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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Simple Church Minute 53--tax exempt status

53—tax exempt status
My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute
            One potential criticism of house churches/simple churches is that, if one doesn’t have a legal form, donations are not tax deductable.  This is true, and it is not necessarily a sin to do all the governmental red tape.  Still, how did special tax exempt status for churches get started?  Once again, this goes back to the Roman Empire.  Rome had given special tax exempt status to the pagan temples and priests, so after Constantine’s quote/ unquote conversion, he gave tax exemption to Christian clergy in 313 AD and churches in 323 AD.  Rome fell, centuries have come and gone, but tax favored status has passed through many countries from this historical precedent.  In ours and many western cultures, it has bred a whole class or corporations, the not-for-profit sector.
            This has its problems for the church today.  The government considers institutional churches and professional clergy as normal.  That makes it very easy for everyone to consider it to be normal.  I came to faith in Jesus in high school. After being a believer about ten years, I realized that the meetings and people around me that the Holy Spirit use to help me to grow up in faith the most were the least structured, informal times.  I didn’t understand why.  Now, I know why—to a huge degree, the Holy Spirit goes where he wills, and he specifically chooses to not work to the same degree where we humans choose to control the agenda.  Jesus wants to direct our worship, and any one of us, no matter how well trained, organizationally approved, or devout, is an insufficient substitute. Tax exempt status implies a corporation, officials, and, at worst, an empty shell maintaining a few jobs, trying to do good, as opposed to God’s direction.  We should be using our money to glorify Jesus, without regard to what any government wishes to favor it or not.
            You can email me at simplechurchminute@gmail.com. For more info on organic church*, visit http://www.simplechurch.com/ or locally (local website).
On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.”  While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better.  I comment on that in blip 94.

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