Who is the head of an incorporated church?

A Publication of Churches Under Christ Ministry

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Jerald Finney
Copyright © November 28, 2017

There are two possibilities:

  1. The Lord and the state of incorporation are the heads of an incorporated church.
  2. The state of incorporation is the head of the incorporated church.

Permit me to explain.

Both possible scenarios occur when churches do not understand the Bible doctrine of the church to one degree or another. They do not understand God’s eternal, spiritual precepts as stated in the New Testament nor do they understand man’s temporal earthly law. Let me give a list of some things that corporate churches do not understand and do not want to understand. For a comprehensive examination, see the resource below. Among other things, they do not understand:

  1. that Christ loves the church and gave Himself for it;
  2. that he wishes to be the only builder of His churches;
  3. that He wishes to empower His churches without help from anyone to include civil government;
  4. that Christ desires to be the only Head of His churches;
  5. that He is jealous of His churches;
  6. that He desires His churches to be eternal spiritual entities only;
  7. how a church can walk on earth being connected to a heavenly Head only;
  8. that the Holy Spirit lives in believers thereby making it possible for believers and churches to walk in the spirit only (Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”);
  9. that man creates corporations;
  10. that God the Son and He only establishes His churches;
  11. that the only head of a New Testament church is the Lord Jesus Christ;
  12. that the sovereign of the corporation is the state;
  13. that corporations are earthly temporal organizations whereas God desires churches to be eternal spiritual bodies or organisms;
  14. that when one combines the eternal with the temporary, the eternal is polluted;
  15. that incorporation, being the product of heresy, is a big step toward apostasy;
  16. that corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of man made law;
  17. that a corporation is an artificial person or legal entity created by or under the authority of the laws of the state;
  18. that no corporation can exist without the consent or grant of the sovereign, since the corporation is a creature of the state and derives its powers by legislative grant;
  19. that a corporate charter is a contract that requires that the controlling sovereign party, the civil government, be appealed to though government agency and the courts for resolution of conflicts;
  20. that many contractual controversies are thereby created whereby the church can sue the state, the members can sue other members, the members can sue the church and the church can sue the members;
  21. the corporate church agrees to set us extra-biblical offices (CEO, secretary, etc.) to handle many church affairs;
  22. that “… whenever there is an incorporated church, there are two entities—the one, the church as such, not owing its ecclesiastical or spiritual existence to the civil law, and the other, the legal corporation—each separate, although closely allied. The former is purely voluntary and is not a corporation or a quasi corporation;”
  23. that a corporate church, at best, is a two-headed monster, partially under the Lord Jesus Christ and partially under the civil government of incorporation.

Now, first let us consider the first scenario – that is, the Lord and the state are the heads of the church. This happens when an incorporated church complies with some of the Lord’s New Testament commandments for churches. Such a church operates in God’s permissive will, not His perfect will. They are like Israel. God established Israel to be under God only; God dealt directly with them as they pursued their earthly God-given goals, work, and religious activities.

Israel rejected the theocracy and demanded a king (1 Samuel 8). God told them He would nonetheless bless them if they would “turn not aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all [their] heart …” (See 1 Samuel 12.20-22 for God’s whole admonition). But once Israel took that first step, the slide down and away from the Lord continued until Israel was completely apostate. The New Testament prophesies the same pattern of apostasy for His churches. We are witnessing it before our eyes in America.

God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, ordained the church and walked with the church until His ascension. When He ascended, He sent the Holy Spirit to walk in and with believers and His churches under His Headship only; their spirits from heaven (heavenly) making the places where they walk together on earth heavenly.

Sadly, most churches are completely under civil government; they are completely apostate. They are under civil government only.

If a church does not become a temporal, earthly, legal entity through incorporation or any other acts, and if that church seeks to honor God in all things, she is under God only.

The Bible Answer to the Question, “Is an Incorporated 501(c)(3) or 508 Church a Church of Christ?” (Prepared for a talk given at the September 16-19 Liberty Baptist Church of Albuquerque, NM, Southwest Baptist Heritage Camp Meeting. Click here to go to Part I of the video of that presentationClick here to go to Part II of that presentation, “Why a Church Is Not a Business.” Part II was removed from Part I. In Part II, Jerald Finney invited Evangelist and Pastor Terry Woodside to tell his story which demonstrates that a church which is a non-legal entity cannot be sued in America. Click here to go to the page which has links to all sermons and presentations at that meeting.)

Recommended for more in depth study:

Separation of Church and State: God’s Churches – Spiritual or Legal Entities? Links to online edition as well as PDF of 2nd edition.

On the apostasy of Israel and the church see essays on apostasy linked to at:
The Biblical Doctrine of the Church

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