Warning against parachurch organizations Reformed or otherwise...

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(NOTE: Some of the text of this post was sinful, so I've edited it and ask readers to forgive me.)

Fifteen years ago my brother David introduced me to the phrases "self-referential" and "self-appointed." Since then, these phrases have been foundational to my thinking about the church and the parachurch.

The phrases are helpful in understanding much church-planting today... 

Men say they have "a vision" for this or that city, so they move there and set up shop. No church calls them to serve as their shepherd. They're lone-ranger pastors. A friend printed "church entrepreneur" on his business card and he wasn't being ironic.

Just so with groups like Together for the Gospel, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and Gospel Coalition: each is a group of men who promote each other's royalties, ad income, fame, and speakers fees under the rubric of "ministry" without substantive discipline other than the court of public opinion. Unaccountable to any church or church organization, these associations pool their fame and fortune and leverage them to each other's advantage.

Like junior high school cliques, the young bucks follow these men around hoping to share in their largesse and (eventually) inherit the keys to their magnificent kingdoms. These are the modern counterparts to the parachurch organizations of prior generations when the buzz was Billy Graham's crusades, Bill Gothard's Institutes for Basic Youth Conflicts, and Bill Bright's Campus Crusade. The king is dead. Long live the King.

Parachurch organizations have always taken comfort in not being the church and thus being free to have prominent women sit with them on their boards. And not being the church, they bear no responsibility for church discipline. There may be some degree of personal accountability through a somewhat subordinate church organization, but it will be filtered through the grid of national prominence. As one man having a long association with the Grace to You men put it, John MacArthur had not submitted his decision to promote sex-neutered Bibles to the elders board of Grace Community Church.

So now comes along Tully Tchividjian's dispensational antinomianism. If you'd like, go ahead and read who's saying what about whom and what tone he's using and who likes his tone and who thinks his tone is too flat or too sharp. Who cares?

Every stockholder in Gospel Coalition cares because Don sells Tully's books and Tully sells Don's books and John sells both Tully's and Don's books with all of them propheting to the tune of tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

In his time, the late Roger Nicole (whose birthday I just remembered as I do each year) was the greatest theological library builder in these United States. One day he told me his basic principle with book-buying was never to purchase a new book. "Wait ten years, and if the book's worthwhile it will still be around, and cheap!"

The moral of the story?

Innoculate yourself against fame and fortune by avoiding parachurch ministries that appeal to your vain desire to be cool and hip, to hobnob with the rich and powerful. Life is short and the Day of Judgment too fast approaching to waste time networking at conferences.

Rock stardom and the Kingdom of God are mutually antithetical.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!