Para-church dynamics and economics

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by MW, Mar 17, 2014.

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  1. Josh Williamson

    Josh Williamson Puritan Board Freshman

    As an ordained Australian minister, who has worked in churches and para-church organisations, I don't think the statement is true of Australia. Every para-church organisation I have associated with has arisen out of needs that were not being met by churches, or out of a desire to unite the church for a common goal (i.e. sending missionaries).
  2. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Does it make sense then, to take the function out of the church where God has placed it? As an example, the church I joined in Juneau, AK, did not observe the Lord's Table in the entire two years I was there. Would it have been OK to form a para-church organization to meet this need? Almost no reformed person would agree to this. Why is it OK to take other functions out of the church?

    I am very aware of the history of my own denomination and of the seminary that provides the training for a great number of her pastors. Part of me wants to say it's never OK to have a seminary board or an institution that trains ministers operating outside of the authority of the church. Clearly there were needs where the northern Presbyterian church was greatly delinquent. This would seem to be the rare exception rather than the norm so many organizations have become since the 1960s or so.
  3. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    Part of the problem is this: what if people from multiple churches want to do ministry together? Are we thereby required to unite as churches? An example would be campus ministry: say we have an OPC church, a baptist church, and an Anglican Church, all of whom would like to have a presence ona university campus, but don't want to be competing for students. Which makes more sense: that they form an on-campus organization to aid them in that task (or even see if InterVarsity would be interested in forming a local chapter)? Or should they simply try to minister by themselves and hope for the best?
  4. thbslawson

    thbslawson Puritan Board Freshman

    I suppose it depends on what they're trying to do and what does it mean to "do ministry together." Are they simply wanting to pass out bibles, talk to students about the gospel and direct them toward a gospel preaching church? Sounds like they could do this with simply some kind of memorandum of understanding.

    Sometimes a "para-church" gets formed more for legal reasons and practical reasons. Say the above group wants to start raising money to buy materials, fund conferences, produce resources, etc. In order to do this legally and keep one particular church from having to bear the burden of receipting and distributing funds, a 501c3 (USA) "para-church" could be formed to facilitate this. But how such a para-church functions in relation to the church is not determined by it's legal status but rather it's articles of governance and mission statement. So these three churches could all agree that the goal is always to be directing students to involvement in a local gospel-preaching church. Each participant in the ministry remains under the authority of and accountability to his local church. While all three churches have doctrinal distinctions, there is assumed to be enough in common among them in terms of the gospel, that they would be thankful if a student got involved at any of the three churches.
  5. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Yes, "churches," in the plural, setting up a latitudinarian umbrella with a broad statement of faith and a diversity of practices. Thus proving the point that these organisations are free to function in ways that churches are not.
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