I’ve been on full time staff with Fellowship of Christian Athletes for about 5 years. My staff focus has been primarily on working with 6 high school campuses and a handful of middle schools in our suburban area. Although we’ve focused on these campuses, our/my heart in ministry is truly Gospel Saturation in our city(s). We use the avenue of youth/H.S. sports with athletes, students, and coaches to achieve that mission. The stated mission of FCA internationally is this:
“To present to coaches and athletes, and all whom they influence, the challenge and adventure of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, serving Him in their relationships and in the fellowship of the church.”
I hope that last line caught your eye a little bit; “in the fellowship of the church.” Stated right there in plain sight is an open and active acknowledgement that we aren’t lone rangers parachuting for solo missions to teens but an active part of the wider body of Christ as we seek to bring the Gospel to our cities. I can’t guarantee that all para-church staffers feel that way, but I believe most do and I’d encourage you to engage those in your city to give them the opportunity to share their missional focus and strategy, you’d probably be very encouraged. Before I go any further let me briefly say that the title “para-church” is unhelpful but for sake of semantics I’ll keep using it. The goal of this article is to shed light on some possibility of engaging on mission locally that might be right under your nose.
Jon Saunders from The Gospel Coalition writes “I regularly get calls from churches across the country asking to hear about our campus ministry. Most are TGC-friendly churches close to college campuses who want more students to attend. When I ask what they’re currently doing to engage students, the answer is usually the same: “Nothing.” It’s not like non-Christian students, or really any kind of non-Christian, will just wake up one morning and decide to attend a healthy church. A healthy church must go find them. This is our mandate from Jesus. Yes, it’s wonderfully true that the ministry of the local church carries out God’s Great Commission plan. But it’s equally true that this will only happen if the church goes and ministers to students like parachurches do. Congregations must leave the friendly confines of the church building and go into the dorms, the intramural buildings, and the coffee shops to make disciples.” To Jon’s quote I’d add “administration buildings, youth sports venues, ASB programs, after school tutoring, etc.”
Three reasons why it’s worth connecting local “para-church” staffers:
- They’re already doing it! They’re already sold out on the ideals of mission & service. They’re “people of peace” that are already believers and already surveying the land with favor from administrators, coaches, teachers, etc. and most likely want and need people to help them reach a campus with the gospel. They could save you a ton of time and help you identify needs and areas your church or MC could rally around to bring Good News to somewhere in your context.
- It’ll bless them tremendously. If you’ve planted a church you know quite well how lonely it can be pursuing God’s mission and feeling like no one quite understands your burden for mission. I can tell you for sure, no one dives into para-church ministry and goes off to raise full time support without feeling a deep sense of calling by God to reach the unreached around them whatever it takes. Sometimes that can lead to loneliness and isolation especially if their church home doesn’t support them much. I’ve found many actually feel this way and wish their churches valued their mission or partnered with them shoulder to shoulder. You can fan the flame! An MC that comes alongside a parachurch staffer would be one of the most incredible experiences of their “career.”
- You might make a dear friend. I’d bet you’ll find more in common with a para-church staffer than you might find with “the pastor around the corner.” As I noted in #2 most parachurch staffers if they heard the vision of a church on mission or missional communities they would understand immediately and maybe even dive in to leading an MC with you. You may also find a lifetime friend, I have. As a para-church staffer I’ve made some best friends that are institutional pastoral staff that wish they could do what I do each day and I’m a safe place for them to think through their ministry plans, life, etc.
I’m constantly reminded that God’s mission is way bigger than my ministry & localized efforts. God’s mission has unimaginable depth and diversity all around us yet we know from scripture that each of us is intimately involved with that mission if we’re led by Him. Maybe this is an opportunity to pray about who around you might already be working in the fields God has sent you to. It could be an existing para-church type or non-profit that could be a huge ally in the Kingdom. We need all of the body of Christ to achieve gospel saturation.
**If you’re in an area with FCA staff or even if you’re not sure and you’d like help to connect, share some vision, or anything else please don’t hesitate to comment/reach out.