A Publication of Separation of Church and State Law Ministry.
Copyright © December 22, 2017
The overwhelming majority of churches have chosen to incorporate (inc.). Many or most church members of inc. churches do not know that the church they attend is inc., nor do they or the members who know that their church is inc. know what inc. means. This article is meant for their edification.
A church may choose to apply for corporate status under state law. If the church is approved, the church becomes a creature of the state, a temporal, earthly, legal entity as opposed to an eternal, heavenly, spiritual entity. See What is a legal entity?; What is a spiritual entity?; Is a church a spiritual entity, a legal entity, or a spiritual/legal entity?
The following are the main attributes of church non-profit corporation status in a nutshell:
- The state creates the corporation through state non-profit corporation law. A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in comtemplation of man’s earthly law.
- The sovereign of a corporation is the state of incorporation. 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.
- The right to act as a corporation is a special privilege conferred by the sovereign power.
- An incorporated church is a monstrosity with two heads which are at odds with one another. 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. Such a church gets part of her powers from God and part from civil government.
- An incorporated church is obligated to have elected officers who conduct business meetings, meet statutory requirements, etc. It has contracted to conduct its business activities in compliance with temporal corporate law, including governmental regulation of its employment relationships, so long as the employment does not depend on doctrinal matters.
- The members of a corporate church do not think God’s power and provisions are adequate.
- Incorporation excludes God entirely as regards certain matters controlled by the contracts created by incorporation.
- The organization of a New Testament Church and an incorporated church are different. The former organizes solely according to God’s New Testament Church principles. The latter according to the non-profit corporation law of the state of incorporation.
- An incorporated church and a New Testament Church have different creators. The state creates the former and God creates the latter.
- Ownership of a New Testament Church and a corporation differ. Members in a non-profit corporation are the owners of the corporation. Jesus Christ owns a New Testament Church.
- The properties utilized by the corporate church and that utilized by the New Testatment church have different owners. The non-profit corporation owns any property used by the incorporated church. The Lord Jesus Christ owns the property held by a New Testament Church. See Is Old Paths Baptist Church a Spiritual or Legal Entity?
- An incorporated church has contracted or agreed to comply with all the government red tape that goes along with incorporation: elect officers, hold business meetings, notify members of those meetings pursuant to statutory requirements, keep records, etc. If the incorporated church honors their word and complies with their agreement or contract with the state of incorporation, these matters take tremendous time, energy, and resources which could be used for the glory of God doing the work God prescribes for his churches in the New Testament.
- The corporate charter is a contract of threefold nature: a contract between the state and the corporation, a contract between the corporation and its members of stockholders, and a contract between the members inter se. Any contract disputes can be taken to civil court where only man’s law, not the Bible, controls.
- The bylaws of the corporation create contracts between the member, and between the corporation and its members. The multiple contracts created by the articles of incorporation and the bylaws entangle the incorporated church with earthly concerns.
- As sovereign, the state of incorporation has ultimate authority in interpreting the articles of incorporation.
- A corporation is a state “franchise.” Franchises are rights or privileges conferred by grant of a sovereign.
- A corporate church is, at best, in God’s permissive will as to organization.
- A corporate church is subject to the non-profit corporation laws which created the corporation. A New Testament church is operated solely under the Lord Jesus Christ and His New Testament Church Doctrine.
- The sovereign or head of the corporate part of an incorporated church is the state. The sovereign or head of a New Testament Church is the Lord Jesus Christ only.
- A corporation is called an artificial person, a legal fiction; it is a temporal organization. A New Testament Church is a spiritual organism, a spiritual body.
The church non-profit corporation loses much of its First Amendment protections by placing itself, as an artificial person, under the Fourteenth Amendment for many purposes.
- The church non-profit corporation can be sued in court for civil damages, as when an old lady falls on the ice going into the church building. See Spurious rationale for church incorporation: limited liability/incorporation increases liability of church members. Of course, most or all corporate churches buy insurance in the name of the church. See Is Old Paths Baptist Church a Spiritual or Legal Entity? A New Testament Church cannot be sued for damages since she is not a legal entity. She cannot buy insurance, but liability insurance not held by the church will still pay for any liabilities for such damages. See Is Old Paths Baptist Church a Spiritual or Legal Entity?
- The church non-profit corporation can own property since it is a legal entity. Although a New Testament Church cannot own property, she can still have access to property. Any property utilized by a New Testament church can be held by a non-legal entity, a simple trust which creates a fiduciary relationship with property whereby a trustee is holds all assets in the trust estate for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the true, beneficial and equitable owner of the properties. See
- Non-profit corporations are tax exempt. New Testament Churches are non-taxable under the First Amendment.
- Church non-profit corporations use man’s limited and false tax reasons rather than New Testament Church proinciples to rationalize corporate 501(c)(3) status. See Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: tax exemption and tax deductions for contributions OR Tax reasons given for church corporate 501(c)(3) status: a biblical and legal analysis.
- Church non-profit corporations falsely reason that a church should depend upon her convictions as to whether to incorporate. See Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: one’s convictions.
- Church non-profit corporations falsely reason that winning souls is the most important thing, even more important than loving the Lord Jesus Christ, and that church incorporation is just a minor issue. Put another way, they claim that “Soul winning solves all the problems of a church. See Spurious rationale for church corporate-501(c)(3) status: winning souls is more important than loving God/.
See Legal Explanation of Incorporation of Churches, and Spurious rationale for church incorporation: to hold property for a much more detailed explanation of both church incorporation and holding that which God has committed to His churches in trust for Him.
Church non-profit corporation status is a choice churches make for various humanist reasons. No law requires a church to incorporate. Is it illegal for a church in America not to incorporate? Does a church have to be a 501c3?, What is a First Amendment Church? The First Amendment and the constitutions of every state make clear that a church can choose either non-legal entity status or legal entity status. The Bible teaches that Christ’s churches are to be spiritual entities only. Is a church a spiritual or legal entity? The Bible does not say, “Churches shall not incorporate;” but principles in the Bible, when applied to the facts about church non-profit corporation status, make clear that church corporate status violates New Testament church principles.
A church who incorporates reject God’s authority, thereby causing our Lord much grief. See Does God Care if our Church is Incorporated? (The principles in this article also apply to the 501(c)(3) church); Articles, Essays, and Other Resources Related to the Doctrine of the Church, Incorporation, 501c3, Etc., What is an established church?, What is a First Amendment Church?; A Call to Anguish: Churches Reject God’s Authority (November 21, 2017)(The real meaning of church 501(c)(3) application and status emphasized in analysis of new article: “A New Religion Forms That Will Worship A ‘Godhead’ Based on AI”)A “Christian” Refuge of Lies: An Expose of “The Church that Birthed America” (113017); Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches:Spiritual or Legal Entities?; God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application.