The Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage seemed to immediately spark a conversation surrounding the tax exemption status of U.S. churches. Since 1913, the U.S. government has formally recognized churches as being exempt from federal taxes. Churches and those who give to them benefit from the current tax exempt status. However, the likelihood of this benefit being in place in the future is now being questioned more than ever.
Even though we aren’t at this stage yet, enough conversation has begun that it’s reasonable to consider the ramifications of such a scenario. So what should we, as churchgoers, do if churches actually do lose their tax-exempt status? Here are six thoughts:
Tax deductibility has been a side benefit for those who give to their local church, but it has never been the reason why we give. At least, it shouldn’t be. We give because God has told us that this is how we properly steward what He has given to us. And because we passionately care about the mission of God. The loss of tax exemption status should not deter a Christian’s giving. The effect should be negligible. If anything, knowing that our churches are facing a financial giant should motivate us to give more. Because we believe in God and His mission.
2. Celebrate budget cuts
Especially if it is for one of your favorite ministries. Why? Because should the loss of tax exemption become a reality, budget cuts will help maintain the existence of a church. It is a sacrificial, missional move. And so it is not a time to get down or focus on how the cut affects you negatively. It’s not about you, it’s about the mission. So celebrate, knowing that your church will move forward in this new reality.
The most important resource for churches has never been money. It’s their people. A potential reduction in resources should motivate you to give your time and your energy to your local church. Right now, most churchgoers do not volunteer in any capacity at their church. If this is you, it is time to get in the game — with or without tax exemption status.
4. Help unleash bi-vocational pastors into the workforce
Should tax exemption go away for churches, the new financial reality will force them to hire fewer full-time pastors. It will usher in a whole new era for bi-vocational pastors. Assist these bivocational pastors with finding jobs. Connect them with your network. Help unleash bi-vocational pastors into the workforce, and create a new, exciting era of workplace ministry. And if you are concerned about how all of your church’s ministry will be accomplished if your pastor is not full-time, see number three again—volunteer your time.
5. Stay involved politically
Do not use this as an excuse to shy away from the opportunity to speak into the political system. Certainly, such a decision is not the desired outcome. And we could easily decide to give up. But it is a mistake to completely abandon the opportunity this governmental structure gives us. It is an opportunity that many around the world would cherish.
Pray for churches. Pray for their pastors. Pray for political leaders. Pray for our society. And when you pray, ask that God will use this moment in history to bring Him glory. Because God’s agenda was never going to be determined by whether or not U.S. churches were or were not tax-exempt anyway.
As Christians, we know that God is not surprised by these rulings. We know He is going to accomplish His mission. And we know that one day, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow. Until that day comes, however, we must remain faithful to the calling to which we have been called.
What about you? How would you respond to churches losing their tax exempt status? Please place your comments in the section below.