Discussion Topic: what do you think of the parachurch?

2 weeks ago i went to Colorado for Campus Crusade for Christ’s staff conference that happens every other year (does that make it biannual?). This is a big pep rally to get excited about CCC. While I was there, i found myself being more and more grateful that I am headed primarily into church ministry. Strange, though, at a place where i should feel most connected and excited about Crusade I found myself dreaming more and more about church. I will post more on this later, but I’d love some reactions from you.

  1. Parachurches mainly exist because the local church has in some way failed to reach or minister to a particular demographic (men, youth, single mothers, etc). Many of these parachurches (Cru, Young Life, etc) are used powerfully by God and we should be thankful for their labor of love. However, as a parachurch insider, not unlike yourself, I found myself realizing that most of these well-attentioned parachurches had a design flaw that actually kept Christians from becoming part of a fully functioning Biblical church. Naturally, this put a damper on being excited about the parachurch in which I was part.

  2. The parachurch will always be a second-best option. This is no to say that God hasn’t used parachurch ministries, or that I think they’re inherently sinful, but God intended us to minister through the Church. I also think the parachurch has exacerbated the compartmentalization of the Church. This is the “college ministry,” that is the “teen ministry,” this is for the “adults.” While it can be helpful to learn about Christ alongside your peers, such compartmentalization can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts between generations in the Church. This robs young people of the chance to learn the wisdom of the older generation, and allows the older to ignore the changes young people would bring that would help the gospel make sense to the ears of the next generation.

  3. What is a URL. Do I need one?

    I think what you said about scope is the major downfall of the parachurch. The scope of the Church is the neighborhood or city, and that focus lasts forever. With the parachurch, and Cru having to be my main example, the scope is a campus and the world. But, we’re talking about college. College doesn’t bring the challenges of life and trials that we face in the working world. Planting a church is a much more exciting thing. This church could last forever and minister to peoples’ needs. Meanwhile, Crusade is ministering to people who have 20 hours a day of free time.

    Why did I ever graduate……

  4. Parachurch organizations have their place, but I think they fail a lot at pointing people to discipleship and to church membership. I was in a parachurch group in college for four years and not a single time was I presented the gospel or asked if I were a church member. Well guess what? I was lost and not a church member. But I had a lot of fun playing on sports teams and participating in pancake breakfast activities.

    That being said, I am thankful to now be a believer and part of a church plant. I don’t think I could ever be a part of a big, established church. There is just such power and intensity in being part of a church plant. It’s like kissing your girlfriend for the first time. It’s wildly exciting, a little bit sloppy and not quite perfect, but it makes you really want to keep doing it and not stop. I wish there could be some rule that all new believers had to be a member of a church plant for a year before they ever had the option of joining some old, stodgy, established church.

  5. Z, you crack me up, but that is a great description of a church plant. That being said, I think our experience at fellowship has been unusually smooth. T and R have done a great job navigating the waters through potential pitfalls better than most people would have. So, it’s more like kissing your WIFE for the first time. Its fun and exciting, and you know the fun is just beginning! 🙂

  6. i’m noticing that i’m a little naiieve here. granted; Christ came to build his church and that is what he charged his apostles to do, but i argue that what is being described as “the church” is limited to to “the local church/es”. i can only comment on my experience at louisville, but this parachurch of ccc has fueled many local churches with students who know how to share their faith (something that many adults seldom if ever do), they know how to study the scriptures, they can disciple and be discipled, and they know what community and fellowship applied look like, and they know how to give. in parachurch ccc at uofl i have never sensed an us verses them, cru verses the church mentality. i have, on the other hand noticed an us verses them mentality of “local church” verses “local church”
    i’m not here to criticize, but my rose colored glasses are on and i’m tending to see things a little different than most of what’s being said. ccc (at uofl) has done more for the local church/es than we’re aware of, and i say praise God.
    finally, i love my church. so much so that i found myself grinning through most of what i read on this blog about it, but my question is how well are we doing at reaching the student? there’s not a lack of effort on the part of our church… we’ve even got parachurch folks who are members, but when was the last time we had a college student (who wasn’t part of ccc) show up to anything we did? if there is such gain from the “edge generation”, then we should focus church resources on students, or be grateful/partner with the parachurch.
    much love.

  7. Charlie is right, and quite the basketballer… but that’s a topic D-Mike can get into another time.

    The one great thing that CCC does is reach college students, and that is a category that 97.6% of Louisville churches ignore. To that end, they are doing excellent work.

    My only word of advice would be for CCC to go deep with kids (I know Charlie is good at this) and make sure they have a clear understanding of the gospel, and hopefully that they are pursuaded to attend a church to get that added level of love, support and fellowship.

  8. is it true that bill bright never said that campus crusade is a parachurch ministry? i recently heard that, and i don’t know what the facts are. what do you think about crusade planting churches? i’m on stint in slovakia and there aren’t any churches with solid theology, what would it look like for the ministry here to plant a church, that is my question and my current struggle.

  9. Kelly: I’ve never heard of BB saying that, but it may be true. I am convinced that in a place like the USA Campus Crusade can come alongside the church and be a great benefit. In a place like SK (I’ve spent a summer there on project in ’98), you must have an adequate church planting movement. Only a church has the necessary elements in place to successfully reach a people group. I have been on staff with CCC for 6 years now, and this is exactly the reason why I’m going into church planting.

    As to your question, your ministry could plant a church but it would need to have adequate leadership; these qualifications are listed in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, and elsewhere. Without adequate leadership, the ministry will fail or worse, it will mislead people.

    CRU is not a church planting enterprise. Your best bet would be to find a solid group who is planting churches there, and link arms with them. Funnel your new believers into the church. CRU can train them and equip them for ministry, but they also need the fellowship of the body of Christ in a local church as well.

    Feel free to email me if you’d like to talk some more about it.

  10. The church of the New Testament was a dynamic, growing, and changing organism with apparently a minimal, adapting organization. It was truly “the body of Christ.” In the beginning of the New Testamental period the local gathering of believers in Christ called out from the world was indistinguishable from Judaism. All the believers in Christ were Jewish. Those who believed that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah met in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem; but they also met from house-to-house, both of which were Jewish social customs.

    But as the church expanded and grew it also added new and different forms in order to respond to new challenges. Acts 6:1-7 relates the incident of the widows of Hellenistic Jewish background being neglected in the serving of their food to the advantage of the native Hebrew widows. The twelve disciples were summoned and a decision was made to implement a new way of handling this problem. Special servants were designated to fulfill this responsibility and ensure that it be done properly. It was not enough that these men simply be servants, but they must also be spiritually capable people because, as we shall see later, they themselves directed the work. The result of what happened is recorded in verse 7:

    The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

    We see illustrated here in our text an issue that is critical to our discussion: the church freely adapted its forms as necessary in order to fulfill its necessary functions. The apostles were unable to fulfill their necessary function of assuring daily teaching both in the temple and from house to house (Acts 5:42) and at the same time carry out the function of meeting the needs of the widows and needy of the new group of believers. Therefore the form of designated table-servers (deacons) was developed. Organizational structures were created in response to needs. This new organizational form, growing out of need, was, nevertheless and without question, considered to be a part of the church, not something auxiliary to it. It was not something that existed alongside of the church (para-church), but something that grew out of the need of the church that was an integral part of the functioning of the body of believers that made up the church.
    At one time a group of Campus Crusade campus staff wanted to make Campus Crusade for Christ a church. They reasoned, “We do evangelism and discipleship; we do preaching and teaching; we do everything a church does, except baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Why not also do these things, and become a church?” Bill Bright would not hear of such a thing. He correctly understood that God raised up Campus Crusade for Christ, and other organizations with specific callings, for the particular purpose of assisting local churches and denominations everywhere in the accomplishment of specific ministries within the spectrum of the church’s total mandate. No Christian ministry can accomplish the job alone, but as a part of the church, the body of Christ, together they can be a catalyst to the rest of the body of Christ, the church, in helping to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord. Christian ministries are not local churches, or denomination, but neither are they separate from the church. It is not ours to abdicate or to “edit” God’s calling to the various ministries of the body of Christ.

    1. I posted this comment, because I work with CCC in Albania. If you want to read the full article, please write to me. Alban

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