What is a FREE & UNREGISTERED CHURCH?
You may be wondering what a free and unregistered church is. The term “free church” refers to a Christian church that is intrinsically separated from government as opposed to a state church. A free church does not define government policy, nor have governments define church policy or theology, nor seeks or receives government endorsement or funding for its general mission. It is unlicensed, unregistered, and unregulated by government. A free church is under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and protected by Him and the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is important to understand that there is NO LAW in America requiring a church to incorporate or apply for a 501-C-3 tax exemption.
We, at UpRiver Bible Church, declare that Jesus Christ is Sovereign over His bride, the church. HE wants His bride to be without spot, blemish or wrinkle. We hope that you can clearly understand that the Bride of Jesus, the church, is NOT a corporation but a living body of people. Scripture encourages us as believers:
Romans 12:12 – “… be not conformed to this world”
It is important to note that when a church incorporates it becomes a non-profit “business” which owes allegiance to its creator = the state (18 Am. Jur., 2d). When a church applies for and receives the 501-C-3 tax recognition, she (the church is referred to as a “she” in the scriptures) has voluntarily become an “it”. That exemption recognition comes with a voluntary muzzle and a whole set of “regulations” that are not Biblical, nor desirable.
Our authority is the Word of God, and in it we are commanded:
Matthew 22:21 – “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are
Caesars and unto God the things that are God’s”
Our Founding Fathers were well aware of the atrocities that had taken place in Europe (and other places) where the Christian Church was regulated or controlled by the State. They determined not to have that in America.
So, just what exactly is a free-church? A free-church operates independent of, and is in no way subordinate to, the civil government. It is the right of any church to operate free of the corrupting and compromising influence and control of the State; and it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
A free-church is not some radical-fringe concept. Rather, the free-church was one of the most influential, and certainly one of the most common, institutions in early American history. The worldview of those men who fought for America’s independence embraced an uncompromising belief that the church was not an underling, a vassal, or in any way subordinate to any king, parliament, or any other civil government body.
The church is ordained and established by Jesus Christ Himself, and Christ has never delegated His authority to the civil jurisdiction to rule in the affairs of His church.
A free-church is the opposite of a State-Church. A State-Church is a church which is organized by the State, and/or is controlled and regulated by the State, or which exists at the pleasure of the State.
Americans are generally offended by the notion of the State creating or controlling their churches, or that their churches would be subordinate to the State. However, this is exactly what has occurred in recent years as a direct result of churches incorporating and seeking a 501c3 status — they have become State-Churches.
A free-church is a church that is truly separate, independent and autonomous from the State. It is established by a local body of Christian believers, or chartered or “planted” by another church body or denomination, without the permission or sanction of the State.
The only “sovereign” of the free-church is the Lord Jesus Christ. A free-church cannot incorporate, it cannot seek a 501c3 status, it cannot become a tax collector for the State (withholding agent), it cannot accept government-issued tax numbers (EIN).
We believe that the church must cease operating as an underling, subordinate to the State, or in any way dependent upon the State for “privileges and benefits.” The solution rests in the church organizing and operating as a church — the ecclesia, not as something other than what the Lord Jesus Himself ordained and specified. Jesus spoke of the church as a “body” with Himself as the “head” of His church, and we as various “members of the body.” The church is, therefore, not an “organization” (a “legal entity”) but a living, breathing “organism.”
This should not be a difficult biblical doctrine to grasp, particularly for the Pastor. Sadly, however, since local churches started organizing as tax-exempt non-profit corporations in the mid-twentieth century, and since the incorporated 501c3 church is now the status quo, many folks have a hard time conceiving of the church operating as just a church. For some odd reason, just being a church isn’t good enough anymore for many Christians.
The courts understand that “a free church is not an entity recognized in law,” meaning that they have no jurisdiction over the church. However, organizing a church as a church is an especially difficult concept for attorneys to grasp. Few attorneys can comprehend that there are things and issues completely outside the purview and jurisdiction of the civil government, nor do they much care for the idea. The legal support for the State’s lack of jurisdiction over the church in America is not only the Word of God, but the First Amendment to the Constitution for the United States:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
No church in any nation at any point in history can lay claim to the freedoms and liberties that are guaranteed the church in America. We believe that the First Amendment is an act of God’s Providence, here in the United States of America, to safeguard His church and maintain its independence from the State.