Tim Challies speaks on Vertical Church ; Errant Theology of Money; and the Missing Elder Update.

Update (21 Dec) copy

Since the initial publication of The Elephant’s Debt on 7 October 2012, there have been a number of significant developments in the ongoing story of Harvest Bible Chapel.  At the time of this writing, HBC has yet to address how it spent $90 million on a build out, leaving the church straddled with a massive debt crisis that almost bankrupted it.  Furthermore, it has yet to publicly acknowledge that MacDonald’s compensation package is greater than $500,000 per year, saying only that it is in line with other pastors of large churches.

Instead, two months after the initial publication, what we see is another major church leader openly questioning MacDonald even as Harvest continues to endorse highly questionable theology, while releasing vague and even troubling “updates.”

Tim Challies Questions MacDonald’s Character:

Doubters and critics of this website have occasionally raised the question as to whether we have been fair in our interpretation of the facts presented on this website.  Yet it should be noted that, to date, the underlying facts themselves have not been called into question.

Now, just this past week, Tim Challies, the Senior Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church  and the auther of the second largest Christian blog on the internet, has raised similar concerns through his review MacDonald’s latest book Vertical Church.  His review covered both strengths and weaknesses of the book; and we encourage you to read it in its entirety.  Having said that, there are certain elements of the review that are pertinent to the concerns we have raised – elements that suggest that others are seeing what we see:

And then there are times where he shows shockingly poor judgment in illustrating with his own life. At one point he writes about the role of prayer in saving his church from bankruptcy. He prayed to the Lord and then called a contractor whose work had been woefully substandard. “Sensing the Lord infusing [him] with still greater boldness” he told this man, “If you do not ship the remaining steel for free, we will close the construction project permanently, take the entire church into bankruptcy, and I will spend the rest of my life pursuing a legal remedy for all damages incurred by your company’s failure to perform. You have until tomorrow at five o’clock to give me your answer, but don’t call at 5:05, because there is a big part of me now hoping your answer is no.” This kind of personal intimidation does not at all stand as an example of the fruit of the Spirit or the character of a man called to be an elder!

A few paragraphs later Challies continues his critique.

“I simply can’t understand how MacDonald could pen a book like Vertical Church and ignore the appalling contradictions of T.D. Jakes, a man who holds an unorthodox understanding of the Trinity and who preaches the prosperity gospel in place of the true gospel … It boggles the mind … Vertical Church is a book with both strengths and weaknesses—very helpful strengths and very dangerous weaknesses. If you are looking for a method to follow, I would certainly not recommend it for that purpose.”

While some people at Harvest have openly wondered whether these authors have been unfair or unduly biased, these allegations do not appear to fit a man such as Challies, who has no known history of attending Harvest Bible Chapel. Rather, his review of Vertical Church suggests that others are also openly questioning MacDonald’s character and whether he is living up to the biblical qualifications for eldership.

While some may feel that Challies is raising concerns about an issue of character that James appears to have dealt with in a sermon on November 17-18, subsequent statements made from the pulpit suggest there are reasons to believe that these issues are not resolved, but rather, are now coming out in his public preaching as well.

MacDonald Preaches an Errant Theology of Money:

On December 2nd, 2012, James MacDonald preached a message from John 6:1-16 entitled “Every Day With Jesus.”  In this message, MacDonald used John’s recording of the feeding of the 5000 to argue that this particular provision of abundance should be abstracted into a universal and normative expectation for how God will provide in each of our lives.  At the heart of this sermon is a theology of money that is barely distinguishable from the prosperity gospel (discussed in detail here).  Moreover, his treatment of this passage frighteningly distorts the biblical text to make this argument.  As bad as this message is theologically, what is most disturbing are his closing statements.  At the 50 minute mark in the sermon, MacDonald begins to explain how Christians in their 20s should expect a life of financial struggle, in which they occasionally have to share a single cheeseburger with a loved one.  He proceeds to argue that, under normal circumstances, people in their 30s and 40s should not be living a life of financial struggle:

“If you’re still living like that in your 30s though, I hope that gets over for you soon. And if you’re still living like that in your 40s, somethings wrong.  Somethings wrong. You say, ‘Darn right something’s wrong. We had to cash our life savings for our child’s health crisis.’ Okay, alright, well if there’s a major struggle – ‘I got run out the door of a company that I gave 30 years of my life to.’ -  Okay, okay, alright.  Sometimes a circumstance will make it such that you’re doing that half-a-cheeseburger thing even in your 50s, maybe.  But apart from that circumstance it is not normal, it is not God’s heart, that you would still be on the barely-getting-by later in life … If that’s the life you are living, that is not biblical.  That is not right.  That is not what God has for you.  Something is wrong. Something has just got to get fixed there.”

This quote captures a moment where errant theology and a character lacking in gentleness and peacefulness collide in full view of the public.  Stop and think about what MacDonald has just said.  When the better part of the Christian Church lives south of the equator, in abject poverty, how can MacDonald face his congregation and honestly suggest that there is something wrong with them.  Additionally, how can a pastor filled with grace and humility preach to 13,000 members of his congregation – most of whom he has not seen face-to-face – a message that essentially condemns many of them without knowing their name, their circumstance or their heart?

Beyond the sermon’s questionable theology and lack of empathy, there lie questions of logical coherence.  If it is true that God has a universal principle of abundance for his faithful followers, why did the early church in Acts have to share all things in common with those that had little to nothing?  Why did the Apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthians have to take up an offering for the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem?  Where was the God of abundant finances then?

Lastly, if God wants His people to know material abundance as a normative lifestyle, then why would temporal, finite circumstances such as the loss of a job, the decline of child’s health, or merely being in one’s 20s upset this vision?  Can the omnipotent Creator of all things not overcome these circumstances?

Harvest Releases and then Deletes an Update:

Lastly, there was an elders update on the HBC website this past weekend; and it was taken down just twelve hours after it initially appeared.  In it, the elders reported that James had exercised humility and grace during his attempts to reconcile with former elders and staff members, especially with those individuals that had caused him offense.  Upon reading this portion of the statement we immediately wondered what Joe Stowell, Sr., Joe Stowell IV, Ron Allchin, Dave Corning, Sam Jindoyan, or the other reputable men listed on “The Void” could have done to cause MacDonald such distress that his elders felt it appropriate to mention it publicly.  The members of HBC should be aware of this public statement and its full contents, and they should inquire of their elders as to the reasons for deleting it from the website.

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152 Responses to Tim Challies speaks on Vertical Church ; Errant Theology of Money; and the Missing Elder Update.

  1. Rich Williams says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I’m being manipulated when a preacher tells me to turn to my neighbor and say “(fill in the blanks”). MacDonad does this on a regular basis. I almost feel like I’m his robot doing what he tells me to do. And that’s not how I roll. What if I don’t want to say that to my neighbor? How about this? How about you preach the Word of God humbly and not order the congregation to do what you say? “I want you to look at your neighbor and say ‘I’m going to give as much as I can.’” Just nonsense.

    Someone please remind me why a PASTOR needs to live in a $500,000 home. Answer: The only way he can afford a house like that is if he is making a minimum of $300,000 a year. Minimum. I also wonder why the Walking in the Word was merged into the church. Answer: Because the church does not file a tax return that MUST disclose the salaries. Walking in the Word (when it was an independent entity) was required to disclose the wages paid to MacDonald. Guess the heat got a little hot in the kitchen. Solution: Just merge WITW ministry into the church to hide behind the church’s ability to not have to report wages paid to MacDonald. Funny how the church is exceedingly afraid to just let the congregation know how much his salary is. If there is no issue of excessive salary paid to MacDonald, then why not just be straight up about it and disclose it? The ironic thing is that if he didn’t live in an expensive house, no one would be demanding to know if he is taking an excessive salary.

    No pastor should want to “live the good life” to hang with the wealthy, “popular” people at church. There will more worldly temptations offered through relationships with those individuals. There will be more opportunity to be like the world than if you just lived a humble, quiet life. I’m not naïve enough to believe that those temptations aren’t attractive to any individual. But as a pastor of the congregation you need to show more leadership and avoid those potential situations. However a more mature pastor would CHOOSE to be with his family at home and not traveling with a bunch of buddies when the demands of your job already keep you away from your family a significant amount of time.

    • shame on you James says:

      Yes, and don’t you love when its Easter or Christmas and he needs to meet a deadline for a series! Who remembers a few years ago……. The message today isn’t going to be an Easter message but say that’s ok pastor James! Are you kidding me? He knew not preaching an Easter message on Easter would ruffle feathers. So, get everyone to tell his ego what he’s doing was ok. Then i have been a member of HBC RM since 1999. How many times has James been there Christmas eve? Maybe twice give or take. I almost fell over seeing him there this past Christmas service. After the movie i mean. My Wife and I worshiped at another Church early Christmas eve at another Church in Arlington heights. The pastor there has a accident is a strong teacher and they hand a Christmas service. My Wife and I were filled with joy when we left! Finally a Christmas service after years at Harvest. He pastor there pointed out his Son was there with us and said he bought him a North face jacket. The his Son was a phys ed teacher and spends a lot of time outside. What? His son and the rest of his family didn’t work for the Church? What a breath of fresh air! Unlike both of James sons and brother and who know who else in his family is taking a paycheck from Harvest? Oh, right back to Christmas eve. I took my Wife to dinner and we made the 5pm service at harvest. A few songs then dim the lights and it’s showtime! We were shown harvest new professional movie. Was it good? Yes it was for what it is. A mish mosh of the wayward Son parable and it’s a woderful life. And with us $60M in debt we hire a professional movie producer and then pay actors! Out of what money? And did you see who was one of the directors? Yes that’s right Luke Macdonald. Well, I have had just about enough. 12 years at Harvest. Shame on you Pastor Macdonald. With being $60 mil in debt how can you stand up in front of everyone and do a service on money this coming year like you said. What a joke.

      • Tony says:

        “His son and the rest of his family didn’t work for the Church? What a breath of fresh air!”

        Absolutely! A son following in his father’s footsteps in ministry??? And in the very same church in which his father is serving and where the son grew up and got to know everyone??? FOR SHAME!

      • KnightLight says:

        Lots of churches out there. No one’s dragging anyone over to Harvest every weekend.

        • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

          It’s hard KnightLight, when you have been going to a church for over 10 years, and you see such a change (in the wrong direction). It is hard to just change churches…..I don’t know if you understand this or not.

    • Tony says:

      “Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I’m being manipulated when a preacher tells me to turn to my neighbor and say “(fill in the blanks”).”

      Yes, it’s just you.

      “I almost feel like I’m his robot doing what he tells me to do. And that’s not how I roll.”

      And as the Bible teaches, it’s more important to do things “how you roll” than it is to ever carry out instruction by your Pastor.

      “What if I don’t want to say that to my neighbor?”

      Um…then don’t.

      “How about you preach the Word of God humbly and not order the congregation to do what you say?”

      Yeah, like Paul and John the Baptist! Oh wait…

      “The only way he can afford a house like that is if he is making a minimum of $300,000 a year. Minimum.”

      Interesting, because my brother lives in a $560,000 home and makes $103,000 a year.

    • Tony says:

      Fascinating that you bring up mortgages and what it would require in income to safely make payments on a site that claims that Harvest is too deep in debt. Harvest is currently “in debt” for a little less than $60 million a year for their building facilities. What would we claim is necessary in order to be able to afford that?

      Most experts say that your mortgage debt obligation shouldn’t be more than 36% of your gross income, correct? So let’s say that Harvest had a 15 year mortgage on the $55 million. That would mean that they would owe in the neighborhood of $400,000 a month if we considered a strong interest rate ($400K’s a little high, but let’s just guess here). Therefore, in keeping with experts’ recommendations, their monthly income should be, say, $1.2 million to be safe ($400K is 33% of $1.2 million).

      Harvest’s monthly income is over $2 million.

      • It wasn’t when they incurred the debt. Your argument is anachronistic.

      • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

        But don’t you see the problem. Harvest is a church. It doesn’t get an “income”. People give their tithes to God’s kingdom and to further his Kingdom. What if the people stop coming/stop giving to Harvest? Can Pastor really preach or will have to “tickle their ears” to ensure that people keep coming to give. I don’t know about you, but this past month of December was a little too much on the “giving”.

        Also, WHY HIDE THE DEBT? How many of us would ever have known? The money we gave was going to pay interest on this huge debt that we knew nothing about. That form of deceit is a lie. We were lied to by the leaders at Harvest. :(

      • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

        And, just to be clear, we are still being decived/lied to. Even in Pastor James “MY 5G”, he made a vague statement about being 20 million over budget for elgin construction. To my knowledge, he has still NEVER PUBLICLY discussed the huge debt that Harvest owes.

        Let me ask you this. If the debt isn’t a big deal, then why try to hide it from us (the congregation)?

    • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

      Rich – It is a 1.9 million dollar home.

  2. Rich Williams says:

    I recently left Harvest to attend a local Arlington Heights Church. The pastor there preaches ONLY God’s Word. No begging for money, no self-serving sermons. He NEVER mentions himself in the sermon unless confessing that he is also a sinner. He lives in a modest house and is unassuming and humble. He gives ALL the glory to God. No videos of him at the Blackhawks/Flyer Stanley Cup game, no pictures/videos of him or his wife with “important” politicians or celebrities, no bragging about how “popular” he is….on and on and on. Ugh. Enough is enough already!

    We are soooo glad to have found this church! And the pastor has a great accent — and the preaching is PURE biblical exhortation of God’s Word. Solid spiritual food to challenge me every Sunday. Business meetings are open and with full disclosure. No exhorbidant debt in the name of “growing”. They simply believe that God’s Word is all you need, so that is all that is preached. I feel like I am attending church instead of a production show.

    • Pam says:

      Yes….the excessive use of audio visual at Harvest makes me wonder just how the first century church was able to grow as it did without a dedicated audio visual/graphics ministry. Its nice, I guess relevant but really…how necessary?

      I read on one of the posts earlier about James attending T.D. Jakes 35 year ministry anniversary party. So I had to google it and was really surprised to see him in the pictures…I guess I dont understand as to why James would think that it was a good decision to go there as well as our Elders thinking that it was a something that would benefit an already troubling time in the church.

      • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

        And…remember…he pre-recorded the sermon (before an empty auditorium = harvest staff only) during the week so he could go.

        I still find it ironic. The sermon that week was titled “The Most Important Verse” and was John 3:16. It was so “important” that he pre-recorded it and went to Jakes’ birthday.

        #sad

        • HBC Alum says:

          Bam! Pre-recorded John 3:16 to go to Jakes’ celebration and also pre-recorded a message back in Feb 2012 so he could go to the NBA All-Star game in Florida. When I asked a leader about this (NBA game), they said “wouldn’t you if you had the opportunity?”

          This was just an indication of things for my family that James was not “keeping the main thing the main thing” as he used to put it. Over the last several years, many of his sermons were re-preaches as well (Lord Change Me (re-preach of I Really Want to Change series), Big God Small Me (mostly from Acts series), Vertical Church (at least last 5 messages were from Straight Up), as well as many others within series.

          This is just a pattern of how things changed over the past few years where the focus was shifted to other endeavors outside HBC and the main thing (HBC preaching/leading the flock) became a side concern. Prayerfully this gets resolved soon.

      • Tony says:

        “Yes….the excessive use of audio visual at Harvest makes me wonder just how the first century church was able to grow as it did without a dedicated audio visual/graphics ministry. Its nice, I guess relevant but really…how necessary?”

        What’s your point? It’s these kinds of things that make us look so foolish. What could possibly be wrong with a high quality audio and video aspect of the church? Do the videos present a false gospel? Are they watered down messages? Does the audio help or hurt the message being sung and preached in a room filled with 1500+ people?

        How did the first century church survive without cars? Perhaps we should do away with cars as well. I mean, they’re nice, but are they “necessary”?

        The 1st Century church didn’t live in the age of technology and sound and pictures, so they weren’t dealing with people who got the bulk of their information in that way.

        “I guess I dont understand as to why James would think that it was a good decision to go there as well as our Elders thinking that it was a something that would benefit an already troubling time in the church.”

        What made it a bad decision? Why is it something the Elders would even need to discuss? Why does the attending of a birthday party even need to be something that “benefits” a church?

        Do questions such as, “Why would this person be spending time with people we don’t like” remind everyone of anything? You mentioned the 1st Century church…why not mention 1st century pharisees?

  3. Concerned Christian says:

    I have to make a comment about the $500,000 that Pastor James is supposedly is getting. Some think that a pastor should get paid the same as a CEO of an organization, a business or a large company. We are not an organization, company or a business, we are the Body of Christ. I heard recently on the Moody station that a pastor of a church should receive about the same as the average member of the Body of Christ. Many in the Body of Christ are hurting big time. We as the Body of Christ need to help the best we can and that includes me, all of you and Pastor James. Of course some can do more than others. I’ll leave it at that. I hope you understand what I am trying to say.

    • PSRocket says:

      Concerned Christian (and others reading),
      When you say that a pastor of a church should recieve about the same as the average member of the Body of Christ…first, we have some pretty affluent people attending Harvest, but anyway, I digress… My question is this: When you say “receive” are you talking about a pastor’s salary from the church or their overall income?
      I’m wondering what is the *real* concern for people. Because it feels to me that if Pastor James received one dollar from Harvest, or say he received nothing *and* even paid back every penny of a salary he ever received, I think some people would *still* have an issue, if he generated a certain amount (whatever that “moral” amount may be) outside the church–whether it be through books, through real estate, through an inheritance, or by inventing some widget that brought in millions of dollars.
      Something to ask ourselves…

      • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

        PSRocket — Are you really asking this question? Really??? You think that the average person at Harvest lives in a 1.9 million dollar home?? Really??

        The fact that he gets money from multiple places (church, radio, books, and guest preaching) from the same message doesn’t bother you?

        I know a lot of pastors donate the money they make from preaching at other churches back to their home church. Why should he be making double income on Sundays?

        I don’t care where his income comes from, living the lifestyle that he lives, gives Christians a bad name.

        Who are you PSRocket? What is your interest in harvest?

        • PSRocket says:

          Okay, so it sounds like, for you, Anonymous Member of HBC-RM, that Pastor James should only make a certain amount of money, whatever the source. So, what dollar amount is that? What is the “moral amount”?

        • Tony says:

          In the last 5-7 years, a total of four elders have left the church, none of them at the same time as the other. It’s a church that has a staff of almost 400, and “the void” lists what, 20 people? So this is a “mass exodus”? And since the ED site came out and exposed all these “hidden” things, no one on the elder board or leadership team has left, and less than 2% of the congregation? Sounds like a false narrative to me…sounds like a pretty typical organization, with the complaints and calls for the leader’s head coming from outside the organization or from the small percentage of people who left 2-5 years ago.

        • Tony says:

          “I don’t care where his income comes from, living the lifestyle that he lives, gives Christians a bad name.”

          How ironic…on a website created by an outsider designed solely to attack a church based on speculation, questions, rumors, and tenuous narratives about doctrine and someone’s personal life, and the website creators happen to be fellow Christians…someone comments that something ELSE gives Christians a bad name?

        • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

          PS Rocket. Honestly, for him and his wife, I would think that 100,000 would be PLENTY. He lives off of donations from the attendees of Harvest. There are many people attending and giving who make under 30,000 and he is living in an extravagant way off of their money. Honestly, I don’t know how he can feel right about it. Do you?

      • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

        Whatever the source of his income, couldn’t he have put it to better use?

        • A Concerned Member says:

          $100,000? Even campus pastors don’t make that little. And yes, I’m being sarcastic in calling a $100,000 salary “little.” Only in Harvest’s insular bizzaro-world is that a paltry salary. Like it or not, the fact James is making more than $500,000 annually (an almost charitably low under-estimate) to serve as God’s megaphone is only the tip of an iceberg of fiscal impropriety so vast that it would stagger the imagination of the average attender. Why else would the church need to cover up his salary and attack the “detractors” who dare ask where their charitable contributions are going? Because at this point, pretty much EVERYONE on paid staff has their hand in the cookie jar, and the whole place would quickly become a ghost town were Joe Weekender to find out just how out of line the salaries of his “shepherds” are with his own. Don’t believe me? Ask a campus pastor directly and see what sort of answer you’re given. I can almost hear the catapult already being cranked into launching position from here. The reality at Harvest is, if they’re on stage and talking to you, a $100,000 salary is a small blip in the rearview window of their annual income.

          The idea that churches shouldn’t be leading the way in matters of financial and fiscal transparency would be laughable if the ignorance and arrogance its “logic” is rooted in weren’t doing catastrophic damage to the body of Christ by fueling the doubt-driven fires of the skeptical and unbelieving.

          Do the math, folks… the furniture in the foyer of the Elgin property alone cost more than the average income of someone residing in that city. Or have we all forgotten how badly David Platt was verbally abused by his holiness during ER1 for daring to suggest that there were biblical guidelines, principles, and standards to which the incomes of pastors should be held? It’s high time for the members and attenders of Harvest Bible Chapel to pick up the clue phone James is always going on about and demand the transparency we have for so long been denied or bullied into believing it was “unreasonable” of us to ask for. The good news -although admittedly hard to hear at first- is that, when it never comes, there are still hundreds of churches committed more to advancing the actual Kingdom of Heaven than the personal, profit-driven agenda of one of its wayward sons. It may well be time for you and your loved ones to find one of them and “vote with your feet.” If you choose to stick around and keep asking questions, instead, I have a feeling I’ll see you at the top of the recently-catapulted pile someday soon.

        • Tony says:

          “The reality at Harvest is, if they’re on stage and talking to you, a $100,000 salary is a small blip in the rearview window of their annual income”

          You know that for a fact? How do you know that if Harvest doesn’t share it?

    • Joshua P. says:

      I think pastor James has preached many times over on issues of finances and debt, but clearly he hasn’t headed the same warnings. Scripture is clear, ” the borrower is a slave to the lender”, and $60+ mil in debt has Roling Meadows enslaved to the bank! We only need to remember that it was only 3 short years ago that James was seeking Cancer treatments. What would have happened to Harvest if The Lord took James home early, or even tomorrow should He have chosen so. Who is able to step into the pulpit to replace James in such a way to continue to move forward with the aggressive vision that James has shared with the church? But it shouldnt matter because its not suppose to be about James’ vision, rather God’s purpose in each of us His church. We should never have put ourselves in a position at HBC-RM that the very life/existance of the church majorily depended on James and his influence/leadership.

      I don’t begin to understand why James finds it necessary to live in a $1.9 mil home for him and Kathy (and 1 son possibly), its definitely not a necessity but either a desire for extravagence or a very good financial investment. There is no argument again with scripture, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”, and God knows his heart more than we do.

      My suggestion to the many reading this blog is to first and foremost examine ourselves honestly and see what God is showing/teaching us through this situation? Is He rebuking us for having placed more faith in James than most of us would admit. At the end of the day, Pastor James is just a man….. my own Sr Pastor is just another annointed preacher of God’s word shepherding a flock God has entrusted to him, When I go to small group I dont want to hear all about what the “Pastor said” …..I only want to hear about what God has said through the man at the front of the church preaching God’s written word. Amen

      This mention of the “business of the church not being the business of the church” is absolutely heretic. I know that at HBC we are led by Elders, and definetky prefer that we dont go the route of congregational voting, but if Im giving my my tithe you bet I have the expectation that my money is being stewarded for true and necessary kingdom purposes. And I do expect some level of accountability that funds are being used biblically. Otherwise I have decisions to make as to whether Harvest is trully my church home.

      Im not at all surprised about what has occured at Harvest though Im deeply saddened, but join you in continuing to pray for PastorJames and the flock (former and present) as this whole diatribe recently on the internet just makes me think of a sermon James preached on regarding hidden sins in our lives and that if we dont deal with them privately, God will deal with it publically.

  4. Concerned Christian says:

    1Timothy 3:1-5…read and ask yourself if Pastor James should step down and truly repent? There are very important points being made here. OK, now what about the elders? Simple isn’t it?

    • Bill says:

      Amen. Also include verses 6-7 and many others. It’s known globally that Chicago has the most corrupt politicians. And it seems that prosperity gospel mega-churches are not far behind. As for the elders it seems to be a stacked deck against the parishioners. They wont bite the hand that feeds it. Just pray for them.

  5. Mike says:

    Joe Stowell Sr. left because he loves working with college students and was given the opportunity to be the president of Cornerstone University. I don’t believe there was a major blowout. As I recall, he even preached at HBC a few times after he left.

    Publishers of this blog: I don’t know your hearts and I don’t go to HBC (anymore – I used to but I now live in Michigan), but the tone of this site seems to be hateful and gossipy. You have made your point – James and the elders have seen this, please delete this website. What would a nonbeliever think about Jesus he or she read this site? Disparaging other Christians on the internet is not a good way to follow Christ.

    • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

      Mike – Do you know this for sure or are you just posting “your thoughts”? The remaining times he preached at Harvest were to fulfill his obligation / contract for that year. Although, I am sure you are correct (regarding his love of working with students), there was more to this. What about all the other Stowells?

      The website has made their point. I believe some things have improved as a direct result of this site. But, not enough improvement yet. Not enough transparency by the leaders of Harvest yet. Because of this blog, there are now “elder-updates”. More are needed though.

      Also ask yourself Mike, what would a non-believer think about Harvest? If you could see their unbelievable push for money in December – every week. Parts of sermons. Once, he finished early, so “part 2″ could be about giving. Videos, etc., it really was sickening. What would a non-believer think about this. What would a non-believer think when they see/hear about James’ house? We had a guest come with us to Harvest and they turned the bulletin over to see the yearly budget (26 million). They were shocked and the rest of the sermon was lost on them, because they were trying to figure out how a church possibly needs 26 million dollars to run? How? We don’t know, because Harvest has yet to release any type of concrete budget/expenditure sheet. What would a non-believer think about James’ salary? I think these are serious questions that need answered. Trust me, these issues can cause much more damage than a person asking honest questions on a blog.

      • PSRocket says:

        With a staff of 400, maintaining six buildings, renting one building, funding ministries, funding missions, how much do you think the budget should be?
        Have you approached an Elder or Campus Pastor with your questions and concerns?

    • MD says:

      Mike if you have truly taken the time to read through the blog and were seeking the truth and not a “side” to align with, then you and many other like minded individuals or perhaps loyalists would realize there are serious concerns raised here. Does that stance lump me into the “hater” category?
      After a decade at HBC the last thing I was looking for was some controversy to be a part of and I am confident the bloggers or much respected ex-HBC leaders mentioned in the “void” were or are either. It is so incredibly sad…truly, and increasingly disturbing to keep hearing such accusations of “malicious intent” continually flowing in from “believers” against people who are only trying to honor God by protecting and preserving His word. Thus far I have only heard from this website credible accusations of sideways theology being backed up by scripture, our armour. They are doing what scripture encourages us to do. I understand not everyone who comments here on this website has been tasteful and glorifying to our Lord, but what can you do. It’s gonna happen. I do however encourage the authors to take down emotional rants that only distract from the issue at hand.
      My wife and I without a proper lense noticed only a couple of red flags with leadership at HBC, which in hindsight should have been enough to question -vs- look away from them. But with a loyalist mentality and no lense like this blog has given us to look through, it was a while before we learned that we were being sinful as my wife and I had become all too interested in a man and his product rather than seeking first the kingdom of God. If we were,seeking first the Kingdom, then we would have paid attention to the lack of transperancy HBC leadership allows and encourages and the troubling reasons as to why they do. This is sin. How can we truly know that our pastor is living above reproach? Being told not to question and look at an “outsiders” blog is plain sinful and deceitful…1TIM 3:7, “Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace,into a snare of the devil”. As if it makes a difference, these “outsiders” we were cautioned to avoid were not “outsiders” but maybe more suitably put ex-”insiders” who had become so offended while witnessing blatent contridiction from the pulpit, left the church.
      It became clear to me that to follow leadership without taking a stance on questionable practices is idolatry. And are we not commanded to test the spirits?
      Since we have left HBC and removed my child from the academy, we feel like we have been written off without a care. We know we have been critisized as being legalistic and like the pharisees and even “the apple on the tree”. We never acted like that, not for a second. What judgments! Our flock leaders who were meeting with my wife and I and who were counciling us never even called us again after we told our small group our decision to leave HBC.
      In an email chain that someone had included my wife in where the individual who initiated it called on fellow brothers/sisters in Christ who attend HBC to pray for pastor James in regards his struggles with sin, she was met with harshness for given any credit to the said accusations. One person went as far to say that she is going to follow her “leader” 110%. The leader she was reffering to was James MacDonald. Others agreed with her. WOW! The last I checked our leader is The Lord Jesus Christ! This unfortunately is the climate that is encouraged at HBC.This is why I am glad we left. But THIS is what saddenes and disturbs me because we love our brothers and sisters in Christ who are the precious flock there, some who are our actual family members. Many have come to know The Lord because of the ministry of James MacDonald, but no where in scripture does it say that that is a free pass in case your not living above reproach. Obviously because there are those who are willing to follow the current leadership from the pulpit 110%,draw your own conclusion to what the significance of that is consequently, the Biblical standard given in 1TIM 3 should not be taken lightly, which is the whole point here in the “Elephant’s Debt” blog! I couldn’t and wouldn’t stand for this blog otherwise!
      I remember several years ago when Andy Rosier, the Elgin worship team leader, was exiled from the alter until an unidentified (that is we as the congregation were never given the reason) sin in his life was corrected and enough time had passed before he could come back. Pastor James has admitted to gambling, but never admitted it was sin as far as I can tell and basically said it was a problem only because it could cause the weaker man to sin. If for no other reason mentioned on this blog, that alone should be reason enough to subject him to the same consequence as Andy especially since this has been an ongoing problem of his for a number of years. For those who think anyone here standing behind authors of this blog are only after hurting James and other HBC leaders I ask that you think Biblically and not with the heart which deceives us all Jeremiah 17:9. Pastor James himself used to condemn gambling in his sermons!
      So Mike, In response to your question, “what would a nonbeliever think about Jesus after reading through this site”… well I believe they would get a pretty good understanding of how important it is for us believers to hold to the truth as to protect Gods Word and His children… Which to answer your question, I believe would be a good thing for nonbelievers but also believers such as yourself to see which is what love we have for Gods word because it is so good! And there will be a fight to preserve it’s goodness for it is meant not to bring darkness, confusion or even death, but to bring light and life…”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.” – Proverbs 3:5-8

  6. B+ says:

    Seems to me there are well meaning people trying to hurt JM and HBC churches by slander and partial information. Knowing James for 22 years I can tell you that he does qualify as an elder in the church and the character of his life fits very well with the qualifications of an elder. Righteous indignation and occasional loss of temper do not disqualify a person from the office of elder. The pattern of his life is much different. He is not the person your making him out to be in this blog, and I wonder what motivation you have for tearing down a man and a church God is clearly using. How can what you are doing be in any way good for God’s church? Vitriolic attacks that assume motive and denigrate are not God honoring communication. James 3:17-18 “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

    There is no prosperity theology taught at Harvest. Never happened in all my years and as I am still a regular attender, if it ever did I’m very sure I would speak with James about it directly. There is not a single sermon that doesn’t get careful scrutiny by thousands of well-educated mature Christians each week. So this prosperity hogwash your selling is clearly wrong. Someone states that the sermons are cleaned up for radio. Editing for time maybe but not content. Since I have been at most every sermon and have also listened to Walk In the Word, I can tell you no such thing happens. Saying that calls into question the intelligence and wisdom of anyone that attends this church and sits underneath James’s teaching and places yourself above each of them. I’m sure that was not your intent, so unless you have more than your opinion created by connecting circumstance, your own knowledge of God’s word should compel you towards silence.

    I’ve read your blog about the Elephant Room, and there you gloss over the intent of the venue and attack in a way that proves ER is very necessary for believers to experience. The clear intent was God honoring discussion of biblical and theological issues, where Christian people of differing beliefs sit together and do just that. I think the reason some took issue this time was that TD Jakes was well spoken and provided his beliefs in a eloquent way that others on the panel were not well prepared to counter. As Bryan Loritts said that was “unfortunate” but the result does not change the intent of the venue as some here suggested.

    Opinions are wonderful, glad we all have them, but expressing them in God honoring ways is still something that needs to be taught and caught in the church today. This is made most evidently clear by your blog and some of the comments in it.

    We cross over into sinful judgment when we decide a person is bad and seek to prove it by showing that because we believe we see something here and believe see something else there, then hear some gossip, that all of it can be added up to make a motive when the bible is clear only God can judge a mans heart. I would suggest to you that this is not behavior fitting for a mature Christian believer.

    • GS says:

      Though I admit there have been a few commenters who have spoken harshly, I would assume that you would afford them the same grace you do Pastor James in your defence of him. It seems you have judged the blog and some of the commenters as unworthy of the same grace.

      I do not see the ‘thrust’ of the WEB site as an attack on Pastor James, the person, in so much as it questions ‘actions’ by the ‘authority figure’ of HBC. I would be in agreement with you that motive and intent cannot be determined by simply looking at behaviour. In fact good behaviour can be morally tainted depending on motive and intent; giving to the poor when one wants to be well thought of is morally questionable when compared to a genuine concern for those in need. (Enter your own scenario!)

      Morality informs behaviour, judging it either good or bad; it is not identical to behaviour. So yes, we therefore should NOT be drawing conclusions about morality simply based on another person’s conduct.

      However simply because the action is questioned does not automatically translate into a judment of motive. Based on evidence, it is fair to ask and be answered, as to the veracity of said evidence. The bloggers and commenters are all either attending or did attend HBC churches. Your post continues to charge those who are asking with the burden of proof, while you see your position as having no such obligation. This is nothing less than the current state of culture and philosophy; it has no basis in logic and reason.

      If the creators of this site have an obligation to prove their conclusions (which, at least in some measure, they have – you can question the evidence, however it has been provided), then the claim that there is nothing wrong in Harvestland, should place the same obligation on those who have a problem with this site. This is why too often brothers and sisters so easily reach an impasse in forums such as this.

      To suggest that thousands of ‘educated’ congregants scrutinize the sermons every week and therefore there could not possibly be anything wrong, impunes the intelligence and character those thousands of ‘educated’ congregants that TD Jakes whips into a frenzy every week. The nature of being decieved is that you don’t know you have been decieved.

      Lastly ER2 was much more than simply ‘unfortunate.’ With the amount of discussion that went on prior to the event, it is very hard to believe that this ‘elite’ group of men entered in unprepared for anything that TD Jakes might have said. Such a statement additionally ignores that amount of ‘staging’ that ER2 underwent both pre and post event.

      • PSRocket says:

        GS, in your comment to B+ above, you more than once talk about the authors of this site “raising questions.”
        That’s what *initially* they did with this site, but now, they are doing way more than “questioning.”
        They are calling for James to repent (meaning that they are saying he has sinned), and they are calling for him to step down as pastor (meaning they are declaring that he is not qualified to be an elder or to be a pastor).
        The audacity is asounding, really.

        • GS says:

          My words were much more specific and mentioned only once… “questions ‘actions’ by the ‘authority figure’ ”

          It is only ‘audacity’ if you ascribe to the authoritarian construct that is inherent in each of the HBC churches. It is not audacity if you see your pastor as a man, exercising a gift of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of edifying the body. If said man strays off the path, repentance, as publicly as the context of the sin demands, is a biblical prerequisite. It would niether be inappropriate for a ‘time’ out of ‘eldership’ to be allowed for proof of the repentance. This is all so that the pastor (a man!) could be reconciled to both God and his brethren. Re-establishing the pastor in his role would be the end goal. This is not audacity, but rather a scriptural model of living in Christ and toward Christ-likeness.

          Congregation: Pastor James / elders, we have seen this going on in your faith walk(s). If this is the direction you are going, it is sin and would necessarily require repentace.
          Pastor James: I’m fine! My anger is righteous, and you’ve put up with it so far. I do not now consider gambling a sin, but will stop for my weaker brother.

          Far too many of the issues raised from within the network of HBF (including 3 churches leaving and one being forced out) remain part of the conversation above and have been answered with silence. It is not inappropriate to move from an unanswered question, which pertains to sin, to a call for repentance.

          My HBC church underwent a serious division between the pastor and the elders. There were clearly sin issues known amongst them and clearly there was unrepentace where repentance was being called for. HBCF came, rallied the wagons around the pastor, jettisoned the baggage (some left voluntarily) and moved on. To this day, the congregation has no ‘good’ explanation as to what went on. It left too much as fodder for gossip – and a continued polorization of congregants.There was no (public) personal repentance by any remaining staff other than a service 2 years later where they led the congregation through a formula for corporate repentace based on OT passages and then moved into an emotional call for people to sign up for service in the church.

          I have since been ‘catapulted.’ I had never once given cause to the leadership (of which I was a very small part of) to doubt my commitment to HBC – - until I questioned the ‘direction’ of Pastor James (culminating in ER2) with the intimation that his influence WILL infect, because of the authoritarion construct of HBF in general, the rest of the Fellowship and its pastors. My membership was removed. No conversation other than a letter trying to twist things in a way that declared they were doing it for my own good. Rather than seeing it as an opportunity to disciple, according to the beliefs they hold, I was summarily dismissed.

          I would suggest that most commenters are like myself, or still attending. We had been/are, like yourself PSRocket, committed to the work of HBF and find ourselves, either on the outside looking in or on the inside and seeing past the veil that has been established. It is strikingly similar to the congregants gathering in the outer courts while the “James’s” work things out behind the viel in the “holy of holies.” Such a separation in the context of a NT priesthood should no longer exist.

    • Anonymous Harvest Member says:

      With all due respect to B+ you would have to have your head in the sand or be seriously delusional to deny that there are serious problems at Harvest. We have not been there for 22 years but we have been there for 13 years and have seen a downward spiral headed in the direction of apostasy. Questions and criticisms of James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel are not limited to this site. You will find them being raised across the blogosphere as people try to make sense of what has happened to our church.

      • KnightLight says:

        Apostasy?! Did you seriously use that word in connection with the teaching ministry of James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel? SERIOUSLY? I’m sorry, but that is utterly ridiculous and slanderous. Preposterous. Utterly foolish and apparently devoid of any understanding of what that word means. Please place that statement on the front page of this website for all to see, so that folks can see what they’ll be contending with here. What a complete joke.

        • PSRocket says:

          Anonymous Harvest Member,
          I would have to agree with KnightLight. I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you don’t know what “apostasy” means. Otherwise, your assessment can only come from a place completely void of rational thinking. James MacDonald *loves* Jesus. And he thinks church should be about an encounter with Him. That’s what the book Vertical Church (which all Harvest attendees got a free copy) is all about. Harvest is a Vertical Church. And the goal of the book is to have other churches stop with the horizontal nothing-more-than-a-Kiwanis-Club experience, to be a vertical encounter with the creator of the universe.
          I go to church expecting. And I meet with God and He with me, as we lift up the name of His Son, Jesus through song, and as His Holy Spirit convicts me, comforts me, and enlightens me, though the sound Biblical preaching by Pastor James. The feast laid before me each weekend, makes me only hunger for Him, and seek Him more throughout the week.
          Oh how I wish for that to be your experience–whether at Harvest or not at Harvest.
          May God richly bless you with His presence, today and always.

        • MJ says:

          The anonymous person wrote “in the direction” of apostasy. Go back and read it more carefully. And I would have to agree. That is exactly the direction Harvest is headed.

        • K. Wagner says:

          The comment reads as a warning, not an accusation. James Macdonald and the leaders at Harvest Bible Chapel would do well to heed the warning. And, yes, I do know the meaning of the word apostasy.

        • PSRocket says:

          Those of you attending Harvest Bible Chapel regularly, tithing, attending a small group on a consistent basis, and serving weekly, think that James MacDonald and the members of HBC are going in “a downward spiral headed in the direction of” denying their faith? Of denying Jesus Christ?

        • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

          PSRocket – YES.

        • J. Dykson says:

          PS Rocket: Yes

        • PSRocket says:

          To those who replied, “yes,” (either here, or as they read this) then it makes sense to look for another Bible-believing church where you can grow in your walk with Jesus. Please, do not misunderstand me and think that that’s an easy decision or that I say that cavalierly. Our time on earth is a nanosecond compared to eternity. And so if you do not have confidence in what God is doing at Harvest, if your spiritual growth is being stunted because you believe that the senior pastor will deny Jesus Christ, then you should go and be fed somewhere else. Yes, church community is important, yes friends will be missed, but church is about God first, not people above God. I pray that you will find a new church home that fills your every desire. May God richly bless you, and your families, with His presence, protection, guidance, and provision.

  7. GS says:

    Yes God loves a cheerful giver, but to use those (2) verses (2 Cor. 9:6-7) in the context of the average HBC service at ‘collection’ time is perhaps one step short of an abuse of scripture and simple manipulation. Contextually, Paul, references the humble desire of the Macedonians to be part of Paul’s ministry because they understood the potential benefit – God loving them in a ‘special’ way – and in doing so hopes to encourage the Corinthians! Paul is motivating the Corinthians here to give every week over a long period of time to accumulate a huge sum to take to the POOR saints, the POOR believers in Jerusalem who didn’t have enough for the basic necessities of life! He is motivating them by trying to teach them about what the Macedonians inherently understood about their life in Christ and this special benefit available to all believers.

    No good shepherd and no good pastor would ever pressure people or put them on guilt trips about their giving – at collection time or otherwise! If, according to these verses and beyond into Chapter 9, someone were to give because they were coerced externally, or if they give painfully internally, they’ve lost their reward. You ought not to give out of legalism and not to give because you’ve been psychologically manipulated, but simply to give because it’s in your heart to give… not because you have to give, not because you feel pressured to give (5G?). I could not bear it, if I were a pastor, and our weekly take was increased because I quoted 2 Cor. 9:6-7. There’s only one way to give and that’s to give cheerfully…for God loves a “hilarious giver”, one with a heart that is thrilled with the pleasure of giving. Such is the one God ‘specially’ loves. This benefit needs to be properly understood for it to apply to ANY giving one might do so that it never becomes something whereby God is put under compulsion.

    I think there might be a dampening of that ‘hilarity’ in giving if one were to realize that it is going to pay off the interest on ‘new or existing’ debt. Additionally expanding HBC’s ‘philosophical’ ideology into predominantly ‘wealthy’ areas is a far cry from the Corinthian church coming together to help the poor brethren in Jerusalem. Remember, scripture can be used to uphold any(one’s) agenda yet not all agendas are scriptural nor is an ‘end justifies the means’ approach to doing ministry scriptural.

    • Patrick says:

      Amen! This is the most accurate statement I have yet to see on this site. Thjs is what it is really about. The BIBLE. James does not qualify to be a pastor or an elder biblically. That is what matters here. I feel for the people of HBC who have been so faithful but I would also warn you that you don’t want to be associated with a church like Sardis or Laodicea in the book of Revelation. Christ speaks very strong words against them. I would not want to be “spit out” by the Lord.rev 3-16.
      We will continue to pray that Gods will be done.

      • Dawn says:

        I think Patrick hit the nail on the head! James is not biblically eligible to be an elder, yet that fact is being neatly swept under the rug. The elder board seems so intent on protecting James, and not adhering to what the Bible states, and that should raise red flags for anyone at HBC. I urge Harvest members to really study the scriptures in light of his preaching; I feel that his exegesis of Scripture has become “bent”, where he is now using passages to fit his agenda. Last weekend was no exception, where he used Philippians 4 to bring up “unreasonableness” and divisiveness in the church again, and that wasn’t Paul’s message at all. He was writing to encourage the church to agree, acknowledge, and confess the gospel message to unbelievers; to stand firm in The Lord and rejoice!! I did not receive any type of encouragement or “peace of mind” after listening to his sermon.
        I have attended Harvest for 12 years, and I am so deeply saddened by what’s going on. I just pray for all our friends, family, and others who call Harvest home, that The Lord would give them discernment and wisdom in the coming months. My ongoing prayer for James is that he comes to a place of true biblical repentance. Harvest needs to be more transparent in all of their financial dealings as well; the updates are too general and vague. Many people still have questions that are not being answered, but they are seen as being “unreasonable” I guess.

        • Anonymous Harvest Member says:

          Dawn, Patrick, and GS above are all absolutely correct. We recently visited another church and were refreshed, convicted, and strengthened by the true proclamation of God’s word. The preacher seemed to have no agenda other than to simply “preach the word”. That small church has sent out several missionaries, supports a seminary, a crisis pregnancy center, food for the poor, and several other ministries. The church members are continually being equipped to go out into the world to make disciples. The plate was passed for the offering without any videos or ramp up speech about giving. The people just gave. I am sad because I can remember when Harvest was more like this little church. It is shameful what Harvest has become.

    • PSRocket says:

      GS,
      The point is, don’t give. We are not to be under *compunction* to give, and any feelings of being “guilted” into giving, are internal feelings, and not coming from the people of HBC. The matter of giving of resources–money and time being the ones that people seem to covet the most–is between the giver (or the non-giver) and God.
      If someone doesn’t think that by giving to HBC that they are giving to God for His purposes, then they shouldn’t give to HBC.
      But if they don’t give, not to just HBC, or anywhere, or give some paltry amount, comparing themselves to their neighbors next door, and what *they* have, rather than people who have *nothing*, specifically not having Christ (which is the poorest one can be) and under the delusion that the money in their pocket is theirs, and not God’s, then there issue isn’t with HBC. It’s with God.

      • GS says:

        I would be interested to follow a line of exegisis that led to this explanation… commentaries… something to substantiate your ‘explanation.’ It is not in keeping with the context of the teaching leading up to and beyond the two verses you kept quoting. Again, any scripture that is used in order to increase givings ‘in the moment’ is at best poor judgment by leadership – at worst, it is a use / abuse of the scripture for the purposes of manipulation. Both parties lose in such a case.

    • Tony says:

      “You ought not to give out of legalism and not to give because you’ve been psychologically manipulated, but simply to give because it’s in your heart to give…”

      You mean like how Pastor James always says, and even leads in chants, “If you don’t want to give, don’t give, if you don’t want to give, don’t give!”

      That gets left out in silly posts like this that take things out of context and leave out explicit examples that contradict their thoughts. Par for the course on this site.

      • GS says:

        So what you are saying is you hate when people take one sentence from a larger conversation and use it against them to make your own point? Hmmm.

        Please note there was no specific allegation against Pastor James in my response to PSRocket. Nor did I intimate that Pastor James’ teaching or PSRockets words were silly or indict an entire group of poeple in one short sentence. Ad hominem attacks are generally used by those who have little to argue with.

        It should be noted that the very same ‘chant’ you quote above within the broader presentation of, say the roll out of the 5G campaign could POTENTIALLY be used to psychologically create a sense of guilt… “I don’t want to be one of THOSE!” All of that said if 2 Corinthians 9 is being used in any way to increase giving, outside of a complete understanding of the reward for giving in the context the scriptures teach, be it in a campaign of any type or at collection time – shame on pastors and elders.

      • GS says:

        So what you are saying is that you do not like those who strip a sentence from a larger discussion, take it out of context, and use it to make one’s own point. Hmmm. Seems you have done it to me as well as Pastor James. Other than ad homenisms your post does not work in your favor.

  8. Debbie Richardson says:

    PSRocket and others still confused,
    PSRocket said, “How exactly are the things I listed getting accomplished, if not with 5G money?”

    If not by 5G, how else is money coming in you asked? Let’s be transparent and honest with HBC members, attendees, and of course the sister HBF churches. New loans were taken out in July 2012 and can be found in the Kane County Recorder of Deeds website. One loan is on the new station in Aurora for $9,360,000 and the other is a new loan on Elgin for $30,640,000. Those 2 loans total $40,000,000 and run from July 9, 2012 to August 1, 2022 – both underwritten by the Evangelical Christian Credit Union or ECCU. If they are short cash after them, the leadership can always re-mortgage Niles or the new Chicago Cathedral – unless that’s already in the works in Cook County. Friends, please don’t be manipulated.

    Keep informed – Loan information can be found on 3 websites:
    Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Kane County Recorder of Deeds and McHenry County Recorder of Deeds. Just enter Harvest Bible for Grantor or Grantee searches. Filed documents can be reviewed at any time on the Internet. Let’s keep this factual as far as the loans go.

    • Rick Pitchard says:

      Hi Debbie,

      I am not in business so bear with me. So churches get loans via a new mortgage on properties that have already been paid off? Now you have to pay interest on the new loan. And pray the church receives a steady stream of donations in order to pay the monthly mortgage. Seems wiser to wait until the 5G money comes it and then spend it rather getting deeper into debt.

    • PSRocket says:

      Debbie,
      What a second…there are people claiming here that money being collected for the 5G campaign is not being used to further God’s kingdom. One went so far as to call it a scam. I point out MANY ways the money is being spent, and how expensive some are. Building out the worship center for Niles is no small, cheap task.
      *That* was the point of my comment, and you take the tail end of the comment, completely out of context, intentionally missing what was being talked about, so that you can talk about what you want to talk about, which has been addressed multiple times on this blog, by the authors and the commentors. Please.

      • Debbie R. says:

        PSRocket,
        Your thoughts are understood. I offered factual proof of loans and where to find them published to this community. Is it possible for you to offer factual proof of the budgets and spending month to month? You appear to know a lot about how the money was spent, or will be spent, so do you know how it was used in 2012? Do you have any detailed financials that are “on the record”? This information will help members and all contributors to the ministries at HBC to have confidence in the leadership and re-build trust. Full disclosure will build trust and remove doubt. I pray there will be fuller financial transparency soon. I’m keeping an open mind on all topics presented here.

        • PSRocket says:

          “You appear to know a lot about how the money was spent, or will be spent, so do you know how it was used in 2012?”
          All that I mentioned is available to anyone who attends Harvest. In fact, all that I’ve mentioned is available to anyone who looks at Harvest’s website.
          There is plenty of information available about the financials at Harvest. And like with any organization, not every single person in the congregation needs to know every single detail. And certainly, those who are merely spectators of this bizarre sport here on this website, do not need to know anything.
          This notion because Harvest doesn’t post their check register on the Internet, that that means that they aren’t being “transparent” and that their integrity is being questioned, is just not right.
          I’d like to know, of the Elders who left, who were the poor stewards who got Harvest in the financial mess in the first place, that the new and expanded Elder Board, have diligently dug the church out of over the last several year. But alas…as I’ve attempted to glean such names, it’s apparent that the leadership of Harvest do not wish to malign these men.

        • Jeffrey Silva says:

          PSRocket – Debbie has asked for you to provide proof for HBC spending. Instead you have deflected the question and made other accusations.

          Question – what is your name? I have nothing to hide disclosing my name as others also do. Are you on the HBC staff? I ask that because most HBC congregation members that have posted comments are more akin to “Hey I did not know these things. We wish there was more disclosure at the church? We are concerned with the direction that our church is taking.”

          I am deeply saddened by your attacks on other commentators!

        • PSRocket says:

          Jeffrey,
          I am refusing to post anything on a public website which is not the general public’s business. That’s deflection? Huh. Interesting. I even think what Harvest has posted on their public website is way more information that is necessary to post regarding its financials. If you are a member of Harvest, then absolutely you should have your questions answered. And I had questions, and I got them answered (not from this website, but from actually talking to people who know what they were talking about, and also who knew that my intention of asking questions was to seek understanding, rather than for other reasons).
          As I said in another comment, no I am not on staff at Harvest. I am a member of Harvest, however. I can’t speak for others as to why they don’t know this information. Maybe they either, a) don’t tithe, and so they have no “skin in the game” so why should they care? or b) they tithe but don’t want to approach a pastor or an elder on these matters? Don’t know.
          And you are deeply saddened by, my “attacks on other commentators?” I’m am puzzled by this statement, as I don’t know who I’ve attacked. Regardless, I apologize.
          Considering your comment on December 21st “James MacDonald is not relevant. Period.,” I must admit that I am confused by your interest in me, or anything related to Harvest, and why you’re on this website…cheap entertainment? :-)

        • Jeffrey Silva says:

          Rocket Man,

          Well the definition of irrelevant is “having social significance: having some bearing on or importance for real-world issues, present-day events, or the current state of society”. So you are quite right in that Mr. MacDonald has bearing on real-world issues. My concern among many is that he is living a luxurious life-style supported by HBC’s offerings. This is typical of other televangelists.

          My expectation is for my tithes to be used to spread the Good News, help the poor, help the single moms, help the widows. Not support Mr. MacDonald’s expensive lifestyle. It is just that simple.

    • Concerned Christian says:

      Debbie, it doesn’t matter. The members of Harvest have been deceived. We should not be in debt at all. First, the idea, then the money, then have it built, period.

      • PSRocket says:

        Concern Christian,
        I am fiscally conservative and would prefer no debt. And yes, the current debt load is even higher than Biblical financial groups would say is “good;”
        But I don’t think every Christian thinks like you or me–as evident by how many Christians have a home mortgage or a car loan.
        Thankfully, the Elder Board agreed a few years back not to take on any more debt, and to be debt-free by 2020.

        • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

          But…why did they not tell any of us??? Do you not see the problem? There is NO transparency within HBC? If it wasn’t for this blog, how many people would know about this MASSIVE debt? Seriously, PS Rocket, you think it is okay to hide this much debt from the congregation?

  9. Ryan says:

    “A factious man is a danger to the church” ~ Titus 3:10

    for those of you that did not attend Harvest University in April of this year, here’s Pastor James preaching on “5 Things Your Pastor Wants You to Know but Can’t Tell You”. And if that wasn’t enough ammo, you can watch the entire message which will include James’ wisdom on “What good Elders say”.

    http://jamesmacdonald.com/blog/a-sendoff-for-hungry-shepherds/

    • john316@yahoo.com says:

      Isn’t that what James preaching tonight? Basically you need to get rid of people and focus on what’s from god and put away everything that isnt focused on your salvation? Am I the only one that related tonights sermon to whats going on?
      And yes tonights video was to make sure you keep giving to 5G. Tell you the truth i already stopped. Now giving the next 2 years G5 to 2 other charity organizations that make a difference in poor Impoverished families.

      “Pay no mind to the man behind the curtain”

      • Deb & Jim Black says:

        if you watch the segment above, I believe his exact words were: “catapult them (factions) out of the church”…..if that statement isnt soaked in pride, i dont know what is. When people give 10%++ of their hard earned income to a church, Im sorry James if you feel challenged by those questioning what the heck is going on?! $60mil in debt is no laughing matter, considering the church’s ability to survive financially is based on tithing. I dont go to HBC-RM but I really feel for those of you that do and know about the debt and are now being asked/challenged/guilted into giving even more.

      • PSRocket says:

        Pastor James preached on Phillipians 4:1-7. It was about having peace. And he accurately pointed out that most of our peace is because of relational conflict. The Titus 3:10 reference was about obedience of living in peace with one another, and that sometimes (when you try once, twice, even three times) that isn’t possible. It was about 20 seconds of his message. So I guess if you are dwelling on “what’s going on” then yes, you could connect the sermon to “what’s going on.” Whatever that means.

  10. Slavek says:

    Sad day. Last day at HBC after 8 years. The video at tonight’s service confirmed my decision to leave HBC.

    • M. Sagan says:

      What was the video?

    • GBR says:

      could you elaborate a bit on that? What was the video about for those of us not in attendance?

    • Mary Bennett says:

      Agree. Manipulative, guilt inducing video. It kills me to think of all the people I know at Harvest who are having trouble making ends meet, providing for their families, trying to hang on to their homes and being guilt tripped into giving more money to the James MacDonald empire.

      • PSRocket says:

        Really? Huh. Considering that God loves a *cheerful* giver, and Harvest emphasises never to give out of compunction, I don’t think guilt was the motivation at all. I found it encouraging.
        And considering all that is being done with the 5G money given to Harvest, reaching more people for Christ, and growing them by:
        building out the Niles campus, whose attendees have patiently waited for a long time, as they are busting at the seems,
        starting the North Shore campus,
        moving deeper in to the city with the Chicago Cathedral campus,
        bringing on another staff member for Biblical Soul Care and getting hundreds of Small Group leaders trained to care for their members,
        Recording a CD so that others can lift up the name in Jesus and worship our King,
        Using the powerful medium of film to reach people, like with the Christmas Eve short,
        Starting a Christian Academy school in Liberia,
        Planting 15 churches this year,
        I don’t see James’ empire being built. I see God’s kingdom being built.

        • C. Curtis says:

          Baloney. There was not the least bit of discouragement to give at this morning’s service. No mention of “God loves a cheerful giver.” The message was to give and give more no matter what your circumstances. The video was indeed manipulative and the implication was the old “give to get” prosperity message. Read the entirety of this website to get better insight into how the money is being used. Not so noble as building God’s kingdom.

        • MG says:

          It was definitely sounding like the prosperity gospel in the video. The whole month on giving has been too much.

        • J Crane says:

          So far, we have heard of a ground breaking date at Niles for the build out two different times …both dates have come and gone. Many of the faithful leaders/members at Niles who were waiting patiently since Seize the Opportunity have also left. There is a difference in what is being advertised as Harvest growth and what is reality.

        • PSRocket says:

          C. Curtis,
          You haven’t heard Pastors and Elders when praying for the offering, on many weekends, quote 2 Corinthians 9:6-7?
          And so I guess this passage of God’s Word is, in your words, “the old give to get prosperity message?”
          Huh. Interesting.
          And in regards to how the money is being used, are you denying the fact that Harvest is investing money on all the things I listed? Or are you saying that some other money is being used? How exactly are the things I listed getting accomplished, if not with 5G money?

        • M. J. says:

          There was no elder praying or quoting 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 at the Sunday service we attended. At the end of the manipulative video, James MacDonald said, “The fastest way to God’s fullest provision for you is faithfulness in your financial partnership with him.” Prosperity Gospel.

        • PSRocket says:

          M.J.
          I am not talking about ONE service. I am talking dozens, hundreds, of services. I wrote, You haven’t heard Pastors and Elders when praying for the offering, *on many weekends* quote 2 Corinthians 9:6-7?”
          How many services have you attended at Harvest? Maybe your “sample size” is too small?
          Here are the verses…
          “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

        • Kevin G. says:

          There are plenty of good churches doing Kingdom work without going 70 million dollars into debt.

        • S. Kjvalkeen says:

          The entire month of December was enough of a “sample size” for me. We try to witness to lost souls who claim the churches only want your money. Harvest seems to prove them right. Looking for a new church without such an emphasis on money.

    • Lisa says:

      Kevin G. Your comment pretty much says it all. Thanks.

      • PSRocket says:

        Kevin G., I couldn’t agree with you more!
        I’m glad that the men, who were part of the Elder Board, who were terrible stewards and who were unwilling to get help from people who *do* know how to handle money are no longer with Harvest.
        Being a Godly man doesn’t mean you know squat about running a church the size of Harvest.

  11. URAPHARISEE says:

    REVENGE TASTES SO SWEET, DOESN’T IT? UNTIL YOU KEEP CHEWING ON IT AND YOU REALIZE THAT YOU CAN’T GET THE BITTER TASTE OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.

  12. Donald G. says:

    Can anyone comment on the fact that John MacDonald, James’ brother serves on the board of HBF? I thought was rather interesting. John himself, has built a very successful tax consulting business in Canada, surely James must have discussed some of these financial decisions with his brother who could have easily explained to him the amount of risk he was willing to take the church on?

    • Bob Peckham says:

      Donald, a Canadian friend who knows the Macdonald Family very well and is in regular contact with men who are in constant contact with James concerning his Canadian operation, told me recently that HBF have placed ‘offers to purchace’ on several strategic sites at various locations in Canada. HBF is targeting churches that have serious debt problems but have great locations. HBF has also placed an offer on a Baptist Bible College/Seminary that is having financial difficulties and a major Baptist conference and campground in a similar situation.
      John is heading up that operation along with a team of financial, real estate, and legal experts.
      We’re all wondering up here where all the money is coming to pay for these projects.
      Personally, I wonder how many people at HBCRM and the other locations know about this Canadian movement.
      Bob P, London, Canada

      • Donald G. says:

        Bob, thank you. This is very interesting indeed. I noticed recently that HBF was promoting themselves as “Harvest Bible Fellowship Canada ” on radio stations up in Canada. I had no idea that a possible Canadian arm was being established. So given what you have just mentioned this sounds like it makes sense. Rumour has it that the new HBC-Oak building will most likely be the Canadian arm of HBF, and John is one of the founding members of HBC there. I believe I heard that the church there was changing to a corporate structure moving forward. I struggle to make sense of all these things when I believe the churches priority needs to be shepherding the flock and winning souls to Christ.

        • Tom Smith says:

          This is a great example of why you should not allow comments to be posted on this site, never mind the sketchy support of this vehicle for your concerns. Not saying there are not truths in some of what you raise, but this vehicle is so loaded with opportunity for error and nonsense. Bob Peckham’s note is a primary example of this. What he puts forth as truth is some of the utter nonsense running rampant through Fellowship Baptists circles by current or ex Fellowship Baptist congregants, as is the case with Bob. Then Donald reads it, assumes it is true and adds his own rumours to it.

          ‘A friend told me’ and because I want to believe bad reasons for Harvest in Canada to be growing and effective, I believe this and parrot it as truth to others. Harvest has never placed ‘offers to purchase’ on church buildings in Canada. Several churches have voted, of their own free will and desire, to give their buildings to Harvest plants. Harvest church plants have inquired if dying churches would consider selling or donating their building, but these requests were done humbly, sincerely and ‘not interested’ answers were accepted graciously and with thanks. And Heritage Seminary/College that Bob insinuates HBF is trying to buy was purchased recently by the Fellowship Baptists (great move) and has new life and direction which is wonderful. And most, if not all, Harvest Ontario church pastors supported this move. MBC which he also insinuates HBF is trying to buy is doing very well, growing and reestablishing itself and stays strongly tied to the Fellowship Baptists. HBF Canada is oriented to glorifying God through the fulfillment of the great commission in the spirit of the great commandment and is not in the least oriented to real estate takeovers!

          Each of the 10 Harvest churches in Ontario are self-supporting, based on their own congregations donations and they at times, help each other. But HBC Chicago and James is not funding some secret takeover of Christendom in Canada. HBF helps plant churches, but the funding comes from the core groups and sister Harvest churches in Ontario.

          ‘Targeting churches’, come on, stop the nonsense. This is one of about 10 ridiculous rumours and accusations running rampant through Fellowship Baptist churches because people want to believe that there must be sinful, twisted, distorted reasons that Harvest churches in Ontario are seeing growth and effectiveness. Other such rumours are that James personally directs and controls every Harvest church, all Harvest senior pastors preach only what James tells them to preach, Harvest is only growing because they rob other churches of their people, etc. Each Harvest church is independent, belonging only by association with Harvest BIble Fellowship. Each Harvest is led by its own elders team, determines its own direction, lays out its own teaching/preaching, and seldom has any contact with James. And each Harvest church is passionately focused on the great commission not robbing other churches.

          I wish the operators of this site would stop facilitating this sort of nonsense, rumour, and totally unfounded accusations. You stated your case against James and HBC Chicago. I don’t think your method was/is a Biblical one, but it is what it is and you have shown you are sticking to it, but at least stop this nonsense of allowing posted comments where ignorance, rumour and insinuation flourish and are accepted as truth by so many.

          Thats my $.02 worth, thanks for posting this (hope you do).

        • Jonathan says:

          I couldn’t have said it better than Tom Smith. Well done! This site is quickly spinning out of control (which is not surprising considering its whole set up).

          Rumors are lame, childish, weak, and most of all sinful.

          Hopefully others like Tom will continue to speak up and keep the owners of this website in check.

        • Bob Peckham says:

          Tom, thank you for your reply, comments and criticisms. It is important that gossip and conjecture are exposed and challenged. I have no axe to grind with James, nor do I benefit in anyway by saying anything negative about him. I gave my name because there are many people here in Ontario, Canada, especially, who know me and my 45 years of ministry in the groups that you have mentioned. The people who shared information with me did so of their own free will and in confidence. That is why I have not named anyone.
          I believe their information is more accurate than we know. Time will reveal all.

        • Jonathan says:

          I have seved at Muskoka Baptist Conference for over 25 years and have no idea who Bob Peckham is. I do know that Harvest is not buying MBC – this is a VERY OLD rumor. It made its rounds years ago and I guess guys like Bob are still hearing remnants of it. And Tom has informed us that Heritage was bought by the Fellowship Baptist Churches so that rumor should now be dead (unless we should gossip about the Baptist churches because they’ve bought the school – they must be sinful and prideful if they’ve bought a school – and with the Fellowship Baptist debt load they also should be getting their own gossip website soon!). Again, rumors and gossip are rampant and this website seems to be honey for the gossip mongers.

        • Bob Peckham says:

          Jonathan I have never heard of you either. LOL
          I was singing at retreats at MBC when the only way into the camp was a one-lane gravel road.
          I started participating in youth retreats about 1965, singing with my brother and sister (The Peckhams). As far as I know I was the first person to use a guitar at MBC and later at many FBYPA rallies and Fellowship churches. We worked very closely with Dick Holliday and Roy Lawson for about 24 years. During that time My family sang at FBYPA rallies, my buddy Paul Penny and I did as well, and in the early 1980′s my wife and I sang at numerous singles’ and couples’ retreats for a period of about 4 years.
          We did conferences and retreats in the Summer and Winter. From time to time, in the Summer, we would enjoy visits with the MacDonald family at their cottage down by the river.
          I was one of the first 36 students at London Baptist Bible College (forerunner of Heritage), and I was also the first student body president.
          I served for a very short time as the first Director of Singles Ministry at HBCRM. However, James and I had a difference over fund-raising techniques, and I left Harvest and bit later returned to Canada.
          I will be 70 years old in May and many of the Fellowship-related people I have contact with are in my age group. We may not always have all the information on certain matters but you would be amazed at what people will tell senior pastors and leaders.
          I am not a sensationalist and I don’t write or say things flipantly. I am also not above being corrected.
          My life’s desire is to see the Will of God from the Word of God become the spiritual Work of the believer.

        • Jonathan says:

          Hey Bob,

          LOL – I’m not really that famous I guess! What I meant by “not knowing who you were” was that you are not currently connected with MBC. And judging by the names you have given it has been awhile. It seems that it is those who have a history with MBC that got the most wound up by this very old rumor. And dragging up false stories speaks to the failure of this website. With all due respect, I am not sure why you would post a rumor on a public website as Scripture is pretty clear what to do.

          Again, with all due respect Bob, even the fact that you feel the need to share publicly that you resigned from HBCRM due to a disagreement over fundraising strategies is troubling. Why does the world need to know the facts surrounding your resignation? Why does this website allow for such bad information?

        • Bob Peckham says:

          Jonathan, we “who have a history” care. Unless you know James MacDonald intimately, you have no idea what he is planning. Have you actually ever worked closely with James for a period of time?
          Scott and Ryan, who own this website, some time ago published my history with James and Harvest and the resignation he had prepared for me to sign.
          There is so much that you are obviously not aware of or refuse to believe, so you simply dismiss it as false information.
          Rumors and gossip with always be rampant within the Fellowship and MBC. Unfortunately, truth is not always as it appears. “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear.”

        • Jonathan says:

          Bob,
          Your comment about knowing James intimately is exactly the point. Since you nor I know intimately what HBC is planning to do in regards to MBC (although from the outside your rumor seems ridiculous seeing that MBC is doing well and was instead “bought/rescued” by a wealthy Fellowship Baptist family- the Ross family) and Heritage (also a ridiculous rumor based on the fact that the Fellowship Baptist Churches just recently bought Heritage – although funny that you don’t consider them off side for doing what you are so concerned that HBC may do – is not The Fellowship of Baptist Churches also a STRUGGLING organization in debt?).

          So since neither of us really know beyond a shadow of a doubt why speak as though you do know? And on a public website? Why not call Dr. Roy or the current leadership of MBC and find your answers? I would just say another “amen” to Tom Smith’s first response to your comment and Donald’s response to your comment.

          I wonder why your history with HBCRM was removed from the site. Maybe the blog owners could include it in the Your Story section so we could read your account of why you left (or were asked to leave) HBCRM.

        • Bob Peckham says:

          Jonathan,
          Many years ago I was told that I would never make it as a pastor because I cared too much for people and I was willing to believe what people told me.
          An automobile accident deprived me of my ability to do any public ministry, therefore, I am out of the flow of current information and often my resources are quite limited. Also, like James MacDonald, you have reminded me that I am too trusting.
          That being the case, in all fairness, I guess I should not trust anything you say, moreso because I know nothing about you and your attitude is slightly less than Christ-like. I could not picture you as a pastor or Christian leader.
          So rather than continue a senseless, useless discourse, I will bid you well and pray that you will be a mighty man of faith and the Love of God.
          Sincerely,
          Bob

        • Jonathan says:

          Hi again Bob,

          Please forgive me for any comments that did not reflect Jesus Christ. I can get quite engaged when dealing with the insidious sin of gossip and so if I have pushed harder than would be considered Christ-like then I humbly ask your forgiveness. I have so many people walk away from the church utterly destroyed by people “sharing stories” and so I know I can get heated. This website is not a good place for me :)

          God Bless.

        • Bob Peckham says:

          Jonathan,
          Under different circumstances you and I could probably enjoy some very lively discussions.
          Likewise, I apologize for any offence I may have been to you. The enemy of our souls would delight in keeping us at odds with each other when we are exhorted to build one another up in our Holy Faith.
          I believe it would be wise for me to avoid sites like this, too. lol
          Jonathan, may you be abundantly blessed with the peace, joy and love of the Lord!
          Sincerely,
          Bob

  13. PSRocket says:

    I’m not really understanding the purpose of this website anymore. At first it appeared to want to raise questions about the debt of HBC.

    Then is was character assissination of James MacDonald. You now even employ another pastor’s book review to give your opinion some credence–See! See! Look at what so-and-so has to say! That reviewer couldn’t help himself…”I am meant to review a book on its own terms, yet I can’t help…” to pile on with everyone else having an opinion about inviting someone whom they don’t approve of to an event that most of the people talking about it, didn’t even attend!

    Now, this website seems like an all out attack on Harvest Bible Chapel. Saying the Elders took down their update? No… I saw it on the Harvest.org website the night I looked on the 23rd, and it’s been up ever since. Even with a huge banner ad, in first position, just like past updates, directing people to it. Is there a reason why you are you choosing to lead your readers in to believing that there is something clandestine happening at HBC?

    Then, picking out a two-minute part of Pastor James’ talk ( with HBC, a specific church, the church that he is called to shepard) that was a sidenote, not part of the sermon notes from John 6:52-71 on which he was preaching for 40 minutes (and added, and clarified as he often does when he talks about “abundance” and “blessings” that they come in many forms, with financial ones being the least of them), and make some twisted accusation that he’s preaching a false (prosperity) gospel just seems like your goal is to sow seeds of doubt for those who are spiritually fed, *with sound Biblical teaching*, at HBC.

    What exactly is your ultimate goal? Please clarify, because I do not think you are being honest with your readers of what your end game is.

    • Tom Westerbrook says:

      Hi PSRocket,

      I would refer you to reading the Website tabs “Executive Summary” and “The Hope”. You might want to also read the other tabs. These will give you insight into this Websites goal.

      Happy New Year!

    • Eric says:

      PSRocket: The purpose of this website is clearly listed the section “The Hope”. The authors listed 6 items that they hope would be accomplished. Hope this helps (pun not intended).

      • PSRocket says:

        Nope, “The Hope” doesn’t say. The end game. What is the ultimate goal? Because acting like this website is to bring some issues to light, just reporting the facts in a non-biased way, without an agenda, is not accurate. So I ask again, What, specifically, do the authors if this site wish to happen to Harvest Bible Chapel and Harvest Bible Fellowship?”

    • Frank S. says:

      PSrocket=harvest church staff in chicago. I wonder who. Nice use of the phrase character assassination, as if an innocent party is being wrongly accused. Well dozens and dozens of people on this site are raising the issue of his tyrannical treatment of people through their own experience. And yes, this website correctly identified the elder statement that lasted less than a day, was removed and clearly rewritten and reposted a week or so later. Saw it. I hope the goal is to not allow these issues to be covered up anymore and to give the chicago congregation reason to question all of these issues and require answers and repentance where needed.

      • PSRocket says:

        Nope, not a church staff. I do attend Harvest though. And with that, I disagree with the characterization on these pages of James and the Elder Board and the Harvest body and Harvest Bible Fellowship. It’s a big church, with lots of staff (400), lots of ministry leaders, lots of attendees. With any type of large group of people, Christian or otherwise, you’re bound to have people come and go. Not always is it some drama-laden event, in which it’s because of some “tyrannical treatment of people.” And regarding the Elder statement, I heard it read live. If it was “clearly rewritten”, then there wasn’t that significant of a change, since it seemed to be the same thing read to the congregation. The congregation…you know, that body of people who go to church to have an encounter with Jesus Christ? That’s why I go to church. That’s my focus.

        • Harvest attendee says:

          It amazes me how uninformed some people are. The elder statement that this blo is referencing is the NEW update…AFTER the one read in church. They posted it on their website and took it down after 12 hours. Then, they rewrote it and reposted it one week later (AFTER this site brought it to our attention).

          This is why the church will be able to continue even with everything. The majority of people still don’t know what is going on or don’t care.

        • PSRocket says:

          Harvest attendee (I can’t reply to you, so that’s why the is showing above your comment, instead of below) what was rewritten? The update was posted on December 22nd (it’s dated the 22nd) and it’s the exact same thing that is on there today, the 30th. And what was on there the 23rd, the 24th, 25th, etc.
          And by recollection, though I didn’t record the darn thing, it’s the same thing that was read in church.
          So what are you talking about? What was rewritten? What was changed? What did it say, and what does it say now? I’m earnestly asking, because I really don’t know. Thanks.

        • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

          PSRocket – The original update was posted on 12/15 and taken down. Rewritten and then posted on 12/21.

    • KnightLight says:

      I agree. This site is a cancerous gossip mill. Get a life, folks.

      • Tom Westerbrook says:

        If you do not like the site then feel free to stay away. I will say that unlike the Jame’s MacDonald’s facebook page, the site admins here will allow YOUR dissenting comments to be posted.

        • KnightLight says:

          Hahaha… don’t like a little outside accountability and commentary, eh? Isn’t this a public blog? “You can dish it out, but…?”

        • Tom Westerbrook says:

          No actually I welcome an open discussion. Unlike Mr. MacDonald and the HBC leadership.

  14. Rich says:

    RZ, for those of us who are still wondering, why dont you fill us in on why the mass Exodus of Leaders from Harvest. We keep hearing about this or that but no one seems willing to fill in the blanks. If you truely know then be forthcoming with this info. I would also urge those on the Void list to come forward and say why they left. Especially Joe Stowell who is well respected and well thought of. Until this information stops trickeling in a word at a time and someone with this knowledge is willing to say then people will continue to question and doubt.

    • Jonathan says:

      I am wondering the same thing. There is a lot of noise here and yet only 3 people actually leave comments on Your Story. Seems odd to me. Either James MacDonald is the most powerful man in Evangelicalism or those listed on The Void really don’t care much for this website or what it’s doing. To me this speaks louder than the chattering and insinuation about MacDonald. There are people on The Void who I greatly respect and if they don’t give this website the time of day then why should others?

      • Tom Westerbrook says:

        To say that because the folks listed on Void do not participate in the discussion here somehow detracts from the validity of this site is preposterous. The men listed on the Void are still active Church leaders so airing their dirty laundry would be a bit risky and in bad form. Maybe akin to a former employee bad mouthing his ex employer. What if he is seeking a job and the interviewer sees negative blog comments.

        In any event on the HBC Website there is an Elder update with the text:
        “He has been active in the work of seeking reconciliation with certain former leaders of our church, modeling the importance of leading with forgiveness when pursuing reconciliation. We are encouraged that in recent weeks there has been some progress”.

        So Rich and Jonathan there must of been something going on with the departure of former leaders. Just do not expect those folks to pipe in here.

        I am thankful for this site with providing the truth regarding HBC and its finances.

        • Jonathan says:

          I hugely respect guys like Stowell and find it interesting that he would not say anything. Is he modeling proper behavior? I’ve heard people say that those who won’t speak up are cowardly hiding from the all powerful MacDonald – maybe they’re just taking a better road than airing things before the world. Even Challies, in the comment section of the review, removed the link that Ryan posted to this TMZ style site.

      • Bill says:

        My wife and I have attended Harvest for a few years. We would religiously tithe weekly, and bring food as well. until this scandal hit. We are devastated beyond repair. If the allegations are true, the people from the elephant debt need to come forward with all alligetions in their arsenal so that macdonald can realistically defend himself and Harvest, or if he is guilty, he needs to step down with his co-conspirators. Is it possible both sides could have come to a legal confidential agreement between them? What about the rock star life style salary, and perks for him and his family? Why is there a 65 million dollar debt? Why shoud parishioners pay it off? Why wont the niles campus feed the people at the leaning tower Y.M.C.A. once a month as previously discussed? Why with all of macdonalds connections wont he and or HBC help long term unemployed parishioners that attend HBC and need help? Why does macdonald try to humiliate people, and try to make them feel guilty if they dont double their tithe for his 5g scam. It seems that lately macdonalds tap dancing his sermons and are twisted into a way to justify his actions.

    • Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

      I think that Joe Stowells son-in-law did speak up. If you remember back to his comment on the authors other site (bloodstainedink). His post, I feel, was fairly forthcoming. I do not think that all the Stowells leaving in such quick succession is coincidence.

      Also, I think that the other argument could be made. I believe that their silence is affirmation of this site. I strongly think that if they disagreed they would speak up. Their silence speaks volumes!

      • Kay says:

        I agree. If these things were untrue, I believe the people listed in the Void would be speaking up LOUDLY and demanding their name be removed. I think there is ample documentation and support that the things being brought forth on this site have validity. I saw enough of James’ bad behavior myself to make my antennae go up (temper tantrums in the pulpit when he doesn’t get his way, ER2). His actions have been pretty reprehensible, but out of all them the worst is the way he has eviscerated some people spiritually, verbally and emotionally. Rather than seeing him as being persecuted, I would say it’s be sure your sins will find you out. So very sad.

    • Mitch O. says:

      Rich. The reason that members of the Void are not out publicly blogging and posting their story and their insights is that they have already paid dearly through their experience with James, and to start doing this will bring significant retribution. Thats a lose lose situation. Lose the first time through being smashed out of harvest. Lose the second time by speaking up. Where is the protection? You going to provide it???? Thought not.

  15. Calvin HBC oak says:

    I look at this blog post from JM blog from Dec 14 blog post, preceding and promotional video for Vertical Church:

    “After another exhausting week, in a string of weeks so far back I can’t see the start, I have yet another day of high-pressure message preparation. No matter what has happened this week or this month, everything is about to fade into a blur over the next 24 hours until just this single responsibility weighs upon me, again. Only a pastor who preaches biblically for the glory of Jesus and the feeding of souls, week after week, can understand that pressure. It’s like finals week in college—but it happens every week. Explaining a Bible passage is child’s play compared to digging out a word from the Word about the WORD for your people.

    Can you give your best to it again, Pastor? Can you breathe on a passage of Scripture that is now unfamiliar, until it bursts into flame by the faithful ministry of the Holy Spirit in response to your hard work? Can you stoke that fire until it is bursting within you to be proclaimed as the ‘Bread of Life’?”

    It really saddens me as to the lack of humility and brokenness in JM approach to preparing a sermon. Assuming his week was full of trials and hardship as a pastor that is in the middle of conflict, It seems he is glorifying the ability to prepare superstar sermons week after week.

    I know this article is geared to other pastors that have to prepare sermons every week regardless of how they feel. But humility is not putting yourself on a level where you are needed to ignite the flame of the Holy Spirit. As I recall preaching in the bible caused suffering and trials to those who were doing the preaching. He also says

    “Explaining a Bible passage is child’s play compared to digging out a word from the Word about the WORD for your people”

    This just raises red flags for me, I understand that a “good” pastor is under pressure to prepare good sermons every week, but since when was “Explaining a Bible passage” not enough. Preachers like John MacArthur have saved thousands by simply explaining scripture verse by verse.

    It seems James here is belittling simple pastors that are not high intensity and do not have large audiences. As much as this is an advertisement for Vertical Church, it seems more like a glorification of his ability to prepare a sermon. As I recall we can not enter the kingdom of heaven unless we are like little children. Should James have not responded to the pressure by admitting to God (His father) his utter weakness, inability and need for help in preparing the message?

    I have attended a HBC Church in Canada for 5 years now, I have seen brokeness in the preaching week after week. Weakness and pastoral transparency. I see that as 10 times more biblical then the style that James is projecting here.

    • ham-radio@sbcglobal.net says:

      Needless to say JM has an assistant helping him write his weekly sermon and writing his books. Barbra was his assistant for a number of years and I believe she has also left. This may be why his sermons have changed. If any one thinks JM is writing his sermons by himself week after week and also writing every word in his books is fooling them selves. He may have input on the direction of what is being preached but writing them all by himself? No way.

    • Donn says:

      I can speak a little to this, as I, too, am a pastor. I completely disagree that preparing messages is a “high pressure” thing. The only times that I have felt that kind of pressure is when the message has been of God and not of me. I might at times feel pressure during a busy week to find the time to do the message prep, but that can be dealt with with good time management. Even in the weeks that the prep time is not adequate from my viewpoint due to external circumstances, and prep time is cut short, God is faithful to lead and guide in the time I do have.
      You speak well, Calvin, in regards to the comparison of two HBC pastors in the area of humility. There is a false humility that can creep in to the life of a pastor, in to my life (it has, at times), that attaches measuring guidelines to statements (“as I was doing my devotions for 40 minutes this morning”, or “as I was praying with them for half and hour”, or “as I visited my fourth person of the day”. Not saying anyone hear has said any of those, just using them as examples of false humility.

  16. Dale says:

    Tragically James seems to have forgotten that we are called to minister to the marginalized and disenfranchised… Here is what Christ said,” I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” James is no longer a servant, he is a rain maker. That said God has used fallen people to transform and change the world. Not sure Jame’s world view leaves room for the widows, poor, and homeless.

  17. Jim Fitzgerald says:

    You have to understand the context with which James MacDonald is speaking. He will twist the biblical meaning to support his wealth and the prosperity gospel. The US poverty rate is over 15%. 45 million people are receiving food stamps to survive. He is quite out of touch when he implies that you are basically a loser if you have no money. I dare say many families in Rolling Meadows may be in that situation. What is Harvest Bible Church doing to help them??? Well apparently HBC is on a 5G campaign to fill its coffers with cash to support Jame’s MacDonald’s lifestyle. The poor – well James MacDonald will only mock them. This man has no compassion.

  18. job3627 says:

    We attend an HBC far from the Chicago hub of James MacDonald. Our pastor is nothing like MacDonald (and for this, I am very grateful) and our church is everything we have ever searched for in a church. Humility is clearly in evidence in everything our leadership does.

    What concerns me is that all HBCs would get sullied by the reputation of the man at its head. For the sake of all the Harvest Bible Chapels, I would hope that James MacDonald steps down. He could still do his radio ministry and call himself a teacher. But, according to Scripture, he does not qualify to lead a church.

  19. David Pendler says:

    I have attended several conservative churches in my lifetime, good ones, and I can say with confidence that if the inner workings or the week-to-week teachings of those churches were subject to public scrutiny the criticism would be unending. Harvest is a good church and MacDonald is a good teacher. Doesn’t matter if you’re John Piper, John MacArthur, or John the Baptist… someone will not like (or will misinterpret) the theology of what you are saying.

    • J Crane says:

      BUT, if there were “unending scrutiny” it would be able to withstand the biblical accountability of a group of Christian men who have a history of living a life that honors Jesus. (1 Tim. 3:1-7 living above reproach). Many who are qualified to teach and lead and hold accountable, have already left Harvest.
      The standard for assessing a “good teacher” is not the comparison to other men, but the standard is the Bible. A good teacher is NOT hypocritical or covert. A good teacher is faithful to the text and CORRECT teaching. The teaching will glorify God by revealing God’s character and ways. Unfortunately, many of the words that are spoken from the pulpit at Harvest are interpreted and given a meaning that is intended to defend attitudes that have broken relationships (the Void and former members of HBC) and actions and words that have aligned bad relationships (Jakes; Furtick).
      It should be evident that it is not someONE (person) that “will not like or will misinterpret the theology”… it is reasoning and biblically minded families that have left and grieve.
      We wish things were right at Harvest, but it is glaring that it is not.

  20. Jeff and Debbie Richardson says:

    James MacDonald writes about the experience of Vertical Church in these 3 quotes: “a weekly experience with the manifest glory of God.” “God’s Son fervently worshiped in spirit and truth brings down His glory at church.” “Preaching the authority of God’s Word without apology, in the power of the Holy Spirit, brings glory down in church.” This last quote from the book is based upon 1 Corinthians 2:1-5. The phrase “brings glory down in church” seems to be another issue of errant exegesis of Scripture as earlier noted by Chris Pence’s comment. I don’t think I can explain my concerns about this book any better than the way Oswald Chambers states it in a recent reading on the topic of experience based on a verse a little later in the same chapter in the JMac book:

    “My Utmost for His Highest” titled “Experience or God’s Revealed Truth?”
    ” Dec 21 2012 “We have received . . . the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God —1 Corinthians 2:12″

    “My experience is not what makes redemption real— redemption is reality. Redemption has no real meaning for me until it is worked out through my conscious life. When I am born again, the Spirit of God takes me beyond myself and my experiences, and identifies me with Jesus Christ. If I am left only with my personal experiences, I am left with something not produced by redemption. But experiences produced by redemption prove themselves by leading me beyond myself, to the point of no longer paying any attention to experiences as the basis of reality. Instead, I see that only the reality itself produced the experiences. My experiences are not worth anything unless they keep me at the Source of truth— Jesus Christ.

    If you try to hold back the Holy Spirit within you, with the desire of producing more inner spiritual experiences, you will find that He will break the hold and take you again to the historic Christ. Never support an experience which does not have God as its Source and faith in God as its result. If you do, your experience is anti-Christian, no matter what visions or insights you may have had. Is Jesus Christ Lord of your experiences, or do you place your experiences above Him? Is any experience dearer to you than your Lord? You must allow Him to be Lord over you, and pay no attention to any experience over which He is not Lord. Then there will come a time when God will make you impatient with your own experience, and you can truthfully say, “I do not care what I experience— I am sure of Him!”

    Be relentless and hard on yourself if you are in the habit of talking about the experiences you have had. Faith based on experience is not faith; faith based on God’s revealed truth is the only faith there is.” ….. This ends the Oswald Chambers quote.

    I have to agree with Tim Challis’ review, he seems to be drawing conclusions based upon preferences more than on Scripture.

  21. Jennifer G says:

    What I find disturbing about James’s teaching on John 6:1-16 is that either 1) James does not understand Scripture, or 2) He is twisting Scripture to advance his own agenda. Either option is disturbing. The people who commented on James’s erroneous teaching of this passage are aboslutely correct. If you continue reading John starting at verse 26, Jesus explains the purpose of this miracle. He is the bread of life. Just as your body will die without food, your soul will die without Jesus. It was nothing to do with riches or poverty.

    When I attended Harvest, I had no idea that James had a research assistant. That research assistant left Harvest in 2010. Around that time, friends of mine who were still there noticed that something was off with the teaching. I have listened to sermons here and there, and I would agree with that assessment.

    I also find it disturbing that he used this as an opportunity to tell people to give more to the church. Based on feeback I’ve been given, I would say that tithing is down because more and more people are seeing the truth about Harvest.

    • coltenj13 says:

      Wow! Thank you Jennifer! I did not even realize this till now that the miracle in John 6:1-16 is about Jesus being the bread of life. Whoa! Thank you.

  22. M. Sagan says:

    I was glad to read Tim Challies’ review of the Vertical Church book. Tim is a good guy and reviews a lot of books on his site. He is almost always fair and balanced and when he does lean, it is towards grace. He could have been a lot more harsh with his review of this book which is filled with nonsense and poor theology. The whole Vertical Church tour seemed more like a road show geared toward money making than any serious attempt to inspire the attendees to worship God in a God honoring way. Hopefully the people who still attend Harvest are starting to wake up and refuse the Kool-Aid.

    • No Elepants please! says:

      While I am sure there were sales of books, t-shirts, etc. and other paraphenalia / propaganda for VC, as I recall tickets were free to attend the events. It appeared to me to be a huge expenditure for HBC — not the same as a money MAKING venture, but also not good at all. A grand tour by a man dubbed “King James” in social media of his vast and expanding kingdom. And let’s not be mistaken: it is his (and not always His) kingdom that JMac seems most interested in building. More and more so of late.

      • Michael says:

        While I share in the concerns, and agree with many of the balanced view points on this site, I take exception to your last couple of sentences. To think that James cares more about his own kingdom than His kingdom is a very serious and unfounded accusation. Careful not to let emotion overtake you and stick to the facts.

        • RZ says:

          I agree Michael that it is a serious accusation, but as one who knows James and the circumstances behind the mass exodus of elders well, it is not at all unfounded. I have a feeling James will reveal more of himself as time goes by. You will see that “his kingdom” does come before “His kingdom.” It has for many years now.

  23. Anonymous Member of HBC-RM says:

    That sermon (referenced above) was a huge turning point for me. My wife’s first comment was what about that person that Christian Barbosa talked about in his sermon a few years ago in Romania. She had NOTHING (but Jesus) and was the happiest person as described by Christian Barbosa. That may have been our last Sunday. I am glad that Pastor James does not have to share a cheeseburger anymore, but I don’t think that everyone has as much abundance as him.

    As a side note, that sure was an interesting sermon last week. Half on John 6 and then sing a song, and sharp turn, let’s talk about tithing because we aren’t meeting our year end goals.

    Harvest has still not shown ANY REAL documentation for this 26 million dollar yearly budget. Where exactly are you spending our money.

    The other thing that frustrates me so much is the Board and Pastor James’ still unwillingness to be transparent. I think his “My 5 G” fooled a lot of people, but he didn’t really clearly discuss much at all. He is so fond of lists, he should clearly *list* the points he is repentant for. It was only a way for them to try and smooth things over for the people who know about this site and but yet not worry too many people who don’t know about this site.

    There is SO MUCH that he is still hiding and not discussing. One thing as an example. The elephant room website, DVD’s. I heard from this site that they are not selling them. To my knowledge, I never heard any mention on this to Harvest, ever. Than a few people on Twitter have asked James about the Elephant Room DVD’s. Luke MacDonald answered one of these people and said to send him his information and he would hook him up. Really?? Is this making a mockery out of everything that elders supposedly wanted or is it just a “window dressing”? Are they not selling Elephant Room DVD’s or not? It they are not, then Luke should not be hooking people up.

    John Stepp: @jamesmacdonald Love to have the Elephant Room DVD’s and thought about buying it for Christmas gift for friend, but seems the site is down? 4:56 PM – 9 Dec 12

    Luke MacDonald: @jstepp58 john … send me an email and I can hook you up. lmacdonald@harvestbiblechapel.org 8:52 AM – 10 Dec 12 ·

    Finally, I didn’t see the last elder update. Did anyone see it? What all did it say? Why was it removed?

  24. coltenj13 says:

    Reblogged this on Colten Jamieson's Blog and commented:
    More outside evidence that people are concerned on what is going on with James MacDonald.

  25. Building his Kingdom says:

    He Prayed and then threatened the contractor ? ““If you do not ship the remaining steel for free, we will close the construction project permanently, take the entire church into bankruptcy, and I will spend the rest of my life pursuing a legal remedy”. So, did he mean really to spend the rest of his LIFE pursuing legal remedy ? The LORD knows his heart, but if he really meant to do that, then he just showed to whom he really gave his LIFE to, building what, and for who ? (not Gods Kingdom,by seeking legal remedy). If he didn’t mean it, then he LIED. So, did the builder move because of his threat or the Prayer ?

    I listened to that sermont on Dec 2 on John 6. I had to stop because it was just taken so way out of context, it sounded like someone was giving his opinions (like 40′s & 50yrs old who shares bread are losers), and that’s not the only reason I stopped. He very much kept on talking about Scarcity, and calling names such as Worrier, cheapskate… etc,as if trying to invoke Guilt to do “WORK”.

    This text is about Jesus revealing himself as GOD,& the Bread of life. After showing the miracles of healing the paralytic by authority of forgiving sins, He also said “..the DEAD will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who HEAR will LIVE” in CH5 (only GOD can bring the dead to life).

    THen in ch6, Watch the language “Buy”, as in where would you buy bread for this many, (implying an exchange of WORK/labor, to money to Bread). In Gen 3:19 (By the sweat of your face you shall eat BREAD), the curse said we are to WORK to live/get bread. But in John 6:27 Do not WORK for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the WORKS of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the WORK of God, that you BELIEVE in him whom he has sent.”. BELIEVE, that’s all we need to do, no WORK by the fallen flesh as what Guilt will invoke (The Spirit within us is supposed to do the work, bearing the fruit of the spirit, not imitation fruit). I get the impression that’s what James is trying to invoke. How many of you feel guilty after each sermont, being called names ?

    In this world, the principle of the world is Anything requires something in exchange, work, or labor, or materials (yes sometimes represented by Money, the currency of the devil). In GOD’s economy, his currency. is unconditional LOVE, everything is for free. He did the work, such as Imputed righteousness, not EARNED righteousness. Jesus was showing GOD’s characteristic with free bread up in the verses above, I get the impression that it was taken the opposite, WORK, DO something about yourself.

    So, James, if You are building your own Kingdom in buildings, Please step down so GOD can build his in people.

  26. Victor says:

    I was in the audience the day when this message was preached. Any message that is spoken from scripture should be fit for the universal church. I thought about the poor people in many other countries that can barely make ends meet on the 60 dollars they earn a month. Some of them even earn less. I left the church and was sad. I feel that we are going down a path that is just not right for me! I want to honor God with my money and follow hard after him, and I sensed that something is wrong in my church. A message from scripture should be applicable to the church around the world! Is North American consumerism really what we mean by God blessing us. I guess sometimes it could, but I tend to go on the side of being moderate in all things.

    • Former HBCer says:

      Amen Victor. We left Harvest last month and, while sad, felt a huge sense of relief and clarity. There have been red flags over the years and his prosperity theology was one of them. Not only is this teaching unbiblical, but I fear that it will damage the poor person and puff up the rich who hear it.
      James 2:5 Listen my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?

      Believing an interpretation of scripture applies to a particular group and not the rest of the world is mere relativism.

  27. Jeffrey Silva says:

    James MacDonald is not relevant. Period.

  28. JESS says:

    I’m a member of HBC and would like to comment on the message excerpt above.

    I heard that sermon in person, and while I agree that parts revealed a pretty unconventional take on feeding the 5,000 and had other questions about the message, the point about how people are living their lives day-to-day for a prolonged period is well-taken, even from a practical, non-Christian viewpoint. Specific cases and circumstances notwithstanding, the need to be a wise steward of the all provisions (financial and otherwise) God has allowed me is a pretty clear message throughout Scripture. For the person who has been barely scraping by consistently and throughout their lives, feeling like there’s never enough, it’s reasonable to conclude that s/he might need to ask him/herself some tough questions about the choices s/he has been making. This isn’t about everybody being rich or everyone having the same resources. It’s about understanding what responsible stewardship looks like & involves, and about understanding that God can provide what I need and more. That might not always involve money per se, but it will almost certainly involve him changing my attitude toward and perceptions about what I think I need.

    I also didn’t get the impression that Pastor James was suggesting that this observation is normative or applies to everyone everywhere in the same way around the world, nor did I infer that abundance refers to material abundance, here or elsewhere.

    Let’s remember that at the end of the day, a pastor is speaking directly to HIS congregation and trying to apply principles to things that he knows that many of them struggle with. I think it’s very fair to conclude that barring special circumstances and specific seasons in life, in a country like America–which has more resources (financial and otherwise) and help than anywhere in the world–the Christian (or non-Christian) who has spent 20+ consistently unable to make any ends meet is not simply a victim and is in need of wise counsel from myriad sources. That, I believe, was Pastor James heart in urging those in the congregation who may be “stuck” in a pattern that may be linked to their own lack of understanding, choices, or attitude (e.g., “God wants me to be poor,” “God is doing to this me.”).

    It would be helpful for readers of this site to listen to the two sermons that followed this one, which I believe help provide a more complete picture of what Pastor James is asserting (using Scriptural evidence) about money and abundance. Thanks.

    • Suzanne M. says:

      HI Jess.. I agree with your comments. I also took this as a stewardship thing and it applied to HBC not the whole christiian community and should not be taken as such. I have recently made tough choices about my spending habits and tendecies to get into debt. God is changing me on these things. I recently canceled my TV service and am back to old fashion antenna as I begin to see Cable or Satellite as a want and not a need. God is good! I have recently started tithing. I aproach it and God does not want me to stay in my old patterns. He wants growth.
      Suzanne

      • Chris Pence says:

        These are principles MacDonald purports to glean from Scripture. Scriptures may have manifold applications, but they possess only one meaning. That meaning is universal (according to the teacher’s interpretation, however correct/incorrect they may be). Otherwise, everyone is free to take from the Bible whatever direction they want.

        Can either of you–or anyone–prove that John 6:1-16 is a biblical warning against struggling later in life? Good luck, because that’s not what the text means.

        What is even more telling is that instead of holding to account MacDonald’s errant exegesis of Scripture, you instead chalk it up to what you *think* he means. You cannot twist an already-twisted message back into shape. Even the faintest whiff of Scriptural inaccuracy must be scrutinized.

    • Debbie R. says:

      Jess, please be aware the sermon will very likely end up on WITH to a larger radio audience, and it will probably end up in a book, also reaching a wider audience. It will be broadly applied both inside HBC and outside of it, so the Godly exegesis of Scripture is of utmost importance.

      • JESS says:

        Please don’t misunderstand my point: I’m NOT saying is that the principles extracted and points made during a service shouldn’t have broader application, but the likelihood that they’ll be applicable to everyone everywhere is zero–if only because the preacher is bound by his knowledge of the context and culture in which he operates. It’s not a pastor’s responsibility to preach to the world or all of Christendom, or to have knowledge of every culture and how practical principles might apply to their everyday lives.

        The sub-point Pastor James was making (and it was a sub-point…or really a sub-sub point or example…not part of the direct exegesis) is very much applicable to a way of thinking for many people in this and other countries. The mistake people seem to be making is interpreting the point as “if you’re poor, this is you” or “this is how I’m explaining poverty.”

        I’ll say again that in the context of the message the example wasn’t about money or about “having”–it was about an ongoing, unchecked condition of the mind, will, and heart. In fact, a very well-off person could have such a mentality. May I suggest that if we disagree about the Biblical support of that actual point, we have a reasonable discussion about that, separate and apart from characterizations about the messenger?

        As I said in my initial posting, my comment is only about the excerpt that this blog chose to highlight as evidence of a broader assertion about a pastor’s theology and capacity for eldership. I had questions about other aspects of the sermon, including some of the exegesis at other points, albeit none that would lead me to conclude that Pastor James advocates a prosperity gospel or is removed from the complex financial realities that many people face. (I daresay it would be remarkable–and probably foolish–to sit under the preaching of any one man for too long without questioning anything he says. This goes for John Piper, John MacArthur, or anyone else who’s been at it for a long time.) Most of my questions about what was being said and how were satisfied in the subsequent messages.

        In any case, the message was a provocative take on the disciple’s questions precipitating the miracle and what the equivalents might be for us in our day and age. Few pastors take the time to even examine those closely, or to treat this passage as anything but another miracle that Jesus performed as an illustration of who and what he was. (That IS important, by the way…but only evident in 6:22 onward.) Evidence of “errant theology” or a lack of humility and gentleness? I don’t see that.

        I encourage the interested reader to listen to the December 2 sermon in its entirety (turning it off in the middle makes it difficult for others to accept an assessment), as well as the sermons from the next two weeks. I think the mis-step, perhaps, was to only preach about the feeding of the 5,000 without at least alluding to 6:22-59. However, I understand 6:1-59 is a long stretch to preach about in depth in one 45-minute block.

        And P.S…the sermons are edited for radio anyway, including any number of points that are not critical to the message, relevant to the listening audience, or that were misspoken.

        P.P.S. One meaning of Scripture with many applications? Can’t agree with that. Of course, Scripture doesn’t mean whatever we want it to mean–and it doesn’t have multiple CONFLICTING meanings–but by design God’s Word is rich and multi-layered. The beautiful and amazing thing about it is that through the Spirit it’s understandable on many levels, and we can keep revisiting it and uncovering more nuances. One meaning with many facets? Okay, I can go with that. And let’s acknowledge that the chances that God’s full and true meaning is discernible to us–ANY of us–while we’re on Earth are slim to none.

        • Chris Pence says:

          “One meaning, many applications” is Hermeneutics 101. Google it. “Facets” is saying the same thing, although it appears you desire to make a separate point.

          I’m not sure what that point is, however, because your argument isn’t inherently consistent. You claim the chances of a sermon’s principles as being applicable to the universal church are zero, and yet you want to say there aren’t many applications? If there isn’t more than one application of an individual lesson found in Scripture, then the lesson is universal.

          I agree a sermon should be judged within the context of a teacher’s entire oeuvre. This is one of the ways that long-time attendees and members have come to conclude that James has been inconsistent, destructive, and hypocritical in his teachings. This is also why the character of the messenger is relevant, increasingly so in MacDonald’s case.

          That aside, the context of individual verses and passages is equally relevant to determining the strength of a message. I’m glad you feel he clarified himself in subsequent teachings. The fact remains that in this particular sermon he shorn John 6:1-16 of its only meaning to conclude that 1) God will provide us with abundance, and 2) a lack of abundance (and MacDonald hones in on financial abundance specifically) after one’s 20s represents something biblically askew in the believer’s life. Again, this is not supported by the Bible in part or in whole.

          MacDonald effectively triangulates himself between the spiritual poverty mindset and the prosperity gospel mindset. It’s a “soft prosperity” and he delineates his position no more clearly than the 45-minute mark of the December 2nd sermon. Does your Bible say God gave to the 5,000 according to their need? Or did he give according to their want? These are MacDonald’s words and main idea, and it becomes the hinge on which this entire “abundance” sermon swings.

          In short, for MacDonald it’s not about God meeting our needs. It’s God providing us with abundance as long as we press His buttons in the correct order or with enough faith. Whether or not we agree the entirety of Scripture proves his abundance premise to be biblical, the truth is that John 6:1-16 does not. It is appallingly bad exegesis on MacDonald’s part to suggest as much.

          Not sure how your point in the PPS applies. Yes, some Scriptures are a mystery and will probably remain so, but that has no bearing on MacDonald’s misinterpretation of John 6:1-16. I could be wrong, but it reeks of whitewashing his poor theology and scholarship. Let’s survey everything our leaders teach that the church may be kept from error.

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