How should we view parachurch organisations?

Dear BPCWA worshipper, Over the past 2 weeks, we have been learning about the rise of parachurches, and how, though they are not churches, often usurp the roles Christ intends to be occupied by churches. In addition, they add to the weakening of Christians through the dilution of doctrines and are often channels that promote the ecumenical and new evangelical mindset. This week, we continue to our final part in a Biblical analysis of parachurches.

4) Ecumenical “Truth” to meet everyone’s preference. In many Bible studies run by parachurches, discussions are expressions of “what they learned from the Holy Spirit”, regardless of whether they are biblical or not. Youth with a Mission openly embraces the Roman Catholic Church. Instead of calling Roman Catholics to leave their churches, they encourage them to freely express their faith. God expects us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saint” (Jude 3). If errors are not immediately repudiated, the seed sown is likely to be accepted as the truth, corrupting the other attendees who came to “learn” from the Bible. This promotes the mindset of “don’t criticise” because they’re “sincere good Christians after all” and “the Bible can mean something to you but something else to me”. There is no absolute truth. Instead, many of such participants became antagonistic to churches like ours because they feel that we are judgemental because we criticise such errors. We cannot yoke ourselves with such without their mindset affecting and eventually infiltrating our hearts and minds. This is an important error of joining parachurches. By joining them, we learn together and build friendships with them. Their doctrines become our doctrines, and we can be so convinced that they’re right that we may come back to our church to “correct” or criticise our denomination, militancy, and doctrinal stand. This causes problems in a local church like ours. 

5) Competing with churches. Though supposedly intended to “come alongside” the church, they have since begun to place themselves on the same footing as churches. Admitting this, the ecumenical Lausanne Movement observed that “some of these “parachurch” groups have not always shown the respect and acceptance which characterised the Christ who “loved the Church and gave himself for it.” . . . a spirit of prejudice and mistrust has developed between these two entities . . . This has often deteriorated to the point where co-operation in the mission of the Church becomes impossible.” a) Competing for attendance. In the fight for their own survival, they vie for participation for their activities even with church groups. Those who have been to our campus outreaches will know that the campus parachurches actively engage students to join their activities, even at the cost of attending those organised by churches. A growing trend is that Christians increasingly find their primary fellowship in parachurches rather than the local church. Someone who left a parachurch Bible Study group when joining our church membership bemoaned the “sacrifice”, expressing more disappointment at leaving the parachurch than the previous church! b) Competing for resources. Some parachurch groups promise opportunities to serve in student-led ministries, resulting in their members sacrificing church service. Campus parachurches hold dinners and organise activities to interest the “freshies”, promoting their on-campus Bible studies, worship services, and prayer meetings, just as a church would promote their Bible studies, worship services, and prayer meetings in the church. Unwittingly, the students running these parachurches often have no qualms competing with churches for participation and serving in their activities, as if churches were just another society or club.  c) Competing on activities. With limited time, students would turn down coming to church meetings because the one on campus beckons so conveniently. Beyond just Bible studies, they also organise Retreats, Camps, and Conventions, just as a church does! So, parachurches have in many ways taken over a church’s role. But God asserts that “To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:10). God’s plan is for the church, not parachurches, to fulfill His great commission and make known His principalities and powers. d) Competing for finances. Moreover, Christianity Today, a parachurch organisation itself, published articles entitled “Your Tithe Doesn’t Have to Go to Your Church, Most Leaders Say” and “Evangelical Christians donate billions of dollars annually toward humanitarian, political, and evangelistic causes”. So parachurches also compete for tithes and offerings to churches. This competition for resources may not just happen for publication ministries, but even for so-called missionary outreaches as they reach into churches through members who may engage other worshippers to solicit funds for what may be dubious missionary works that may inadvertently support the social gospel.

6) Lack of ordained and responsible shepherds to lead. The constitution of one of the campus parachurch groups states that they “present the challenge of missionary, full-time and other forms of service.” When they are largely run by student leaders, what is the end of a student who is “called full-time” through these groups? A true call to full-time Christian service would be a call to roles God has ordained for His church, sent out by the church as seen in the book of Acts, and such a person should be under the guidance and shepherding given by pastors and elders in their church because they are accountable for their souls. “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Mt 15:14). By virtue of the fact that many of these Bible studies and groups are run by the lay people just like the attendees, it makes the participants feel very empowered and fiercely loyal to their parachurch organisations.

Conclusion. God assigned the local churches, not parachurches, to be the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). His plan is to use the local church for the building up of the saints, accomplishing the work of the Gospel ministry. Hence, it is to the local church that He has gifted believers to accomplish His goals (1 Tim 4:11-15). He has also given the blueprint for the church structure that is designed to use godly leadership to oversee the members, feed His sheep with His truth, defend the Word, edify the saints in the faith, and protect them from false teachers and erroneous doctrines. Indeed, some churches have failed in their God-given roles, causing many to turn to parachurches. Churches and pastors must awaken and stop failing the sheep and God’s church! But we must not forget that two wrongs do not make a right. The solution for a person is not to turn to parachurches, but to seek a sound church to be part of. Is there good that seemingly has arisen from parachurches? Perhaps, but the evil of ecumenicity, not to mention the unbiblical model, far outweighs any perceived good. Satan is always willing to trade off some benefits for his long-term destructive purposes. To obey God’s intended blueprint of Christian ministry through the church is more important.

I hope that this overview will help our worshippers be wary and avoid joining Bible studies or spiritual activities with parachurches. The Biblical model is that God’s work is to be done through His local churches. When Christians begin to shift their support and loyalties to parachurches, the sound and faithful local church is weakened as attendance, service, support, and commitment to the local church drop off. The individual Christian who imbibes their doctrines is also weakened and starts to support a fellowship and unity that is not grounded upon the absolute Truth. May BPCWA always be a church that will endeavour with all our might to fulfill what God intends us to do as a church and always provide green pastures for our flock. May our flock be wary and stay away from parachurches with an unbiblical focus.

2 Tim 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears

Yours in our Lord’s service,