Recently resigned HBC Elder, Dan Marquart, cites MacDonald’s behavior, secrecy regarding salary and HBC authority structure as the reasons for his departure.

8-8 Update

On June 22, 2013, we informed you that three HBC elders, Scott Phelps, Dan Marquardt and Barry Slabaugh, resigned from the elder board, and now, the disclosure of Marquardt’s resignation letter and other communication provides a far more detailed account of the serious character concerns that drove Marquardt to resign.

On July 23, 2013, we received an email with four documents attached, including: 1) Marquardt’s email to his friends, 2) his resignation letter, 3) a response from the HBC elder board, and 4) Marquardt’s response to the HBC elder board letter. The resignation letter was making its rounds through the electronic world while we were taking steps to verify the authenticity of these documents as well as ensure there were no legal, privacy issues with publishing all of this material. Being satisfied that these documents are indeed authentic, we were prepared to publish these documents when Dan Marquardt commented at another blog, confirming he was the author of the resignation letter in question. We are publishing these documents with no editorial, but we are only highlighting the most relevant portions for easier perusal.

Dan Marquardt’s Email to Friends

Dear Friend,

You are probably aware by now that last month I resigned from the Elder Board at Harvest Bible Chapel. My resignation was followed by two other Elders that shared my concerns. Over the last month I have sought God’s guidance through prayer and the Word, as well as council from friends and other pastors if and how I should share my concerns with friends that still call Harvest their church home in a way that honors the LORD. It was important to me not to make a rash or emotional decision, but one that was prayed through and that the LORD guided. As followers of Jesus we are to be champions of the truth especially when it involves the bride of Christ, His church, and so I feel compelled to share this information with you. These actions are not out of bitterness or anger with Harvest’s leadership but rather love and caring for you and the church.

If you were to come to our home a year or two from now and the subject of HBC and my departure came up and I shared with you then what I know now I believe that some of you might feel angry, hurt, maybe even betrayed that I didn’t share my concerns with you earlier. Please be clear, I am NOT telling you to leave Harvest. That decision is between you and the LORD. You should be aware of what transpired and led to me stepping down and my decision to find a new church. As an Elder the biblical order of obligation is: 1. To Christ 2. To the Congregation and 3. The pastors/staff. A couple scripture verses that speak to my heart are:

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Ephesians 4:25

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18

It saddens me that I have been told firsthand that some in leadership are referring to me and the Elders who also resigned as wolves and that we need to repent. That could not be further from the truth. You know my character and this email is not intended to defend me but to simply share with you the truth as I have no desire to suppress it. The three items that I have included are: My letter of resignation, the Elder Letter addressed to me and the two other Elders who resigned which we received via email (note the language in the second paragraph) and the last item (immediately below) is my reply to the Elder Letter to which I was told I will not be receiving a response to. To best understand them you should read them in that sequence.

Jennifer and I have been blessed to find another wonderful church home and we look forward to serving the LORD as long as He gives us breath. Have a blessed week and feel free to call, email, or visit anytime.

Your friend and brother in Christ,

Dan Marquardt

Dan Marquardt’s Resignation Letter to HBC Elders

June 21, 2013

After many months of prayer and after reflecting on our last meeting together it is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation as an Elder of Harvest Bible Chapel. This decision is not an impulse nor an emotional reaction but where I feel the LORD has led me to act. In good conscience and out of love for the church and our pastors I could not sit back and quietly rotate off in ninety days. That route would’ve been disingenuous and dishonest to the congregation and the LORD. My family and I just surpassed the sixteen year mark at Harvest and considering that I’ve known James since before he was a pastor that clarifies the magnitude of my decision.

I’m thankful for the privilege it has been to serve with each of you and I leave the Elder Board and Harvest Bible Chapel without anger or bitterness but admittedly with sadness. Harvest, James, and all of you that compose the leadership will be in my prayers. This decision is a compilation of matters that are intertwined together but the ultimate affirmation came the other night. From my first phone calls and emails to Robert sharing minor concerns to major concerns I have always endeavored to show respect and be patient. Personally I strive for continual improvement in everything I do. My disposition is not one of a critical spirit and I am often an optimist, but there are many things that we do not see eye-to-eye on. It is not my desire, nor has it ever been, to cause anyone strife, but rather to address things in Christ’s church that I don’t believe are healthy or in the best interest of the church.

James has asserted multiple times that my concerns have consumed fifty percent of the XLT’s time for the last six months and that confuses me. Not because I brought matters to their attention, but that I haven’t seen any changes. Additionally, the assertion was clear that I was attempting to monopolize time and be a critical spirit when neither could be further from the truth. James thought it absurd that I could come up with twenty concerns in “one of the fastest growing churches in America”. Yes, Harvest is growing and giving is up, praise God for that! While growth and giving are important, don’t use those two metrics to assess that all is healthy.

James has repeatedly stated that he is not in a good place and I affirm that. In our recent meeting of seven elders (Scott, Barry, James, Rick, Robert, Bill, and myself) when we requested James disclose his income to the elders he replied, “I would lose 1,000 people before I would disclose that.” This is not unique as James rebuked Greg Bradshaw in our December Elder meeting in a similar light when Greg told James, “I’m concerned about the sheep.” James rebuked him, “Who cares about twelve or fourteen families whose faces or names I don’t even know leave!… What about the shepherd?!” When Christ, the Good Shepherd, stated that He would leave the other ninety nine to save the one, that is where a Pastor’s shepherding heart should remain. It concerns me deeply and I warn that James is heading down a very dangerous path if his heart on this matter isn’t made right.

During that meeting of seven, Rick stated clearly that they did not trust us. Apparently, grounds of questioning our pastor’s behavior are perceived as an attack on him and the church, rather than a loving concern for protecting him and the church. It is important to note that Scott, Barry, and I were appointed to the Pastoral Care Team and it was our obligation to care for our pastors with special emphasis on our Senior Pastor.

In our full Elder meeting I was shocked that James mocked Scott by referencing their phone conversation earlier that day. During that call Scott stated that he only had one person he wasn’t reconciled with (under the subject of James’ lengthy trail of broken relationships) and during our meeting James deflected those concerns by mocking, “In your stream of influence and the volume of people that you interact with compared to me, I would say that I am doing exponentially better than you Scott!” By that statement alone James doesn’t take responsibility or blame for his trail of broken relationships. Later in the meeting he also stated that he does not accept any blame regarding his decision to purchase his house in Inverness. He blamed the Elder Board at the time since they gave him permission. All of these matters concern me deeply but apparently Scott, Barry, and I are on the fringe of having concerns over James behavior past and present.

The tone at the meeting was unfortunate and it was clear to me that Scott, Barry, and I were painted to be the villains. When James framed questions to the full Elder Board to see if they supported our actions his questions were completely distorted. When it was our turn to answer whether we approved of the behavior/actions that he alleged were taken, even we were in opposition to the extreme and exaggerated questions! It felt disingenuous to me that Tom Barber’s resignation from the Elder Board and departure from Harvest the prior week wasn’t even brought up. As a result, none of his concerns that led to his decision were addressed at an Elder Board level, regardless of his decision to rescind his resignation and remain. Yet our concerns seemed to be on an island and Tom didn’t affirm any of our concerns in the meeting.

In a court of law the oath stated is, “I swear to tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING but the truth.” The truth can be manipulated while still walking a “legal line” of truth but everything done in Christ’s church should be above accusation and not manipulated to conform to one’s own agenda.

After four years of observation and participation, the assertion that Harvest is an Elder-led church is not reality. The XLT makes most decisions and is compiled of James and four subordinates. Often at our monthly meetings their decisions are reported to the Elder board as having been made and they are simply informing the Elders. We approved a $30,000,000 annual budget with a pie chart in thirty seconds. As Elders we requested a line-item budget and that request was denied. So much of the lack of trust is admittedly attributed to the fear of an Elder going “sideways” as James often references. If an Elder isn’t trustworthy and above reproach/accusation he shouldn’t be an Elder! A good friend of mine in ministry told me, “The enemy has no power in the light, he only has power in the shadows.” With reference to the church, I fear information that is hidden and not disclosed, especially to the leaders who are accountable for those decisions, only gives the enemy opportunity to do damage.

All of us, including our pastors should meet the minimum standards our LORD requires in Titus 1:7-8, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, 8 but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.”

1 Thessalonians 5:21 “but test everything; hold fast what is good”. We are instructed to test (examine, investigate, probe) everything to ensure that it is good and right in the eyes of the LORD. We have been told in the past that we can ask anything as Elders but when that happened we were met with resistance.

After James departed the room Randy looked me in the eyes, with clear anger, and said, “We have a lot of work to do and better men to do it.” So I am encouraging you to find better men to lead as I will no longer be serving alongside you.

In closing, the Elder Board collectively, apart from Scott, Barry, and me, made it clear that you do not share our concerns with: 1) James’ behavior and irritable disposition 2) His refusal to disclose or allow review of his compensation by fellow Elders 3) The numerous faults of HBC’s existing authority structure in contrast to the perception of the congregation. Therefore due to my conflicted conscience on these matters as well as those stated above, I can no longer serve as an Elder at Harvest Bible Chapel. My prayers will be with all of you and you have my assurance that I love the church and mean it no harm. Although I am leaving you have my word that I will not tell anyone they should leave Harvest, not even my brother/business partner. I’m hopeful that God will only strengthen Harvest after my departure and give all of you courage to ensure that God is truly glorified in ALL that you do individually and collectively. Please do not barrage me with phone calls or in-person meetings attempting to persuade me otherwise as my decision is made. You are all loved.

You brother in Christ,

Dan Marquardt

HBC Elder’s Response to Marquardt’s Resignation

Dear Scott, Dan and Barry:
We are grieved but agree that the paths you have chosen make it impossible for you to continue on our board and we accept your resignation with regret. It is no longer possible to reach agreement or profitable to rehash the many things we see differently. We differ greatly with Dan’s view of our final meeting and with some of the things Scott asserts in his resignation but are content to leave those matters unresolved lest attempts to reach agreement cause further injury. Suffice it to say, we believe your concerns on all three major points are adequately and increasingly addressed.

Your motives are not in question and we do not doubt your love for our pastor or this church. We do trust that your promise of silence and not further dissonance in what we disagree about will prevent wider disclosure of our disappointment with your participation on our board. As discussed and agreed upon during our retreat in Oak Brook, we will not hesitate to protect any member of the church who is recruited to a negative view of this ministry by opinion that does not reflect Elder consensus.

Let’s do our best to focus on the best days of ministry we shared together with gratitude and pray for self control so that innocent people are not injured by any pride or defensiveness between good men who simply see things differently.

We wish you every grace in Christ and pray for your peace,

The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

Dan Marquardt’s Reply to HBC Elders


Given that this attached letter was from all of you I only felt it appropriate to reply to all of you with a desire to alleviate any miscommunication. First, I want to thank those of you who have shared kind words of support and encouragement, they are very much appreciated and know that all of you are in my prayers often.

There are several concerns about this letter and I want to share with you why I cannot accept it as written. First is the assertion that we have chosen a “path” and that is not true. It is accurate to state that we have chosen to share our concerns in a loving way and many of you didn’t share our concerns. The word choice “path” seems to imply that we have somehow changed course. That we have strayed or erred. Is this what you intend to imply? Do you intend to suggest that we are off “path,” and if so have we sinned? Do you see us as needing to repent? If so, please give us a specific account with scripture to affirm.

I’d like clarity on what and how you disagree with my “view” of the final meeting and exactly what you disagree with that Scott “asserts”. You also state that all three of our concerns have been adequately and increasingly addressed. One of the core concerns we share was James’ behavior past and present which we felt was ultimately a heart issue (that was clearly explained in my resignation letter). I’ve been told that has been further demonstrated in statements he’s made in the last week. After resigning I have had many friends share with me their concerns about Pastor James and his mistreatment of people in and outside of the church. Since my resignation, my concerns for James have only deepened as I hear the flood of these accounts.

The other day I left Rick a voicemail and reiterated to him that I love him, James, and Harvest Bible Chapel and affirmed that I didn’t feel the Elder Letter to us was appropriate and I did not accept it. Additionally I reiterated that if I were to dilute all of my concerns to one point, that would be that James needs to repent for his failures and sinful behavior. It does concern me that I’ve been told that some in leadership are painting us as the “sinners and wolves”.

The other concern in your Elder Letter is the sentence: “We do trust that your promise of silence and not further dissonance in what we disagree about will prevent wider disclosure of our disappointment with your participation on the board.” To my best recollection, I do not recall giving a “promise of silence” either verbally or in writing. My promise was to honor the LORD in all that I do and to speak the truth in love. This statement comes across as a threat to tarnish our reputations and discredit our concerns. Is that what you really think/meant?  Knowing many of you I have to assume that this letter was not thoroughly reviewed and edited so I would like to give you a chance to clarify your hearts on this matter.

This section of scripture has resonated in my head and heart since the evening of my resignation and the more I read it the greater clarity I have. Know that I am taking these words to heart personally and seeking to apply them as best I can.

James 3:13-18. 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Please let me know if you are willing to revise your Elder Letter and therefore provide greater clarity to the three of us on these matters. You are in our prayers and we are trusting our Awesome God to do a mighty work through these difficult circumstances.

Your brother in Christ,

Dan Marquardt

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268 Responses to Recently resigned HBC Elder, Dan Marquart, cites MacDonald’s behavior, secrecy regarding salary and HBC authority structure as the reasons for his departure.

  1. Victor says:

    Well, we should try to think the best! Maybe the work on this house was donated! Maybe James paid for it out of his own salary. Maybe Harvest spent nothing. I would think the cabins and the main hall at Camp Harvest would be enough for the pastors that visit.
    If the church is paying for all this than it is a situation that reminds me of the French Revolution…..the royals versus everyone else. King Louis and Marie Antoinette. I quote… “Let them eat cake!”
    I’m thinking there should be fewer leadership conferences and more servant conferences! It all sounds a little like elitism.

  2. Carol says:

    “House in the Woods” retreat cabin for James MacDonald and his inner circle who obey him? I just look at the beautiful interior pictures of this retreat on Facebook. Obviously the designer is talented and the work is lovely, this is not about her at all. But for a “church” retreat that is reserved for the exclusive use of a small group of people, it’s just another scandalous luxury that James MacDonald and his cohorts have indulged in – – – all at the expense of the people who are sacrificially giving gifts to God, forgoing luxuries and even their own modest “wants”.

    When I think of all the money I gifted to Harvest and other HBC campaigns, it just infuriates me. I thought those gifts were being stewarded with proper intentions. There are vast numbers of real Christians living on incomes at or below the poverty level; I would have much rather given my money straight to them, rather than see how these false teachers enrich themselves with what belongs to God. It’s nothing short of despicable.
    Ezekiel 22:27
    Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, to shed blood, to destroy people, and to get dishonest gain.

    • job3627 says:

      I agree, Carol. That is why this information on this website needs to be widely disseminated among Harvest attenders. The word is starting to get around. More and more Harvest attenders are demanding answers and more than a few are “voting with their feet”. Perhaps people in other faith movements are content to follow a charismatic celebrity pastor (Joel Osteen, Perry Noble, Mark Driscoll, Steven Furtick, C. Peter Wagner, Paula White, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, etc. ad nauseum) wherever they lead. HOWEVER–it remains to be seen, but my assessment of most Harvest people is that they believe strongly in the authority of Scripture and would not willingly give that up for any man. It is to be hoped that there are enough Bible-literate people left in the Harvest organization who understand what is at stake–the very purity of the Bride who was bought with the Blood of our Lord.

      More and more, the matter is being put before the people of Harvest and they will judge. Many will choose to make their voice heard by leaving, and as they leave there will be many questions from the ones who remain. For my part, if anyone asks why I left, I will tell them honestly that I could no longer support James MacDonald as the head of the Fellowship and that I have no other means of protest than leaving, since I protested loud and long about JM. Even before this website was put up I had reservations about the man, for a number of reasons, but they became screamingly urgent upon reading the remarks of those closest to him in ministry. If others want to know why I cannot support JM’s leadership, I will suggest that they should come to this website. Now, admittedly, I don’t intend to force the information on anyone, but I WILL NOT LIE, if asked. I will NOT refuse to honestly answer the questions of those who ask. It is time for this to be openly discussed by the “rank and file” of Harvest.

    • John on the island of Patmos says:

      That House in the Woods thing is just plain nuts. Throw those pictures up on the big screens Saturday and Sunday and explain to the congregation what that facility is for, who it is for, how much it did it cost, how was it paid for, when was it paid for, with what funds was it paid for…you all get the picture. All this is maddening, disgusting how about revolting and is enough to make one physically ill.

      • HBC ANON says:

        Oh I don’t think Harvest Studios is creating a short film to impress us on this account! “God at work!!!” (For the few in this case but whateva)

  3. Attendee-WD says:

    Clearly many engaging in this site are frustrated in the leadership of Harvest Bible Chapel, by the failures of the governance structure and/or a perceived failure to properly shepherd the HBC flock during this hard season in our church. I’m no different, and want to see change such that our church body can rebuild confidence in our senior leadership and that HBC and its leaders can be restored to being “well thought of” by outsiders ( 1 Tim 3).

    If you’re a member of HBC, I’d strongly encourage you to build up the courage to address your convictions, to relay feedback and to clarify open questions to an HBC leader directly. This site has been helpful for many to grieve and it helps many to think, but it isn’t the best model for influencing true change. Take this example: if I’m frustrated by how the IL state government is being ran, I know that Facebook posts to my friends don’t have much impact. To influence change I really should pick up the phone, or email, or meet with an IL government leader and ensure my voice is heard. I don’t see it as too different here. A great way to build up a breadth of convicted feedback is for many in the HBC body to meet with our leaders and to relay the matters being discussed here. To meet with your small group leader, your flock leader, your family or campus pastor or even an elder is a much more effective way of influencing change, and as mentioned would echo the voices of a few to relay the convictions of the whole. Unfortunately I don’t believe many of the HBC attendees on this site are doing this and instead are hoping that “someone else” is doing this for them. Even worse, many of you are pulling tithes or storming out of the church in bitterness and anger without taking on any responsibility to share your feedback directly with Harvest leaders. This puts additional burden on the rest of the lay congregation

    While it’s intimidating for many to build up the courage to request a meeting or to provide this feedback to real people in authority at HBC, it is a Biblical way to address these problems. I’d encourage you to request a meeting via the friendship register or via a phone call to the church if you don’t have a personal relationship with one of these leaders. If you handle the meeting with grace, with patience and with convictions based on God’s word, it will be impactful. If change doesn’t result after your convictions and feedback are relayed, then I believe you can rest assured you did all you could for the future of this church as you (likely) head somewhere else to attend.

    • Ex HBC says:

      There are still those members who acknowledge the website but refuse to read it and who will defend JMac and the elders until the end. They are worse than the leaders because they are allowing this sinful behavior to continue and allowing innocent, hard working Christians to be deceived.

    • Member says:

      We had done this is the past and were given a “don’t worry, God will work it out” vague response. If all of the leadership is giving the same party line, how can we expect any concern to be taken seriously? We read that Pastor Greg did take up the well-being of the flock with JM, only to be rebuffed. What can any member do if even Campus Pastors cannot break through to him?
      “You are loved” indeed.

    • Kay says:

      Attendee-WD, I think all your suggestions are good; however, many have tried and been rebuffed, verbally abused or worse. James’s verbal abuse is legendary. This cancer goes much deeper than just the senior pastor. We have an impotent, gutless and, I think, incompetent elder board. You have pastors who are benefiting from this and apparently loathe to stand up against James’ behavior, which I think makes them culpable as well. There is a long list of men who have tried and ultimately left, probably because there was no change.

      You can be sure James’ and others in leadership are reading this website. They know what is happening. It is glaringly apparent they are not going to make any changes. I would say, if anything, they are bolder than ever. However, God is not mocked. He will act.

    • Quinn says:

      AttendeeWD….I get your point, but I see this site as more of a plea to those in charge, or on the “inside” to listen and take action. As per your example, I’m not sure Illinois politics is the best reference for your point. I don’t think anyone would think anything would be done after a letter, phone call or meeting with anyone in politics. But hey, maybe that’s just me. I feel that when a system is closed, consulting a member of the closed system does zip. ie.. Asking member of the staff, “what’s “really” going on?” The staff member would say, (insert your favorite robot voice here) “We are working hard at fixing all your concerns.” Just like the awesome Christian song says, we need to change this from The Inside Out. Just like God changes us, He will change this- From The Inside Out!

    • Once upon a time says:

      I and and MANY others have met with Leaders with the sin of Pastor James. In those meetings there was manipulative,bulling, and shouting. Case in point Elder Dan Marquart trying for months to get resolve in a biblical loving manor. Along with the past Elder board. I agree that face to face meeting should be attempted with any leader of HBC. This Blog has served as a tool to bring awareness to the body, that such face to face meetings has thus far not resulted in any TRUE change. The only change in James behavior is because of this Blog. Worldly repentance, “I got caught, and I am being pressured to make some outward changes that I don’t think I should have to make.” And those accountability changes that the Elders said would take place, have not fully happened. We can only pray for true open repentance. Think of the collective repentance of ALL……and possible revival and healing that the Holy Spirit would bring! The Bride is not ready to meet the Groom. James, not many times in a Pastors life of ministry, when God could use humility and brokenness to glorify himself to a lost world!


    • finally healing says:

      Attendee-WD, I applaud your suggestion, and wholeheartedly support your thinking. Addressing difficult situations / issues straightforwardly, in love, with a heart intent on mutual resolution, is not only biblical, but wise on almost every front. Unfortunately, many, many others involved with HBC and HCA have come forward to have conversations, ask questions, and get clarity. We were one such family.

      Upon doing so, we were led to believe we were being ‘unfaithful to the church/school mission’ and that we were causing dissent as a result of our genuine attempts to quietly get answers and gain understanding. It was suggested that we were perhaps not truly committed, or “in the fold”, because we had these questions and concerns. We first brought them to our small group leaders (who were Godly leaders, who stood beside us when many turned away), then to the leadership of the school, and finally to the highest level of leadership at the church.

      I wish I had more courage to come forward in a bold way, and share what happened to our family in the early days of Elgin HBC/HCA, but the same level of ‘blame’ was placed on us that is being targeted at Dan M. We haven’t completely healed from that experience – and don’t expect to ever fully recover as this type of hurt leaves a permanent scar. We won’t put our family through that again, and so, though very painful to read all of these stories (and so many more pouring in to other places), we are comforted knowing that we were/are not alone in our experience. That has been immensely healing in these past few months. We pray diligently, and genuinely, for God to continue to evoke change in the leadership at HBC. What has taken years to inculcate, will take time to reverse. All of prayers should be with those who will endure the aftermath of this unfortunate situation – the confusion, questioning of themselves and perhaps their faith, anger, profound sense of loss, grieving, and hopefully, healing. We were, and still are, comforted knowing that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, for those called according to His purpose”. We rest on that assurance and we count it a blessing to have learned and grown about where our true faith lies – in Him alone – as a result of that heart-wrenching time in our lives.

      It’s time for change at Harvest, and at many evangelical mega-churches across the nation. Our prayers are, and will remain, with the many who will experience what is to come. As you suggested, Attendee-WS, “If change doesn’t result after your convictions and feedback are relayed, then I believe you can rest assured you did all you could for the future of this church as you (likely) head somewhere else to attend”.

      We attend elsewhere, assured that we did all that we could. And that regardless of our humanly efforts, one thing is for certain:

      God is good.

    • Bob Peckham says:

      My dear friend, please allow me to make some suggestions….
      NEVER talk to Jmac or Rick alone!!!! Always have 2 or 3 trusted friends with you. If possible, have a trusted, reputable psychologist present as well.
      These 2 men are not your friends! You will be facing individuals who are skilled in mind manipulation! I promise you, to go unprepared is to risk Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and debilitating depression.
      The creators of this blog have validated my history at HBC and my personal relationships with Jmac and Rick. I have know them both (and their families) since they were very young. In their present evolution of character, If you challenge or criticize them, you become their enemy and must be dealt with as such. They have absolute power over HBC. All of the leaders who have departed HBC give testimony to this. To Jmac and Rick, you are like a gnat on an elephant’s back when you speak against or challenge them.
      I bear these men no ill will, God will deal with them in His time. My earnest prayer is for God’s swift justice on behalf of their victims.
      May you have the character of Christ, the insight and wisdom of the Holy Spirit, and the power and protection of God in your endeavors concerning Harvest.


      • Sue says:

        Wow. Very powerful, thought provoking statements. That took guts. Thank you Bob, for your vulnerability and exposure in sharing what you did. Truth matters. Truth shines light on the darkness.

        Most people want to avoid conflict. They come to church seeking some form of peace. They want good relationships. Isn’t this why ‘small groups’ are promoted? People (and their leaders) understand the strong spiritual and psychological need for this. But what about truth, shouldn’t that be the foundation of all things?

        Attendees also want to believe they are doing/believing what’s right. Immature believers, of which there are many, are impressionable and look to others for instruction, direction and support. They follow along, trusting things will work out, until a year or two goes by and they notice otherwise, becoming confused, conflicted or losing trust. They walk with their feet unless there are satisfying relationships, a small group or child with close friends, making it harder to go or speak up. We let ourselves be deceived for the sake of ease and a false ‘peace and harmony’ – hoping this will be enough to get us by for the next week, month, year till something changes…. Cause don’t we have more important duties/matters to address? And aren’t we enjoying ourselves?

        Then there is the matter of being gullible. We assumed Godly men with character like that of the ‘great leaders of the faith’ were controlling the gears behind the curtain – so who are we to question? Better minds and people are working on it, right? Until the ‘dirty laundry’ got aired.

        We were gullible and lax about other things, too. Like not strongly examining how we are governed and should be governed. Or how structure and organization impacts us. Since we don’t belong to any denomination, our ‘leaders’ get to make up their version.

        Unfortunately, take a big gulp now. This next statement isn’t easy to swallow. Our Mega-Church version of a denomination is based upon secular models that utilize Madison-Ave style marketing, social marxism power-type structures, and corporate business practices. So many of us do not have educational backgrounds to know that. Or understand the problems it creates in the church. Thus, the confusion and inability to identify problem, solution and action.

        These secular models and practices make it easy for levels of corruption to grow and perpetuate within the church. Why? Money and power is all important to control outcomes, and takes center stage. The Bible repeatedly warns us about these 2 dangers. Harvest has become a breeding ground for such, by mirroring and employing similar secular methodologies to ‘grow’ the church. It has tempted weak men to succumb to the power and pleasure of money and for validation and justification of results. The means justifies the ends.

        I guess our leaders have determined that the ‘Word’ and the Holy Spirit alone are not able to accomplish the building of Christ’s church in our present age. We have put God to the test on that one.

        I challenge you, Google the guys sitting on elder boards and staff. You will find that at least one of them has a business that promotes these kinds of strategies and methodologies. He has been doing it for many years, in various churches and places across the USA.

        Use the mind that God gave you and reason out what you are seeing, reading and discovering. Read scripture! Is this God’s methods or man’s? Is Harvest suffering because of compromising men, or because of its employ of secular philosophies, strategies and methods? I vote both.

        Reality is something God is not letting me run away from anymore. No matter how uncomfortable it gets.

        Pray God will purge, prune and purify His church and those in it, including you and me.

  4. OnMyKnees says:

    Pastor James,

    We have only attended HBC for 2 years (coming from Willow, after 18+ years) but in that short time, my 21 year old daughter was baptised. Staff members have prayed with us. My wife, I and our children have grown through many of your church and radio messages, and books. We ARE Thankful to you and our Lord for this.

    My corporate work includes world wide travel. Humans have many common traits, desires, strengths and weaknesses worldwide. From this observation, I attempt to leverage practices that introduce growth and protect myself from practices that would easily widen my paths towards sin.

    Money and things that money allow, can, have and should be used for expanding God’s kingdom and grace. And for providing security, rest and requirements for the family. It can also be allowed to drive and regulate emotional highs, which can lead to excessiveness and lack of accountability. IF (I do not know first hand) the ’emotional’ money link has inched into your life, I, along with others pray that you invest in solitude with yourself and God for a weekend. Alone in a non-elaborate hotel room that is close to nature to take walks. Consider getting on your knees, asking God to allow you to see yourself as many other concerned Godly men currently see you; and to be open and accountable, which WILL result with God expanding the paths that He will bless you as His tool.

    *Pastor James, you have so many thousands of people worldwide that our Lord has allowed you to influence and bless. Please, please, please do not allow money and power and things, to interfere, restrict, and destroy.*

    (You know Pastor Hybels, and most likely have been to his home, as I and my wife have. He lives in a modest home, with older furniture and drives vehicles donated by local dealers.)

    So many of us, in this fast paced, multi-task world seek out simplicity and getting back to ‘the basics’; a gift missed by increasingly numbers of people. Consider investing time to rediscover this for yourself. New visions may occur. You may hear new things from our Lord. His Higher Ground Paths May Expand.

    In His Name, and for His Glory,
    You ARE Truly Loved.

    • Tom says:

      Well, you’ve noted one difference, Pastor Hybels actually drives the cars as donated by local dealers, rather than taking them, and then purchasing his own, more expensive, ones to drive. Who cares what they drive? I sure don’t. But I do care how they steward their own resources as a reflection of how they’re likely stewarding those of the local church.

      Another difference not noted is, ask anyone at Willow about the budget or salary of staff members. You’ll get your transparent answers pretty fast, and you’ll see that, from the top down, they are in line or below the marketplace. I’m not calling for impoverished pastors or church leaders, in fact the opposite. Pay them what they earn and, not more but not less either.

      Since you mention Willow, perhaps it’s important to note the debt that they carry as well. If I’m not mistaken, it’s about $5M. But, ask then too about the cash reserves for short and long term. I think you’ll find those to be in the collective neighborhood of about $20M. Why the debt at all then? I’m not sure but they’re submitting to the standards of the financial institutions and EFCA that Harvest won’t, because, most likely, they can’t.

      Hybels went through some tough stuff too. What did he do? Submitted to the authority of his Elders, and sought professional help. He’s openly talked about that at large events including the recent Global Leadership Summit. It’s clear that The Lord has, and continues to work on this man and that he is open and responsive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. If only James would listen, if not to the Spirit, but to a man in his own backyard who, by James’ standards would be considered very successful, oh, except he doesn’t pay himself enough from the weekly sacrificial giving of the congregation.

      • Tom says:

        And, alas, let’s not forget about the recent building of the Care Center at Willow. A 60,000 sqft facility built at a cost of north of $10M. How did they pay for it? Cash, not pledges, not promises to give, not loans, CASH. And the monetary return on investment? $0.

        Then let’s contrast that with this “House in the Woods” on the Designs by Maida page on Facebook. Simply go to Facebook and search for Designs by Maida. Then, in the photos, goto albums and look at the “House in the Woods”. Looks incredibly like a “Pastoral Retreat” center, no? Though, imagine the cost of removing that old granite desk that Mr. Vankampen had along with all the custom cabinetry. Though I’m sure it was simply too outdated for pastors to enjoy, if they’re even allowed to go there. I wonder who paid for all that?

        • Jeff says:

          Does any one have photos of the Harvest camp property that Tom is referencing? Is this lavish retreat true? How much HBC tithes Seize The Opportunity money funded it? I would have been ok with a rustic simple retreat in the country. Not the luxury property shown in the photos. A clear misuse of church funds.

        • Tom says:

          Jeff it may be unrecognizable by some, mostly because few are granted entrance. But, to those who have been given permission to grace the halls, they may not recognize it because of the vast kitchen makeover, or because much of the quality drywall that once covered ceiling and walls was replaced with, or simply covered (in a hopeful cost saving measure) by wood. What is unmistakeable though, is that amazing elk (or maybe it’s a really big deer?) head.

          It will be interesting to see how long the folks at HBC allow Designs by Maida to leave those pictures on any www. We’re at almost 2 hours now. Maybe we should bet to see if the over under is a day, or will it be hours? I’m in for $1. to you James.

        • Joe says:

          Ah yes, your 5G dollars hard at work. It is always more cost effective to replace drywall with wood. Is the congregation allowed to book a room? Or is it only available to James, Kathy, Luke, Landon, and company???

        • Broken says:

          I don’t understand. Are you suggesting HBC owns this House in the Woods. Or, do they just rent it for their pastoral retreat?

        • Tom says:

          Broken, yes, HBC owns it. And, what you should do, is ask one of your Elders what the total renovation cost was and what the upkeep cost is, who pays it and who gets to use it.

        • Sad to See says:

          This house is at Harvest Camp in Newaygo, Michigan. There is a sign posted on the road leading to the house… something to the effect of “Do Not Go Beyond this Point”

        • Factchecker2 says:

          Facebook posting by maida was october 2012… Is that 5g era or is it seize the opportunity?

        • Broken says:

          I thought the Niles campus was the top priority of the 5G campaign. If this came from 5G money I doubt any in the congregation are aware. The 5G update on the HBC website lists additional cabins, an upgraded sound system and the new swimming area as the only things done at camp.

        • Tom says:

          Cabins, sound system, addition to The Pastor’s home, and dredging of the pond in front of it.

        • Sad to See says:

          We think the cottage at Camp Harvest was remodeled in the timeframe of 2010-2011.

        • HBC disgusted says:

          After seeing the pictures, can we just agree to stop calling it a cabin? THAT is no cabin…

        • James 4:7 says:

          Robert Van Kampen’s widow, Judith sold the 615-acre property to HBC for slightly less than $4 million in 2004. Interesting that the changes started occurring at HBC about ten years ago. For those of you who don’t know, Robert Van Kampen was an extremely wealthy man before his death in 1999. There are a number of people in the Harvest organization who have ties to him and his “Bible Land” organization in Orlando.

          The Church Growth Movement cultish methodology is a big part of what went wrong (and continues to go wrong) in evangelicalism. It is essentially hierarchical, corporatist and elitist. It also has a number of individuals with very “deep pockets” associated with it. Rick Warren had wealthy businessman, Peter Drucker. James MacDonald and others who are part of the Harvest organization have a LOT of connections to Robert Van Kampen. Van Kampen is probably the most famous for his somewhat kooky “pre-wrath rapture” position which theologian, Thomas Ice has neatly dissected. It is interesting that JM started preaching Van Kampen’s notions on the “pre-wrath rapture”.

          As just one small example of the influence of the corporatists: The “accountability” groups that are a central part of most, if not all of the megachurches, are causing many to turn their eyes away from the Lord Jesus (and the word of God), focusing on other human beings for “support” and as “agents of change” in the lives of group members. Group members are encouraged to transfer dependence on God over to dependence on group “facilitators”. Bible study is discouraged and instead, an emphasis is placed on opening one’s life to the scrutiny of others. In contrast, the Bible tells us that we are accountable to God and that the transformation of our character is done by the Holy Spirit (the Puritans believed He did His best work in us in solitude–not in groups).

          If you dig around a bit, you will see that there are big money connections to a lot of what is surfacing (and has already become entrenched) in evangelicalism. Each “celebrity pastor” is like a hub among interlocking wheels. This is just the first chamber in the rabbit hole—it goes much deeper.

        • Jim says:

          The “House in the Woods” gives you a view of the opulence that James and Kathy live in. I wonder if Designs by Maida has done work on the MacDonald Inverness property. The Elders that did not know about this renovation should immediately resign. They obviously have no oversight power. James did not disclose the renovation to them. The elders that knew about the renovation were complicit and should resign in disgrace. The renovation was done during the severe recession – a time of belt tightening. The congregation is being used as a revolving charge card.

      • Duncan says:

        After viewing the photos of the House in the Woods the HBC Pastoral retreat as I’m told it is, because I have never even heard of it to this point. I am almost physically sick, and ready to vomit. This is as they say the last straw for us. I have been following the downward spiral of Jmac and his character, his comment about losing 1000 people before he would reveal his salary was unbelievable to me. The 2mil house, the Jaguar, the trips to Europe , the 2-3 months off in the summer, the gambling alegations, the further alegations about gaming equipment in his basement. TD Jakes, flying all his buddies and Kathy’s girlfriends to their vacation spot because Kathy missed her friends, its all become too much. When he stood in front of the Church and said there are those who said I shouldn’t talk about Money on Easter Sunday, well just watch me , and proceeded to give a lecture on finances on Easter I was furious. Frankly I cant take it anymore, we are all being scammed and I for one would have never believed it 10 yrs ago. These are not lapses in his judgement , this is downright dishonest, dare I call it theft or misrepresentation . The Elder board should be ashamed and fired immediately for incompetence and having a lack of a backbone. They should all be cornered at HBC and asked to explain their lack of leadership over James.

      • HBC disgusted says:

        I mean COTTAGE….NOT a cottage…

      • JayJ says:

        Interesting that Robert Van Kampen’s son-in-law is pastor at HBC-Spring Lake, Michigan.

    • T says:

      I love the tone of OnMyKnees’ response. Good, godly guidance and truth spoken in love.

      In the hope that Pastor James is reading this blog, there are dozens of people who have commented on this website who truly care for you and have been blessed by the ministry and gifts God gave you. Personally, God has used you to be anything between a nail file to the “jaws of life” in getting through to me during my 17 years at Harvest, and I am very, very grateful. I have grown in Christ tremendously through the ministry and worship at Harvest.

      Things, however, have changed in the last few years – a slow and dangerous drift away from being Christ centered. I agree with the blog above that I long to get back to the basics, back to the Christ-centered only teaching that you used to do years ago. While we love you, James, I don’t want you to include in the sermon video clips or photos of important people whom you’ve met, you holding the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup, etc. It’s a distraction and takes the focus off Christ and onto something else – you. In the last several months I’ve walked away from the message trying to remember what it was about because of the various distractions in the sermon. It didn’t use to be this way, James. Please stop with asking us to “turn to our neighbor” or asking us to make sound effects when you read Scripture. It’s a big distraction. I’m not sure if you do this to include the audience and keep us engaged; it’s not working… it has the opposite effect.

      I do not come to church to be entertained. I want and long for you to preach God’s Word and only God’s Word. God has given you that gift; no need to supplement it with silliness.

      Many, many years ago (maybe 1999?) you preached a sermon called “How to Drive Yourself Off a Cliff.” I remember listening to that sermon and wanting to stand up and shout “yes, that’s so true” because it was so point on about ignoring the signs that you’re on the wrong path – the sinful path – and headed for destruction. I don’t know what you think about this Elephant’s Debt website, but I can’t help but think about that sermon – specifically, blowing through roadblocks that were put there to stop and turn you around in the right direction.

      I don’t want you to “drive yourself off a cliff.” No one does. Please, stop and think about everything. Get down on your knees and seek after Him about this. There is nothing more important, James, than facing this now. No more running. No more blameshifting. No more of this sinful behavior towards your sheep. It’s unacceptable behavior from you, our pastor shepherd here on earth.

      You ARE loved.

    • One of the wounded says:

      Aposte Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9, “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more ? Nevertheless,we have not made use of this right, but we endure anythig rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel. 15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. 16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For (V)necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted witha stewardship. 18 What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

      Dear Pastor James, when I first heard you preach over 14 years ago you were like Paul… To me a spiritual father, different than the rest. I’ve left my spiritual home now and it hurts more than I say. I’ve grieved the loss countless nights and pray for you still. I wish you could hear the outcry…the warnings from people who were close to you…loved you.

  5. Sad to See says:

    It is all about the money. There is more at stake here than just JMAC. It is his family and close staff that are making above normal wages for their job positions.

    James is not going down without a fight. At this time he is in control of the mother ship and his underlings. They have been bought ($$$) for their loyalty.

    It sounds like very few know the legal structure of Harvest. I would venture to say that JMAC’s name is on the money and assets.

    Change will come about when the people shut off their funding of his ways.

    • Kay says:

      “I would venture to say that JMAC’s name is on the money and assets.”
      If so, not only would that be shocking but I would also think unethical. I agree it is about the money but it’s also about the power. I don’t think judging by some of JMac’s recent comments that he’s able to hold his tongue even when it’s in how own self interest (…lose 1,000 members before disclosing my income….who cares about 12 or 124 families leaving whose names and faces I don’t even know…). He’s become his own worst enemy.

  6. Another heartbroken ex-HBC member says:

    Eleven years ago, I started attending HBC as a brand new Christian. I loved Harvest and was involved in various ministries. Harvest could do no wrong in my eyes. Until the last few years. And it hurt. It hurt to realize what Harvest has become. I brought my concerns to Harvest. I brought up my concerns to my small group. I ended up being rejected from my small group. I didn’t want to feel the way I felt about Harvest. I wanted to love it as much as I used to. God was at work at that place. At least I know I’m not alone now and that I’m not imagining things. It is hard to find a new church and I haven’t been able to so far.

  7. T.E.D. says:

    Whenever an update is posted on this website there are “usual” groups of people who are at different stages in their decision to leave HBC.

    Group #1 – People who have already been hurt by JMac and leaders of HBC who have followed Matthew 18. Confronted JMac about his sin without any success. Have found a “new” home church. Either ended up on the Void list or have told their story in great detail from earlier updates (including this one).

    Group #2 – People who have been hurt by JMac and leaders of HBC who were afraid to leave HBC because they didn’t want to leave the relationships they built within the church and they didn’t know how to even start looking for a new church because HBC was the only church they ever knew. Now, they stopped sitting on the fence, made the decision to leave because they knew how much was really at stake if they continued to participate in enabling JMac’s actions.

    Group #3 – People who are being hurt by JMac and leaders of HBC; continue to have a “wait and see” attitude. Some have already experienced turmoil from their previous church and found it hard to change churches again, hoping JMac will repent and step down soon from his position – so they continue to hear the weekend messages (not knowing if there is a hidden agenda) with their families because they are growing in their faith.

    Group #4 – People who have known of JMac’s sin, but refuse to believe he is capable of sinning. These people are in the background, reading in shock and awe of what other people are saying about JMac. At times, are offended at what they read on this website, so in turn they naturally defend their pastor.

    I went from Group #4 to Group #1 during my last two years at HBC. Being part of Group#2 and Group #3 was the hardest for my family. A good number of the people in Group#1 have already told their story in some form or fashion. Please, if you read all the other comments/stories who have left HBC from all the way back to the beginning of the very first update that are posted on this website, you will read all the striking similarities, of many countless people/families in what they endured from JMac’s actions. Most likely, the majority of these stories have not been told publicly…yet.

    Which group are you currently in?

    • Long Overdue says:

      My family is currently in group 2 and it is exhausting. I miss group 5…totally oblivious to any problems and unbelievably grateful for my new church. Growing up in a KJV only, independent fundamental background my early Harvest experience was life changing. Taking a job on staff changed all of that pretty rapidly. I am still grateful for HBC for being the place that helped me establish my own faith apart from my family. Now as a husband and father I am accountable to leading my own family. Its a huge responsibility and the past year has been tough but necessary. For those of you in the same situation we are in I want to encourage you to keep going. I have wrestled with my faith and why I believe what I believe more in the past year than the previous 5. Its been healthy and will only serve to make us stronger. We have tried to simplify our lives and focus on knowing God and making Him known. Praying that we are all able to move into group # 1 soon.

  8. Tom says:

    To All:
    Wake up “Elders”, please step up and shepherd the body of believers at your church. Can’t you see how many of them are being hurt by James MacDonald?
    This is no longer a matter of “reading between the lines” or “trying to figure out what to do” or even being “unified”. Get it together and “Act Like Men”. After all, isn’t James MacDonald holding a conference to that same end in the coming days?
    Mr. Marquardt has been bold to stand behind his decision and make his exit public. Others have chosen silence that is deafening. I’m sure we’ll hear soon from Mr. Phelps, and perhaps Mr. Slabaugh and I’m also quite sure, we won’t be surprised by what they have to say.

    When will there be enough gas on the fire for you to act according to the Scripture and remove the one who has disqualified himself? Or, are you simply the “yes men” we hear about with not enough decision making authority that is based on fact?

  9. House of Cards says:

    House.Of.Cards. – “a speculative scheme that depends on unstable factors that the planner cannot control”

    For months I have pushed away all these thoughts and testimonies as “hear-say” or “2nd hand accounts” and tried to distance myself from the personal attacks on JMac. I thought this website was a hatchet job by people who had a grudge with James and would stop at nothing to destroy a man and his credibility. I agreed with Bob Arsosen who has a personal relationship with James, where I do not.

    I would say to my wife and others that if we left Harvest where would we go? There are no perfect churches and no perfect men leading those churches. What happens if we left HBC and found another church and are not happy? What if our kids don’t enjoy their new sunday school? What if their worship is not as awesome? (And yes, it is awesome at HBC). What if the preaching is not as strong or biblically sound or challenging? What if I don’t like a non-mega church? And honestly, since all of our children attend HCA – where do they go for school? We don’t live in a strong school district and I am nervous about even considering sending them to public school.

    Then I realized today that this whole set-up at HBC is akin to a political house of cards. It is made up of people who seem to think they can control every decision, every person involved in the decision making process and only those that need to know are allowed into the circle. Only those on the inside are allowed to see the inner workings. The biggest revelation to me was tthat this Elder board is full of yes men and rubber stamp decision makers. When a church (or any organization) goes through the bad economic publicity it just went through, how do you take to your supposedly strong Elder board a $30 million budget and not give them the details to make the right decision for the campuses they represent? If someone goes against you, you make that person a paraiah in the community and make them seem as though they are the one who “lost their way” or went “sideways”. And, what about all the nepotism? I am saddened by all of this and:
    – By the clear manipulation of the congregation to make us believe that reconciliation was happening between James and those he wronged or were wronged by — where is the report on this? Have any of those men who left ever stepped forward and said “hey, all’s good now?” I doubt it. I haven’t seen it.
    – By the clear and egregious attempt to make the congregation believe that the elders had some authority over JMac. Related to this – the sporadic elder updates on the website have been a joke. That was their attempt to create transparency?
    – By the clear attempt to sweep any new news about the school under the rug. The only updates that matter are that the sports teams have advanced in their conference and are better than all the other small private schools. Who cares? I love sports and would like all of my kids to participate – but why not talk about the educational achievements for the past year? (Maybe because there weren’t many to talk about)?
    – Also related to the school, the letter that accompanied Amy’s (the LS principal) departure was so shockingly ridiculous I had to laugh. Amy really was looking at a random school in Georgia and just happened to be able to secure that position just after her husband was fired for asking a real question that allowed his students to think about spiritual “highs”? The way the letter read, it took all the blame away from the school and church leadership and placed it on Amy and her family as having made a decision to walk away. What about the other teachers who resigned in protest of this unfair firing? No word about them.

    Believe me – I like the church. I like the people there. I like the other leaders in place now (for the most part). But, to me, after really taking a moment to understand all of this, I don’t see a website trying to destroy a man’s credibility, I see a man destroying his own credibility and, I see a house of cards ready to fall. I’m out. I’m taking my tithe, my family and my ball and going to play somewhere else.

  10. heartbroken says:

    I attend the same church that Ellen is speaking about (of course I am assuming this is the same Ellen who has commented on here and who left our church) and while I have never been a fan of James MacDonald her description of ours church is not an accurate one (and really shows the danger of a website like this). Let me clear up some of the false or misleading statements of the supposed influence of MacDonald:

    1. Staffing:
    We have only seen people come into positions who were already serving and leading as a volunteer. From our Worship Pastor to our Small Groups Pastor to our Harvest Kids Director – all of them were already leading effectively as volunteers. To call out their character and the character of our pastor to say they were only given the roles based on some sort of loyalty to Harvest or James MacDonald is a ridiculous accusation. Our pastor says over and over again that we are not following Harvest, James or him – we are following and loyal only to Jesus Christ. I’ve never been to the Harvest University Conference and have never felt pressure to do so nor been shunned from pursuing leadership.

    2. Church Discipline:
    I can’t speak to Ellen’s experience in this but to say there were “several instances” of church discipline happening because people admit failings is a shocking thing to say. Our church is so wrapped in grace. I have personally been asked to step away from ministry leadership by our pastor because of sin and he walked with me and I am now back serving in a much better place spiritually. He gently took me through the Bible, repentance and restoration (the farthest thing from hypocritical or heavy handed). This is the first church I have ever been to where sin is taken seriously AND with grace.

    3. Following of James MacDonald:
    James is never mentioned (at least I never have heard him mentioned – outside of us getting a copy of his book on church ministry).

    4. Finances:
    This past year our church has not done well in financial reporting (and our pastor has been very candid regarding the failings in this area) so I was interested in finding out how we were doing financially. I met with our pastor and far from refusing details, without hesitation, he gave me a line by line detailed budget report! Our church is definitely not in debt as Ellen reports but has a good amount of “future funds” saved. This year’s budget was not being met in Jan-Mar and he showed me the adjustments made in the budget to get things on track – and he announced all of this from the pulpit! There is no “new debt’ being added monthly.

    5. Elders:
    Our elders were nominated by the congregation (I submitted a nomination for one of the elders myself). The nominations were then put through an interview process (all mentioned on a Sunday morning) and then the names of 3 of them were brought forward to the congregation as potential elders. We were then given a few weeks (maybe a month?) to speak to the pastor if we were aware of any reason any of them did not meet the biblical qualifications. To me that seemed like I was very involved and yet didn’t make it a vote like some sort of high school popularity contest. I grew up Anglican so I do admit to not knowing how the Baptist church chooses elders.

    Lastly, I am disappointed Ellen that you would then list the characteristics of a cult as a way of insinuating that our church operates in this way. Each of the points of how cults operate are so opposite of how our church is (even in that those like yourself who have left have only been talked about as being loved and missed). It makes me wonder if your view of James MacDonald has so tainted your view of our Harvest church that you aren’t seeing clearly?

    • Kay says:

      @Heartbroken, I did not take Ellen’s list of cult characteristics as being insinuated or directed to her specific church location. Her exact words were, “…happened across an article on how cults operate and noted several features that were like those of the Harvest system.” Note “system.” I do, however, happen to agree with her that there are many of these characteristics noticeable in the Harvest “system” , especially by James.

      Ellen was in many ways very complimentary of the specific church she attended. Her primary concern seemed to me to be about the Harvest System and JMac. I think it is valid to say if your/her church is part of the Harvest Bible Fellowship, there is some level of the Harvest influence (would seem inevitable to me; otherwise, why be part of it). Based on your comments, it seems like your church is in a pretty solid place and that’s a good thing.

    • job3627 says:


      Part of the problem in failing to communicate with the congregants is that there are misunderstandings about what is really going on. If I have misunderstood anything, I sincerely apologize. I will speak to several points that I made and that perhaps you misunderstood:

      1) Staffing. Perhaps that is just what it looked like to me in the absence of information on why people were selected for positions–not just staff positions but volunteer positions as well. My husband was very angry over the way that he felt I was treated in a volunteer assignment. That I was effectively “dismissed” without any explanation, was the way that we interpreted what happened, perhaps wrongly.

      2) I did not say who administered the “discipline” and it was not the senior pastor.

      3) I agree that James MacDonald is never mentioned but that does not mean that his influence is not felt strongly throughout the Harvest churches including this specific church. His books have been promoted (every family in the church was given a copy of the book, The Vertical Church last year).

      4) Just how difficult is it to give an accounting on finances? I was willing to give the church a break on the finances for a while as we were a fledgling start-up, but it has been a number of years now. In the absence of real information, one is led to the belief (perhaps erroneously) that it is not a priority, if it is a priority at all (a la, the VERY poor record of sharing financial information that occurs at HBC-RM). As for the piling on of debt, how is one to view the gap between what was “budgeted” and what was the “giving” in the absence of being told that what was “budgeted” was not actually being spent? I’m glad to hear that the church is not accumulating debt. Please forgive me for misconstruing. Hopefully, that situation will be avoided in the future by there being much more financial transparency.

      5) As of our leaving, there was still a problem of there only being three elders, two of whom are on staff. I understand that this is because two of the previous elders stepped down. I have never agreed to the idea that staff members should have any ability to be involved in church governance. There needs to be a clear separation between church governance and administration, as can be seen in the HBC-RM example. I am also not comfortable with elders being chosen by Harvest staff members from other churches (which is the way they were chosen for our church and it took a long time for that to happen).

      Hearbroken, you said: “…Lastly, I am disappointed Ellen that you would then list the characteristics of a cult as a way of insinuating that our church operates in this way…”

      I absolutely did NOT say that this particular Harvest church operated like a cult. I said that there were cultish aspects of HBC-RM and I was careful to say that “obviously, not all apply” to HBC-RM. It was printed out as more of a “heads-up” to others involved in the Harvest system rather than an “insinuation”. What others have called an “atmosphere of fear” that pervades HBC-RM is a tip-off to cultishness. I was involved in a cultish church in the past where there was the same “atmosphere of fear” and there was a very strong, charismatic leader at the head, so I know well what I am saying. Sorry that you misunderstood my intent.

      “…Each of the points of how cults operate are so opposite of how our church is (even in that those like yourself who have left have only been talked about as being loved and missed)…”

      I’m sincerely glad to hear that.

      “…It makes me wonder if your view of James MacDonald has so tainted your view of our Harvest church that you aren’t seeing clearly?…”

      No, I have examined my heart and prayed about it and please hear my heart on this. If you will examine my original post, you will see that I laid nearly all of what I objected to in my own local church at the feet of James MacDonald. I wasn’t even angry over what my husband felt was a slighting of me and my ministry there. I was just left wondering. There is not a person at our local church (who I know, at least) whom I have any ill feelings toward and there are a great many of whom I am very fond. But the real “elephant in the room” is James MacDonald and until he resigns or is removed, there will likely be on-going trouble for all the Harvest churches because his ways obviously hurt people. And I heard things while in the church that simply reminded me too much of him.

      That is all I’m saying–more of a warning than anything else, to those in leadership (if they happen to read this site) to tread very carefully. I disagree with you on this site–I believe it serves a very valuable purpose. When dissent is quashed inside of an organization (and that is clearly JM’s intent, even if it is not that of others in the organization) then it will spring up on the outside. I have nothing left to say publicly on this website and I will not be contributing anything further. Again, I never meant to hurt or disturb anyone at our local church–I love every last one of you who might be reading this (and I really mean it).


  11. Torn says:

    I am literally sick to my stomach as I read all of this. Harvest RM has been my second home for over 15 years. I have participated in countless lay ministries and served in many leadership roles within small group ministries. I have tithed over $100K of my income over the course of my tenure at the church. My walk has skyrocketed at this church. I found my wife at this church. I have met lifelong friends at this church. I have met some incredible, humble, godly men of character that I look up to and strive to be like. Guys like Dave Learned, Dean Butters, Jeff Thompson, Dave Lee, Joel Johnson, Troy Maragos and Mike Ruge, just to name a few. It’s unfortunate, but each of these men are lost in the shuffle of controversy surrounding PJ. They are painted unfairly with the anti-PJ brush, simply because they are pastors on staff. Part of the emotion I feel is that should my wife and I leave Harvest, I have to leave the leadership of each of these men as well, and that hurts my heart….big time. BIG TIME.
    But as the facts are presented and I begin to see the larger picture, the other half of my heart is telling me “get out”. The debt, the audacity to ask the church for more money while giving yourself a $100K raise, the mansion, the cars, the gambling, the sermon on money on Easter Sunday, the unwillingness to be under the authority of the elders by refusing to disclose your income when asked, the completion of the annual budget apart from the elders and their request for itemized, detailed line items, possessing 50% of the elder voting power….and the list goes on and on and on.
    I knew that things were heading in an incorrect direction when I looked around church one Sunday a few years ago and it dawned on me: what happened to the Stowells?? The wheels are falling off the cart when humble, godly, strong leaders such as Corning, Jones, Jodrey, Stowells, and now Phelps, Slabaugh and Marquardt, all get out of town.
    Are so many people wrong James? I love you brother and I have prayed for you and your family more times than I can count. But take a look around bro. You need to make this right or the Lord is going to take His hand off this church. Remember your first love. We don’t want to be Laodicea. A shepherd knows his sheep. Listen to us brother.

    • Broken says:

      I love this post because it says it all. The revelation about how the budget was passed. The Easter message- how did I forget that? At the time I was so sickened by it, but it was unfortunately forgotten by the next thing, and the next thing, until I can’t keep track of all of my concerns. There are wonderful people at RM where I’ve been for 5 years. But, I do begin to wonder- how do they go along with it all. There are 30+ elders and many pastors on staff who should be the ones to “Act Like Men”. Jesus is the head of His church and I want to be sure I’m about His agenda.

    • job3627 says:

      I totally understand and sympathize with your feelings. Unfortunately, the mess that evangelicalism is today is bigger even than what happens at Harvest. Likely, the Great Apostasy is upon us. It is said that true revivals are pastor-led, perhaps the Great Apostasy is being pastor-led, as well. We have Christian friends who left their church that they had attended for over 50 years (the wife was raised in that church and the husband began to attend the church as a young man). They met and married and raised their children in that church. The husband served on the Board of Elders for a number of years. Even though our friends chose not to speak much about their reasons for leaving, the sketch that they provided, told us enough to conclude that they left because the new young pastor was infected with mega-church ambitions and “church growth” ideas. Additionally, and this is speculation, but I suspect that our friends felt the pastor had character issues as well. Our friends were very wounded by the experience.

      Francis Schaeffer was prophetic in his work, “The Great Evangelical Disaster” which was published a few months before his death in 1984. In it, he describes the fall of the mainline churches into liberalism while he was a young Presbyterian pastor. He warned that the same thing could happen to evangelicalism because young evangelicals were not reading and understanding Scripture and further, were not being taught to defend their faith from neo-orthodoxy and its casual view of the authority of Scripture. He rightly identifies the critical importance of defending biblical inerrancy and its proper interpretation. As just one example of how Schaeffer’s dire predictions are coming to pass: Much of evangelicalism has embraced Eugene Peterson’s “The Message Bible”. Far from being an accurate translation, it is totally infected with Peterson’s neo-orthodoxy.

      In addition to the failure to defend the Bible as the word of God. We are failing to defend the orthodox faith as we are told to do in the Book of Jude. JM’s recent defense of the Prosperity Gospel and the ministry of T.D. Jakes is just one more attack on the historic Christian faith. In spite of Scripture’s warning against private interpretation of it (see 2 Peter 1:20), we frequently see blatant distortions of Scripture such as JM’s most recent self-serving attempt to silence his critics. (See Despeville’s critique of JM’s blogpost of yesterday, further down in the comment stream.)

      Whatever you decide to do, know that God always has a remnant and the Church, the Bride of Christ will be here until the Lord Jesus takes us to be with Him forever. We have prayed for you, brother, and will continue to do so in the days ahead.

      • Alan says:

        Outstanding comments! Thanks for sharing. What you said is so incredibly true. Before our very eyes, we’re seeing what we once thought we good pastors and good churches abandoning the faith.

    • Melanie says:

      Dear Torn,

      I hear your pain and I can definitely relate….and so can many others. It is very painful to leave a church you have invested in so heavily for so long. Trust me when I say, it has been one of the hardest things I have every done. It’s been two years since we left and I still feel the pain. I feel “shunned” from friends who are still attending HBC….at least I thought they had been friends. There is an unspoken rule (and sometimes not so unspoken) that those who are still within Harvest should not associate with those who have left. We have somehow become the enemy….I’m still trying to get my head around what that really means.

      There were many good things about Harvest and it’s leadership in the early years ~ but the tide has definitely turned and it is headed down a dangerous path.
      I too had respected men like Dave Learned, Dean Butters, Joel Johnson, Rick Donald…but I am losing respect for them because they know what’s going on and yet they do nothing. I understand PJ is a force to be reckoned with and it’s hard to think about losing your job (and you will if you question) but I just don’t understand how they can stand idly by and do nothing.

      My encouragement to you is pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you what you need to know. Seek hard after the Lord and trust Him if He leads you elsewhere. It won’t be easy….but you will sleep peacefully at night knowing you are following the Lord rather than a man who has “gone sideways”!

      • job3627 says:

        Excellent points, Melanie. We will pray for you too–that you will find peace and healing for your heart.

  12. Hope says:

    This is amazing. I’m sorry I missed this additional organization – the Harvest Bible Chapel Foundation for estate planning. Sort of getting you coming and going……. the website page

    “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.'” Matthew 25:21

    God commands us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted us with; this includes having an Estate Plan that is up-to-date.
    Anyone who desires to be a good steward should create an Estate Plan. The Harvest Bible Chapel Foundation can help you draft a new Estate Plan or to update an existing one.
    Contact the Harvest Bible Chapel Foundation to set up a meeting with our Qualified Kingdom Advisors™, to discuss drafting or updating your Estate Plan, or if you have questions.
    Contact a Qualified Kingdom Advisor™
    Christopher Nudo, ESQ. Kingdom Advisor: 847-398-7005 x 3207

    • Been bamboozled says:

      Another way to steal from the congregants upon death…overpriced attorneys is not the way to go.

    • Been bamboozled says:

      Why is everyone learning the evil ways of double dipping from the sacrificial blood money of the members?

    • T.E.D. says:

      Another way to fleece the flock? – during the recent series “God’s Money: Seven Diagnostics for Biblical stewardship “ the David Ramsey’s Financial Peace University membership kit being sold for $99 (50% off) –

      Who recommended David Ramsey to JMac first?

      Mark Driscoll @PastorMark Thanks @DaveRamsey for the encouragement, and thanks for Financial Peace. We’re using it at @MarsHill Church this year. 10:22 AM – 18 Jan 13

      Or T.D. Jakes – Dave Ramsey has been speaking at his church events since 2006.

      JMac and David Ramsey also share something in common –

      In addition to criticisms of his work, Dave Ramsey has also dealt with a few scandals as well. In 2004, his newspaper column was dropped from several papers owned by Gannett, Co. after editors discovered falsified or duplicated identities of people allegedly seeking financial help. Ramsey claimed the errors were the result of work from a low-level employee and offered refunds to the affected publications.

      Dave Ramsey often preaches that millionaires don’t drive new cars or show off their wealth with their possessions. In 2010, however, Ramsey moved into a house spanning more than 13,307 square feet plus a 1,454 square foot garage. The total assessed value of the home is $4,909,200 and the land is valued at $750,000. Lee Ann Rimes’ house is right next door. True to his teachings, there is no record of a mortgage on the property. However, many Dave Ramsey critics feel the house is excessive and an indication of how out of touch he is with the average American who is struggling to make ends meet.


    • T.E.D. says:

      I forgot the most scariest part of Dave Ramsey:

      This article was written by a secular author titled: I Think I Figured Out Why People Love Dave Ramsey. One point he recognizes: It turned out that Dave Ramsey and Joel Osteen have a lot in common and it finally occurred to me why Dave is so successful.

      Out of the three point, the third I disagree with: Joel Osteen and Dave Ramsey have a lot in common because they’re both evangelists. Though Joel evangelizes the Gospel while Dave evangelizes sound financial planning, they’re both incredibly successful at it because they’re both gifted at digging into what people want and making the path to getting there seem easy.

      Joel Olsteen does not preach the Gospel. To my point; if this kind of teaching about money is prevalent at Driscoll’s church, T.D. Jakes church, and Joel Olsteen’s church, what does that say about HBC and Jmac?

  13. Tyranny says:

    In reading the comments herein – there appears an awful lot of hurt and pain. God is moving folks – just a matter of time when the evidence of his work will be done.
    There are echoes and parallels in these comments too that mirror the state of our nation – as Godless leadership leads down a long path of destruction. I can’t help but sense the odor of tyranny at the national level and HBC. It all flows from the top down.
    May God have mercy on us all.

    • David says:

      In a lot of ways your post is right on. One thing I am sure of is that JMac is reading this site. He has too large of an ego not too. The other thing I would venture to guess is that there are a lot of smart folks out there who went to a church, thought they were hearing God speaking through a gifted man, donated their money to support the church, probably volunteered countless hours. Then found out their Senior Pastor was really a charlatan in wolf’s clothing. They were duped. I was duped. They thought they were too smart to fall for a scam but they did. That is the part that hurts most. The reality is that there are probably 5 or 10 thousand more Bob Arosen apologists at the HBC cult. The list of fallen preachers is long -Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggert, Eddie Long, etc (JMac???)Tonight I am going to pray for those that were hurt. Tonight I will pray to forgive those for their transgressions – Matthew 6.14

  14. Joe says:

    It is rather amusing. JMac has posted a response to this current Elephant Room thread…
    “Why We Don’t Air Dirty Laundry!”

    “Move along these aren’t the droids you are looking for”

    • Cara says:

      Wait, does that mean HBC members are storm troopers and PJ is Obi-Wan?

      • job3627 says:

        I can’t answer for Joe, but I would say that it is probably JM’s ATTEMPT to be Obi-Wan (and a somewhat embarrassing one at that). He may be a master manipulator, as some here have called him, but his latest attempt to strike back at his critics, has set my irony meter swinging (bear with me and I’ll explain why). JM does not permit feedback comments on his opinions (he used to on his previous blog but he abolished that when the comments began to be unfavorable during the T.D. Jakes controversy). Since he doesn’t permit comments on his blog, perhaps we should give our reactions here.

        First, I would say that his point of keeping personal grievances private only works to a point. We have been given a method for working out those grievances (Matthew 18: 15-20) that, if practiced in the order given, works well. But it is important to note that the “airing” of those grievances is progressively more public. The first step for the injured party is to go privately–individually. If the one who has caused harm listens and admits the wrong (and recompense is implied, if there has been material injury–the Judaic Law was very specific on that point), then nothing further needed to be done and the matter was resolved. If no (or an inadequate) response is given, then the injured party would go with two or three others (and one presumes that the aggrieved party would be required to share his/her version of the disagreement with them in advance). The dispute is now much less private. And finally, if the other witnesses and the aggrieved party feel that there has not been a proper response, then the aggrieved person is to take the matter before the church. The church is presently in a position to judge. The dispute is now open for all to see, including any unbelievers sitting among the flock. Were I an unbeliever there, I would respect that process much more than any sweeping under the carpet of dirty secrets, that is frequently done in the name of “unity” or “sparing the Church the scorn of outsiders”.

        The irony of what he has written is that James MacDonald is the one who has caused the stain and he argues that we should cover this stain on the Bride of Christ (who, remember, is to be without stain or wrinkle) rather than see that “she” is washed clean of that stain. Do you think that JM even understands how difficult it is to speak about Christ to an unbeliever who knows well about all of the big name evangelical pastors who are “living large” from the fleecing of their parishioners? James MacDonald would be just one more to them.

        There has likely been plenty of opportunity for JM to respond to all of the grievances privately, one by one, but that time has long passed. It seems that one who was really “blood-bought, Bible-taught and Spirit-wrought” would have repented of each wrong in sackcloth and ashes by now. But it isn’t just a matter of settling grievances, it is a matter of whether or not he has forfeited the privilege of leading the flock by his flagrant misconduct. The matter has now been put before not only HBC-RM, but before the entire Harvest Fellowship of churches (and all interested outsiders in the wider Church). And how do we cleanse the Bride without the process being as public as the offenses? Ironically, James himself gives that scope to the judgment. We are called by the Lord to judge with a “right judgment”.

        One way or another, this will be brought to a close and one hopes and prays for a merciful close. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31) I don’t know him personally but I pray that, for the sake of the purity of the Church, that he would come under conviction and step down.

        • Despeville says:

          ” It seems that one who was really “blood-bought, Bible-taught and Spirit-wrought” would have repented of each wrong in sackcloth and ashes by now.”

          Indeed yet that did not happen and it does not look like it is going to happen. Therefore, the conclusion is rather striking, is it not? I appreciate your voice. People need to hear that.

    • Despeville says:

      MacDonald’s post/response is completely erroneous and full of subjective, agenda based, serially subjective eisegesis. I documented this is a post that was not allowed.
      In short the more MacDonald tries to dilute and obscure the issues of his and HBC’s board actions the more he proves the substance of them.

    • Despeville says:

      @ Joe, readers and James MacDonald,

      I think you are right and It has been a very long time since I read something so disturbing and so incredibly twisted and full of galloping hypocrisy and self delusion. All of that crafted to guilt, confuse, subordinate and in the end control voices criticizing James MacDonald. This is as cultist as it gets. Yes, I want everybody to understand that what we are dealing with here is no small matter but the attack of satan on this church and its people but not this church only but many more than can be influenced by it and weakened by this. Most importantly and through it all it is the attack on the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory. This is last and real target is here and abuse of money, power and people by James MacDonald and his sycophantic board is a secondary issue at best even though so painful, so sad and so obvious.

      Let us take a look at just some parts of diatribe and words James MacDonald versus The Truth, The Word God:

      “… you will answer to God for every soul that is wounded or misled when you do. …”
      ~ J.MacDonald, source:

      Is this not something? Is this not flabbergasting? James MacDonald cannot even comprehend and realize that his very own words judge him. He is writing demands and warnings regarding his critics which he is utterly incapable to see and recognize in himself and his actions… He is callous to the point of not even recognizing and not processing the train wreck he leaves behind in his wake. Why is that? It is because what I said at the beginning.

      As a further and concrete confirmation please do keenly observe what James MacDonald does with the Word of God in his post. All to further his personal agenda of silencing voices of critique FROM WITHIN THE CHURCH to keep the heavy lid on his pretense.


      ““Why not rather suffer wrong?” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6. What is lost on many, it seems, is Paul’s rationale for not publicizing your dispute with a member of God’s family. In verse 1 he says: “before the unrighteous,” in verse 4 “why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church,” and in verse 6 “before unbelievers.” If the breach is what Paul calls “a grievance” (v.1), “a dispute between brothers” (v.5), THAT is what we don’t air in public (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).”
      ~ J.MacDonald, source:

      Now lets look at this text and what it is actually saying…

      “When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to LAW before the unrighteous instead of the SAINTS? Or do you not know that the SAINTS will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that WE are to JUDGE angels? HOW MUCH MORE, THEN, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who HAVE NO STANDING IN THE CHURCH? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to LAW against brother, and that before UNBELIEVERS? To have LAWSUITS at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! ”

      1 Corinthians 6:1-8, ESV

      Have you observe the difference? This whole text is about an important distinction between resolving the disputes BETWEEN THE BROTHERS versus going to the court of law against the brother and have the matter judged and resolved by unbelievers. The clear didactic teaching of this text is that the first kind of dispute, the dispute between brothers is a valid form of resolving the conflict and should be the one used (i.e. “Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers?”) The second scenario, i.e. taking this dispute before the court of unbelievers is not valid and God honoring method of resolution. Yet James MacDonald in his recent blog post blurs and ignores this absolutely crucial distinction. Not only that he actively ignores it and instead engages in a brutal eisegesis in trying to use this text in a false and corrupted way for his own selfish gain: to silence his critics and their demands of change. Absolutely detestable and grievous to say the least.

      The teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 is completely different from what is going on here on this blog, other blogs, personal conversations and elsewhere. None of the critics is suing James MacDonald before the court of unbelievers at this juncture and he certainly did not refer to that. Rather what is happening is rightful and justified IN HOUSE, IN CHURCH critique of a man who went astray running amok after greed, pride, ego power in full contrast with steep what he seemed to be teaching through his life. James MacDonald is running head first off the cliff yet he does not want to be stopped. He does not want to heed to correction. That is because he actually thinks that his correctors are running the wrong way. That they are blinded to his reality. Assertions about this text 1 Corinthians 6:1-8 by James MacDonald are of altogether different category and James MacDonald knows it yet he has no misgivings about abusing and twisting Scriptures just to advance his own selfish and hedonistic interests while making a classic category error. This man has no more breaks. No more, and no man can stop him. Only God can and He will.

      “Be as public as you want about your own sin and relational shortcomings, but NEVER about another’s.”
      ~ J.MacDonald, source:

      Have you noticed that? He is blatantly denying vast swaths of the Scriptures where we are called to confront sin in us and in others privately and then publicly and in that sequence and the time of private confrontation has melted away long ago… Folks, this above is a terrifying cultist like twisting of the Scriptures. Confront this man if you are HBC member or run from there and fast!

      Look what James MacDonald is denying and this is just a minuscule example:

      ‘If he refuses to listen to them, TELL IT TO THE CHURCH. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, LET HIM BE TO YOU as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
      ~ Matthew 18:17 ESV

      Here God the Holy Spirit is saying yes, at certain point GO WITH THIS SIN PUBLIC, in from of WHOLE CHURCH. While James MacDonald says “NEVER GO PUBLIC”… Could this difference be any more clearer? I do not think so and who you are going to go with on this one?


      “The last thing we need is fleshly ventilation of supposed soiled laundry on the front lawn of Christ’s kingdom.”
      ” What exactly do we hope to gain by airing dirty laundry?”
      ‘Hang all the love you want on the line for the world to see, but keep the dirty laundry of disappointment with others out of sight.”
      ~ J.MacDonald, source:

      Really James? Far from it. Well take a look at this:

      “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever YOU have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what YOU have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.”

      ~ Luke 12:2-3, ESV

      Yes James, this Scripture and its proper immediate, semi-immediate and broad context is directly applicable to your and HBC disturbing and God dishonoring situation and your more and more erratic attempts to cover it up with your pretentious and pseudo pious talks which will not help. In fact the opposite is reveled. Yes, the context of Luke 12:2-3 is sin and hypocrisy, a very core of what is going on on your watch and your walk. That is why we did, we do and we will air out dirty laundry in PUBLIC and in this case yours and your elders just as the Word of God teaches.

      James,repent from what you have done and step down before this will go from blogosphere to newspapers and then onto housetops. Repent and step down or this ICHABOD will be aggregated massively.

      Readers please pray for the flock of Harvest Bible Chapel in these difficult times and more difficult around the corner. Let us also pray for James MacDonald that God will have mercy on this man. This is about God’s Glory and He will take it even in this for it is rightfully His and His alone.

      • Kay says:

        Amen! Amen! Amen!

        This is so incredibly sad.

      • job3627 says:


        Great job in addressing the serious twisting of Scripture that JM does in order to try to silence his critics. Ironically, it has merely sunk him deeper in the morass. I pray that, as he drives his locomotive ever closer to the break in the track (in spite of many, many warnings) that the coming derailment isn’t too devastating for the innocent people who will be thoroughly disillusioned with their celebrity “pastor”. Better that he quietly resign now.

      • Angela S says:

        I echo Kay..Amen! Amen! Amen! This should be read by everyone!! Besides JM the pastors, elders and leaders at Harvest that refuse to confront, rebuke and deal with this sin in a Biblical way must also repent. It is mind-boggling that they could remain silent, make excuses for or condone such plain and blatant sinfulness. They have made idols for themselves: their jobs, 401K’s, positions, influence, ministry, and authority ..they love these more than God, righteousness, truth and holiness. Let us pray that they will have the courage to put away their idols and seek to honor God above man.

      • Departed says:

        It was partially due to sloppy handling of the Scriptures such as this that my family and I ceased attending HBC regularly. If the pastors and elders are either incapable of or unwilling to identify and correct the hermeneutical errors that Despeville has noted, this is further indication of the trouble the church is in. Also troubling are laudatory links to JM’s article from other pastors who I’d expect to be as skilled as Despeville in attending to the context of the passages JM has sought to employ in his defense.

        As others have noted, JM’s influence is far-reaching; thus, the actions (or lack thereof) of HBC’s elders have implications far beyond their fellowship. Such is the price of celebrity.

    • T.E.D. says:

      This is not JMac first attempt to be Obi-wan Kenobi. He may need to try something new – maybe Spock’s vulcan mind meld.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am an HBC member and thankful for Dan’s letter. I agree that the HBC Elders have an obligation to Christ, the congregation and the pastors/staff. Titus 1:7 says they are God’s stewards which means they need to oversee God’s finances and money in a prudent way. I was very shocked and disappointed to hear how the HBC Elders approved a 30 million dollar budget in a matter of seconds without even looking at the budget detail line items. I think that’s clearly not prudent and not acting in a biblical fashion. They are rubber stamping a large amount of money and acting irresponsibly. Where is the accountability that Pastor James and the pastors always talk about? Don’t they see what they are doing is wrong? Why doesn’t any of the Elders stand up for what is right and end this dictatorship management style? This niave and “fear of man” attitude is not good for God’s church, people or staff. They are enabling unbiblical and improper behavior.

    Late last year, the HBC congregation was told by the Elders that things were going to change. There would be more accountability with Pastor James and all finances. This did not happen and I feel deceived and hurt.

    I am grateful to God for using Pastor James to start and grow HBC. HBC is amazing. Praise the Lord! However, based on all of the Elder’s personal stories that wrong behavior continues, perhaps James needs to step down for a period of time until he demonstrates more God-honoring behavior. I also believe that there needs to be a new HBC Elder’s board established that includes men that will put Christ and God’s people before the Executive Pastor. I thank all the pastors and staff of HBC for continuing to do God’s work with a passion for Christ. I’m waiting to see what happens before I decide whether to stay with Harvest. I’m praying for and am hopeful there will be a prudent correction.

    • Claire says:

      What implications will these findings/controversies have on the upcoming “Act Like Men” seminars? I hope enough people see this information and boycott it!!! I don’t want my son or husband or neighbor acting like this type of man…..

  16. Hope says:

    In response to ‘Servant of Christ says: August 12, 2013 at 11:18 am “Let us not forget another Jamism: “If you want to remove me, you’re going to have to sue me to get me out of here. And gentlemen, I have two things you don’t have: control of the pulpit and the control of the money. So good luck.” ’

    To that chilling comment, let me add these leadership thoughts. For those that can’t get their hearts and minds around the full scope of the big picture as James continues to lead this organization.

    This is the visual you need to think and pray over.

    Harvest Bible Chapel Elgin
    Harvest Bible Chapel Rolling Meadows
    Harvest Bible Chapel Niles
    Harvest Bible Chapel Crystal Lake
    Harvest Bible Chapel Chicago Cathedral
    Harvest Bible Chapel Aurora and Harvest Studios
    Harvest Bible Chapel North Shore

    Harvest Bible Fellowship
    • Harvest University
    • Harvest Training Center
    • Harvest Plants around the world (#?)
    • Harvest Affiliate Churches (#?)

    Harvest Academy
    Camp Harvest
    Walk in the Word
    Vertical Church Tour Events
    Act Like Men Conferences
    Book Publishing
    Music Publishing – Harvest Songs and Vertical Church Band
    Biblical Soul Care
    Churches Helping Churches

    There is no financial transparency. Can you find the current or past posted financials anywhere under any of these HBC organizations? HBC has never participated in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, see .

    The ultimate human head of all these ministries is in one way, or the other, James MacDonald. You do the math in property and souls impacted, past, present and future by a man that is no longer biblically qualified to be a pastor/elder in one church, let alone a biblically based huge and still growing organization.

    Think about this Elder Firewall Team!

    • A Soon To Exit RM Member says:

      It would be such a blessing if the income generated from all the different sources were going to reduce the debt first before the luxurious living of the prayerfully soon to be ex senior pastor.

  17. A Soon To Exit RM Member says:

    WOW!!! I am relatively new to RM and heard from a close friend on staff of the vicious psychological arm twisting and hypocrisy of not only James but of other so called senior staff and MacDonald family members. I am canceling the check just written to h.b.c. and donate it to a Christian couple adopting in the name of Christ.

  18. Servant of Christ says:

    Let us not forget another Jamism:
    “If you want to remove me, you’re going to have to sue me to get me out of here. And gentlemen, I have two things you don’t have: control of the pulpit and the control of the money. So good luck.”
    Where is the Spirit of God?! Classic narccistic delusional traits.. Is there any doubt James is a Matthew 7:21-23 example? If we, as followers of Christ can not or will not keep James accountable, we are neglecting our Christ honoring duties!

  19. Mark says:


    It is unfortunate that the ones now paying the price for you leaving your church are those fellow attendees you love and your pastor who by your testimony is a humble, godly, solid preacher of the Word.

    How do you see your “local church” in light of your concerns for JM? Have you seen JM’s influence in your pastor’s character, preaching or leading? Have you seen JM’s influence in how your church was doing ministry?

    My heart breaks for these smaller local churches who are now being tainted (unfairly?) by the actions of JM.

    • Former HBC System says:

      “Have you seen JM’s influence in your pastor’s character, preaching or leading? Have you seen JM’s influence in how your church was doing ministry?”

      Good question. I left a HBC plant in large part to what I perceive to be direct and indirect influences of James MacDonald on the sr. leader who is very close to James and was on his staff for several years. $8MM in debt (body of ~1,500), 5G-like growth campaign that did nothing to address the debt, revolving door (due to firings) of pastoral staff in short periods of time (a couple were relocated from out of state and lasted less than 3 yrs), stacking the elder board with younger yes men, and a shift to whacky Van Kampen pre-wrath eschatology shortly after JM started hawking it.

      One of the saddest things I learned along the way was how they adopted a struggling nearby bible church, assumed the property, and when the newly adopted members didn’t agree on ministry methods/models, they were labeled contentious and had their HBC memberships revoked, then closed and sold their building.

      Yes, in many ways, the HBF churches look up to James MacDonald and HBC-RM for leadership style and structure, new ministry models and worship style and capital growth campaigns. Does anybody know how big the HBF church manual for church planters is?

      • Kay says:

        MacDonald is a tyrant. It boggles the mind how people can continue to support him and others like him. I think though that God in his perfect time will act. Remember….

        Galatians 6:7-8

        Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

    • Ellen says:

      Mark, you said: “…It is unfortunate that the ones now paying the price for you leaving your church are those fellow attendees you love and your pastor who by your testimony is a humble, godly, solid preacher of the Word…”

      Yes, that’s the hardest (and saddest) part. But in the absence of action on the part of Harvest leadership, we felt that it was the only way to voice our objection to JM staying in authority over the Fellowship and thus, indirectly over our church. The nauseating adulation that a few in our congregation have expressed about “James” and “Rick” (Rick Donald) gets harder and harder to have patience with, when one begins to see evidence of JM’s ways (which is, of course, much of what I would call the “Harvest System”) becoming more and more of a common feature in the life of our church.

      Mark: “…How do you see your ‘local church’ in light of your concerns for JM? Have you seen JM’s influence in your pastor’s character, preaching or leading? Have you seen JM’s influence in how your church was doing ministry?…”

      I would say that I have not personally witnessed any change in the character and preaching of our pastor. If anything, his preaching has gotten better and even more Biblically sound over time. But there’s an old aphorism that might apply, “Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.” To say that JM doesn’t have a corrupting influence over the young pastors who he tutors is to ignore the Bible admonition, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ ” (1 Cor. 15:33)

      What I call the “Harvest system” itself shows strong influence from James MacDonald. It seems to be something of a juggernaut that often sweeps some out of positions of influence (often without even an explanation) and puts others into positions that they often don’t seem to handle in an effective or sometimes even godly way. One presumes that the only reason why they were given the responsibility that they have is perhaps their “loyalty” to the Harvest way of doing things. Do they go to Harvest University? Do they embrace Harvest methods and modes of ministry without objection? If not, they seem to be relegated to the sidelines. I have also seen several instances where “church discipline” was exercised over attenders who admitted their failings and others (like James MacDonald himself) were given a pass for conduct that is much more blatant and far-reaching in its effects on the wider church. This is a level of hypocrisy that is hard to fathom.

      We really started noticing more and more conformity to the “MacChurch” model after a large contingent of our church congregants went to Harvest University. It began to seem more and more cult-like and less and less of a church. From the very beginning, both my husband and I had qualms over the lack of transparency in the finances and the complete lack of consultation with the congregation on matters of spending (and James MacDonald’s hand is certainly visible here). Coming from a Baptist background where information on purchases and staffing were always openly discussed with the congregation, that was difficult for us to accept from the beginning but we didn’t understand, at that time, that this is system-wide and not merely a feature of a new start-up.

      We both took exception to the designation of the pastor as “the first among equals” in some of the Harvest literature, which is a phrase borrowed from the RCC and is said of the Pope! We were assured that this was being changed when we raised the point–but it is still on the church website. We began to “connect the dots” when we started reading on The Elephant’s Debt website about the character and conduct of James MacDonald and came to the realization that much of what we feel to be wrong in the Harvest system is from his wide and profound influence and abuse of the system he created. A major red flag for me personally was when during a meeting for small group leaders someone who is now on senior staff said, in reference to a major capital project that those in leadership were contemplating, “Well, you don’t tell the sheep everything”.

      The moment of epiphany came for me personally when I happened across an article on how cults operate and noted several features that were like those of the Harvest system: the refusal to give detailed information on finances; the lack of opportunity for members of the congregation to have ANY input on the the selection of leaders–other than being given an “opportunity to protest” once an elder appointment has been made. (And really, who would have been bold enough to do that?) But major staff appointments of those who were much more in the “circle of authority” were made without the blink of an eye and seemed to be made without regard for whether or not the church could afford them. The lack of transparency on expenses. The church is continuing to add more debt monthly–that part is the only financial information that seems to be forthcoming so far and is printed in the bulletin every week.

      For those who are interested here are some major points of how cults or cult-like organizations operate that is a summary of several articles. Obviously, not all of them apply but enough of them apply to “Big Harvest” that it would be, I hope, a cautionary note for all who are still involved in the Harvest System:

      a) Leader(s) demand(s) unquestioning and unconditional “loyalty” and “unity” from members. Those who do not conform to the leader(s) demands are confronted and ejected or are made uncomfortable enough that they voluntarily leave.
      b) Leader(s) are not accountable to anyone else. Their decisions are not open to criticism or debate.
      c) The same leader has been running the group since it started, or leadership has
      passed to family members.
      d) Members who leave are frequently harassed, or are slandered.
      e) Members are kept from forming (or keeping) relationships outside the group.
      f) Non-members are regarded as morally suspect. Those who leave are viewed with contempt.
      g) Recruiting new members is a required activity.
      h) Members are required to spend most of their time and much of their money on the organization’s priorities.
      i) Members must consult group leaders on even minor decisions.
      j) Members are required to open their own personal finances to scrutiny even though the top level of leadership has no such requirement placed on him (them).

      a) Leadership is open to questioning and criticism from members, and takes account of their views.
      b) There are checks on the abuse of power, through elections, external audits, or
      open business meetings.
      c) There have been several changes of leadership through established procedures.
      d) Members are free to leave the group without undue pressure to return.
      e) Members are free to mix with family and friends outside the group.
      f) Non-members or departed members are not viewed with suspicion or hostility.
      g) Members are not required to recruit others.
      h) The group’s activities leave time for work, family and a social life outside the group.
      i) Members make their own decisions, guided by broad principles.
      j) The group does not demand large donations from members. Donations to the organization are made without any kind of coercion.

      Mark: “…My heart breaks for these smaller local churches who are now being tainted (unfairly?) by the actions of JM…”

      So does mine, Mark, so does mine. Unfair? Yes, it does seem unfair, I’ll grant you. But it could serve as an illustration of the principle that, often the innocent suffer punishment while the guilty go free. Isaiah calls it a perversion of justice. (See Isaiah 5:23)


      • Despeville says:


        Excellent points and I agree. There is much cult like structure, methods and attitudes in this system. More importantly there is much cult like Scripture twisting and abusing to advance personal and system agenda at the cost of the truth in its context which is most grievous error and the ultimate trait of what you are talking about.

        Fresh case point:

  20. Jeff says:

    HBC has their 25th anniversary celebration coming up in September. I would not be suprised if the Elders gave JMAC a brand new shiny Rolls Royce during the event. It would fit well with the Jaguar and Land Rover.

    • T.E.D. says:

      During the 2012 HBC Men’s Conference, if I recall, James gave an elite circle of men within HBC (including himself) rings to mark a milestone occasion. I believe they included Dave Learned (campus pastor, RM campus), John Smith (Executive Director of Camp Harvest), Jeff Donaldson (campus pastor, Elgin campus) – not sure on that (if someone can confirm or correct me on that please).

      This was the same conference, scheduled speaker Pastor Voddie Bauchaum, was asked not to speak after JMac learned what he was saying about the Elephant Room 2. JMac then reacted by pulling the race card and used Eric Mason (lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, PA.), Bryan Loritts (Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis), Charles Jenkins (senior pastor Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church).

      This is an example of the gross abuse of relationships that JMac had manipulated for his own self gain (whether the victim(s) know it or not). This is the streams of influence JMac has on the church.

      Voddie Bauchaum’s response to all this was very humble to say the least, but also full of truth.

      This is just one of the many reasons why JMac needs to make the decision to step down and step away from ministry, but it seems his lust for money and fame will not sway him. That is why so many have already expressed their concerns here. Continuing in this direction will only continue make the church weaker (as a whole) and soon God will be absent and Satan’s presence evident. Hoping the elders will not let this situation get to that point.

      • Once upon a time says:

        Not only rings, but at least 3 Rolex watches were given, to James and two other Elders! I wonder who thought that one up?

        • Jeff says:

          Is there proof of the Rolex watches?

        • Gary says:

          Yes Jeff, James showed it to the congregation at the beginning of a sermon, and he mentioned that the “church” bought it for him and a few others for their faithful ministry.

        • Joe says:

          Next, somebody is going to tell me that JMac owns a yacht.

        • Despeville says:

          Hmmm, two million dollar mansion, Jaguar, Land Rover, Rolex…. and that is just a tip of an iceberg but there is another one floating by made of catapults for people, mockery, cynicism, manipulation, ruthlessness, evasions, lies, secrecy, hypocrisy, egomania, pride etc. etc. With those to on the surface do you get the picture of the “servant” or of a worldly, greedy master wanna be?
          But wait, there is a third iceberg and the biggest of them all made up of skewed, mutated pseudo gospel of law, law, law and occasionally some grace and then more law and law and law, imposed and asserted and required Levitical system of taxation, Word of Faith shenanigans of speaking “blessings” into reality and making deals with “god” all in measured and shrewd version.
          Now enter the wooden ship of HBC right in the middle of those three icebergs and they are closing in and its is getting dark…

      • Former HBC System says:

        My former sr pastor bragged about getting one of these rings at the annual sr pastors retreat in Orlando. Had something to do with number of years with James (not ministry). I remember him telling the congregation that James told the recipients that if they ever left Harvest (not the Church or ministry) that he wants the ring back.

        I was also at that Men’s Conference where James implied that Voddie didn’t “Act Like a Man” in voicing his critsism of ER2 (b/c men go straight to each other with their problems). Guess what? Voddie wasn’t there to hear James’ criticism! This was followed shortly by a disgusting and ebarrassing standing ovation for James initiated by Charles Jenkins.

  21. concerned christian says:

    I have to admit I was somewhat concerned about leaving a message on this site that was potentially viewed as support of Harvest/James and it appears based on some of the replies that my post stirred things up a bit. I won’t try and answer every question raised but will respond to some of the questions.

    To Job 3627, at the present time, I won’t do anything with the scriptures you mentioned. I have some logs in my own eye that I need to remove first. That doesn’t mean others who are further along in their walk shouldn’t follow the prompting of the Spirit on the issues raised, it just not me at this time in my life.

    to Despeville, saying yes means something to me. Each church I visit, I ask those same questions and it helps me decide if I will continue going to that church or recommend that church to someone else. Good biblical teaching and God honoring worship are important and Harvest has both of those components

    • Chris Pence says:

      I commend you for your focus, especially at what sounds like a young age in Christ. Take whatever good you can from what you are taught at HBC and grow. Naturally, I pray you won’t get caught in the abuse many of us on this site believe to be ongoing there, but if you’ve deemed it your best community for now, it is in everyone’s best interest to spur you forward that you may make the most of it. All the best.

    • Despeville says:

      “Good biblical teaching and God honoring worship are important and Harvest has both of those components”
      ~ concerned christian

      What about these components?
      The perpetrator of this wickedness was not only not asked about any of this type of decades long wolfing during his visit to Harvest’s Elephant Room but was also de facto pronounced as bona fide Christian by James MacDonald despite his also decades long denial of Trinity. I really think you need to ask more questions then.

    • job3627 says:

      concerned christian,

      I would echo Chris Pence’s sentiments and pray that you continue to prosper at HBC. There is much that many, many people have gained through their time in a Harvest church. There are many Bible-literate, God-honoring believers throughout the Harvest system and it is those people through whom many opportunities for growth are afforded. That is why this problem is particularly vexing as Bible-literate, God-honoring believers (such as the other elders) should be prepared to act, and a number have, but still nothing seems to budge James MacDonald from a position for which he clearly does not qualify. The problems that have been pointed out over and over on this site should have long ago been acted upon. Instead, the abuse of pastoral authority continues on and on.

      While it is true that every last one of us has sin, it is important that we separate what is essentially a private matter between each believer and the Lord, and on-going misconduct of one who is supposed to be “above reproach” in his public conduct. And the corruption can easily spread outward from corruption at the top of the structure (and probably does). The purity of the church is at stake and godly men must act. In 1 Tim. 5:19-20, we read, “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.” This presumes that there could be individuals who are granted eldership who are found to be not “above reproach” and are subject to normal public disciplinary action by the church and the implication is that they would no longer be qualified for leadership in the church. Outrageous conduct can and must be addressed. If it is not addressed by the other leaders then it must be addressed by the church (see Matthew 18:15-19). That is what this website is about.

  22. John says:

    Lest we get off topic, the only thing that matters is what the Word of God says and it is clear that James MacDonald no longer meets the qualifications of an elder and should step down (1 Tim 3:2-6).

    The fact is, much damage is being done to the sheep on both sides of the issue as a result.

    It doesn’t matter if one is growing at the church or likes the sermons or the music. The fact is, damage to the name of Christ is being done because a man who no longer meets the qualifications of an elder is still in the pulpit and that does damage. Regardless of what benefit one might get from attending Harvest, how can you stay knowing that James doesn’t meet the qualifications of an elder that God gives in 1 Tim 3? Is this a portion of Scripture that is to be ignored?

    • Once Upon A Time says:

      Spot on!!!! Amen!!!

      • Despeville says:

        Indeed, a guy who drives jaguar, lives in two million dollar mansion will hear the voice of mammon first if not that is the only voice he actually hears and heeds to despite all of the pious talk for mostly gullible audience…

        “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

        Luke 16:13 NET

  23. T.E.D. says:

    ….when we requested James disclose his income to the elders he replied, “I would lose 1,000 people before I would disclose that.”

    It certainly seems that just from this site we can get 1000 signatures that have left HBC within the past year. Will JMac disclose his income to the elders then?

    “One of the many James doesn’t care about. says: August 9, 2013 at 6:47 pm “ suggested a boycott of HBC for one month starting the weekend James comes back from sabbatical.

    Is there a formal consensus to this?

    “Al says: August 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm “ says: Stop giving him money!

    This seems a far more effective way to get their attention rather an attendance boycott for a month. Cancel that “automatic faithfulness” account, “WITW” subscription, “5G Commitment”.

    For example: “Dr. Edwin says: August 9, 2013 at 3:24 pm “ says: As a soon to depart HBC member that James does not care about, I am stopping all tithes and giving….”

    Cue the music…”We’re U…NI…T.E.D.”

  24. concerned christian says:

    I came to know Jesus as my Lord and Savior at Harvest and continue to grow in my faith through the teaching there including the sermons from Pastor James. There appears to be much judging of motives (not biblical) on this site and while you can judge someone actions, when it becomes more than that I would think the site moderators would remind Christians of that truth.

    • Chris Pence says:

      Unfortunately, when one starts judging another’s actions, judging of the motives is an easy line to cross. We are well-reminded to keep the focus on what James and Harvest do as opposed to thinking we have knowledge of why they do it. No one can see into the heart of man but God.

      Regarding James as teacher, I’m curious how you handle receiving instruction from him in light of the growing body of witnesses to his and the church’s misconduct?

      • Concerned Christian says:

        Good question. Each week, I ask myself “did I hear from God today?” Was the message biblical? Can I apply what was taught to my life this week? Was Jesus honored by this service? And to date, I have to answer yes to those questions.

        I am still learning to live each day for God and am not at a point where I can focus on the sin/short comings of others and take my eye off of what God is teaching me.

        • Chris Pence says:

          Certainly, one step at a time. I hope you continue in your growth.

        • job3627 says:

          “…I am still learning to live each day for God and am not at a point where I can focus on the sin/short comings of others and take my eye off of what God is teaching me…”

          But what are you going to do with the Scriptures that clearly teach the qualifications for Elder and discover that JM does not meet them? What will you do with the passages that teach about dealing with sin in the church? (see 1 Cor. 5:11) What will you do with this: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

        • Despeville says:

          “I have to answer yes to those questions.”

          Having a “yes” answer does not mean a thing. You have to ask yourself what is the basis for that answer given that now you know the other side of MacDonald as documented here black on white. Is Jesus honored by mockery, cynical personal games? Is Jesus honored by hypocrisy evidenced in asking poor and struggling for more money while giving himself a whopping $100K raise to keep up with a lifestyle of a master and not of servant? Is Jesus Christ honored in public, church endorsement of a modalist heretic and a scam artists who robbed tens of thousands of poor people TD Jakes? Yes? Seriously?

    • Despeville says:

      “There appears to be much judging of motives (not biblical) on this site and while you can judge someone actions, when it becomes more than that I would think the site moderators would remind Christians of that truth.”

      @ concerned christian

      Motives??? How about you stop playing semantics with yourself and look at MacDonald’s ACTIONS and RESULTS of these actions? Have you noticed here all too frequently mentioned word “WOUNDED”? Mentioned by mothers or fathers who struggled, who trusted through that only to find out they were being had by James MacDonald grid of greed and his puppet board of pretense? So living in TWO MILLION dollars mansion, driving expensive imports while telling people to toughen up, cut their expense and give “sacrificially” while at the same time MacDonald forced for himself a $100,000 raise in his salary? If that is not enough what about MacDonald receiving, supporting and proclaiming as orthodox TD Jakes, a serially documented heretic and prosperity shaman? Do you ever connect the dots? I you would be truly concerned and for the right things you would not be sating what you said.

  25. Rafi S. says:

    This blog begs the question: How is God glorified through it when strife is created among His people? James 3:16 warns us about strife and envy leaving no room to double guess its impact on God’s people. There is nothing wrong in leaving a church if the Lord leads you to, having said that utilizing this freedom to create divisions among the family of God is not glorifying nor edifying to support the great commission (Psa. 75:5-7).

    I have known James for the last 7 years from being on staff (at some point), a member and serving at Harvest. I can assertively say that he is not a perfect person but he is increasingly changing through the Spirit that convicts you and me and is in the business of changing us all and getting us to being like Jesus.

    Harvest is not a perfect church either (Rom. 7:18-19), but why would it be? Luke 19:10 has the answer: Christ came for the lost. The church today in the US is going through some challenging times and our focus should be in reaching out to the lost and focusing on the next generation so we will pass on what we have always taken for granted. I pray that we all channel our energy in this direction and fulfill the great commission we all have been called to as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • job3627 says:

      Are we to ignore the rest of Scripture then, Rafi? What about all the passages that have already been cited on the kind of moral bearing an Elder should have? What about the instructions given in the Book of Jude to defend the faith? vs. 4: “I say this because some godless people have wormed their way in among you, saying that God’s forgiveness allows us to live immoral lives.” James MacDonald’s self-serving drift in the direction of a false “prosperity gospel” should be enough to get any clear-thinking person off the train that JM is driving toward a cliff.

      We are called to remain faithful to the Truth we have been given and to forsake worldliness. Colossians,3:5 calls materialism “idolatry”. Tell me how a very earthy and worldly pastor is going to lead the flock in the direction of greater holiness? Where is he leading the “sub-shepherds” who he tutors? Are they going to become just like him? May it never be.

    • Chris Trees says:

      In 1988 Sen. Gary Hart was the presumptive Democratic candidate for U.S. presidency until photographs exposing his extramarital affair with a young female staffer named Donna Rice on the yacht “Monkey Business” were published.

      Shortly thereafter, while discussing Sen. Hart’s immoral behavior that generated the scandal, someone reportedly remarked to then President, Ronald Reagan, “Boys will be boys”. To which, President Reagan wryly observed; “Boys will be boys, but boys won’t be President”.

      Job3627 is right on the money. While, James may or may not be “changing” in a positive direction; at this time, his behavior and attitudes still disqualify him from the holding the offices of pastor and elder.

      Any divisions in the church that may occur because of discussion of James MacDonald’s conduct, are occurring BECAUSE the leadership at HBC refuses to, or is incapable of biblically and publically addressing the core problems and removing James MacDonald from the pulpit and elder board.

      Of course, if Pastor MacDonald was truly concerned about the welfare of HBC he might willingly step down.

      • job3627 says:

        Yes, Chris–I had hoped that was what was happening when I saw that JM had a blog posting a few weeks back entitled, “My Resignation”. But I was chagrined to see that it was merely a self-indulgent rant about himself. It is very tempting to think that the selection of the title was a shameless mocking of those within Harvest who are calling for his resignation (and I’m quite certain that there must be Harvest people who are). It isn’t a matter of forgiving him. Certainly forgive him and help him to grow in Christ. But for the sake of holiness, remove him from his office–he does not qualify. Removing him would be far more merciful than to allow him to continue, after it has become clear that his character is a stain on the Body. That we are even having this discussion testifies to the cult of personality that the Harvest system encourages and which is diametrically opposed by the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:8–“…I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I have been saying. If you pay attention to the Scriptures, you won’t brag about one of your leaders at the expense of another.” James MacDonald is not the only unworthy shepherd operating in the Body today but he presides over a flock that I THOUGHT were more dedicated to Scripture as the basis for faith and practice.

        Obeying Scripture, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit (see 1 John 2:27) is the ONLY basis for unity in the Body. Now the question that still remains is whether or not the people of Harvest will rise up, in one voice, and demand that the other leaders in Harvest do what they apparently should have done a long time ago.

    • Chris Pence says:

      We can’t criticize imperfect teachers or churches? I guess we’ll criticize the perfect ones.

      James and Harvest must be held to account for their behavior. Just like the Great Commission, exposing misdeeds is also found in Scripture. Engaging in one does not remove focus from the other.

    • Despeville says:

      “…I can assertively say that he is not a perfect person but he is increasingly changing through the Spirit …”


      Yes, he is changing o’right the question is by what spirit? Or are you suggesting here that God the Holy Spirit is the one causing James MacDonald to lie, manipulate, twist, play ruthless personal and PR politics with full blown cynicism and mockery? Did God the Holy Spirit also told him to go ahead and supported MacDonald’s lavish lifestyle while also at the same time told him to come out in front of HBC congregations week after week and month after month with demands for more money, more sacrificial giving while at the same time and over many years told him take more debt on from Commercial Banks?
      Did same God the Holy Spirit told James MacDonald to invite, host, support and proselytize heretic and scam artist TD Jakes? Answer that please if you will and do not play escapism with “challenging times” rather challenge MacDonald yourself and personally about all these things for you will be accounted for that as well given that you know him for seven years…

  26. Member says:

    I was surprised to find out that HBC is not a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

  27. David says:

    What James MacDonald is doing is what many of the mega-church pastor’s that preach the prosperity gospel. He has a multi-level marketing strategy with many cash flow sources such as books, DVD’s , Walk In the Work, conferences, real-estate, Churches Helping Churches, Vertical Church music, Middle Eastern and European tours, etc. Ever notice that MacDonald has a yearly conference/book/DVD tour once a year to hawk his books, T-shirts, tattoos, and the like. MacDonald gets a cut of all of this. Best of all MacDonald uses high pressure sales tactics on his congregation to get addition money beyond the normal tithes in order fund other projects and to line MacDonald’s pockets. He is quite the shrewd businessman. In his case Jesus is only a product to sell.

  28. Bob Gaudio says:

    I attended HBC from 2000 to 2005 and just before I decided to leave, I had a discussion with a brother from my small group. Even back then, James’ behavior was shocking for a man who is the shepherd of his flock and therefore, expected to, among other things, be kind & gentle. I experienced firsthand his rudeness and arrogance on 2 occasions, and when I was talking with my friend from the small group, I mentioned 2 things: 1) James needs to repent of his sinful attitudes, and if he doesn’t, 2) God will somehow remove him from ministry. I truly believe that James’ bout with prostate cancer was a wakeup call that he chose to ignore. Since he STILL has not repented, God has no other choice but to remove James from his pastoral duties, & I believe that is right around the corner.

  29. Member says:

    I am just a lowly member at an non-RM campus and am heartbroken and confused by all this. We love our Campus Pastor. I do not know Pastor James personally. When will this be rectified??? What can we do to bring this issue to a head?

    • job3627 says:

      Demand that James MacDonald step down.

      • Bob Gaudio says:


      • Member says:

        That’s not realistic for one person to do. Most members don’t know anything about this. I have no voice.

        • Despeville says:

          Yes, you do have a voice and enough of it to tell them about it and point them to this site and its documentation. Your voice is enough to end ignorance of many.

      • Gerald says:

        Member is right. Individual members do not have a voice. Unfortunately, it will likely take other well respected Christian leaders to call MacDonald out and/or financial pressure for any change to happen.

        • job3627 says:

          Gerald, whatever happened to “God plus one equals a majority” ? This information needs to be widely disseminated among Harvest attenders. The word is starting to get around. Perhaps people in other faith movements are content to follow a charismatic celebrity pastor whether he meets the Biblical qualifications or not. I may be wrong, but my assessment of most Harvest people is that they believe strongly in the authority of Scripture and would not willingly give that up for any man.

          More and more, the matter is being put before the people of Harvest and they will judge. Many will “vote with their feet” and as they leave there will be many questions from the ones who remain. For my part, if anyone asks why I left, I will tell them honestly that I could no longer support James MacDonald as the head of the Fellowship and that I have no other means of protest than leaving. If they want to know why I cannot support his leadership, I will suggest that they should come to this website. Now, mind you, I don’t intend to force the information on anyone, but I will NOT lie, if asked.

    • Al says:

      Stop giving him money! There are plenty other ministries that are doing honest work for the Kingdom where you can give.

  30. David says:

    What is quite troubling among the many issues that Dan brought up was the fact that the Elder’s approved a $30,000,000 budget after a 30 second pie chart presentation! The Executive Leadership Team developed the budget with no input from the entire Elder board. Dan asked to see the detailed line by line budget but his request was rejected. How can you effectively analyze, review, and discuss a budget when detailed budget is withheld? Dan owns a large business as do other Elders so their input would be invaluable. I can see the truth when Dan says Harvest is NOT run by the Elders but by James MacDonald, Rick Donald, and a few others. The Elders are merely a rubber stamp for MacDonald and have no effective power at HBC.

  31. One of the many James doesn't care about. says:

    BTW, you got to love the overt threat in the response from HBC to Dan’s resignation letter. What a God loving church.

  32. One of the many James doesn't care about. says:

    Members of Harvest: we should all boycott HBC for one month until changes are made public! There are plenty of other churches where the senior pastor will not disrespect the congregational members (who pays the bill) behind their back! Tithe God’s money where it is not going to self righteous narcissistic pastors who use God’s fame for personal gain. Boycott Harvest until changes are made! The weekend that James is back from sabbatical, boycott that dweekend! Pray for change and do your part!

  33. Ex_ HBC_Outer_Circle says:

    Once again, I am shocked by JMac’s display of arrogance, as he refuses to disclose the details of the church budget to his own elders. It is unfortunate that the elders, who are supposed to keep MacDonald in check, allow this financial secrecy to persist. This is the silence that enables King James to remain on his throne. As long as men allow James to bully them into silence, the HBC power structure will not change.

    I am not sure how so many people continue to attend Harvest, knowing that JMac’s rich lifestyle is being financed on the backs of families who can barely pay the bills. As James is fond of saying, your money is really God’s money. Is paying for JMac’s exhorbitant salary really how you want to spend God’s money? I hope the members of Harvest can think critically enough to see through this sham.

  34. Despeville says:

    If anyone thinks that James MacDonald is not at fault with all these things he has been doing over many years and wreckage he leaves behind him then one needs to ask himself what kind of spiritual, emotional, social or financial bondage he or she has to be so blinded to the obvious reality of James MacDonald and his abusive actions. I find it very telling that all who want to turn a blind eye to MacDonald, his puppet board and HBC in general have at least one of these placed on them.

  35. Long Overdue says:

    As a former employee and member it has been hard to see this all continue to unfold. The difficult part isn’t the new news or updates…None of that is surprising for anyone who has ever been on staff or in leadership positions within Harvest. The difficult part is that it’s still going on. That it’s still unresolved. That James cannot and will not be held accountable and forced to repent or resign. The ship is too big to fail. When a massive ministry is built around a personality, that personality becomes bigger than the ministry itself. The interests and decision making get very cloudy at this point and its an unhealthy direction to say the least. I pray that the era of the celebrity pastor will be nearing its end soon. We need less vision casting, strategic church growth and money management seminars and a lot more shepherding of Gods people. It’s rough in the “world” right now and God’s people need more than ever to cling to the truth of the gospel and to be led by humble,courageous, godly men. I am one of those people in need. I believe there are many of us, the wounded, some still within the walls of HBC some outside wondering how this all happened. I think its time for the Bob Arosen’s of this “fight” to look at the bigger picture. To see the hurt and the destruction that is in the wake of this mans shadow and not just naively chime in with their unabashed blind loyalty to the man over the ministry and not the people in it. I have faith to believe that God will not forsake his sheep. James will be broken. Either willingly or forcibly. When he does, I believe that at that point Harvest’s best days will be in front of it and not in the rear view.

    • One of the Wounded says:

      Long Overdue… you echo my wounded heart as a member who has left. I was completely committed to Harvest as my church home but I could no longer worship or bring myself under the spiritual authority of my pastor who refuses to as you said… be held accountable, repent or resign. I am hurt it continues “unchanged” and it seems like the leadership is more interested in protecting the reckless shepherd instead of protecting the wounded sheep who Jesus called to love. Excusing these clear problems is not loving James or the congregation. It has left me very disillusioned in the very people I trusted and respected. Distancing myself has been like cutting off my right arm. I love my church friends and family and miss their fellowship deeply but I could not ignore the behavior any longer of which I have personally experienced and witnessed.

      • Long Overdue says:

        I think you nailed it on the head. It has been like losing a right arm. That’s the thing about all of this, we have nothing to gain. We have only lost. A place we loved to worship that many of us look to as a huge part of our growth as believers. We have lost relationships that were real and impactful in every way. We have lost some hope…not all b/c Christ is our hope, but none the less we have lost hope that we can trust our leaders to make the best decisions for the church. That’s the elephant in the room. Why would those who have lost so much an have so little to gain want to flippantly accuse people we once loved and cared for of grievous sin? If we wanted to “pick our ball up and play elsewhere” we would. It’s bigger than grudges and bigger than revenge. Always has been. Thank God for those of us who are willing to cry out on behalf of the Church and its saints even as we mourn and trudge through our own loss and heartache.

    • Quinn says:

      Well said. Intelligent, honest and on the mark. I go to Harvest and belong to a small group. The thing that stings the most- I don’t want to leave because of the “grass roots” people at Harvest. There are awesome people here. The congregation as a whole either doesn’t know, or the ones that do feel powerless. I would love to see a unified congregation call for change, not accepting a powerless situation.

      • Ex HBC says:

        Many friends I was in small group with and served with have just recently left. I left Harvest first and felt alone looking for a new church home but I couldn’t worship or listen to James preach anymore knowing all that was happening.. I haven’t found a new church I can call home just yet but I will most likely be joining the recent ex-HBC members. And I don’t feel so alone anymore.

  36. Dr. Edwin says:

    As a soon to depart HBC member that James does not care about, I am stopping all tithes and giving. God wants our hearts and I will contribute to World Vision instead.

    • SV Simpson says:

      Look into Gospel for Asia as they are more into Gospel spreading than WV. WV has become to heavy on relief and light on Gospel. This is coming from a long time WV supporter.

      • Bob Peckham London, Canada says:

        To the best of my knowledge, WV never claimed to be a Gospel mission. It is a Christian Relief and Development Agency. WV endeavors to work hand in hand with mission agencies to provide the necessities of life, such as food, clean drinking water, education – in other words – hope. In caring for the whole person we demonstrate the love of Christ and thus open the doors for people to experience and embrace the Gospel message. Remember, Jesus didn’t just preach to the multitude, He fed them, too! Go and do likewise!

        • Despeville says:

          The only door that can be opened is through the proclamation of full and true Gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord of Glory and God the Holy Spirit has the key. Everything else is secondary at best.

  37. Bob Arosen says:

    While I don’t know him personally, everything I know about Dan tells me he is a good and godly man who is acting according how he believes the Lord is leading him and his family. I know Elders who are also good and godly men who have determined that Harvest is the place God wants them to serve and worship. We can have opinions about whether one action or the other right or wrong, but we can agree that it appears that both want what’s best for the Lord and Harvest – even if they disagree on what that might be.

    I would imagine that the last thing that Dan wanted was to have his personal correspondence posted for the world to see, but unfortunately that is the new world order in which we find ourselves. We now have megachurch paparazzi who are scouring anywhere they can to find dirt, with no regard for who they hurt in the process. We also have a Discernment Justice League that fancy themselves as the true offspring of Paul and Luther – they know what is true, and what is best for each one of us. Add to that those who know nothing about James and Harvest (but know for sure that big is bad and that bad stuff is always true) who see the blood in the water and join the Internet feeding frenzy. They have turned a painful and emotional decision for a man and his family into a platform from which they can bash someone they don’t like while opening up a man who just wanted to do what was best for his family to scrutiny he didn’t want, nor does he deserve.

    Twenty years ago we left a church that we loved and served in for many years. The reason we left is irrelevant, but we did not want to hurt the church. We left leadership and the church quietly because we did not want to hurt the church we loved. Over the years I have heard anecdotally many wild reasons that we left, none of them true. We never felt it necessary to explain our actions because we were acting according to what we believe God revealed was best for us. We never felt to need to justify or destroy because we disagreed with a person or a direction. I believe that is what Dan wanted as well, or else he would have posted this himself. I’m glad that back when we left our church the only tools the paparazzi had were land line phones and mimeograph machines.

    When Paul and Barnabus had their disagreement about Mark, it was sharp and bitter. Barnabus wanted to forgive Mark, mean, mean irrational Paul did not. Imagine the field day the internet paparazzi and Discernment Justice League would have had with that. Paul is not qualified, he is mean… Commenters would speculate about possible mental illness or whether or not he was truly saved.

    Pastors and churches come in all shapes and sizes. Everyone needs to be in a church and with a pastor where they are comfortable. It is not my job or your job to determine what that is for someone else. We can caution people, and give them our opinions, but we must respect the decision made before the Lord and move on. I (and everyone else in the world) now knows that James has an expensive house, he makes more money than some think he should, that he has gotten angry at some people or events, that in the course of expanding the ministry Harvest has taken on debt that some feel excessive, and I (and others) still choose to worship at Harvest. I know that this just baffles the Discernment Justice League because they know what is best for me. Yet these same themes are rehashed with different examples with the same results (see definition of insanity).

    As far as we can tell, neither Paul or Barnabus spent the rest of their lives trashing the other making sure that no one followed the other’s teaching. I’m also sure that Paul and Luther never gave a thought to “verify the authenticity of these documents as well as ensure there were no legal, privacy issues with publishing all of this material”. Just a thought, but if you need to check with a lawyer before posting something on a site whose purpose is to glorify God, you probably shouldn’t post it.

    • John says:

      Bob, being heartbroken over a lack of repentance from James and asking/begging him to repent is not “trashing” him–especially someone who has clearly departed from the biblical standard of an elder (1 Tim 3:2-7) and who is being publicly rebuked according to the prescription given to us in 1 Tim 5:19-20. In the case of 1 Tim 5, there are clearly more than 2 or 3 witnesses laying this charge against James and we are commanded in Scripture to rebuke the offending person in the presence of all. I agree there are some who are doing that with conjecture and maliciousness but the fact is, the charge has been agreed to by dozens (if not hundreds) of people at this point. I have spoken personally to several of them. None of them have been angry or seem poisoned or out of fellowship with the Lord. They seem greatly concerned, deeply saddened and hopeful that James will one day repent. Most are of the mindset that he should step down–as am I.

      I personally pray for James and the entire leadership team at Harvest on a regular basis. I left Harvest last year but have nothing but sadness and concern for what is happening. Our jobs–yours and mine–is not to defend sin–our own or another’s. There is a sin problem with an elder at HBC that is clearly causing a lot of damage within the family of God. That elder happens to be James MacDonald who no longer meets the qualification of an elder. God’s Word tells us he needs to repent regardless of what your (or my) opinion is on the matter.

    • Chris Pence says:

      On the blog referenced above, Dan said these letters were never intended for a public forum, but neither did he request removal or claim invasion of privacy. By contrast, he asked that the letters spur others to pray for James and Harvest. By the time they were posted here, the contents were public, disseminated several times over, and had Dan’s blessing.

      If material is legal, and the author wants them to benefit the church, in your opinion it shouldn’t be posted. Got it.

      You’re insistence (repeated over several posts) that this is simply a matter of Group A wanting to be under James’ leadership while Group B abstains is correct in the most general of ways. What you, and other Harvest and James apologists, fail to address is the concrete nature of WHY Group B dissents, comprised of the collective concerns of former elders, staff, and attendees.

      It’s as if you really believe that people with valid concerns, including those who have been intimate with Harvest and had regular dealings with James in various capacities, should not speak out against the wrong they witness. You make this an affront to your own and others’ church selection, but it’s not about you, Bob, or your choice of where to worship, however rightly or wrongly that church may operate. Even if certain individuals made it about such, TED and BSI never have.

      Seriously now, can you at least address, with a modicum of regard for the mounting evidence against James and Harvest, the concerns listed here and the biblical support for doing so rather than label us with sarcastic nicknames and playing the victim?

    • Mary ~ HBC member says:

      Bob, are you comparing james MacDonald to Apostle Paul?! Scripture does not indicate Paul mistreated people or lived better than most if not all of his congregants. I am really perturbed by the Jaguar that James drives in secret and the testimonies of others. If changes are not made soon, we will be another family to leave that pastor James doesn’t care about.

      • Mary ~ HBC member says:

        (Neglected from the previous post) After the conversion, Apostle Paul was not abusive to others.

      • David says:

        “I am really perturbed by the Jaguar that James drives in secret”.
        You are kidding right about the Jaguar?

        • Gary says:

          Last I knew he drove a Land Rover and a Jaguar.

        • Chris says:

          He’s not kidding. James parks his Jag behind the church so no one sees it. License plate “JKMAC”. Go see for yourself.

          By the way I tried to post a long time ago on this site about the Jag but was censored, go figure. It was part of a larger post about how all the other cars behind the church had Marquardt Buick tags around their plates, just as James was hawking Marquardt Buick during his sermons ( ).

        • Despeville says:


          So James MacDonald is a “shepherd” living in 2 million dollar mansion on which he pays more in taxes that an average him paying sheep makes a year and he also drives an expensive car with a price tag few times of what his average him paying sheep paid for their car… So forced a massive raise in his already bloated salary while at the same time week after week has been telling his congregations in person and via screen that they have to toughen up and cough up at the expense of their families and their children…

          All HBC attending, when will you realize that you are being fleeced, abused, lied to and manipulated all in the name of God? When will you realize that by waiting you are actually participating in this mockery of God and His Gospel? You either have to speak up against this cult of personality with Word of Faith practices, its crooked”theology” and its rampant nepotism or you have to leave. Those are precisely the very choices of HBC “elders” and most of them turn a blind eye to these nefarious practices while making pretentious and pious invocations. Will you too? Will you allow this to continue for years and expecting that this is pleasing to God? Will you?

    • GBS says:


      Given that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, could it be that you have missed the point. Enjoyment of God cannot be had outside of the mortification of the flesh… and the mortification of the flesh is what brings glory to God. Could it be that as a leader, Pastor James no longer leads in the ways of repentance (mortification of the flesh) and is seen (by peers) to be serving other God’s at this point in his journey.

      Many have spoken to Pastor James in this regard… many have been ignored at best, catapulted at worst, and still others have practiced the Biblical mandate of separation. The center piece in all of this is not those who you would see as dissenters, nor is it the use of the internet (and all that comes with it) but it is Pastor James. The great majority of those who are speaking do not come from the outside; seeking to have input from far away. They are people who walk(ed) alongside him in ministry, who care for Pastor James and who love the church universal. They see a man ‘falling away’ and understand that, despite James’ insistence, Harvest as a denomination, ought not be the ‘thing’ to be served, or preserved.

      If this is all about God’s glory, Harvest as an entity cannot ‘give’ God any glory as if He is somehow deficient. God’s glory is manifest when His people turn back toward Him… such things will happen in spite of Harvest and as such Harvest (HBC) should never be counted as a means to His ends.

      Finally, I wonder if there isn’t a danger in declaring the blessings of God as “Offerings went up, the number of new believers increased and attendance rose.” My ‘non-seminary’ understanding of 2 Corinthians 9 is that the blessings of God as it relates to giving (cheerfully – with a right attitude) are more along the lines of contentment, assurances of salvation, love, and all I need to show God’s love to others.

      Wouldn’t it be just as biblical to take a set of numbers, which we relate to God’s increase due to His pleasure with us, and rather think of them as a test?

      Luther was pointed in his Heidelberg Disputation…

      19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the »invisible« things of God as though they were clearly »perceptible in those things which have actually happened« (Romans 1:20; 1 Corinthians 1:21-25)

      22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.


      Up until Luther’s disputation the Roman Catholic Church justified themselves by pointing to external, visible signs of success. The fear is that James’ lack of repentance is overtly displaying the kind of (self serving) pragmatism which pervades much of evangelicalism today.

      In thesis #20 (He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.), I think Luther properly recognizes God’s work as a subverting work, overturning our pride, shaming human wisdom, and in opposition to human expectation. This does not describe the leader that is at the center of this maelstrom.

      The suffering of the cross — this is truly that which is visible and manifest about God and it is not something that grabs attention, fills our churches, or increases our Twitter followers. (1 Corinthians 1:30).

      • job3627 says:

        “Up until Luther’s disputation the Roman Catholic Church justified themselves by pointing to external, visible signs of success. The fear is that James’ lack of repentance is overtly displaying the kind of (self serving) pragmatism which pervades much of evangelicalism today.”

        Sadly, I think you are right. It comes from doing “what works” rather than doing “what’s right”. When a pastor is selected for the Harvest system based on whether or not he “brings it” (presumably that means, in quaint Harvest-speak, that he is able to be successful in filling a church) then one has to wonder whether the “end justifies the means” is not displacing the values that have always informed the Church, the true Bride. Eventually, any monstrous act can be justified (and has been, by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church) in the name of protecting the institution (or “mother church” in RCC vernacular).

  38. Single Mother says:

    It is gratifying to see the evolving truths of HBC as I have witnessed the rampant nepotism and lack of respect for the sweat and sacrificial giving of the church members. The rationale for lack of transparency on the financials may be directly correlated to the degree of shame associated with the level of compensation for family members of the MacDonald clan.

  39. RM HBC member says:

    If JMac resigns or pushed out, the church is burdened with a debt of 50 million that it will most likely not be able to pay. It is a vicious cycle JMac has the congregants in. God will judge JMac’s shenanigans in the end and James may be surprised to learn he is the subject of Matthews 7: 21-23.

  40. SLIMJIM says:

    Had to comment one more time: I know there are other men in ministry reading this; as a young Pastor this is sobering and I thought the devotional I read this evening is an appropriate reminder to be sanctified:

  41. SLIMJIM says:

    Talk about an Elephant in the Room! I hope the church would change to have more accountability and transparency…
    I have no bone in this fight, but I’ve been concern for James MacDonald doctrinally in the past concerning his association with TD Jakes and his view of him.
    I suppose if one is not doctrinally sound, it spills over to one’s philosophy of ministry…

  42. T.E.D. says:

    “James rebuked him, “Who cares about twelve or fourteen families whose faces or names I don’t even know leave!… What about the shepherd?!””

    Wow, it still hurts to see/read the above comment (no matter how times I’ve read it) after leaving HBC more than a year ago…calling HBC my home church for more than 5 years. I guess when JMac says “You are loved…your really are” – it only goes so far. It seems these are simply just words to him for his congregation.

    It’s like JMac has multiple personalities. He has his “twitter” personality, “facebook” personality, “blog” personality, pulpit personality, which for the most part does not match up at all to his “real” personality (not that I know his real personality, that’s why i put it in quotes). Does someone else mange all these for him? Because I can’t keep on spewing out Bible verses to other people when I’m not increasingly living it out myself – especially as a shepherd.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am a long time member of HBC Rolling Meadows and a licensed mental health professional. I have noticed the changes in James over the years in how he presents himself at Harvest, in videos, in social media, blogs, etc. You are correct in recognizing all the disconnects. I have no doubt that James has some serious, deeply rooted issues. It would be far kinder and loving to remove him from his position of Elder and give him a season of rest and professional treatment. He is on a destructive path and his defenders are really just enablers.

      • Mary says:

        Well, anonymous, it’s interesting that you have seen all these issues over the years. My question is, why would you submit yourself to someone such as this as your “pastor” ?
        If his mental health is in question as you say , I wonder how you justify remaining in the church.

    • Kay says:

      I always wondered about the “you are loved” remark. His words didn’t match his deeds. As to the multiple personalities, he’s a master manipulator, among the best I’ve come across, although I do believe it’s all unraveling around him. I do wish the men on The Void would speak up. Also, the elder board, in my opinion, are now the bigger problem. While they look out for James, who is looking out for the congregants?

      • Jeff says:

        It is very sad. It is all about money and supporting HBC leader’s luxurious lifestyles. You Are Loved – JMac with one hand one the bible and the other hand on your wallet. I really do pray for the flock.

        • Despeville says:


          That is because when you boil it down MacDonald and HBC is nothing else but Word of Faith movement in light and clever version. Its leader certainly lives and practices that which is also why he had no misgivings whatsoever to pronounce sheep/goat fleecer extraordinaire, a modalist heretic TD Jakes as “brother in faith” opening so many doors for him with those who do not know any better.

  43. D says:

    I have been a Walk in the Word listener for 5+ years and weekly listen to the “Big Harvest” sermon. I only stumbled upon this blog because I was trying to find information/guidance on a growing concern regarding a few (and in my opinion increasing number) of Pastor James’ sermons. It has been my concern that Pastor James infers , uses sarcasm, or makes statements that are too sexual in nature or just too rude.

    I am bothered by the information presented on this blog and combined with my own reservations I will be taking a giant step back from Harvest and it’s ministries.

  44. Tricia says:

    My family has been torn down the middle because of TRUTH. Because the whole truth has not yet come to light many will give the benefit of doubt based on those false metrics of church growth and more giving. In my case, the Lord called me out of Harvest. I didn’t go quietly. My husband disagreed but for me, we left. We don’t talk about it much.
    Can being in tune with the spirit be taught?

  45. Chris Trees says:

    In Dan Marquardt’s resignation letter, he made the following observation: “In a court of law the oath stated is, “I swear to tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and NOTHING but the truth.” The truth can be manipulated while still walking a “legal line” of truth but everything done in Christ’s church should be above accusation and not manipulated to conform to one’s own agenda.”

    In American courts of law and other western court systems, (as the following examples illustrate) the veracity of a witness’ testimony is solemnized and supported by either a mandated oath or statement of “affirmation”. This oath (or affirmation) without any frequent exceptions, includes language that specifies that the “whole” or entire truth will provided by the witness, and no part of the truth is deliberately omitted or concealed. The oath or affirmation is administered, because it is understood that all relevant facts in matters of justice and equity must be examined thoroughly in order to arrive at just decisions under law.

    Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Note: In some cases “so help you God” may be replaced with “under pains and penalties of perjury”. ~U.S. ~

    “Do you solemnly swear that the evidence that you give to the court will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” ~England~

    “The evidence which you shall give to the court and jury sworn between our sovereign lady the Queen and the prisoner/s at the bar shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God.” ~Canada~

    “You swear that, to the best of your knowledge, you have told the pure truth and have not concealed anything”. ~Federal Republic of Germany~

    Testimony in Western courts, while in some instances voluntary, is usually compelled by some form of summons or subpoena (Latin for “under penalty or pain”) because of the recognized necessity of examining the “truth” in its contextual entirety when deciding matters of justice and equity under law. Therefore, for any “justice system” to operate effectively it cannot and must not be the prerogative of any witness to decide unilaterally whether or not to testify, or to selectively provide only such testimony as the witness feels comfortable to provide.

    Particularly, in Western culture, the “oath” hearkens back to biblical principles that underscore the biblical and social responsibility of the individual to tell the truth, especially in the context of matters of justice. Immediately following are two of the most obvious examples:

    1) Exodus 20:16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

    This, verse beyond it’s plain meaning, raises through implication, two obvious questions; first, what makes one’s witness “false” and second, who is a neighbor?

    Regarding “false witness”, obviously telling a material untruth qualifies, but in light of even secular reasoning and practice as evidenced in the oaths appearing above as well as the issuance of subpoenas, so does withholding testimony, or distorting the truth by concealing information to the harm of others through a consequent miscarriage of justice.

    The second implied question regarding the identity of our “neighbor” was clearly answered in Jesus’ parable of the “Good Samaritan, in that anyone who may benefit by our benevolent actions or harmed by the withholding of such is our “neighbor”.

    But Exodus 20:16 also begs a third, less obvious question that is answered in Leviticus; “who is required to testify”?

    2) Leviticus 5:1 (a) “If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity;”

    Based upon a logical (and I believe sound hermeneutical) linking of Exodus 20:16 and Leviticus 5:1 with the Luke 10 exemplar of “neighbor”, it would seem clear then that we functionally “bear false witness against [our] neighbor(s)” by declining to bear full and truthful witness of a matter of which we have direct knowledge, that effects our neighbor(s) in matters of justice and equity when publically called to testify.

    Obviously, Exodus 20:16 and Leviticus 5:1 are “Old Testament” and represent “The Law” which was satisfied by Christ and as such doesn’t directly have bearing on believers in terms of “bearing sin”, but they still clearly express God’s “prescriptive” will regarding the responsibility of witnesses testify with integrity. Accordingly, in light of Scripture”, as believers in Christ, we are clearly called to always testify truthfully and fully when called upon to do so. There is no room for evasion, obfuscation, equivocation or word play, and we should, as the Lord’s half brother James, (The Just) the first Bishop of Jerusalem instructed, “let your yes be yes and your no be no so that you do not fall under condemnation”.

    Dan Marquardt, it would appear, takes these biblical principles seriously enough to risk attacks on his reputation by “testifying” publically about James MacDonald’s private behavior. Inversely, the apparent non-responses of some other HBC (former and current) elders who have repeatedly been implored to speak out on this matter, (with the recent exception of Dr. Ronald Allchin’s supportive Facebook posting in reply to Dan Marquardt’s letter of resignation) suggests the sad possibility that those elders may at least not esteem these principles in the same way as Dan Marquardt.

    So very many former and current HBC member/attenders who have either been harmed directly or indirectly by James MacDonald’s past, current and (potentially future) actions and who are entitled to know the truth, are the “neighbors” in this particular instance against whom “false witness” has arguably been borne, at least in part by an apparent reluctance of the eldership to “testify”. These member/attenders have a legitimate and biblical right to hear testimony about the character of the senior pastor/elder whom they have followed or are currently following. To perpetually deny them information that can permit them to make informed decisions regarding James MacDonald, for lack of any other biblically appropriate word; is sinful.

    Speaking only for myself, I choose not to ascribe any particular motive(s) to these men, but based upon personal knowledge of some of their characters; it is my fervent hope that they have chosen to remain silent out of the best possible motives, according to the dictates of their consciences as informed by Scripture.

    I do however, also believe that it is truly a tragedy for HBC and the Church at large, that so many former and current HBC members/attenders who placed their trust in all these men as their “shepherds” have been and will continue to be harmed by the admitted and alleged misconduct of James MacDonald of which these men should have direct knowledge. Questions about James MacDonald’s conduct and character have already been posed. Now, it would seem is the time for answers to be provided.

    Of late, the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer have been rediscovered and popularized by many in Evangelical circles and beyond. Several Bonhoeffer quotations, seem peculiarly apropos to me in this situation, albeit the last quote is perhaps a little strong;

    “If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the other direction.”

    “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice; we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

    “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.”

    “If I see a madman driving a car into a group of innocent bystanders, then I can’t as a Christian, simply wait for the catastrophe and then comfort the wounded and bury the dead. I must try to wrestle the steering wheel out of the hands of the driver.”

    “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

    Finally, Dan Marquardt also quoted a wise warning that he received from a friend about the danger of keeping some secrets; “A good friend of mine in ministry told me, “The
    enemy has no power in the light, he only has power in the shadows.” I’ve seen this
    warning in a slightly different form; “Remember, Satan only works in the dark, and
    anything that you choose to keep there he will, without exception eventually use against you.”

    Although, some may say that it is well past the time; it is still not too late for former and current HBC elders to speak up. So now publically, as have many others before me, I ask the HBC elders to please come forward and give your honest, and complete testimony regarding James MacDonald’s behavior.

    Brothers, what will be your answers in light of Scripture?

    • Angela S says:

      Thank you Chris Trees for this very bold, righteous, and powerful word of exhortation. “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

  46. Concerned Brother-in-Christ says:

    Wow! That’s all I can say.. I have done business with Dan and have only good testimonies of the practices and integrity. Harvest seems on the brink of implosion unless The Lord steps in…and it won’t be pleasant.

    • T.E.D. says:

      At the 2012 Shepherd’s Conference at Grace Community Church, Phil Johnson and John MacArthur did a Q&A session about 45 minutes into the session. So he decided to do a word-association with Pastor MacArthur. He started to throw some words out and John was to give some quick responses.

      So here is the first word that Phil Johnson gave Pastor MacArthur.

      Phil: Elephant Room

      John: Self-destruction. It was its own destruction.

      Matthew 7:25-27 Build Your House on the Rock

      “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

      Pastor MacArthur (at the time) didn’t realize the level truth in his response, not only to this event, but also to the man, James MacDonald. Harvest Bible Chapel (sadly) is built on James MacDonald. The foundation of HBC is James MacDonald. The implosion has started. The path of self-destruction was a choice, and it was taken. Please pray for everyone involved.

      • Ellen says:

        I would thoroughly agree. My husband and I recently left a Harvest church, not because we did not absolutely love our fellow attendees or our local pastor, who we believe to be a humble servant of God and one of the best gospel presenters and Bible teachers we have ever heard. We basically left for two reasons: 1) James MacDonald. We cannot countenance staying in an organization with such a person in leadership of the entire structure. He DOES NOT display the qualities of anyone who should be in leadership over any church let alone a fellowship of churches. His most recent forays into “theology” are disgraceful. The Elephant Room debacle and The Vertical Church book (which we studied carefully) give evidence of a theologically disordered and un-biblical mindset. But I believe that what you see now, has always been in his heart. It is an old story–we only need to look at the Old Testament record to see men who were seduced by power and wealth into believing that they didn’t any longer need to behave in a God-honoring fashion. As they began to feverishly focus on pleasing men and gathering supporters more loyal to themselves than to God, they betrayed the only One who could save them. I pray that James MacDonald and all in leadership throughout the Harvest churches will seek the true wisdom that comes only from God and not from men.

        2) The second, like the first, can be laid at James MacDonald’s feet and the megachurch “system” he has put in place in the Fellowship. Whatever happened to the humble, local church–“the little brown church in the vale”? The megachurch system falls prey to some of what afflicted the RCC very early on. The seduction of power and wealth is mighty and few resist the pull to support the institution that showers those “blessings” on “faithful, loyal followers”. Two questions that need to be asked at the end of the day is, “Who are you following?” and “Where is he leading?”


  47. Chris Pence says:

    He never said offensive, nor did he react as though offended. He wished to “alleviate any miscommunication” and had “concerns” about the letter’s contents and, thus, could not “accept” the letter. Big difference.

    For someone who feels many of the statements made are not true or color his decisions/behavior in an inaccurate light, he reacted unbelievably mildly.

  48. Sean says:

    This seems clear to me. 3 men of diminishing influence making a power play on 30-something others, getting burned and losing, then getting bitter and trying to cause trouble.

    Even Washington knows better than to take totally seriously the concerns of a jaded backwards person.

    I was at Harvest last week and saw Scott Phelps and Barry S in the service. This parade of bitterness needs to stop

    • Chris Pence says:

      Can you provide proof of their “power play on 30-something others,” of this as an attempt to “cause trouble,” or that it’s a “parade of bitterness?”

      • Sean says:

        well for starters, the other 30-something elders all apparently in a meeting referenced above told the 3 eventual resigners (2 of which remain in the church) that they disagreed with their opinions.

        The ‘parade of bitterness’ is the people trolling another church to attempt to discredit someone for personal gain.

        • Chris Pence says:

          How does disagreement by the elders implicate the 3 in anything you’ve written? How does resigning their eldership but still attending services exclusively indicate trolling or discrediting someone for personal gain?

          The letter by the elders themselves contradicts your claims. Unless, of course, you have some other piece of verifiable evidence?

    • Concerned Brother-in-Christ says:

      The truth is the truth and it has to be subject to the sunshine test. The inner workings of the church are not accountable to the Elders and the fruits of the Spirit are absent from the senior pastor.

    • gtanase says:

      Sean, I feel you should repent before the Lord for falsely slandering the character of these three elders as well as publicly apologizing to them. I feel you have no proof to back up your outlandish statement.

      • GWoods says:

        I believe the majority of the people commenting on this site need to repent before the Lord. This is nothing other than a slanderous, character attacking, half-truth filled sensational little spot on the web for bitter former HBC employees and attenders.

        Certainly there is more behind every story told on these pages. If this is not simply a bashing site, where a counter view point is not welcome? Even if all that is represented here were true (which I’m certain it’s not), do two wrongs make a right?

        Just consider this one fact. Thirty men stood against these three. These three packed up their toys and left. Now, this site is a buzz regarding one of these men leaving. These letters represent Dan’s Marquardt’s opinion of what happened. THIRTY other men didn’t see things the same way. Yet this site aims to bash and misrepresent. Is that what this site is all about?

        • Chris Pence says:

          If consensus was all that mattered, we’d still be Roman Catholics.

          You’re absolutely correct: Counter views are not welcome on these pages. In fact, I’m not replying to one right now!

          Unless, of course, you intend to say that counter views won’t necessarily be concurred with. To which I’ll ask: Are you likewise willing to consider a view counter to what you believe? Despite the tone and direction with which certain visitors have posted comments, what about the facts as laid out on the site? The personal testimonies of a growing body of witnesses to HBC’s and James’ conduct?

          Like Sean up there, what evidence do you have that everyone is bitter? Or that we need to repent? Can you see into the hearts of men and women?

          Furthermore, what evidence do you have that these three men were in the wrong (as inferred from your statement that 30 “stood against” the 3)? Or that this site is “bashing” and “misrepresent(ing)” anything? Do you have evidence to support this?

          Harvest, at several junctures, has had the opportunity to address the concerns outlined on this site, concerns shared by many current attendees (if the more sensible posts in the comments sections are to be believed). That HBC’s done little to take them seriously leaves their “side of the story” malnourished, but that’s hardly the fault of the group demanding answers.

        • HBC member says:

          You indirectly pointed to a serious problem within the strcture of the board of “Elders.” The individual Elders’s desire to be inclusive in a board of 30+ Elders has robbed him of his inner spiritual voice. The collaborating evidence and personal experience of James’ bullying “leadership” or lack of is causing a rift in the very basic fabric of the church of Christ (not James’s church). There is a distinction between technical competence in leading by the flesh and leading by the Spirit. As James is lacking spiritual fruits in personal matters, how can we trust him in the matters of The Lord?

        • Broken says:

          2 spies said “go”, 10 said “no”. Noah was only one (with his family). Majority does not always tell us who is right. I attend HBC RM, I for one only want truth; all I am getting from our leadership is silence. Maybe they felt that was the best way to handle the questions initially, but if they ever want to put an end to this they need to be transparent with us. I do not follow James MacDonald, I follow Jesus.

        • Despeville says:

          “Thirty men stood against these three. These three packed up their toys and left.”


          It would be of help if you would disclose your connection to HBC before you pronouce your verdicts… As far your above rhetoric, if one would to follow it then majority is always right and for example Reformation would never happen. You need to be more rational and more open about your stake here…

    • As and outsider I have seen other large churches implode because people don’t want to admit there is a problem or blow it off to hurt feelings etc without examining what is going on! I pray for the church and you and from the outside it looks like there is evidence for looking into the problem. I was an elder in my church and we were open to God’s words and the concerns of His people.

    • Ben says:

      Sean are we reading the same letters? Look up the word “bitterness”. Bitterness is not shown anywhere in Dan’s language

  49. Terri says:

    Thank you Dan for making this public and not staying silent. You are a man of integrity and respect. It’s disheartening to see how you and others were treated just by standing up for the truth. May God deal with James and the others,

  50. Once upon a time. says:

    After 24 years of knowing JM, I don’t even recognize him. It seems his ministry is to himself! He has become a bully!

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