A Doctrinal Analysis of Parachurches (Part 1)

Dear BPCWA worshipper, Last week, we saw how parachurches (groups that are supposed to come alongside of the church) have grown significantly in their influence and reach. If so, with so many parachurches around who seem to be well accepted and popular with the people and who are apparently successful in their respective fields of “specialisations”, should the church then embrace these parachurches?

Christ’s Mission for His Church. Before we go further, it is important for us to understand what Christ, the Head of the church, has commanded His church to do. Before His ascension, Christ gave this mission to His church to continue His work “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Mt 28:19-20). Today, it is hence the church’s duty to teach, baptise, catechise, disciple, evangelise, and spread His truth through missions. All these are functions which the local church must be involved in. The local visible church is commissioned to make disciples. Hence, as many of you already know, BPCWA’s focus on evangelism does not merely focus on saving souls, but also on bringing the people into our church to learn, grow, and then also make more disciples.  Having understood what a church ought to be doing, it becomes clearer why we will not work with nor support parachurches. Below is a Biblical examination of parachurches.

1) They are not churches. The Bible only speaks of the local church, not parachurches. The New Testament church model in the Bible has appointed elders who are spiritually mature men of proven character who oversee the church and will contend for the faith by sound teaching (1 Timothy 3:1–7; Titus 1:5–9), and is served by deacons (spiritually mature men and women of proven character who were faithful servants, 1 Timothy 3:8–13). Churches have established means of mutual accountability between the pastor, elders, deacons, and members. This is lacking in parachurches which are loosely organised along the lines of businesses instead of ecclesiastical structures. Parachurches not only lack these, almost all function independently from churches.  Importantly also, it is to the local church that Christ gives “pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:11, 12). Christ came to purchase the church for Himself (Eph 5:23-27). While we can go further in the explanation of why parachurches are not churches, this suffices us to say that then God did not purpose for them to function on par with a church.

2) Uncertain and dilution of doctrines. While most churches declare their denominations and statement of beliefs and doctrines very openly, this is especially not so with the campus parachurches which are a melting pot of “whosoever joins”. How can one attend Bible studies when you cannot be certain of the veracity of the doctrines being taught? With the majority of parachurches promoting themselves as nondenominational, how do they teach the Bible when one’s underlying theological system affects one’s understanding of the Bible? More likely than not, the Bible studies will be superficial on doctrines and focus instead on experiences and applications rather than the solid Word. We cannot attend a Bible Study group that turns to Modern English Versions and does not believe in the inerrant and divinely preserved (not just inspired) Word of God without some of that mindset infiltrating our minds over time as we attend their lessons. Fundamentally, God puts the responsibility of feeding and teaching His sheep on the pastors that He gifts the church with. The pastor must feed because that is his God-given role. If so, the sheep should seek the green pastures in a sound local church and not in a parachurch.

3) Ecumenical. This is one of the most important reasons why we cannot join hands with parachurches. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Rom 16:17). As a video from Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) touts, they are “passionate about uniting people by studying the Bible together verse by verse”. If the true truth is taught, it “shall make you free.” (John 8:32). Yet, participants are not encouraged to point out errors nor leave unsound churches and groups. Can we join hands in mission with Overseas Missions Fellowship (OMF) which joins hands with all ecumenical churches? The Alpha course is a popular and appealing parachurch organisation that produces Bible study materials used by Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. These churches use them because such parachurches avoid any teachings that may point out doctrinal differences, even if they are errors. So, essential truths are sacrificed and are replaced by highly experience-based sharings, humanistic viewpoints, and health and wealth appeal.

As you can see from today’s pastoral, in seeking participation from everyone, the participant in parachurch sessions is assimilating mindsets that doctrines are not very important. Watered down and compromised doctrines to suit everyone are leaven that will leaven the whole lump. Can this strengthen the church that they were supposed to support and help? Certainly not. God willing, we will cover the final part next week.

Yours in our Lord’s service,