I just started a new class in my quest to get a masters degree from Liberty Theological Seminary on Church Administration. One of this week’s assignments was to take and defend a position on whether or not a church should become incorporated. I figured I’d post my response on my blog as well. Here it is:
I believe that it is in the best interest of every church in the United States, other than those in Virginia and West Virginia since they cannot, to become incorporated as a non-profit organization. The reasons that Schmitt discusses (holding real estate, contracts, bonds, protection of church members against debt, etc.) are ample reason enough, but I can think of two additional reasons.
First, there is a biblical mandate for all Christians to follow the laws and procedures set up by the government. Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (ESV). While there is no legal requirement for a church to become incorporated per se, there are certain things that only a non-profit organization can legally do. Thus, in order to remain true to the biblical precept of following the laws of the land, a church should become incorporated.
The other reason that I suggest is a less spiritual one. As Ed Young, Jr. wrote in The Creative Leader, it takes some mad cash to run a church effectively. That being said, most people (Christian or non-Christian) are much more likely to give to non-profit organizations than an unincorporated ministry because of the tax benefits. In particular, members of a church are likely to give more to a church if it will mean they have to give less to Uncle Sam. This sounds very carnal and worldly, but it’s true.
As Christian leaders, we need to constantly be teaching people of the marks of a growing Christian. One of those marks is tithing. Jesus said that we should not do our acts of righteousness to be seen by others. In order to help immature Christians grow in the discipline of tithing, any sort of motivation will help. Also, we should not use the tax benefits as the only or primary motivation to give. However, since the laws of the land allow for tithes and offerings to be tax-deductible, why not take full advantage of this benefit for the members of our churches? Wouldn’t that be considered good stewardship?