Can you imagine a day where parachurch has evolved to such an extent that it encompasses all the ministries and functions we traditionally ascribe to church?
Christians are used to speaking of parachurch mission agencies, those specialist teams who take on the challenge of mission in a way few churches ever come close to. But what about the other dimensions of church life? Can we conceive of them being outsourced too? What about parachurch discipleship, parachurch fellowship, parachurch worship? Here’s just a thought experiment for my Christian readers. Can we imagine a day where people begin to choose to network and circulate between specialist ministries in preference to static church membership?
I wonder if that day has not already arrived. Consider how more and more of the Christians attending colleges are doing so, not to become ministers, but to get better discipleship. Consider how many people have regular pilgrimages to Hillsong, not for the whole experience, but simply to get a worship fix. Consider how many Christians join up with youth groups and small groups that have nothing to do with their home church simply for social reasons. Why bother with static church membership at all?
In some ways I find this appealing, the option of connecting with ministries that suit me, but in other ways I find it disturbing. Is this not just consumer culture gone mad? Won’t this just further contribute to the fragmentation of our societies and very identity? When we talk about emerging church, what precisely is emerging beyond all the rhetoric? At one end of the spectrum, sure, we have neo monasticism. But at the other we are also getting the diffuse network, the parachurch church. What do you make of all this?