Saturday 22 June 2013

The Puritan Churchmen would say "Para-church Mission, What?".

It is amazing that once we lose our grip on God's pattern for elders how many things potentially change. The previous blog sought to bring us all "back to basics" regarding church governance; the office of elders. I explained that if biblical eldership is not maintained then new church structures will be sought and new titles are used. People will begin to talk about raising up leaders instead of elders and deacons, but do we have a biblical mandate for such action?

In previous many decades, a new phenomena has mushroomed: "para-church" organisations. I understand that the issues are complex, but if the question was placed before the puritan ministers and elders of the seventeenth century of the necessity for para-church organisations to fill in the gaps that the church is supposed to be missing, then they would be perplexed and they would offer dissent. Furthermore the idea that non-ordained people would be thrust into teaching, evangelising, counselling, and organising, would have caused them to be utterly perplexed, I am convinced of that.

This is why, once a para-church organisation and especially a mission organisation begins to develop, it then produces a life of its own, often quite distinct from the governance of the church. Projects, single agenda issues, new concepts for the great commission and social development projects (now called "Transformation") often begin to take-over. I have witnessed this first-hand and before you know it, the extension of the church and the preaching of the gospel become side-lined. A para-church needs to justify its existence. My primary concern in this blog post is regarding para-church missions agencies because this is where things need to be corrected the most in my view.

Church planting needs to be done by men who are theologically trained, equipped and called by elders and the church. This is not a task for "people to have a go" otherwise what will be the end result. It is not that evangelism is to be done by a select handful, but the direction, guidance and ministry is to be given by elders; this is because in the NT, these are the ones who are to be doing the teaching. The teaching/preaching office is not an open office for all, but the pulpit must be guarded, and furthermore the whole of public worship is to be under the guidance of elders.

In Acts 13:1-4, Paul and Barnabas were sent out on their extensive mission trip and they were men who had been tested out in Antioch and then sent out. They were not novices. Furthermore, they established churches based on a fixed apostolic pattern and appointed elders (Acts 14:21-23). Once they had completed their mission, they then returned to Antioch: "they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled. And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles."

In all of our zeal, may we be men and women who are committed to the church of God. May people say of us, that we are people committed to Christ's church.

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