Most of you – and I would say that 99.9% of all of you who attend a church, attend one that has as part of its structure, a set of corporate by-laws, a corporate name and a corporate filing.
It also has as part of its filings, a tax-exempt certificate that allows them to not pay taxes such as sales taxes on items it purchases, taxes on its income such as donations or interest on any funds that it might be holding such as savings. It also permits you to deduct any donations you make to the church from your income, thus excluding these donations from taxation on your part.
In other words, your church is for all intents and purposes, a not-for-profit corporation under the laws of the United States Internal Revenue Service Code.
What does a church have to give up in exchange for this favorable financial treatment? Its very freedom. Its freedom of speech, its freedom of religion.
Let me ask you, when was the last time you heard your pastor – or any preacher – stand up and rail against a political party platform, officeholder or candidate for their stance on, oh say, abortion, or homosexuality and same-gender marriage, or so-called “transgender rights”?
I would say that most of you never have. Oh, they preach against it in general – but to call out a political party, officeholder or candidate? That’s off-limits. Ask your pastor – if they’re honest, they won’t beat around the bush – they’ll be straight-up honest and tell you that they can’t.
But why not – why can’t they do this? God commands us to call out sin! The prophets did it all the time!
Well here in the USA, back in 1954, then Senator Lyndon Johnson (yes, the former president was a senator) – did a little fancy footwork, that only can be done in the Washington swamp.
He made an amendment to a bill in the 83rd Congress, H.R. 8300, which was enacted into law as the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 – as part of Section 501, Paragraph C, Subsection 3 – known affectionately as 501(c)(3) – or the “not-for-profit” exemption. The amendment was agreed to without any discussion or debate and was included in Internal Revenue Code of 1954. The provision was considered uncontroversial at the time, and continued to be included when the 1954 Code was re-named as the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 during the Ronald Reagan administration.
Again, what this section does is to allow donors to these “tax exempt” organizations. to deduct their donations from their federal income tax returns. This supposedly gives donors the incentive to donate by deducting the donation from taxable income. It also treated the donations – and all income to the organization – as tax free.
In return for this favorable treatment, the “tax-exempt” organization may not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
Violating this rule could cause the organization to lose their tax-exempt status, and as such, all donations could then be considered taxable – and donors would not be permitted to deduct these donations from their federal tax returns.
Are you beginning to see why many of our churches are becoming dry today? Without the almighty dollar, they feel that they cannot operate. Like any other corporation – there’s an profit/loss (or in this case, a reserve/deficit) statement. The reserves have to outweigh the deficits. People have to be encouraged to give – and if that means selling their soul to the government, so be it.
Last month, I called out a candidate for state representative on my blog. You can read it here. If I were a non-profit corporation, I couldn’t have said anything of the sort. Saying this from the pulpit would cause me to lose my tax exempt status. Being independent however, I can say whatever I want – as long as I can back it up biblically – which I did.
Our churches have become lukewarm! Even most of the television evangelists – either they’re spouting off the latest feel-good message fit for Oprah, or they’re doing the beg-a-thon “prosperity” gospel – you know, “sow $100 and God will return so much more” – there’s only one who has the guts to call out sin and preach the gospel correctly – and that’s Jack Van Impe Ministries. At least with them, they’re not buying multi-million dollar mansions and private jets – they use it all for the work of the Lord. They live off, and pay their people, from the proceeds of their books and recorded material only – all donations to the ministry are used solely for airtime and ministry projects.
I did an informal survey – I asked, “If you could no longer deduct your tithes, offerings and donations to your church or other ministries, would you still give?”
What do you think the overwhelming response was? Pastors, hold on to your socks! 99.7% said that they would still give!
This lines up scripturally. The New Testament church didn’t have a tax-exempt status – everyone was taxed – and people still gave.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
This, was the Acts church – people gave of themselves, expecting nothing in return. That’s the way it should be!
So to pastors, I say this: Are you doing your job and shepherding Jesus’ flock? If so – then you are in charge of the local church, reporting to Jesus Christ Himself. Time to tell the “church board” that there’s a new sheriff in town, that you’ll preach the true gospel, Heaven, Hell, Sin and Repentance. Time to give up your 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and set yourself free.
But will you? Probably not. And that’s unfortunate because you can be so much more effective for the Kingdom by freeing yourself of the government plantation.
Yes, there, I said it – by being a mediocre non-profit corporation, you’re a slave to your government masters – and you cannot serve God and Money – you cannot serve two masters. That’s what you’re doing – violating scripture (Matthew 6:24) and becoming the lukewarm Church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) in the process.
Next time – I’ll convict you all about “being inclusive” – I’ll be calling out a few pastors, and denominations, by name.