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Publish Date: May 7, 2009  ::  Author: David Reever

Most American Christians Do Not Believe that Satan or the Holy Spirit Exist

 
altA new nationwide survey of adults’ spiritual beliefs, conducted by The Barna Group, suggests that Americans who consider themselves to be Christian have a diverse set of beliefs – but many of those beliefs are contradictory or, at least, inconsistent.
 
 
 Views on Spiritual Beings

 All 1,871 self-described Christians were asked about their perception of God. In total, three-quarters (78%) said he is the “all-powerful, all-knowing Creator of the universe who rules the world today.” The remaining one-quarter chose other descriptions of God – depictions that are not consistent with biblical teaching (e.g., everyone is god, god refers to the realization of human potential, etc.).

 For the other survey items a four-point opinion scale was used to measure people’s reactions to statements about each spiritual entity.
 Four out of ten Christians (40%) strongly agreed that Satan “is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” An additional two out of ten Christians (19%) said they “agree somewhat” with that perspective. A minority of Christians indicated that they believe Satan is real by disagreeing with the statement: one-quarter (26%) disagreed strongly and about one-tenth (9%) disagreed somewhat. The remaining 8% were not sure what they believe about the existence of Satan.
 Although a core teaching of the Christian faith is the divinity and perfection of Jesus Christ, tens of millions of Christians do not accept that teaching. More than one-fifth (22%) strongly agreed that Jesus Christ sinned when He lived on earth, with an additional 17% agreeing somewhat. Holding the opposing view were 9% who disagreed somewhat and 46% who disagreed strongly. Six percent did not have an opinion on this matter.
 Much like their perceptions of Satan, most Christians do not believe that the Holy Spirit is a living force, either. Overall, 38% strongly agreed and 20% agreed somewhat that the Holy Spirit is “a symbol of God’s power or presence but is not a living entity.” Just one-third of Christians disagreed that the Holy Spirit is not a living force (9% disagreed somewhat, 25% disagreed strongly) while 9% were not sure.
 


 



Publish Date: February 24, 2009  ::  Author: Raul Rivera

IRS Watches Use of Church Debit Cards

Many churches allow the pastor to use the church debit card  for necessary church expenses such as a car allowance, travel costs, lunches and many other things.  Under the law, most of these allowances are illegal and can result in fines and back taxes for the minister.

Improper use of the church debit card is of high priority on the IRS watch list, as many ministers have used it to pay for church expenses for which it is difficult to account.  Additionally, if the church does not have a legally ratified Section 62 reimbursement plan, the use of the church debit card to pay for gas, travel and other expenses deemed necessary can be classified by the IRS as embezzlement and can result in fines and possibly criminal charges. 

If there is one area where churches are vulnerable it is in the use of the church credit or debit card.  That is because these expenses are easy to disguise as "necessary."  Please be diligent in educating yourself on how to properly use a church credit/debit card.  Do not think that paying for certain expenses that you feel are necessary is OK with the IRS.  There is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

Income tax regulations require that any and all money given to the pastor be reported as income unless certain requirements are met.  Most churches are not aware that these regulations exist; much less, that failure to follow these regulations may result in heavy fines to the church, the board members and the pastor.  Let me give you an example. 

Church ABC pays Pastor Tom's car payments.  At the end of the year the total payments are $6,500.00.  Since the pastor is wholly dedicated to the ministry, he uses his car for both ministry and personal use.  The church board of directors recognizes his dedication to the call of God on his life and knows that he is unselfish in using his car for church purposes.  Out of love and admiration, they approve for the church to make all his car payments.  The problem with this scenario is very big and the consequences are, too! 

Since 2005, Treasury regulations have focused on these types of transactions.  These regulations have been tightened each year.  Section 4958 empowers the IRS to issue intermediate sanctions against the pastor and the board of directors for violations.  If the church makes Pastor Tom's car payments, the church is required to report those payments as income on Pastor Tom's W-2.  This means that a tax free car stipend or allowance really does not exist.  It is now labeled by the IRS as an excess benefit transaction.  Under the code, the IRS will fine the pastor 200% of the car allowance plus penalties and interests on back taxes.  Additionally, each board member that approved the transaction can be fined up to $10,000.00.

This article is not written to scare you, rather it is a trumpet call to the Church.  We need to know that the times have changed, the laws are real and so are the consequences.  I am trying to empower you to make the necessary changes. 


Can my church get in trouble for allowing guest speakers to take their own offerings? Some traveling ministers and ministries take up their own offerings and even use their own envelopes.  We will show you why you must never allow that to happen and how it can get your church into trouble.

Can I really be prosecuted for receiving love offerings?  We will show you that mishandling love offerings is a criminal offense.  We will show you how to receive them and how to minimize the taxes due on them.
Learn all about the IRS Compliance Initiative Program and how it affects your church.  Yes!  The IRS does have an active initiative compliance program designed to "encourage compliance among public charities."  The first round of inquiries and audits yielded penalties of over $21,000,000.00 in fines.