Mark Taylor has spoken a lot about the 501 (c)3 establishment for churches. A friend of mine recently shared her journey this year in how she organized her ministry as an un-incorporated non-profit organization that is not a 501(c)3. Below is written by Leah Todd Founder and Director of FeastofSukkot.org.
This is an issue that we had to answer when we established our Ministry. I searched everywhere, talked to other church leaders, and questioned other professionals in an effort to find a step by step model for how to do this. There are many resources that explain the reasons why 501c3 is un-biblical, and if this is the first time you have considered this issue, I encourage you to research it. There are some good articles on https://strikeforceofprayer.com/ as well as other sites.
My reasons are these: first, the church is already tax exempt under the Constitution of the United States. We do not need permission from any government agency to establish a church ministry. The IRS even admits this in their â€œTax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizationsâ€, which can be found in PDF format online under the paragraph titled â€œAutomatic Exemption for Churchesâ€ ( https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1828.pdf).
Second, churches have become big business, and as a result are using a business model to establish their ministry. I think this is a huge mistake. A church is not a business; it is a ministry. If you are going to define your church as a corporation, an association, an LLC , or some other legal entity, then you fall under the legal jurisdiction of that definition. It is the government that establishes the way in which these types of entities will operate. If you establish your ministry under a legal definition, you have placed your church under those laws and that authority. As a church we are under a higher authority that comes from the Most High God and should not be given to any man or government. In Matthew 22:21 :
Yeshua said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When you understand the authority under which you are operating, it is quite clear what Yeshua is saying. Is your ministry the governmentâ€™s or Gods?
As a result of researching and coming to the conclusion that 501c3 is not what Christ would want for his church we are left with– â€œNow what do we do?â€
Our ministry started out as a home fellowship with an outreach to host the biblical holy days (www.feastofsukkot.org) and has grown to upwards of 1200 in attendance. As a result, we could no longer remain an un-established home fellowship.
This is what we did. First, we wrote our â€œArticles of Organizationâ€ (a document that lists the way in which your ministry will be organized). I prayed about every paragraph to be sure that it was what God was leading us to do.
Second, since we would be dealing with large amounts of donations as well as collecting funds for the facility we were using, we needed a separate non-profit bank account. The only way to do this is with an EIN number that the IRS issues to churches for banking purposes only. This can be done using the IRSâ€™s online PDF form (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fss4.pdf) . If you fill it out online you will be issued a number immediately, this is the best way to do it (and will avoid any unnecessary nosy human contact). You will need this before you go to the bank because this is what all banks require. In Oklahoma (every state has their own way of doing things), there is a form that you can submit to the State Tax Commission and receive a tax-exempt certificate (https://www.ok.gov/tax/documents/PktE.pdf). This is good to have so that you can have a state document proving your tax-exempt status. Most businesses (including banks) have a hard time understanding anything other than the usual 501c3. You will have to be ready to speak with authority and educate them. When you go to the bank to open a checking account, ask them what kind of accounts they offer for churches. You will need to open a non-profit business account or a non-profit type of checking account. Do not allow them to talk you into a definition other than that of a church. Thatâ€™s pretty much it– I just put six months of work and research into a simple paragraph.
Because we did not want to limit Godâ€™s ability to grow this ministry, we are also establishing a non-profit trust that will own all assets of the ministry. You will need a good trust attorney if this is something that would be good for your ministry. It is my opinion that everyone should have a trust but I will leave that for another article. You should be ethical in all church related activities, keep good records, and keep all ministry business separate from your personal business, but you will not be submitting any reports or filing any financial statements to any government agency. By filing anything with the IRS you are giving up your freedom and giving your rights over to them to have authority over you. If you do this you will be required under the law to submit to that authority. I find that most accountants, attorneys, and banking personnel do not understand this and will most likely give you the wrong advice. They are used to operating under the authority and regulations of 501c3 and anything else is beyond their experience. It is time for the church stand up for their rights instead of giving them up. This is why it is important for you to be educated and ready to defend your rights. May this be the beginning of a new understanding and freedom for those who serve the Most High God and are Patriotic Americans. Blessings ~ Leah@
If you would like more info or sample templates or forms please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org