About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Tax Breaks Outdated
19, 2012 - Toronto Star - a
letter to Ken Galinger's column entitled "Are Church Tax Breaks
attend a church that just completed a $500,000.00 campaign for a new
roof. If every member used
the income tax deduction for their charitable donations nearly
$150,000.00 would be lost from public coffers for their renovation.
The church also pays no property tax.
I find that hard to swallow, particularly when the resident
preacher waxes eloquently on Sundays about the privileges of paying
taxes. Isn't this ethically
an aside, note the words "I attend a church" in the above
statement. The concept of
"attending church" is not Biblical.
Functioning in the service of the Lord with those Jesus has
personally joined you to in a local 'expression' of church is Biblical. The
term "resident preacher" isn't really Biblical either.
Galinger responded. "This
is a tricky question, made trickier for me by the fact that I have drawn
a church salary for much of my career".
also the word "career" in Galinger's response.
Church leadership is a career choice for many in today's church,
but in Biblical terms, it's not our choice.
It's Jesus' choice, and, it's a life of service, not a career.
says that church tax breaks were once acceptable because churches
performed much of the community services in times past.
He goes on to say. "But
that was then. This is now. Today, too many religious institutions are
largely absorbed in one of four activities, ministering to their own
dying members, defining the boundaries of their own faith, renting their
facilities for profit, or keeping their roof from leaking".
Both Galinger and the writer of this letter, who are both church
people, are expressing the
sentiment of many non-church people these days.
"Church is irrelevant and self serving, so why should it
have tax breaks"?
goers may not consider their institutions as being self serving, but if
the perception among non-church goers, and especially the government, is
that it is self serving, then the church has a problem, whether it admits
it or not.
1978 I've been warning that churches will lose their tax status.
When I speak of church
in this context, I'm thinking in terms of what church has evolved into,
not in terms of what the New Testament teaches about church.
There is a huge difference between the two.
in so-called mainline liberal churches has been in decline for years.
Many of their buildings have been sold, torn down, or converted
into condos or theatres. I
know of evangelical churches who are now beginning to feel a
similar financial squeeze. This
is where the problem concerning the general perception of church comes
in. If churches are
perceived as being self serving and irrelevant; if governments need more
money; churches will be paying property taxes soon. Balancing the books
will be difficult. If church
members no longer receive tax receipts for their donations, many pastors
say church income will fall. When
income falls and expenses rise, evangelical churches as we know them now
will be in trouble.
may ask, "where is your faith?
Do you think the Lord would let such a thing happen"? My
answer is a resounding "yes".
History proves that the Lord brings hardships to His people to
accomplish His purposes.
me ask. "Will there be
any expression of church if you lose your church building"?
If church depends on a building to survive, I suggest that church
isn't based on New Testament thinking.
Also, if your service to Jesus depends on your church funds,
regularly scheduled gatherings in a building, then your service to Jesus
may soon be in jeopardy. However,
if your service to Jesus is based on what the New Testament teaches
concerning the Body of Christ, you've got lots of work ahead of you.
Although buildings and today's church structure have been
beneficial, Biblical church and ministry aren't based on such things.
The sooner we can understand this, the better prepared we will be
for the future.
is redeemed individuals, networked together by the Holy Spirit in the
literal Body of Christ, with or without buildings, institutions, and tax
breaks. Church is about
A local expression of church is one member of the Body of Christ
being personally joined to another in brotherly love and ministry.
Fellowship that arises from relationships isn't meant to be
self-serving. It's meant to
produce ministry. If we can
understand this, we'll be prepared for any future loss of what we
presently know is church.
the present anti-Christian sentiment, the present world financial
problems, the present need for government to raise money, church tax
breaks will be outdated. How
will your church deal with this?
church of the future might well look more like the church of the past
than the church of the present. For
me, if that means a church based on New Testament thinking, I say,
"bring on the future, with or without tax breaks".
The time is near when we'll be forced to express church in terms
of "functional relationships" in the living Body of Christ.
Personal responsibility will be the theme of the day.
Leaving the responsibility of ministry to an ecclesiastical
structure will be just as outdated as tax breaks.
It sounds to me that the loss of tax breaks is the will of the