Updated: September 04, 2019 06:42 PM
When the senior pastors of Resurrection Life Ministries told members of their congregation in June that they would soon close the doors to their recently sold church in Eden Prairie, they said it was part of a plan guided by God.
Bill and Sharon Predovich, the married couple who started the church thirty years ago, said they would be moving to what they called "micro churches" and that future Sunday services would happen at individuals' homes—including their own recently purchased $1 million luxury estate on Reitz Lake in Waconia.
Real estate records obtained by 5 INVESTIGATES show the Predoviches paid cash for the house on Sept. 28, 2018—the same day their church received $1 million from a developer who was buying the church's land.
Former church members and non-profit experts say the purchase of the lake home—at the same time church land was sold for the same price—raises red flags.
"The appearance of impropriety is very bad," said attorney Jennifer Urban, who teaches the Nonprofit Law Clinic at the University of St. Thomas and is the founder of the law firm Legal for Good in St. Louis Park.
When 5 INVESTIGATES first contacted Bill Predovich to request an interview, the pastor insisted the real estate transactions were done appropriately.
"Nothing is secretive about what we're doing," Predovich said.
The Predoviches later deeded their new 10-acre lake front property, which includes a swimming pool and sand volleyball court, to Resurrection Life Ministries. The 4,200 sq. ft. house is listed as a "church residence", according to public records.
When Sharon Predovich announced the move earlier this summer, she said they were following God's direction.
"We began to believe that maybe God had a new vision, a new way," she said in a recording of a sermon posted to the church's website.
Predovich and other leaders in the church assured the congregation that the move was in their best interests.
"First of all, change has come. Second of all, we're not quitting. We're repositioning," Sharon Predovich said. "We will no longer be your pastors, we will be your apostles over smaller works."
But longtime member Jeff Proctor said he and his wife declined a request to host a micro-church at their home, and still have questions about the church's finances as well as how the Predoviches will use that money going forward.
"We were all really disappointed…They kept us all in the dark about the sale of the church," Proctor said. "As long as the money is being used to spread the gospel – if they're spending it on personal things, I have a problem," he added.
Those who questioned the Predoviches' financial decisions were seemingly rebuked during another service in July.
"This is God's plan! It's not Pastor Sharon, Pastor Bill's plan. It's God's plan. And that's what we have to remember," a speaker identified as Rev. Chris Harken said in a recorded sermon posted on the church's website. "So, when you fight or when you murmur or when you don't yield to it, you're really coming against God."
Yet, Jennifer Urban, the non-profit legal expert at St. Thomas, says it's fair to question the sale of the church and the purchase of the lake house.
"It doesn't seem that would necessarily be in the best interests of the organization, but rather in the best interests of the people residing in the single-family home there," Urban said.
Bill Predovich said the purchase of the lake home was "approved by the whole board," but he declined to say who sits on that board and the law does not require him to disclose that information.
Predovich agreed to meet with 5 INVESTIGATES in person, but canceled the meeting a day later and refused to comment further when contacted at the house in Waconia.
Registered as a non-profit corporation in Minnesota since 1990, Resurrection Life Ministries is not required to file annual returns because of its status as a church, but Urban says it still has to act in the best interests of the organization.
"I don't understand, without further information, why it would be appropriate to buy a single-family home for the pastor and his wife instead of another public place of worship," Urban said.
The Resurrection Life website initially promoted that it would host full church services at the Waconia home on the first Sunday of every month, starting in November 2019.
The church's Facebook page later announced that those first of the month services would instead be held at the Chapel Hill Academy in Chanhassen.
Urban says Resurrection Life Ministries could still face questions from the government regardless of where services are held.
"If it's (going to) micro-churches and other people in their community are offering up their homes, why the church needs to be in the business of purchasing and owning the pastors' home?" Urban said. "How much of the property is being used for charitable purposes and how often is it being used for charitable purposes?"
5 INVESTIGATES has learned complaints about the sale of the church were filed with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office and the IRS, but those agencies say they cannot confirm receipt of the complaints or discuss whether they are investigating.
A former member of Resurrection Life Ministries says she first questioned the Predoviches' management of church finances more than a decade ago.
Elaine Slechta said a lack of transparency about how and where the church was spending its money prompted her to e-mail Sharon Predovich with questions in 2007.
"I remember writing in the letter, 'I feel like I'm waving a flag as a sheep in the flock going, hey, hey, hey – something's going on here,'" Slechta said.
She said both Sharon and Bill Predovich dismissed her concerns, prompting her to leave the church after ten years of attending and volunteering at Resurrection Life.
"There were departments within the church that were going, 'where's the money? What's going on here?'" Slechta said.
Now she and others are calling on the Predoviches to be more open with the congregation.
"I think people should know," Slechta said. "They're members there, they've given their money there. And how where's it going? A million-dollar home in Waconia?"
Eric Rasmussen can be reached by phone at 651-642-4534 or email here.
Updated: September 04, 2019 06:42 PM
Published: September 03, 2019 12:00 AM
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