Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Church as Gulliver

I remember as a little boy a cartoon that I enjoyed watching. It was entitled Gulliver’s Travels. In short, it tells the story of a sailor named Gulliver whom, after a treacherous storm, is washed ashore and barely escapes death by being stranded on the beach of a remote island. When Gulliver starts to wake up he finds himself bound up and tied down to the beach by many small strands of rope, each one staked to the beach. In his unconsciousness, he had unknowingly become prisoner of the inhabitants of the island. Only 6 inches tall these people were called Lilliputians. These very small people had taken this giant captive, one strand at a time.

This thought came to me recently after having a conversation with the pastor of a church in Ohio. He was calling me and another gentleman seeking information and guidance on how to start cutting the strands. What strands you ask? The strands that have been required by government to operate his church! One strand at a time the church has found itself encumbered by a partner that I don’t believe God ever intended for his bride. How did it happen? Let’s talk about that.

When a person, or group of individuals, in the business, world seek to operate at a certain level they most generally become what is known as “Incorporated”. What this corporation, in a legal sense, becomes is an individual that now can be responsible for dealing with issues such as liability, mortgages, insurances etc. In large part it creates a buffer between individuals and circumstances that can arise in the process of doing business. In the context of the litigious and complicated society we live in it makes sense for businesses to seek this structure. But does it make sense for the church? I have some strong doubts on that.

Let’s first establish some points here. I believe that most people would agree with this premise. The created must answer to that which created it. Obviously this will have no relevance to the atheist being that they believe they evolved from a monkey that earlier climbed out of pool of oozing slime. Although I must tell you some that I have met just may be taking their marching orders from the monkey! Just a little humor. But think of it. The block of wood answers to the craftsman’s hand that shapes it into a beautiful piece of furniture. You and I, being created of God, answer to our creator. And a corporation, being a creature created by government, answers necessarily to its creator. That has purpose and application in the secular world for sure. But the church, who’s Creator and lead Pastor is Jesus. Does it really make sense, from a biblical perspective that the church should be yielding over to government any say in its functions and operations. If you’re thinking like a business person it makes total sense. But regarding the church are we supposed to be thinking like a business person?

The world tells us that if you are going to enter into agreements such as mortgages, insurances, contracts, payroll deductions and withholdings then you have to play by the rules. Their rules! So as a church you have to let them create one of their creatures called a corporation. Hear that? Their creature! That creature answers to its creator, government. The church that should answer to no one but Jesus Christ and God almighty has someone else they have to answer to, government.

Let us return to the pastor from Ohio. The Holy Spirit has been revealing this to this man. He now realizes that over time his church, one strand at a time, has yielded authority over to a partner that is starting to show his hand. He has found himself bound down to the beach so to speak. The same predicament Gulliver awoke to find of him. You see when you make a deal with the enemy there comes a time to pay up. The church will, and is now, finding itself in a position to take some marching orders not from Jesus the Churches head, but from that other creator. You know the creator of the Corporation. And guess what, I agree. I will always believe the created should take its cue from its creator. The question to think about is this. Is there really any place for a corporation in the church as Jesus intended it to be? I fear that as society/government becomes more hostile toward Christians the church will be finding itself somewhere it would rather not be. The 501c3 status may take on a whole different perspective at that time. Have we been duped by the intoxicant of “your tax exempt contributions?”

Was it supposed to be so large as to need mortgages? Was it to be so large as to be concerned about liability? Was it supposed to be so large as to have large payrolls? I believe the traditional church as we know it in America has gone astray. It started acting like a corporation instead of what it was supposed to be acting like. A body of believers that is small enough to know each other, care for each other, love and pray for one another.

I want you to be aware of something going on in the church here in America. There is a stirring by the Holy Spirit revealing this perspective too many. Like this pastor in Ohio. Their eyes are opening. God is calling his church out of these worldly encumbrances. He is a jealous God and gives no place for any other to take authority over His Church. He is preparing His bride. Will we hear and obey?

Many are! Thank God.


  1. I guess I need to reread some of the thinking of the founding fathers and clergy of that time period. Because I have always wondered what they did with Romans 13. And then of course Jesus commands us in Matthew, "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." All of which say a lot about paying your taxes. It sounds to me like the Holy Spirit is preparing to take His church underground, which may be needed sooner than we think. I think of the verse, I believe it is in Acts, "The more they persecuted them, the more they multiplied and grew." I want more people top come to Christ. I'm not up to praying for persecution. However, I can pray, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus," knowing full well all that comes with it.

  2. Thank you Lisa for this comment. I wanted to speak to your point regarding Romans 13. I think the confusion is this. What I am speaking about is not rebellion against the authority of government. You cannot look at the act of regaining lost ground as rebellion but rather correcting a wrong that should not have taken place to begin with.

    Specifically on the subject of the unincorporated church, the IRS itself suggests that a church not take the 501c3 status. The reason for their position is the IRS believes that a church already has that status and they do not have rightful jurisdiction over a church. So for a church to try and undo the ropes of incorporation is only to regain the land they should never have given up in the first place. Hope that helps.

  3. I woke up this morning with something to add to my comment. With regard to our founding fathers and the clergy of that time. Their actions? We now refer to their actions as The War for Independence. Otherwise known as the Revolutionary War. As for the clergy? Many do not realize that on the Lexington Green, Lexington Ma. where it all began. One of the militia men involved WAS the local pastor. Do a study of "The Black Robed Regiment". Oh that we could have men in pulpits like that today!

  4. I see that your blog was pointing to one specfic rope of entanglement (501C3 status) that the church has tied itself up in. The thought of that led me to thinking of other ropes that entangle the church, and often shut the mouths of pastors that ought to be speaking out. That led me to wonder about the revolutionary war pastors. I know they fought. I still wonder how they reconciled Romans 13 with the rebellion. I need to find a book on the subject. Anyone care to recommend one? I know that God uses persecution to grow our faith and to help us mature. Do you remember the old saw about if the police came to your house, could they find enough evidence to convict you as a Christian? I want them to be able to convict me.

  5. Ok I googled the Revolutionary war and ministers and came up with Jonathon Mayhew and "Discourse concerning unlimited resistance and submission to higher powers". I need to find a copy of that.