by Warren Heckman.
Uncle Sam’s tax authorities can be merciless when they look over your shoulder and say, “Come here, boy!” I was audited a few years ago, and it sent shudders up and down my spine. What had I done wrong in filling out those dreadful forms? This whole thing had to be a mistake. I wasn’t a criminal. I hadn’t tried to wiggle out of paying my share. But there it was, in black and white–pages of new forms to fill out to justify the amount I had contributed to church and missions.
The apostle Paul suggests a sort of spiritual audit when he says, “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding on to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it” (2 Cor. 13:5 Amplified).
We have to admit that we hear of way too many leaders in business, sports, politics, and ministry who are ultimately found to be breaking the law, living in sin, and trying to cover it up. When exposed by the media, it’s not a pretty picture. Homes are wrecked, marriages ended, families are shattered, ministries crumble, and individual lives are forever uprooted.
We need auditors, mentors, and accountability processes in place to help us stay on the straight and narrow for the glory of God. We must examine ourselves, as Paul says. But in today’s world, I think we need additional safeguards. As senior pastors, we have a responsibility towards our staff, pastors, elders, and deacons. We need to institute and maintain policies that will ensure their integrity.
Here are several areas that need annual audits and check-ups for the safety of our ministries:
1. Annual financial audits by a CPA firm (Certified Public Accountants), to satisfy ourselves, critics and outsiders that our records meet the GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles).
2. Constitution and by-laws audited by an appropriately knowledgeable attorney. Times change, laws change, people change. We live in a litigious society, and we need to know and understand our documents. They may need to be updated.
3. Safety audits. Are our building/s and grounds safe? What about stairwells … HVAC units … fire extinguishers? Are they in place and updated?
4. At the end of a Sunday morning service each year, practice a fire evacuation plan, so people know where to go quickly. How, for example, will all the children be moved to safety–and then reunited with their parents?
5. Audit of all insurance coverages, deductibles, and contingencies.
6. Prepare for the horrible possibility of a deranged person showing up at church with a gun.
I gleaned much of this list from John Ruck at Lake City Church in Madison, Wisconsin, who helped keep us on track and prepared during the years I was there. The list could go on and on, but this is adequate to get us thinking.
In Luke 12:39, Jesus tells us that as householders, if we knew our home was going to be burglarized, we would prevent the thief from doing so. So it is with various audits. It’s too late after a crisis. We must be proactive. Yes, it’s a bother, it may be expensive and not everyone will agree, but after the fact, everyone will be glad you took action and kept the enemy from a slam-dunk victory. God help us to live spotless before the world and take care for the safety of our flock.
Warren Heckman is the U.S. National Coordinator for Fellowship of Christian Assemblies.