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Continuing with my reflections in yesterday's blog, it is hypocritical for the para-church minister to have his children benefiting from Sunday School, his wife singing in the choir, his family benefiting from mother‚Äôs day out programs, teen and youth ministries and then question the value and worth of the local church. It is hypocritical for him to speak of the cultural irrelevance of the local church when in every town, village and city across America, Christians gather week after week in larger numbers in local churches than he is able to gather together in his yearly conferences. Every donor, every prayer warrior, every supporter of the para-church ministry is a member of a local church. Para-church ministries use the facilities, members and financial backing of local churches and, in fact, without this backing it would be impossible for them to function. In the face of this reality, for a para-church ministry to question the legitimacy and relevancy of the local church is indeed hypocritical. For a para-church staff not to be an active member of a local congregation is not only hypocritical but sin. Hebrews 10:24-25 knows no exceptions. I have no patience for so-called ministers, whether on the mission field, serving in their home country or home on furlough, who cannot give a description of their personal ministry in and to the local church at which they are members. If you say, ‚ÄúYes, but in the country where I minister as a missionary there are no churches,‚ÄĚ then I say, ‚ÄúWhat is a para-church ministry doing in a country with no church to ‚Äėpara‚Äô?‚ÄĚ In that case, in that country, God has not called men to para-church ministries but to church planting ministries.
I have ministered in many parts of the world with many, many para-church ministries, and I can testify by firsthand observation that I have never seen a para-church minister who was inactive in a local congregation who did not have serious problems in both his marriage and his family.
These two ministries, the local church and the para-church, have been raised up by God to accomplish His will. Unfortunately, it is all too common for leadership in the local church to actively attack and belittle para-chruch ministries. (Can you imagine Timothy preaching from the pulpit that Paul and Phillip were sucking the lifeblood out of the local church?) Equally unfortunate is the tendency of para-church ministers to belittle the effectiveness and relevancy of the local church. (Can you imagine Paul writing a letter to his converts belittling the local church, calling it archaic and out of touch?) The reality is that neither the church nor the para-church can function effectively apart from each other which is the reason God has raised them up.
I praise God that His primary will is to reach and disciple the world through the local church. I praise God that in His infinite wisdom, He provided for all churches, not just mega-churches but all churches by raising up para-church ministries to serve and bless them as they reach and disciple the world.
We have always supported the church. We have served consistently in the local church wherever we lived and no matter the vocation to which God had called us. I have been a Sunday School teacher (as has Eleanor), served on committees, been on maintenance teams, served as an usher, deacon, elder, associate staff and pastor. The local church has and will always be a central part of our life, marriage, family and ministry.
We recognize and teach that this is the New Covenant ‚Äúchurch age.‚ÄĚ We recognize, as well, that God in His sovereignty has called us to minister to and bless not a single church but many churches throughout the world. Not a single pastor but many pastors throughout the world. Not a single group of church teachers and leaders but many church teachers and leaders throughout the world. Not a single young man training for the pastorate but scores and scores of young men preparing for the pastorate.
We do this through GCI, a para-church ministry. GCI exists, though, to bless the church and not replace it. Our ministry with GCI allows us to minister in many churches but never, never, never to minister apart from the church or in competition with the church.
I praise God for a church that recognizes and understands the importance of those ministries which God has raised up to bless, train and promote the ministry of the local church - those which serve alongside ‚Äď thus the term ‚Äúpara-church.‚ÄĚ As the prophets of old served alongside the priests, turning people back to the Temple, equipping and serving those who were themselves already faithful, so the para-ministries serve alongside the church - turning men and women back to it, equipping and serving those in it. As Paul and the traveling evangelists, such as Philip, served alongside the church - planting new churches, building up existing churches, training leaders, supplying material needs, preaching the Word of God and turning men back to God, so para-chruch ministries of today fulfill the same role and call.
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon Grace Community Int. - Tyumen, Russia
Answers to this week‚Äôs Bible Quiz‚Ä¶ 1. F - God's view is omniscient and omnipresent. (Genesis 6:5; Amos 9:8; Job 34:21; Psalm 33:13-15)
2. (c.) The first sin was committed by satan. He had already fallen from his position as an angel when he tempted Eve to sin. (Genesis 3:1; Ezekiel 28:2, 6, 13-15, 17; Luke 10:18)
3. F ‚Äď Jesus did not receive the Holy Spirit at His baptism nor is that when he began His earthly ministry. Since His cousin John the Baptist received the Holy Spirit while in his mother‚Äôs womb (Luke 1:15), such a position would mean that John the Baptist was more spiritual and more involved in the ministry than Jesus for the first 30 or so years of Jesus‚Äôs life - that only after Jesus‚Äôs baptism by John did He ‚Äúcatch up‚ÄĚ with His cousin in spirituality and ministry. This is, of course, ludicrous. Jesus pre-existed His incarnation. He has always existed as one with God. (John 10:30; Colossians 2:9) His ministry pre-existed his incarnation. (John 1:3; Colossians 1:6) Even as a child, Jesus was active about His heavenly Father‚Äôs business (Luke 2:46 ‚Äď 49). From His conception, God worked and Jesus worked, they were never separate one from another (John 9:3 & 4; 14:10-12). Jesus did not receive the Holy Spirit at His baptism. The fullness of God the Father and the fullness of God the Holy Spirit have always been and always will be inseparable from Jesus - God the Son. (Colossian 2:9)
4. F ‚Äď There is no evidence in the Gospels, the Book of Acts or in any primary source first-century documents of the ‚Äúfish,‚ÄĚ the ICHTHYS, being used by Christians or by the early church.
Now ask yourself ‚Äď what other things about the Bible do I believe which are in reality false? From now on when something is taught about the Bible your first questions will be ‚Äď ‚ÄúWhat Book, Chapter and Verse establishes this?‚ÄĚ