An Open Letter: To Discernment Ministries From a Committed Churchman

To my discernment blogging and apologetics minded brothers and sisters,

This has not been an encouraging few weeks in the quest to make an argument for the usefulness of para-church ministries that can come alongside churches and those who labor within them.  As it stands right now, what should be a collection of smart, driven, and gifted men who can be a blessing to the church instead resembles a playground brawl over petty nonsense.  It is disheartening and incredibly frustrating.

I am, in many ways, your typical audience.  Therefore, I thought it might be helpful for you to understand what I, an average consumer of your various media, is involved with for Christ and His church right now:

1) I direct my church’s Children’s Ministry with over 40 volunteers, each of varying maturity levels, understandings, skill sets, sins, and strengths.  I stumble in many ways, and I am inadequate for the task apart from Christ.  My life is filled with questions like “how do I disciple that new volunteer” or “how do I help parents understand we’re not leading their child astray”?  Teaching and discipleship are the two biggest things I do in that role.  I have Christians and non-Christians who come into the Children’s Ministry fold of all types; needing to be ministered to in many ways.  No two are alike.  Some stumble in some areas, some excel in others.  The one thing I’ve learned is that I need to know a lot and be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within me to everyone who asks.  It’s where the ministry rubber meets the church road.

2) At the end of August I’ll be teaching a 6 week class on the history and theology of the Bible to the adults in my church.  Currently, I’m neck deep in research, power point slides, creating handouts, and double and triple checking my work.  I don’t know everything, but I’ll do my best.

3) Next school year, I’ll be teaching the book of Romans to the teenagers in my church, including my own son.  I can hardly wait to dig in and tell them all about how God used chapter 5 in my own life to bring me to salvation.  I already have mapped out how I’m going to handle the traditional controversy of chapter 7, and I know exactly how important Romans 9-11 will be to shaping so much of their theological thinking. My prayer of late has been that many of those kids will grow through what I teach.  I want it to be the type of class that they look back on for years, whose notes they keep safe and refer to often.  What a chance to really make an impact!

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  I’m a churchman.  My ministry is mostly with my local church.  I stand or fall in my own ministry based on how well I serve my Savior who has entrusted me a chance to steer his flock in the right direction.  What I do in my church is the difference between being a good and faithful servant, and being saved as one leaping through the flames.  I have to do well.  I can’t live if I don’t preach Christ.  I feel meaningless if I don’t fulfill my ministry.

What all of you need to understand is that I cannot do it alone.  I need you guys, and I’m not the only one.  Tens of thousands of Christian men and women are in thousands of churches all over the world who face similar challenges, who have a similar lack of training, and who need biblically solid and gifted men to publish books, produce podcasts, and write blogs to help us.  They are, like me, discipling believers in hermeneutics where over half of my training has come from my local pastor (who is a true blessing) and the rest from books, articles, and podcasts.  Like me, they have churches that need a good class on the history and theology of the Bible; a class I could not teach without Alpha and Omega Ministries.  Dr. James White who is hands down the best in the world at that stuff.  Like me, they have teens who have never studied Romans.  They’ll need more material to help their students understand concepts just like the things I have already saved from ministries like Pyromaniacs and others.

Your ministries will impact the church, just as they have impacted me.  I thank you.  You will forever have my admiration and gratitude for helping me grow.  My students and those I disciple may not ever know it, but they are growing because of you too.

Yet, these are dark days in many ways.  Our culture is closing in around us and is increasingly hostile to the Gospel.  Churches are compromising in very significant ways and, frankly, your own para-church herd seems more concerned with who is going to be alpha male and who gets the last word than helping a guy like me.  I have only one message for you:  you are not being faithful if you are more concerned with being right than you are with being a servant of the church.  Para-church ministries stand and fall on their ability to help the one thing God has promised to bless:  His bride, the Church.  

So, guys, let me be blunt… I have enough to worry about in my day to day ministry without having to listen to men posturing for position on who drank beer when, where someone got a tattoo, or if you were right all along and can bring on guests to your podcast to prove it.  I also care a lot less about what Lifeway is selling or why than I do about how much the 12 year old in my class on prayer believes he needs to be praying or what the guy teaching that class thinks about binding and loosing in Matthew 16 and 18.  And for the love of all things sugar and spice, nobody cares who really runs what troll account on Twitter nor how they hurt your feelings!  Block them like the rest of us normal people do and move on!

Do we, the average everyday churchman need help with discerning what’s going on in the world?  You bet we do.  It’s impossible to keep up on everything and I’m grateful that God puts men and women in the church with different skills, interests, and abilities who can be there to help me and those like me think through something or understand what’s happening.  So do that.  But please also fix in your mind that the church does not need your squabble, and you ministry does not exist as your personal platform.  Get busy helping the church and those in it, or get busy shutting down your public forum.

For His Glory,

Jason Marianna

P.S.  You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. {Gal 5:7-10 NASB}

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