The advantage of churches over parachurch organizations
In his provocative and stimulating book Deconstructing Evangelicalism: Conservative Protestantism in the Age of Billy Graham (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, copyright 2004 by D.G. Hart), Orthodox Presbyterian author, church historian and contrarian Dr. D.G. Hart (Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University) highlights the advantages of organized, institutional churches over the multitude of celebrity-centered, consumer-oriented parachurch “ministries” which have become so central to contemporary evangelicalism:
“Churches, unlike parachurch entities, have creeds that let people contemplating membership know the content of the denomination’s faith. Churches also have structures of governance that provide a mechanism of accountability that is very different from that of the market model, which determines which parachurch celebrities are the most popular and therefore authoritative. These forms of church government do more than set limits on church officers. They also provide rules, and members and non-members alike can determine whether a church is abiding by them. Because parachurch agencies are less public and more like a business, their decisions have the potential of being arbitrary. Churches also have a common set of liturgical resources, such as hymnals, that provide members with a common vocabulary for worship. Indeed, churches generally gather once a week for worship, thus counteracting the anonymity that characterizes mass-market entities such as parachurch agencies. Such local knowledge comes with a price. It means having to get along with other church members who may not be the best potluck supper companions. But its benefits include forms of discipleship and diaconal assistance that parachurch efforts can hardly provide, thanks both to the latter’s international scale and steady pitches for support.” (p. 124)
I recommend Dr. Hart’s book for those interested in the history, identity and characteristics of evangelicalism.