In my years as a follower of Christ I have seen some incredible things, lives changed by the power of God moving in and changing the way people interact with themselves, with others, and with God. While every single person’s story of their relationship with God is unique, there are primarily two different avenues through which people hear about God’s love expressed through Christ for the first time: from people connected to a church ministry and through people connected to a parachurch ministry. Both of these ministries can be effective at spreading the good news that God loves and saves sinners, so why have I decided to spend the one life I get promoting the church and not a parachurch?
While there were several factors that effected my final decision, there were two that were most influential. The first is the nature of the two ministries and the second is the way that God declared that He was going to work.
The nature of a local church is to be a miniature representation of the global church which is Christ’s body of which He is the head. (Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23, and Colossians 1:18 and 1:24) The nature of a parachurch is to serve a specific purpose for the sake of the church. This could be evangelizing a people group that is difficult to reach either geographically, economically, or culturally. It could be serving a group of people with a need that requires many churches to work together. There are many great reasons for parachurch ministries to exist. But the nature of the parachurch is always to serve the church. If the church ceased to be, the parachurch would not have a reason to be. If all the parachurches in the world suddenly ceased to be, the church would have some work to do, but it would be able to continue on its own.
The second major factor was the way that God declared through Paul that He was going to work. In Ephesians 3:8-10 Paul wrote,
“8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
God’s plan to tell rulers and authorities in the heavenly places about His manifold wisdom was through the church by bringing to light for everyone the plan God had hidden for ages: that He was going to bring everyone who wanted to be in God’s family into it through Christ. The church is God’s plan to declare great things. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that incredible plan?
There is no question in my mind that the parachurch can be an incredibly valuable part of building the church. I have seen parachurches and churches work incredibly well together (from Cru to Navs, and from Manna Market to Feed My Starving Children). I have also seen churches and parachuches do ministry only for the purpose of growing themselves, not for the sake of the body of Christ. Of the many ministry opportunities that are available to each of us, we must be careful as we decide where we are going to hang our own “ministry hat” and where we are going to find fellowship within the body of Christ.
Where are you going to serve? You only get this moment once, how are you going to spend it?