Lesson 1: Basics of the Bible Trust Relationship and How a Church Can Nullify the Trust Relationship

Jerald Finney
July 21, 2021

“… Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. … For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” (Ephesians 5.25-27, 30).

Acts 20:28 “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Go to the following webpage for links to additional lessons as they are added: Lessons on the Bible (Common Law) Trust.

The only way I believe that a church can remain under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ alone (See, e.g., Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:16-18, King James Bible) and keep herself holy and separate from unholy civil government (see, e.g., 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, KJB) is by establishing a trust relationship with property, not by choosing to act legally (explained below) or to contract with the state and/or federal government for status as a non-profit corporation, charitable trust,  business trust, or tax exempt organization under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) or 508(c)(1)(A). A church does not apply for, but claims, 508(c)(1)(A) status and puts herself in the same position as a 501(c)(3) church (See Church Internal Revenue Code § 508(c)(1)(A) Tax Exempt Status). A church can also act as a legal organization, an an unincorporated association by acting legally—by holding property in the name of the church, holding insurance in the name of the church, opening a bank account in the name of the church, entering into a contract, having employees, or by acting legally in some other way(s) many of which are mentioned below.

Some churches exercise their Bible freedom and duty to operate under the Lord Jesus Christ in all things. By doing so, they apply the concept of the Bible trust even if they do not execute a written Declaration of Trust. American churches who desire to do so are protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).

The common law or Bible trust is not an organization. It is not a charitable trust, a business trust, or some other type of legal organization created and controlled, for  many purposes, by man’s law. This type of trust is recognized by man’s law, but is not the creation of man’s law. It is not statutory. It is a relationship with property whereby a trustee holds and manages property solely for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the true and beneficial owner of the property held in the trust estate.

The Bible trust is a fiduciary relationship with real and personal property (personal property includes intangible property such as money and bank accounts) recognized, but not created by, man’s law. This relationship is created by an agreement between a trustor and trustee, is private, creates no contract with the state (the state is not a party), and is not subject to control by civil government and its courts. Trust documents, if any, are never required to be filed in man’s legal system through any of its courts or agencies. This type of trust is not a legal entity.

The trust relationship can be established orally or in writing. If not in writing, and if the facts show the intent to establish a relationship with property to be held by a trustee for the benefit of the true owner of the property, then a trust relationship has been established. This is so no matter the terms used. It is not necessary to use the terms “trust,” “trustor,” “trustee,” “trust estate,” or “beneficiary” for a trust relationship to come into existence if the essentials of the relationship are there.

The trustor creates the relationship and names a trustee who agrees to administer a trust estate funded by the trustor (and others, if any, who wish to contribute to the trust estate) solely for the benefit of another, the true owner of the trust estate, the beneficiary (the Lord Jesus Christ). The trustor merely establishes the trust relationship. The trustee administers the trust estate solely for the benefit of the owner of the trust estate. Once assets are placed in the trust estate, those assets permanently belong to the beneficiary, not to the trustor (in an irrevocable trust).

An inactive trust is no trust at all. The elements of valid trust are: trustor, trustee, beneficiary, and trust estate. If an element is missing, there is no trust. If there is no trustor, trustee, trust estate and beneficiary there is no trust. Without a trust estate, there is no trust. For a trust relationship to exist, all elements of the trust must exist. If there is no trust estate, there can be no trust. One cannot establish a fiduciary relationship with property if there is no property.

Some churches have properly drafted and executed documents establishing a proper trust relationship in order to remain under the Lord Jesus Christ only; but they have nullified their efforts by never listing trust property to the trust estate in an appendix to the trust document. All property and assets in the trust estate should be listed in the appendix. Again, if no property is placed in the trust estate, the trust is non-existent. The Appendix should list all personal property (song books, pews, musical instruments, etc., checking account, etc.), real property, motor vehicles, and other assets held in trust estate.

Churches who have set up a trust relationship with money and property – through a Declaration of Trust, Procedures, or whatever the document is titled – nullify their efforts to remain under Christ only by acting legally. When a church acts legally, she is a legal entity subject to the jurisdiction of civil government.

A legal entity is an entity that can be sued, sue, charged with a crime, enter into contracts, or acts legally in any way. When a church acts legally or applies to the state or federal government for legal status (incorporation, charitable trust, 501(c)(3), etc.), she has declared herself to be a legal entity. In other words, when a church acts like a person, a corporation, or a business would act in any worldly matter, that church becomes a worldly, legal entity under man’s law and the courts of the world as opposed to a spiritual entity subject to Christ and Christ alone. That church has removed herself from the total protection of the First Amendment, as long as government respects the First Amendment, and placed herself under the authority of the Fourteenth Amendment and civil government as an artificial person.

Remember, should a church who is not a legal entity be named in a criminal or civil suit, she should not submit to suit; the pastor or another mature church member with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of these matters should make a special appearance contesting jurisdiction of the court over the church, pointing out that the church is not an earthly and legal entity. As long as the church has not acted legally, the only correct ruling for the court is to dismiss the case against the church.

How can a church act legally? A church can, for example, hold a credit card, hold deed to real property, open a bank account, get an Employee Identification Number (EIN), hold title to motor vehicle(s), hold insurance, contract, borrow money, incorporate the church or a ministry of the church, claim Internal Revenue Code § 508(c)(1)(A) status for the church or a ministry of the church, have employees, pay salaries, adopt a constitution and/or by-laws or do anything else in accordance with or subject to man’s legal system and not according to New Testament church guidelines and example.

A church who holds insurance admits that she is a legal worldly entity who can be sued. Should a church Bible trust obtain insurance (such as liability insurance on real estate) in the name of the trust, the insurance policy should not implicate the church. Some trustees get insurance in the name of the trust, but the insurance policy explicitly covers the church. The trustee must be careful to  make sure that the policy is not a church policy with the name of the trust on it. Insurance sellers are not familiar with the church Bible trust and will, if the trustee of the trust allows, simply put the name of the trust on the standard church policy, thereby setting up the church as a legal entity that can be sued.  Some church Bible trust trustees get insurance in the name of the trust, but the insurance policy sets the church up as a legal entity.

A pastor of a church may also compromise the position of the church as a church under Christ alone by taking a license from the state to act in a pastoral capacity; a license to conduct marriage ceremonies, for example.

Of course, civil government has authority under God to punish individual evildoers and reward those who do good, no matter how a church is organized. But God did not give civil government authority or jurisdiction over a church who chooses to remain under Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. The First Amendment to the Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions recognize this Bible principle. In a tyrannical nation- such as North Korea, China, and many other nations – no such protections are afforded. No matter, “churches and believers should obey God rather than man,” even to the point of martyrdom.

A properly implemented trust relationship with money and/or property keeps a church entirely out of man’s earthly legal systems and under the Lord Jesus Christ in all things. That is, if the church does not misstep and declare herself to be a legal entity subject to the law of man in some other way. Thank the Lord and the martyrs of Jesus who, in putting Christ first in all things, paid the price that gave all Americans freedom of religion and soul liberty as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions.

Please contact Jerald Finney should you have concerns of any kind regarding these matters.