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Monday, February 18, 2013 | Comments (10)

In the last several years, the proliferation of specialized ministries and parachurch organizations has been astounding. Today there’s a separate ministry for every biblical viewpoint, theological perspective, or practical interest, not to mention all the pseudo-Christian groups focused on social and political activism. It’s likely that if you have got a particular spiritual itch, you can find a ministry that will scratch it, or you can find someone eager to launch a new organization to appeal to like-minded people.

The problem with the plethora of parachurch organizations is that so many of them exist outside the authority and influence of the church. The term parachurch ought to indicate a cooperative relationship, but often that’s not the case. Some pay lip service to the church; others are openly indifferent to it. Few of them—perhaps very few—are actually accountable to the church, adhere to biblical guidelines for leadership, and have a strong commitment to biblical doctrine and theology.

That’s particularly dangerous as these organizations and ministries pull believers’ attention, loyalty, and financial support away from their local congregations. Rather than devote their time, energy, and support to life and ministry in their local body, believers are segmented off from the rest of the church, focused only on the issues and concerns that appeal to them. Too often, the parachurch organization becomes the central spiritual focus, while the church is pushed further and further to the sidelines. That defies the Lord’s design for His church and cripples the Body of Christ, which can’t properly function if its members are all headed in different directions, pursuing different priorities.

You see a similar trend on Christian college campuses, where many young men and women are preparing for lives of ministry without a strong connection to the church—if left unaddressed, that disconnect only deepens with time. In fact, much of the full-time ministry work going on in the world these days—whether in charity groups, missionary endeavors, Christian education, or some other parachurch activity—happens outside and apart from the church.

And while plenty of those parachurch organizations are doing valuable, necessary work, the trend away from the church—the only institution the Lord established and promised to bless—is still a serious cause for concern.

The solution is to be thoughtful about the ministries you’re supporting, and aware of their influence in your life and participation in your local congregation. One of the key points we consistently stress at Grace to You is that we cannot replace the church in the lives of our listeners and readers, nor do we want to. We can’t possibly fulfill your spiritual needs for worship, fellowship, accountability, and discipleship. We’re a complement to your local church—not a substitute.

The same should go for every other ministry or parachurch organization, and you should be wary of the ones that are comfortable being disconnected from and unaccountable to the church. Instead, look for ministries that prompt you toward greater involvement and service in your congregation—that prompt you to be more committed and connected to what the Lord is accomplishing in your church.

Our series on the importance of the local church officially comes to a close today, but it’s clear this is a topic that will continue to come up throughout the life of our blog. The church is at the heart of every believer’s life, and it’s related—whether directly or indirectly—to everything we discuss in this digital space. In fact, we’re already prepping more in-depth series on some of the topics we’ve recently touched on, including baptism and the Lord’s Table.

For now, we want to give John MacArthur the last word on the importance of the local church. His words focus on attendance and membership, but they encompass the spirit of everything we’ve discussed over the last several weeks about the necessity of involvement in your congregation.




GTY Staff


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#1  Posted by Jonathan Albert  |  Monday, February 18, 2013at 7:19 AM

The road to my salvation is half-paved with Biblical teachers outside a church building, especially through radio and online ministries. Now that I have become aware of these things, I am seeking a church, however, I have not yet found one whose doctrine is up to par with those that I listen to--or at least secure.

Most recently I went to a local assembly which lasted almost two hours, and the man reiterated at least two or three times that "this is my interpretation; you don't have to agree with me" when he was teaching on Matthew 11:20-30. That is a paraphrase; however, because I am used to the tenacity of conviction among teachers like

Dr. MacArthur and Vernon McGee, I was wary of such wobbly stances.

The main issue of my concern is that I want to be baptized, however, I must ask: does it make any difference who baptizes me? Can they simply be another believer, even if they are as "wobbly" as the preacher I previously described, or do I have to go and discern the establishment before I am baptized there? This may seem like an odd question, but it has been on my mind for a while now, considering how everywhere I listen preachers are saying one thing or another about being baptized.

Some churches do baptize by immersion in my area, however, one of them last taught a sermon based on gematria/numerology, and another has been rebuked by my dad because of its over-political atmosphere. I'm looking for a church home, and to be baptized, but which comes first? I feel it's almost flippant to go somewhere to be baptized if I'm not going to continue to associate with those people, nevertheless I want to situate myself in a solid foundation in which I can grow, because I am so little (2 Pet. 3:18).

Thank you for your help.

#2  Posted by Jacob Stewart  |  Monday, February 18, 2013at 8:45 AM

I really love this and it spoke to my heart today because I do not regularly attend. I live in Dallas, TX, the church capitol of the world, but it seems every church I go to just doesn't teach the bible. They are much more interested in silly props, preaching style, rock music, and looking like the world. They all have good doctrinal statements, but when I look at the congregation every one dresses and acts 22. As I young person, I want to find a multi-generational, biblical, and reasonable community committed to the bible, but I cannot find them. Any suggestions? Advice?

#3  Posted by Brad Kennedy  |  Monday, February 18, 2013at 10:34 AM

I posted many weeks ago that this series was an answer to prayer. Through this series, I have found a church home. Through John's blog and posts of others, the Lord has directed my path to a local church in which I have started the process of membership. The passgae that John mentions in the video above, I referred to yersterday as I was speaking with Joel Thompson, a graduate of TMS and member of GCC during his time in CA. I am so grateful that I am finding it difficult to keep my emotions of great joy under control as I write this post. This time ends a dilligent, sometime agonizing, three year search. Though it is so true that this site can never replace the worship, fellowship, accountabilty, and discipleship, the Lord provides for us through the local church, all who frequent her know what a comfort and encouragement all of you are. May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you. I love you all in humble spirit as you pour out your love to the saints. I have no idea what the Hebrew dialect is for "thank you", but I am sure it can aptly expresses my gratitude.

#4  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson  |  Tuesday, February 19, 2013at 10:48 AM

Jonathan,

There is a tendency among believers to extend their search for a church home indefinitely. Some spend years--even decades--looking for a congregation that suits their doctrinal, interpersonal, and aesthetic tastes. Don't fall into that pattern.

My suggestion to you is that you plug in with the best option you've found and commit to that church. It's true you need to be obedient in baptism, but you also need to be under the authority and leadership of a local congregation. It probably would be flippant to be baptized at a church you never intend to attend again. But it would be just as flippant to eschew your local congregations because you haven't yet found the perfect fit.

It sounds like you have a real desire to be obedient to the Lord in baptism. I'll pray along with you that He will help you find the church home He has for you, and soon.

#5  Posted by Anthony Russ  |  Wednesday, February 20, 2013at 6:37 AM

I read all the comments above and had been some of the same situations with pastors, their teachings etc. I main problem in attending a church now is my health. I suffer with Peripheral Poly-Neurpathy (Chronic Pain on both sides of my body from Head to Toe pain). I find it very difficult to get up each day and do just daily tasks. I haven't been able to attend church like I would like and that makes me feel awful. I found a great church in Middleburg, Hts. Ohio called Grace Church. I love it very much. but my pain keeps me from attending. I don't feel like doing thinkgs with family, going to the store etc. is just a burden for me. In side my spirit feels guilty sometimes. I know the Lord understands when your ill. My pain is 24/7 and I had 5 back surgeries in the 80's and then developed this chronic pain condition that the doctors say will never go away and the only thing to do is take pain medicines. Sometimes they work and at times they don't work as well. this pain just wears my body out and has truly destroyed my life as far as enjoying life with family, grandchildren, goint to restaurants or whatever is just such a burden. Most of the time I just lay on my couch on a recliner. I'm not able to lay in a bed any more, since it hurts more to do it. Sorry for going on and on. But I feel bad that I don't feel well to go to church and I really miss the fellowship, Bible study etc. I do undestand that its difficult to find a church. I always told my wife if we lived near Grace Chruch in California, I would love to attend. I am very thankful for the teaching of pastor John MacArthur and have been listening to Grace since the 1980's and actually came to know Jesus when Pastor John was teaching on the Second Coming of Christ. I still have the cassette tapes and listen to them quite often. The Word never gets old. Plus I visit Grace on the website everyday. I wish I was in better heatlh could go to church. Once again sorry for being long winded. May the Lord bless you all. Tony Russ, Cleveland, Ohio.

#6  Posted by Judy Iversen  |  Wednesday, February 20, 2013at 5:55 PM

Jacob,

Friends here move from your area and say there are several good PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) in the Dallas area. They specifically were members at Christ Presbyterian Church in Flower Mound, TX.

Be encouraged and keeping looking.

#7  Posted by Jean Selden  |  Wednesday, February 20, 2013at 11:08 PM

To Anthony #5:

My sympathies go out to you with your disability. Having chronic pain alters ones life. I, too, suffer with pain. I try not to give it much thought, but it is always there and I know that this is just a "light and momentary trouble" when compared with our eternal glory.

Please do not feel guilty about your inability to attend a church building. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. He will always meet our needs as He seems to have with GTY ministries for you.

I pray that you may find some relief for what you are going through. I also pray that you might experience fellowship during thismseason of life.

Sincerely in Christ,

Jean Selden

#8  Posted by Ray Bean  |  Thursday, February 21, 2013at 8:00 AM

Jacob ,

Our son and his wife live in the Dallas area and attend the Prestoncrest church of Christ. They teach baptism (immersion ) for the forgiveness of sins. They are led by a plurality of elders and have deacons. They are scripturally organized . The pulpit preacher is always preaching from scripture .They even have a Sunday evening service -which many churches have abandoned- and the preacher preaches. Currently he is preaching through Acts ,on Sunday evening. If you are hungering for a Christ-centered and Biblically based church try them.

#9  Posted by Kristy Kapp  |  Friday, February 22, 2013at 9:17 AM

Jacob,

My husband & I can completely understand your predicament. We live in Corinth (almost Denton). We had searched for a church home for almost 2 years. We have finally joined a church. It is far from perfect & I have some complaints with the head pastor's preaching, however, the people do have a love of God & there are some younger & very solid doctrinely assistant pastors. There are also a few members that seem to have a strong grasp of Biblical doctrine & theology & a desire to go deeper. There are a couple of churches that would probably be stronger theologically in our area but we hope that we can searve at this church. They may not be the strongest but they have a desire. I wouldn't suggest joining any of the many apostate & borderline, if not full, heretical churches in our area, but if you find one with desire, get in there & help that church grow deeper in the faith. It is probably better if the stroger Christians begin to infiltrate the weaker churches so to help them become stronger. I hope that makes sense. ;)

Having said all that, you can always check on the 9marks.org site & use their church search. Most, if not all, are supposed to be solid Reformed churches. Just an idea. ;) Good luck in your search. :D

#10  Posted by Lauren Jordan  |  Sunday, March 17, 2013at 12:29 PM

Jacob,

We have friends that attend Countryside Bible Church in Southlake, TX The pastor is Tom Pennington, who spoke this year at the Shepherd's Conference.