In some Church circles, congregants go beyond Biblical and legal parameters in attempts to honor and bless their Pastor, Bishop, Apostle, etc. Much of the blame for this must be laid at the feet of the Pastor, Bishop, Apostle, etc. Some of these leaders have become extreme in their demand for non-Biblical honor and have often misused Scripture to support their claims.
While it is Biblical to properly honor the man or woman of God that shepherds the flock, if parishioners are not careful they will find themselves in the proverbial “jungles of Guyana, drinking poison cool-aid from a cup” (Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, 1978). Although, the members may not commit physical suicide as those of the People’s Temple, they could be committing non-profit status suicide or facing other legal issues.
This was the case of “Saints United Church Known Forever In Sanctified Heaven” (name changed to protect the Church).
The Church arranged for the Pastor’s travel to revivals and other speaking engagements and supported his personal campaign to be elected to the Office of Bishop of the Church. Because their activities inured to the Pastor’s benefit, they now fail to qualify for section 501 (c) (3).
A Church’s primary activities consist of preaching, revivals, Bible studies, worship services, and mission outreach/trips. The role of the Pastor by default makes him or her, the director/chairman of the Church.
Activities Must Not Inure to the Pastor’s Benefit
In the case of the above mentioned Congregation, the Church begins to arrange for their Pastor’s personal ministry travel and while at the speaking engagements his members are politic and make others aware of the fact that he is running for the office of Bishop. His Church has printed advertisements and has distributed campaign materials in support of their Pastor’s candidacy. The Church’s website even solicits donations for his campaign.
The Church had filed an application for exemption under section 501 (c) (3), but the Internal Revenue Service denied the exemption because the Church was operating a substantial non-exempt purpose for the benefit of a private party – the Pastor.
The IRS explained that the Pastor is a private individual since he has a personal and private interest in the Church’s activities. The Church’s support of the Pastor’s candidacy inured to his benefit because it was designed to help advance his career.
The IRS determined that the “Saints United Church Known Forever In Sanctified Heaven” failed the operational test under Regulation Section 1.501 (c) (3) – 1(a) (1). All donations to this ministry, past and present, are now deemed to be taxable and the members are in an uproar.
This is why all Churches in the USA, large and small, should retain Chitwood and Chitwood for legal guidance as to the proper operation of the Church. As the Number One Church and Clergy professional in the World we have your best interests at heart. Our 77 years of Church and Clergy Management expertise provides us with the most knowledgeable, credible, and diligent staff in the field, dedicated to the Church’s success.
The Pastor and Board Members of a Church are good people who love God, but unfortunately know nothing about operating a Church within proper legal boundaries. What they propose and vote for may be acceptable to the Congregation, but what may be considered as a blessing by them, in actuality may be a legal curse to the Church and members.
To learn more about protecting your Church so that it can properly fulfill God’s call to its community and the World, you should attend a Church Management and Tax Conference quickly. Call 800-344-0076 or go to www.cmtc.org to register for one near you. Do Not Delay! Remember, “It is not what you know that will hurt you – it is what you don’t know!”