It has been years since I used the word “para-church.” That word describes a form of ministry taking place outside a traditional understanding of the Church. The dictionary defines “para” as “beside or alongside” something. The word establishes a separation. Scripture reveals something different. Every expression of faith where two or three are gathered in the Lord’s name is the Church. It does not matter what day, what hour, or what context. None of what we do is para anything. It is all part of the larger whole.
A dispersal of the Church is currently taking place in Western culture. In this dispersal, we will hopefully erase the para-church mindset from our thinking. As I write these words, a global virus is impacting all areas of our lives, even how and when we meet to worship. In some ways, it is similar to the persecution the first believers experienced in Acts 8. They had been meeting by the thousands for several years in the Temple complex. Amid all the good and miraculous things taking place, there was a problem. They were not going out beyond Jerusalem under the mandate of the Great Commission. They were stuck. Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the Earth still needed to hear the Gospel.
As the Coronavirus grips the world in fear and immobilizes entire cultures, the Church is being dispersed once again. This dispersal is not outward but inward. This dispersal is moving us away from what is known and familiar. Our understanding of a Church gathering and the way we do ministry in culture will undergo a revamping in this inward dispersal. We are being dispersed inwardly to explore smaller, more intimate gatherings and create unique and more agile ways to fulfill the Great Commission.
As you gather in your home this Sunday with a small group of family or friends, your experience is every bit as valid as a mega-church meeting where thousands met just a week ago. When you return to your workplace on Monday morning, what you do in your sphere of cultural influence is a valid ministry, as valid as a ministry with a professionally designed website and an established donor list. Nothing we do in Jesus ‘name is para anything. It is an integral part of a larger magnificent whole that expresses the unique creativity of God.
God is using this challenging moment in our history to help us see our faith in a different light. Hopefully, this experience will return us to the Lord’s original intent without all the added definitions, baggage, and financial burdens we have accumulated along the way that have limited our Kingdom potential.