Copyright © August 16, 2015
1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
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God desires those who are saved to walk in the Spirit, not to remain carnal (1 Co. 3). A spiritual child of God is in a position to judge all things since he has the mind of Christ (1 Co. 2.14-16). Likewise, a church is to be a spiritual body or organism made up of born-again spiritual beings (see,e.g., 1 Co. 12, Ep. 4), not a worldly organization made up of earthly minded, earthly named (CEO, secretary, treasurer, employees-not one of these positions comports with and all of these positions are contrary to New Testament church doctrine-etc.), earthly acting (as laid out in non-biblical methods of operation including non-profit corporation law, Internal Revenue Code law, or any adaption of man’s methods or methods of operation) congregation of unsaved and/or saved people.
The spiritual organism that is a church of Christ, a church under Christ, is organized according to the guidelines of the New Testament only; Christ is her only head (Ep. 5.23-32, Co. 1.18); etc. See, “Eleven Earmarks of a First Amendment [New Testament] Church” which is found in Quick Reference For Churches Seeking To Organize According To New Testament Guidelines.
A church who places herself under any other head(s) or becomes any kind of legal entity grieves our Lord. Legal entities include non-profit corporations (sole or aggregate), unincorporated associations, business and charitable trusts, 501(c)(3) religious organizations, etc. All these types of legal status are the creation of state or federal law; any church who organizes under man’s law is a creature of the state, an established church.
How can church members give to God as opposed to giving to a religious organization such as First Baptist Church, Inc.? How can a church meet on property without being the legal owner of that property? How can church members utilize hymnals owned by God, not the church? In other words, how can God be declared to be the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the tithes and offerings of the church (the church members) and of real and personal property which is to be used for the Glory of God? How can this be done without making the church the legal owner of the property?
God’s law tells us how—by recognizing that God, not a religious organization, is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of all things, including all money and all real and personal property; by further recognizing that God has entrusted all worldly money and properties to men; and finally by recognizing that God desires (but does not force) men to manage that money and property for His benefit (for His glory). A church in America can do this in a biblical way which was not created by man’s legislation but which is recognized by the legal system. This can be accomplished in such a manner that a church remains a spiritual entity only, as opposed to a legal entity; such that the church or the church, incorporated does not become the legal owner of the money, property held in trust for Him. In short, a church can do this by establishing an common law Bible trust.
The concept of trust is biblical. The Bible is, among other things, a Declaration of Trust (“DOT”). OF course, the Bible does not use that term; but, as will be shown in this article, it declares the concept of trust and accompanying terms. See How a Church Can Organize to Remain a New Testament Church(Holding Property In Trust For God Is A Scriptural Principle Recognized by American Law); What God Has Committed to Man’s Trust: “Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon”: Steward or Trustee?;See also, for links to more resources, Essays on The Bible Trust Relationship:Links to Essays and Other Resources. . Those resources more fully explain the Bible trust concept.
A trust relationship with property is established when someone entrusts money or property to a person who agrees to manage it for the benefit of another, and not for the benefit of the person who is entrusted with the gift (the trustee),. The giver is a trustor, settlor, or grantor. The trustee becomes the legal owner of the property, and has a fiduciary duty to use the property for the benefit of the true owner, the beneficiary. The person for whose benefit the money or property is held is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property. In other words, a trust relationship has been created. If the relationship is reduced to writing, the document creating the relationship is called a Declaration of Trust.
Unlike a church who organizes as a charitable trust or business trust, the church who establishes a common law trust has not organized as a trust; she has established a common law (Bible) trust relationship with property. The trustor church establishes the trust, the trustee administers and is legal owner of the trust estate, and the beneficiary is the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ. The church is not the common law trust and the trust is not the church.
For a church to remain a spiritual entity only and not a legal entity, the trustee must remain the sole legal entity who holds the money/property for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The trustee does not own the trust estate and is prohibited from using anything in the trust estate for his own benefit of the benefit of anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible is to be the guide as to how the trust estate may be used. It can be used, for example, for supporting missionaries and their families, providing for the pastor and his family, helping those in need, for owning or leasing a meetinghouse, for utility bills for the meetinghouse, etc.
There are many kinds of churches, assemblies, ekklesias. Christ knew this when He announced: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter,and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Christ makes clear in His word that His churches are under Him only in all things (Ephesians 1.22; Colossians 1.18). Thus, He knew that there were assemblies of people coming together for some cause who were not His churches, as is true to this day.
Churches who are partially under Him—who are not under Him, and Him alone in all things—are not churches of Christ. Any church of Christ may choose to comply with Bible doctrine and also the highest law of the land regarding religion, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and corresponding state constitutional provisions. They can do so by establishing a common law trust relationship with money and property—as long as they do not become legal entities in contradiction to that trust relationship. When they do so, they honor their love relationship with the Christ Jesus. See, The Love Relationship between Christ and His Churches as Depicted in Song of Solomon, see also, The Rose of Sharon (Transcript of a sermon depicting the love relationship between Christ and His local visible church , emphasizing the importance of organization under Christ only as opposed to corporate 501c3 or 508 status or legal status of any kind).
Many churches are no more than worldly organizations who, at best, pay lip service to a Jesus of their own creation. They do so in order to obtain perceived benefits offered by incorporation and 501(c)(3) or 508 tax exempt status. They operate as businesses do, using worldly methods to bring people in and milk them for money and services to the church; all to perpetuate the corporation. The church preaches and practices a social gospel and provides entertainment of various kinds which appeal to worldly and religious feelings and emotions of those who support the church.
Of course, some business oriented churches may preach very basic doctrines like salvation, the deity of Christ, etc., while dishonoring their love relationship with the Lord. They have left their first love. The Lord says to them, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent” (Revelation 2:5; see Revelation 1.12-2.7 for the full immediate context).
In summary, God established the concept of trust. The church recognizes that concept by establishing a trust relationship with money and property. As trustor, the church names the trustee, but the church does not hold the trust estate through a trustee; the trustee holds the trust estate for the benefit of the true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the money/property. The trustee, not the church, is the legal owner. The church is not the trust, nor is the trust the church.
A church of Christ, when she understands her error in organization as a legal entity can repent and return to her first love. Few do so since most believers and churches are carnal and not spiritual. Most churches lose (or never had) the power (authority) of God. Their pastors continue to feed them with the milk of the world instead of the meat of the word of God; therefore, there is no increase. Worldly religious organizations, churches, do things the world’s way according to the world’s principles.
Thank God for the remnant: Does that include you and your church?
JERALD C. FINNEY
BAB, HB, BBA, JD
801 Elgin St.
Amarillo, TX 79118
Phone : (512) 785-8445