A Few Good Men

New Warhorn Media post by Andrew Dionne:

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Part of attracting good men into the ministry of the church, and not into the parachurch structure, is understanding why men, and women as well, would want to help in and with parachurch ministries in the first place.

It seems to me that a big part of the appeal is that parachurch ministries allow people who have a ‘heart’ for mission, to invest in serving in a mission field; that is, the one three or four miles down the road. Locally to where I live, there is a group doing a lot of what is known here as ‘youth work’; that is, helping children and teenagers living in a fairly rough area - but building the relationships which in time will provide an opportunity for them to hear the Gospel. (In the case I’m thinking of, that has meant inviting them to an evening church service once trust has been built). It’s a slog, and the children/teenagers involved can be pretty difficult; but the parachurch structure provides a way to do this (=mission) which individual churches wouldn’t have the resources to do. Thoughts?

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I think the primary recruitment pool shouldn’t necessarily be young men who have no life experience. The position is called “elder” for a reason, and yes I am despising youth a bit.

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Part of attracting good men into the ministry of the church, and not into the parachurch structure, is understanding why men, and women as well, would want to help in and with parachurch ministries in the first place.

Admittedly I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this reply, but hopefully it’ll be food for better thoughts down the line, so here goes :). Your comment reminded me of a famous clip from Matt Chandler. It’s on YouTube under the title “Jesus wants the rose!” and has been roundly praised. I hadn’t heard it since I was maybe 16, nearly a decade ago, and happened to hear it again recently. I was surprised by it, as I hadn’t remembered how he’d begun that anecdote, and it was very instructive:

But it didn’t take long before my passion for the Gospel and my passion to see lost men and women saved started to rub against or collide with the Church. And so it wasn’t very long, and I won’t – I can give you dozens and dozens of stories, but really one that kind of broke the camel’s back, where I decided if I was going to do this [i.e., be a dedicated evangelist], I wasn’t going to do it as a churchman, because the church more often than not was an enemy of conversion and not its friend – I’ll give you an example. This turning, this break in me, happened, that God has just been disciplining me on ever since, occurred my freshman year of college…

He goes on to tell a story about how he was very gently and kindly trying to lead a fornicating single mother to Jesus, and got her to attend a church concert, and at some point one of the speakers passed a rose around the room and asked everyone to smell and feel and enjoy it, and when it got back to him he used it as an analogy for sexual purity, asking who would want this rose now that it’s all crumpled and disheveled. Pastor Chandler declares that he was so angry he could have physically hurt that man, because he was driving this single mother away by, essentially, preaching judgment and shame upon her sins instead of unrestrained mercy (“Jesus wants the rose!”).

As Pastor Bayly said in the last episode, Pastor Chandler essentially left the church and started a conglomerate of parachurch ministries playing at church, with the key thing missing being discipline of members. The mindset on display in that quote isn’t just that the old-fashioned Church gets in the way of doing Kingdom work via bureaucracy and red tape and outdated ways of doing things, but that it gets in the way of Christianity itself, because, basically, the people in the Church are mean to sensitive women and gays. So the parachurch guys often don’t want to preach the Law and specifically decide to look down on the people in the Church and publicly throw them under the bus in order to seem more loving and welcoming to people outside the Church. All in the name of driving conversions. Conversions to what, now that you’ve condemned the Church? – To Christianity without the Church, which, when it collectively does stuff, is the parachurch. It’s Anabaptistic ecclesiology with a fancy Five-Point dinner jacket.

If you continue reading the sermon that famous clip was pulled from, which is basically a short autobiography, you find:

In December of 2002, despite my anger towards evangelicals, I became the pastor of a church of evangelicals in what Christianity Today called the “center of the evangelical world.” Despite the fact that my heart had always burned for the prodigal, God sent me to the older brother.

I believe that a lot of men, including at least one I’ve known who made shipwreck of his faith, join the parachurch not because it’s more efficient but because they hate the idea of offending the people they’re trying to “win to Christ,” and they love the idea of evangelizing the goats far more than the work of discipling and disciplining sheep.

Anyway – I’ll stop being so negative. I know that your initial comment was about good reasons that gifted and ambitious men join the parachurch. I just wanted to highlight that one of the main draws of the parachurch is that it is custom-fitted to avoid God’s Law, and this attracts emotive and overly empathetic men who don’t want to exercise authority, only “share the Gospel.”

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Just as an added note, this episode was a good encouragement to me of my elders’ love for me and for the other young men, so thank you to the podcasters for the work you do.

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Hi Joshua - I think I get your point about parachurch organisations being set up in such a way that they don’t have to preach the offence of the law. While there is a separate discussion to be had about how we preach the Law, the group I was thinking of when I wrote that post, does direct its young people who are interested onto Alpha courses, and to coming to church as well, and they are likely to hear the Law that way.

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Yes, agree that the rose thing was in fact terrible, at least if that was the whole point of the man’s presentation (I assume that’s what you mean?). On a different note more relevant to your first question: perhaps a lot of men join parachurch ministries simply because their own churches are not really doing much during the week besides, e.g., a Bible study. Men can be convicted of ecclesiology enough that they understand they need to join and be discipled by a church, but still really view it primarily as a place to go and worship on Sundays, with the activity arm of Christianity being self-organized. Especially if the church they find is itself a parachurch.

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which individual churches wouldn’t have the resources to do.

But churches do have the resources, although I think this sort of work is great. The question is whether young men are challenged to put serving the Body of Christ, the Church, first and best. Does the church understand its need for the gifts God has give her and provide a call and training and support for the use of those gifts, or does the church simply do Sunday morning with the old guys until we die off? Is the Church content to keep picking from the same trees as their fruit dwindles and the trunk rots until it dies and falls?

Every time this (parachurch bleedoff) is brought up, stories abound of the church not appreciating or using its young men and women, and this is true. But the solution is to be pushy and demand food and training. Like a bird in its nest. They owe it to you, so demand it. Humbly, of course, but read them all the texts of Scripture that show the gifts and callings and training of young men to become shepherds, showing them this in history, also.

Still, keep in mind two things: first, you may be the exception to the rule. It may be you actually don’t have the gifts or are too proud to be allowed to use them. Don’t assume the failure is the church and its leaders; it might be you. Ask your friends or wife, and make sure they tell you the truth.

Second, you may have to leave your church. You may have to find a church with less faithful doctrine and more faithful practice, horror of horrors!

Just some quick thoughts, Love,

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… Less faithful doctrine and more faithful practice, horror of horrors!

:slight_smile:

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(coming back to this some weeks later, and after some thought):

That rose thing. Thinking back on things, I don’t think this example was all that wise, for one simple reason: “no sinner without a future, no saint without a past”. We need to remind ourselves of this more than we do.

Second, the point of preaching judgement and shame. Yes, of course we need to … but if we do so out of a root of our own self-righteousness, people will pick up on that and run a mile. The Reformed witness in Scotland suffered from this over the years, I fear, to the point that it has served to inoculate generations of Scots against the Gospel.

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It was absolutely a bad example. But I think that’s part of the point of using it in the first place: if it had been a good example, of a faithful use of guilt and shame to drive people to the Gospel rather than simply condemning them, then the man talking about the rose wouldn’t have made as unambiguous of an antagonist, and the justification for shaming the Church as “an enemy of conversion” would be less rhetorically compelling.

Preaching God’s law and judgment must never be gagged b/c someone did it poorly in the past. When it’s not done, no past failures excuse that. Love,