The Elephant’s Debt is a website dedicated to exploring some of the underlying reasons why many people have recently begun to both privately and publicly question the ministry of Pastor James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel of Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
Over the first ten years of its active ministry, HBC could have been fairly categorized as a non-denominational, broadly evangelical church that was largely conservative in its biblical and fiscal orientation. However, critical events in the early days of the new millennium appear to have brought about a significant shift in fiscal responsibility, which was later followed by an apparent shift in theological and methodological commitments.
By the close of 2010, Harvest’s balance sheet revealed that the church, while under the pastoral leadership of James MacDonald, had amassed approximately $65 million of debt. While this number in and of itself is shocking, what makes it worse is that HBC leadership told the people in a letter that they were “not going to put our church in a bad position financially.” Moreover, as will be demonstrated later, this debt load far exceeds what churches of similar size are known to carry.
Even more concerning is the fact that as of 2010, James MacDonald was making more than half a million dollars per year, not including any income potentially derived from sources outside of Harvest Bible Chapel and Walk in the Word. Finally, in the midst of Harvest accumulating these financial liabilities, James MacDonald purchased the $1.9 million Inverness estate formerly owned by U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald. Additional details surrounding these issues will be addressed under “The Salary.”
In our opinion, weary of the consistent battles with the elder board over these financial issues, James MacDonald decided to reallocate the power within the church by redesigning the elder board and restructuring the governing constitution of Harvest Bible Chapel. This reallocation of power shifted power away from the elders to himself.
Shortly thereafter, in the fall of 2011, James MacDonald and the recently expanded elder board of Harvest Bible Chapel rolled out the 5G Campaign, a new fundraising drive that publicly maintains prioritized goals of building out the worship center at the Niles campus and retrofitting the recently obtained Harvest Cathedral, before addressing “other projects … as funding allows.” Curiously, the relief of the aforementioned debt was not listed as a top priority of the 5G Campaign by the leadership of Harvest Bible Chapel. Thus, expansion of Pastor MacDonald’s influence appears to be of paramount importance, over and above the repeated admonition in Scripture to get free from debt.
As all of this was continuing to internally unfold at Harvest, plans for the Elephant Room 2 were being laid by James MacDonald. As has been widely reported around the web, this event was problematic for two reasons. First, Bishop T.D. Jakes, a man who historically has been linked to Modalist theology, was asked very few questions on this controversial subject. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, nothing was said to Jakes in light of his associations with the Prosperity Gospel movement. While this may not appear to be terribly significant, what must be noted is that James MacDonald had publicly stated prior to the event that he was “excited to hear [T.D. Jakes'] state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring reformed world.”
For these reasons and many more, numerous families within the Harvest community have recently elected to worship elsewhere, while many of those that remain continue to seek answers from within.