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Christ's Church vs. The Parachurch

One cannot deny that one of the biggest threats to a congregation and individual Christians is the current explosion of "conventicles" or "small group Bible studies" as they're known today.

You might think it's strange that a formal, organized Bible study of any kind can be seen as a "bad" thing much less a "threat" even, but if you've been following along with our current series on Pietism, then you know the spiritual dangers inherent to all of this and what it can and will likely lead to.

As a direct result of such things, we also have what's called the "Parachurch Movement" and Dr. Mike Horton from The White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation Magazine appeared on Issues, Etc. back in 2012 with Pastor Todd Wilken to discuss it.

What is a Parachurch? Well, in a sense, this blog and the related podcast is considered a "Parachurch" community and/or organization.

To put it another way, we are just another resource and another voice in the wilderness trying to point you to Jesus Christ and His Word and Sacraments, but we are not to be confused as a substitute for church itself.

So, in other words, this blog and the related podcast is an educational resource only -- not a "ministry" per se. The ministry can be found at your local church.

That's another thing. This whole movement towards "ministry" is maddening, isn't it? I mean, nowadays, anything and everything you do "In The Name of Jesus!" gives you license to call it a "ministry" I guess (although that is not what God calls the Office of The Holy Ministry).

That's why we find people talking about their "Blog Ministry," "Family Ministry," "Financial Ministry," "Music Ministry," "Outreach Ministry," "Small Groups Ministry" and on and on and on.

Look, I get it, because I used to be that guy for sure. I was A-Spiritual-Island-Unto-Myself who gave every excuse known to man for why a person could be a Christian without ever having to go to church and I was quick to tell everyone about the various "ministries" that I was involved it.

Of course, there was a subtle sense of pride and self-righteousness (I was the wrong kind of Pietist!) whenever I would share such things with people, but I didn't care. I was one of "God's chosen few" and "He was going to do great things through me!" I could go on-and-on, but I won't bore you with the messy details.

Not surprisingly, at the very heart of such a Parachurch Movement is none other than...Pietism. Pietism was central in creating the Parachurch Movement since it drew people away from the institutional Church into those conventicles and small groups, which was where the "truly devout" were anyway (or so the thinking went and still goes today).

The belief is that the "real experience" and the "real movements from God" happen outside Christ's Church and apart from His means of grace that are His Word and Sacraments.

Again, we see this emphasis on fellowship, experience, and subjective feelings instead of the proper emphasis being placed on pure doctrine. It's a "Deeds Not Creeds!" approach, which is still so prevalent today (at least at the church that I attend right now).

Another negative byproduct of the Parachurch Movement is that it's actually responsible for drawing people away from Christ's Church and has been argued to be one of the main culprits contributing to the decline in church membership.

Why? Because people view the Parachurch community/organization as a suitable replacement for being a member of a local church (Hebrews 10:25).

Now, this does not apply to those believers who have ceased attending a local church due to the preaching of a false gospel let's say until they can find a new church to join, but I think you know what I mean.

Anyway, this is another solid interview about a subject that directly relates to Pietism. Enjoy!

AUDIO: The Church vs. The Parachurch

Once again, we find this un-Biblical concept that only "true" Christians (or at least the "more spiritual" and "serious" ones; the so-called "Super Christians") are those who are actively and regularly engaged in one or more of these so-called "ministries" through their local church.

The "true Church" is viewed as existing only apart from the local congregation with the whole "Every Member A Minister" concept at the forefront. It's why so many people will call themselves "Christians" although they never attend church.

The mindset often goes like this...

"Never mind the Doctrine of Vocation and your calling as a husband and a father -- your family can wait! The most important calling in your life right now is as an active servant to your local church and the un-churched in the community that you will serve through her! Yes, those are certainly way more important to God and you need to make a sacrifice for the greater good. By the way, if you're not currently engaged with at least one ministry at your local church, well, what's wrong with you!?! Why wouldn't you want to be a part of a layman led small group Bible study each week!?!"

I also found Mr. Horton's comments about how a church body can actually become more important than Christ's Church itself quite accurate.

How often do we find that it's the Law that holds a congregation together as opposed to the Gospel? How often do we find believers within the church giving themselves credit instead of crediting Christ (Ephesians 4:5)?

Scripture stresses the importance of the local church (Matthew 16:18). Parachurches should point people to Christ's Church and not away from it (Hebrews 10:25). The Church is what Christ has instituted, it's His very Body (Romans 12), and we are not at liberty to change or replace it on a whim.

Yes, the Parachurch can most definitely be a very good thing, but we should never confuse it with Christ's Church itself.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the Parachurch is not Christ's Church so don't act or treat it like it is.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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