Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Who Is The Church? (Part 3)

The Para-Church Organization

Growing up in a traditional institutional church, I was constantly reminded that one of the greatest enemies of the "local church" was the so-called para-church organization. An organization that existed outside of the "authority" of the local church and that, more importantly, competed directly with the local church for precious monetary resources. The para-church organization was a parasite sucking resources that should rightly have been committed to the particular local church group, or at least that's what I had been taught.

It was also said that para-church organizations existed outside the authority of the local church because of a complete lack of desire to submit to authority of any kind. Since the local church's authority was given by God himself, they were unwilling to submit themselves to God. Clearly any group or organization that was denying the authority of God was in trouble. This was clearly evidenced by the para-church's focus on active service over correct doctrine.

Is there such a thing as Para-Church?

The organization that I now lead would be considered by my old church as a para-church organization. We have leaders, and we call them pastors, and overseers, and deacons. We all attend a gathering called church regularly, but the organization itself is not part of or under the control of any one local body. Does this make us "para-church" or outside the church? I would have once answered this question with a resounding "yes".

But are we really outside the church? No, we are not outside. We are part of many churches, and part of God's larger church body. We are all believers, and when we gather in any number, because of what Christ has done for us, and for the purpose of bearing God's image to one another and the world, we ARE church.

The church is not a building, or a denomination, or a specific group that meets at a set place and time. Church is two men having coffee and encouraging one another with God's word. Church is a handful of people who come to help a single mother move in the middle of a rainstorm. Church is wherever the people of God gather as a result of the work of God in their lives and seek to minister to one another and to the world. Church can take place in a building at a specified time and in a specified way, but it can also take place on the side of a road with a broken down single mother running away from her abusive past.

It is certainly much easier to keep church inside the walls of a building, but just as God is not meant to live in a box, church was never meant to be kept in a box. Church is meant to be a traveling community, a living breathing organism that is carried along with each and every believer. Church is meant to encompass all of those who believe in Christ, and to impact all of those who do not.

So go ahead, let your church out of its box, stop just going to a place called church, and start living like you ARE the body of Christ.

Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

1 comment:

  1. Well spoken. For me, traditional churches seem somehow restrained. It's an odd feeling, but they seem more focused on doctrine and membership than action. They strike me as clubs more than bodies of the people of God.

    I have trouble forking over money to keep the mortgage paid when I know that we're getting Starbucks coffee after the sermon. We had this huge building with christian school and day care for members only, and a food and clothing area filed with leftovers and worn items. Why not meet at someone's house and collect for people in need?

    I'm still searching for a body of believers for fellowship, but it's good to know people out there ate taking action.