CHURCH & MINISTRY
The Parachurch Paradox
The Danger in Mixing Business and Ministry
By Dolores Kimball
As a veteran employee of no less than five Christian ministries here in Colorado Springs, I have seen and experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of parachurch organizations. The article on the Got Questions site regarding parachurch ministries (Is there biblical support for parachurch ministries?) touches on the pros and cons of such ministries, so I won't reiterate them here. What I would like to touch on is the danger they pose to clear, biblical teaching.
Like all American institutions, both profit and non-profit, the "bottom line" is frequently uppermost in the minds of the leadership of Christian ministries. Even the non-profits still have to meet the payroll and pay the utility bill, and therefore income — whether through donations or sales of products or services — must meet or exceed expenditures. Parachurch ministries that depend on donations to fund their activities — everything from radio broadcasts and internet presence to child sponsorship — owe their very existence to their ability to attract the largest audience and to attract them in a way that secures their approval and subsequently their support. In this game, numbers very often mean survival. If the audience declines, donations dry up and the end is inevitable. And therein lies the danger. When the goal is to appeal to the widest possible audience to produce the largest possible income, especially in the "Christian" realm, the tendency to avoid anything controversial, divisive, or offensive becomes nearly irresistible. The problem inherent in that position is that it is diametrically opposed to the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, His apostles, and the martyrs who gave their lives proclaiming His truth.
Jesus' message was in fact so offensive that it led not only to His death on the cross, but to the horrific deaths of His disciples and faithful followers who suffered everything from crucifixion to being sawn in half, boiled in oil, or burned alive at the stake. The truth is that it is literally impossible to present the true, biblical Christian message without offending someone. But every ‘someone' who is offended by a Christian ministry is a potential loss of income. Therefore, too many ministries — and sadly, far too many pastors — either avoid the controversial altogether or practice a fence-walking, "everything is a gray are" type of ministry, too often to the detriment of the gospel message. Areas of avoidance typically involve the process of salvation (sovereign election vs. free will), end times prophecy (premillenialism vs. amillenialism), the exclusivity of Christ as the only means of salvation, (solo Christo vs. "all roads lead to God"), the absolute authority and sufficiency of Scripture (sola scriptura vs. hearing a "word from the Lord"), and numerous other doctrines deemed too inflammatory and divisive.
Even when doctrinal truths are clearly delineated in Scripture, openly declaring them is too often considered detrimental to the bottom line, so a softer, gentler approach is taken so that no one is offended and no one is turned away. But the Bible is filled with truths presented in stark, black and white terms: darkness/light, sheep/goats, good/evil, Christ/Belial, life/death, heaven/hell, flesh/spirit, truth/lies, etc. The Bible never depicts people as living in a spiritual half-light, salvation as a cooperative effort between a sovereign God and the free will of depraved men, believers as "shoats" (carnal Christians), or the existence of some territory halfway between heaven and hell.
Those who portray themselves as representing Christ to a lost and dying world must have enough confidence in Him and in the sovereign plan of God to present to Him a holy bride, spotless and complete, having lost none of them along the way (John 6:39), to boldly and unashamedly proclaim the timeless truths of Scripture, regardless of its effect on the bottom line. Those who fear someone might be offended by biblical truth must understand that the sheep will never be offended and will always hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow Him, let others gnash their teeth at His truth as they will.
Image Credit: Jackie; "Money Cross"; Creative Commons
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