The Return of the Community Church?

Posted by Jonathan Nori on October 03, 2011

I’ve got a suggestion for the American church. Oh yeah, I guess it would be for the U.S. government as well.

End the 501c3 non-profit tax exemption. PLEASE.

I’m not the first person to say this. I’m sure I won’t be the last, either.

Follow me for a moment: Eliminating the tax exemption for churches is a win-win scenario for both the church and the government.

“How?” You may ask. “How is my church–which is already strapped for money–having to pay taxes a good thing?”

I’m glad you asked!

In 3 different Gospels of the New Testament, when asked about taxes, ┬áJesus commanded His followers to give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. I think that’s pretty clear. The church is supposed to be part of the community we’re in.

Here’s another view (if Jesus’ command isn’t enough): Go back 100 years. In most communities, the church was the center of activity.

It was more than a just a place of worship. The church was a shelter in emergencies. It was a community center. A child care center. A soup kitchen. A voting booth. A sports complex. A meeting hall. A school. A library. A recruiting center. A hangout. It was a rallying point in times of crisis, a distribution center in times of need, and a stockpile in times of plenty.

So what happened?

I would argue that in the wake of the failed experiment of Prohibition, the American church retreated into itself and left a void–a void that came to be filled by the government. And every time the government opened up a service, the churches retreated even further into themselves. After all, if the government is going to do all these expensive things, why should God’s people spend God’s money on it?

Newsflash: Because that’s what Jesus told us to do.

Besides, if churches suddenly have to come up with another 30% or so to pay for these buildings and properties that sit vacant 5 or 6 days out of the week maybe they’ll be encouraged to do something more with what they’ve been blessed with. A little bit of creative thinking could certainly go a long way.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • You know the plan for that new playground or park that your town has been trying to raise money to buy? Why not a partnership on land the church owns?
  • Your local running club needs a place to run? See above.
  • The local soup kitchen is having problems? Get involved. Not just monetarily, but physically.

Think about it: Chances are your church building is spending 5 or 6 days EVERY WEEK locked up and dark. Unused, except maybe for the pastor’s office and a secretary one or two days a week.

A larger financial burden would force churches to re-engage with their communities and to once again become the centers of activity they once were.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

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