Thoughts to Ponder

Is your church a slave to Jesus Christ or the Government?

I have spoken out several times about the slavery of the church to the IRS. I am sure many people have dismissed my ranting as just that, ranting. However, I believe with all my heart that the fact that churches are 501(c)(3) organizations have hindered them from proclaiming the gospel and being involved in their member's daily lives. They are afraid to speak out about politics or even moral issues facing their congregations because they might lose their tax exempt status.

I have said in the past that I think this makes them a slave to the government instead of to the One to whom they claim to belong.

Romans 6:16 Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? [NIV]

Am I wrong about churches being slaves to the government? What would being a slave mean? Would it mean that the Pastor of the church feels that he cannot speak out on moral issues? That is happening. Would it mean that a church could not explain to their congregations which person running for office holds a biblical view and explain what the church believes is the Christian's responsibility in voting for candidates in an election? Again that is happening. Or would you say that a church is a slave to the government if the government can decide what the church can and cannot pray about? Guess what, that is also happening as this quote from an article found on World Net Daily shows:

In a letter of clarification requested by a traveling minister, the Internal Revenue Service has declared people gathered in tax-exempt churches can't pray for President Bush to win the election on Tuesday.

The ruling comes in response to a request by the Christian Defense Coalition, which is in the midst of a 15-day prayer tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the organization, had planned to lead in prayer for a Bush victory during evening services in each town. Though he had hoped to hold the services in churches, Mahoney says he has used American Legion halls, hotels and other venues pending a clarification from the IRS.

The whole article can be read here: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=41145

I am not going to get into my personal view as to whether a Christian should pray for one candidate or not, that is for each individual to decide for themselves, but when a church will listen to the government and not pray for something they feel they should pray for just because they are afraid the IRS will take away their tax exemption, well that is sad and they are a slave to the IRS or money or both.

So would your church refuse to pray for something that the IRS declares off limits? How far would your church be willing to compromise? Would they not pray for persecuted Christians if the IRS threatened them? Would they not hold prayer vigils for the millions of innocent children killed by abortion each year if the IRS didn't like it? How about prayer for the nation of Israel? How about praying that homosexuals would come to know Christ and change their lifestyles? How about praying for the educational system to go back to a more godly place where God is given respect and allowed to be mentioned?

What if praying for our troops was seen as praying against Islam and therefore seen as a violation by the IRS, would your church quit praying for the troops? Don't think any of these things are out of the realm of possibilities.

I am sick of spineless churches and pastors who care more about money (tax exemption) then they do about the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Read the letters Jesus sent to the seven churches in Revelation and see what He thought of them and then compare your church, which one does it most closely resemble?

I will give you another prediction, if believers don't wake up soon and take a stand, I believe within 50 years (if the Lord waits that long) the American church will be just what the Chinese church is today.

There are two churches in China, there is the state sanctioned church, which is nothing more then a puppet of the government. It can't teach anything or do anything without the permission of the government. It is a church only in name.

Then there is the underground church. This is a church that gets no tax exemptions and isn't even allowed to exist except in secret. It's members are routinely jailed, abused and even killed because of their beliefs and attendance in these churches.

The state sanctioned churches started out as true Christian churches which just tried to get along with the government and follow the laws and regulations the government placed over them. The problem is that they quickly found out that they were truly slaves of the government. Yes they are protected from persecution, but then again the only reason is that they have no grounds to be persecuted on, they stand for nothing, their allegiance is to the Chinese government not to God.

It will happen here, and it might be much faster then I predict. What can you do to stop it? Each one of us who truly calls Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior and Master, must stand up and be counted. Your church is made up of individuals just like you. If you refuse to fund a church that is a slave to the government then and only then will you become as important in their eyes as the IRS. If they have no money to be exempt from taxes they will no longer care what the IRS threatens.

Am I saying that churches should get rid of their tax exempt status? No, not necessarily but they should publicly affirm that they will not be slaves to that exemption and will not compromise to keep it.

Am I telling you to quit giving your tithes and offering to the church? Yes I am, but not to just stop cold, but rather take a stand and let the leaders of your church know that if they are more a slave to the IRS then to Jesus Christ you can't support them. If they refuse to address the hard issues which could get them in trouble with the government then you can't support them. Will they listen? Only if enough people do it, but I believe if enough Christians take a stand for Christ the church will follow. But if they don't or if not enough people take the stand, then get out. Leave the church and start your own church where Christ is really the Head. You don't need a license (not yet anyway) you don't need tax exemption, all you need is a place to meet and to preach the gospel and make disciples from God's word.

There is often a price to pay for the individual too. If you use your tithe and love offerings to go out and help people as an un-tax exempt church or group, you won't get a personal tax break either. But whose money is it in the first place? It is God's and you know what, He doesn't need a tax break from the IRS.

Let me stress again that I am not claiming that having a tax exempt church or ministry is wrong, unless it causes the person or group to compromise. The problem is that sooner or later it will cause them to either lose their exemption or compromise. The churches have already allowed the government into their business and believe me the government never gives back power or control it gains over anyone.

I love my country and I am proud to be an American. I have defended my country in uniform and upheld the law of the land as a Police Officer, but I will tell you that I am more proud to be a son of the Most High then the citizen of any country. This country is only a great country because God has blessed us and God has blessed us because from the beginning we were founded on His principles. But those days are about over and I believe that the days of America being blessed are coming to a close also. Will it be the fault of the pagans or the liberals when God starts to withhold His blessings from us? No, sadly it will be completely the fault of those who claim to serve Him but who don't.

Matthew 6:19-24 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. [20] But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. [21] For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. [22] "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. [23] But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! [24] "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [NIV]

That passage is just as true for a church as it is for an individual. If the church today can't stand up to the IRS how in the world will it stand up to real persecution? It won't, it will either shut its doors or compromise and become a state sanctioned church who has no message and no master other then the government.

Ezekiel 22:30 "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. [NASB-U]

With all the churches in America and with all the people who claim to be Christians, can God find anyone to stand in the gap for our country? Maybe, if it doesn't cost them their tax exemption.

Are you willing to stand in the gap even if it means not getting a tax break, or leaving all your friends who remain in a dead church? I know all too well how hard this can be, but I will tell you that the blessings that come from being willing to follow Christ outweigh the hardships.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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October 2004