Does the Bible give support for the existence of parachurch ministries?
A parachurch ministry is an organization that is intended to serve alongside the church to assist with particular ministry activities. Examples include medical outreach, college ministry, soup kitchens, or efforts to end slavery or trafficking by Christian organizations. Are such organizations biblical?
Some suggest parachurch ministries are unbiblical because they are not mentioned in the New Testament. Those who hold to this view argue Jesus established only the local church through which Christians should serve. However, this perspective overlooks biblical examples of Christians who served outside of a church context to meet specific needs. In addition, this view goes beyond Scripture by teaching that something is unbiblical simply because it is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible.
In support of parachurch ministries, one can point to biblical examples of believers from multiple churches or believers working together in projects that are not specific to a local church. For example, many of Paul's projects were multi-church efforts that were not tied to a particular church (Acts 24:17). One of these projects was raising money for the poor of Jerusalem. Paul made a collection from multiple churches for a particular cause that looked very much like the mission of some parachurch organizations of today.
The apostle Peter also served "exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia" (1 Peter 1:1). These efforts were not the work of any particular church, but rather operated as somewhat of an early parachurch ministry by Peter to serve many churches through his leadership. His efforts likely included evangelism, teaching, and leadership training that are likewise offered through parachurch ministries today.
The fact that parachurch ministries are not specifically mentioned in the Bible does not make them unbiblical. For example, there are no Christian lawyers mentioned in the Bible, yet almost no one would say Christians cannot serve as lawyers. There are also no Christian nurses or firefighters in the New Testament, yet God can certainly be honored through these efforts.
Though parachurch organizations do have biblical support, there can be some concerns. Some fear the lack of church oversight as a problem. Others sometimes find concerns with money from believers going to organizations outside of the local church. Still others have concerns regarding theological beliefs of some parachurch organizations. In these cases, concerns can be legitimate, yet also can be addressed through a godly board of directors as well as good working relationships between local churches and parachurch ministries. Parachurch ministries may not be directly mentioned in the Bible, but can certainly serve in ways that bring honor to God and change lives for Christ.
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