Posts Tagged ‘parachurch’

I regret that some people think that I have a low opinion of the church. I assume they think that because I have said that we as a fellowship could fulfill the Great Commission better by doing a number of things differently than the way we have done them.  I respectfully disagree with them and want briefly to show you why I think I have a higher opinion of the church perhaps than even those critics.

The church of Christ

In a recent conversation, a group of mission committee members were wrestling with the fact that several of their members had become full-time foreign missionaries without actually being a part of the mission budget of the church.  Many individuals of that congregation were supporting these member-missionaries privately, giving their money directly instead of to their local church. In this particular case, the church mission budget also contributes to these missionaries, so the mission committee certainly approves of and encourages these member-missionaries, even treating them like their own missionaries to a great extent, but still the committee wrestles with the feelings that somehow the individual supporters were bypassing the church’s system and the money given outside of the church contribution was in competition or lost to the church.

Many years ago, Sherrylee and I were new members of a congregation and were looking for something we could do. Sherrylee decided to start a young mother’s class in homes during the week, which met a great need and took off like a rocket.  Several months after this class had begun, one of the elders of the congregation came to Sherrylee privately and began apologizing! He said he wanted to apologize to her for the fact that the church leaders should have recognized this need among young mothers in the church and should have begun this class.  He went on to say how appreciative he was that Sherrylee had taken the initiative to start the class, but now the elders would like to assume responsibility for it and let the staff be responsible for it.

It was all kindly said and well-intentioned—but it broke Sherrylee’s heart because she had seen a need and invested herself in meeting that need, only to have it taken from her and absorbed into the official program of the church.

I believe the church is much more than the official programs of elders, deacons, and ministers. Why aren’t all the activities of the members, done in the name of Jesus the work of the church?  Are we sometimes guilty of thinking that if it is not a budget item, it is not really a work of this local church?

Sherrylee and I have fought for years—usually unsuccessfully—to keep people from describing Let’s Start Talking as a parachurch ministry.  By this, they mean an organization other than the church that is doing work similar to what the real churches do. So what’s wrong with this designation?

We have always argued that everyone involved in LST is a Christian and a member of a local church, so we are also church—not something other than church.  For most of our 31-year history, LST has been officially under an eldership. Only in the last few years was the ministry organized under a board of Christians as opposed to an eldership, mostly because of the size of our budget and because of Internal Revenue Service’s rules.  Still, we are doing everything we do as a ministry to advance the kingdom of God and to help people go into all the world. We are acting as members of God’s church—not as anything other than the church!

So I want to argue that I have a very high view of church and that those who misunderstand this may be locked into a view of church that is defined by bricks and mortar and by staffs, committees, and budgets.

Open the doors of our churches! Empower all members to initiate, to search for areas of service, to solicit others to join them in good works that advance the Kingdom of God!

I am not saying that we should do away with our collective works, but church leaders need to be careful about hearing their top-level decisions as the entire voice of the church.  Everywhere we go, we hear of churches working on getting their members to be externally focused! Congratulations to those churches that succeed in this worthy goal without it being controlled from the board room!

I love God’s church! 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: