Dear Pastor ________________,
Thank you for contacting me. I respectfully submit the following reply with all humility and love to a brother in Christ.
Your letter indicates that you may have some problems, at least technically, with your trust arrangement. As long as nothing happens to bring those problems to the forefront, what you are doing will “work.” Let me respectfully point out some potential flaws in what you have done.
For example, you state that your “church” is deeded to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sometimes people refer to a meetinghouse as a “church.” A church, in the Bible sense, is an assembly of born again believers (perhaps infested with some tares impersonating believers). A trustee can acquire or convey property to and from the trust estate, but one cannot put a church in a trust estate. Only property (real and personal) and money can be put in a trust estate. In order for a real property to be properly deeded to a trust estate, the trustee has to sign the deed. In a trust relationship, the trustee as legal owner of the property can sign a deed. The trust documents make clear that the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the trustee, the legal owner, manages all properties and monies in the trust estate for the benefit of the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property.
I do not send out generic DOTs. To do so would be a disservice to you and your church. I would be glad to guide you to resources which explain the principles. In fact, you can find the principles on my website.
There are no certain words needed to create a trust relationship, just so the elements of the trust are present in the relationship. If you understand the principles, your church can establish a proper trust (with a caveat mentioned in the P.S. below). For reasons I have stated in at least one essay or article on the website, creating a trust relationship in writing is much to be preferred over a non-written trust arrangement.
As you probably know, you need a trustor (the church), a trustee (the legal owner of the trust estate), and a beneficiary (the Lord Jesus Christ) who, if the trust is properly established, is the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the trust estate.
In order to properly establish a trust relationship, a church (or at least leaders in the church) need to understand all about the assets they wish to put in trust, the debts if any and who holds the debts, etc. One also, in order to do this in a way that glorifies our Lord, needs to understand certain Bible principles, the history of the First Amendment and corresponding state constitutional provisions and the relationship of this type of trust to the legal system in America. American law did not originate or create the concept of trust, but American law recognizes the relationship. In establishing a trust, one should be careful to make sure that the trust created is not a legal entity.
Another factor involved is whether or not a church has made itself a legal entity in some way other than church organization. For example, does the church hold a bank account, insurance, etc. in the name of the church? Has the church entered into any contract(s) explicitly or constructively?
Since you know all the facts about your church situation, you can take the principles and tailor a trust accordingly (taking into consideration the caveat in the P.S. below).
I hope that helps.
Brother Jerald Finney
P.S. I respectfully add this caveat.
It appears from your letter that you may have consulted, not only with _______________, but also with others. I have come across several trust relationships which are pushed by certain pastors and others. All the ones I have seen, except that of the BLC, are a disgrace to our Lord. One of the so-called “law centers” (operated out of a church under the leadership of a pastoral authority heretic) which has successfully misled quite a number of churches does not even understand that what they promote is a trust, that the trust they establish actually makes the church a legal entity in that, in their published words, “the church holds property through a trustee in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Their understanding of what they are doing is severely flawed. Others which I have seen have no less problems. It seems that believers think they can just jump into the arena of church and state law without spending the time to grow in the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom needed to proceed in a manner which glorifies God.
1 Corinthians 12:8 “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit. A great pastor and Bible teacher said this, commenting on that verse:
“‘Wisdom’ means insight into truth. I do not think everyone can come to an understanding of the Bible, which is the reason we need teachers, and the Spirit of God has given us teachers. ‘Wisdom’ is insight into the truth of the Word of God. ‘Knowledge’ means to investigate or to dig into the truth. Many people simply do not have the time to dig into the Word of God to dig out the nuggets. I think [teaching the Bible] is my gift. The teacher and the student should be working together as partners, each exercising his own gift.”
The Holy Spirit gifts everyone in a church. A pastor, or any man, who tries to master too many things will fall short on most, or all, of the matters he deals with. For example, many lawyers practice in several areas of law. Practicing in more than one, or at most 2 kinds of law means that the lawyer cannot possibly keep up with the constant changes in each area of law being implemented by the court system, by the legislature and executive branches, etc.
Similarly, a pastor who thinks he can practice law, pastor a church, lead all meaningful ministries of the church, properly carry out his duties as father and husband, etc. is violating Bible precept. A pastor who delves into church organization and the concept of trust while carrying on his other responsibilities cannot possibly understand all he needs to know to properly deal with the issue of trust.
The Lord has gifted me, and I boast on Him, not on me, with special knowledge in the area of church organization. That expertise was gained through many years of intense study of first the relevant Bible principles, then history and law. Perhaps you have someone in your church who has the calling and time to take on such an endeavor.
Feel free to contact me at any time for any reason.
May the Lord bless you as you proceed according to His precepts and His will.