Para-church or Pseudo-church?


What is the biblical view of the role of parachurch organizations?  How are they to be rightly understood in relation to the church?  In his book, The Gospel Commission, Michael Horton writes,

“By providing support systems, parachurch organizations can help churches to stay focused on execution, but they transgress their limits when they assume the role that Christ entrusted to his church. They are not authorized to make disciples. They have no commission to proclaim the Word, to administer baptism or the Lord’s Supper, to determine faith and practice, or to exercise spiritual discipline. Whatever they do must be in service to this ministry of the church rather than as a substitute parent.” (p.209)

Think about that.  What is your view of the church?  And what is your view of parachurch organizations in relation to (or even in comparison to) the church?  Do you think of the  various parachurch organizations as the place(s) where the ‘real’ work of ministry takes place? Do you have a low view of Christ’s church when it comes to the outward & ordinary means of grace and the Commission to make disciples of all the nations?

Oddly enough, in our day it seems as if church & parachurch have drifted into each other’s lanes, so to speak.  The church (as church) seeks to accomplish works of social justice and other such things, while seemingly leaving the work of making disciples to others (i.e. parachurch).  Likewise often parachurch organizations seem bent on picking up the slack as it were, by drifting into the work that the church (as church) is alone truly commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to do.

Parachurch organizations have their rightful place, but that place is not as a substitute for the church (and vice-versa).


  1. This is exactly how I feel. We see great great organizations moving into roles that are not rightfully theirs. I think much effort should be made in connecting people with the local church by these organizations. The goal of Campus Crusade or something like that should be to plug people into local churches, not drawn people away from them. This is something which requires an actual effort as it is all too easy to turn the organization into its own church, and people may never make their way into the “boring normal churches.” This is one reason why churches today look like nothing but a hangout. They have sought to show that they are just like the parachurch, so it’s cool to come to our actual church. May the parachurch organizations serve the local churches and the local churches be consistent in their duties as Christ’s ordained body.

    1. Thanks for taking the time too read and comment!

      It is my observation that far too many believers have a very low view of the church. (Unfortunately many churches unwittingly help to give them such a low view of the church.) This is evidenced on the one hand by the casual way that some break their membership vows as if they were nothing, and on the other hand by well-meaning believers pouring all or most of their time, energy, and resources into parachurch organizations, rather than into the ministry of the church (including denominational missions work).

      It is one thing to be involved in parachurch work (commendable), but not when it is at the expense (sometimes literally) of the work of the Great Commission through Christ’s church.

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