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What is a Parachurch Organization?

Malcolm Tatum
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Parachurch organizations are religious organizations that do not operate under the auspices of a particular faith tradition. In the context of the broader Christian church, a parachurch organization can be the means to allow Christians from different denominations to come together in pursuit of a common objective. Because the organization is not accountable to any one denomination, it is free to function within the parameters of its own charter and has only to report to the members of the organization for any actions taken.

The idea of a parachurch organization has been around for a number of years. During the 19th century, abolitionist organizations that were not tied directly to one particular denomination provided a means for persons who were against slavery to unite their efforts without having to report to any one Christian church. During the early 20th century, parachurch organizations formed for other purposes, such as providing relief in war-torn areas of the world, or providing soup kitchens or other support during the American Depression.

Along with many worthwhile purposes, a parachurch organization can also be a means of bringing together people who wish to promote a belief system that involves bias toward others for any number of reasons. Many hate groups that organize around a particular faith-based doctrine are parachurch organizations. The rise of hate groups has somewhat given this type of organization a bad reputation, despite the continuing presence of many such organizations that serve a number of constructive purposes in the wider community.

A parachurch organization can be built around any common set of values and goals. This means that it may focus on promoting well-being among a particular gender, age group, economic group, or race. At the same time, one may develop in response to a need present within a given community, such as assistance to the poor, or providing ongoing ministry to persons with mental disabilities.

People who join parachurch organizations normally do not have to sever ties with any Christian denomination. The work of the organization is often seen as giving expression to a particular religious principle that may not be fully possible within the scope of one single denomination. Many such organizations are started by a core group of persons who are associated with a given denomination, but open their membership to all persons who identify with the mission statement and basic values of the organization.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon1005685 — On Oct 26, 2021

It is obvious the author of this article is just trying to stir up strife by saying that parachurches are hate groups. Parachurches comes alongside the church, as a whole, to equip the saints, which the church has failed to do.

The church was meant to be a place of healing and learning for one's body, soul, and spirit. Too many churches have become what is classified as "seeker friendly". We need the Gospel message more than a 'preacher' telling us how to live life in this world. The Holy Spirit is our teacher and parachurches are to partner with Jesus in order to facilitate the healing that God the Father had Jesus do.

I encourage the hurt, broken, dying to seek out a church or parachurch that is allowing The Lord to work through His earthen vessels of obedience.

By anon355442 — On Nov 16, 2013

By anon242288 — On Jan 22, 2012

You need to study the scriptures clearly to see that parachurch ministries are not scriptural. The work outside the orderly confines of the church set up by the apostles and prophets. There is the ecclesiastical order, then there is the domestic order. Where is the parachurch? It's not in the scriptures.

By anon147978 — On Jan 31, 2011

Anon you wrote: "Attempting to link parachurch org. with hate groups is contemptible."

I agree with you 200 percent and expect to see an apology from the other party(ies) to you if he/they expects us to accept or respect his/their decision on any topic of discussion.

I have many pastoral friends who are under a parachurch ministry and take that as a direct insult because of the mighty work they are doing in the earth.

By anon105615 — On Aug 21, 2010

Parachurches are unbiblical!

By anon70209 — On Mar 12, 2010

Your opinion that a parachurch organization is linked to hate groups is wrong.

First, in the mindset of God, there is no such identity as parachurch. It's just His Church. The establishing of a "parachurch" calling or ministry is to accomplish a task beyond the scope and calling of the local church.

In the end, the parachurch ministry is to be a service to the local church, and its members are made up of people from the local church that are drawn to its purposed calling.

There are basically two types of parachurch organizations. One is for a specific ministry, with a timeless calling.

The other is for a "movement" or "wind of the Holy Spirit" with a call to accomplish a given purpose. In both cases, they are a servant for His greater Church as a whole. The purposed benefits must be a service for the local church.

A parachurch is never to be a self serving organization. As an example, the Gideons would noted to be a ministry because its purpose continues to be a service to the purposes of God, yet it needs budgeted dollars beyond the capacity of the local Church.

A Parachurch movement, on the other hand, is a calling for a season or "wind of the Spirit" to accomplish His given purpose. An example of such is today there are over 1,200 market ministries. Each one has a given focus to present Christ to the masses in the workplace of life - the marketplace.

These parachurch organizations, being made up of local church people, will slowly diminish as the people in the local church begin to accept their responsibility in the great commission to be salt and light in the workplace. In other words, the need has been filled.

It could be said that a parachurch organization called into being for a "movement" or "wind of the Spirit" eventually is replaced and absorbed into the calling of the local church. The parachurch has served its purpose and is no longer needed.

By anon68301 — On Mar 01, 2010

I truly agree with you. Hate groups are not part of Parachurch organizations. A parachurch is a ministry set up to enhance or assist the ministry of the local Church. Members of parachurches are encouraged to be part of a local church. I believe the writer should correct this error.

By anon59380 — On Jan 08, 2010

Attempting to link parachurch organizations with hate groups is contemptible. It is not better than trying to link democracy with violent revolution, or public schools with molestation. Those comments have no place in a fair presentation.

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum

Writer

Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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