Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. I Corinthians 10:12
What about the integrity of the church? One area of which you might not be aware that many if not most churches in America compromise is in the area of Christ's Lordship over His church. Dr. Robin Wright once asked a question that has resonated with me through the years. It went something like this;
"What if you needed your wife to do something for you and she said she would, but she had to clear it with the gentleman who lived next door . How would you react?"
Although a very loose paraphrase of Dr. Wright, it does bring up the question as to why churches run to the government to solve their problems and handle their difficulties (not to mention for money through the subsidy that is the tax exempt status). Why do churches and pastors compromise and lose their integrity so easily when it comes to asking another if they can do that which God has already told them to do?
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15
I was reading an article recently about a street preacher in Washington who was arrested while giving the gospel to a bunch of school children. The thing is, he had already asked the permission of the controlling legal authority. I really don't get this. He has a right to free speech. He has a right to stand on public property and exercise that free speech. Why did he ask permission? God has told him to “preach the Word,” so he should just do it, right? That one detail, though seemingly unimportant to the rest of the story, stuck out to me. Why are we asking the government permission to do that which God has already told us to do?
With this in mind, there are essentially three ways to look at the church incorporation issue. The first two are compromises and break down the integrity of the spiritual body known as the church. The last one defines the proper owner, director and stand of a local New Testament church.
The Corporate Mindset.
Incorporation of a body of believers is the acceptable means to enable a church to hold property and deflect liability from the individual members and is what is necessary to legally exist as a church.
This mindset should be easy for us to dispel, but it is not in America today. First of all, do you know what a not-for-profit corporation is? A corporation is an organization that is formed and recognized under the laws of the legislature. A not-for-profit corporation is a business entity that has been given special favor by the legislature and enjoy benefits not enjoyed by regular for-profit corporations. Either way, a corporation is subject to its creator. This is why churches that are incorporated have things like presidents, trustees and regular business meetings, among other things. All of these together keep a church in compliance with its creator and director, the law of the land as expressed through the acts of the legislature.
An organization on the internet offering to incorporate churches says this:
“Under state law, the articles of incorporation are the church's supreme legal document. It has greater authority than the bylaws and any other legal document.”
Is your church incorporated? Is the Bible your final authority for all matters of faith and practice or the articles of incorporation?
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
A corporation must follow the directive of the one that authorized its existence or risk losing the benefits that are included with that status. Is there still a real church underneath the corporate status? Sometimes, but the spiritual work is hindered by the physical and voluntary submission to the state. Why is this mindset wrong? It places another authority over Christ's church. The state is husband for the Lord's betrothed.
The Legal Instrument.
The second mindset involves using a legal instrument to hold property, open bank accounts, complete business contracts, etc. for a church. One way this can be done is through a Declaration of Trust or simply conducting business as a business entity. That is enough to gain legal status for an organization. These are called Unincorporated Associations. These types of associations are still subject to the courts because they have been found by the courts to exist in the legal realm.
You can read more about a particular aspect of this half-way compromise in Dr. Townsend's article located here: Declaration of Trust Overview
The unfortunate thing about those who go this route is that they think they are safe from government intrusion, when this certainly is not the case. Is Christ not capable of protecting His churches? When subjects a church to the courts of Caesar, the church is then subject to the laws of Caesar. These types of churches are still legal entities and in at least one very prominent case the property was taken away.
The truth about the Declaration of Trust is this; it subjects a church to a legal instrument that can endanger the church. It has been tested in court and is not the silver bullet some claim. Why then is this mindset incorrect? Because it seeks a legal workaround instead of a total reliance on Christ to sustain the church. It is pragmatism at the expense of simply being what the Bible shows us is a New Testament church.
The Lordship mindset.
What if I asked you the question as to who owned your church? Would you say "the church?" Would you say "the corporation?" Would you say "Jesus Christ?" When you think about it, Christ created everything so He really does own it, doesn't He? Often we give lip service to this fact, but in reality, Christ is secondary to the whims of the fire marshal or county zoning board. Did we consult Christ when we allowed Caesar to inspect the things of God. Does this remind anyone else of the story of King Hezekiah and the Babylonian inspectors in 2 Kings 20:12-20?
Didn't Christ say He would build His church? Yes. He did.
To whom should we then look for sustenance? Christ.
To whom should we then look to lead and direct the church? Christ.
To whom should we then submit the church in all things? Christ.
What if I told you a church could exist without incorporating, acting like a corporation or creating a legal instrument called the Declaration of Trust? What if it could simply exist as the churches did in the New Testament with only Jesus Christ as its Head? What if it could have a building in which to meet and do everything that needs to be done to be in accordance with scripture? Would you call me crazy?
As pastors, we are doing it and so can you. We would love to hear from pastors who are tired of doing things the business way and who are ready to follow what the scriptures say a church should be. Scriptures that speak of Christ's preeminence and Lordship over His church.
Please contact us for more information: