Neodenominational Thoughts on Church Reform – A different look at Incorporation.

Do we really believe that there is only one Church? Is not Jesus Christ the head and all who believe and follow the way of Christ considered His bride? If these things are true, why do we divide ourselves into different denominations and corporations? For once we separate ourselves into distinct groups, we naturally begin to show favoritism (which is sin) to those we love in our own Christian camps. Here is what Paul wrote about divisions of the church.

He writes, 10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 1 Cor. 1:10-13

Never before has Christianity been so divided. I tell you the Truth, there is only one reason that we divide ourselves… Unbelief… For we believe that Jesus cannot truly run His own church. So what do we do? We put God in a theological box and surround that box with walls of doctrine to protect ourselves from apostacy and heresy. Yet it is this fear that brings out the same justification that Adam blamed Eve for when eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. The Holy Spirit is the one who teaches us all things in Christ. And He is powerful enough to protect the important concepts (sound doctrine) about Himself in Christ Jesus.

Consequently, why has it been so enticing for our churches to incorporate and solidify division within the bride over the past 60 years? The real issue is God’s provision (or money). Currently, we build our fellowships around the need to generate a large about of money. Pastors need it to live, the fellowship has needs to be met, the large cog of Christian business needs to be fed, (CCLI, books, education, paper, marketing and technology), denominational budgets must be filled, missionaries need to be supported, and we can’t forget about our buildings and utilities. With so much money to raise and protect, there is no wonder why we can’t play nice with others.

But is this the only way? Can we not bring reform to our organizational structure to tear down the walls of this division? I believe we can. But it can only work if we allow Jesus to be the head of our Church, let the Holy Spirit be our theological Teacher, and have faith that God will make full provisions for the needs of His Church. For with such a powerful trio running the ministry, how could it ever fail to fulfill the will of those leading it?

Therefore, outside of the government’s right for taxation, there is no reason (outside of unbelief) for a group of Christians to organize into a formal corporation. Therefore, let us look at one way that could work to take down the walls of division while also satisfying the Government’s need for funding.

What if local fellowships decided to claim unity in Christ alone by not organizing into a formal “Church” body? What if there was no membership in an earthly church or a building and assets to fight over? What if the church board was replaced by elders that focused on mentorship (the true method of making disciples) instead of business decisions? If God has joined us as one bride, (brothers and sisters in Christ), why do we need a piece of paper or a statement of belief to bind us together? Can we not support a minister and do the work of the Church through relationships rather than by contract? Jesus taught us that our “yes” and our “no” should be all that is needed, yet we strive to force congregants into covenants, memberships and even oaths.

The church is ready for reform. Not for something new, but something to revert back to. There are pastors and laity that can see what the modern church has turned into and they mourn.

So the real question is this, “What about the government.” Since the bride still functions in the fallen world, it still must do it’s best to follow the laws that do not directly go against the commands of Jesus Christ. As for taxation, Jesus made it clear that we are to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. As for the rules of gifts. Anyone can personally fill the needs of others through gifts without taxation. Therefore, for the most part, the “filling of needs” in the fellowship does not need to be reported to the government, especially if that fellowship is not incorporated.

Therefore, the true puzzle lies in the paying (and taxation) of the pastor and any money related to ministry expenses. If the fellowship seeks out creative spaces to worship, (homes, public buildings, outside spaces, and rented space) the money needed to truly support an entire local fellowship should be well under $70,000 per year and could be as little as nothing.

So what type of organization would be small and flexible, yet provide a platform for insurance and taxation to appease the needs of the world in our spiritual fellowship? The answer is the limited liability corporation (or LLC). What if the pastor became the full extent of the formal organization of a local fellowship? In this model, the pastor would incorporate into an LLC for the sole purpose of taxation to the government along with providing some personal protection of private assets. It would look like an Evangelist who serves the same church most the time.

Think about a group of people who are being taught by a minister who is in charge of managing all that is needed to teach and administer the Word of God. Where every week, the money raised for ministry expenses and pastoral income would be visible to all and where the rest could be immediately collected and given to those in need. Picture a ministry where if the pastor’s budget is being met, people can freely give more and more to the direct needs of people in the community.

In this model, there is nothing to fight over in ministry. There are no pianos to memorialize and no savings account to earmark for future ministry use. Every penny will be raised by God’s provision in faith. The pastor will be able to be supported if needed and the Government will receive any tax it is due.

Of course there are downfalls to this type of ministry structure. You could have a bad pastor. In that case, you and your friends would just stop supporting that specific ministry and you would find another local fellowship or start your own. The transition of pastors may also be a time of tension as the fellowship starts to find and support a new pastor and LLC. Yet in reality, the true downfall is the lack of control people will have over the elders and the “stuff”. With nothing to protect or control, those who lack faith in Christ will not like this model of ministry.

Can an LLC work in ministry and really provide a way to make disciples and further the Kingdom of God? I believe it will. For it is so much easier to birth a new church as you mentor young pastors overtime and help them to start their own LLC’s and begin the process over and over again. With no buildings or assets to fight over, it is effortless for a group of believers to break off and birth a new fellowship under the mentored elder.

And as pastors continue to train and mentor more pastors, they will begin to function more as bishops over those they have brought up in the faith. Using the same LLC, a bishop’s income and expenses can be met using the same LLC he used for himself in ministry.

I do concede that there are some very different opinions held by the different traditions in the Church. For instance, some believe that you can lose your salvation after receiving it while others believe that you can’t. The beauty of Neodenominationalism is that both of these fellowships love and serve the Lord and can still have unity in the Bride. Yet for identification purposes (to share their framework seen in scripture) they can identify their independent LLC’s under likeminded banners.

For instance, Oakes Ministries is a Neodenominational ministry platform that functions under the banner of holiness. What that means is that holiness is the main deal or focus of the teachings of the pastor. There could also be sub-banners or camps that would also identify the pastor’s views on things like Calvinism, Pentecostalism and any other “ism” that would be needed to show visitors what kind of viewpoint you have as you teach the Word of God. For me, I would say Holiness is the main thing with Arminian being a sub label to identify my belief that I believe the scriptures show that a person can lose your salvation.

Is the LLC the answer to bringing reform to the larger Church of Christ? Only time will tell. For it is definitely not for everyone. How hard it is to walk away from a building, a pension, and the traditions and doctrines of our past. Our denominations have given us our identity in many ways. But the time has come to let Christ once again be the true head of His church. Therefore, let us render to Caesars what is Caesars and let our mighty God provide the provisions needed to do His will in expanding His Kingdom. Let us remove the training wheels of fear and unbelief and cast off the harness of tradition. Let us push off the yoke of doctrine we have taken on to see Christ come in His power and glory to do the miraculous among and through us in faith alone.

To the established church I say, “Let my people go”! Not that every church or denomination is bad, yet even Egypt (the place where God’s people once found life) began to treat God’s people as slaves. Many of us have already left our denominations. We have left not because of a rebellious Spirit, but because the Spirit of God has called us out. We are the ones who are seeking where He is calling us to… The time has come for renewal and revival. May Jesus be in the center of all these changes as we seek to save the lost and grow in our relationship with Christ. Holiness unto the Lord…