Fearing the implications of government mandates, Churches across Virginia are being conned into incorporating in the hopes of avoiding state control only to lose sight of the fact that they are replacing Jesus as the Head of the Church with the state itself.
Derived from the Latin word “corpus,” or “body,” a corporation is defined as a group of people combined into or acting as one body. The Christian Church certainly fits this definition as it is a body of believers coming together to further Christ’s Kingdom by the preaching of the Gospel and the discipling of the nations (Matthew 28: 19-20). Therefore, since its existence and authority are derived from Christ, serving as its Head, the Church is the “corpus Christi,” or the “body of Christ.” Several verses of Scripture speak to the Church’s corporate status. Matthew 16:18, 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14, 27, Ephesians 1:22; 5:23b, 30, and Colossians 1:18; 2:19 teach that Christ is clearly the Head of the Church and we are all members of His body.
While the Church is the visible manifestation of Christ’s Kingdom on earth, Jesus stated in John 18:36 “My Kingdom is not of this world.” Misunderstood by many Christians to mean that neither the Church nor individual Christians should involve themselves in worldly affairs, this has led to a form of pietism whereby a false dichotomy is erected between the spiritual Kingdom and the carnal world. However, Christ also admonished His followers to act as the salt of the earth and be a light in the world by permeating society to change it from within. We are not to retreat into a purified closed society for or own benefit like the Jews of the Old Testament. Rather, we are admonished to go forth and reap the harvest of souls for the Lord as Jesus commanded in the Great Commission. Jesus commands us to be in the world and not of the world.
Having established that Jesus is the Head of the Church, and that the Church derives its existence and power from Jesus as its head, the question arises of why Churches suddenly feel the need to replace Jesus as their Head with the state, especially in light of the fact that the Church is a spiritual organization relying on the Holy Spirit and the inspired Word for its existence and not upon the laws of men.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, a corporation is a creature of the state receiving special privileges held subject to the laws of the state. It is created by the state, derives its existence and all of its powers from the state, and is subject to all of the laws of the state. Legal precedent establishes that corporations are not citizens, meaning that they do not enjoy the legal protection of citizens such as the First Amendment which states “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Churches are automatically exempt from taxation as unregistered, unincorporated entities according to federal law and the Internal Revenue Service. This means that no one can claim that incorporating a church protects it from the IRS. In fact, just the opposite is true. Registering as a 501 (c)(3) provides no tax benefit to a church and merely leads to it becoming a not-for-profit corporation under state control. Incorporated 501 (c)(3) churches are not exempt from taxation at all and pay Social Security taxes on their employees.
There are a great many churches along the East Coast proudly displaying foundational dates that precede adoption of the Constitution. These churches have existed continuously without the need to incorporate to conduct their spiritual missions and without fear of government persecution, yet we are now led to believe that these churches suddenly must incorporate to keep the government at bay. Imagine that! These churches are being convinced that their protection from the government lies in surrendering their autonomy to the very government forces they fear in the first place! This is an absolutely astonishing conclusion.
It gets worse. As a 501 (c)(3) corporation, a church would be even more susceptible to the Johnson Amendment. Passed in 1954 as an amendment to the rules governing charitable organizations operating as 501 (c)(3) corporations by then Senator Lyndon Johnson, the Johnson Amendment forbids 501 (c)(3) corporations from engaging in political activity as a condition of their tax-exempt status. This means that tax-exempt organizations are prohibited from endorsing or opposing political candidates, and it indirectly affects churches which have long feared losing their tax-exempt status for violating its political prohibitions.
Let’s recap. As unregistered, unincorporated entities, American churches are automatically exempt from taxation and government regulation and have gone about their spiritual missions without fear of government interference since before the Constitution with its First Amendment ratification of religious freedom was even drafted. Since 1954, tax-exempt organizations registered as 501 (c)(3) corporations are subject to the Johnson Amendment prohibitions on political activity. Churches have been conned into believing that the government is preparing to come after them and that they should seek protection from this unfounded government intrusion by registering with the government (the very government whose persecution they fear) as corporations subject to government control as creations of the government. Forgive me for not seeing why churches feel the sudden need to rush into the arms of the government that they fear is preparing to persecute them.
By removing Jesus as the Head of the Church and replacing Him with the state, these churches are abandoning religious principles in favor of political expediency. Those pastors citing the need to pursue incorporation invoke several reasonable arguments to bolster their agenda, but these can all be countered with the simple realization that churches have existed in America since its discovery without the need for incorporation. How has that been possible and why is that situation suddenly threatened? And, how is rushing into the open and eager arms of the government going to prevent the very thing these pastors fear? The answer is that it will not! In fact, by rushing to become recognized and registered by the state, churches merely hasten their own demise.
The arguments of these pastors can quickly be deflated by asking if there is any subject on which the government prevents them from proselytizing. When they answer certainly not, remind them they are prohibited by the government from engaging in political speech from the pulpit. Then, remind them that rushing to incorporate as government agents only increases the power of the state to interfere with their message. Sermons on the abominations of abortion, homosexuality, the perversion of marriage, and a host of other issues will be dictated by the state and not by the Bible as God’s Word.
American denominations have been steadily watering down their doctrine in a misguided attempt to stem the decline of church membership and attendance. Their leaders wrongly believe that speaking harsh truths turns off members who do not wish to be told they are sinners, so they water down their sermons into mushy feel-good sentimentality that leaves members questioning why they bother to attend church at all. Much of the decline in American morality has occurred with churches refusing to take a public stand and fight for Biblical truth. Gay marriage is the end game of the progressive agenda of undermining marriage beginning with no-fault divorce some forty years ago. Churches failed to defend traditional marriage by succumbing to the false arguments put forth in support of no-fault divorce, and the incrementalism of the progressive movement set about consuming marriage as a Holy Sacrament until gay marriage drove the final nail in its coffin.
By surrendering so long ago in the fight to preserve spiritual Truth, the Church has rationalized its way to the present when arguments in favor of replacing Christ as Head of the Church with the state now appear reasonable. This brings to mind the old saying that those who stand for nothing will fall for anything. In the example of these churches, that certainly seems to be the case.