What is a Church and what is a corporation?
The difference is one word: Not.
A Church is a not for profit corporation. A company is a for profit corporation.
What is the difference in the structure of the two?
Nothing except the labels.
A for profit corporation may be owned by one person if it doesn't publicly trade stock. If it publicly trades its stock any block of 51% of the corporate stockholders may take it over. Notice the word: MAY. If the articles of incorporation are worded such that any one person has final say, the block of 51% can just sell their stock if they don't like what is going on. Most corporations are configured with a CEO and a board of directors. Churches are configured with a head minister and Deacons (name may vary) but it is the same configuration. The board of directors can fire the CEO and the Deacons can fire the founding minister.
The Original Church issues “charters” to branch off into many churches. The original Corporation can sell “franchises” to branch off into many stores. Charters and Franchises are the same thing. For example: Frank may own a Substation but you have never seen Frank's Substation because his little Franchise has the same name, the same menu, the same ingredients, the same uniforms and the same signs as every other one. It is the same with every Methodist Church. To claim to be Methodist or Baptist they have to be chartered or franchised from the Mother Church and follow the same doctrine and rules.
The Southern Baptist Mother church forces every little Southern Baptist Church to be individually incorporated. If the Mother Company is smart, every franchise will be incorporated to limit the liability of the Mother Company. That is also why the Southern Baptist baby churches have to singularly incorporated. It limits the liability of the Mother Church but, it does not give the baby churches one degree more freedom because they are still controlled by the “Charter” or franchise.
Equally limited in liability are some churches that are Foreign Corporations registered to do business in the USA. You may want to really think about that one.
There is no IRS designation for a church. All churches are non-profit corporations, not churches and they are lumped with other charitable organizations. Religion does not get a special category. However, there is one privilege granted Ministers that is not available to other charitable organizations. It is called vows of poverty.
Just about every religious organization forces its ministers to take a vow of poverty. What this means is you legally agree to have X dollars of person property and nothing more. Everything else belongs to the Church or Ministry. A Minister may get a tiny or a huge salary, but he/she can only have X amount of possessions and the number is so low, you couldn't own a lousy used car. I am not joking. The Church owns the house, car, dishes, suit, shoes ….everything the minister uses in the performance of his duties. The minister only owns X dollar amount of tangible...real....you can hold it in your hands property. In addition to that there is usually a clause in the charter that the Mother church can reassign him/her to any congregation anywhere and can also “fire” him/her for no reason. So, if the minister does not agree with the doctrine, methods or choir robes, that person can be transferred to Podunk, State or they can be dismissed. If this person refuses to mouth sermons given to them on any topic or refuses to agree with any given interpretation of the doctrine or bible of the church, they can be dismissed and make no mistake about this, they will be kicked to the curb in their tidy whites because that is all they own. There is no severance package. This person will leave with the money in their pocket and the clothes on their back and that is all. The Church owns legal title to everything else. To disagree is be homeless, penniless, without transportation and jobless. The majority of ministers are qualified to do nothing else and no other religion is going to take in a trouble maker. Even the college degrees and licenses that the minister may operate under to counsel and marry people are owned by the church and will be retained by the church when he is sitting on curb. I think you can see the degree of hold any church organization has over its religious “employees” and make no mistake, they are wholly owned employees. In exchange for this slavery, the minister doesn't have to pay or file income tax.
Two things have happened in the last 40 years. First of all, the deacons are defined mostly as the largest contributors to the Church and specified professions like accountants, lawyers, etc. The church must have so many of each on the board of directors or deacons. This makes it easy for any corporation to take over a church without anyone in the congregation having any idea a take over has happened. Do you even know who the deacons are in the mother church? In some charters they are even granted anonymity. You can't find out who they are. The second thing for small churches at the local level is leases. Instead of giving the church a car, the dealership gives them a month by month lease which they then deduct from their taxes. Tax wise this actually gives the dealership a bigger deduction because they no longer have to deal with depreciation and all that. They are not giving a car, but a lease. It is worth the same amount of money every month for eternity. The same thing applies to property, houses, TV stations, broadcasting equipment, etc. What this means is if the Church doesn't tow the Corporate line, the corporation can pull the plug on them in a NY minute.
By now you have figured out that at some point I was a book keeper. This is why I always follow the money and I can add, subtract, multiply and divide in my head. The operating budget for a TV station is in the millions per month and that is just licenses, electricity, equipment, etc. These huge televangelic churches would have to be getting a huge sum of money from every person watching them every month to just meet the bottom line expenses. So where is the money coming from? The answer is leases again. The church doesn't own this stuff, they are being given a month to month lease on it. At first that must seem like money from heaven but very quickly it becomes a deal with the devil. Either you tow the corporate line or that nice car, house, suit, dinner and all those adoring fans are going to disappear in one instant and there is nothing you CAN do because without all those computers, phones, TV stations you can't even run up a flag and scream for help. Do you really think the big communications companies that control the Media, haven't envisioned that and used it?
Any for profit company ought to be able to figure out a plan to take over a church and use it as an advertising outlet in less than 5 minutes flat. Churches are, pardon the pun, lambs for the slaughter. When I saw that churches were actually rewriting, not reinterpreting, not re-translating, but rewriting the Bible, aside from the WTF, I wondered how they were getting away with it. I mean, this is their Holy Book. You might make notes in the margin but you don't rewrite what Peter said to profit Paul. This is something a corporation would do with an employee handbook to make sure the employees were more under your thumb......yes....it's exactly what your mega corporations would do to better control their employees and what a wonderful caveat 'God said you should do this' is...God said you should vote this way..You could say it is the ultimate tool particularly when the corporation, I mean God, becomes your conscience.
What are my qualifications? Forty (40) years ago I met a retired lawyer for a megacorporation who offered anyone in the “new age” community help forming their own not for profit corporation or as it is known: Church. I was the only person who took him up on the offer probably because I had both the initiative and the education to feel confident enough to do it. During the next six months, using an old typewriter, I hand typed, with a side order of a gallon of white out, an entire book including the articles of incorporation, corporate structure and religious doctrine. The IRS has the best explanation and rituals ever written for any Druid. I was ready to throw the towel in weekly and every week he would say one thing. “Janice, you are going to need to understand this in the future.” And every week my answer was, “I have no intention of becoming a lawyer.” He would smile and repeat what he said and I would get back to work. I think he knew what was coming down the pike because of who he had worked for and because he was an excellent observer and probably because he had a habit of listening at doors. Now I understand why I had to learn what I learned and now YOU have to learn it.
Churches are no longer religious organizations. They are political propaganda machines used to turn out the vote. Who does that benefit? It doesn't benefit the church whose focus should be on religion not politics. If your candidate looses the election, your congregation might conclude God has abandoned you and convert to another religion that is winning elections. So, who does politics benefit? It now benefits corporations. So why would churches be spending their time doing things that benefit only megacorporations and not their religion unless they are controlled by megacorporations? And then we rewrote the bible to produce nice, compliant workers that never complain about their working conditions or pay because God tells them to grateful they have a job unlike those lazy heathens the Liberal liars make them buy I-Phones for with their taxes.......sounds like a business plan to me. Sounds like a really good business plan to me. Sound like a great business plan to me! God wants you to work 60 hours a week for poverty wages so you can get your reward in Heaven. Now, let us start your work day holding hands in prayer and be thankful you have a job.......Amen. Praise the Company! I mean Lord.