Housing Allowance Held Unconstitutional

A-house-built-out-of-moneyAs most ministers are aware, the Internal Revenue Code grants a “housing allowance” that excludes ministerial income from federal income taxation (not the self-employment tax) to the extent used to pay certain housing costs.

This benefit has been a huge help to ministers across the country and has surely helped churches afford to hire ministers at salaries that would have been too low if the salaries had to be fully taxed.

On November 21, the federal district court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued an opinion finding that the housing allowance is unconstitutional. The opinion does not address the tax exclusion for church-provided housing, only the exclusion for wages paid as a “housing allowance” under Internal Revenue Code section 107(2).

Practical impact

The court has ordered the IRS to no longer allow the housing allowance, but this order is only effective at the expiration of all appeals. The case will surely be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

It’s very likely that the case will ultimately be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which would settle the issue nationwide, but it’s very difficult to predict whether the Supreme Court would take the case — as they hear only a small percentage of cases appealed to them.

In short, we are years away from a final answer. My expectations is that the IRS will continue to recognize the housing allowance until such time as the appeals have been exhausted.

Therefore, if I were a minister of the gospel, I’d continue to claim the housing allowance, even if I lived in the Western District of Wisconsin. However, I’d pay close attention to the inevitable appeals. It’s quite possible that a year or two from now, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decides the appeal and the case ends, with the Supreme Court declining to review their decision.


There are essentially two issues in the case. The first is whether those who filed the case, the plaintiffs, have “standing” to challenge the exclusion. Federal courts may only hear “cases and controversies” under the Constitution, and that means that parties on both sides of the case must truly have something at stake in the case — more than just principle.

It’s hard to see any real impact of the housing allowance exclusion on anyone other than a minister and the IRS. I mean, the harm supposedly suffered by a general taxpayer is speculative at best. How likely is it that my taxes will go down if the housing allowance is repealed? Essentially zero, right?

As a result, previous attacks on the housing allowance have failed for lack of standing. The plaintiffs may not like the outcome, but it’s next to impossible for them to prove any real impact on themselves. Thus, essentially, only the IRS has standing, and the IRS has so far decided not to challenge the allowance on constitutional grounds.

However, the District Court found the plaintiffs to have standing “because the statute denies them an exemption that others receive.” In fact, the Supreme Court’s case law on standing in Establishment Clause (the part of the First Amendment banning the establishment of a religion by the federal government) cases can be read either way, in my opinion. There are cases that suggest that an exemption cannot be challenged by private parties; whereas other cases arguably go the other way.

It’s hard to predict whether the current Supreme Court would find that the plaintiffs have standing. They could rule either way and have significant precedent on their side. I predict a 5-4 split, as so often happens in Freedom of Religion cases.

That is, I would expect the more conservative members of the Court to find no standing, with a moderate justice providing the swing vote.


Once the plaintiffs establish standing (if they can), then the actual merits of the exclusion must be determined. The District Court found that the statute obviously discriminates in favor of “ministers of the gospel,” and so is unconstitutional as violating the Establishment Clause.

Many cases in the past have held that the government may grant exclusions for the benefit of religious organizations but may not grant an outright subsidy. Under that analysis, the statute is constitutional.

However, the District Court found that Supreme Court precedent requires a finding that the statute is unconstitutional because it favors the dissemination of a religious message over a non-religious message.

In particular, the turning point of the decision seems to be whether Congress was removing a burden imposed on religious organizations, and the District Court found that a general income tax is not that sort of burden.

The full text of the decision may be found here. The decision demonstrates the subtlety and contradictions within Supreme Court Establishment case law. The key precedent relied on by the District Court failed to garner five votes among the Supreme Court justices.

For years, the Supreme Court has been unable to draw clear lines in this area of the law, leaving the lower courts struggling to apply Supreme Court decisional law.


In short, this case is certainly a victory for opponents of the housing allowance, but the IRS is unlikely to reject housing allowance claims until all appeals have been exhausted.

The case will surely ultimately be appealed to the Supreme Court, but the odds are against their taking the case.

There’s been no challenge brought to the exclusion of the value of church-provided housing for ministers. It’s only the housing allowance that’s at issue. (If this is the final outcome, we should expect churches to find creative ways to provide tax-free houses for their ministers without providing a housing allowance.)

It’s very unlikely that Congress can do anything to preserve the housing allowance. While Congress might cap the value of the exclusion or otherwise modify the law to prevent abuses (which they should do, in my opinion), the constitutional challenge is not based on abuses of the statute, but the statute as written on its face.

Therefore, this is a question that will ultimately have to be battled out in the courts, and we’re at least a year or two away from a Seventh Circuit decision. I personally would hope that the Supreme Court takes up the case — to give a clear, national answer and as a much-needed step toward clarifying Establishment Clause law.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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49 Responses to Housing Allowance Held Unconstitutional

  1. Gary says:

    If the ministerial housing allowance is ultimately held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court it would seem that the tax free housing allowance for the military who do not live in military housing would also eventually be struck down as unconstitutional. While religious issues are not involved with the military housing allowance it seems like the Equal Protection issue would be the same for both military and ministerial housing allowances. The effect of the end of the military housing allowance would be a significant pay decrease for much of the military and lead to demands for billions in new construction of military housing. I’ve long thought that the military housing allowance is practically the strongest defense for the continuation of the ministerial housing allowance

  2. Bill Denton says:

    Jay, if a church simply paid the rent for a minister’s house, would that qualify as church provided housing?

  3. Jay Guin says:


    Good thought but it won’t work. The section that was not challenged is the oldest part of the law, which excludes from taxation the rental value of a house provided by the church. I think that requires that the house be owned by the church.

    It’s for the so-called “parsonage” that many churches used to provide (and few still do), however, the law does not require that the parsonage be next door to the church.

    The parsonage deprives the preacher of the double deduction for mortgage interest and property taxes, but does allow him to exclude the fair rental value of the house from income.

    Preachers generally don’t like a parsonage, in part because it deprives them of the profits on resale of the house (less of a problem today, sadly) and allows them to choose their own school district and neighborhood (less important in some cities than others).

    We may find ourselves headed back toward parsonages, which I don’t like because it puts the church in the real estate business — a business that nowadays involves some very real risk.

  4. Jay Guin says:


    It’s an interesting thought that the court never got to. Although the law was challenged on Equal Protection grounds, the court didn’t need to rule on that question because it found the law to violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment — the part that bans the federal government from setting up a state religion.

    The courts have greatly broadened that clause to prohibit subsidizing a religion, and the cases are split as to when a tax exemption might be a prohibited subsidy.

  5. Pingback: Monday’s Links To Go | Tim Archer's Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts

  6. Brad Adcock says:

    As a bi-vocational preacher at a tiny country church in the middle of nowhere for nearly 7 years, my ministry really was a “labor of love.” Being young and uninformed, our first year’s taxes because of the self-employment tax (on top of the usual income tax) required us to take out an unsecured loan, even with the housing allowance. I learned a lesson from that. Even after taking out a good bit more from my “secular” paycheck we did good to break even (or close to it) most years. That improved a little when we had our son. We’ve actually fared better with less income since I’ve stepped away from a ministry role (still teaching and doing some sporadic fill-in preaching at our “home” church and others nearby). I doubt that’s a problem for most full-time ministers, but I hope the possible eventual loss of the housing allowance doesn’t discourage bi-vocational ministers in similar situations as mine (if there are any. LOL)

  7. Ray Downen says:

    The problem of “proper pay” for a person employed full-time by a church is great. This was a problem not faced by Christians in the apostolic age. They had no clergy, so paying for a clergy was simply no problem for them. We could avoid some problems by in fact being “New Testament Christians.”

  8. Gary says:

    Ray, I think you overstate the case. If it were as simple as you set forth Paul would have never had occasion to quote the proverb, “Do not muzzle the ox that treads the corn.” Fulltime evangelists, apostles and missionaries had to eat and live even in the first century and they were not all tent makers.

  9. Cary McCall says:

    Ray, what you say is a nice ideal, but it’s simply not true even for the New Testament Christians. Even Paul quit tentmaking at times to be devoted exclusively to preaching.

  10. Ray Downen says:

    Where is the report that any congregation hired him or paid him a “salary” to enable him to afford to “preach” for them in a pulpit arrangement similar to ours? He worked as much as needed in order to support himself and his helpers, so far as I can tell from the reports. I see no mention of him asking for support in the form of a fixed sum each month or week. Paul suggested that each congregation where an elder was able to devote full time to the work of an elder that the full-time ELDER should be supported in his work. The duty of the elder was the edification of a particular congregation. Paul’s call was to spread the gospel where it had not yet been heard, as I understand Luke’s report and Paul’s writing. Do we see some helping Paul evangelize? How does that compare with our present practices?

  11. Jay Guin says:


    (1Co 9:1-10 ESV) Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are not you my workmanship in the Lord? 2 If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 3 This is my defense to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.

    Paul argues that he’s entitled to be paid by the church, not because he’s an apostle, but because he helps produce a good crop, because he helps produce a harvest. It seems obvious that the logic extends to other servants of the church.

  12. Larry Cheek says:

    Are there not some examples of those serving in the Israelite Nation being supported by the balance of the Nation? Why would that not be a applicable guide for the support and even the dedicated located servant? What work outside the serving in the Temple, or where do you encounter the Prophets and Priests working at you might say secular job to support their teaching and directing of God’s people?

  13. Ray Downen says:

    I thought we were looking for an example of a church hiring Paul or anyone to work for them in doing the work of the Lord. You kindly point to a defense of doing so. Thanks. But where is even one example of a church hiring an evangelist to work for THEM during the apostolic age?

  14. Alabama John says:

    In most of the churches today, the support of the preacher and others being paid and the building eats up most of the contribution if not all. It will come a day when there willl be a mass exidus of the buildings and a change and joining together of progressives.
    This will of course mean less preachers being paid.
    Its sad today to see so many in need of help being denied by the churches in order to pay a full time preacher with an attendance of 20-30 or less.
    I believe the preacher, elders and any responsible for letting this continue will be held accountable one day.
    There are a lot of ways to sin and this is one seldom talked about.

  15. Zach Price says:

    Do your preachers only preach? What about pastoral care, administration, etc? Ours work more hours than most people and not paying them would be sinful as you put it Alabama John. On top of that they are on call for emergencies 24/7 and work most holidays. Maybe the problem is you’re paying someone just for good sermons.

  16. Ray Downen says:

    Those who read the apostolic writings carefully are apt to not find there any mention of hired servants of the church. Every Christian is called to serve. We have set up a system of clergymen who are paid to serve. It would be good if we all realized that we ALL are to provide pastoral care, administration, etc.We hire worship leaders when we each should be worship leaders. We hire someone to do all the public teaching when it should be our elders doing the teaching. Or is there teaching about a clergy that I’ve just not noticed in apostolic writings

  17. Jay Guin says:


    I entirely agree with you that ALL Christians are called to serve and that teaching is supposed to be primarily the work of the elders. And I agree that the development of a paid clergy sometimes gets in the way of these things. In fact, I particularly dislike the notion that church members feel disrespected if the preacher doesn’t visit them in times of bereavement. I mean, caring for the sick and mourning within our church should be the responsibility of the membership generally — not a contest to see who gets the highest ranking visitors.

    Nonetheless, I think the evidence for ministers supported by the church is very substantial — and my experience is that churches of any size do much better with fulltime staff. After all, the churches that refuse to hire staff tend to be very small or long dead.

    How do we suppose that the apostles paid for room and board after Pentecost? Overseeing a church of 3,000+, growing rapidly and in desperate need of teaching, was surely much more than a fulltime job! For Peter and the other fishermen, there was no place to fish near Jerusalem (on the top of two mountains!), and I doubt that Matthew went back to tax collecting.

    It seems certain that Jerusalem church passed the hat to support the apostles. The topic isn’t discussed much in the NT because the practice of supporting those who teach the scriptures or otherwise serve God fulltime was well-established. The synagogues and Temple had men who were supported by the congregants. The synagogues typically had one or two men who served as teachers, who might even conduct a school for children. The Temple, of course, had priests and other Levites who were supported out of the Temple tax and third-year tithe (Deu 26:12 ff; 2 Chron 24; etc.)

    Finally, it appears that Paul, at times, accepted financial support from churches to allow him to be more committed to his ministry —

    (2Co 11:7-9 ESV) 7 Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached God’s gospel to you free of charge? 8 I robbed other churches by accepting support from them in order to serve you. 9 And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

    To me, therefore, it’s a question of expedience. The role of the paid ministerial staff is not to relieve the congregation from the hard work of Christian living but to help them in doing their part. Thus, in my church, we have a number of paid ministers, and as a result of their diligent work, have a huge percentage of our membership actively engaged in ministry. Our small group numbers roughly equal our Sunday morning attendance. And most of our adult teaching is done by elders, although plenty of other members are engaged in the teaching ministry.

    In short, it’s entirely possible for paid staff to increase the involvement and Christian commitment of the members, rather than being a crutch that allows the members to take it easy and watch the paid staff work.

  18. Director of Religious Operations is the actual job for which we hire most “senior ministers”. Pastor and teacher are ancillary, if needful, roles. This works until we get enough money to also hire an “executive minister” to take over the administrative load– a Chief Operating Officer– leaving the DRO in a CEO/public speaker role, the staff liaison to the Board of Directors. The rest of the staff are department heads.

    It’s not personal, it’s business.

  19. Monty says:


    Is the comments section closed on Hell and Mr. Fudge?

  20. Gary says:

    When we read the Pastorals we find Timothy being responsible for overseeing much of the church life in Ephesus so “Director of Religious Operations” is not far off the mark. The degree of cynicism and at times even hostility towards preachers/evangelists/ministers is an unfortunate and ugly side of many who are born and bred in Churches of Christ. In my experience it is rarely found in those who come to Churches of Christ from other traditions. Congregation for congregation, Southern Baptist churches usually grow and thrive better than Churches of Christ inthe same communities across the South. I’m convinced one major reason is that they typically treat and compensate their ministers much better than Churches of Christ do.

  21. Jay Guin says:


    See /2013/11/hell-and-mr-fudge/#comment-41233. However, since I’ve now posted a comment to Steve in reply to his views on universalism, I’ve reopened comments — trusting that the discussion previously deleted will not be resumed.

  22. Jay Guin says:


    It’s interesting how often Christian Churches grow to over 2,000 members whereas very few Churches of Christ do. Ask the Christian Church people why, and you’ll quickly be told that it’s about the paid staff. Churches of Christ have extraordinarily gifted speakers, but we do not train the staff to build a church — except by offering great sermons.

    The result is thousands of Churches of Christ with 200 or fewer members, spending nearly all their money on building and staff — because they never grow large enough to have money and resources to do more. Moreover, the preachers might preach great lessons, but they fail to call the membership to do the things that allow a church to grow — and hence we have no growth — just a net decline in membership.

    Our anti-clerical bias hamstrings the preacher from leading. He’s often excluded from elders’ meetings. And the result is a preacher unable to lead, elders untrained to lead, and members with no person to follow — with a full load of excuses to refuse to follow the leadership should they ever choose to lead.

    Our radical individualism and rejection of congregational leadership — both elders and ministers — is a recipe for little churches and strained budgets. And the proof is in the pudding.

  23. Gary says:

    Jay, it’s interesting you say that. I’ve had much interaction in my life with brethren in Christian Churches. Almost every time my observation was the same. The preaching is way better at CoC events. Even some of the biggest names among Christian Churches wouldn’t begin to compare with the quality of preaching at events like Pepperdine Bible Lectures. But the music was usually much better at Christian Church events. My concern with Christian Church megachurches is that they seem to inevitably slide further and further into a generic Evangelical blandness gradually leaving behind the richness that can be found in our Stone-Campbell heritage. In my experience the creme de la creme of the Christian Churches (“Independents”) is epitomized in Johnson City, Tennessee in Milligan College and Emmanuel School of Religion. Dean Walker was in many ways the Batsell Barrett Baxter of Christian Churches and his legacy lives on in those institutions and the congregations they influence.

  24. Alabama John says:


    your post at 3:44 is so right on. Glad you are better and able to post.

    WE full time employed members have just as much responsibility and desire to visit the sick and be with the needy members as the preacher does. That is very easy for the members to do in a congregation of way under 200 as most churches of Christ around here are. What I believe is an error is when the preacher, full time paid and housed, lets everyone know that all of us have the same responsiblity as he does and he maybe teaches a class on Wednesday night and maybe preach one or two lessons on Sunday.

    Interesting that on Wednesday night, members with regular full time jobs also teach a class and many preach a lesson on Sunday night if they meet on Sunday night which many don’t.

    If the members can work full time and teach then so can the full time preacher.

    Of course in larger churches a staff is needed but it is wrong to have a paid and housed preacher and the upkeep duties like grass cutting, maintenance, building cleaning, preparing the Lords Supper be shared equally, or more so by the members voluntarily.

    So many preachers in Alabama should get a job and if the congregation wants, give him a small check for appreciation. Sell the house, cut the salary, and do some good work like visiting jails, sick in the community, to teach and grow.

    The progressive churches have caught on to this going after new members idea and goal and it is working. The traditional way of breeding for new members is not.

  25. Jay Guin says:

    Ala. John,

    Our paid ministers believe they owe the church at least a full-time job plus volunteer hours equal to what the more involved members commit — that is, they believe they should work as hard as the members do — at least.

  26. Alabama John says:


    That is the right thinking and why you are growing and the church I attend is too.

    How sad to see the many churches we pass on the way to the one we attend with a few vehicles there on Sunday mornings. Last Sunday, there was one pickup at the one 1/2 mile from our home.

    Ever think about stopping at one many years old not being used anymore and sitting empty, stop and just go inside and pray?

    Some of us have done that and just think of the many times Jesus met with those 2, 3, or more there.

    Once again He was there for a brief time and His presence was felt!!!!

    Sentimental? You bet!

  27. Zach Price says:

    I worked for a church in Texas that had over 6000 members and the full time staff was probably around the same size as a small congregation in Alabama. It definitely wasn’t enough and it was good at basically forcing lay people to volunteer many hours to the church out of neccessity. (also a good thing since for that church time was far more valuable a resource for many when writing a large check would have been the easy way out) That church was far from dying and to this day one of the most close to Christ church experiences I have had.

  28. James A. Robbins says:

    The question of binding examples really goes far deeper than any one example. It is easy to find one example and defend binding it on all believers. It is much harder to sort through all the examples in the NT and determine which ones are binding and which are not. It is true that the only examples we have for the support of evangelists in the NT are where different congregations send support directly to them. It is also true that the only examples we have of benevolent support are sent to elders or other leadership in a local church for distribution. Are these binding across all time and space for all believers or are they just coincidences based on far too few examples to actually make a trend?

    What about the other practices where there are consistent examples?

    How many today would insist on only taking the Lord’s Supper in an upper room, at night, with candles burning? The only examples we have of it in the NT always have these features. I hear that some in the 1800s actually built their church buildings on stilts so they could follow the upper room part of this example.

    What about the “office” of widow in 1 Tim 5? Note that they are not just windows. They had to take an oath to enter this “office” and are expected to provide a specific service to the church to remain on “salary.” How often do we see this done in our churches today?

    The point I’m making is not that we might have missed some example that might be binding, but that we should think about the whole concept of binding examples, itself. We pick and choose which ones we think are important without asking the basic question, does God expect us to treat His Book as a puzzle book that tests our ability to be cleaver, like a Where’s Waldo book of doctrine? When we get sidetracked by emphasizing some peripheral issue we get distracted from the important stuff, such as loving our enemies, praying for those that persecute us, or not being partial toward rich and powerful folk and disdain the poor in our assemblies (does everyone who serves in worship have to wear a tie?). Have we got those down so well that we feel the need to find details to focus on?

    Just a few thoughts to ponder.

  29. RLBaty says:


    Just now came across your story on this, and was a little disappointed that you don’t seem to have mentioned me.

    Did I miss it.

    As I recall, we had quite a time when I tried to discuss the matter earlier here.

    I won’t take the time to banter with you about your analysis, though I do think you missed the substantive issues in the case.

    Maybe later.

    The media seem to have slacked off in recent days, but there was quite a few articles following the news. I guess the religious activists may be secretly planning their strategy.

    We will see.

  30. RLBaty says:

    The program is starting:


    The segment featuring Rich Bolton and me is the second half of the program, so you’ve got some time to get this message and tune in.

  31. Jay, does your staff feel obligated to do their volunteer service in the place where they are employed? Or do you find them doing this work in other places? I know they “can” do their volunteering elsewhere, but DO they?

  32. Is there something about a 2000 person congregation that is inherently superior to 10 200-person congregations?

  33. Jay Guin says:

    Charles asked, “does your staff feel obligated to do their volunteer service in the place where they are employed?”

    I earlier wrote, “Our paid ministers believe they owe the church at least a full-time job plus volunteer hours equal to what the more involved members commit — that is, they believe they should work as hard as the members do — at least.”

    Notice that I did not say that the elders had imposed this standard. Rather, this is the standard that our staff has chosen to hold themselves to. It’s a very different thing.

    We ask our small groups (enrollment is about equal to our Sunday morning attendance) to be involved in service to others. Much of this is service to organizations and people outside the church organization. And our staff participates in small groups just as do our non-staff members. Hence, staff members in a small group that volunteers to serve an outside ministry will do just that, because they are church members, not because they are staff.

    Of course, staff is often also involved in non-congregational ministries for other reasons. The point is that there is no bright line between “church” service and non-church service because our church believes in serving outside the church. It is, after all, all in the name of Jesus.

  34. Jay Guin says:

    Charles asked, “Is there something about a 2000 person congregation that is inherently superior to 10 200-person congregations?”

    Yes. Economists would call it economies of scale. Others might say “efficiency.” Others yet would say “avoiding spending all our money on buildings and preachers.”

    Ten 200-person churches will have 10 buildings, 10 preachers, and 10 youth ministers. They will all struggle to have a decent children’s program, because there may be only one or two children in a given grade. They will struggle to have excellence in worship, in teaching, in most everything because there is only so much talent in a group of 200 people. They may have elders, but they will struggle to find enough men truly gifted for eldership.

    Combine those churches into a single congregation, then will have a large staff, I’m sure, but not 20 people. The staff they do have will be, on average, more gifted and better trained, because they will be drawn from a larger talent pool and because the church can afford to send them to conferences and buy them training material — and because they can support and mentor and push one another.

    The combined church will have elders, and they will be drawn from a pool of 2,000 people, and surely GOd will gift enough members for the church to be well led.

    The adult Bible classes will be better taught, both because of having a larger talent pool from which to draw and because the church will be better able to equip and support the teachers.

    Because of these efficiencies, members who would have been tied up teaching children’s classes or doing building maintenance are freed to serve outside the church, by volunteering in missions or outreach programs. Large churches have vastly more resources to support outside works because of the efficiencies the numbers create.

    And because they are supporting but one building, one power bill, etc., there is more money freed up for missions and other good works.

    Finally, because God intends that we be united and not divided, I think he provides giftedness among the members sufficient for a united church. When we divide contrary to his will, we dilute the gifts we have, sometimes to the point that we struggle to survive. But that’s our fault, not God’s.

    Our congregations become the equivalent of broken families, divided by sin, and struggling to pay the bills and to care for the children.

    Unity is not a theoretical construct or merely a way of perceiving each other. The unity we read about in the Bible is real, visible, and realized by being a single church — one body, with one head, bound together with love — not a theoretical love but real love that can only be realized by time spent together, tasks accomplished side by side, victories celebrated together and losses mourned together.

  35. Gary says:

    I’ve concluded that one size does not fit all when it comes to church size. There’s a role and a need for both larger and smaller congregations. That being said, all other things being equal, give me the 200 member church over the 2000 member one any time. Megachurches do much good but I just can’t resonate with them. I spent several days once at a conference at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. The folks there were wonderful but I never could get past the feeling that I was in a convention center. The banality of the preaching left me scratching my head as to the church’s success but in fairness that’s the case in many small churches as well. I’ve worshipped in another mega Christian Church several times and each time I felt like I had been to an Amway presentation in a rented theater. Despite my attempts to be friendly no one spoke to me except the official greeters. The impersonal effect was enormous to me. Nevertheless all of this is just me and I recognize that many Christians are happy and productive in mega churches. I remember a cartoon in a Christian periodical showing a megachurch and a small chapel across a valley from each other and one man running from each one to the other passing each other and exclaiming together, “At last I’ll be happy.”

  36. Jay Guin says:


    I have to admit that the bigger the church, the harder it is to feel like family. I remember when my own church passed the 200-member mark. It was a difficult transition because no longer did everyone know everyone. Many members complained that they felt like strangers in their own church.

    But over time, that changed and we continued to grow — in part due to small groups and adult Bible classes, which create opportunities to feel connected in a group where you really can know everyone. Also in part to much greater involvement in ministry — another place where you become connected.

    Notice that the drive to feel connected has the side effect of encouraging members to be in class, group, and ministry — all very good things. The center of church life broadens — rather than being just the assembly. Rather, lots of things happen that fit people’s passions and talents in different ways — and the church becomes much more than a worshiping society.

    Charles’ question put me to the choice of 200 vs. 2,000. My own church is around 500, and I greatly prefer being 500 to 200 — although 200 was a great experience. But the missionaries we support, the ministries we do in town, etc. were not possible at 200 — and we have a much more diverse congregation — racially, ethnically, and economically. And that’s a very good thing, too.

    My own experience with 2,000 member churches is mixed — sometimes very cold, very institutional, and sometimes intensely enjoyable. I do think the multi-site movement has the advantage of letting a 4,000-member church feel like a 500-member church. The same can be done with multiple services, up to a point.

  37. RLBaty says:

    Following is a link to a recent investigative report, that I helped mastermind, on a “mega-church” out of Charlotte, NC:


    It ties in with the mega-church discussion and the FFRF lawsuit. I don’t know how it is with Church of Christ churches, but those other mega-churches appear to have a definite preference for secrecy and “elevating” their preachers.

    The reporter, Stuart Watson, is a Vanderbilt graduate and did some of his earlier investigative work out of Nashville. He continues his investigation into mega-church organizations with connections to the Charlotte area.

    An audio clip from Stuart’s above investigative report was the lead-in to the FFRF radio show yesterday featuring Rich Bolton and me. If you missed that show, it should be available on the FFRF website later this week.

  38. RLBaty says:

    FFRF v IRS – IRC 107 Radio Broadcast


    Click on download podcast to access the December 7, 2013 show.

    The segment of the show featuring attorney Rich Bolton and Robert Baty begins about the 20:25 mark.

  39. Pingback: Megachurches: Is bigger better? | One In Jesus

  40. Robert Baty says:



    Case No. 11-cv-0626



    JACOB LEW, in his official capacity as
    Secretary of the Treasury, and )
    JOHN KOSKINEN, in his official capacity as
    Commissioner of Internal Revenue,


    Notice is hereby given that all defendants in the above named case
    hereby appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh
    Circuit from the final judgment entered in this action on November 26, 2013.

    Dated: January 24, 2014

    Respectfully submitted,
    United States Attorney

    /s/ Erin Healy Gallagher
    D.C. Bar Number: 985670

    California Bar Number: 267469
    U.S. Department of Justice,
    Tax Division
    Post Office Box 7238
    Washington, D.C. 20044
    Attorneys for Defendants


  41. rlbaty says:

    The Baptist Standard publishes my letter in response to its FFRF v. IRS IRC 107 article:


  42. Robert Baty says:

    IRC 107(2) & Stuart Watson’s Investigation!



    If you don’t catch the newscast, look for the full story to be posted to that website shortly thereafter.

    (I think someone from Forbes may be making his appearance in the broadcast.)

  43. Robert Baty says:

    Here’s the link to the full text and video of the story as broadcast last night:


  44. Robert Baty says:

    Latest coverage from Forbes today in light of the Government and its amici briefs being filed, with coverage of my hobby on the issue.

    I think you can sign in via your FaceBook account if you want to add your readers’ comments to the article. See y’all there, or not!


  45. Note the strange bedfellows in this legal wrangle, where CoC basketball coaches hold hands with urban rabbis and Orthodox priests. Their unprecedented communion is readily explained in the words of the Coen brothers’ bigger-than-life bible salesman turned armed robber, Big Dan Teague, who instructively says,

    “It’s all about the money, boys!”

  46. RLBaty says:


    I have been trying to find out the latest on Cassidy’s proposed bill, but no one appears to want to talk about.

    Anyone here know anything about it?

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