The Church, Inc.

Church organizations in the United States are non-profit corporations.

Non-profits are also called a ‘501(c)3’ because that’s the part of the IRS tax code defining the non-profit. A non-profit can be a church, a credit union, the YMCA, the Red Cross or the American Cancer Society.

Corporations are artificial entities, having certain rights and responsibilities. Authorized officers of the corporation are empowered to own property, construct buildings, and buy and sell vehicles.

In many cases, the authorized officers of a church are the pastors and deacons, who therefore perform spiritual duties as well as govern the business affairs of a corporation.

For a church to incorporate, it must have a constitution. A church constitution is a legal document. It defines the corporation (church) and lays out its bylaws, such as who is eligible for membership.

There are arguments put forth against church constitutions, such that they are ‘un-Biblical’. Whether or not a constitution is Biblical is irrelevant. If a church wants to be recognized as a non-profit organization in the United States, it must have a constitution.

 A constitution serves a valid purpose. It is logical and reasonable for a constitution to lay out certain criteria that those seeking membership must adhere to and pledge to honor. It would be silly for the ‘Yamaha Lovers of America’ to grant membership to an avid Harley-Davidson fan.

Contributions given to charitable organizations, such as churches, are tax-deductible. There is nothing unseemly with taking actions to legally pay lower taxes. In fact, from a Christian stewardship perspective, it may be wrong NOT to reduce your taxable income. Simply put, if you legally can, why wouldn’t you?

The church (the community of believers) does not require a legally-constructed artificial entity in order to be valid. The validity of the church is the Holy Spirit indwelling each believer.

Churches do not need to own property, buildings or vehicles in order to be churches. Otherwise, the underground churches of China, North Korea and Iran could not be legitimate churches. And they clearly are, perhaps more so than any in America.

 

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