Cooper & Cary Have Words

#156 Parachurch Or Parasite?

June 29, 2023 James Cary & Barry Cooper Season 1
#156 Parachurch Or Parasite?
Cooper & Cary Have Words
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Cooper & Cary Have Words
#156 Parachurch Or Parasite?
Jun 29, 2023 Season 1
James Cary & Barry Cooper

James and Barry have words about parachurch ministries. It's hard to find a popular Christian teacher who doesn't have his or her own parachurch ministry. Then there are campus ministries, youth ministries, evangelism ministries, mercy ministries. Are they God's gift to the church, coming alongside the local church to help them fulfil their mission? Or do they actually keep the church from being what it's supposed to be? This could get awkward, given that Cooper has spent half his life working for parachurch organisations...

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Pastors Heart
Desiring God
Nine Marks
Wee Flea

All of Life for God
The All of Life for God podcast is an engaging and thoughtful collection of exclusive...

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Support the Show.

Unlock extended ad-free episodes, advance access, a huge episode archive, and bonus content, by subscribing to Cooper & Cary+ on Apple Podcasts. Or get everything on C&C+, together with video, and access to the exclusive C&C Discord server, by becoming a Patron.

Encouragement and/or open derision should be addressed here: cooperandcary@gmail.com

Production and music by Cooper & Cary. Opening theme by Beyond Our Galaxy.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

James and Barry have words about parachurch ministries. It's hard to find a popular Christian teacher who doesn't have his or her own parachurch ministry. Then there are campus ministries, youth ministries, evangelism ministries, mercy ministries. Are they God's gift to the church, coming alongside the local church to help them fulfil their mission? Or do they actually keep the church from being what it's supposed to be? This could get awkward, given that Cooper has spent half his life working for parachurch organisations...

Related articles and videos
Pastors Heart
Desiring God
Nine Marks
Wee Flea

All of Life for God
The All of Life for God podcast is an engaging and thoughtful collection of exclusive...

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.

Unlock extended ad-free episodes, advance access, a huge episode archive, and bonus content, by subscribing to Cooper & Cary+ on Apple Podcasts. Or get everything on C&C+, together with video, and access to the exclusive C&C Discord server, by becoming a Patron.

Encouragement and/or open derision should be addressed here: cooperandcary@gmail.com

Production and music by Cooper & Cary. Opening theme by Beyond Our Galaxy.

Cary:

Welcome to Cooper and Cary Have Words. My name is James Cary. I'm in England, the south-west part. Over there in Florida is my good friend Barry Cooper. Hello, Barry.

Cooper:

Hello James. Excellent to join you from Cape Florida. What on earth are we talking about in this episode?

Cary:

We are talking about para-church organisations and it's something that we've thought a little bit about for a while, thinking we should do something on that, because para-church organisations are huge, huge business, very, very influential, and it's making me nervous.

Cooper:

It's making me nervous. It's hard to find, isn't it? Christian leaders these days, these days, who don't also lead some kind of para-church ministry. So, for example, John Piper's Desiring God, or John MacArthur's Grace to You, or Alistair Begg's Truth for Life, Mark Devour's Nine Marks, for example, Ligonier, They're everywhere. I mean literally. what does para-church mean?

Cary:

What does that word mean, okay, i do know a bit of Greek. Para means beside. That's one of the bits that have stuck. It's sort of like alongside, isn't it? Yeah, so it's alongside. The church is what a para-church organisation is Like parallel, yeah, sort of.

Cooper:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So para-church organisation and to give some examples of so, people who are not currently keyed in to what on earth we're rabbiting on about. So maybe some concrete examples. So it might be things like the navigators or crew. That's a campus. It used to be called campus crusade for Christ, intervast Christian Fellowship. A para-church organisation might also be a publisher, a good book company. Crossway Might be described as a para-church organisation.

Cooper:

Alpha And then things like yes, the Alpha Course, christianity Explored, ministries, right Also seminaries as well, and then particular sort of activist or social groups, you know welfare, homeless shelters, childcare, a Christian aid. And then of course, we could describe and maybe we'll get into this later slightly more controversially denominations as a whole, in a sense, are para-church organisations.

Cooper:

They exist alongside, in theory, at their best to equip the local churches in a certain way. These are all examples of para-church organisations. And what's the beef? I mean, why not? Why is it that there seems to be quite a voluminous literature of folks in the local church almost treating para-churches with quite a lot of hostility, and we'd like to get into that a? little bit in this episode to see what extent that is maybe justified and to what extent it might be unjustified.

Cary:

I mean, i guess, if we go right back, one could say to some extent, like we didn't used to have them, we didn't, we apparently didn't need them. Now I'm not entirely sure that that quite stacks up, because you could argue that the monasteries were a para-church organisation the Benedictines, the Friarys and those sorts of things. So in one sense you could say that medieval Christianity was absolutely awash with para-church organisations, but in a way they were all kind of in the same business in an element of the curing of souls.

Cooper:

Well, I was going to say, and also it does seem to be a particular feature of the last post-Reformation, because many para-church organisations, maybe most para-church organisations, tend to be Protestant, they tend to be evangelical, not always, but they tend to emerge, I think, from that strand of theology. And this is one of those areas where some Roman Catholic Beratheran might be saying yes, well, there you are. You see, there you are. That's the natural fallout of your Reformation. You've basically created all of these. You know, it's a many-headed hydra of independent thought which creates all of these things, all of these organisations alongside the local church in which, in some cases, have sort of rather threatened to swallow up local churches in an unhelpful way.

Cary:

Yeah, Just words, But good words. That's where ideas begin. Maybe you should listen to them. And it's interesting. I was just thinking back about where did a whole load of these organisations come from? And actually, a great hero of the faith undoubtedly is William Wilberforce, And he was forever starting up organisations and responsible for the institution of a whole load of things.

Cary:

Yeah, political lobby groups Yeah like stuff like the society prevention of cruelty to animals, which I guess he wouldn't, we wouldn't say, well, that's not a power to its organisation. But it was set up by Christians in a time when Christianity was the only game in town. But there was a particular sort of 19th century tradition of setting things up as well, wasn't there? And lots and lots of missions to foreign places.

Cooper:

Poor schools, yeah, and also schools which were separate.

Cary:

And then I guess I mean initially, methodism was a paratroop organisation, wasn't it? It wasn't meant to be an alternative to the Sunday morning parish. It was a Sunday afternoon supplement of Bible teaching, because they didn't really rate the Bible teaching in the Church of England with very interesting with some degree of justification, I would imagine, in the 18th century at least.

Cooper:

Yes, and I think that gets at the root of why some folks today, i think, have a slightly uneasy relationship with paratroop churches. Bible studies is a good example of this. So you sometimes have these organisations outside the local church, independent, who create Bible study material which then gets into the local church And because it encourages, one might say, in some cases not in all cases, but in some cases an almost cultic devotion to the materials produced by this particular organisation, it can actually cause a kind of a segregation and factions starting to emerge in the local church, where you have a bunch of people within the local church who are really into this material and proselytise about it and almost get to the point where they're saying this is really what faithful teaching ought to be like, this is the way you guys ought to be preaching from the pulpit, like this stuff. It can act. To the extent that those sorts of organisations create that, it's obviously really unhelpful. Yeah, churches within churches effectively form.

Cary:

And so I can see how a paratroop organisation is able to do things that a church can't. That just made me think. So I'm going to write some Pathfinder material. So our Pathfinder group are the 11th to I mean actually 11th to 16th in my own church, rather than they don't want to go when they're 14. And full disclosure. I'm a general. I would prefer the American model where everyone goes to church together and then everybody has a Sunday school class, adults and children alike. But I think with 30 to 100 years away from that, in the UK at least. But one day you never know.

Cooper:

But whether you have. Do you mean like taking out the streams of Sunday school stuff and just having everybody in the main service? that idea, Yeah.

Cary:

But there is a need for material for that age group, and there is actually, in the UK at least, very, very little, and so I'm just going to write some. I'm just going to write a whole year's worth of material for my own group to use. I mean, i'm not even in charge of the group.

Cary:

I just said, look, i can probably do this And I'm happy to kind of make it available to other churches and actually listen to how other churches use it, so that I can then incorporate that into a slightly better version that then other churches can use Mate.

Cooper:

We're a generation away from James Cary Ministries, maybe even a matter of years, here at this point.

Cary:

Well, that's it, but in a way that's just it, isn't it. It feels like this could become a thing And I'm pretty sure it won't But There's something about something being rooted in the local church and church experience that is then made available to others, and you know, in a kind of slightly wiki kind of ad bits, take bits away.

Cary:

I don't have ownership over it. You know the Linux of of Sunday school material, whereas the temptation is. And look, i make podcasts for an organization called faith in kids, which are a para church organization, who are all about helping Christian parents bring up their kids in the faith and helping churches to do that. And because this is something that churches historically Haven't done a very good job with, especially within the church of England, one can see a very compelling case for what's not to like if you're improving and augmenting the work of a church which just doesn't have the capacity to cover all the basis. And I guess that would be the main argument, the main good faith argument in charge of para church organizations is they're able to go away and think deeply about something and then give you The fruits of their labors in the same way that you don't need to come up with your own commentaries on mark in order to do a preaching series in mark.

Cary:

Someone's done that for you, probably somebody at a seminary, and so it's so in that, in that sense, what's the problem?

Cooper:

Yeah, that's right. I mean, you think about, for example, ministries, outreaches to Muslims, and so on. There are very few people in any given local church who really have The time, the gifting, the energy to dedicate to really thinking deeply about these things and developing materials which really scratch that itch, and so it seems like that's a good thing to tap into. I think, though, with that argument about, well, if the church were just doing its job, you know, we wouldn't need all of this proliferation of para church ministries. I mean, i think, yeah, i don't think that is quite right, because how big is the average congregation? I don't know what it would be in the UK, probably less than a hundred, i don't know.

Cooper:

Yeah, in the UK, i would say yeah, maybe slightly bigger here, but not actually. I think the average congregation is probably not much bigger in the US, around about 200 to 250. You know, even if you're, if your church is, like, absolutely massive, then yes, there might be enough gifting in your church to be able to create bespoke materials for reaching out to Muslims and doing missions to particular groups of people you know within your congregation. You might be able to keep it all in house. But in reality, i mean what we're going to do is is every does every church have its own Seminary effectively?

Cooper:

I think that is the argument that some people make that actually the training of pastors ought to happen entirely in house, rather than sending people to outsourcing that sort of equipping of future pastors. But I just don't know that it's always Possible. I mean, it's a good thing, i think, to teach biblical theology, to teach systematic theology, to teach Greek and Hebrew. Now, do you have the expertise in your local congregation to be able to do that? you may have, but seems to me not always. And carry.

Cary:

Have words. You could say well, look, if we believe in the local church so much that we don't do power, church organizations and therefore our Pastors, are going to be equipped in a particular way which we might say is suboptimal. Well, that's just it. That's how God does the church. So get over it. Yeah, and I have some sympathy with that argument. I think we do often want to professionalize everything, so we could say, well, if you are at a big, wealthy church, well, there's a ministry here that could be done. Can't we employ someone to do that, because they do it much better and you go. Well, that one person could do something. Well, that one person would be robbing five other people of doing that job, possibly less well, but actually the fact that five people are doing it voluntarily within the context of a church and service That might be better, actually might knit.

Cary:

Yeah yeah, so there's that argument. And then the other argument is well, this is why you need denominations, but maybe we'll get on to that in a moment. but what do you make of my?

Cooper:

Yeah, i do think that's right argument yeah, i think so, and it made me think of. There's almost an analogy here with the the argument for homeschooling, which is that just to open another can of worms yeah, that's right in the can of. It's like meta can of worms.

Cary:

A Russian dollar. Cans of worms in septi worms.

Cooper:

The big argument in many ways for homeschooling, when people say, well, i could, i'm a parent. I couldn't possibly have the expertise that this guy over here with a degree in Biology, english literature, whatever it is, i don't have that. Now the, the pushback, which I think is quite a good one, is to say well, that may be true, but at the same time, nobody loves your children as well as you, nobody spends as much time with your children.

Cooper:

As you know them and therefore you can create a kind of a bespoke curricula which which fits them much better than sending them. You know, franchising that out to a, to a local school And I think there's a parallel argument with with paratroops is you could say yes, of course there are, there's expertise that exists outside the local congregation which far outstrips the kind of in house expertise. Me.

Cooper:

Ramshackle amateurish yeah that may be true and yet the difference is that those paratroops organizations do not know your people, they don't spend as much time with your people. So when they create resources, very often of course by by, they can't do anything else but create a kind of one size fits all. Let's say, for the sake of argument, evangelistic curricula, right And and and. They don't know your exact cultural mealy air. They don't know your people. There's a sense in which you're trying to buy something off the peg which it may be better to create, something which is, which is a bit more Ramshackle, but which is really keyed into your particular group of people in your local church in some instances.

Cary:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So a life saved, spent writing evangelistic material for a time.

Cooper:

It's a waste of time. No, so that's the side note to new to new listeners.

Cary:

Barry spent many years of his life working for Christianity, explored writing evangelistic materials, so that's right. That explains the joke and has and has dissected that particular for all. The frog is now dead.

Cooper:

The frog is now dead And I say that because one of the now just to put my cards on the table. I think the work of Christianity explore ministries is wonderful and and very necessary in lots of ways. I think it at its best those sorts of organizations like Ligonier.

Cary:

They come, they genuinely also a previous employer.

Cooper:

Well, it's been. For me it's been 25 years working in paratroops ministries until until I became, you know, till I became a pastor at the beginning this year. So I I'm not throwing throwing the whole thing under the bus, i'm simply saying that when we would create a curricula, we'd work on it for years and we'd be sort of stress testing the video series and the Bible studies and local churches, and then we'd finally publish it. And what was the first email emails that would pop into my inbox post publication, pretty much always without fail, would be this is great, when's the next one coming out? And there's a sort of if we lean on a particular organization to enable us to do evangelism in the local church, there are certain muscles that we are not developing which we ought to be developing in the local church. So routinely I'd write back to these guys and go.

Cooper:

You know what really all it is is? Christian export is just going through Mark's gospel. Discipleship export is just going through Philippians. You guys can do that. You know why not create a Bible study yourself? Like, pick a book. There are 66 of them, it's all God's word, it's all great, it's all going to be effective. So just do that You already have the.

Cooper:

Bible, so you don't really need us guys in many ways to keep on doing the work. It's like that old joke about you know guy goes into a Christian bookshop and he's there to buy a fish sticker for the back of his car And when they say they've sold out, he's like, well, how am I going to do evangelism now? It's like you know, no, you can do this. You don't need to be leaning on this stuff Now again. At its best it gives people an on ramp into the work of evangelism in their local communities and in their church, but at its worst, i think it can create a kind of dependency which is unhealthy. I would say, yeah, do you think that's fair?

Cary:

Yeah, I do. I don't know.

Cooper:

I like her. I like her. I like words. I like fat, buttery words such as ooze, turpitude. I like solemn, angular, creaky words such as straight blades and cantankerous bacchunius thatadictory. I like words.

Cary:

May I have a few with you. I also believe in sort of creative destruction and federalism in that sense of like. I love the idea of America being a federal country where every state in its own right is a bit of an experiment, And they all do things kind of differently And there's an element of competing with each other And there's an element of learning from each other.

Cary:

Well, they tried that in Colorado. We should try it here. It's Texas. It's not going to work here. Oh yeah, Good point. There's a whole load of regional variations And actually the thing I thought you might have said, that the first email that you would receive from a Christianity explored thing is the first email that says oh, we love it, It's brilliant. I mean, it wouldn't work in our church, But it's really good.

Cooper:

Well, that's the other one. You're right, it's a little bit too white and middle class and public school Yes, it doesn't quite work for us. And then, of course, you could create something that's totally bespoke for them, and let's say they're working on council estates. And then you'd have people saying, yeah, it doesn't really work for ours, and it's like, well duh, yeah, of course it doesn't. There's no such thing as a completely culturally denuded product that we can create. That's going to work in all situations. So how about? here's a thought why don't you guys create something that's just for you? That's going to be better, even if it's not quite as polished and sparkly as the kind of stuff that Christianity Explored Ministries produces or Alfa or whoever.

Cary:

Yeah, i mean, let's face it. my path finder of course says there's going to be no polish or sparkle about that.

Cooper:

It's going to be deliberately gritty, it is.

Cary:

Also I'm going to have to lean on someone to say, to suggest some games or activities, because I just don't do games or activities when I run in Really No icebreakers.

Cooper:

Where you come from, it's just straight in there.

Cary:

I do icebreakers Usually like, dependent on the passage we're looking at, when we sort of take the register at the beginning to find out who's there. I just say, when I say your name, tell me what you would do if you were king for one day.

Cooper:

Excellent.

Cary:

Well, tell me a time when you thought you were lost. And that's like this. So that's it, that's the icebreaker.

Cooper:

That's all you need.

Cary:

And then we're into it. I mean, we've only gotten for like 40 minutes And they can have more fun doing virtually anything else. if you know what I mean, so why should we? change them on God's word. This is 40. This is half an hour in. God's word that they're not going to get any other way, so just read the Bible. That's kind of very much my approach.

Cooper:

Well, what you've got there almost and I think this would be a healthy approach for a lot of parachutch ministries Is to have a kind of built-in obsolescence, Is to have an end game at which point you basically right yourself out of existence. You are nothing more than a kind of a plaster cast around a broken limb, And that plaster cast is meant to come off at some point And the person is supposed to be walking around on their own two pegs. There are, I think, some parachutch ministries which have remained well beyond their shelf life and probably ought to be put out of their misery.

Cary:

Put out of their ministry.

Cooper:

Out of their ministries.

Cary:

And I would say yes, and parachutch organizations could therefore start to feel like a church And become a bit of a. well, i am a Christianity-explored person.

Cooper:

I am a whatever, i'm a nine marks ministry person. Now again.

Cary:

They wouldn't want this because they exist to support the local church. The Keswick Convention, which I'm part of, exists for the sake of the local church And they're really not interested in being a destination and ending itself. And it's been a very helpful, useful movement, as it were, over the last 100 or so years And it's waxed and waned a little in its preferences and its emphases. But there are other Christian festivals I know, or quasi-Christian festivals where people would say I really do think this. So I will name one of them which I have enjoyed being part of but for obvious reasons I'm not really so keen about, which is Greenbelt. Now, greenbelt was set up by evangelicals in the 70s I think, and became a very big popular music festival, christian arts festival, and at one point they had U2, and they had some really big band And it felt like a Christian Glastonbury It was a big deal, but it became a bit of a monster and a bit of a liability And I think they didn't quite know what they got there, but anyway it sort of settled down and

Cooper:

waxed and waned Because it lacks the sort of the clear theological vision of a local church. There isn't the same accountability, structure or leadership. Is that what you're thinking? I think it's more.

Cary:

it was a financial liability And it felt like, well, why can't we be the next Glastonbury? And that's like I mean, even Glastonbury can't be Glastonbury And they've just got people now turning up and pouring money into it And it's very much its own thing. So my point is more that it became a sensibility within Christianity, an artistic sensibility that also that became post-Evangelical and effectively therefore liberal, and it is very progressive. It's very. I'm a Greenbelt Christian And so people say and I've heard them say it with my own ears and they've said it with their own mouths Greenbelt is my spiritual home. Yes, And I totally understand why they would say that.

Cary:

And there are other festivals that I like, very much like the Keswick Convention, and I'm part of the thing called the Keswick Unconventional, which is a slightly creative little brother of the Keswick Convention, which happens during week three, and it's very tempting to say this is my spiritual home. I get it, they get me.

Cooper:

They're your people, your tribe Yeah.

Cary:

And creatives are particularly prone to doing this, i think, but I don't think this is within any particular sector or not. So I can see how a parachurch organization or a festival just becomes effectively a church And therefore you're creating a restlessness for this person in their own actual local church. That's right, and either they stop going to that local church or they do go and are just miserable the whole time because, they've tasted something that's more of a church in their own image, if I may say so More like exactly right yeah. Uncharitably.

Cooper:

Yeah, yeah.

Cary:

Conversely, there are churches that become movements And I would say Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill Church became some sort of parachurch movement that at some point stopped being about the 2,000 people that showed up on a Sunday and became more, because in the very early days of podcasting, his podcast were Mark Driscoll's podcast were absolute gangbusters And I listened to lots of them And I didn't sort of yearn to be in Seattle where it rains even more than it does in the south of England. Yeah, again, it's like this is a church And yet this feels like it's being more than a church.

Cary:

And clearly God's been using it in some ways, but so you get this creep from church to parachurch or from parachurch to church, and these are really unhelpful, aren't they?

Cooper:

Yes, i think they are, and sometimes you see that reflected in. There'll be certain church members who are often sending you emails where they say, oh, have you heard the latest from? and then names a particular parachurch ministry and they'll send you a sermon or a talk or a seminar or some sort of article or whatever. Now, on one level that could be perfectly benign. It's not as if you can't learn things from reading books that have been written by people who are not in your congregation. Great, fine, lovely. But if that's all they keep, they're always sending you things from this particular parachurch. You start to wonder I don't know, are you really taking your spiritual lead from the local church, your local church where you're rooted, where God has placed you, or is it really functionally coming from 2,000 miles away on the other side of the country? That is a bit worrying, i think. Sometimes.

Cary:

Yeah, i would say, and I think, therefore, you know, we would obviously want to play tribute to the the late Tim Keller, who had a massively disproportionate effect and we've spoken about this relatively recently before, but As a preacher, you could listen to his preaching and just think I would love to be able to preach like Tim Keller.

Cooper:

That's right.

Cary:

It's like well, you're in, you're in Lincolnshire and, and nobody really wants that, and so that's great for you. If, especially if you're sort of a metropolitan type who is now in a much more Rural setting.

Cooper:

But you're thinking from the point of view of a local pastor listening to sort of yeah And so, yeah, so again. It's just like this this wouldn't, this wouldn't work here, kind of thing, i think, but it also, i think The other side of it again is is the people in the congregation listening to those sermons and becoming dissatisfied with their local Why can't you preach more like Tim Keller?

Cooper:

Yeah, be more calorie When that's not the way that God has chosen to equip his church. We've all got different personalities, different wirings, different ability to you know who've rough information? Very, very few people that nobody's Tim Keller, apart from Tim Keller, yeah, or John Piper or Don Carson or you name it and you want to say to those folks, actually Your pastor, as disappointing as he may seem to you- Yeah, and he's not that thrilled about you, if we're honest.

Cooper:

Yeah, he's probably not, but he's got something that these guys don't have, which is he knows you. Yeah, if he's, if he's doing it, well, yeah, he's speaking to you and God has specifically empowered him by the spirit to speak to you at this particular moment, in a way that he hasn't Instructed Tim Keller to speak to you and again, that's not to say you should, we can't have stuff feeding in, but it's not the same, there's your, there's your local pastor carry. What's interesting about this dynamic is that, i think, where para church ministries are healthy, they know to say in advance and to stress We are not at local church, we are not a church, we're a para church. So, for example, christianity, explore ministry say all over there, material, we're, we are, see, we are here to equip the local church. That's how we see ourselves, the.

Cooper:

When I did my interview for Ligonier ministries, they were at pains to point out in the first interview We are not a church. So, both as an employee and a consumer of Ligonier ministries material, you need to have that in your mind. The problem is, of course, that even when a para church ministry is crystal clear about this, that doesn't stop Christians from relating to them as if they were churches. And so there is that, even if you're being really careful to try and delineate exactly what you can and can't do, you can't stop all Christians from actually relating to you as a. As a church, you start giving all your time, your money, your attention, your a pat, your passion to this particular local church ministry, which now you are not giving to your local church, and that is Is that worries me sometimes.

Cary:

So that was the first thing. The second thing I said was denominations, which we should come on to, and I just want to Basically give a shout out to Anglicanism, or at least the church of England. Sorry, anglicanism is not technically a denomination. The church of England is a denomination and therefore, if one believes in bishops or Whether one believes that there should be bishops, i'm sure you believe that bishops exist. The beauty, when it works well, is that a denomination can more reliably and responsibly and responsively generate materials for a perceived need within parishes, within churches, and therefore we don't need to worry that this isn't our material Or that this is going to come with theological emphases that we don't teach you know. So there are, there are plenty of, let's say, that you are part of a cessationist Denomination which I believe technically the church of England is. This may be news to quite a lot of people, but I think it. I think it is to a holy trinity.

Cary:

Brompton, Yeah, yes but if you but if you take a lot of material from, say, a Pentecostal ministry, then you're going to bump up against a lot of their priors which aren't aren't actually what you teach and therefore, yeah, that's going to be very messy and mixed and, i would say, a lot of church of England. Anglicanism, especially conservative evangelical Anglicanism, is functionally Baptist, is functionally non-conformist, because we are drinking deeply from the resources and wells of Ministries that come from all kinds of places, for example, the nine marks material, which is not, i don't think, specifically Baptist, although many, many members of it Would be obviously capital Baptist church, certainly coming from a more congregational, independent model of exactly.

Cary:

Yeah, and there are a lot also Australian churches as well, and obviously there are Anglican Australian churches too, but there's an awful lot of confusion and within the denomination, That because, because I think when they're, when there does come a uh, what do they call it in 1662?

Cary:

The great ejection, or something like that's when lots of Puritans were thrown out of the church of England There may be another one of those coming when lots of people decide to leave. But one of the charges against those leaving from Anglicans would be you were never Anglican to begin with. You didn't use any of our material, you barely used our liturgies. You barely, you know, went to Darcy's and synods. You didn't, you know, you weren't Anglicans, because all of the para church material and ministry was coming from independent evangelical Baptist, non-conformist American southern Baptists, sovereign grace, all these other ministries which are, which are not Anglican. So There is a glory in a denomination that can basically Do it all in house, so that there is a consistency.

Cooper:

Well, but that's interesting though, isn't it? because What would that look like in the church of England, given that it is a very broad church? This, again, i think, is something you see a lot with para church ministries, when they start becoming quite big And they're looking to equip. You know both the southern baptist church over here in north carolina, but also, you know, maybe, an Anglican church in in, you know, birmingham, um, in the uk rather than Alabama, it can start creating a kind of all right. Well, we can't be too specific about what we think about certain biblical things, so things get necessarily kind of watered down a little bit. We don't want to speak too clearly about, for example, eschatology.

Cooper:

We don't want to speak too clearly about pneumatology, because we might put off the charismatic, you know, and so what you end up with is is, is rather a Deracinated, as it could be the word of the episode could be, excellent, rather a sort of a Blending down of god's word, a smoothing out of the, the, the interesting edges and angles, and I think that again is one of those areas where There's pressure from a paratrooper into the local church can be unhelpful. It can help to, it can be a bit of a Trojan horse, theologically speaking.

Cary:

For that reason, I wonder if you know. Another example of this happening would be even Roman Catholics have leaned into some evangelical sources. More recently, the Alpha course, i believe, has had quite a life within Roman Catholicism.

Cooper:

And one would argue that's precisely because it has been argued So sort of theologically minimal Right That it enables both Roman Catholics and Protestants to go. Yeah, this is great, we can use this in our church.

Cary:

Yes, which to some seems a bug and to others seems to be a feature.

Cooper:

Seems a feature, but I would say.

Cary:

The other thing that makes me think of is Billy Graham. So that was your ultimate paratroop organization.

Cooper:

Right.

Cary:

And there were an awful lot of people bringing their churches and friends of their churches, and again it was he shared platforms with with Roman Catholics as well as Protestants and Charismatics and Pentecostals and everybody and liberals. Yeah, and so there is an element of legacy of that, i think, and I was quite surprised when I actually read evangelicals divided.

Cooper:

I think divided evangelicals in Murray's book.

Cary:

Yeah, i was quite surprised that, frankly, who Billy Graham?

Cooper:

is How ecumenical it became. Yeah, yeah, to the point of like I don't.

Cary:

I'm not sure there's any.

Cooper:

Well, that, of course, is the big question hanging over the legacy of those huge kind of rallies in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s. What do we do with people if they come to the front at a Billy Graham rally or a Louise Palau rally or whatever it is? Where do they go after that? And I know because my dad was worked at these rallies and was and went through the kind of training for this that the aim was obviously to bring them into a local church. But the problem is you've already part partnered with Roman Catholics and also some of the more liberal church and so on, so you have no real control over where people are then channeled after they profess faith. That, i would say, is a bug rather than a feature.

Cary:

And it goes back to another regular refrain. I'm sure we could get a chatbot just to do this podcast now without us. That's only just a guarantee. What you win people with is what you win them to, to. That's right. So if you win people with an entirely ecumenical ministry, then you're winning them to a pretty non specific, non denominational.

Cooper:

Yes.

Cary:

De-raccinated gospel.

Cooper:

Thanks. Yes, i think that is. I think that's right And it's of course it's very well meaning. We're not meaning to sort of impugn motives here. I mean, billy Graham was somebody who have a lot of admiration for in lots of ways, but I think that is a problem because the organization was so detached from the local church. It caused some real problems in terms of discipling people post post rally. You know this is speaking of somebody who went forward at Billy Graham rally himself and a Louise Palau one in the 80s. You know there was no sense of right. Well, where are you going to now? What are you plugged into? a church, what kind of church is it, you know? is it actually being run along biblical lines? That really wasn't the aim. The aim was let's just get people converted. Yeah. So I would argue that's not in one sense, that's not a helpful fulfillment of the Great Commission, because you're not really making disciples, you're just making converts.

Cary:

Yes, and in the very next episode, which we have already recorded, we talk about conversionism as being one of the whole marks of evangelicalism. And these are the kinds of problems, downstream, you get from a culture of conversionism Again, much of which goes back to the 18th 19th century and the William Wilber forces, who were evangelical and evangelistic in what they were trying to do. But, in there.

Cooper:

Yes.

Cary:

But if you're doing that outside of a local church setting which is a ministry of word and sacrament, which also has discipline built into it, Yeah, yeah. At that point, if it isn't rooted in that it is just a lifestyle, yeah, and it isn't, and it isn't any more than that. It may be a serious lifestyle or committed lifestyle, but it isn't. It isn't what I don't think what we are called to is it So? it's a podcast, yeah.

Cary:

About theology Yeah, and the church, yeah, and culture Yeah, and there are jingles Yeah. Why is that Um?

Cooper:

For me, paratroch organizations are at their best when quick shout out to Cure International. They're at their best when they are not. There's no encroachment on the role of the local church. So Cure International exists to build hospitals all over the world, developing countries, to make the gospel known in the context of medical and particularly curing sick children off, and brand Hansen is an ambassador for Cure. I think that's a wonderful example of how a paratroch can, as it were, be an arm of the church, doing things which the church itself as a local institution is not called to do, but which is a natural outworking of the gospel. That, i think, is a paratroch ministry at its best, and it's a sort of specialization, of course, that that a local church couldn't possibly do, unless they happen to have a lot of you know orthopedic surgeons in there in their midst.

Cary:

Yeah, i guess the last point because we should probably come into land shortly is the sense in which I is a lay person. Therefore, i'm in danger of setting up a paratroch organization as some sort of cudgel with which to beat local churches, all denominations, because I'm not getting Yeah.

Cary:

The churches don't get it. They don't understand the need for pathfinders material. So I'm going to go off and set up a ministry and shame them all into. You know that that can be one's heart. There's obviously there's a nice way of doing it and not very nice way of doing it, but there's a sense in which a lay person who isn't really accountable in quite the same way, can go off and just do their own thing. So even just my own work that I'm doing on this pathfinders material which I think will be called bedrock, by the way, which I quite like as a title Nice Came up with that.

Cary:

But there was a member of our congregation who used to be a Bible teacher, bible teacher at Corn Hill, who lives literally less than a mile for me And I sat down with him and just say this is what I'm thinking about, this is what the first year's worth of material I think would be. Do you have any thoughts on how one could break it up and do that? And he was just like, oh yeah, and recommend you read this and I'm going to check in with him with some material and that kind of thing and do it with people in my local church who are particularly gifted in this area. I mean he writes he's written books about how to preach through specific books of the Bible, how to break it up and that kind of thing. So in a way I feel like God has gifted my church to be able to do this kind of thing. So it feels like all of the things are pointing in the right direction, but yeah, If one's not just make sure that in your material you say page one.

Cooper:

We are not looking to usurp.

Cary:

Yeah.

Cooper:

You know what you guys do. In fact, we're hoping that you know. In a sense, these are sort of armbands that you put on your training wheels, like we're. We're giving you this information, which you might then be able to take it and run with it. Yeah, in the future.

Cary:

Yeah, because that is literally all I do when I'm leading, because we have been using other material. What is the passage? so I get the passage and just go right, i'll just figure it out. So I spend a few days ahead of time reading the passage, just thinking about it, preparing, writing down some questions, and then we just as a group, we just go through it, we talk about it. I don't have one particular thing that I'm desperate for them to learn from this particular passage, but obviously I'm aware that there are some conclusions we can draw and other conclusions that are probably not particularly where this passage is, and I tend to write it on the on the back of an envelope. I literally what I'm trying to show them is like I'm just asking questions of this passage. Yes, and there's no, look, there's nothing up my sleeves, i don't have some.

Cooper:

Yes, i'm showing the scaffolding. Yeah, yeah.

Cary:

And hey, you know this phrase in the Bible, where we heard that phrase before.

Cooper:

And so what you're doing then is you're saying OK, look, i'm not just going to keep building the wells for you, i'm going to give you the tools to build the world, the world yourself, in future. Here are the source of questions I'm asking you guys can do this too.

Cary:

Yeah, but yeah. So I think yeah, there's a danger that the power church becomes a passion project for a lay person in an attempt to bend the church to their will. And there's a good version of that, which is this person has a gift and a passion which others could do well to learn from. But there's another version of it, which is this is this is somebody with an axe to grind.

Cooper:

Yes, it's blowback into the, theological blowback, which may not be helpful. Yeah, yeah.

Cary:

And using money and influence to kind of to have a disproportionate say within, within the church?

Cooper:

Yes, And so it can often be the case, particularly with what we might think of a social justice type concerns, where you have a power church which exists, let's say, to create women's crisis centers. This is a wonderful thing to do, to have those around. We know we support those at our church, but you can quite often, if you know, have that become a thing. Well, this is something that the church, the local church, ought to be doing itself, and I don't think that's right. I think the local church has a particular role to make disciples of all nations, and then you would expect those disciples to then go out and do those sorts of ministries. But it's not the primary function of local church and the danger can come where you have these people very passionate about their particular power church cause, they come into local church and say, hey, you guys are not doing this. You ought to be doing this as a church. The local church needs to be know that.

Cooper:

I don't think that is that's helpful at all and and historically, where that's happened, you've seen terrible mission drift happening in local churches, where they take their eye off the ball of making disciples of all nations in order to, you know, create the crisis centers for women or soup kitchens, whatever you name it And before you know it, they've basically let go of their primary role, which is preaching the Gospel, making disciples of all nations, And not just we hear that as making converts to all nations but disciples, learners, people who are continually learning and maturing in the faith, rather than just the evangelistic giant, you know pyramid Matthew's, matthew's as it says in Greek.

Cooper:

I believe It does.

Cary:

Even I know that, and none of it, that's right.

Cooper:

I'm still teaching myself.

Cary:

I was doing second heiress this morning And, wow, it's a whole load of extra regular verbs.

Cooper:

So you're talking out of your heiress now.

Cary:

I am very much so. Yes, yes, that's great. With all my endings, we should probably wrap this up, yes.

Cooper:

And by all means. You know I'm sure you're going to have plenty of feedback Listeners. As usual, you'll have opinions. Yes, your other views are available. Do let us know. Do email James at JamesCarrieMinistriesorg and to get some answers to that, or alternatively you can make it more joyous, JamesCarrie International Ministries.

Cary:

Sorry.

Cooper:

JamesCarrie International. That's right Offices in Paris, milan, new York. Yes, yeah, get in touch with us at Cooper and Carrie at gmailcom And we promise to read. We can't promise to respond to every single email, but we certainly will promise and we do Both of us read all the emails that come in.

Cary:

We do So, thank you for that. We don't get so many that we just oh no, we just completely lost track of all these emails. No, No, We go. Oh, we've had an email. Oh, look at that Did we say that, oh, okay, right, and.

Cooper:

I think we're going to be hanging on the line a little bit. For those people who are Cooper and Carrie Plus subscribers or patreons, we are going to be talking a bit more, getting into some questions from our Patreons, cooper and Carrie Plus members, getting into the weeds a bit there. So if you'd like to join that happy band, click on subscribe in Apple Podcast or go to patreoncom, just do a Google search for Patreon, cooper and Carrie.

Cary:

That sounds like a good idea.

Cooper:

Or look at the show notes. There'll be links there.

Cary:

Yeah, yeah. Which are now much enhanced because we're now using AI on our show notes.

Cooper:

We're giving it a trial. Yes, artificial intelligence is, let's say, assisting us with our show notes.

Cary:

Yes, that's right, and it's that. And one day it'll learn our voices completely. It knows all our priors and this podcast can go on indefinitely without us needing to do it or you needing to listen to it.

Cooper:

That's very much the aim, isn't it? We don't really need artificial intelligence. No, i don't think we need artificial intelligence, we just need a couple of monkeys. I think could probably do the job fairly well, but obviously it's a bit more, because the cost of bananas makes that probably unworkable.

Cary:

And over on the Patreons, I think we will have a conversation about how this podcast itself is in danger of being a parachurch organization. How about that?

Cooper:

Yeah, that's right. Yeah, I think that's a good question to ask.

Cary:

Thanks very much for listening, cheerio.

Cooper:

Love you guys. Bye.

Parachurch Organizations - what are they?
(Cont.) Parachurch Organizations - what are they?
Cultural Relevance in Parachurch Ministries
Parachurch Ministries and Denominations
Parachurch Organizations - gateway to watered down theology?