Parasitical Parachurch?

Jonathan Dodson, Pastor of Austin City Life, a great thinker, and a great friend of mine recently published a blog concerning some thoughts from Neil Cole’s book Organic Leadership. In it, he says that “Neil prophetically points out how the parachurch has assumed the role and mission of the church leaving her weak and anemic”. Click HERE to see the entire post.

He then closed his post with a handful of questions:

What do you think? Where has your church capitulated to the parasitical parachurch? Is there a way forward? And what of the modality sodality distinction? Are both mission agencies and local churches together the church? Much more could be said on these matters.

This is a very relevant thread of conversation for Austin New Church and South Austin Cares. So here’s what I replied:


I think you know where I land on most of this conversation. I’ve long thought the non-profit sector has taken the place of the church in our culture. Even many of the faith-based non-profits have begun to do their work “in spite of” the church. Whether that’s because of a lack of passion on the part of the church or an organizations simple avoidance of the typical church red tape, it’s not their fault, it’s ours. Neglect comes to mind. Like you said (kinda) it seems to be the norm to just “let them do it”.

I’ve had some great conversations in the last week in regards to Sodality and Modality. Although Austin New Church is an intentionally ministry based model church, we are in reality a “hybrid” when it comes to gathering and sending. With that in mind, we’ve found a real strength in partnering with local non-profits instead of capitulating to their head start and success. There’s much we can learn (and leverage) from others who have gone before us.

What we’ve found? Most non-profits don’t mind a faith based community partnering with them. In fact, we’ve found nothing but open arms. One of our missional communities was literally told at the LiveStrong Challenge that they were the best group of volunteers they’ve ever had. What a compliment.

And it makes sense. Why would I try to start my own food bank when we gather a mile away from the Capital Area Food Bank that feeds over 40,000 people a week? Seems like they know what they’re doing. Why re-invent the wheel? The only reason I can see is if we cannot represent the church while serving with and for them. So far, it’s not been a problem.

So what do we do? I suggest partnership. Bold, innovative, Gospel centered partnership. Let them know the Church cares. That just might be a paradigm that needs changed anyways.

– Brandon Hatmaker


About Brandon Hatmaker

Church Planter, Missional Strategist, Non-Profit Collaborator, and Author of "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture". View all posts by Brandon Hatmaker

4 responses to “Parasitical Parachurch?

  • Eleanor Burne-Jones

    Interesting quote. I’ve just ceased offering service and involvement in a denomination in order to begin church planting with a parachurch, a situation brought about by five years frustration at the denom. leaving passionately committed people sitting around or handing out hymn books. ‘nuf said. If it comes about through the grace of God the plant will definitely send people to serve in projects at other churches unless or until there’s a very good reason to set up our own.

  • Marlow

    I just left a comment on JD’s blog. Hope I did not miss the point 🙂

  • Brandon Hatmaker

    Thanks for your passion and your perspective Eleanor.

  • Brandon Hatmaker

    Chris, Nah… your input was very appropriate and is a HUGE part of the conversation.

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