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(Disclaimer – this is not legal advice. Please seek a licensed professional for assistance with legal matters)
501c3 non-profit corporation
The concept of incorporation and churches would be assumed by most to be a necessity, even though there is no requirement for a church to incorporate with the state. However, most go ahead with incorporation nonetheless when starting a church or ministry. This process establishes the state as the authority for granting existence as a corporate entity to that church through contract. This incorporation creates a structure similar to a business with an appointed CEO (Pastor) and board of directors (deacons). The corporate contract establishes certain rules that corporate entity must adhere to retain it’s ‘privileges’.
It may be assumed that many who incorporate with the state are seeking the 501c3 status to be tax exempt. What that means is that the church or ministry would not pay income tax on the funds received. There are certain restrictions on the entity to keep this tax exempt status. An example would be to not endorse certain political candidates or organizing in opposition to something deemed as ‘legal’ by the state (legal but not necessarily moral). While many churches claim they won’t be muzzled by the restrictions of the corporate contract, it doesn’t change the terms of the contract at the end of the day. If push comes to shove, those terms can be enforced.
So why does this matter?
These are just a few questions I have for those who seek this corporate status and/or continue to justify without regard. Keep in mind I am not condemning those who have incorporated or those who attend a corporate entity on a weekly basis. I’m simply asking a few questions.
This is an aspect worth exploring when understanding that that many churches appear to be financially focused in their behavior. In that case, it wouldn’t be surprising for them to seek out the ‘privilege’ for not being taxed on the income that they bring in.
Stepping back – I just don’t see how Jesus Christ would have gone to any government to ask permission to start His church. It makes no sense to try to make a spiritual entity into an corporate entity recognized by the state. The corporation, afterall, is a Roman invention. For those who claim this paperwork doesn’t effect their day to day ministry, I’d re-consider the stance. In many ways we justify our actions (or continued actions) in the light of how we would prefer to see them – rather than the way God may see them. Again, this would appear to be heart issue.
Is the heart of the church focused on the worldly structures and financial matters as a measure of ‘success’ ?
Again – I don’t condemn those associated with these corporate entities, even as some are unaware of the issue.(Some people are just not interested in finding out what is going on; you can’t find if you’re not looking or at least curious enough to look) I know for certain that God can use whatever he may for his Will. At the same time – I cannot in good conscience avoid this reality and/ or not act like this type of arrangement wouldn’t bring leaven and further foolishness/justification on other matters in the church.
At least at the time of this writing – I do not intend to go full depth into the 501c3 issue. The aim is simply provide enough details for you to be aware. Those who want to find out more will and can find out more:
Ruling Leadership and structured ‘Worship’
Many pastors today revel in their status and presumed ‘rulership’ over their ‘flock’. The top down clergy/laity structure does not represent what had been laid down in the Book of Acts. There is even a term used in today’s vernacular calling ‘church’ attendees: ‘pew warmers’. While this term may be fitting in some instances (I always like a warm seat honestly), I’d dare say that this is likely by design from the beginning and seems to benefit those who perpetuate this ‘traditional’ structure. The structure is top down in as far as the “Pastor” choosing a lot of the topics/news/sermon/ cues for next song, etc. If you have been in a church, you likely know how the story goes.
With this observation – the ‘church’ becomes a passive audience per se to which the ‘leadership’ decides the way things will unfold. This usually but not always – leaves the attendees with little participatory input. In Acts, it was more lateral in the sense that some would sing, teach, etc. How often have you seen a church service free flow in the way the discussions or topics manifest ? Granted – there is nothing wrong with pre-planned preaching. Clearly this takes preparation – but that is not solely what the gathering of the church is for, but rather a component of it.
How often have you felt involved in a church service ? Have you ever had input or something to add in Spirit that would have benefited/edified others – only to lack the opportunity because the last planned song for that day just ended and it’s time for preaching? When you’re prodded a long and going through the motions on any given Sunday – does this lack of engagement build the church up or the leadership up ?
As we mentioned in the last topic of 501c3 – the ‘pastor’ in most cases assumes a ‘Ceo’ type role. From my own observations – I wouldn’t say that’s too far off base on paper and in practice. Would you say that the pastors you know or have to come to know act as an unintended dictator within the church or a servant to the flock ? When we think of a servant, do we think of someone who is frequently making decisions for others or is asking what is needed? Does the server at the restaurant pick what you’ll order when you attend a restaurant ? (Let’s hope not because it may be the most expensive item).
But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
This is not to say that every pastor has this mentality, but it would be ignorant not acknowledge this top down structure and flow of most services. (At least in America). No – I’m not saying your pastor is bad, blah, blah blah but he might be ? The questions are simply for examination to what is actually going on versus what ought to be going on. Again as we hold on to tradition and what we think is ‘right’ we are often lead astray and pay the price. Could that price be spending a few decades in a system with little spiritual growth, individual participation, genuine edification, etc ?
By refusing to see things for what they are versus justifying faulty tradition – do we gain or lose ? Are there many in the system who belong there – deceived from the onset and continued to be deceived until the end ? Are there any out there who spent years and years in the system only to leave at a point of time after many years ? or maybe fairly quickly ? (***Leave a comment below – your input below might be beneficial to someone in some way).
The liturgical way of ‘worship’ is near robotic and is predictable to say the least. It’s structured as to put those attending through the motions, time and time again. Ritual and repetition therein further cements the propagation of the ‘worship’ and what some come to expect when ‘worshiping’. Would you say that when you think of worshiping God you think of the rigamarole of what you’ve seen/come to know in church?
Taking one step back – in the context of some of our relationships, COULD a repetitive and pre-planned discourse with friend or spouse become disingenuous, hollow, and maybe careless at times ? If God does not like vain and repetitious prayer, do you think he enjoys vain and repetitious ‘worship’ in many of these Churches ? Does the the Holy Spirit only speak in 30-45 minute increments – or is that the new standard of the American attention span ?
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Hireling Mentality of Pastors
It would be foolish to assume that some pastors are not ‘preaching’ Sunday mornings simply for a paycheck. Look no further than the prosperity types proclaiming that God will make you rich by giving money to them. Look no further than the cool/hip southern baptist preacher (who is totally with the times) inciting jokes and laughter almost with the sole intent of entertainment based on their antics.The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
–1 Peter 5:1-2
I wonder in some seminaries if those looking to post-graduation seek a large church for monetary reasons over spiritual reasons. This issue ties in with the 501c3 aspect to an extent because of the financial root. I don’t see any issue with a someone being taken care of and supported in serving the Lord. At the same time – would it not appear that many seek grandiose buildings, with large congregations, a fancy office, etc. versus a small group who need fed ? Which type of scenario would be compensated more in most cases ? It’s not news to make the point that many pastors in America are simply in it for a money and don’t have other options when it comes to income.
When you approach ministry or service as a ‘career’ – how does that potentially effect those under your leadership ? Where is the heart from the beginning ? Is the overhead of a huge building, massive asphalt parking lot, hi-tech projectors, sound system, etc. really required to preach the word of God ? or is it nice to have just because ? I’m not saying if you have these things that it is bad, but look at the mentality of those that posses these and further possess more. How much clout and possessions did the apostles and disciples have when propagating the gospel ? Is it all needed or simply vanity disguised as worship or playing church ? Are the pastors willing to lay their live for their flock or when push comes to shove would they rather take the money and run ? -MD
To be continued in Part 3.