NOTE: In 1 Chronicles 12:32 the bible
speaks of the "sons of Issachar who had
understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do... Speaking from
that perspective: cooperating with the Increase of Christ's
Government in the earth at this time; is clearly more than ever..."what
Israel ought to do..."
This first section called "Exchanging the Old Wineskin for the New" is written as a preamble and is given so that
we might examine the process by which traditional church evolved into what it is
this introduction does not encompass all that has happened since the era of
Constantine and the mandates of institutional Christianity. Yet when this was
first written almost four years ago I saw this as a possible course correction
for the church. My thinking was that perhaps we were headed towards a second
reformation akin to what happened as the Protestant Church became a viable path
for believers in Christ separated from the Roman Catholic Church.
as time passes and tangible evidences point towards a soon coming millennial
reign of Christ preceded by His second coming; I humbly submit that what is
written here (as inadequate as it is), may serve as a framework for biblical
governance as we transition through to the end of the "church age."
the grace of God we are able to discern some of the factors which caused the
church to veer away from the path marked out by Christ and the first apostles,
perhaps we will be found by Christ among those who contend earnestly for the
faith, and in the midst of such perseverance be kept from the hour of trial
which shall come upon the inhabitants of the earth.
However, in order to examine what biblical
precepts are useful for governance of the ecclesia; we must un-stack some of the
traditional layers upon which the modern church has rested upon and contrast
these practices against what the Word of God places before us in matters
concerning the increase of the government of Christ in this late hour.
A Plea for Biblical Governance - Part 1
by Allen Logan
EXCHANGING THE OLD WINESKIN FOR THE NEW
NOTE: This first section
"Exchanging the Old Wineskin for the New"
is written as a preamble
and is given so that we might examine the process by which traditional
church evolved into what it is today.
Clearly this introduction does not encompass all that has happened, and yet if a course correction for
the church is to be found we must be able to discern some of the factors
which caused the church to veer away from the path marked out by Christ and
the first apostles, and at the same time in order to examine what the biblical
precepts are for governance in the ecclesia; we must un-stack some of the
traditional layers upon which the modern church has rested upon.
Many in this hour are
speaking about a "Spirit of Elijah" restoration within the church, and while I
agree with that observation in general; what I believe the Lord is bringing is
much more profound, and yet at the same time; it is also less excessive than
what is currently being walked out.
The underlying pattern being
birthed is I believe a framework for restoration of biblical governance in the
body of Christ; not the showy and yes; borderline idolatry of apostolic
At the risk of losing some
readers; let me clearly say up front that the 'everything must line up under the
apostolic umbrella' mentality has as much old wineskin stench as every other
Nicolaitan system devised in the hearts of men.
While the framework of
biblical governance does include
a re-emergence of apostolic ministry; the orientation and focus must be the
increase of Christ's government in the midst of His people.
As I have stressed in several
places; since there are some dogmatic viewpoints expressed here - including the
one you just read; please view
this as part of an overall discussion concerning the welfare of the body of
Christ as what is written here cannot possibly encapsulate
every aspect of this discussion.
Whatever comes of this dialogue; we would
do well to heed the words of Christ: "And no
one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the
wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. But new
wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
We must also remember the
resistance of the 'old man' in each of us to the inevitable change taking place; for our Lord
continued by saying: "And
having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better"
A 1990 article by Dr. Greg L Bahnsen in my
opinion briefly describes how a church's wineskin can bursts as a result of
faulty government - "You will hear people say, without much
reflection, that the government of the church is a relatively trivial
matter, not something over which loving Christians should worry or argue.
But then on the other hand, if you take a hard look around you at what
actually happens in various churches, you will notice that the most
prevalent reason why people get upset and leave a congregation is not
really because of doctrinal differences, but is tied in one fashion or
another to the way that congregation was governed or disciplined (or not
disciplined). People get fed up, disputes are not peacefully resolved,
regular oversight and counseling are not pursued, congregations argue and
divide -- all because the biblical blueprint for government and discipline
has been ignored."
With this in mind; a friend once gave this
example as we discussed the present spiritual condition of the church. He simply
shared that he loves a '57 Chevy and in relating this, he also shared about his
love for the traditional church that he and many believers grew up
in. As he continued; he related that as much as he loved a '57 Chevy;
working at a company that required a daily commute of almost 2 hours; this
vehicle was not equipped or designed for the demands he would place on it, or
traffic conditions that this vehicle would endure if he drove it to work on a
The parallel he drew with the church
is easy to see. The principles and structure that operate in today's
mirror much of what was put in place in the 1700's; as they reacted to the
faulty models that they were breaking free of back in Europe. While this
framework for church is
something most of us grew up with, and are familiar with, it is not designed for the demands placed upon
it in these last days before the Lord's return.
While a strong case can be
made for the traditional church's effectiveness in Europe and the U.S. over the
last 300 years; certainly many reading this would have to agree that the
influence of the church in the world as a whole has declined considerably. This truth
will become undeniable if you carefully compare what is increasingly
permissible in today's society with what was allowed 50... or even
10 years ago.
And even when someone vehemently
denies that the impact of their church or denomination has waned; you will find
their church's acceptance within the world system can often be linked directly to the lowered
standards of 'another gospel' as a "big tent" acceptance of secular morals and
methods have assured their church's 'place' in society. In one word:
compromise... the effect being that instead of impacting their community with
the Truth of the gospel of Christ; they in contrast are being overrun by
In two words what we are
seeing is "spiritual Babylon."
I am sure many viewing this can readily see
that the migration of population over the last 100 years from a rural to an urban based society is
part of the dynamic that has caused this. We all understand that this shift in the population
from an agricultural to an industrial society has placed certain challenges
before the traditional church not seen before. At least this is certainly
the case in America.
However; few realize the
first century church birthed in the land of Israel actually flourished in a densely populated and somewhat
sophisticated society; even by today's standards.
Since this relatively small
area between the Mediterranean sea and the Jordan river served as a cross roads
and trade route between several civilizations; evidence suggests that many of
the inhabitants were tri-lingual; as they were fluent in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. (Sophisticated?..
How many people do you know that are fluent in three languages?)
Also as modern archeological discoveries have shown; this
same area was heavily
populated - as there were over 200 cities with populations estimated at
around 20,000 in each; all in this somewhat tiny piece of real estate.
The success of the early
church in this ancient and yet 'urban' setting is biblically documented;
as they clearly flourished even under Roman occupation. Why? I believe the
primary reason is obviously that the Spirit of the Lord was moving mightily upon
them; yet at the same time there were significant checks and balances that were in
place back then which were not carried forward; not even into the second
The framework of governance
that was set forth allowed the earliest churches to deal with injustices in such
a manner that the standard of Christ was not tainted, and the Holy Spirit was
As I have looked at various
times of revival in the past; I have seen a pattern emerge: The quenching
of the Holy Spirit that always heralds the end of revival happens when good men
having the best of intentions begin to shape through their personality what the
Spirit of the Lord was accomplishing in the hearts of the people. I doubt
that any reading this (including this writer); have not given into this
temptation at one point or another in their ministry.
The departure from a
functional plurality of leaders documented in the New Testament yielded over a
short period of years to a system of regional or city-wide 'bishops' who even in
the humblest of circumstances represented a form of governance that was not
demonstrated by the first apostles.
It is this early departure from a functional plurality of
leaders to a system of regional or city-wide 'bishops' which caused the church
to veer away from the path marked out by Christ and the first apostles.
The lack of biblical
governance that crept into the second century church deteriorated into the
spiritual Babylon that had manifested by the time the counsel of Nicea was held,
and it is why the modern church finds herself so off course. In fact; if
we took what we have now and placed it in the first century; some would
find themselves in the seat of the scribes and Pharisees; critically viewing
through religious lenses the ministry of Christ's first apostles.
This being true; if we want
to understand the impact of the Jerusalem church; we need to
revisit the biblical
the first century as governed by the apostles, elders, and deacons.
This church not only
successfully impacted the overall community they were part of, but these three components
of biblical government served the church in such a way that it was possible
for the community of believers to flourish and yet still be separated from the world.
This result came about not only
because of the anointing they were under, but it was also due to the fact that
the spiritual, communal, and societal challenges that faced the church of the
first century were met by a people who clearly cooperated with these three
governmental aspects of servant leadership as they were empowered by the Holy
While the government of the
church was initially brought forth through the ministry of the apostles as ones
who laid a foundation; we know that by the time Paul wrote the epistle to the
Ephesians; other specific gifts had been brought forth
"...for the equipping of the saints for the work of the
Because of this; the only biblical changes
instituted to this framework for governing the church in Jerusalem appears to be
the expansion of the equipping role of the apostles to accommodate the ongoing revelation of the
five-fold ministry as it came to include the additional equipping roles of prophet,
evangelist, pastor and teacher. These equipping ministries worked within a
framework of governance that also included elders and deacons.
The Enigma in the United States
As we continue this
discussion; perhaps you will see the puzzle a little clearer if I illustrated it
with this question:
How could the government of
the United States have a framework that provided for a balance of power based on
scripture; while at the same time the traditional church in this country
accepted a form of government that would eventually mirror the abusive nature of
the monarchy we fought a war to break free of?
The natural question that
arises at this point is: "What scripture is the U.S. government based on?"
In part; I believe much is
drawn from Isaiah 33:22 which says:
For the LORD is our
Judge, (Judicial branch) The LORD is our
branch) The LORD is our King;
(Executive branch) He will save us;
Our Father in heaven is
described this way:
He is the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.
Our Father is able to govern
His people perfectly...
On the contrary; left to
himself man's ways are continually evil as we will always be corruptible until
we put on incorruption. As the result of being victims of the abuses of a
tyrannical English king; the framers of the U.S. Constitution recognized that the authority of man to
govern other men must always be held in check by others with equal authority.
Hence the wisdom of using
Isaiah 33:22 as a guidance for dividing this authority into a form of government
with all three branches having the authority to "establish Justice, insure
domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general
welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity..."
Again left to their own
devices for example; a legislative form of government alone even with the best intentions
may actually end up denying justice to their own citizenry without the authority
of an executive branch and a judiciary each having the power to override ill conceived legislation.
This would be true if either of the other two branches had a preeminent role.
As has been previously
alluded to in this website; faulty forms of church government
like their counterparts in the secular world will (if left to their
own devices) become abusive over time. While the three definitions below
represent variant forms of what Christians consider to be biblical governance;
the weaknesses in each leaves a door open to satan allowing for the exploitation
of God's people. This will be true of ALL forms of
church government without a biblical
1. Episcopalianism - is the rule of the
church by monarchial bishops. That is, one man may govern those under him and
typically he is not been chosen directly by the people to be their leader, but can
be appointed by a heirarchial agency of presiding officers. Governmental
authority will usually rests in one human
minister at the top (a pope or archbishop).
2. Congregationalism - is the rule of the
church by every member and the independence of every congregation from all
3. Presbyterianism is the rule of the
church by multiple, elected elders -- not the dictates of one man, nor those of
the whole congregation. These elders must be chosen by the people and then
examined and confirmed by the present governing board of elders in the
congregation or regional body of elders (the presbytery). All
congregations are connected with each other under the jurisdiction of the
A Faulty Model
As we've briefly looked at the English
roots of the United States and the biblical undertones of it's government; it does not take a first rank historian to
demonstrate that the traditional church as we know it was drawn from and operates
today based on the faulty model of the seventeenth century Church of England.
This modern day model below which evolved from earlier forms after the break
from Roman Catholicism may be the pinnacle of efficiency; and even though it
incorporates biblical elements or strengths from all three definitions
above; it still begs one
question to be asked: WHERE in the bible do you find all of this?
With respect to the body of
Christ in England; while many may consider this as one of the best models
of church government especially since the General Synod may even introduce
legislation for consideration to become English law; this model is still at best
a system conceived in the minds of men.
Even though I personally admire the
structural framework of what developed over hundreds of years; this needs to be
clearly stated: It does not represent a scriptural model for church government.
As this model retains two
characteristics of the 17th century English church that were implanted into the
churches in this country we will briefly discuss them. Due to the fact
that some larger denominations in the U.S. operate under a similar governmental
structure; I believe it is an appropriate model to talk about.
Depending upon your
viewpoint; the two dominant features of this model
represent both it's strength and / or weakness.
Heirarchial levels of authority that are clearly
un-biblical as Jesus Himself said: "You know that
the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise
authority over them. Yet it shall not be so
among you; but whoever desires to become great
among you, let him be your servant."
governmental counsel which in and of itself is un-biblical, and yet it employs
sufficient checks and balances which in principle are based upon scripture. The method
employed to hold abuse of
power in check is a requirement that any measure passed by the General Synod
must be approved separately by all three houses within this assembly.
To be perfectly clear: the ecumenical
authority inherent in this model clearly undermines any
authority that a local assembly of believers has been biblically mandated to
carry. This model also supersedes the preeminence of the Good Shepherd
over His sheep as it implies that the Holy Spirit cannot sufficiently govern
sincere believers who earnestly seek the Lord concerning a matter.
As is clear to see with a
complete reading of the New Testament; there was only one time that
ANY aspect of the
local church's business was brought before the counsel of apostles and elders
residing in Jerusalem.
This concerned the question
of circumcision in Acts 15, and was do to the fact that there was an
historical question of doctrine
that had yet to be settled. In fact even in this one circumstance; the
case can be made that the Apostles and Elders in Jerusalem were taking
responsibility for an errant doctrine that had come forth from those within the
Jerusalem church and had infected other churches with another gospel.
The liberty of this
governmental counsel to speak to the body of Christ at large should I believe be
an exception due to the fact that from a historical perspective
this was the only group of leaders that
had walked with the Lord during His earthly ministry, and as such; their
authority as an assembly of leaders was historically unique.
I do not believe the uniqueness of this counsel
in Jerusalem can be justifiably used as a blueprint for biblical governance
especially since the one heirarchial framework for governance that existed at
this point in time was the faulty model of the unbelieving Sanhedrin; as this
type of governance
did not exist among the ecclesia of those
who followed Christ.
The Authority of the Local
In the model of the Church of
the tendency towards heirarchial levels of authority and bureaucratic
governmental counsels found in that model were transplanted into the American church at
As we consider the roots of
these ecumenical systems of governance and the spiritual parent of Catholicism;
we see hints of the layered authority that was present in the second temple
period of Israel. Its as if the second century church with the emergence
of city-wide bishops completely by-passed the apostolic church of the first
century; turning once again to the religious
pattern of the scribes and Pharisees.
As was alluded to earlier:
the forces of man-made religion rose up once again and the fleshly ways of the
old man once again proved: "And
having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better"
This should take us back to a
re-examination of church government as it existed in the 1st century.
If we will again first acknowledge
that the layers of oversight outside of the local church back then are drawn from the
religious system of the Sanhedrin and not from the 1st century church; we can
begin to understand the relational aspects of Paul's connection to the various
churches he corresponded with, and the contrasting echelons of authority that
developed after this initial era of biblical governance.
As we can see through his
epistles; Paul's role was
one of advice and consent among the churches as he encouraged or exhorted them.
This is the proper role of the apostolic ministry as it connects with the local
"Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed,
not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own
salvation with fear and trembling." (Phil.
2:12) The fact that Paul was apparently obeyed reflects on the
relationship he had with the believers in Philippi; not a heirarchial position
or "lording over" of the saints.
In Acts 20 we see a very
clear description of how Paul had poured his equipping gift into the church
of Ephesus. As he was an itinerate minister at the end of his last
missionary journey; he made clear to the elders he had called to meet him that
"the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to
shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood."
While a pastor reading this may jump to their
feet shouting 'vindication' let me remind you that this verse taken by itself is
not even close to being a full picture of church government; since (as will be
demonstrated later) all pastors are not
What it does accomplish
with other scriptures is to demonstrate that the authority of governing the
local church is vested in a plurality of local servant leaders within the church.
Other scriptures pointing to local authority under-girding a congregation
include: Titus 1:5 where Paul told Titus to "...appoint elders in every city."
Also 1 Peter 5:2 where the apostle told the elders to
"Shepherd the flock of God which is among you,
serving as overseers..."
The Scriptures then gives no
higher authority than those leaders within a local congregation. It
is clear that the local church is to be governed by the Word of God, and that
the local church does not need, nor does the Scripture teach that the local body
rests under the authority of any outside governing body. It is a group
unto itself, under the authority of God, and solely responsible unto Him for its
conduct, direction and affairs.
Jesus in Revelation 2:6 & 15,
stated that He "hated" the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, and true to the meaning
of this word - victory over the people - this group of heretics
in the early church promoted heirarchial or ecumenical levels of authority that
began to take hold towards the close of the first century. The implied
message in such systems of governance is that a local assembly of believers
somehow needed a higher echelon of leaders to mediate between them and Christ.
When Paul wrote the Philippians to "...work out
your own salvation with fear and trembling"
he was clearly communicating their responsibility
as a local body to seek the Lord.
Unity in a Localized Area
One other aspect of the local
church to consider is what constitutes a need for governmental separation of the
churches? Notice I did not say separate meetings of various house
churches that met in the 1st century and meet today; as these separate meetings
were completely in order as an everyday occurrence; yet these same house
churches walked in
governmental accord with one another in a localized jurisdiction.
When Paul called the Elders
from Ephesus and when he wrote His letters to the churches; there was one
consideration alone that determined governance. The extent of biblical
authority and what constituted a need for governmental separation was determined
by geography alone. No other provision within the bible was made for
division; save the warning to separate from those who are in gross sin.
As we look at the subject
matter of this discussion as it relates to the harlotry of the last days
apostasy of the church; I believe it is safe to conclude that any believers in a
localized area that refuse to seek out a biblically governed
church in there area should consider that they
are in violation of Hebrews 10:25 which tells us to not forsake
"the assembling of ourselves together, as is the
manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you
see the Day approaching."
To be even handed in this
discussion though I believe it is fair to say that placing the mirror of God's
word before you as a reader must also include this encouragement that
you are in an area where biblical government is not in place or there is no
to move in that direction; you are
not obligated by Hebrews 10:25 to join the harlotry of religious institutions
conceived by men as Revelation 18:4 tells us to "Come out of her, my people, lest
you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues."
Having said this though we
should ask ourselves what a reasonable localized area would be. Obviously
in today's world two considerations would come into play depending on where you
might live. For the sake of stewardship alone these factors would be the time
it takes to travel to a meeting and the cost of travel.
While I could put this in a straight jacket by admonishing you with the thought that believers in
third-world nations might walk several miles to a meeting; I believe the Lord
would want me to simply encourage you to be led by His Spirit in this.
Covering vs. Accountability
Realizing this statement
flies in the face of accepted verbiage and dare I say false doctrine; the
concept of "covering" as it is taught today is heresy. A quick
summary of the word "covering" in the bible reveals that in the Old Testament
the word is used to describe the animal skins that covered the ark and the
covering wings of the cherubim over the mercy seat. It is also used to
describe clothes or a cloak that one would wear and in one instance in the OT it
is used to describe Abraham's role as a husband to his wife Sarah.
Certainly any thought of church oversight serving in the role of a spiritual husband is
a perversion of scripture. In the New Testament the word covering is used once in 1
Corinthians 11:15 to describe a woman's hair.
On the other hand; the
requirement for biblical accountability is very clear. In John 13 when
Jesus washed the disciple's feet; He was doing more than giving an example of
humility and servitude. In the culture that He and the disciples were a
part of; the feet represented someone's spiritual conduct among others.
Jesus was saying beyond what is obvious that if we would not walk in humility
being accountable to others; we "have
no part" in
The apostle Peter also
encouraged this in all aspects of church life - "Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all
of you be submissive to one another,
and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the
What this looks like for me
personally at this time as I am in the process of planting a work is that I have
a number of brothers in Christ whom I esteem highly in the Lord; men I welcome
to speak to me at any time concerning issues of accountability in my life:
Bryan M. - Charles R. - David C. - Mike L. - Ray H. - Earl G. - Mel
W. - Jim L. - Norm R. - Randy K. - Tim M. - Joseph F. - Michael R. - Mark B. -
Brian F.... In a desire to be transparent; it could be
said that two or three of these names represent relationships that may be
strained at the moment; as the truth is simply that the very nature of
genuine relationships is that you will have these seasons were you're not always
on the same page. Remember; even Paul and Barnabas had their moments of
I could however easily double the
above list, but hopefully
you get the point: It's not about ecumenical authority which relies on the
false doctrine of covering prevalent in the institutions of men. It's about the true doctrine of accountability
where Jesus told us that we "...also ought to wash
one another’s feet." What
typically happens when religious expectations begins to take hold
(and I speak this to our shame) is that we have superficial relationships with
those around us and then spend our time pointing out one another's dirty feet.
Brothers and sisters; we need to repent of these things!
The heart of this type of
accountability honors the authority of Christ as we honor the deposit of the
Holy Spirit in one another. In Philippians 2:1-4 Paul wrote
"Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ,
if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and
mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being
of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done
through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem
others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for
his own interests, but also for the interests of others."
This speaks of an honor and
esteeming of the deposit of Christ among the brethren and also gives us the
liberty to speak the truth in love to our brother if they will receive it and if
we see them beginning to stray. Maybe our perception of what we see
is wrong and the dialogue itself will clear up the misperception.
Maybe things are off though
and they can't quite figure out what is wrong... Your fellowship in
this case will be invaluable as 1 John 1:7 says
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light,
we have fellowship with one another,
and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
As we know that we have an advocate with
the Father in the person of Jesus Christ; if we see our brother stumbling;
we should if called upon to speak to our brother have as our intent being an
advocate on our brother's behalf as well.
These are hard things to
contend with but let me assure you that in Christ we must contend with these
issues as we can all say that Christ is our Head; but if we stray from His word
in any way then let us all pray for the grace to receive our brothers as their
words may be the Father's provision for us to stay on the path of life.
Our tendency is to run from correction as
Jesus tells us in John 3:20... "For everyone practicing evil hates
the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed."
We have to determine in our hearts that we
are going to walk in fellowship with one another acknowledging that a strong delusion is even
in the earth today; and as His Word says that God resists the proud but gives
grace to the humble; we should remember that we need one another; even more as
we see the day approaching.
Obviously it is possible that
instead of the Lord speaking through our brother in Christ; clearly He can speak
directly through His Word in bringing correction, He can speak directly by His Spirit or
through a minister in a meeting, or even in the midst of worship as well.
The point is though the Lord is sovereign, and how He brings counsel or correction
is as He wills; according to His Word; not what we think.
We should thank God when the
heart of the Good Shepherd rises in our brother and he calls for accountability
to the Word of God in our lives. Time is too short to keep going around
the mountain as we must humbly consider (not blindly submit to) what the Lord
may be speaking through those around us.
In other words when we stray;
the Lord by the Spirit in using a brother or sister in Christ... the Lord
leaves the 99 and comes looking for us. This role is not something
designated to someone in an "office" but rather applies to all since we as
brothers and sisters in Christ are each given a measure of His Spirit.
This is why the Word of God says in Ephesians 5:21 that we should be
"submitting to one
another in the fear of God."
While I will develop this
later; this is nothing more than advice and consent
that should be happening among those who love the Lord and each other. We must set aside our false
perceptions of this issue and heed the words of the apostle Paul in 1
Corinthians 12:20-21 concerning this: "But now
indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say
to the hand, "I have no need of you"; nor again the head to the feet, "I have no
need of you."
This is a very difficult
process that is easily misunderstood as there has been much abuse by the
institutions of men in this area. In fact it is because of a
misunderstanding with a precious brother in Christ whom I esteem highly in
Christ; that I have taken a few moments to clarify this further.
Models that Closely Resemble Biblical
(But Still Fall Short)
Leaving the issues of
localized authority; let us turn again to the heirarchial levels of authority we
will find by and large within a local church. In the next graphic; Church
A represents a typical non-denominational church which may be autonomous or it
may be under another umbrella or false 'covering' ministry; while Church B may typically be denominational or an
autonomous local church. The variations of both type A & B can be found
within the definitions of Episcopalianism,
Congregationalism, and Presbyterianism mentioned earlier.
I should briefly comment that in contrast to
false 'covering' there is abundant scriptural precedent for voluntary
association of churches based on relational advise and consent as modeled by the
1st century church.
The point of both of these
models though is that they still fail to hit the mark of what is needed. I am not
saying this with a critical or wounded spirit; rather my motivation in this is
knowing that when we fall short of biblical standards; we leave our churches
vulnerable to constant attack from the enemy.
Before you judge that
statement as being over-the-top; let me ask you - how many church splits have
you seen or heard about in the last ten years? How many earnest brothers
and sisters in Christ have you seen leave the church either wounded or out of
frustration? As was discussed much earlier; these things happen all
because the biblical blueprint for government and discipline has been ignored.
look at the above graphic you probably agree that Church A
appears to have some merit, and yet several aspects of this betray a clear departure
from scripture; even when the appearance looks biblical. First; NO WHERE
in the New Testament do we see deacons with less
authority to do what they are called to than five-fold ministers have authority
to do what they are called to. As you will see when we examine this
more closely in the section on deacons; they were clearly given authority over a
different aspect of church ministry than a five-fold minister.
Secondly; while it is clearly
biblical to seek out advise from others, and while it is also accepted that
everyone including a pastor should be mentored or discipled; often in a situation like this
the advisors are outside the fellowship of a local church and many times serve to enable
leadership that may be in error.
As the average member in a
local church (comparatively
speaking) has no relationship with these advisors; there is also no genuine mediation
(nor the appearance thereof) when a pastor is in error as these advisors (who in
the traditions of men
could be seen as the pastor's 'covering')
will typically be predisposed to side with or support the pastor many times only
having heard one side of an issue.
On the other hand when
occasional disagreements occur and what a pastor may have done is right; having
no framework for others in authority to speak into a dispute between congregants
and a pastor will leave the people without a sense of their viewpoint being
fairly or clearly heard. They may be left with a false feeling that the
pastor is 'lording over' them when in fact they are refusing counsel or
correction. We will look at this further as we continue to discuss
what constitutes a framework for biblical governance.
Church B we in many
ways see just the opposite where a board of deacons has authority OVER
five fold ministries; who in this scenario is again
represented by a 'senior'
pastor. In many cases; this type of framework empowers the congregation to
have authority over the five-fold ministry through the mechanism of an oversight
"board of deacons." In this type of governmental framework we find at the
very least a strong potential for 2Timothy 4:3-4 to be in operation:
"For the time will come when they
(a congregation of believers)
will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own
desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves
teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be
turned aside to fables."
There is one conclusion that should be applied to every
faulty model of church governance; there will either be a perversion of the
Lord's justice or the appearance of perversion in almost every situation where
mediation between brethren or between a leader and another believer is called
Registering the Church
Before we look at biblical
further; I believe it is critical to show a similarity between a strategy used
by communist China to register Christians, and how we in the United States;
because of our emphasis on material blessing; have allowed a similar strategy
for registering Christians in this country. In fact while this may seem
hard to believe; statistics show that in this country; the mechanism used to register Christians has worked with a much higher success
rate than the communist government has experienced registering Christians in the nation of China.
While this may appear to
reveal a viewpoint not often considered; this graphic below shows how the attempt
to control the church in China through the officially sanctioned "Three Self
Church" is duplicated through IRS tax exemption requirements here in the U.S.
The point is this: The membership of BOTH
the Chinese and American churches that meet
publicly is under scrutiny by the respective governments of each nation.
In the 60's and early 70's;
during Chairman Mao Tse-Tung's "Cultural Revolution" Chinese Christians
experienced the brutal suppression of Christianity virtually overnight.
Because of this experience the vast majority
ofChinese Christians today are part of
the unregistered underground network of
house churches in China.
While the Chinese church of
today is clearly facing persecution; it is my belief that during the pending
time of tribulation; it is the church in America who will be in greater peril
as the vast majority
of Christian leaders in America are currently registered
as a result of their local church's participation in the tax exemption offered
through the IRS. An example of this happened to a married couple my wife and I
know who used to attend an institutional church. Because of their contact
with children under 18; they were required
to be photographed and finger printed by the Sheriff's Department of the county
we live in.
Even if the worst case
scenario of knowing and using church membership rosters to arrest Christians never materializes in
the United States; the strategy in Communist China, and the strategy of the U.S.
government has worked towards the same end which is to
shape the message of Christianity in their respective countries.While this list may not include all the
restrictions in either nation; a comparison is still merited.
It is illegal for ministers to preach about:
The sufferings of Christ
Separation from the world
You are not allowed to:
Pray for Divine healing
Cast out demons
Baptize anyone under the age
Evangelize outside the four
walls of the public meeting place
In the United States;
(under IRS codes for 501(c)3tax exemptions) the
freedom of speech as it must now according to IRS code
support all public
policy even when such policy is biblically unacceptable (i.e.; public policy accepts
homosexual lifestyle as normal while biblical Christianity views it as gross
sin leading to a completely reprobate mind & lifestyle)
freedom of religion:
SEE SUPPLEMENT A BELOW
right to influence legislators and the legislation they intend to pass.
Cannot endorse or oppose candidates
'politically incorrect' sermons:
SEE SUPPLEMENT B BELOW
State-Church as the legal process for non-profit incorporation places a church
under the authority of the state; circumventing 1st amendment protection of
The reason for sharing this brief comparison is that according to IRS
publication entitled "Tax Guide for Churches and
Religious Institutions" under the 'glossary' definition for 'church' it
says that one characteristic for a church includes a
"definite and distinct ecclesiastical government."
Later the definition says that a church must not have a belief or creed that
is "contrary to clearly defined public policy."
At the Edge of Apostasy and Judgment
A few months back I was
talking with a beloved brother in Christ about the coming judgments that have
been prophesied over this nation; and I asked him what his thoughts were as an
elder among the flock. I shall not soon forget the sense of foreboding
that accompanied his words.
He said of all that has
been prophesied; the vast majority of believers fail to grasp the heart
rending grief that will overtake the body of Christ on the same level as the
Prophet Jeremiah lamented the catastrophic destruction of Jerusalem in his
A quick sampling of what
All her people sigh,
They seek bread;
They have given their valuables for food to restore life...
For these things I weep;
My eye, my eye overflows with water;
Because the comforter, who should restore my life,
Is far from me.
My children are desolate
Because the enemy prevailed...
See, O LORD, that I am in distress;
My soul is troubled;
My heart is overturned within me,
For I have been very rebellious.
Outside the sword bereaves,
At home it is like death...
My eyes fail with tears,
My heart is troubled;
My bile is poured on the ground
Because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
Because the children and the infants
Faint in the streets of the city
They say to their mothers,
“Where is grain and wine?”
As they swoon like the wounded
In the streets of the city,
As their life is poured out
In their mothers’ bosom...
This is but a small sampling from
All because the children of Israel refused to repent!
After hundreds of years of rebellion; all
the LORD required was this...
The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD,
saying, “Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house, and proclaim there this word,
and say, ‘Hear the
word of the LORD, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the
LORD!’” Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:
“Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you
to dwell in this place. Do not trust in these
lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the
temple of the LORD are these.’
you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings,
IF you thoroughly execute judgment
between a man and his neighbor,
IF you do not oppress the
stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in
this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt,
THEN I will cause you to
dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
While the judgment of the
LORD was clearly revealed in the
destruction of Jerusalem; and while the transgressions against the LORD had
accumulated over centuries; the mercy of God
was clearly revealed in a very short
list; amazingly ALL
connected to Judah's own well being.
Mark these words...
What the Lord required of
Judah at that moment of judgment is exactly
the same measurement used for
separating the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25... what the LORD required of
Judah for repentance; He requires of His church NOW!
Micah 6:8 says...
He has shown you, O man, what is
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?
While there is a whole
other section dealing with mercy let me just share the rebuke of Jesus to the
religious leaders of His day:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected
the weightier matters of the law: justice
and mercy and
faith. These you ought to
have done, without leaving the others undone.
The fate of the church
certainly hangs in the balance in this hour, and let me be very clear on this
depends upon returning to a framework for biblical governance. As we
continue to look at these things; you will see that this is a key component if
we are to walk as overcomers in this hour.
The Victory Anointing
As we begin to examine what
is necessary to escape the snare of the devil; we should recall an earlier
While we tend to downplay the importance of biblical governance; it
is important to remember that order in the body of Christ can be likened to the
example of Israel as they either stood victoriously over their enemies as a result of obedience to the Lord and His order,
or they fled in fear from the presence of their enemies because of disobedience to the Lord.
When Jesus spoke of the
anointing the church was to operate in; the sense of what He said was that
obedience to the revelation of Christ and His preeminence was akin to great victory. In
Matthew 16 the Lord teaches us that the revelation of Him given through the
Father is THE rock the Jesus will build His church upon
"...and the gates of Hades
shall not prevail against it."
As a result of this same
revelation of Christ and His authority...
Jesus gives us "the
keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in
heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
As I like many of us have witnessed a powerless
church over the years; I am convinced that the
spiritual authority given to the body
of Christ is clearly a misunderstood precept. Over the last twenty years
or so we have seen the perversion of the faith movement. Notice that I did
NOT say that the faith movement itself was a perversion, but that there was a
perversion OF the faith movement.
After all it was Jesus Himself who on numerous occasions said statements like
"According to your
faith let it be to you."
The point I am trying to
convey in this is that spiritual authority
takes more than faith to operate; it
takes obedience. Paul makes this point clear when he discusses spiritual
warfare in 2 Corinthians 10 - "For the weapons of
our warfare are not carnal but mighty
in God for pulling
down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself
against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the
obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all
disobedience when your
obedience is fulfilled."
Paul then does not link
spiritual authority to cultivating an ever increasing "name it - claim it" faith.
Instead the authority to prevail against "the gates
of Hades" is tied to obedience.
James relates the same message when he writes "But
do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith
without works is dead? Was not Abraham our
father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
Do you not see what James is conveying?
When he speaks of Abraham's works; he is talking about His
obedience to the Lord in offering his son Isaac as God had commanded him
Recently one whom I love with
all my heart strayed from the protection of the Lord that comes with obedience
and paid an absolutely horrendous price for it. My love for this one is so
great that I would have rather suffered multiple beatings in prison than to see
this one whom I love so much pay the price they did.
I have learned through this
though; that while the Lord is ...ready to punish
all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled;
it has been brought home to me with horrifying
clarity that "...the devil walks about like a
roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."
So when we talk about the
protection that comes from the Lord or if you will the safety in the midst of a
"multitude of counselors;" we are addressing the grain of truth within the false
doctrine of 'covering.' As you read Psalm 91:1-10 you begin to understand who's
protection we are under:
1 He who dwells in the secret place of
the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my
My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling...
It is because we
make the LORD our dwelling place that we are protected under
The unthinkable price that
Christians are about to pay for their disobedience is beyond my comprehension,
and yet I now understand with absolute clarity that if we do not yield to the
revelation of Jesus Christ and the implied mandate that includes the
"increase of His government"
according to Isaiah 9; we will pay with
consequences that the Father has allowed for but does not desire for us to pay.
It is our freewill choices that place us in peril, but it is not the Lord's
What the Lord clearly desires for His people is
that we would be the overcomers He has supplied the grace for us to be.
This will require obedience to the Lord that flies in the face of
conventional wisdom. Obedience that looks much like the Lord's directive to march around
Jericho instead of building siege towers to skirt the walls of the city.
Or obedience to follow the
wisdom of the Lord against all logic much like the wisdom that was given to Judah, the
inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20...
"So they rose early in the morning and went out into the
Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out; Jehoshaphat stood and said,
“Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God
and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” And
when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the
LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the
army and were saying:
“Praise the LORD,
For His mercy endures forever.”
Now when they began to sing and to
praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir,
who had come against Judah; and they were defeated."
As we examine governance of
the church in the first century; we are not looking for some special formula;
nor reliance upon the wisdom of men, but for a framework that not only reflects
obedience to the Lord, but provides a foundation for correction whenever a
church strays off the path Jesus and the early apostles walked upon.
Governance from a Biblical Perspective
In our search for this
biblical framework; we should certainly acknowledge scriptural precepts that
various models strove to uphold in the
past; but we must only use these attempts at biblical governance as a road map if
you will to draw wisdom from Godly brothers and sister in Christ who were before
If our intent then is to walk
in obedience to Christ and we are willing without prejudice to acknowledge that
this was the intent of those before us; we will be able to focus on the
scriptural objectives of
Episcopalianism, Congregationalism, and Presbyterianism even though in and of
themselves the biblical result intended by the framers of each expression never
Scriptural objectives or
precepts that can be gleaned from these efforts include:
Submission to 'one another'
Bearing one another's burdens in the midst of
Accountability to the Word of God
Encourage personal responsibility in the lives of
Co-operation with biblically sanctioned leadership
Insure biblical justice among the Lord's people
Spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to the
'uttermost parts of the earth'
Keeping these objectives in mind...
A framework for biblical governance should include:
A blending of leadership
upholds the commission of Christ
b. equips and releases the saints for ministry
provides impartial distribution of resources for orphans and widows
d. maintains local autonomy
This framework should also allow:
A separation of governmental
restrains the abuse of spiritual authority
b. insures accountability and correction of
leadership if abuse occurs
c. provides impartial distribution of resources as
ministry needs arise
d. recognizes the clear Sovereignty of God to bring
expressions among those of like precious faith that are not
regulated by the legalism of man made jurisdictions
The 1st Century
Pulling together everything
that has been said up to this point we can see that governance of the first century
church by the Holy Spirit was marked not only by a fullness of Messianic
expression as believing Jews, but by a clear departure from the Pharisaic
traditions of the second temple period.
If as Jewish believers in
Christ they considered themselves no longer under the jurisdiction of the
Sanhedrin; then how were they to be governed? Certainly they could not
simply copy the faulty model they came out of; especially since it cultivated
the spiritual arrogance that caused many in Israel to miss the time of the
While the 'new wine' of the
Holt Spirit was with them as promised by the Lord; a casual reading of the book
of Acts tells us that they were mindful of Jesus' warning that
"...new wine must be put into new wineskins."
As we move along the timeline
recorded in the book of Acts; it is clear that three separate
functions had emerged as part of this picture of governance. While the apostles
were clearly the first type of minister that stood out in the early church as
leaders; the choosing of deacons (Acts 6:1-6) and the differentiation of elders
from the ministry of apostles (Acts 15:6) clearly demonstrate the beginnings of
what served as biblical oversight in the first century.
As noted earlier: the only
biblical changes instituted to this framework for governing the church in
Jerusalem appears to be the expansion of the equipping role of the apostles to
accommodate the ongoing revelation of the five-fold ministry as it came to
include the additional equipping roles of prophet, evangelist, pastor and
As we allow the
institutional definitions of - five fold ministers -
deacons - to decrease, and
allow the Christ-centered biblical expression of these roles to increase; I
believe we will see once again the emergence of the full counsel of God inherent
in His governmental design.
While we will explore the
biblical function of these roles at greater length; if we look at them briefly
according to the pattern of Isaiah 33:22 we will see the separation of power
that was noted earlier as we applied this foundational scripture to the U.S.
For the LORD is our
(Elders - given to mediate disputes and to be
examples to the flock)
The LORD is our
(Fivefold ministries - given to
equip the saints)
The LORD is our King;
(Deacons - given to
administer justice; oversight of Kingdom resources)
He will save us;
While we will in separate
sections explore the biblical functions and qualifications of these roles at
greater length; it is important to see that the biblical checks and balances in
this framework allowed for corrective measures to be taken on a local level;
upholding the courts of justice and the the banner of the King established by
the presence of the Holy Spirit and by uncompromised obedience to the Word of
If we are to once again
receive the refreshing that comes from the presence of the Lord, be equipped to
reap the end time harvest, and be made ready for the second coming of the Lord
Jesus Christ.; we can no longer afford to resist the increase of His government.
To continue reading the
discussion on Biblical Governance in the Body of Christ; Click on of the
IRS Church Seizure is a
Tragedy for Religious Liberty
Congressman Ron Paul,
February 26, 2001
February 13th marked a sad day for religious
liberty in America, as the federal government took the unprecedented step of
seizing a church to satisfy an alleged tax debt. Armed federal marshals forcibly
removed parishioners and clergy from the Indianapolis Baptist Temple (IBT),
bringing an end to years of legal challenges that ended with the Supreme Court
refusing to hear an IBT appeal.
Amazingly, the tax dispute arose not over a
failure to pay income taxes per se, but rather over the failure of the IBT to
follow tax withholding rules. The tax code forces all employers, including
churches, to act as collection agents for the IRS by presumptively withholding a
portion of every employee's paycheck for federal taxes. The IBT steadfastly has
refused to withhold taxes from its employees, arguing that religious beliefs
prevent it from acting as an agent for a secular government agency. Two
important facts have been largely overlooked in the ensuing controversy. First,
the IBT (unlike most churches) also refused tax benefits available to it through
registration as a tax-exempt religious organization. Second, more than 60
present and former IBT employees successfully passed IRS audits, meaning they
paid in full taxes the IBT had not withheld. So the heart of the dispute really
was about IBT's principled refusal to do the government's bidding. The real
motivation behind the IRS seizure was not to satisfy a tax bill, but rather to
set an example for any other churches that might dare to question their
obligation to act as tax collectors.
The IBT tragedy is about religious liberty,
not taxes. Churches should not be required to pay or withhold taxes any more
than they should be given tax dollars from the government. The First amendment
grants churches the absolute right to freely exercise their religious beliefs
without interference from government. When tax laws force churches to act as
collection agents for the IRS, this precious right is lost. The income tax
represents the ultimate entanglement between churches and the government. When
churches file income tax returns, the government becomes intimately familiar
with their activities. Only those faiths deemed valid by IRS bureaucrats are
rewarded with partial tax-exempt status. This entanglement chills true religious
expression, because churches may alter their message to quell criticisms of
government and avoid audits. When the government has the power to tax churches,
it ultimately has the power to control them.
The state-loving media scarcely mentioned the
IBT story, with brief articles predictably portraying the church as a fringe
organization that avoided its taxes. This follows an established pattern of
characterizing religious conservatives who protest the federal government as
dangerous extremists, implicitly associated with militias and racists. Imagine
the national media coverage, and resulting public outrage, if a minority church
was seized over a refusal to pay taxes. Protestors supporting left-wing causes
like abortion, affirmative action, environmentalism, feminism, AIDS, and animal
rights consistently are shown as courageous martyrs fighting for principle
against an unfeeling society and government. Conservative protestors, however,
are shown as sinister bigots who selfishly refuse to follow benign laws and
politically correct social rules.
The IBT story has resounded with many
Americans, however. A strong undercurrent of dissent has manifested itself below
the mainstream media radar, on radio talk shows and websites. My office has
received hundreds of angry letters, emails, and phone calls denouncing the
government's actions. People of all faiths understand that the threat to
religious liberty affects all Americans. No society can remain free if it lacks
strong institutions to challenge an overreaching government.
Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the U.S. House of
All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena risks losing
its tax-exempt status because of a former rector's
remarks in 2004.
By Patricia Ward Biederman and Jason Felch
Times Staff Writers
November 7, 2005
The Internal Revenue
Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal
churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an
antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.
Rector J. Edwin Bacon of
All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning
services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev.
George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.
In his sermon, Regas, who
from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus
participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John
Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either
man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.
But he criticized the war
in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine
of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy
that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."
On June 9, the church
received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you
may not be tax-exempt as a church … " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt
organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and
The letter went on to say
that "our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los
Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the
The IRS cited The Times
story's description of the sermon as a "searing indictment of the Bush
administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts
as inimical to the values of Jesus."
As Bacon spoke, 1984 Nobel
Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a co-celebrant of Sunday's Requiem
Eucharist, looked on. We are so careful at our church never to
endorse a candidate," Bacon said in a later interview. "One of the
strongest sermons I've ever given was against President Clinton's fraying of the
social safety net."
Telephone calls to IRS
officials in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles were not returned.
On a day when churches
throughout California took stands on both sides of Proposition 73, which would
bar abortions for minors unless parents are notified, some at All Saints feared
the politically active church had been singled out.
"I think obviously we were
a bit shocked and dismayed," said Bob Long, senior warden for the church's
oversight board. "We felt somewhat targeted."
Bacon said the church had
retained the services of a Washington law firm with expertise in tax-exempt
And he told the
congregation: "It's important for everyone to understand that the IRS concerns
are not supported by the facts."
After the initial inquiry,
the church provided the IRS with a copy of all literature given out before the
election and copies of its policies, Bacon said.
But the IRS recently
informed the church that it was not satisfied by those materials, and would
proceed with a formal examination. Soon after that, church officials decided to
inform the congregation about the dispute.
In an October letter to
the IRS, Marcus Owens, the church's tax attorney and a former head of the IRS
tax-exempt section, said, "It seems ludicrous to suggest that a pastor cannot
preach about the value of promoting peace simply because the nation happens to
be at war during an election season."
Owens said that an IRS
audit team had recently offered the church a settlement during a face-to-face
"They said if there was a
confession of wrongdoing, they would not proceed to the exam stage. They would
be willing not to revoke tax-exempt status if the church admitted intervening in
The church declined the
Long said Bacon "is fond
of saying it's a sin not to vote, but has never told anyone how to vote. We
don't do that. We preach to people how to vote their values, the biblical
Regas, who was rector of
All Saints from 1967 to 1995, said in an interview that he was surprised by the
IRS action "and then I became suspicious, suspicious that they were going after
a progressive church person."
Regas helped the current
church leadership collect information for the IRS on his sermon and the church's
policies on involvement in political campaigns.
Some congregants were
upset that a sermon citing Jesus Christ's championing of peace and the poor was
the occasion for an IRS probe.
"I'm appalled," said
70-year-old Anne Thompson of Altadena, a professional singer who also makes
vestments for the church.
"In a government that
leans so heavily on religious values, that they would pull a stunt like this, it
makes me heartsick."
Joe Mirando, an engineer
from Burbank, questioned whether the 3,500-member church would be under scrutiny
if it were not known for its activism and its liberal stands on social issues.
"The question is, is it
politically motivated?" he said. "That's the underlying feeling of everyone
here. I don't have enough information to make a decision, but there's a
Bacon revealed the IRS
investigation at both morning services. Until his announcement, the mood of the
congregation had been solemn because the services remembered, by name, those
associated with the church who had died since last All Saints Day.
Regas' 2004 sermon
imagined how Jesus would admonish Bush and Kerry if he debated them. Regas never
urged parishioners to vote for one candidate over the other, but he did say that
he believes Jesus would oppose the war in Iraq, and that Jesus would be saddened
by Bush's positions on the use and testing of nuclear weapons.
In the sermon, Regas said,
"President Bush has led us into war with Iraq as a response to terrorism. Yet I
believe Jesus would say to Bush and Kerry: 'War is itself the most extreme form
of terrorism. President Bush, you have not made dramatically clear what have
been the human consequences of the war in Iraq.' "
Later, he had Jesus
confront both Kerry and Bush: "I will tell you what I think of your war: The sin
at the heart of this war against Iraq is your belief that an American life is of
more value than an Iraqi life. That an American child is more precious than an
Iraqi baby. God loathes war."
If Jesus debated Bush and
Kerry, Regas said, he would say to them, "Why is so little mentioned about the
In his own voice, Regas
said: ''The religious right has drowned out everyone else. Now the faith of
Jesus has come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war and pro-American…. I'm not
pro-abortion, but pro-choice. There is something vicious and violent about
coercing a woman to carry to term an unwanted child."
When you go into the
voting booth, Regas told the congregation, "take with you all that you know
about Jesus, the peacemaker. Take all that Jesus means to you. Then vote your
Owens, the tax attorney,
said he was surprised that the IRS is pursuing the case despite explicit
statements by Regas that he was not trying to influence the congregation's vote.
"I doubt it's politically
motivated," Owens said. ""I think it is more a case of senior management at IRS
not paying attention to what the rules are."
According to Owens, six
years ago the IRS used to send about 20 such letters to churches a year. That
number has increased sharply because of the agency's recent delegation of audit
authority to agents on the front lines, he said.
He knew of two other
churches, both critical of government policies, that had received similar
letters, Owens said.
It's unclear how often the
IRS raises questions about the tax-exempt status of churches.
While such action is rare,
the IRS has at least once revoked the charitable designation of a church.
Shortly before the 1992
presidential election, a church in Binghamton, N.Y., ran advertisements against
Bill Clinton's candidacy, and the tax agency ruled that the congregation could
not retain its tax-exempt status because it had intervened in an election.
Bacon said he thought the
IRS would eventually drop its case against All Saints.
"It is a social action
church, but not a politically partisan church," he said.
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