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There certainly are many people and groups which argue against incorporating churches, but is there a biblical argument for incorporation? Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 22:21, "Give to Caesar...
501(c)(3) defines a kind of organization - not a government-issued status. I did not have to get a birth certificate to become a male child. That's the way I was born, with or without the benefit of a birth certificate. Likewise, 501(c)(3) merely says that an organization is not-for-profit, whether registered with the government as such or not. The IRS does not mandate, but encourages, non-profit organizations to apply for a 501(c)(3) certificate "so that contributions to it will be deemed deductible to the individual." The fact is that if a church is incorporated with the state as a not-for-profit organization, it automatically has 501(c)(3) status, and donations from individuals are a legitimate means of producing operating funds. With the recent scandal of IRS personnel raking non-profit applicants over the coals, and even interfering with the renewal process of major not-for-profit organizations, such as Samaritan's Purse, we are witnessing a dangerous trend where the Government is using its weight to suffocate the life out of "non-conforming" organizations. Increasingly, "non-conforming" is being defined as churches that take a stand against ordaining openly declared homosexual or lesbian ministers, oppose abortion-on-demand, teach against the gay lifestyle, or are in some way affiliated with the Tea-Party movement. As this trend increases, some churches will find themselves under the heavy-hand of oppression from out-of-control government agencies, merely because they do not conform to their "tolerance" or "intolerance" policies, thus, once again fulfilling biblical prophecy that "in the last days, perilous times will come." This has happened in the past, i.e. the Nazi regime, and is happening all too often in the present under governments that oppose freedom of religion, and persecute believers, depriving them of homes and property, arresting and imprisoning church leaders, using cruel torture to force "cooperation", kidnapping their children, raping their wives, and even killing them in cold blood. For the most part, we in America have been uniquely blessed -- up to this point -- having escaped much of the violence-against-Christians perpetrated in other countries, but the winds are changing, and the trends are omens of a new wave of persecution against people of faith. This is not all bad. The New Testament church grew mightily under persecution. The on-going government-initiated persecution of Christians in China has resulted in a revival of unprecedented proportions, with close to 100 million coming to Christ. (That, by the way, exceeds the number of faithful church-goers in the United States.) And don't think for one moment that we Americans are immune from the inhumane onslaught of cruelty, such as that perpetrated by ISIS and other fanatical forces, that are decimating the church in places like Northern Nigeria. What should our response be? "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt.5:12).
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