Is the Ministry God's Government?
by Fred Coulter
Have you been impacted by strict authoritarian
rule through a church organization? Did you know that this kind
of control was gained through the SLEIGHT OF HAND? What kind of
church government does God want for His church?
OF THE PEOPLE that I associate with have, like myself, come out of
a tightly controlled church. The experience of being under strict
authority has left a long and lingering impact upon us. Anyone who
has experienced this can relate to what I am saying.
Have you personally been impacted by a Church of God? Was the impact
good or bad? Does it still impact your life?
Let's cover some very basic ways in which we were impacted. Some of
these things were very subtle and damaging, and unfortunately left
many people with wounds upon their souls.
How Do Jesus Christ and God the Father View the Church of
All of the scriptures that I will be covering have been used to prove
human Church hierarchical authority -- such as the Catholic Church.
But, when you examine them carefully they are the exact opposite.
"And I say unto you that you are Peter
and upon this rock I will build my church..." (Matthew 16:18).
We know the rock refers to Christ not to Peter or any man. We know
that Jesus said "I will build my church."
Those who are called by Jesus are called "My sheep,"
and "My brethren." I want to emphasize
that Jesus was saying "My Church."
will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against
The word hell is not referring to the place of ever burning fire,
but is from the Greek word hades, meaning
the grave. In other words, the Church of which Christ
is the head would not die out.
Baptism into Jesus Christ
you therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching
them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and,
lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew
The end of the world means the end of the age. The church age will
close at the first resurrection. The age of the kingdom of heaven
will start when the seven last plagues begin.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached:
and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for
the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy
Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
Holy Spirit comes from God the Father. We were told that the Church
is the bride of Christ and that the Church is the mother of us all
-- the Church is the Body of Christ. We were also told that all of
the different churches in the world could not be the Body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote:
as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of
that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For
by one Spirit [Spirit of God, from God the Father] we are all baptized
into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond
or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1
of us was baptized into God's Church after repenting of our sins (the
transgressions of God's holy, righteous and perfect law). We also
accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Master, our High Priest in heaven,
and the soon coming king in the world tomorrow. We were not baptized
into any sect or denomination of this world (or any organization of
men), but into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sins. We were
completely immersed into water, then raised out of that watery grave.
We were prayed over with the laying on of hands in order to receive
the Holy Spirit.
We were told that the Church of God is a spiritual organization. True.
It is likened to the body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the
Church. True. Next, we were told that the corporate church organization
we were in was the only true church. This was a SLEIGHT OF HAND.
Is Church Authority the Government of God?
What happened after baptism? Then we assembled together with other
baptized believers in various congregations, and then we were introduced
to the government of God/Church authority which was a SLEIGHT OF HAND.
We were told that the ministers had rule over our lives. As time went
on, that rule became more and more stifling. Why was it so hard for
people to readjust once they left an authoritarian Church of God?
It was partly because they had allowed the ministers to think for
them. But it ran deeper than that. We were told that if we left the
authoritarian rule of the Church, we would lose our salvation.
We were originally told that the Church was a spiritual organism.
We were also told it was possible that there could be people sitting
in the one true Church of God who did not have the Spirit of God.
Therefore, these people were not truly a part of God's Church. Even
though an individual might be a member of a congregation of the Church
of God, he must have the Holy Spirit of God to truly be in the Church
But the change came. We were then ruled over by the church government,
meaning the whole ministry, with authority from the top down. We were
told that the ministry was the government of God. Why was this a SLEIGHT
OF HAND? Those in authority twisted the scriptures to uphold their
own authority. The Truth is -- The ministry is NOT the government
of God. They are supposed to be the servants of the people, not overlords
What is the True Government of God?
The true government of God is the rule of God in our lives as we are
led by the Holy Spirit. Also it is going to be the rule of Christ
through the Kingdom of God on the earth when He returns. The ministry
usurped God's own authority and contrary to scripture made it their
own. This concept and use of authority becomes devastating, because
the leadership took upon themselves the government of God. With that
very act, they supplanted God! They may not have fully comprehended
what they did.
In doing this they took advantage of the membership. But each one
of us has said to God, "You will rule my life." In other
words, we are dedicated to God -- NOT to an overlording Ministry,
who usurped the Authority of Christ to themselves.
Love Toward God Transferred to Men
next SLEIGHT OF HAND was the taking of the love, loyalty and faith
that we give to God and to the brethren and transferring it to men.
They then exercised hierarchical lordship and authority over the brethren.
Such rule is contrary to Jesus Christ's direct command.
there was also a strife among them, which of these should be accounted
the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise
lordship [Greek, kata-kurieuo] over them; and they that exercise
authority [Greek, kata-exousiazo] upon them are called benefactors"
"Kata-kurieuo" means to exercise
lordship downward from the top. Likewise, "kata-exousiazo"
means to exercise authority from the top down.
Weren't the ministers called our benefactors as they leveraged this
authority to themselves? Yes, they were, but Christ does not want
the love, dedication, faith and loyalty that belongs to God and to
Christ given to a man.
Why does God not want that leveraged to a man? Because people are
then worshiping a man, who becomes an idol in the place of God. Now
we are getting to the crux of the issue. Why is it that God does not
want the ministry to leverage that love, faith, loyalty and dedication
that you give toward God? Because men take God's place. And when they
take God's place, what happens? You serve man and you have created
a pope, a person in the place of God on earth. We had abusive ministerial
authority exercised over us. We were told that these men were our
benefactors. Having what belonged to God leveraged subtly into the
hands of men was devastating to the people, because they had committed
themselves to God, not men.
God is a Jealous God
This was a tremendous sin against the people and against God. God
says we are to have no other gods before Him. He is a jealous God.
What does God want from you?
"And you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,
and with all your strength: this is the first commandment"
When that love, which should only go to God, is leveraged to a human
being or organization, it causes you to love God less because they
have diverted the love that should be directed only to God unto men
and their corporate organizations. Then the vanity of the ministry
becomes involved, as evidenced by the authority exercised upon the
members. Now then, let's take this a step further. Once you allow
someone to take part of Mark 12:30 away from God and take it for themselves,
what happens? An organization of men steals part of your love of God.
Your love and loyalty goes to them instead of to God. God is a jealous
God. He called you, and Christ died for you. He doesn't want anything
or anyone interfering with that love.
What happens when men receive this love and devotion? They organize
it. This became very clear to me when I attended a secular business
conference. The meeting was very much like the ministerial conferences
that I had attended in the past. The corporate leaders had all of
their people in attendance. The corporation was divided into regions,
with all the national and international leadership. I was sitting
in the middle of it when all of a sudden the church experience became
CRYSTAL CLEAR! Through the use of the organization of a modern corporation,
the church had assigned to the corporation the prerogatives, loyalty
and love of God. All of these should have gone only to God. So, by
super imposing the business corporate structure upon the church, they
corrupted the way of God. But, God is not going to let anyone take
that from Him without a penalty. This was a SLEIGHT OF HAND!
The statement that there is only one Church on the face of the earth,
is a true statement. But the claim that "Our Church of God, our
organization, is the only True Church of God" is false. It may
be a Church of God, but not the only Church of God.
As time went on, the threat was implied that if you left this church
organization, you left God. This would be a true statement if you
left God the Father and Jesus Christ. But not if you left an organization
of men. This is how these prerogatives of God were leveraged to the
corporate church organization. Isn't it subtle? "If you leave
this church you have left God." The fear of church authority
and the ministry replaced the fear and love of God and a corporate
idol was created. The realization dawned on me while I was sitting,
listening to the business conference -- I had heard this before.
The Intimidation of Fear Religion
the exercise of control and authority over you, your freedom of thought
disappeared. People became fearful and were intimidated as the ministry
exercised "lordship" and "authority" over them.
Do you remember what those in authority said? We were told not to
criticize the ministry. Essentially, we were told, our only duty was
to pray and to pay. But when we bring an offering or a tithe to God,
should it not be from the heart instead of motivated by fear through
the authority and intimidation of men?
When it reached the point that all these things had been leveraged
to men and had become the focal point of all that was done, it became
clear that the ministry had taken upon themselves the prerogatives
of God. (If you were to say anything against a minister, you were
considered to be on the verge of committing the "unpardonable
sin.") We were also told that if we said anything against Headquarters
or the ministers, who were "the government of God," we were
then saying it against God. They had fully put themselves in the place
of God -- The SLEIGHT OF HAND.
This is what held the people in that Church of God in such absolute
fear. You feared the minister and you feared leaving the Church. You
couldn't trust yourself; you couldn't trust your own thoughts; you
couldn't trust God.
Many members who left that Church of God organization were told that
they had lost their salvation. They were told that if they were going
to get into the Kingdom of God, they would have to go through the
horror of the tribulation -- SLEIGHT OF HAND. The threat of loss of
life and salvation is devastating and fearful.
A Main Appeal of Evangelism
How were people drawn to this Church of God? One of the main appeals
of the evangelistic outreach was showing a way to escape the Great
Tribulation. One of the primary articles was "There is
a Way of Escape."
Think about it: Doesn't everyone want to save his or her own skin?
When you were told there was a way of escape, didn't you want to escape?
And when you came into the Church, one of the first sermons that really
captured your imagination featured the following:
always that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things..."
Then the minister would give a detailed sermon on a place of safety,
understood to be in Petra. And if you got to Petra, you had it made
-- Salvation was assured.
The promise of personal escape was another SLEIGHT OF HAND. God will
provide a way of escape, because God does the calling; and for those
who truly repent, and love God, keep his commandments, and live his
way of life, they will be given spiritual salvation.
What was another SLEIGHT OF HAND that took place at this point? You
were told that if you left this corporate structure, you were not
going to escape the Great Tribulation.
This became another hook which was put into you by the ministry. Do
you see how subtly these things were done? Another hook was presented
as the solution to your financial problems: tithing -- first, second,
third, and generous offerings.
But an escape from the Great Tribulation does not balance logically
with the statement that says we're going to suffer for Christ. The
message that was preached was, in effect: If you tithe faithfully
and give abundant offerings to the Church, you could buy a way of
escape and salvation. These were not the exact words. But it was implied
that if you didn't tithe, and if you didn't give all you could, you
surely wouldn't be protected.
There are still people who are locked into this fear induced mindset.
They are so locked into it that they are afraid to think for themselves.
In other words, they have left their brains at the door of the church,
and have never picked them up again.
How Dangerous can this Fear be?
I remember when a famous traveling evangelist came out to our local
church area. The service was held in a local YMCA on a hot summer
evening, with no air-conditioning and the windows open. While the
evangelist was preaching, there was a loud screeching of tires and
a crashing sound. There had been a collision right outside the window.
Due to natural reaction, everyone turned to look at the accident.
Maybe someone had been hurt. Maybe we could have helped. But the evangelist
said, "How dare you look at the wreck, what I am saying is more
important. You listen to what I have to say. Don't any of you dare
look out there." The brethren were fearful, they sat obediently
looking forward with their eyes wide open. He said "Brethren,
with all this church trouble we have been having, I want to tell you
that our church leader may be 95% wrong and you may be 95% right,
but God is going to uphold him and not you! You will be cast into
the lake of fire for rebelling against God's Government."
Fear Destroys Truth
do you understand the problems that occurred when these prerogatives
were subtly leveraged to the ministers? I hope so. But worst of all,
most didn't realize it was happening.
The brethren knew they had to obey the ministers, and that they had
better attend Church. If they didn't they would get a phone call asking,
"Where have you been and what have you been doing?" (Attendance
was secretly taken each week.)
To keep everyone involved, some congregations had so many activities
that all of the free time of the members was spent at church activities.
In addition to Sabbath Services there were sports on Sunday, Bible
Study on Wednesday, Spokesman Club one night of the week, and many
other obligations. It often amounted to seven days a week. In addition,
deacons and local church elders had many other meetings to attend.
Because the people were fearful of losing salvation, they would end
up being fully involved in the Church. But how is the church supposed
to be held together? Is it to be held together with command and control
tactics exercised by the ministers and organized activities? The scriptures
show that the Church is to be knit together in love. Instead the ministry
held the Church together by authority and fear. And then one day it
may have dawned on some to ask, "God, why am I so miserable in
The answer is: -- That the leadership violated the very
first commandment because they leveraged the love of God to themselves.
It was so subtle. Then they replaced God's love with their own authority.
Correct Church Structure
What is the correct organizational structure for the Church? The only
structure needed is one that meets the needs of the congregations
such as: finding a place to meet, printing booklets and magazines,
distribution and mailing, etc.
The organization should never take to itself the love of God. It should
never allow into its structure the ability to leverage the prerogatives
of God to the corporation or to an individual leader.
There also was a problem at the Church College. Not everyone who attended
was taken into "The Work" or into the "Ministry."
If a person wasn't hired by the Church after graduation, they were
looked upon as an outcast. This is because the goal of working for
the Church had been so pounded into everyone's minds.
If a certain person was not proficient in doing a certain task, they
should have been released from that position with love and God's blessing.
It should not have been forced upon them as a do or die situation.
Some graduates would leave the Church College feeling like whipped
dogs. They were people with ability, but made to feel like failures.
This was due to the fear of and the authority of the ministry, and
because the opportunity for a person to be a part of "the work"
was put on entirely the wrong level. It was put on the level of salvation,
when it should have been on the level of individual aptitude for a
Structure By Committee Did Not Solve The Problem
When the constitution and by-laws for another Church of God in which
I was involved was set up, we signed our own death warrant. A very
rapid one, because we hadn't learned anything from our prior history.
We hadn't learned the lesson we have just covered. We started out
loving God, and doing what we should, but when we organized to the
point that the corporation and the structure took us away from loving
and serving God, it went down the tubes very rapidly. We failed even
more than our former affiliation had, partially because we were smaller,
but also because we had created committees. Instead of having a dictatorship
of one man, we had dictatorship by committees, with men who believed
they sat in the seat of God. They then made judgments, not only for
things that they considered right or wrong, but on whether one's heart
was right with God or not. Who knows whose heart is right with God?
Only God knows.
How would you feel if you had deeply repented in your mind and your
heart, and you were told it was unacceptable? This is exactly what
these committees did, sitting in the seat of God.
Wrong Answer to the Problems
The greatest mistake in that other church of God was this: we believed
that the problems in our former corporate church were structure related.
We believed that by changing the structure from a one-man rule to
rule-by-committee the problems would be eliminated. But we failed
to learn that the structure of an organization does not change human
Our biggest problem is human nature. We couldn't eliminate the problems
of our former church of God by changing to a different type of structure.
The only way to solve the problem is to get back to the first commandment
of loving God and structure everything to that, according to the function.
Our former church became a movement because we wanted to do a work
for God, rather than letting God show us what work we should do. We
used our own devices and our own thoughts. When you create a movement,
you have created a monument instead of loving and serving God. Therefore,
it was doomed to destruction. I am grateful for the mercy of God that
He did not destroy us physically.
What Does God Want?
Now we can see for the first time what God wants us to do. We are
not to create anything of our own devising that will keep people from
loving God. Remembering this is the key. Any organizational structure
should be set up to accomplish whatever tasks need to be done, but
the task is not a matter of salvation! Is typing a matter of salvation?
No. Is writing a matter of salvation? No. Is where you live a matter
of salvation? No. Is what you do for your job a matter of salvation?
No, not as long as you are able to love God and keep his commandments.
So, the job is not a part of salvation.
Our former church made a person's job a part of salvation. That was
then incorporated into the hierarchical, ministerial structure. It
should have never been done!
Before it fell into complete apostasy, God allowed our former affiliations
to preach the basics. Many people have left that church organization,
but they do not understand what went wrong. As a result, many brethren
are wandering about like wounded, battered, scattered sheep.
What a shame that our former Churches have gotten themselves into
such a mess. However, in order for us to learn the love of God, it
seems that we must come into a Church of God, and then go out of a
Church of God, so that we can meet with brethren who truly love God
and each other.
Purpose For The Church
The apostle Paul was inspired to clearly define the purpose of the
church and ministry:
he gave some, apostles: and some, prophets: and some, evangelists,
and some, pastors and teachers" (Ephesians 4:11).
The key is in verse 12, please look at the words very carefully. Does
it say for the ruling of the government of God over the brethren?
It doesn't say that, does it?
Notice it says:
the perfecting of the saints, ..."
To do what? To make the disciple as the teacher...
the work of the ministry, ..."
actually that means for the work of the service.
is a service.
The meaning of edify is: to teach and up-build in love.
the edifying of the body of Christ: (v. 13) Til we all... "
Who is all? -- Whoever are apostles, and prophets, and evangelists,
and pastors, and teachers, and brethren, we all together...
"...come in the unity of the faith,
and of the knowledge of the Son of God...
When human beings
take the prerogatives of God to themselves, they reject the true purpose
of the ministry and destroy the knowledge of the Son of God. We can
comprehend a great deal more if we are looking directly to Jesus Christ
and God the Father, rather than to men or an organization.
"And of the knowledge of the Son of
God unto a perfect man..." (or unto a spiritually mature Christian.)
"Unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ."
This is a huge
job, that can't be done when the prerogatives of God have been leveraged
to human beings, or to human authority, or to a corporate church organization.
v. 14 :
we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro..."
Isn't that what
has happened in our former affiliation? The members are tossed to
and fro by the authorities in the Church.
"And carried about with every wind of
doctrine by the SLEIGHT OF MEN, and cunning craftiness whereby they
lie in wait to deceive."
But isn't it
something that the deception was so clever and the SLEIGHT OF HAND
so subtle that even those who did it, didn't know what they were doing.
However, here is what Christ wants,
v. 15-16 :
speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things which
is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined
together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according
to the effectual working in the measure of every part, which makes
increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
that's the correct church structure. Don't allow the structure of
the administration to interfere with the first commandment of loving
God with all your heart, mind, soul, and being, so that you may come
to the full knowledge and measure in the stature of Christ.