Talk:Parachurch organization

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Legitimacy of the word "Parachurch" and how it begs the question of the concept under discussion[edit]

The term "parachurch" contains within it the concept of "alongside-the-church." Christians have always believed that the body of Christ, the collective assembly of true Christians regardless of the label they carried, meets for two primary purposes: 1. Worship and mutual edification, and 2. Service and evangelism. The former is traditionally associated with the unnecessary word "modality" and the latter, when undertaken by ad-hoc groups of Christians, is usually labeled a "sodality" or "parachurch" organization that serves "alongside" the church. In reality, there is no "alongside." When the body of Christ is engaged in worship and edification, we typically call that assembly a local church. When engaged in special activities (skid-row missions, printing & distributing Bibles) it is simply the body of Christ in service. By using the terms "parachurch" and "church" as antithetical pairs the argument that parachurch organizations have limited legitimacy is already won.Solarbuddy (talk) 15:23, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

Never heard the 2nd Great Awakening as the beginning[edit]

As a student of revival movements I have never heard the 2nd Great Awakening cited as the beginning of parachurch organizations. I take it this is a reference to the camp meetings. If not I am not sure what the reference is to since it is not specified in the article. Whatever the case, I think statements to this effect should reference some recognized authority on either revival movements or parachurch organizations. Otherwise it appears to be novel, original research and thus not appropriate for an encyclopedia. I would have imagined the early missionary sending organizations would have been the more likely origin of parachurch activity in Protestantism. Catholicism would be a different and more complex story altogether, and Roman Catholics would have a very strong case that organizations such as the Knights Templar and the Hospitalers predate any Protestant efforts at parachurch activity by many centuries. Additionally, there are glaring omissions of many quite prominent parachurch activities in the 20th century born from entities such as the WCC and the NAE. The 1960's saw a dramatic rise in parachurch activity such as television networks and benevolence programs. Just thinking, but it seems this section of the article could use more research by its authors. Perhaps a better idea would be to drop the reference to historical roots for the time being.Will3935 07:29, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Will3935, you seem to have come across some important sources for this discussion as you studied revival movements. Do you think you may be able to list some of those to enable a good discussion? Below I'll list some sources I found online. Jwiley80 20:54, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Can I suggest that the category 'evangelistic and discipleship ministries' is quite broad and there may be questions as to whether this should be sensibly sub-divided. Obviously, there is the opposite danger of having far too many categories, but it may be that this category should also list some sub-categories such as 'ministry to children and young people', 'ministry to students', 'ministry to adults' and 'specialist ministries'.

In addition I find the examples given extremely frustrating for two reasons:

1. It reflects mainly (perhaps wholly) American-based para-church organisations.

What about the large international para-church organisations which have their roots in Europe (especially the UK) for example? I have added Scripture Union, for example, but equally could have added YFC, Alpha or other organisations. Of course, this poses the question of who it is appropriate to add, which is not easily answered. It also poses the question about the organisational level that should be presented in these examples. For example, why use the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as an example rather than its parent organisation IFES (The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students)?

2. The scope of these examples is very limited.

At present there are two student groups, one ministry to children and youth, one specialist ministry and one ministry to adults. Until my addition there was no example of a ministry to children and youth even though this is arguably/potentially the most significant area of evangelism and discipleship today.

Taking both of these into consideration, might it perhaps be more appropriate to list the two organisations with the largest worlwide scope within a sub-category as the examples? Or, bearing in mind the scale of American based para-church organisations, perhaps there should be the largest American organisation in its category and the largest other international organisation? --Neil Jacko (talk) 02:10, 11 February 2011 (UTC)

Some online sources[edit]

Warp and Woof

From an extensively thorough paper (see how many references there are - you can go to the document if you would like to see the references): CAN PARACHURCH ORGANIZATIONS HIRE AND FIRE ON THE BASIS OF RELIGION WITHOUT VIOLATING TITLE VII? by Thomas M. Messner

A. A Survey and Brief History of Parachurch Organizations

Although parachurch organizations have existed in some form since at least the early nineteenth century,18 the term “parachurch” was probably first used in the late 1960s.19 Since then, parachurch organizations have been referred to as “social ministr[ies],”20 “special purpose groups,”21 “voluntary societies,”22 “faith-based nonprofits,”23 and “specialized institutional ministries.”24 Readers may be familiar with such well known and historic parachurch organizations as the Salvation Army,25 Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, and Bread for the World.26 Parachurch organizations like these have religiously-motivated yet primarily social objectives, whereas many early American parachurch organizations, such as the American Bible Society and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions,27 had “primarily religious objectives.”28

Today, parachurch organizations of both types exist in large numbers. One “informed estimate”29 puts the number of evangelical Christian parachurch organizations at over 30,000.30 Another estimate speculates that the combined budgets of all categories of evangelical Christian parachurch organizations is $22 billion.31 One church growth expert estimates a 1996 total parachurch budget of $100 billion.32 These massive numbers, even if high, suggest the phenomenal growth of this “new form of religious organization.”33

A striking feature of American parachurch organizations is that they have been almost exclusively the product of evangelical Christendom.34 According to the Dictionary of Christianity in America, “[l]iberal versions of the large nondenominational parachurch organizations have . . . been almost nonexistent.”35 This might be because conservative Christians were essentially forced out of the more liberal mainstream denominations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.36 As evangelicals left liberal mainstream denominations, they were forced to become more entrepreneurial37 and pioneering38 than their liberal counterparts. The autonomous structure of parachurch organizations gave evangelicals a “much greater degree of flexibility for innovation than . . . [was] possible within . . . [the] established organizational hierarchy”39 of the mainline denominations they left.

Indeed, not only have parachurch organizations “become the primary means of cooperative endeavor [among evangelical Christians],”40 but at least one observer has suggested that evangelicalism actually can be defined in terms of the non-hierarchical form of parachurch organizations,41 ”insofar as evangelicalism is defined at all.”42 Not surprisingly then, although parachurch organizations exist in Judaism,43 Islam,44 Buddhism,45 and various other religions46 and movements,47 the parachurch literature has focused primarily on Christian parachurch organizations. And, there is no dearth of Christian parachurch activity.48 Christian seminaries now offer courses in parachurch ministry.49Christian parachurch organizations exist for women,50 men,51 youth,52 families,53 college students,54 homeless people,55 military personnel,56 prisoners,57 truckers,58 golfers,59 athletes,60 motorcyclists,61 alcoholics,62 and sex addicts.63 Christian parachurch organizations are involved in theater,64 television,65 radio,66 film,67 media consulting,68 news,69 aviation,70 financial counseling,71 marriage enrichment,72 public policy,73 evangelism,74 legal advocacy,75 arbitration,76 and more.77 Parachurch organizations serve millions of American people each year.78 The proliferation and public presence of parachurch organizations is a genuine social phenomenon.79

B. Understanding Parachurch Organizations

A key point of tension in defining parachurch organizations is the relationship between parachurch organizations and traditional churches or denominations.80 Although some scholars stress the inherent association between parachurches and traditional churches,81 another view is that parachurches “stand outside of the organizational structure of well established religious bodies.”82 This Article understands “parachurch organizations” to be independent of more traditional religious organizations.83 “The defining characteristic of a parachurch [organization] is that it stands outside of the organizational structure of well-established religious bodies.”84 Parachurch organizations are not owned or operated by churches.85 Although religion-based social service groups are often associated with local church congregations86 or regional/national religious denominations,87 these groups simply do not qualify as parachurch organizations. Independence is the key institutional aspect of parachurch organizations.88 The second key characteristic 89 of parachurch organizations is their religiosity.90 Although the secular activities of traditional churches may qualify for the 702 exemption,91 parachurch organizations, inasmuch as they are freestanding92 or independent, must independently demonstrate a meaningful religious character.93

The tough question is: What exactly does it mean to have a religious character? This question, after all, is precisely the question in much of the litigation over whether particular organizations qualify for the 702 exemption. To evaluate the religious character of an organization claiming the 702 exemption, courts often look for specific religious elements or qualities as evidence of a religious character.94 Courts have observed, for example, such specific facts as a “chapel no longer [being] used for religious services,”95 the absence of religious symbols,96 whether religious teaching is normative or merely comparative,97 affiliation with other religious organizations,98 sources of funding,99 self-descriptive literature100 and mission statements,101 a state of faith,102 a personnel manual103 or handbook,104 and general religious tenor.105 Parachurch organizations with ample religious qualities are more likely to successfully invoke the 702 exemption.106

These considerations suggest this working definition of “parachurch organization”: A parachurch organization is an independent and nonprofit organization that is religious, as evidenced by substantial religious qualities, and is not a church or owned or operated by or affiliated with a church.

END CITATION from Thomas M. Messner

Jwiley80 20:49, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Well, it would take you a long time to read all of the books and articles I have on revival. I have contributed articles on revivalism elsewhere (in a published book and on another website) based on these sources. A good place for you to start in you endeavor to learn about revivals would be Earl Cairn's book An Endless Line of Splendor. Of course this will be just a beginning. You will need to read the works of J. Edwin Orr and you will need to read books about each revival. There are a good many classics born out of revivals that are available online since they are now in the public domain. I encourage you to make such a study. It will profit you greatly. It seems you are lacking a little in your knowledge of Church History in general. Good places to start will be with works by authors such as Cairns and Latourette. I fear it takes a great deal more to learn Church history as a whole. I would be willing to provide you with a more extensive bibliography of recommended reading if that is what you are after. Internet articles (such as those found in Wikipedia and the one you cite from above) are not considered scholarly resources. True scholars do not consider what we are doing here on Wikipedia very important, but it does seem to have some value for pop culture anyway. If you know of any scholarly works that assert parachurch activity started in the 2nd Great Awakening I would be interested in reading that. Anyway, if you make such an assertion in an article (published anywhere) it should be backed up with a citation. There is no such citation in this article. You do not say much about your educational background, but I think you would find some seminary training beneficial. You have a lot of enthusiasm for subjects that interest you and my guess is that you are considerably younger than I am. You will find yourself of much more use to God if you do obtain such training. It is quite expensive but it is worth it. One warning though -- good professors are sticklers for scholarly research, good citations, and good writing. A student can't be overly sensitive to their correction. Hope this answers your question. I have an almost obsessive passion with the subject of revival movements (though I have not contributed to related Wikipedia articles) and would thoroughly enjoy discussing revival with you. I don't think revival has much to do with this article though. I still think it best to leave that particular reference out of this article until someone wants to contribute a thorough entry on the history of parachurch activity which would have to go much further back than the 2nd Great Awakening. If you doubt this is so I suggest you correspond about this with Thomas Messner whose opinion you seem to respect. Bless you.Will3935 02:40, 24 February 2007 (UTC)
On second thought, Mr. Messner, who is not a recognized church historian, does not seem to understand this point very well. He is right in saying parachurch activity goes at least as far back as the 19th century. I suspect he is referring to the missionary societies. His failure to trace the trend any further back probably stems from the fact that while he seems to be quite knowledgeable on church law, church history does not seem to be his forte. Additionally, the section on history in his article seems subordinate to his major concerns, and thus he gives the issue short shrift. Finally, he is apparently thinking as a Protestant. I'm a Protestant too, but I recognize the ancient tradition of parachurch ministry within Catholicism.Will3935 05:32, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

Is Parachurch Activity Postmodern?[edit]

The article makes unsourced claims that parachurch activity is postmodern. This seems to be original research or at least unsourced material since parachurch phenemonon is, in itself acultural. As a methodology it is not premodern, modern, or postmodern. If parachurch ministry is postmodern whe would have to make the absurd claim that people such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson take a postmodern approach to ministry. In this respect, the article makes some novel claims that would require citation of respected, scholarly sources. Blogs, emergent books, and internet articles would not suffice since these are not considered scholarly. It seems to me this article is on thin ice. Anyone have ideas on how to salvage it?Will3935 02:13, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

Sodalities and Modalities[edit]

Neither modalities nor modalities are protestant as the article claims (I will fix this). Furthermore, they are not considered thological terms by Protestants or Catholics.Will3935 22:38, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

Before Contributing...[edit]

I have found that sometimes unqualified people weigh in on Wikipedia articles, reducing the accuracy and quality of these articles in spite of their good intentions. Based on my experience, I believe these editors genuinely believe they are improving the articles they contribute to. The phenomenon reminds one of the deluded contestants who try out for American Idol and only end up humiliating themselves. When the judges offer sound criticism to these conterstants they tend to respond quite angrily. So it is, I have found, at Wikipedia. Being honest with these editors sometimes results in hard feelings on both sides. Perhaps I can prevent some of these hard feelings by sharing with you the criteria I try to abide by and subsequently expect of other editors. Before contributing, ask yourself the following questions:

1) Am I qualified to write? That is, do I possess a sufficient mastery of English to make a worthy entry in an encyclopedia? Am I aware that writing for an encyclopedia requires a set of skills not needed on a blog? If you are not a good writer consider running your proposed edits past those who do possess such skills before you make changes to an article.

2) Have I mastered the subject matter I am writing about? Reading a few books and articles about a subject does not necessarily make one sufficiently knowledgeable to address an issue in a reference work. This mastery of the subject must involve a thorough reading of many books and articles that express various views. Spending time talking to one's friends on a blog does not qualify one academically to contribute to an encyclopedia.

3) Am I willing to accept correction on matters of substance and style? Wikipedia articles are constructed by the consensus of a community of editors. Individual contributors can not expect to bypass this community and they must be willing to accept correction or criticism without getting angry and bitter.

4) Am I sufficiently confident in my edits that I do not believe I need to resort to sock puppetry or other violations of policy for my edits to stand?

5) When engaged in an editing conflict with someone is my goal accuracy or victory? Wikipedia's purpose is to inform its readers not to boost the egos of its editors.Will3935 11:52, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

Restating My Concerns[edit]

If no one volunteers to scrap this article and rewrite it entirely (though see what I say in "Before Contributing" above) I will further pursue the delete process. I am a member of Wikipedia's "Project Christianity" and I believe the articles addressing Christianity are quite important. It distresses me that this article is so thoroughly inaccurate on a topic that is so significant. Perhaps someone should get us started with a new stub. the problem I find now is that no one wants to collaborate on this article, they only want to insist this poorly written and inaccurate article which will only serve to misinform and confuse readers stay as it is. I don't believe these editors can give good reasons for keeping the misinformation as it is and if they do nothing to correct it I will further pursue the delete process. I restate my concerns below.

1.The article is filled with unsourced and inaccurate original research such as the claim that parachurch ministry was born in the 2nd Great Awakening. 2. Basic terms such as "theology" are inaccurately used. 3. The article repeatedly either states or implies the erroneous notion that parachurch activity is peculiar to postmodern Christians 4. The word "parachurch" itself is misused in the article. 5. The article contains questionable segments such as its designation of the "Back to Jerusalem" movement as parachurch, as well as nonsensical segments such as its comparison of parachurch to "open-source." 6. The article fails to recognize ordinary usage regarding some important points; failing, for example, to notice that the house church movement is not, strictly speaking, parachurch. 7. The article falsely implies that benevolence ministries are more often parachurch ministries than church outreach ministries. 8. In its current form the article could not easily accomodate edits which would include observations about the most significant parachurch ministries in ancient and contemporary Christianity. 9. The article gives undue weight to minor and even questionable examples of parachurch organization while ignoring much clearer and prominent examples. 10. The article concludes with a mistaken comment about modalities and sodalities being Catholic and Protestant when these terms are exclusively Catholic; and this conclusion also erroneously identifies these as theological terms. 11. The article is too poorly written in its content and style to salvage and should therefore be entirely scrapped in order to be replaced from the ground up by an academically respectable one.Will3935 12:39, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Perhaps a New Beginning[edit]

I pared out the UNSOURCED MISINFORMATION. Perhpaps the remaining stub can serve as a start to an academically respectable article.Will3935 13:02, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Can I point you to the suggestions I have made above? :) --Neil Jacko (talk) 02:13, 11 February 2011 (UTC)