Thinking Out Loud

February 25, 2019

“Harvest Could Never Happen At Our Church”

 

Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin Campus

It’s easy to sit back and self-righteously congratulate ourselves on not attending a megachurch with a megalomaniacal pastor. If your weekly attendance runs 200, or 400 weekly and your pastor is a grandfatherly type trying to build God’s Kingdom and not a personal empire, it’s somewhat comforting to be able to relax and say, ‘That could never happen here.’

Harvest Bible Chapel – Elgin campus

But I would argue that on closer observation it can, and possibly does.

In the last six months, we’ve seen people at various levels of leadership at Harvest defend the institution and its pastor or both. While at least one former Harvest elder has stepped forward and apologized, there are no doubt others who will want to defend its decision-making processes, past and present.

I would suggest that this practice of putting spin on things is alive and well in many of our congregations. People get hurt because leaders have some agenda probably contrary to God’s, but are able to make it seem somehow correct and appropriate for the situation at hand.

A few days ago I re-ran something that Ruth wrote in which a church which is always telling people to know and employ their spiritual gifts pulled her aside and told her that this somehow didn’t apply to her and gave her a cease-and-desist order because she dared to demonstrate pastoral compassion in the face of a situation facing a particular family that a new pastor could not have articulated.

Years later, she asked if she could have a reprise of her former worship leadership role, not regularly, but just for a single Sunday; as an opportunity for healing all round. The elder she met with concocted the most foolish of all reasons for saying no, simply because otherwise he had no grounds for so doing. “We don’t have guest worship leaders.” Again, I gave opportunity for her to explain how this was both insulting to her and the congregation.

In my mind, it was a case of spiritual abuse; an example of an elder putting spin on a situation.

And guess what? Not three weeks later, they had a guest worship leader; a recording artist whose commercial success gave him a pass on their unofficial rule. In a postscript to her article, I wrote,

“At the center of this was one particular individual who is otherwise greatly admired and respected by the people of that church. In hindsight what he did at that meeting at night constituted spiritual abuse, not to mention certain aspects where we now know he was lying through his teeth. He continues in a leadership role that leaves me totally mystified.”

In her case, the woundedness was overshadowed by ministry opportunities elsewhere. The Bible states that a person’s gift will make a way for them. Just this weekend, I saw those gifts affirmed in her life on a level which is unprecedented. But the Harvest situation reminded me of the lengths that some in leadership will go to in order to fulfill a role they believe God gave them to keep things orderly. That reminded me of another article I wrote where I asked the questions below.

1. How long does a person attend your church before they are considered for service?

2. When someone who was a former member of your church returns, does their past experience count for anything?

3. Is someone who has only been part of a church for a short time truly fit to reprimand, discipline or judge someone whose history with that church goes back several decades?

4. Are the elders in your church really Biblically qualified to be called “elder,” or were they chosen by some other standard?

5. What about Church leaders who will look you right in the eye and lie through their teeth? Is that ever justified?

6. Is the elders’ board of a church even truly where the heart of ministry is taking place? Or even in touch with the real ministry happening?

7. Do people in your church get hurt or wounded or abused?

8. Can a church leader be doing “the Lord’s work” and at the same time be about “the Devil’s business?”

9. Why do we keep coming back?

10. Is it possible that it’s just time to step aside and let another generation have their turn?

Remember, I wrote this in a small-town context and long before we had the colossal present-day failures involving churches pastored by Perry Noble, Tullian Tchividijan, Mark Driscoll or James MacDonald. But the presence of spin is identical in both, until you reach the point where you just can’t keep pretending.

Unfortunately my wife never got to see such vindication in terms of that church, but was able to find it elsewhere.

 

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February 7, 2009

The Robert Schuller Saga: Another Voice Speaks

crystal-cathedral-interior-2Christian News Wire is quoting a new source who claims that —

The primary rift between the father and the son in the Crystal Cathedral Garden Grove, CA, pulpit was about changes the son, Robert Anthony Schuller, wanted to make in terms of transparency and accountability, but were resisted by his father Robert H. Schuller, key board members and ministry heads of the church, says a source knowledgeable about the church’s inner circle.

According to this report, the younger R.S. met with nothing but resistance when trying to implement changes —

In this case the source claims that “Robert A.’s goals were very simple–install an impartial board not paid by proceeds from the ministry, rework the Hour of Power to attract a younger audience, try different methods of worship to develop a more meaningful spiritual encounter, and to have public financial transparency. This process would install a level of accountability. As of now the leadership is accountable to no one. The leadership behind the scenes limited Robert A’s goal advancement and ridiculed him for lack of leadership,” the source says.

The Cathedral is not, for example, a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a watchdog group giving transparency to faith-based ministries and organizations.

That last point was most interesting to this writer; one would have expected a ministry with its stature to be part of ECFA, but as investigations into some of the more charismatic televangelists by major U.S. network news departments have revealed, not all are.

It should also be noted that this is a ‘one-person’ news report, with material not subject to third-party verification; however its plausibility leads me to report it in this blog. You can read the entire article by linking here.

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Photo:  When my wife and I visited in 1989, all those empty seats were filled.  Check tomorrow’s TV broadcast, and despite the director’s best shot blocking, you’ll see clearly that this is not presently the case.

Related post in this blog -Crystal Cathedral Has Round of Layoffs  (Jan 24/09)

Related post in this blog – Crystal Cathedral Selling Office Building (Jan 5/09)

Related post in this blog – Robert A Schuller Resigns (Dec 17/08 )

Related post in this blog – Robert A Schuller Removed From Telecast (Oct 26/08 )

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