were established to foster cooperation for Kingdom advancement, overtime have fostered a welfare mentality among churches.

Many local churches have the belief that they can’t move unless the parachurch tells them they can move. 

We can’t go to the field because the agency did not approve us.

We can’t go to the field because the agency did not have the money to send us.

I wonder what the early Moravians would think about this.

We can’t call him as our pastor. He doesn’t have a seminary degree.

I wonder what the Methodist and Baptist churches on the American frontier would think about this.

We can’t reach the 3000 unengaged-unreached because we don’t have any partners near them.

We can’t reach that people; they don’t have the Bible in their language.

We often can’t because of the definitions we subscribe to.  He who holds the definitions, writes the story and controls the movement.

As I questioned in a previous post, if any agency/institution creates a definition of effective ministry that is outside of the present or future grasp of the local church, then is such a definition healthy?

If the church agrees to such a definition, then does that make such a definition healthy?  If the local church is bypassed, then is that a wise plan?

To agree to the definition, is to agree to the story.

To agree to a story that is not about cooperation, but codependency, is not a good thing.

Some of the greatest Kingdom advancements have come through the work of parachurch ministries.  For these, and those organizations laboring with the local church in mind, I am grateful and look forward to what is to come.

However, no ministry should be done to keep the local church from her responsibilities–even if she agrees to abdicate those responsibilities to the parachurch.

An option for wise parachurch organizations is to work themselves out of their present jobs and into a new ones.  Such is good missiology.  They should not be designed to perpetuate their present existence until Jesus returns.

They should be designed to empower, partner with, edify, and exhort the local church to the task to which she is called.  They should not be islands unto themselves. They should help her, which involves helping her come along on a journey whereby a day is planned to hand her the baton.

Related to this option is that such organizations should be evolving on a continual basis. What they do today is not what they should be doing tomorrow. As the church develops, and the context changes, the parachurch ministry morphs to tackle other matters for the sake of the Kingdom.

Two hundred years of Protestant missionary history have revealed related problems when Western missionaries entered Majority World areas. Though there was cooperation in mind in the beginning, through paternalism, a codependency was often created. We have learned our lessons “over there” in cross-cultural contexts, but we have created variations on similar themes “over here” among our own.  Cooperation, not codependency–“partnership in the gospel” (Phil 1:5), not paternalism is the need.


(image credit: Microsoft Office)

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7 thoughts on “Cooperation Not Codependency

  • Steve Mayall

    Thanks for this J.D. What are some examples of parachurch organisations who have worked themselves out of a job and are not ‘islands unto themselves’?

  • Jonathan

    Dr. Payne,
    Interesting post. You mentioned
    “Some parachurch organizations that originally were established to foster cooperation for Kingdom advancement, overtime have fostered a welfare mentality among churches.”
    Could you share more about what you mean by a “welfare mentality”? Also, could you be a little more clear about what organizations you are suggesting have fostered a “welfare mentality” among churches? Thanks.

  • JD Post author

    Thanks, Jonathan, for your questions.
    The mentality is simply that of believing they can’t do something until someone else says they can or enables them to do it.
    I intentionally refrain from providing names, for at least to reasons. First, I don’t want to draw direct attention to any particular organization. Second, I want my readers to be discerning and asking questions about such ministries and their churches.