Monday, February 4, 2013

The 501(c)(3) Issue

Most Churches of God are incorporated with 501(c)(3) status, which allows those who contribute money to the corporation to deduct their contributions from their income in their tax returns, thus paying a lower tax than they would otherwise. The government created this provision to encourage charitable contributions. But some people in the Church of God take issue with this, thinking that the 501(c)(3) status restricts our ability to speak freely.

Mr. Wally Smith has given some good detailed information about 501(c)(3) in his blog. He has posted a number of times about this issue because it is of concern to some. Here is a link to his latest post about 501(c)(3):

As far as I know, 501(c)(3) status places no important restrictions on the Church as far as what it can say in preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning. The only restriction I know of is that we cannot become involved in political campaigning. But we should not do that anyway, so that is not a problem. As a Church, we should not get involved in politics, just as we do not vote in elections. The causes of our problems, and solutions, are primarily spiritual, and political changes are only short-term band-aids. People and politicians in both parties, or all political parties, need to repent and turn to God, and if we don't, we will be punished in the tribulation.

Some people who are concerned about 501(c)(3) status may change their view if they get more information about it.

However, there is a deeper issue for the Church behind the 501(c)(3) status issue. That is the issue of God's work.

Some seem to be against, not only 501(c)(3) status, but incorporation itself.

But as I pointed out in my post, "Should a Church of God Fellowship Be Incorporated?" in July 2011, a corporation is simply a tool, nothing more. It is not the Church of God, nor is it even a Church of God organization. The organization is simply the working relationships between the members and their understanding of those relationships. A corporation is simply a legal and business tool a Church of God organization may use. Here is a link to that post:

Some people, even after hearing the facts about 501(c)(3), still are against it. But my observation is that many of these people simply do not have their hearts in God's work.

One blogger who seems against 501(c)(3) and incorporation once gave a commentary on the book of Haggai, verse by verse. I eagerly sought to read what he said about this passage: " 'Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,' says the Lord" (Haggai 1:8). To me, this is a key verse showing the importance of preaching the gospel to the world. Mountains often represent nations in scripture. The temple represents the Church of God. We are to go to the nations and make disciples, and Christ will be with us in this even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20). But he simply listed that verse without comment. Apparently, he could not see the connection with preaching the gospel, or didn't care. But God rebuked His people in the book of Haggai for focusing on their own house but not building God's house, and that rebuke applies to many in the Church today. Many who consider themselves converted members of the Church of God want to be content with their small little Church and their personal salvation, but do not love their neighbors enough to want to get a message out that the world needs to hear and to make disciples to build God's house.

501(c)(3) is a powerful tool for stretching the income of God's people to finance the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning on television, radio, the Internet, in print, and in public meetings. It can substantially increase the Church's income for these things. By allowing members to deduct their contributions to the Church, they will pay a smaller tax bill and can use the money they save to give greater freewill offerings to God's work.

The problem for the Church is not that we are restricted in what we say by 501(c)(3). The problem is that we need more money to reach more of about 300 million adults in all the tribes of Israel with the Ezekiel warning and the true gospel while there is time for them to repent. But many 501(c)(3) opponents do not care about that. Why? They neither love their neighbors as themselves nor do they love God enough to care about building His house more than their own.

I think that those who practice the two great commandments and have their heart in God's work, once they are informed about 501(c)(3), will not be against it, but for it.

Read the book of Haggai.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:





John D Carmack said...

author wrote: "They neither love their neighbors as themselves nor do they love God enough to care about building His house more than their own."

I don't know. That seems a bit harsh to me.

My experience has been that those who are opposed to 501(c)(3) are distrustful of the government. They perceive the limitations that the tax code places on organizations can water down or even alter what preachers would preach. Frankly, no matter how much you try to convince them, I think their distrust runs too deep.

Disclaimer: My experience in this area has been with evangelicals, and not COG folk. I think our overall attitude towards politics should mitigate this attitude, and you sort of point that out. However, I also have seen a disturbing trend where more and more are willing to venture out and even wade in the swimming pool of the world's politics. said...

I don't want to be harsh. I guess I am speaking of the general case, there probably are exceptions. And I am only talking about those who are well informed about 401(c)(3) - there must be many who are not, and I am not talking about them.

Anyone who was in Worldwide must remember that their contributions were tax deductable, and I don't know what Mr. Armstrong would need to say to fulfill his commission that he was not able to say.