Monday, April 7, 2014

14 (or 15) Points that make a Church...according to the IRS

I was listening to a radio news report on the definition of what a church is according to the IRS.  In a segment by John Burnett he discusses the idea that the TV Network, Daystar, is considered a church by IRS standards.  Here is a link to the show.  I had never had to deal with making sure the congregations I have been a pastor of were considered a church by the IRS.  I was interested to learn what these 14/15 points were that made the IRS consider an entity a church.  Here is what I found..
In applying the analysis to determine whether a religious organization may
properly be characterized as a church, the Service considers whether the
organization has the following characteristics: (a) a distinct legal existence, (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 studies, (i) a literature of its own, (j) established places of
worship, (k) regular congregations, (l) regular religious services, (m) Sunday
schools for religious instruction of the young, (n) schools for the preparation of its
ministers, and (o) any other facts and circumstances that may bear upon the
organization's claim for church status. See IRM 7(10)69, Exempt Organizations
Examination Guidelines Handbook, text 321.3(3).

These terms seem so broad I was wondering if anything could become a tax exempt church?  What about a coffee house?  Could a prison?  Could a fast food restaurant become a church if they changed a few names of people?

I guess what disturbed, but not surprised, me about this piece was the Television Network's claim that since they produce worship services as TV shows that it counts as worship.  There is no formal service outside the ones shown on TV.  Now I confess I have not seen any of these shows.  I did visit the website and it looks like any other TV network website.  You can see clips from their shows but there is no scheduled worship time or location.

I am not worried that my church is not a church.  By this list we fulfill the necessary requirements.  It is a shame though that there are those people out there that are taking advantage of the system and making millions upon millions of dollars off of a loophole that the IRS is too busy to fill.

It is a great piece by John, take time to listen.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Is Church Harder than It’s Ever Been?

Is Church Harder than It’s Ever Been?

Is the fact that our society is making church work harder a good thing?  I believe this is actually a time of growth in faith because now I cannot take my faith for granted.  I have to understand, digest and affirm what I believe.  I have to be able to talk intelligently about it and convey that message clearly to people who don't understand.

Is Church harder than it's ever been?  Maybe but my faith hasn't been deeper.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Why Do We All Hate Duke?

Why Do We All Hate Duke? 

This is a great question as we do what Duke will be doing this weekend, watching the NCAA Tournament from our couches.  I bleed Duke Blue and love watching them.  I loved watching them from behind the basket in Cameron when I was in Divinity School there and now I enjoy watching them as an Alumni.

I even enjoy how much people hate them.  People hate Duke.  The type of hate that is instinctual, gut wrenching, deep-down, deep-seated, deep-rooted, inward, emotional and animalistic.  I love that about Duke.

If you want to know why this hatred exists and why people cheer the loudest when they lose, read the article above.  It is brilliant.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Successful Minsitry = Grit

Angela Lee Duckworth gives a great TED talk which you can watch below.  As I listened to it I wondered if this is what makes people successful in ministry?  Clergy need grit which Angela defines as "passion and preserving for very long time goals, having stamina, sticking with your future." defines it as courage and resolve.  This is a personality trait that is needed in ministry but one that wasn't really discussed in seminary or even in my pre-ordination conference small groups.  Ministry needs grit.

Why do we hide the realty that to change a social system like a congregation which is embedded into families and community will take a ton of courage and resolve.  To move a group of people who have grown up, know each other, and lived with one another longer than you have been alive takes an immense amount of grit.  It is a long game, a marathon as Angela puts it.  Clergy, especially in my denomination of United Methodist, work within a local system (the local church) and a middle system (districts) within a larger systems (conference/denomination).  Grit is needed to get through the red tape to accomplish anything and even more to make any type of changes.

Angela confesses that work still needs to be done to learn how to teach people the characteristic of grit.  But now that I know what it is, I am on the look out for it.  I am looking for leaders in my congregation who don't mind the long game, the marathon, and who have the stamina to see things through.  I hope I can see grit as one of my personality traits but I think that will come with time.

What do you think?  Is grit a key characteristic of a successful minister?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Christian Discipleship

Christian Discipleship is defined in the United Methodist Discipline in paragraph 135.
"The ministry of all Christians consists of privilege and obligation.  The privilege i a relationship with God that is deeply spiritual.  The obligation is to respond to God's call to holy living in the world.  In the United Methodist tradition these two dimensions of Christian discipleship are wholly interdependent."

Do we look at Christian Discipleship as a privilege or do we see it as an obligation or do we understand it as both?  The Discipline goes on to explain that it is a privilege to be able to have a relationship with God.  Out of this relationship with God and the experience of his grace comes the obligation to live into our relationship with Christ in the world.

How many of us only see one side of this relationship?  Are we only concentrated on the privilege or the obligation?  We should hold these two things close to our hearts, remembering both aspects of Christian Discipleship.  A true disciple has the privilege of knowing a deep relationship with the triune God we worship and feel our obligation to live this relationship out in the world.  Neither are a burden but a way that grace is experienced and shared.