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Free church with no 501c3 required
Dec 30, 2010 | Pastor Jeff Sherk

Posted on 12/30/2010 9:10:59 PM PST by jsherk

I have been reading the facts about a free church and not requiring a 501c3 in many places, including this forum:

Just wondering if anybody knows any Lawyers or Accountants in the Dallas area that are very familiar in with this issue (free church, non-incorporation and no 501c3.


TOPICS: Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: 501c3; church; freechurch; no501c3
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To: John Leland 1789

“Thus we are to understand that churches are automatically “exempt” from the rules above this section. And this means that a church, without ever filing one piece of paper must be regarded by the IRS as non-taxable. “

That is my understanding of it. I know in years past as the trustee of a church before 501(c)(3) became popular we did not file any paper work. Then bouncing back and forth between churches and non-profits I was able to visit with an accountant with a IRS background who also specialized in 501(c)(3). He had the same interpretation that “churches need not apply.”

Please do your own research. I just hope I can point people in the right direction.

21 posted on 12/30/2010 11:25:58 PM PST by born2bfree
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To: born2bfree

You have been very helpful to our articulation of these things. Thanks, so much.

22 posted on 12/30/2010 11:31:01 PM PST by John Leland 1789 (Grateful.)
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To: dangus
"I could understand choosing not to file the 501(c)3, and avoid entanglement with government bureaucrats. But making a moral issue of it... nah. Sounds like some Baptist churches just found a good marketing ploy."

"marketing ploy?"

I wish you would explain that.

It is not a "moral" issue with us, it is an issue of our faith, understanding of Christ as Head of the church, not civil government, and our deep desire, yea, conviction to obey the Scriptures in the matters of church polity and practice.

501(c)(3) is a kind of contractual agreement. And inside that agreement is a re-definition of church offices and officers. Further, it is a negative witness to government, implying to them that the church of Jesus Christ is something akin to civic organization like the Lion's Club and the Boy Scouts (not denigrating those organizations in any way).

Furthermore, the IRS is part and parcel of unregenerate (un-saved; non-Christian) government, which creates rules, regulations, and restrictions for 501(c)(3) organizations in the content of their oratory, publications, signage, positions, and associations. We do not believe the Church should place itself under such arrangement, where the Headship of Christ over the Church is surrendered to the whims of an increasingly paganistic government that rules according to its own public policy on myriad issues.

We take as example the underground churches in communist and other totalitarian countries (where we have actually worked underground), which to preach what they believe from the Scripture would be prohibited and punished if they were registered with the government, hence, they remain unregistered, and risk the wrath of government for conscience sake.

No, it hasn't come quite to that point yet in the United States, but it is a real potentiality, especially if government can get all "religion" registered.

If a missionary has established Biblical churches in countries where to register would mean government control, he wouldn't be inclined to register churches in the United States where there are no laws requiring it. He would, from his experience, rather see registration as a real potential danger.

23 posted on 12/30/2010 11:52:51 PM PST by John Leland 1789 (Grateful.)
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To: John Leland 1789

Not filing a 501(c)3 because you don’t have to and why should you: a matter of prudence.

Making a big fuss over it, to the point of forming a new denomination, implicitly denigrating those who don’t: marketing.

24 posted on 12/31/2010 12:18:50 AM PST by dangus ("The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops" -- St. John Crysostom ("the Golden-Mouthed"))
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To: dangus
"forming a new denomination"

Which new denomination has been founded?

Are you familiar with historic Baptist distinctives? They include the autonomy of the local church. Historically, Baptists didn't form denominations.

What are you refering to when you say that someone is "forming a new denomination"?

25 posted on 12/31/2010 12:24:32 AM PST by John Leland 1789 (Grateful.)
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To: jsherk

to own property,

a church association would pretty much have
to incorporate

26 posted on 12/31/2010 12:46:50 AM PST by Talf
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To: jsherk
It only looks complicated. No church has to file as a 501/c3, so any church can say what it wants. The problems arise when daddy warbucks says he will build a new wing if he gets the deduction. If a church preaches that Bill Clinton is an unrepentant sinner, then they could lose that charity deduction and many of their pew warmers. I've been in churches like that and choose to go to a church that preaches what the Spirit leads. Attendance goes up and down, but I don't give for the tax write off. Most mega churches get that way by attracting big donors, not necessarily preaching the Gospel. I have sat through some well known church sermons and not one line from the Bible was ever spoken. A sermon should be more than jokes and moral stories. Whose morals are we talking about?

As far as the food pantry that has spun off from the church, just file for the 501 on the pantry and leave the church out of it. A church can support the pantry but not be connected legally with it. OTOH, you could start a church that preaches abortion and homo marriage and still get the deductions if you file the 501/c3 papers. That's how they have the chicken blood and dope churches and still get considered as a church.

27 posted on 12/31/2010 1:48:18 AM PST by chuckles
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To: Talf
"to own property,

"a church association would pretty much have to incorporate"

Not necessarily true. Very many un-incorporated and non 501(c)(3) churches do own their own property. It will depend on how it is acquired. Banks won't lend, but individuals will sell land on contract. Not necessarily need to incorporate to get utility services either.

There are churches that have been in existence for 200 or more years, own large properties, and have never incorporated or filed for 501(c)(3). This is particularly true in large numbers in the Appalachian Region. They can be used as precedent.

Were churches REAL churches before their were such things as state incorporation and the IRS???? If those were REAL churches, then why can't churches be REAL churches today without those devices????

Much might depend on your state laws. It's not a problem in Indiana.

But then, consider, earthly properties are not a Biblical part of, nor necessity to New Testament Christianity.

28 posted on 12/31/2010 3:17:09 AM PST by John Leland 1789 (Grateful.)
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To: All

29 posted on 12/31/2010 3:26:16 AM PST by dynoman (Objectivity is the essence of intelligence. - Marylin vos Savant)
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To: dangus
In reality, 501(c)3 organizations exist so that a contributor to such an entity can deduct their contribution on their tax return. These 501(c)3 organizations are listed in IRS pub 78 which five years ago was over 14 volumes.

Its the Sec of Treasury who directs the activities of the IRS. When I was involved with these entities, the IRS would avoid these organizations and only had a skeleton staff to administer its regulations.

Thus if such philosophical objections exist, it might be better for a church not to register since the government does not actively enforce the statues in this area.unless provoked by a specific action or individual.

30 posted on 12/31/2010 5:49:41 AM PST by bronx2 (while Jesus is the Alpha /Omega He has given us rituals which you reject to obtain the graces as to)
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To: jsherk

i kind of like the idea, most that i’ve gone to pass the plate looking for cash

31 posted on 12/31/2010 6:01:10 AM PST by TheRightGuy (I want MY BAILOUT ... a billion or two should do!)
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To: John Leland 1789

A denomination, literally, is any appellation that a church chooses to identify itself by. So, yes, “Baptist,” and “Southern Baptist” are denominations, even if they are not hierarchical or episcopal in structure. (”Baptist,” then could be a denominational family, since it includes Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Baptist Bible, National Baptist and other denominations.) Ironically, “Westhaven Non-Denominational Church” became denominational the moment they decided not to simply be called “Westhaven Church.”

That said, I’m not sure from that article whether UBF is a denomination. If the churches start calling themselves by that name, well that’s marketing. On the other hand, if a pastor joins the UBF merely for informational purposes, it’s plainly not.

32 posted on 12/31/2010 6:05:26 AM PST by dangus ("The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops" -- St. John Crysostom ("the Golden-Mouthed"))
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To: TheRightGuy

Most Catholic Churches I’ve been to just stick some money on a long pole and wave it under your nose quickly. They don’t actually ASK for money (except the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal and once a year otherwise.) Then they wonder why they don’t get any.

33 posted on 12/31/2010 6:08:04 AM PST by dangus ("The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops" -- St. John Crysostom ("the Golden-Mouthed"))
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To: dangus

At present I take it that you are one who would describe evangelism or preaching the Gospel as “marketing” Jesus.

34 posted on 12/31/2010 8:33:13 AM PST by John Leland 1789 (Grateful.)
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To: John Leland 1789

>> At present I take it that you are one who would describe evangelism or preaching the Gospel as “marketing” Jesus. <<

I’d also emphasize that I don’t consider “marketing” an inherent evil. And, yes, I suppose some evangelization is a form of marketing: if a radio spot says, “Come hear the message of Christ, which can heal your spirit, and re-create your soul,” I’d say that that’s both evangelization and marketing. But I’d decline to call evangelization, “marketing” because it connotes an earthly purpose, not a spiritual one, even though churches — as an organization — fulfill certain earthly goals.

The reason I called this marketing is it seems like its trying to create a market niche, or to segment a market. It’s fine if a pastor decides he’d rather not register as a 501(c)3, but if a church were to announce to the world, “Westover Unregistered Baptist Church,” I could only presume that it was trying to appeal to potential new congregants on the basis that it was unregistered, which is marketing, since it has nothing to do, in my opinion, with theology, style of worship, or morality.

You’re free to disagree, of course.

35 posted on 12/31/2010 10:08:08 AM PST by dangus ("The floor of Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops" -- St. John Crysostom ("the Golden-Mouthed"))
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To: dangus
"since it has nothing to do, in my opinion, with theology, style of worship, or morality."

What it has to do with is:

(1) Is Jesus Christ the Head of His Church, or does civil government share that place with Christ? If you cannot see that allowing the IRS or a state's secretary of state to define what a church is, define its offices and its officers, and the limitations of its ministry by changeable human law and bureaucratic codes, then you simply cannot see it.

(2) If you cannot sense the progressive tendency of government in the United States to little-by-little take over every aspect of American life, including the churches and their ministries, made more possible because of the churches' willingness to enter into contractual agreement with the IRS for tax exemption, then you simply cannot see it. And that returns to No. (1) above---will we simply surrender the churches to government control, piece-by-piece, as time goes by, or will we maintain our stand for Christ's Headship over His Church(es).

I personally also must look at all of this from the perspective of having done underground evangelism and church planting in two communist countries, and my son having done the same in a third. What we have seen there is coming to the United States with ever-increasing speed. Incorporation and 501(c)(3) will eventually turn around to bite and devour the churches.

36 posted on 12/31/2010 11:33:57 AM PST by John Leland 1789 (Grateful.)
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To: All

Thanks for everybody’s replies... I was not expecting this many!

Anyways, to add to the discussion from this website:

According to IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A):
Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations.
(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status.
(c) Exceptions.
(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to—
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.

This is referred to as the “mandatory exception” rule. Thus, we see from the IRS’ own publications, and the tax code, that it is completely unnecessary for any church to apply for tax-exempt status. In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-exempt.”

And what about tax-deductibility? Doesn’t a church still need to become a 501c3 so that contributions to it can be taken as a tax deduction? The answer is no! According to IRS Publication 526:
Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions
You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.

In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-deductible.”

Now back to my original question... anybody know any Lawyers or Accountants in the Dallas area (or even Texas) that are familiar with these issues!


37 posted on 12/31/2010 4:43:47 PM PST by jsherk
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To: jsherk

Of course the church cannot do anything that would get the government/IRS on their case.

This includes:

a) A distinct legal existence (which includes one of the four mentioned in paragraph one above), b) A recognized creed and form of worship, c) A definite and distinct ecclesiastical government, d) A formal code of doctrine and discipline, e) A distinct religious history, f) A membership not associated with any other church or denomination, g) An organization of ordained ministers, h) Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study, i) A literature of its own, j) Established places of worship, k) Regular congregations, l) Regular religious services, m) “Sunday schools” for the religious instruction of the young, n) Schools for the preparation of its ministers.

Can you believe that in 1978 we traded 16 words of liberty “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.... for IRS State Church status?

38 posted on 09/04/2012 1:45:37 AM PDT by GeronL (The Right to Life came before the Right to Pursue Happiness)
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To: jsherk
I have had a private Bible study in my home for quite some time. No one is asked for money, but we have brought food to eat in fellowship and I provide everything myself as a homeowner with electricity and heat and cooling. Any multimedia materials can be provided by anyone. In other words, we are in fellowship with each other in one accord.

I live in Texas, so I don't know all other laws, but I can't imagine anyone being required to report to the government for anything related to religious beliefs.

The problem with organized religion seems to come when they talk of going private and people start to withhold tithes because they won't be tax deductible. If that's the reason you go to church, there is something wrong with your doctrine.

If someone in my Bible study asked to be baptized, I have Biblical authority as a Royal Priest to do all the institutions listed in Scripture. I can give Communion also. Marriage would be the only sketchy institution I might get questioned on. The "legal" requirements are that I be a licensed clergy in my state, but that is what we started talking about here about being a government church or not. The state might look at my marriages as people "shacking up", but as long as you are married in the eyes of God, there are no laws against living together without a "license". If it ever becomes a problem, it would be easy enough to get a minister's license on the web.

Today's biggest problem for government churches lies in gay marriage. A member come in, tell the preacher his son wants to marry a man and wants him to preside and use his building. If the preacher refuses, all the weight of the government is on it's way to his front door. I'm not even sure what would happen if they forfeit their 501c3. I suppose it would have the same effect as a black trying to join the KKK. Would the government jump in to force the KKK to take in Jews and blacks?

The government prides itself in the depths of control they can display, but by law, they will always have restraints on their tyranny until the Second Amendment kicks in. The Founders were wise enough in human nature to know the government will always try to control what we think, but that we will always think whatever we wish to think, ergo, the First Amendment was codified. If we choose to believe in a carved stick as God, we are free to believe that because it has always proved very difficult to force someone to a "Come to Jesus Moment". Just as the Chinese meet in homes for Christ, their government is removing crosses from public view but they know they cannot stop what people believe using fear and intimidation.

39 posted on 04/14/2016 11:33:45 AM PDT by chuckles
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