Ecclesiastical Authority and Accountability!

With increasing measure the IRS has made attempts to limit the authority of the pastor in the church. In 2006, regulation kicked in to require that the majority of the board be made up of mostly unrelated individuals. Later in that same year, regulation made it a requirement that a pastor on salary at the church not be able to vote on or set the salaries of other staff members. Many pastors are not even aware that such regulation is being enforced by the IRS. Now the IRS is wanting to see language in the bylaws that states that the pastor can be removed by the board for whatever reason that the board feels is justified. That is an over reach by the IRS. However, many churches and tax professionals have bent to the IRS because they thought that it was required by law. One reason they bent was because the letters they received from the IRS were very intimidating and came across as though it was the law to have that kind of language. To a certain degree, the IRS request is correct. There needs to be language that places a degree of accountability on the president/pastor. However, the IRS recommendation is far from Biblical.

On the other extreme, many pastors have created bylaws that do have any form of accountability. They make every decision and have the trump card in all matters of the church which includes the power to add or remove board members. There is no language in the constitution and bylaws that deals with sin and restoration if the pastor were to stumble. Assuredly, when your bylaws are structured that way, Satan will find a way to make you stumble.

Because of that, we created two articles that we recommend be added to your church's constitution and bylaws. The first one is titled "Ecclesiastical Authority." This is an article that clearly defines the pastor's authority as the head of the church and its highest authority in matters regarding doctrine, faith, polity and decisions that affect the spiritual environment of the church. This type of authority places the day-to-day management of the church in the hands of the pastor. It also makes him/her the final authority over the interpretation of the church's constitution and bylaws as well as giving him/her the right to veto a board decision that he/she feels is in conflict with the will of the Lord. The courts have ruled that the IRS cannot legitimately question matters of faith where there isn't an overriding government interest at stake. This ecclesiastical authority does not, however, leave the pastor without accountability. That is where the second article comes in. It is the titled the "Accountability Board." The Accountability Board is a special board outside of the organization. This board does not have the authority to meet or get together on its own for any reason. This board only has one purpose: to hear any accusations that have been brought to it by the unanimous vote of the board. In the case that the board unanimously believes that the Senior Pastor/President has committed any of the sins mentioned in this article, they are authorized to call the Accountability Board to conduct an investigation. If, after the investigation, the board believes that the Senior Pastor/President has committed any of the sins mentioned in this special article, they have the authority to either discipline the Senior Pastor/President or dismiss him/her.

It is important to know that the establishment of this Accountability Board is necessary to avoid the Pastor being voted out by the board. This article takes away that authority while still ensuring that if the Senior Pastor/President is ever to be removed then he/she really does have to be living in unrepentant sin.

Facts about the Accountability Board

1. We created this article because IRS regulation requires each church and nonprofit organization to have a way for the President to be removed. Without the Accountability Board, the IRS wants the bylaws to state that the board has the right to remove the president at any time it wishes. We do not agree with that position and have created the Accountability Board to protect the pastor.

2. The Accountability Board is an outside board. They do not have any authority in the church or have the right to meet on their own.

3. The Accountability Board cannot have any members that are related to the pastor.

4. The members of this board should be made up of individuals that are not members of the church or serve on the Board of Directors. It is best if they are leaders of other ministries.

5. The members of this board are nominated by the Pastor and then confirmed by the board. This means that the Senior Pastor/President shall carefully select the members. These ought to be people that he/she trusts and that love him/her enough to tell him/her the truth.

6. To properly implement the Accountability Board, the Senior Pastor/President needs to select three individuals and ask them to serve. If they accept, they fill out a special form and sign it to indicate that they wish to serve on this special board. This form should be saved in the church's Corporate Records book. If you do not have a Corporate Records book, please go to our website at


And receive Book 1 of our Grow Trilogy FREE today! This series gives you the strategies you need to get started growing your church plant today!