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Does Your Church Pass the IRS Test?

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"Paging Balaam's ass..."

God sometimes reveals truth in the most unlikely of places: on August 16, 2010, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled against the "Foundation for Human Understanding" (FHU) which had appealed an IRS action revoking its nonprofit status as a church. The Court ruled that FHU was not a church and it based its finding in part on a 14 point test created by an IRS commissioner in 1979. Those 14 points were:
(1) a distinct legal existence
(2) a recognized creed and form of worship
(3) a definite and distinct ecclesiastical government
(4) a formal code of doctrine and discipline
(5) a distinct religious history
(6) a membership not associated with any other church or denomination
(7) an organization of ordained ministers
(8) ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed studies
(9) a literature of its own
(10) established places of worship
(11) regular congregation
(12) regular religious services
(13) Sunday schools for religious instruction of the young; and
(14) schools for the preparation of its ministers
(emphasis added)

So, let's make sure we understand: In order to be a church in the eyes of the federal government, you need more than a charismatic leader and willing followers. You need a liturgy, doctrine, a learned ministry, accountability among ministers, regular worship in a regular place of worship, and Sunday school!  How does your church measure up?

Why is it that the secular world can see what so many in our own circles cannot see? Too many of our own church leaders are actively downplaying each one of these elements in favor of something so bland and nondescript that soon it will be hard to distinguish the average church from neighborhood associations, MOPs groups, and fraternal organizations.
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  • Guest - Jon stanton

    Richard Hammar's "Church & Clergy Tax Guide" is an excellent if not the best source for church tax issues. I've used his guide for the past ten years

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  • Amazing! Just missing the sacraments, it seems...

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  • Guest - Gaynor Lubojasky

    "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them" (Matt. 18:20). Christ never intended His Church to be defined by a physical place. "Church" is where God is, regardless what the government or anyone else says that is inconsistent with the Bible's teachings about the Church. Believers, which make up the Church/Body of Christ, are actually raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6 & notice Paul's use of PAST TENSE HERE), so to be scripturally accurate, the Church is in heaven. I wonder if heaven meets the 14-point criteria to get a tax exemption. Just food for thought...

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  • [...] the Test? Posted by John Barron ⋅ September 14, 2010 ⋅ Leave a Comment From the White Horse Inn Blog, an interesting piece about the IRS requirement for a church which seeks to become a church.  [...]

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  • [&] in order to be considered a church under Section 170.  The Internal Revenue Service still uses the Fourteen Points Test when determining church [&]

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