Churches Have Little to Fear from the IRS: Scare Tactics Don’t Match the Reality:  List of 2023 Disciplinary Actions


Church accountants sometimes scare pastors with stories of IRS audits. The church accounting firm Chitwood & Chitwood warns, “There have been many small Churches that have encountered the wrath of the IRS. Don’t be one of them.”

However, that claim is false. Very few churches, large or small, are audited or criminally investigated by the IRS.

How frequent are church audits? The Wagenmaker & Oberly law firm reports that 2-years between October 1, 2020, to September 30, 2022, the IRS launched 14 church tax examinations. Compare with over 400,000 churches in the U.S. and we here at Trinity Foundation frequently receive calls from informants and victims complaining about fraud and embezzlement in their churches.

In fact, no churches lost their tax-exempt status in 2023 due to IRS disciplinary actions resulting from church audits.

Continue reading “Churches Have Little to Fear from the IRS: Scare Tactics Don’t Match the Reality:  List of 2023 Disciplinary Actions”

Church, Pastor and Ministry Leader Homes Sold in 2023

According to Psychology Today, “Our home conveys messages about who we are.” This is true about pastors whose homes range from modest to extravagant.

More than 2,000 years ago the prophet Micah wrote, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

The following homes were sold in 2023.

While we avoid posting current addresses of living religious leaders to avoid doxing them, this article does link to real estate website listings for former homes. In some cases, these pastors have lived in homes financially unobtainable by most of their church members.

For comparison’s sake, the lowest priced property on this list is $455,000 which is more expensive than most homes sold in America. According to real estate website Redfin, “The median price of a home in the United States is currently $414,633.”

Each of the beach houses and beach condos on this list were secondary homes for their owners.

Glen Berteau Ministries

Glen and Deborah Berteau, founders of The House Modesto megachurch,  sold their Florida beach house in February for $795,000.

Redfin reports, “Location is everything and this Florida Cottage is within 1/2 mile to the beach & just 100 yards to Legion Park, a public boat ramp/park on the bay.”


Hillsong Property Holdings LLC acquired a home in Newport Beach, one of America’s most expensive cities in 2015 for $2,180,000 and sold it in 2023 for $3,525,000.

Investigators and journalists wondered if this home was the residence of Brian Houston, the founder of megachurch Hillsong.

Redfin describes the property: “A true live/work residence. Downstairs includes a large open Commercial Office Space that has its own separate entrance and its own full bathroom. Parking for 6 cars including an attached 2-car garage.”

Continue reading “Church, Pastor and Ministry Leader Homes Sold in 2023”

Non-profit Ministry Compensates Founder Almost $1 Million While Running $580,000 Deficit

(Photo: Cindy Trimm appearing in Bible study on YouTube.)

In 2021, Cindy Trimm received $984,549 in compensation from Cindy Trimm Ministries International. Meanwhile, the ministry generated almost $1.5 million in revenue while spending more than $2 million, resulting in a deficit of $580,607.

Trimm’s compensation was disclosed in a Form 990 filed with the IRS.

In 2020, Trimm received $72,000 in compensation, so in 2021 she received a 1,267% pay increase. However, the ministry failed to disclose how it determined Trimm’s compensation.

(Photo: No boxes were selected on Schedule J of the 2021 Form.)

Under normal circumstances a compensation study or compensation committee would recommend the salary for Trimm. During a board meeting,  Trimm would recuse herself and the remaining board members would vote to approve or reject the compensation recommendation.

Why would Trimm receive such a large pay increase? Where did the money go?

In September 2021, Trimm purchased a home in McDonough, Georgia, for $775,000. According to the Redfin real estate website, the property is in a “gated golf course community” and now worth $1.8 million.

Continue reading “Non-profit Ministry Compensates Founder Almost $1 Million While Running $580,000 Deficit”

Time to Stop the Bleeding, Revisited

In 2015, Trinity Foundation expanded its mission to investigate religious fraud worldwide. Since then, the problem of dark money in the church worldwide has only gotten worse.

In 2015, Trinity Foundation expanded its mission to investigate religious fraud worldwide. Trinity Foundation’s lead investigator Pete Evans soon traveled to and investigated religious organizations in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala.

Since then, the problem of dark money in the church worldwide has only gotten worse.

After reading a report in the International Bulletin of Mission Research (IBMR) which estimated that ecclesiastical crimes (embezzlement of church and ministry funds) would reach $100 billion annually by 2025, Trinity Foundation’s founder Ole Anthony wrote the press release “Time to Stop the Bleeding.”

Anthony called for coordinated action from churches and denomination leaders, but the call fell on deaf ears. He passed away in 2021.

IBMR has continued to publish revised global ecclesiastical crime statistics in its annual January issue, statistics which get relatively little media attention.

In the January 2023 issue researchers estimated that $62 billion would be embezzled by Christian religious leaders this year while only $55 billion would be spent on global missions.

Continue reading “Time to Stop the Bleeding, Revisited”

Church TV Fundraiser: Jesse Duplantis Announces $21 Million Falcon 7X Jet, Followed by Widow of Pastor Killed in Plane Explosion

(Photo: Televangelist Jesse Duplantis and wife Cathy Duplantis exiting his Falcon 900 jet.)

During the Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ 2023 VictoryThon fundraiser, Jesse Duplantis announced his ministry purchased a $21 million Falcon 7X jet. Jesse Duplantis Ministries already owns a Falcon 900 jet.

On the September 20th broadcast Duplantis also told TV viewers that he had previously given away two jets.

According to AviationDB, Jesse Duplantis Ministries has previously owned a Cessna 500, a 1124 Westwind, and a Falcon 50.

The Cessna 500 was transferred to Keith Moore’s Faith Life Church in 2004 but has since been retired from service. The 1124 Westwind was transferred to Mike Mille’s White Dove Fellowship in 2006 and sold again in 2022. The Falcon 50 was transferred to Mac Hammond’s Living Word Christian Center in 2020.

During the same broadcast, Pastor Jerry Savelle joined Duplantis and George Pearsons, senior pastor at Kenneth Copeland Ministries, on stage to  announce his ministry was giving a seed offering of $100,000 while trusting for a Falcon 900 jet:

Savelle said, “I was sowing for the future … but the Lord recently told me. He said, ‘There’s something bigger, better, faster and more range in your future. Well, I know when He talks about future, you sow a seed because seed is about future. So tonight, I brought another seed because I’m believing for a Falcon 900 now… [Savelle hands a check to Pearsons] This is a hundred thousand dollars out of my aviation account.’”

Jerry Savelle Ministries already owns two jets: a Falcon 50 (tail number N920JS) and a Cessna 560 (tail number N229JS).

Forty minutes later the telethon featured healing evangelist Nancy Dufresne telling viewers a series of stories about people allegedly healed while watching her broadcasts.

Almost 10 years ago Edward Dufresne, the husband of Nancy Dufresne, and pastor of World Harvest Church, was killed when his privately-owned Cessna 500 (tail number N610ED) exploded over Kansas. Dufresne’s pilot also died in the incident.

Prosperity Gospel on Display

Word of faith theology, better known as the prosperity gospel, is the ideological foundation for the teaching and preaching featured on Kenneth Copeland’s TV network.

During the telethon, the hosts encouraged their audience to repeat a positive confession. According to Got Questions, “Positive confession is the practice of saying aloud what you want to happen with the expectation that God will make it a reality.”

George Pearsons tells the audience, “Everyone in here say this after me.” Then Pearsons begins the positive confession with Duplantis and the audience repeating each phrase. “In the name of Jesus, I have sown my seed and I believe the 100-fold return is working for me all the time.”

The prosperity gospel has generated incredible wealth for Kenneth Copeland. His daughter Kellie Copeland refers to her dad as she tells the audience, “It doesn’t even make sense that you could be debt-free, give all your money away and have more money and be known as the richest preacher in the world.”

While Kenneth Copeland does appear on some lists as the world’s wealthiest preacher, those lists are incomplete. Brazilian televangelist Edir Macedo is probably the richest preacher in the world. Macedo is head of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God and controls the second largest TV network in Brazil.


This article would never have been written if it weren’t for a tip. Researcher Susan Puzio contacted Trinity Foundation after watching Duplantis reported obtaining a new jet.

If you have inside information on fraud or financial abuses in a church or ministry, please submit a tip. Trinity Foundation has a long history of protecting confidential informants.


The Business of Church Music: Examining the Legal Structure of Worship Ministries and Practice of Pastors Operating as Music Producers

(Photo: Pastor Steven Furtick singing Psalm 121.)

Church music has become big business.

Ultimate Guitar reports that almost $600 million is spent annually on audio equipment and instruments for performing church music.”

Churches have become one of the most common venues for hearing live music.

In six years, Bethel Music, the music ministry of Bill Johnson’s megachurch Bethel Redding, generated $80 million in revenue.

Bethel Music is one of the four most popular church music ministries in America, according to a recent academic study being published at Worship Leader Research.

The researchers identified 38 of the most popular church worship songs from 2010 to 2020. Almost all the songs were written by or performed by Bethel, Elevation Church (pastored by Steven Furtick), Hillsong (founded by Australian pastor Brian Houston) and Passion City Church (pastored by Louie Giglio).

Church performances, concert tours and radio airplay have boosted worship band awareness. Hillsong has reportedly sold more than 20 million albums.

Business Legal Structure

Most American Christians have never heard of the term integrated auxiliary, but it is the key to understanding how most megachurches and televangelists operate financially successful worship ministries.

The IRS describes integrated auxiliaries as “a class of organizations that are related to a church or convention or association of churches, but are not such organizations themselves.”

For example, Elevation Church registered a trademark for the name Elevation Worship, the name of the worship band. This allows the church to create a bank account and do business in the name of Elevation Worship.

Continue reading “The Business of Church Music: Examining the Legal Structure of Worship Ministries and Practice of Pastors Operating as Music Producers”

Televangelist Jesse Duplantis: $500 Million Is Not Enough

Jesse Duplantis has stage presence. Before he became a preacher, Jesse Duplantis performed in a touring rock band. By combining the prosperity gospel and comedy, televangelist Jesse Duplantis has built a large following.

Early this month Duplantis preached at the annual Southwest Believers Convention hosted in Fort Worth, Texas, by televangelist Kenneth Copeland.

Duplantis has a knack for saying controversial things and telling wild stories. In his sermon Vision Creates Direction, Duplantis preached, “I never ask God for a need. What a waste of spiritual energy. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.”

Duplantis uses a mafia character voice to say, “I know how to get rid of people… You do what you gotta do.” Duplantis would later tell the audience that a mafia boss offered to make him “a made-man”—a fully initiated member of the mafia.

Duplantis enjoys talking about his wealth. “You are looking at one rich puppy here. I’m not being arrogant. I’m telling you one thing. You have no idea.”

During its 43 years of operation, donors have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to Jesse Duplantis Ministries. Duplantis claims his ministry received $500 million in response to prayers.

“I thought I could save the world with a hundred million dollars. So, I went to the throne of God. He said, ‘What do you want, Jesse?’ He didn’t ask what I need. He’s never asked what I need… ‘I said, Lord, I need a hundred million dollars.’ I said, ‘I can touch the world for a hundred million dollars.’ He said, ‘Done.’ Gave me a hundred million dollars… Well, I ran out of money, so I went back to the throne. I said, ‘Jesus.’ He said, ‘You need another hundred million. I said, ‘Yeah.’ He gave me another hundred million.”

Duplantis says that a third time God gave Duplantis’ ministry $100 million, and it was all spent in nine months. Eventually he would ask five times and God would give his ministry $500 million. It still was “not enough to touch the world.”

The first century Church could teach Duplantis some valuable lessons. With limited financial means and no modern technology, they “turned the world upside down.”  – Acts 17:6 KJV

This amazing church growth happened without the prosperity gospel.

Bible Verses Prosperity Gospel Preachers Ignore

The prosperity gospel has created a distorted view of what the Bible teaches about money, resulting in many church goers being misled to believe that God wants His people to be financially wealthy.

Instead, the Bible presents a balanced view: Times of abundance and times of scarcity both come from God. This principle is shown in Genesis 41, as God gives Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt, a prophetic dream, revealing the land would have seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine.

This balance is clearly taught in Ecclesiastes 7:14 which says, In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”

God desires our faithfulness rather than financial success. These difficult times test our faith so that it may grow.

The Bible also teaches that sometimes people will “sow, but not reap.” In Micah chapter 6, God is upset with criminals committing fraud and condemns the merchants using dishonest scales. When dishonesty is used for financial gain, God will refuse to bless the evildoer.

Micah 6:15 says, “You shall sow, but not reap; you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil; you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.”

When people pray with selfish motives, God will reject their prayers as James 4:3 shows, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Another relatively unknown Bible verse that challenges the prosperity gospel is found in Proverbs 22:16.  “One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.”

Numerous churchgoers and viewers of religious television have sacrificially given to preachers misusing donations for personal gain. If Christians would stop financially supporting rich televangelists and pastors living extravagantly, there would be less poverty and Christianity would have more credibility in a broken world.

NOTE: These verses come from multiple translations (ESV and NIV)

Whistleblowers, Thank You for Your Service

Today is National Whistleblower Day.

Whistleblowers perform a valuable, but poorly understood, service for humanity by exposing crimes and misconduct in multiple ways:

  1. Privately and publicly confronting business, religious and political leaders who’ve abused their power.
  2. Filing criminal charges.
  3. Providing tips to law enforcement.
  4. Providing tips or interviews to journalists.
  5. Suing the perpetrators.
  6. Writing first-hand accounts in blog posts and books telling the story of their experiences of abuse and eye-witness accounts of fraud.
  7. Telling their stories in podcasts and documentaries.
  8. Helping other victims recover from similar experiences.

The whistleblowers’ actions expose sin, demand justice and educate the public.

Ephesians 5:11 provides a biblical mandate for whistleblowing and investigative reporting: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”

On this National Whistleblower Day, Trinity Foundation would like to thank every public whistleblower and anonymous informant that has contacted us. Your tips help us investigate church and ministry corruption.

According to Stephen Martin Kohn, founder of the National Whistleblower Center, and author of The New Whistleblower’s Handbook, tipsters uncover more fraud than professional auditors and law enforcement combined.

We would also like to thank our donors for your support. You’ve equipped us to serve the public for more than three decades as a religious watchdog and third-party whistleblower.

We are currently working on several big investigations and look forward to sharing them with you when the time is right.

How Religious TV Networks and Magazine Publishers Report Taxable Advertising Revenue

American tax laws require advertising revenue exceeding $1,000 to be reported by non-profit ministries and churches. However, some organizations fail to report unrelated business income because of either not knowing the law or purposefully restructuring themselves to avoid disclosure.

In recent years some religious TV broadcasters have begun to distance themselves from the high pressure beg-a-thon fundraisers of the past and are adopting the new business model of Free Ad Supported Television (often identified by the acronym FAST.)

The Inspirational Network, a non-profit organization operating the INSP cable network, is the leader in this transformation, having generated hundreds of millions of dollars or more in advertising revenue that has been unreported since 2014 on its Form 990s.

The Inspirational Network was the recent subject of a Trinity Foundation investigation into unreported advertising revenue and excessive compensation.

Which raises the question, how do other religious non-profits report  advertising?

In 2021, Christianity Today International reported almost $2.9 million in advertising revenue of which $637,199 was unrelated business revenue.

(Screenshot: Christianity Today International 2021 Form 990, page 9.)

Meanwhile, God’s World Publications (the publisher of World Magazine) reported all its advertising revenue ($1,543,326 for fiscal year ending June 30, 2021) as unrelated business income.

Continue reading “How Religious TV Networks and Magazine Publishers Report Taxable Advertising Revenue”