Let me repeat a caution I wrote last week…much of what will be discussed in this blog may not be popular or represent “conventional wisdom.”It may in fact, challenge the beliefs of many in the Sports Outreach World.It is not intended to be intentionally offensive or hurtful.It is however, intended to begin a conversation based upon the hard questions asked within.All truth seekers are invited to continue…
Sports Outreach Continuum of Tension #3:
Local Church Sports Outreach – Para-Ministry Sports Outreach This is the seventh in a series of blogs based on the Six Sports Outreach Continuums of Tension to address the question: Is Sports Outreach Effective?The conversation continues with this blog on the third of six Sports Outreach Ministry Continuums: Para-Ministry Sports Outreach – Local Church Sports Outreach Ministry.Last week I stated that in its current form, Para-Church Sports Outreach is a flawed model.Let me begin to explain why I say this, helped by a few definitions and explanations…
Defining Para-Ministry / Para-Church Para-Ministry is the preferred terminology for this blog, even though Para-Church is more widely used in mainstream Christianity.Para-Church may be popular but none-the-less; I believe it to be theologically, philosophically and methodologically problematic.My preference for the term, Para-Ministry, rather than Para-Church, is based upon: a) the theology of the Church (ecclesiology); b) the philosophy of mission (missiology); and c) various methodologies of “evangelistic disciple-making” (ministry).
Theologically, only The Church is capable of ministry. (In this series of blogs, when capitalized, The Church distinguishes the Universal Church of Christ of Christ from a local assembly or congregation of The Universal Church).The Church of Christ is defined as every person who is a Disciple/Follower of Christ.Anything outside and beside The Church (para – beside) is not capable of authentic Christian ministry because it is, by definition, not Christian.People who are not “in Christ,” (para or besides, meaning outside The Church) are not members of The Church.If they are not in The Church, they cannot carry out ministry.If they are Christians, they are in The Church and thus, any ministry they do is either based in a Local Church Ministry model or in a Para-Ministry model. A Para-Ministry is ministry done by members of The Church of Christ but not necessarily sponsored by a Local Church body.I therefore conclude: to be “Para-Church” is to be outside The Church and thus prefer the term Para-ministry.
There is a subtle yet significant relevance to these definitive distinctions.To say: “I am serving in a Para-Ministry of The Church” indicates a recognition that the end goal is to plant, grow, enhance and expand The Church, as opposed to saying “I serve a Para-church organization.”The ultimate model and goal for these statements would be: “I serve The Church of Jesus Christ, through a Para-Ministry in partnership with a local congregation.This assumes the goal of the Para-Ministry is to grow The Church Universal through missional activity of a local congregation.In addition, it also assumes the staff and volunteers of a Para-Ministry are active, regular participants in a local congregation including catalytic integration of the Para-Ministry and a local congregation’s efforts.Quite frankly, it is troubling to know many Para-Ministry staff members are not personally involved in a local congregation.I believe at least some of this is the result of how often Para-Church communities take the place of what local congregations are to provide, such as fellowship, bible teaching, prayer, accountability, worship and even the sacraments.
Theological, Philosophical and Methodological foundations of Sports Outreach Ministry The significance of the Para-Ministry – Local Church Continuum of Tension is deeper and broader than just establishing the definition of the terms.It has much more to do with the final outcome, or effectiveness, of accomplishing the Great Commission.This blog series continues next week in relationship to establishing a new model that synchronizes the efforts of both the Para-Ministry and local congregations of The Church.Next week’s blog will further explain how both ends of this continuum may share a common Theology (Level #1) but often diverge on both the Philosophy (Level - #2) and subsequent Methodologies (Level – #3).This “3-Tier Paradigm” and its relevance will be explained next week.