Fifty years ago American churches purchased property in Southeast Asia, and the missionary evangelist placed title in his own name. The evangelist now claims 50% personal interest in the property, which the local church disputes. The original donors say they intended to benefit the Asian church and not the evangelist personally. Should the church take legal action to claim its property — which would be a public scandal — or is that forbidden by Scripture?
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I cannot imagine the justification for placing title to church property in an evangelist’s name — and it seems especially wrong for such a man to seek to enrich himself now by claiming personal ownership to the church property. I do not know the law in your country. In disputes involving real estate owned by autonomous or independent churches, American courts regularly hold that the property (when in the name of the church) belongs to the majority of that church, even if the majority has changed some teaching from that of the original founders.
You have a spiritual issue here which far outweighs the legal question. That is to discern God’s will in the matter — what will best glorify him. God does not need real estate or money. He can work with it, or work without it. You indicate that the church is divided 50/50 on what to do. I encourage you to call a prayer meeting and ask God to show the whole church his will. I would not be surprised, with God’s leading, if 90% or more came to one view. In our human bodies, the head coordinates all the members of the body. Christ is the head of his body, the church, and the head can give coordination and unity to the members of his body We have to seek the Lord’s leading and trust the Spirit to lead us (Matt. 18:19-20; Acts 1:23-26; 4:31-32a; 15:22).
I encourage you not to take action in any direction until you have a strong sense of God’s leading. Spend much time in prayer until that comes. The Chinese evangelist Watchman Nee once observed that if a servant has a right to expect anything from the master it is to receive orders. We are God’s servants. We can say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:9; Isa. 50:4-5). And we can expect God to show us the way.