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Church and Parachurch

Mark R. Brown

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is a branch of the divine institution known as the holy, catholic church. Our Lord Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). The church is our primary commitment in life and in death. It is the place where we meet the triune God as he pours out his Spirit on her officers, ordinances, and oracles. It is in the church where we are called to divine worship, mutual edification, and gospel outreach.

Parachurch organizations are independent agencies, accountable only to their own board. Their purpose is to assist the church in its work. “Para” means “alongside” the church. It is not a competitor, but an assistant. We invert the proper order and relationship between the two when the church is asked to support the parachurch. The purpose of the parachurch is to help the church, not the other way around.

Troubles begin when these lines begin to be blurred. For example, it is wrong to bind the consciences of the people of God by saying that every Christian should support a particular parachurch cause. Let me be blunt: it is often an interest in pleasing people that puts parachurch organizations on the local church budget. Picking some of the many parachurch agencies for congregational support involves playing favorites. Some people eagerly push forward their preferred agencies, while others hesitate to push their choices on the church.

But it is not fair for either the pastor or particular church members to push their preferences on the whole church. For example, I support Geneva College and the Banner of Truth ministries. Others prefer to support Covenant College and Ligonier Ministries. If we give all our offerings to the church for the work of the church, and our donations directly to the parachurch of our choice, no one’s conscience is burdened or bound!

All Christians should be active members of their local church as their primary identity. Some Christians will also serve in a secondary role in parachurch organizations as workers and/or donors according to their conscience and abilities. But, in love, we will not push our preferences on others.

We should distinguish, then, between donations and offerings. Donations are gifts given directly to the parachurch agencies and other charities. We encourage our members at Westminster Church who want to support such organizations and workers to send their donations directly to the parachurch organization.

Offerings are our gifts to God through the church for the worship of God and the work of the church. All Christians should be active members of their local church in their primary identity and give from the heart. There is no compulsion in the new covenant when it comes to giving. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7 KJV). Our offerings should be brought willingly, joyfully, and with thanksgiving to God as he has prospered us with gratitude for his great love for us in Christ.

If your congregation is blessed with overflowing giving, why not pump up your portion of the giving to the Worldwide Outreach of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church? A fair share is a fine starting point, but many of us can do much more to help our home and foreign missionaries and the work of Christian Education.

The author is the pastor of Westminster OPC in Hollidaysburg, Pa. New Horizons, November 2015.

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