3 Biblical images that remind us of the role of a Parachurch ministry
Early in my Christian walk as a teenager I was introduced to parachurch ministries, I just didn’t know they were parachurch ministries. It was a very positive experience, as I enjoyed Christian camps and even went to a Christian school for a few years. I was being taught from Christian curriculums in church and school, and reading Christian books published by parachurch ministries. After high school, I went to a Christian college, another parachurch ministry. This was an amazing time in my life where I grew spiritually and met lifelong friends. During college, I met my wife at a Christian camp that was a parachurch ministry and even worked in a para-church ministry between college and seminary traveling the country helping churches do outreach.
When we look across the religious landscape today we see many parachurch ministries. “Para” means `’to come alongside.” These ministries are to come alongside the church to help the church fulfill her mission. Jerry White defines a parachurch ministry as
“any spiritual ministry whose organization is not under the control or authority of a local congregation.” Parachurch ministries can be anything from a soup kitchen to a mission board, or even an educational institution.
Some pastors today, especially in conservative or fundamental circles, look suspiciously and negatively on parachurch ministries. Some do so with good reason. A few decades ago the Christian world was rocked by scandal when parachurch broadcast ministries like PTL, with the Bakers or Jimmy Swaggert, came tumbling down in scandals. This cast a dark cloud over other parachurch ministries, and even over the church as a whole. The culture lost confidence in ministries and mocked them openly for their scandals.
Parachurch ministries, like churches and pastors, often lack accountability. A lack of accountability can easily lead to a lack of integrity. However, parachurch ministries with accountability that stay on a mission can have a positive impact on the work of the church.
Almost every Christian has benefited from a parachurch ministry, even if they do not realize it. But there are many examples of parachurch ministries doing their own thing, existing to serve themselves, rather than the church. With that in mind, here are 3 reminders for a parachurch ministry:
#1 A Parachurch Ministry is the Bridesmaid, not the Bride
This is good for the parachurch ministry to remember. They are not the church. They do not compete with the church. As a good pastor friend of mine, Adam Colson, often says about our parachurch ministry, “you are a bridesmaid, not the bride.” The parachurch ministry is there to come alongside the church and help them accomplish their mission of the Great Commission.
#2 A Parachurch Ministry is the Good Samaritan, not the man left half dead.
Too often parachurch ministries are the beggars. They believe that the church and the people of the church are there to support their mission and endeavors. The opposite is true and needs to be remembered. The parachurch, like the good samaritan, is the one that needs to come alongside the church, protect the church, support the church and do everything we can to restore the church to health.
#3 A Parachurch Ministry is the ministry of the Deacon, not the Elder or Widow.
In Acts 6, we are introduced to a problem in the early church. The windows were being neglected. Quickly, a plan was drawn up to select 7 men filled with the Holy Spirit to help meet this need. Many believe these men were the forerunners to the office of the deacon in the church. The reason that they selected these men to take this work was twofold. First, to minister to the widows. Second, to allow those teaching, preaching, and praying to continue to focus on that. The word deacon means servant. The parachurch ministry is here to serve the church. We are not dependent on the church, nor do we lead the church.
If our ministry can serve you in some way, do not hesitate to reach out to us!