These groups are usually, but mistakenly, called “parachurch” as if they are not the Church (that is, the worldwide Body of Christ), but instead occupy a shadowy zone “beside” the Church. I use the term “shadowy” to allude to the suspicion and even outright hostility with which they are viewed by some Christians—not least by many clergy and denominational leaders. For such groups often are seen as distractions and diffusions of the Church’s resources, not least its money.
Thus we hear pastors urging congregations to tithe first to the local—which is to say, the “true”—church, and then (perhaps) to other ministries. I respond that such groups are not churches (that is, congregations or denominations), but they are certainly part of the Church. Indeed, I see them as the Church of Jesus Christ eployed in particular modes to accomplish particular purposes.
Yet such groups clearly are Christ’s Church mobilized and active in worthy pursuits. Thus the term “parachurch” really won’t do. I suggest instead the term paracongregational.”
‘Church’ in the New Testament is used either of ‘A church’ or the universal church. It is not used of a subset of the universal church that is not ‘A church’. This leads him to strange conclusions, particularly regarding giving and the ordinances.
Grey areas do exist in some special purpose groups, to be sure, particularly around the sacraments: Should they be administered, and, if so, by whom? But most do not ever consider baptizing or serving communion. And their utterly voluntary nature means that church discipline is not exerted (although one must allow that church discipline is hard to find anywhere on the ecclesial landscape today).
...such groups often are seen as distractions and diffusions of the Church’s resources, not least its money. Thus we hear pastors urging congregations to tithe first to the local—which is to say, the “true”—church, and then (perhaps) to other ministries....
Why not support both, therefore, with glad hearts, open wallets, and ready hands?For the New Testament churches supported and benefited from the apostle Paul then he was resident in their congregations, and they supported him in his independent, organized ministry to benefit others when he was away. Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned and simplistic Bible believer, but this idea doesn’t seem all that difficult to me.
I have no problem with giving to parachurch organisations. But the very passage that Stackhouse quotes shows that this should primarily be the local church that is giving to the parachurch, not the individual Christian. I don't want to lay down a law here (I don't think there even are laws on 'giving' except that of generosity & no compulsion). There may be personal opportunities and friendships that would mean we would want to support particular ministries and individuals with needs we know about.
However, to suggest that the individual should have no priority of giving to the local chruch rather than the parachurch is to give in to the individualistic spirit of the day, which suggests that my personal wisdom as to what to do with the funds is higher than the combined wisdom of those that I have covenanted with, and my responsibility to my own personal portfolio is higher than my responsibility to the body to which I belong.