Some seminaries are run by denominations while others exist independently. There are benefits and detriments both ways. The need to ensure that qualified men are serving as elders will always remain the chief responsibility of the local church and its more regional expression in groups such as presbyteries. But parachurch seminaries can provide excellent theological and practical training to those who will lead the church. Some seminaries began when laypeople saw the need to protect the church from liberal drift that had infested denominations and the seminaries they ran.
Reaching local college students is difficult even when there are good churches in the particular college town. By nature, churches must serve people from wide demographic backgrounds. But some age groups require added attention because of the pivotal events that occur more commonly at some ages than others. The eighteen-to-twenty-two age bracket, especially when it includes formal, collegiate, or vocational training, is one of those crucial gaps for Christian discipleship and evangelism. Similar to seminaries, some college ministries can be staffed and organized by local churches while others can’t. This is another area in which parachurch ministries can come alongside and help local churches as they seek to reach college students for Christ and equip Christian college students to serve God in the world.
During large-scale disasters, there are large-scale needs. Events such as earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and terrorist attacks are horrific and often unexpected. Christians have always wanted to love their neighbor as they are able. Responding to disaster, local churches can contribute resources relative to their size. That may be bottles of water, three volunteers, or a fleet of pop-up trailers. What is missing is the infrastructure, program managers, and on-the-ground, trained leadership to leverage the collected resources of local churches. Parachurch ministries can and do provide the kind of organization and mobilization needed to care for Christians and those they serve in emergency situations and disaster recovery.
I started this short, two-post series with the observation that local churches and parachurch ministries can develop adversarial relationships with one another. That kind of animosity is disheartening and unnecessary. Parachurch ministries that see themselves as humble servants of local churches can fruitfully and faithfully serve the cause of Christ. Churches can benefit from and be edified by parachurch ministries. There is a place for a measured appreciation for what God has done and is doing throughout Christian history through parachurch ministries.
Editor’s Note: This post was first published on February 23, 2018.