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9Marks eJournal – Church and Parachurch: Friends or Foes?

March 29, 2011

I recently read this journal from 9Marks and had to share it.  As a church planter in a college town, I have a burden to see the Great Commission fulfilled as people of all ages, all ethnicities, all tax brackets, and all interests become disciples of Jesus Christ, being taught to observe all that Christ commands (Matt. 28:18-20).  I make it our goal as a church to present everyone mature in Christ (Col. 1:28).  And it is my prayer that as people who have nothing in common become united in Christ, the glory of the Gospel might be put on display (Eph. 2:11-22). 

These goals are easy to affirm, but hard to put into practice.  Unfortunately there are many times we fail to let our theology, these Gospel truths we affirm, inform our methodology.  Christians, parachurch organizations, and even many churches fail to see how there practice can distort their beliefs; how they, though very well-intended, can adjust the Gospel. 

As I have preached, taught, and talked about this repeatedly it has led one student, requesting that a Christian Student Organization be started at a college in town to falsely accuse me of being “anti-parachurch organization.”  I find this very ironic since in was in the context of a Christian parachurch organization, Parkland Christian Fellowship, which I help to lead that this student heard our views on the relationship between the church and parachurch.  I assure you he didn’t listen well.

In reality, I am not anti-parachurch, I am pro-church and pro-Gospel.  I cut my teeth in ministry in a Christian student organization.  I went on mission trips through parachurch organizations.  I give to parachurch organizations.  I went to seminary, a parachurch organization.  I write for parachurch organizations.  I receive funding as a church plant from parachurch organizations.  I help lead a parachurch organization.  My life has been changed by parachurch organizations.  So how can I be “anti-parachurch organization?”  The truth is I am not.  I’m compelled by the inseparable nature of the Gospel and the church. 

The parachurch is not the church.  The Gospel calls people to identify themselves with Christ and his church, not a parachurch.  But unfortunately many parachurch organizations confuse this very thing.  And if we confuse it, we’re inadvertently distorting the Gospel.  We need to carefully define the Gospel and the church and to structure our ministries to work toward God’s purposes, not our own.  Should parachurch organizations continue to exist?  Yes.  Do many need to reform some of their practices?  Yes.  This is ultimately what I am about.

Now I could keep rattling on, but the entire reason for this post is to commend to you the latest 9Marks eJournal that is entirely devoted to this very subject: Church and Parachurch: Friends or Foes?  Many of my views on the relationship between the church and the parachurch are expressed in these articles written by faithful brothers such as J. Mack Stiles, Jonathan Leeman, Carl Trueman, and D.A. Carson, all of whom work for, that’s right, parachurch organizations.  Let us not have zeal apart from knowledge.  May our true motivation be out of a deep understanding love of Christ and his church.  Enjoy the read!

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