Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines of the Churches Under Christ Ministry

Fees and Charges

There are no fees or charges for ministry services. The ministry requests that each church helped send a gift as appropriate according to the resources of the church. The ministry asks, but does not require, each church who is able to do so to send a maximum $500.00 gift or whatever gift they can comfortably afford to send: $400.00, $200.00, $100.00, $50.00, $5.00, $0.00. The ministry will help you with the same diligence and integrity even if you can afford to give nothing. Do as the Lord leads in this matter.

Should you establish a Bible trust relationship with money and property, please continue to maintain communication with this ministry. After establishing the trust, you should call about such matters as how to open a bank account, about getting an EIN or using the Social Security Number of the Trustee in order to open a bank account for the trust estate, about obtaining liability insurance on property (again, not in the name of the church, but in the name of the trust), about property tax concerns, or about other matters. The ministry is at your service now and later even should you not be able to financially support this important work. We are here to help God’s churches do things God’s way and the motivation is not monetary.

The ministry would also ask you to consider supporting the  work in the future as the Lord leads. There is no requirement to do so, and the ministry will be here at your service.

Basics

Since you wish to organize as a spiritual body, a local assembly under the Lord Jesus Christ only, a church of Christ and a church under Christ, a First Amendment church, as opposed to an assembly or church under man and man’s laws such as a state non-profit corporation, charitable trust, business trust, unincorporated association, and/or Internal Revenue Code § 501(c)(3) or § 508 tax exempt organization, you understand Bible principles concerning churches of Christ and the consequences of leaving your first love. There are some basic matters beyond that which need to be understood. You may go to the resources which explain and teach all related matters in much depth and you may always call me.

The first civil government of any lasting significance to provide for the freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof was the colony of Rhode Island. The United States was the first nation to offer those freedoms. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the highest law of the nation, consistent with New Testament church doctrine, guarantees those freedoms. Corresponding state constitutional provisions guarantee the same freedoms even though a church may also, under state law become a legal entity, an established church, by incorporation, tax exempt status and by other means. Sadly, almost all churches leave their first love in favor of corporate 501(c)(3) or 508 status or legal entity status of some other kind.

The biblical method by which a church may organize is for the church to establish a trust relationship with property, both real and personal (personal property includes money and bank accounts). This is a common law trust, not a charitable trust or a business trust. The church establishes the relationship and appoints a person (a trustee) to manage any property given to our Lord for the benefit of our Lord only and not for the trustee’s own benefit or the benefit of any person other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible is to be the authority for the use of God’s money and property. Gifts to God may be used for the support of the pastor and his family, for helping those in need, for supporting missionaries, for paying utility bills for a meeting house, for paying the cost of leasing or owning a meetinghouse, and so forth. As we know, everything belongs to the Lord who has entrusted us with all that we have, both spiritual and material. Once established, the relationship is irrevocable (the grantor, trustor, or donor—the church—gives up all control over property and money held in the trust estate). A church member can, of course, quit giving to the trust estate (to the Lord Jesus Christ) at any time. However, when he/she gives to the trust estate, his gift is no longer his, and it cannot ever be returned to him. Once a trust estate is exhausted, the trust ceases to exist. By definition, a trust is a fiduciary relationship with property and money. If there is no money and property in the trust estate, there is no trust.

Neither the trust relationship nor the trust is a legal entity. The trust estate consists real and personal property. The trustee is a legal entity, the legal entity who administers the trust estate. He has a fiduciary duty to administer the trust estate for the sole benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the owner of the trust estate.

Terms which describe this fiduciary relationship with money and property are as follows:

  • Trustor, Settlor, or Donor: The church is the Trustor, Settlor, or Donor. This means that the church established the trust relationship and gives, according to the free will of the church members, to the trust estate.
  • Trustee: Appropriately and usually the pastor or an elder. When a church is transitioning between Trustees, the church may want to appoint an interim Trustee until a new pastor or elder is appointed as Trustee. To change Trustees, an existing Trustee should proclaim in writing that he is stepping down as Trustee and appointing a new Trustee and the new Trustee should, in writing accept the position as Trustee. The Trustee is the legal owner of the Trust Estate who has the duty, under God, to manage the “Trust Estate” for the benefit of the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. No trust property is to be used for his benefit. Reasonable provisions for the Pastor an Elder and his family is a Biblically acceptable use of trust estate money and property. See the Resolution and Declaration of Trust for details.
  • Beneficiary: The true, beneficial, and equitable owner of the Trust Estate.

Trust

Members of a New Testament church do not give to the church (to themselves for they are the church). They give to the Lord Jesus Christ. Their gifts go into the Trust Estate which is owned by the Lord Jesus Christ and managed by His Trustee for His purposes. This is distinct from a church established by man. Members of a corporate 501(c)(3) or 508 church give to the church or to the corporation, not to God. Members, being ignorant of these matters, may believe they are giving to God and God may honor them for their heartfelt desire to serve and glorify Him. However, we know that God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge and that God desires His children and His churches to act with knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

This trust relationship can be created without documentation. However, it is wise to document the relationship for several reasons. I explain the concept of trust and some of the reasons for documentation in 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); See also, What God Has Committed to Man’s Trust: “Ye Cannot Serve God and Mammon”: Steward or Trustee? You can go to the “A Bible Trust” page and subpages thereunder for more information and resources about common law trust relationship. To go articles from this e-mail, left click the name of the article. The website, jeraldfinney.com, is a great resource for those who wish to understand the Bible principles involved, the history of our First Amendment which allows us to do things God’s way in America, and all related matters.

Man’s law did not create this kind of trust. It is a “common law” trust recognized but not created by man’s law. A corporate and/or 501(c)(3) or 508 church is the product of man’s law, but this type of trust is not. I cover all these matters on the website and articles above. I suggest the following free short book for those who wish to study more about church corporate and 501(c)(3) or 508 status and legal entity status in general: Separation of Church and State/God’s Churches: Spiritual or Legal Entities; online downloadable PDF; downloadable audio of the book; online version of the book. I have many other educational resources on the website which one who wishes to grow in knowledge of these matters can use in conjunction with their Bible studies.

Keep in mind that proper New Testament church organization can be compromised or undone if the church acts legally in some way. For example, by

  • holding insurance in the name of the church,
  • opening a bank account in the name of the church,
  • holding title to land or motor vehicles in the name of the church,
  • submitting to the jurisdiction of a court should a court ever try to name the church as a plaintiff or defendant in a court action
  • having a constitution or bylaws or operating according to some other business or legal manner
  • having employees and or staff as opposed to only New Testament church officers,
  • obtaining 501(c)(3) status or claiming 508 status (for example by giving IRS acknowledgements for contributions;remember, gifts are to be to the Lord Jesus Christ through the trust estate, not to the church),
  • operating a ministry as a corporate 501(c)(3) entity or intermixing the affairs of the church with a corporate 501(c)(3) entity even though the church is not a corporate 501(c)(3) or 508 church,
  • being associated with or under the auspices of an incorporated and or 501(c)(3) entity or 508 association of churches (as the Southern Baptist Convention),
  • any other manner which compromises the churches non-legal status.

A short essay on this type of trust relationship and information on how a church can undo what she has done in establishing the trust, see Destroying the Bible Trust Relationship: How a Church Can Nullify Her Efforts to Remain Under Christ Only.

A church under Christ who has not in some other manner surrendered her non-legal status cannot be sued because she is not a legal entity. Only a legal entity can be sued. However, that does not mean that someone may try to sue the church. If that happens, it is up to the Pastor/Trustee to let the court know that he is the legal entity in charge of the trust estate and that the church is not a legal entity over which the court has jurisdiction.

Some inconveniences may result from this type of organization. For example, should the trust estate acquire property, the local property tax board may attempt to deny property tax exemption on that property. Some people may not join or stay with the church if the church is not a n incorporated 501(c)(3) or 508 church. Etc. I would be glad to discuss any and all questions you may have concerning these matters.

Other Matters

I will discuss with you how to open a bank account, buy real estate for a meeting house, property tax exemption, and all other matters of concern for you.

The Documents

Once you have filled out the Questionnaire and understand the basics of what you are going to do, the next step is the preparation of documents which (1) declare that the church is not a legal entity and prove that the church is, pursuant to the First Amendment, not a part of or subject to the jurisdiction of the legal system, (2) name the trustor, trustee, and beneficiary and their powers and functions, (3) give the legal and biblical principles upon which the church relies in establishing the trust relationship, etc.

When a church is already established as a legal entity (incorporated, 501(c)(3), 508, unincorporated association, etc.) and owns property in the name of the church, has a bank account in the name of the church, the leaders should carefully move forward considering all relevant facts as she lays the groundwork for the ordering of a new church under Christ and Christ alone.

For His Glory,
Brother Jerald Finney

Churches under Christ Ministry is under the authority of Charity Baptist Tabernacle of Amarillo, Texas, Benjamin Hickam Pastor. Jerald Finney, a Christian Lawyer and member of Charity Baptist Tabernacle explains how a church in America can remain under the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1.22).

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