Thinking Out Loud

October 26, 2012

Harvest Bible Chapel Debt Crisis: The Real Elephant In The Room?

I’ve had three people send me the link to a website that purports to show that James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel and Walk in The Word are deeply in debt in a situation similar to that which brought down the Crystal Cathedral; a site titled, The Elephant’s Debt after MacDonald’s two Elephant Room video conferences. However, a quick scan of Alltop blogs and search engine blog searches would seem to indicate not all bloggers are taking the bait on this one.

Perhaps people don’t find MacDonald all that interesting. I found that out with the Crystal Cathedral story; search engines sent everybody here because the dominant generation of Christian bloggers didn’t have Robert Schuller on their radar. Perhaps MacDonald’s influence is even more regional.

Furthermore, I often wonder what motivates people to put up this type of exposé websites. The documentation is thorough; they definitely did their homework. And they do address the question. And I’m all for encouraging churches and ministry organizations to operate frugally and within their means; not like some giant corporation. To be sure, financial stewardship matters to God; it’s a virtue He regards highly. And when any church goes down, it tends to take a lot of innocent people down with it; trusting people; people of weaker faith.

Although I grew up in Toronto’s Peoples Church when it was Canada’s only megachurch — before the term existed — the first U.S. megachurch I connected with was Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel in Santa Ana, California. Spending time there on five different occasions and getting to know some of their people, it was apparent that Chuck Smith was all for spending money when the money was already there. There is no greater joy than for a new facility or expansion to open completely paid for.

What a sex scandal cannot do to destroy a church, a financial crisis can. (No accident this subject comes a day after a book review dealing with the spiritual warfare we fight against unseen forces.)

Today’s pastors are in a rush to build bigger and better. To go multi-site. To add new media. To host conferences. We’ve been corrupted by the way the world does things and how success is measured; and I didn’t use the word “we’ve” there by accident. Certainly, if this road is full of pitfalls, it is important to put up a giant “danger sign” and warn others traveling the same road.

But I wish that authors Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney had ended The Elephant’s Debt website with a call to prayer, because that’s what needed here more than anything.

Here again is the link to The Elephant’s Debt. Each page ends with a link to successive pages. You be the judge on this one.

And here is what one reader sent as a possible response that was recently posted by the elders board of Harvest Bible Chapel.


Isaiah 30 (NLT) verse 21 is the theme verse for Walk in the Word.

19 O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem,
you will weep no more.
He will be gracious if you ask for help.
He will surely respond to the sound of your cries.
20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food
and suffering for drink,
he will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes.
21 Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
“This is the way you should go,”
whether to the right or to the left.
22 Then you will destroy all your silver idols
and your precious gold images.
You will throw them out like filthy rags,
saying to them, “Good riddance!”


UPDATE: Be sure to read the comments section for more…

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27 Comments »

  1. I have only seen cursory comments to this issue. The first was an announcement to the congregation of Harvest and the willingness of Pastor James to be completely real and transparent. It has not been hidden under the rugs as was the Crystal Cathedral. Perhaps James strategy has served to nip the gossip mongers in the bud as it were. I pray for James and his ministry. I believe that he is probably a victim of our financial crisis that is world wide. It is also a wake up call for churches and ministries to take a second look at how they are going to accommodate the harvest ( tongue in cheek) that God is bringing many mega churches. Perhaps in order to think bigger it is time to plan smaller.

    Comment by ralph juthman — October 26, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  2. As a member of Harvest for 8 years, I would have to say that the reason this “expose’” has not had greater impact is that most of the info is common knowledge among the active/serving congregation, in general terms if not in the particulars. Everyone knows Pastor James has a rep for abrasiveness and can be a handful. He shares from the pulpit about it and the church staff openly acknowledges both that fact and his growth over the years. Everyone knows that the Elgin campus project was a train wreck that nearly sunk the whole ministry. Everyone knows it was due to an error in judgement (and James has publicly detailed his personal culpability in a YouTube video testimonial for the contractor who saved the project). Everyone knows the MacDonalds are pretty wealthy, although they ALSO know about their extravagant generosity. Everyone knows that it was pretty obvious that the Stowells did not see eye to eye with the church, as they all left at once. We’ve had to process the whole Elephant Room issue as a church, and have heard James explain at length what he regrets and does not. I could go on, but you get the point.

    Anyway, the Elephant’s Debt site seemed intent on providing only the negative in an accusatory tone. For instance, James did lay it on a little thick in pitching the 5G pledges, but he came back the next week and acknowledged the blowback he got for it and framed it up a little, talking specifically about not wanting to alienate those who are hurting financially. Harvest is far from above criticism, but this is a transparent hatchet job IMHO. As a church lay leader with modest responsibilities, I have in one case found myself utterly despised by past members who decided they didn’t like my decisions. I never said an unkind word to them, broke my neck to try to serve them, and now they won’t even speak to me. So I can’t even imagine what a megachurch pastor deals with.

    Comment by B. Wayne — October 28, 2012 @ 8:08 pm

    • B.,

      Thanks for taking the time to add another perspective and some balance to this. I may never start a James MacD. fan club, but it was easy to see that the website was full of agenda. However, I could not ignore that different people were sending me the link, so I knew it was getting some attention somewhere.

      Five years ago I didn’t know much about the ministry beyond the catchy theme song of Walk in the Word, and a little of James’ preaching. So when we were in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, instead of heading to Rolling Meadows, we asked for directions to Elgin, and got to see the campus when the original building had first been donated and the expansion was simply an architect’s scale model in the lobby. It certainly seemed an ambitious project. (A year later we finally found Rolling Meadows, only to learn that James was at Elgin that week!)

      I’m glad to hear that James is willing to — as Ann Landers would often say — eat crow. The impression I get on video is of someone who is rather arrogant, so it’s good to know he’s willing to admit (and hopefully cut) his losses.

      You say, “Everyone knows the MacDonalds are pretty wealthy.” I still find that disturbing, even if it is common knowledge. Years ago, this blog posted pictures of Joyce Meyers’ house, and to this day it generates oodles of traffic. People are curious, I guess, and some are trying to be good stewards of their donations to parachurch ministries. (Giving to their local church should always come first, though.) The excesses of Benny Hinn’s standard of living became a problem when the secular media decided he was fascinating, and you have to hope that James stays off the mainstream media’s radar if his housing is rather posh.

      To that end, I like what Greg Boyd did in Minneapolis. His family sold their house and they moved downtown to a house half the value and are part of being salt and light in a not-so-upper-class community. And then there’s Shane Claiborne in Philadelphia and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove in Durham, NC. Obviously, their reading of the gospels and James MacDonald’s is quite different.

      But ultimately it’s not up to me — or anyone — to judge. I guess the Elephant Debt people see themselves as operating under ‘freedom of information’ or even a Wiki-leaks paradigm.

      This is their rationalization:

      So, given the public actions of this man, and the public influence he seeks through events such as the upcoming Elephant Room 3 and The Resurgence Conference, it is the opinion of these authors that the response to his actions must be public as well. For if we were to merely bring the man before his own body, it would deny the very scope of his national ministry and the influence it has upon the church universal.

      Wow! This comment reply is now longer than the original post!

      Again, thanks for writing.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 28, 2012 @ 8:24 pm

  3. I attended Harvest RM for 5 years (including time as a small group leader) and continued to keep in contact with most of my friends well after I left. I knew a lot of people at Harvest, particularly within the 20s, 30s, and 40-something ministries, including many flock leaders and others in lay leadership. At no time did anything close to a majority of the people in these ministries (to say nothing of the people outside of them) have an idea of the scope of the issues raised within The Elephant’s Debt (TED).

    Perhaps the information was easy to find, but Harvest has avoided the complete transparency and accountability that would have educated their congregation regardless. If the shepherd says the clover is fit for consumption, why would the sheep have cause to abstain?

    Has James been temperate, self-controlled, gentle, and avoided quarrelsomeness? If the shepherd mistreats his flock, why should the sheep still follow? Whatever one’s views on eldership vs. congregationalism, it fails to discount the fact that James must be held to account for the entirety of his behavior.

    You’re right, Paul: MacDonald is, thus far, almost entirely regional and so goes the influence of TED. Among many former and current members, the content of the site has gained traction. Unless, God forbid, a major scandal hits, Elephant’s Debt or the content within won’t be recycle fodder for the blogs.

    TED has an agenda, but agenda need not be a dirty word. They’ve said plainly that they want Harvest to reconsider its approach to debt, accountability, and transparency. As a measure of accountability in their own right, they took down the comments section once people stopped telling their personal stories and resorted to bashing James and HBC. On their individual blogs, they have responded with seeming graciousness and openness regarding debate on all topics, including James and HBC.

    The Elephant’s Debt will not profit monetarily if James and HBC change their ways, nor will they profit monetarily if they remain on their current path. At best, you can claim their agenda is to get hearty pats on the backs by bloggers and the church at large, but there is no evidence toward such a notion at this time.

    Judging a person or the salvation thereof? Unquestionably out of our purview. Judging the behavior and actions of the person? Unquestionably our responsibility.

    Comment by Chris — October 31, 2012 @ 8:22 am

    • I am intrigued by your comment,

      Harvest has avoided the complete transparency and accountability that would have educated their congregation regardless.

      In my part of the world a copy of an annual report, with detailed financial reports, is given out prior to each annual meeting. Would that not be the case at HBC?

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 31, 2012 @ 8:40 am

  4. It is the official policy of the Harvest Bible Fellowship to issue an annual report. However, this is assuming the financial report includes all pertinent details that give a precise picture of where HBF and/or HBC stands financially. The exclusion of the debt as well as HBC’s penchant for debt spending betray this ideal. Personally, I would lump MacDonald’s total compensation within the report in the name of total transparency, but alas, I understand others would not.

    From the HBC Constitution and Principles of Doctrine and Practice (emphasis mine):

    “The Deacon Board will be responsible to ensure that regular and full disclosure of all business matters of the church is made. This will be done in the form of an annual report to be distributed each year or at any time that a member requests this information.

    The annual report will include a full financial statement of the previous year and a proposed budget for the following year. THE CHURCH COMMITS ITSELF TO A PROGRAM OF FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY THAT PRECLUDES OVER-BUDGET SPENDING.”

    Comment by Chris — October 31, 2012 @ 9:09 am

    • I should add that repeated attempts by members through the years for complete financials as well as audits have been denied, according to multiple first-person testimonies. Only until TED did Harvest agree to prepare a financial statement that they claim will reveal their financial behind-the-scenery for 2007-2009. Currently, they remain steadfast in their refusal to release audits or the full breadth of financial information dating back to when property acquisition first began.

      Comment by Chris — October 31, 2012 @ 9:15 am

  5. I’ve been at HBC for ~10 year and Chris is generally correct. Harvest has never been transparent about its financial situation, but it has not restricted the congregation from seeing the audit (with a balance sheet listing the debt). I reviewed it in 2009 and 2011. Annual audits are very high level and it’s difficult to get a picture of the details (e.g., pastor’s compensation). The church’s position is that it wouldn’t take on any more debt than it would counsel a member to take on personally. For example, if financial ministry (like Crown) wouldn’t recommend someone who makes $50K per year owning a house of more than $150K (3x income), the church wouldn’t take on more than 3x debt itself. I personally disagree with that view, but that’s how they justify it. The church has significant assets due to some large donors, so it could sell a facility in a worst case scenario. Comparing it to the Crystal Cathedral is a stretch. What TED points out is that it’s unclear to the congregation as to the source of a significant portion of the debt. HBC is run by elders, so there’s no annual meeting, voting or real details that are made known to the congregation about its operations or decision making.

    Comment by PS — November 14, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    • Recently I reviewed Andy Stanley’s book Deep and Wide. It’s interesting that at North Point there’s no men’s ministry, no women’s ministry, no formal marriage counseling; I already knew they don’t do weddings and funerals in the facility.

      But it never occurred to me that in the mega church environment, there might not be anything resembling an annual meeting. It would be strange to be giving and yet have no input — taxation without representation, if you will — if you’re accustomed to that paradigm.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — November 15, 2012 @ 9:14 am

      • To be fair, James gives a 5-10 minute review of what the church has done at the end of the year (baptisms, major events, new sites launched). However, I’ve always been troubled by the model – the elders select new elders – and all decisions (big and small) reside with them. James’ view is that we must trust the elders to do the right thing. His blog post about congregationalism last year caused a lot of controversy: http://jamesmacdonald.com/jamestoday/blog/congregational-government-is-from-satan/

        Comment by PS — November 15, 2012 @ 9:22 am

      • “James’ view” is that, if alcoholism is a disease, it’s the only disease not caused by a virus.
        “James’ view” is that worship is only worship if you’re standing up.

        Comment by Ruth Wilkinson — November 15, 2012 @ 9:30 am

  6. I have three words for Pastor James McDonald…YOU ARE LOVED!!!!

    Comment by William Howard — February 3, 2013 @ 10:42 am

    • That should go without saying. Any individual crisis — and all ministries experience them to some degree — should not take away from the things that have been accomplished through Harvest Bible Church(es) and Walk in the Word.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — February 3, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

  7. How can this information be verified?

    Comment by mak gtew — February 13, 2013 @ 6:28 am

  8. I’d attended an Easter service at Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows yesterday and am so disgusted and disillusioned with Pastor James I will never attend Harvest again – instead of celebrating the Risen Christ on Easter, he started a new series on MONEY, stating that, for those who think he can’t start a new series on Easter about money, “WATCH ME!!” The man’s arrogance knows no bounds.

    I’ve attended Harvest on and off for ten years or so and have found many things that I don’t like or agree with over that time, but this was the final straw. I even brought a friend with me, and there were surely many other guests as well, all there to listen to his latest pontifications about MONEY, on Easter, no less! No communion, no gospel, no Jesus per se. There was some “apology” about his having taught about money at Harvest for 25 years but now he’s come to find out what he’s taught was wrong and asked for grace; my first thought was how am I to know that what he is going to teach NOW is correct?! Oh, that’s right, he put up pictures of Francis Chan, Dave Ramsey and other Christians wise about money and, since he is important and well known enough to have had one-on-one conversations with them and others of their ilk, apparently now is well versed in being a good steward.

    How is it that the MacDonald’s are “wealthy” when Jesus didn’t even have a place to lay his head? How is it that he speaks of wonderful vacations while asking for our tithes and offerings and I haven’t been able to afford a vacation in years?

    I received a phone call tonight from a friend who used to attend there (and, despite her having volunteered on the video team, helped with child care, and tithed for years, was recently told when she went seeking counseling during a severe marital crisis that they couldn’t help her as she “wasn’t part of the flock” during the previous eight weeks) saying that she had found out Pastor James talked about tithing…on EASTER!…and that she was also told of how desperate the financial situation at Harvest really is. Perhaps this is why Pastor James felt it necessary to talk about money on such a sacred day. All it took was a Google search to find out how bad the situation is. And to think he stood up there shaming me and others about our credit card debt…on Easter, no less. Did God put this on his heart to discuss on the day we celebrate His Son as our Risen Savior?! Did the elders approve this?!

    Best of luck with your megachurch, Pastor, but my soul is not being fed while you’re too busy expanding your own kingdom.

    Comment by Pam — April 1, 2013 @ 9:22 pm

    • Wow. And to think I get upset if one of the worship pieces isn’t totally on the Easter theme. If anyone thinks this reader is making this up, I just watched the first part of the sermon at http://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/blog.aspx?site_id=10780&blog_id=350541 (not sure how long it will be there). I’m using a large portion of this comment tomorrow as its own blog post. This is beyond the pale.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 1, 2013 @ 10:19 pm

    • Respectfully, Pam, I think you are not a very careful listener, as Pastor James did NOT say that his previous teaching on money had been in any way incorrect. He said that he has taught almost exclusively on giving, which represents a neglect of other teaching on the stewardship of money. So he asked forgiveness for having focused too exclusively on giving. When he said, “Watch me,” most understand his kidding sense of humor… which places you under no obligation to find it funny, but it was hardly the defiant, arrogant boast you characterize it as. As to whether or not the elders approved this sermon series, the answer to that would be yes. That’s stated policy.

      Regarding the MacDonald’s wealth, you may disagree with the amount of his salary, but I believe he told you in the sermon that immediately out of college, as a young pastor, he began flipping houses. I know him to be a hardworking, entrepreneurial person. He’s now a published author, speaker, and a full time teaching pastor for seven campuses. I don’t know how much research you have done into what it might cost to hire seven teaching pastors gifted enough to grow seven campuses successfully, but I think you’ll find that even seven modest salaries would far exceed Pastor James’ one salary. James will have to answer for how he earns and uses his money, and you’ll have to answer for how you earn and use yours. But you were also directed during the sermon to Matthew 27:57, which reads, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus.” You’ll note that he was both rich and he was a disciple. So the material poverty of Jesus notwithstanding, apparently the rich can be disciples. So can the poor or anyone else. And all will be called to account for their stewardship. Having reviewed Harvest’s financial statements in the past (I requested them before I joined and began tithing), I have found the percentage of budget allocated to salaries to be lower than most small churches with only a few paid positions.

      Finally, while I have no interest in dismissing your friend’s account, I would say that it is out of character for Harvest’s Soul Care ministry, with which I am acquainted on several fronts… past and present. I have found Harvest to be responsive and willing to help with both counseling and finances to a degree I find rather amazing, even for those who attend other churches. I would not be surprised if they noted a lack of attendance for two months, as that would be one thing they would seek to correct. I would suggest that she call her Campus Pastor or Family Pastor, or approach almost any staff member, if she feels she has been treated unfairly.

      Harvest is far from perfect, but I find it to be an excellent church. I’ve yet to attend a church without issues and difficulties. God bless you as you look for a new place to grow.

      Comment by B.Wayne — April 1, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

      • I’m sure there is a lot of emotion on both ‘sides’ of the current issues at Harvest, and I’m sure that responses tend to be equally emotional and thereby polarizing. I really don’t want to wade into some of the other issues here, in fact, I already forwarded Pam’s comment to two other blogs that specialize in more in-depth reporting than I do here before I even posted it here.

        For me, the question is, irrespective of anything the church did on Good Friday, is this particular sermon appropriate to Easter Sunday? Would the people who teach homiletics (preaching) at Moody or Wheaton or Trinity approve of this Easter Sunday sermon text?

        That’s something neither of you can answer if you’re emotionally attached to other issues concerning Harvest. You need to refer the transcript or video to an objective source. Someone like … me! And as long as this blog has my name on it, I would say this sermon missed Easter by a country mile.

        But I invite you both back tomorrow morning (4/2/13) as we give this more profile.

        Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 1, 2013 @ 11:00 pm

  9. Also, I feel it’s important to note that we did, in fact, have an absolutely roof-raising, riotous, JOYFUL celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, to compliment a similarly amazing Good Friday presentation… to suggest that my church blew off Easter to talk about money is a little silly. We are the opposite of a liturgical church and nothing there is rote. I appreciate that I can walk through the doors of my church and be surprised. If you’re not into that, that’s fine… but it’s NOT wrong not to preach yet another cookie-cutter Easter sermon. Big world. Many churches. If you don’t like Harvest and you don’t go there, your problem is solved, brothers and sisters. How can you work to improve your own church today?

    Comment by B.Wayne — April 1, 2013 @ 10:44 pm

    • “…another cookie-cutter Easter sermon…”

      That really took courage. I think it’s also where you lose objectivity as to what the church of Jesus Christ is and what it is supposed to represent. (And no, I’m not mainline/liturgical either.)

      What you’ve written there is an indictment against every other Christian church around the world. You slammed them all with one hastily-written phrase.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — April 1, 2013 @ 11:07 pm

      • Respectfully, if you’ll review my remarks you will find that you are flatly incorrect about what I stated. You are absolutely correct about how you interpreted it, but let’s be clear about who is responsible for that part. Nowhere did I state that “every other Christian church around the world” preached a cookie-cutter Easter sermon on Sunday. You added that. My suggestion was simply this: James MacDonald gave an excellent message on Sunday about money. As a member of Harvest, I found it refreshing, I was fed by it, and I appreciated it. This apparently has some people upset. However, had he preached a cookie-cutter Easter sermon (you just might be correct in assuming I’ve had enough of my own church’s “cookie-cutter” Easter sermons based on my remark, by the way), or even a pretty boring Easter sermon, there would be few objections, and there would certainly be no complaints of the kind voiced here. That was my point.

        You said that the Easter sermon choice was “beyond the pale”.

        Beyond the pale of what?

        Easter is not even a Biblical concept. The resurrection is. If a church decides not to observe “Easter” at all, there is absolutely nothing sinful in that (Roman 14:1-12), as long as they believe and proclaim the resurrection. And that according to their consciences, not the legalistic dictates of others.

        I will let the testimony of lives changed by what is taught at my church speak for itself. If people want to focus on the negative, they will. There’s a website that posts a blog entry every time a Harvest church falters or leaves Harvest Bible Fellowship. Yet I never see them post when two or three new churches launch in a single week, as happens routinely. So sad.

        Comment by B.Wayne — April 2, 2013 @ 12:08 am

      • Chris here from the previous posts. I agree with B. Wayne re: Easter. It is a pagan holiday commandeered by the church. Were James or any other leader to abstain from teaching the resurrection on Easter Sunday, they would do so with freedom in Christ. It is human tradition, not biblical mandate.

        However, that James would say “Watch Me” adds to his apparent love of conflict. No matter if said conflict is real or imagined, and no matter if it’s conducted in a jokey manner (as so many of MacDonald’s supporters purport time after time). Nevermind how it sets a bad example of 1 Timothy 3:3.

        Furthermore–and this is specifically to B. Wayne–even if 100,000 lives are changed and 100,000 new churches are added to HBF every week, it would not discount the need to hold James and/or HBC accountable to sin. Holding numbers as the sole–or even most important–marker of operational purity would be unbelievably foolish and ignorant of Scripture.

        Consider Harvest may, in fact, grow without the blessing of God. Consider both personal and group testimony have declared many lives to have been harmed. Consider former leaders have spoken out against James and the atmosphere at Harvest.

        Plenty of churches throughout history have grown their fellowships and stocked them with testimonies of personal revival in the process. Numbers and consensus are not an argument. If they were, we’d still be Roman Catholics.

        You seem like a smart person, B. Wayne, so I think you can fathom the character of a website like Elephant’s Debt centering around the errors of a mega-church and its pastor. Naturally, this precludes a focus on Harvest’s numbers. Discounting such sites because they won’t praise HBC for these numbers is akin to dismissing dogs for refusing to bark AND meow. Both are legitimate, but not every site partakes in both.

        Why can’t HBC/James supporters admit the troubling nature of the accusations against their church and seek accountability from their leaders? Why must the tired “no church is perfect” or “every church has issues” chestnuts be trotted out every time?

        Perfection is not an argument. It’s a deflection. “My church isn’t perfect, they make mistakes, so you shouldn’t criticize them.” Okay, so we’ll criticize…perfect churches? God help us if we’re not criticizing imperfect leadership, including James MacDonald and HBC.

        Comment by Chris — April 2, 2013 @ 2:00 am

      • Chris, I do understand what the good purposes of a site like the Elephant’s Debt are. I myself have been in the position of contending with an elder at a former church over what I believed to be his promotion of false teaching on a church-endorsed blog, to the point that I went to the district president (a friend) for counsel and took the matter to the pastor at their request. But there’s one thing I recall sharply from that experience: the weight of responsibility that came with taking a matter from a one-on-one disagreement to an open complaint. I was very careful to do a couple of things, so as not to feed my own flesh with combativeness or to undermine my position with inaccuracy:

        - I was extremely careful to speak only of demonstrable matters of unbiblical behavior, NOT motives… of both the elder and of those who permitted the blog to be affiliated with the church on an ongoing basis
        - I included no information that I did not experience first hand
        - I was very careful to note the positive contributions and character of the individual I was speaking about, and not to vilify
        - I was careful not to assume the posture of a holier-than-thou crusader with a personal axe to grind

        My problem with some of these “discernment”/exposé sites is that while they may be true in particular specifics (which, IMO, are being sufficiently addressed at Harvest and by James MacDonald based on everything I know… I felt some of the accusations were skewed from the start), but they are grossly out of balance, particularly in what they allow to be posted by their others, who are rather transparent in their glee at seeing the conflict and in their desire to see James MacDonald torn down personally.

        Many just seem completely annoyed by his personality. I fully understand if people feel he is too blustery/angry/cocky, but when he said, “Watch me!”, you’ll notice on the video that it was followed by congregational laughter. The guy is, in fact, kidding. No one is bracing themselves against the back of their chair in fear. Maybe only people who had a gruff grandpa get it. I don’t know. All I know is James’ teaching speaks to me. I love Alistair Begg, too, but I can’t stand to listen to John MacArthur’s voice/tone (even if I love his teaching). No one has to go to Harvest if they think MacDonald is a showoff or a jerk.

        Finally, since some of the ministries I think are doctrinally horrible are utterly huge, I fully understand that big numbers do not cover error. When I speak of growth at Harvest, I am talking about good fruit, not numbers. Solid teaching, the personal growth and spiritual victory that I see in the lives of the 80 or so people I know very well at Harvest and live my life among, the baptisms and testimonies, the way Harvest’s resources challenge and grow people in other churches, the expansion of doctrinally sound churches elsewhere. To neglect that entirely and broadcast only the negative is something I personally would be very, very uncomfortable doing.

        Last post today. Lots of work.

        Comment by B.Wayne — April 2, 2013 @ 9:52 am

  10. (I’m not allowed to reply directly for some reason, so I apologize for the new post)

    B., we agree regarding some of the tabloidal aspects of Elephant’s Debt and discernment blogs in general. I would contend motive is not off limits, but nonetheless remains a careful ground upon which to tread. Elephant’s Debt in particular had a heinous post covering the alleged gambling of certain elders within Harvest founded on rumor and tenuous research. It’s a shame, too, because otherwise they have done solid work.

    Alas, I have a feeling we’ll continue to take opposite sides on the nature of public vs. private disagreement as it relates to Harvest. MacDonald runs a very public ministry with very public teachings, the contention of which must sometimes be done publicly. This is especially true if James/HBC seems to turn a deaf ear to complaints.

    My problem with James’ combativeness (a matter of record to which you alluded in your comments some months ago) is its contrariness to 1 Timothy 3:1-7. The personal accounts of James’ temper are legion, and his own shortcomings with anger in public have been witnessed by Harvest many times through the years. At what point is an elder such as James disqualified from holding the office when 3:2-3 clearly proscribes quarrelsomeness while esteeming self-control and gentleness.

    Saying “Watch Me” would not speak to a quarrelsome spirit with my home church pastor because he has a long track record of gentleness and respect for others. James saying “Watch me,” however, is an issue because he has no credibility when it comes to self-control. James’ pattern of behavior is relevant, not the congregation’s laughter. This raises more serious questions pertinent to James’ qualifications to lead a Bible study, let alone a church.

    To your last point, the good work done by a pastor or church are suspended every time a credible possibility is raised that said pastor or church are in violation of the biblical standards for their office. James and HBC have done plenty of good things in Christ’s name, sometimes in big numbers. But if they are contradicting Scripture while doing so, James must repent and/or step down, leadership must repent and/or step down, and the church culture must change.

    Comment by Chris — April 2, 2013 @ 11:56 am

  11. […] Harvest Bible Chapel Debt Crisis: The Real Elephant In The Room? […]

    Pingback by Stores Need to Take a Hard Look at Carrying Jerry Jenkins and James MacDonald | Christian Book Shop Talk — October 21, 2013 @ 7:46 am


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