The Local Church and Parachurch Must Work Together to Reach the College Campus

December 14, 2016 — 2 Comments
“There needs to be a wonderful positive complex, mutually supportive, interdependent, relationship between the local churches and [specialized/parachurch] ministries.” Tim Keller


Beyond the Local Church by Sam Metcalf was the most thought provoking book I read in 2016. I didn’t agree with everything in the book. But it makes a compelling case for the necessity of so-called “para-church” and “local-church” to work together to make disciples of all nations.

If we are to finish the task of the Great Commission I think that it is essential that the local and missionary (para) church work together. I believe the college campus is the gateway to proclaiming Christ to the nations – therefore it’s even more important that we in college ministry partner well together.
I love to see the rise of churches reaching college students. But occasionally in a zeal for the “local church” reaching college students, parachurches are denigrated (I’d rather not cite examples because I’m looking to avoid denigrating them!).


That doesn’t have to be.


We can champion churches reaching college students AND celebrate parachurches that are reaching college students. We don’t need to speak badly of parachurches in order to celebrate the great new wave of churches reaching college students.


Parachurch ministries like Cru continue to reach more students than they’ve EVER reached. And churches are seeing more success in reaching college students than they’ve EVER seen. Both are GREAT things. May both increase and thrive and encourage and partner and share resources/ideas/strategies. So that EVERY student on campus is reached with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. So that millions of laborers are sent to the nations to proclaim Christ to the nations.


Steve Shadrach in “Church and parachurch – Friend of Foe?” states it well:
To pit “church” and “para-church” against one another is a mistake. We are all part of His Church. Some think that God had a “Plan A” where He preferred to reach the world through the local church, but somehow they couldn’t get it done, so He had to resort to “Plan B”, bringing in the para-church ministries to fill in and finish the job. My plea is that we work together as friends, not foes. Let’s create synergy by discovering and playing to each other’s strengths. The Lord of the Universe has called all believers to team up to complete His purposes on earth.


My local church – Fellowship Bible Church is a model of this. They started a college service this fall in our college town – Fayetteville. They sought me and other campus ministers to express their desire is to come alongside what is happening through Cru and other college ministries. They do not have the attitude – “[patting us on the head] Good news! The Local Church is here! You parachurches are no longer necessary”


They want to partner and work together to reach the 27,000 students at the University of Arkansas. Fellowship is intentionally platforming “parachurch” ministries – having us come to speak at their Sunday services, announcing our Winter Conference and Summer Missions opportunities from up front. And we are doing the same – inviting their pastors to speak at our weekly meetings and encouraging our students to plug into good local churches.


I agree with Sam Metcalf:
“When leaders— pastoral, lay and those leading apostolic structures— all get it, the resulting synergy that occurs from such a biblical, Spirit-directed interdependence is a tremendous thing to experience. And when it genuinely happens, the probability that the name of Jesus will be renowned among the nations…becomes more of a genuine reality.”


Linked is a 7 page “article” where I’ve copied a few of the key thoughts from Beyond the Local Church. I hope you find it as helpful and thought-provoking as I have.


Below are a few salient quotes from Beyond the Local Church:
True or False? If the Church Was Doing it’s Job, Para-churches wouldn’t be Necessary
It is my conviction that the future of the Christian movement depends on our ability to not just grasp these concepts, but to put them into action and to reengage the cultures around us with a holistic, biblical gospel. It is to live out in a contemporary setting the great truth articulated at Nicaea: “We believe in one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” As I hope to demonstrate in this volume, such a biblical and missional perspective is difficult, if not impossible, when we cling to a limited concept of the body of Christ that says the church in its local expression is all that’s valid.The design of God, from the time of the New Testament forward, has been to work through the local church and the church in its missionary form. The church in its apostolic, missionary form is just as equally “church” as the church in its local, parish form. God never designed or intended either to do the work of the other.
Parachurch is a dirty word
The term parachurch needs to be exorcised from our vocabulary. There is really no such thing. Either we’re part of the church or we’re not. And as we’ve seen from the Bible and history…the church is not limited to its local form.George Barna notes: “There is a pervasive mind-set among many journalists, scholars, and religious leaders that all legitimate spiritual activity must flow through a local church. Even large parachurch ministries that communicate with tens of millions of people, raise hundreds of millions of dollars, and impact lives all over the world are cast as second fiddle to the local church. It is almost as if their ministry efforts are deemed subpar simply because they did not originate from a congregational context.”

Throughout church history, I think it’s clear that when modalities and sodalities have worked interdependently and cooperatively, with appropriate freedom and a clear understanding of the roles and strengths of each, there have been great advances in the progress of the gospel. In order to accomplish the mission of the church, sodalities and modalities need each other in a symbiotic relationship.



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