Bequest Stories #2 – Max $1 Million

Mr. Beeson was a generous man. When he died in 1990, he gave money to a seminary in his hometown of Birmingham (Beeson Divinity School), to Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky, and to his church. He gave his Birmingham church $20 million and said they could only spend $1 million a year. The church’s foundation was thrilled at the gift and began working on ways to support and expand current ministries inside and outside the church.

Things went well for several years and the money was invested prudently. However, the 1990s were great years for investments and within a decade, the fund was now worth over $40 million even after the church spent $1 million each year. The foundation leaders recognized they had to do something to honor Mr. Beeson’s intent.

Some lawyers were consulted and they agreed to take this to a judge. Upon careful consideration of the church’s requests and the will, the judge altered the fund’s spending policy. The fund was permitted to spend up to 5% of the corpus (at that time just over $2 million per year). The Beeson Fund to this day blesses people in ways that Mr. Beeson could have never imagined. The church is fortunate to have this gift and they work hard to ensure they honor Mr. Beeson’s wishes with the programs they fund.

The proverbial “hand from the grave” constricted the church too much. When you make a will or when you advise someone on a will, ensure the time and purpose restrictions permit some leeway long after you die.

Lead On!

Steve – all kinds of FREE church manuals and sample documents – 400 plus blogs on every church administration topic you can think of


  1. Steve, thanks for this post. This is so true and highlights many things to celebrate. The faithful stewardship of a godly man who had the wisdom to leave a legacy of ongoing kingdom impact. The obedience of the recipients to manage the assets with excellence and with biblical integrity. But it is also a reminder that in leaving a legacy while it is certainly important and appropriate to define the “boundaries of the field”, one should resist dictating the specific “plays” that must be run. Allow for grace and flexibility (within the non-negotiables) that can adapt as times change.
    Lastly, most people will never leave financial legacies like Mr Beeson. But all believers can, and should, have a God honoring estate plan. What would be the kingdom impact if believers tithed off their estate? How many churches would be planted, saved, or endowed? How many missionaries sent, or ministries to the poor and oppressed funded?
    Thanks again for discussing this important aspect of stewardship!