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Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Tax-Exempt Status for Churches
Something that Past the Wishing said in the comment section of "Christians and Politics" caught my eye:

I sense it's just a matter of time and all churches will lose their tax exempt status ... especially regarding property tax exemptions. I can't see that the "non-church attending majority" will tolerate this much longer. It's already being challenged ...


Assuming that Past the Wishing is correct, how do you think this loss of tax-exempt status will change the church?

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posted by Lydia at 11:26 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


11 Comments:


  • At 11/08/2006 11:50:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    One word: downsizing.

    Fewer churches will be able to afford to own their buildings.

    Fewer churches will be able to afford to add on to the buildings they already own.

    More small or new churches will meet in homes or in free or low-cost venues.

    I see these changes as a good thing. Call me a socialist ( ;) ), but why pay money for a building when you could spend that money helping people who don't have food to eat or a place to sleep at night?

     
  • At 11/08/2006 12:15:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Lydia, I totally agree about feeding people and sharing lives being more important than having a fancy building, or even a building at all. this is not field of dreams, after all :) I personally think renting coffee shops after hours would be a pretty cool approach to public gatherings that are open to the larger community.

    I also think as we move more toward communities rather than large scale productions every single week, it will be more feasible to building-share or borrow/rent a space for periodic large scale events/gatherings.

     
  • At 11/08/2006 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Lydia and Jemila,

    Any of the above changes would not only be welcome, but would really challenge Jesus-followers to reflect on what it's really about in the first place. I'm of the opinion that Acts holds the key to informing us of ideas as to how the future of the body could be. In any case, "Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar and render unto God that which belongs to God" is actually archaic when applied to giving churches tax-exempt status. This feels especially true if you've ever visited a megachurch - it's like you're going to a rock show or something - and all those slick brochures and cafes - I'm sure if those behind the separation of church and state in the U.S. had envisioned this setting, there wouldn't have been any tax break. Those places just rake in the money!

     
  • At 11/08/2006 02:54:00 PM, Blogger Joy

    I think it will be a blessing... Having tax-exempt status puts government strangle holds on the church... Let us be loosed from Caesar! Christ is our king!

    Bring it on! I think this will be a way to seperate the wheat from the chaff.... are we here to serve God or be served by a powerful mega church service!

    Again, I say, bring it on!

     
  • At 11/08/2006 06:46:00 PM, Anonymous Cynthia

    I have been predicting this for years and I, too, welcome it. Right now we attend a fairly large church that is in debt for a huge building that I don't see making an impact on the community. It is just a place to have more and more stuff for us to attend. I don't want our money or time tied to this anymore. I long to be free of that and to devote time, energy and resources to serving others. The move is coming, God is pulling us out of it now.

    I like Jemila's suggestion to rent out coffee shops after hours. I just think if we didn't have our big building to drive to, we might start looking to our own neighbors to fellowship, to serve, to build community Truly become missional!

    To echo Joy, Bring it On!

     
  • At 11/08/2006 08:47:00 PM, Blogger Shoshana

    I grew up Catholic and couldn't imagine why they were tax exempt. The Catholic Church is one of the largest property owners in the WORLD. Our parish was well off, yet always campaigning for money. They didn't need it, unless they really needed to spend $10 million on the new sanctuary decorated with a fountain filled with water from the River Jordan.

    Plus every week they were telling us to call or write our politicians on this issue or another. The week they had the preprinted postcards to our congressman in the pews for us to fill out was the last time my mother and I ever attended mass (we were the last two churchgoers in the family).

    I'm not saying that a church can't advise it's congregation about moral issues in the elections, but that was crossing the line! If they wanted to be active in politics, they could pay their entrance fee like the rest of us.

     
  • At 11/08/2006 11:02:00 PM, Anonymous Christina

    I think that losing the tax-exempt status would be an opportunity to ask ourselves why we are giving in the first place. Is it to serve our own interests by getting a tax deduction or to serve God's interests?

    My husband and I pastor a cyberchurch and we decided not to file a 501(c)3 because we don't want the government dictating what we can and cannot say. Also, we wanted to challenge people to really think about their motives for giving. Surprisingly, we got a lot of support and truly joyful giving.

     
  • At 11/09/2006 03:57:00 PM, Blogger Mennonite_Pacifist

    I think this is exactly what the church needs. We are not empowered by the fiscal blessings of the state but by the Holy Spirit. The more we are forced to lean not on money or national support but on the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the more we will be the Church/Bride we are called to be.

     
  • At 11/09/2006 09:09:00 PM, Blogger Past the Wishing

    According to the informative post by SL on the post prior to this one, I stand corrected ... it seems that a pastor legally can influence a faith community on specific legislation, but not endorse a particular person or party. Despite that, my leanings remain slanted toward thinking that the church is approaching the time when it will lose it's tax status and I'm glad we've picked up on it.

    I am overwhelmed by the comments here. very moving.

    If every church paid property taxes in a fair manner, think of the property relief, the added $ for cities. Maybe many of the "empty" church buildings in the urban areas would be finally opened/sold to be used for socially responsible efforts.

    Christina ... I think you opened up another great tax related topic , our own charity tax exemptions on income tax. One just wonders what would happen if???

    Welcome M-pacifist. I paused at your comparison of one's empowerment source; fiscal blessings or Holy Spirit? Welcome to the conversation.

    Sherri

     
  • At 11/10/2006 10:44:00 AM, Blogger lydia

    pastor a cyberchurch

    I'd be interested in hearing more about this, Christina.

    How is it set up? Do you meet outside of cyberspace as well?

     
  • At 11/10/2006 06:37:00 PM, Anonymous Christina

    Concerning the cyberchurch, we knew that whatever we did, it wouldn't be about building a ministry, but about building people. After searching the New Testament to learn about church structure (since what we've seen modeled seems ineffective or ineffecient at best), we found that God doesn't seem that interested in the structure. He seems more interested in relationships and what those relationships produce.

    The reason for a cyberchurch is simple--that's where the people God called us to pastor live. We live in Los Angeles and the lifestyle here is transitory and shallow. But everyone can connect online and are more likely to drop the facades.

    Most of our ministry is through emails, but we do a lot of coffee shop and home meetings, too. We don't believe that a cyberchurch is ideal, and ours in is infancy, but it is one way to reach out to people we ordinarily wouldn't be able to.

    The website gives a fuller picture if you're interested in checking it out: communityemergo.com

    Also, we have a blog page called Diablogue for anyone to contribute. So far it's been all men and it's mostly been critical or self-serving. We sure could use some feminine voices!

     

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