Here’s the rationale for my prediction that church planting will replace the parachurch as the primary evangelistic vehicle in America.
Four reasons why church planting takes the best of parachurch strategies and reimplements them into the life of the local church:
a. communities of faith: this is what the parachurch develops on campuses. People get involved in the parachurch community and then invite their friends to be a part. Church plants, who naturally attract younger people, can do this as well on a more permanent scale. This is the bedrock of evangelism.
b. initiative evangelism: this doesn’t mean confrontational evangelism, but rather recognizes that the burden of initiative of spiritual conversations is on the believer. Parachurches teach this principle well, but church plants can be taught it also.
c. outreach to emerging generations, generally attracting younger audiences. Since church plants do attract younger people on the whole, they will be well poised to reach the audience that at one time was untapped by the church. The church planting strategy can also win this same target audience to Christ but through a permanent and fixed community, not a community of high turnover like college parachurches.
d. non-traditional approaches; innovation. Basically, church plants are desperate because they don’t have any people or money. This leads to innovation and creativity, because necessity is the mother of invention.
Primary Advantages of churches:
a. Greater accountability to biblical offices. This has been a very frustrating thing for me on staff with Campus Crusade, because there is no accountability to a biblical office. There are no elders or deacons, no pastors. There are bible study leaders and staff people, but these roles do not have specific mandates in scripture. Therefore, the accountability structures within the parachurch will always be weak, and there is no recourse to any sort of discipline.
b. Long term vision, not limited to short term (4 years). Parachurch students are buying into a short term vision which is the duration of their college careers. Church plants are inviting people to invest their lives into something that will hopefully live longer than they do.
c. direct integration. I have experienced this a number of times, where a person comes to faith in Christ through Campus Crusade, but then I must hand them over to a ‘real church’ because that is the responsibility of every Christian. While the parachurch is their functional church, providing them with training and discipleship, a core community of faith, a weekly worship time and Bible teaching, we must still send them off to the real church where they are accountable to people they don’t really know well since their main relationships are within the parachurch. This causes an awkward tension where the church and parachurch feels as though they both have a claim on the allegiance of the student, with the student caught in the middle. Does the student go to CCC bible study or a church bible study? Does the student do college ministry at their church or CCC ministry on campus?
Church Plants give them what they need because they are patterned after parachurches in many respects, but do not force them to choose an allegiance.