People are strange creatures. And sometimes Christians are the strangest. One would think that people who experience freedom in Christ would be the first ones to desire and defend the entire gamut of liberty. One would think that Paul’s words would deeply resonate with Christian folks: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1 KJV)
Unfortunately, many Christians today are as much in bondage as anyone outside of Christ. They are in bondage to tradition, ceremony, liturgy, etc. It is no hyperbole to say that they are as enslaved as were the Pharisees of old.
I recently reread Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. It has been awhile since I last read it and needed to be reminded of the old sage’s counsel. In his memoirs, he recalled how he had been invited to attend a Presbyterian church on the invitation of the parson whom he had befriended. He said he attended the church for five consecutive Sundays. He stopped attending after the fifth Sunday. The two reasons he gave were 1) the preacher had a very dry and boring delivery, and 2) the preacher was trying to make everybody good Presbyterians and not good citizens.
I believe Franklin’s observation could be made regarding a sizeable percentage of the pastors and churches in America today--regardless of denomination. Baptist preachers want everyone to be good Baptists; Pentecostal preachers want everyone to be good Pentecostals; Methodist preachers want everyone to be good Methodists; Lutheran preachers want everyone to be good Lutherans, etc. And if one does not subscribe to the traditions and tenets propounded in these churches, he or she is relegated to infidel status. But where do you find pastors and churches trying to make good citizens out of people? That’s why one will find judgmentalism and Phariseeism rampant in most churches today. As long as one has the form, little else matters.
Not only is good citizenship not taught in most churches; it is actually lampooned and denigrated. They teach that because the Scripture says we are citizens of Heaven, we have little or no responsibility to our country, State, town, etc. Of course, that doesn’t take them away from the mall or the television set when their favorite ball team is playing or the lake or the golf course.
But not only are so many of today’s pastors and churches enslaved to denominationalism, they are also enslaved to incorporationism. That might not be a real word, but it is a real truth.
Nowhere in Scripture is the church seen as a denomination or corporation. It is not even described as an organization. Yet, ask the average so-called Christian today, and they will tell you unless a church has a denomination, a building, and an incorporation status, it is not a church. I have actually heard professing Christians say that if a church did not have the IRS 501c3 government incorporation status, it was not a real church. Can you imagine that? Unless the church is not officially approved and sanctioned by the state, it is not a real church.
But what were churches before 1954, when then-Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson introduced and successfully passed the 501c3 government corporation law in the United States? Think of it: over 1900 years of Church history, and there was never any such thing as a church being incorporated by the government; but since 1954, if a church does not have the 501c3 government corporation status, it is not a real church? Holy Cow, Margaret!
Ladies and gentlemen, the churches in the Book of Acts were not government corporations; the early churches that followed the apostles were not government corporations; the independent churches of the Dark Ages were not government corporations. The Reformation churches were not government corporations; the Pilgrim churches were not government corporations; the colonial churches were not government corporations; and the independent churches in oppressed countries today are not government corporations.
The Church can have only one Head, and it is not the government. It is Christ! To put the Lord’s Church into a place of subjugation and submission to the state is nothing short of heresy and blasphemy. And by accepting the 501c3 government corporation status, that is exactly what these modern pastors and churches in America are committing.
As a result, pastors and churches are afraid to do anything that might offend the IRS or jeopardize their tax-exempt incorporation status. This has left the Church in America impotent and silent. And, yes, I know, for some pastors it doesn’t take anything as monstrous as the IRS to keep them quiet; the threat of offending the donor base is all the intimidation many pastors need. Geez!
My study of history teaches me that when God’s people sought true independence and freedom, a spiritual awakening usually accompanied such a movement. The Church in Acts refused to be controlled or intimidated by Judaism; the Reformation Church refused to be controlled or intimidated by Romanism; the Pilgrim Church refused to be controlled or intimidated by European statism; the colonial church refused to be controlled or intimidated by British imperialism; the Confessing Church in Germany refused to be controlled or intimidated by Nazism; the true Church in China today refuses to be controlled or intimidated by communism, etc.
But what are most churches doing in America today? They are being controlled and intimidated by incorporationism--specifically, the 501c3 section of the Internal Revenue Code of the IRS.
However, all over America, Christians by the thousands are seeking deliverance from government bondage. They are tired of waiting for recalcitrant and apathetic pastors to take a stand, and they are leaving the 501c3 government-controlled churches by untold thousands. Many of them are seeking independent churches, while others are starting their own home churches. I know, because many of these folks write to tell me that they are gathering in living rooms, community centers, VFW halls, American Legion halls, etc., to watch our service at Liberty Fellowship each Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm Mountain Time.
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In fact, my message last Sunday deals at length with what I am talking about in this column today. Be prepared though: I preached for 1:45. Can you imagine? And people didn’t leave or even squirm. Even teenagers and little children sat and listened intently. Beyond that, I was interrupted several times with enthusiastic applause by a very positive and appreciative audience. Imagine that! Oh! And when I finished, no one came up and wanted to talk sports. Try that in these government-controlled 501c3 churches today.
I fully realize that there are some very courageous preachers out there who are pastoring 501c3 churches. I pastored one myself for over 30 years. For me, getting out meant relocating 2600 miles away to the Flathead Valley of Montana. Obviously, not everyone can do that. I also realize that trying to take a church out of the clutches of the 501c3 tentacles of the IRS is like trying to get out of the Mafia. Maybe harder. But I also know that the Christian migration toward freedom and independence has already begun. And there is nothing anyone can do to stop it. This is God’s doing.
The Church is the Lord’s Bride, and He will not allow His bride to sleep in a whorish bed forever. Just as has been the case throughout history, God is calling His bride out of the bondage of government submission and servitude into the glorious light and liberty of Christ.
It will not be very much longer until there will be only two types of churches in America: the official, state-controlled churches that are sleeping with Lucifer and the true churches of Christ that are basking in the liberty of the Gospel. Christians will not be able to stay neutral.
As I said, the exodus has already begun.
And, while I may not live to see it, I am convinced that as the call for liberty continues to swell in the minds and hearts of both Christians and non-Christians alike, God will send an accompanying spiritual awakening to this country; or at least, to regions within this country. It is inevitable. And, again, while I may not live to see the fruition of this awakening, I am also convinced that what we did by moving to Montana--and what the people of Liberty Fellowship are doing here--and what liberty-minded people are doing all over this country, is at the “tip of the spear” of a freedom fight that will truly change the course of history.
Dear Christian, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.” God will never send an awakening to those who are content to sleep in servitude.
(c) Chuck Baldwin
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