Many people at Harvest Bible Chapel are aware that there is a house, roughly 2500 – 3000 sq. ft., located on the church’s camp property in Newaygo, Michigan, also known as The Big House, but what most don’t know is that the house underwent costly renovations in 2012. Moreover, what some people are beginning to realize is that HBC may have attempted a subterfuge by adding an explanation to the questions raised by TED readers. We are publishing this post with two subsections for easier reading, and they are: New Web Pages and Paying for Expensive Renovations.
New Web Pages
Photographs of The Big House renovation, taken from the interior designer’s Facebook page, can be seen by following this link to our Documents page and scrolling down. The story about the expensive renovation and the photos first came to our attention when a comment appeared on August 14, 2013, at this site. It quickly raised obvious questions for our readers which they published through numerous comments. The questions were: How much did this renovation cost? Who authorized this expenditure? Who paid for it? If 5G funds were used then why was the congregation not told about it?
On August 16, 2013, Harvest Bible Chapel posted an addition to their web site, adding a tab titled Pastor’s Retreat Area. The leaders of HBC are clearly reading TED and the comments because the new web page was a point by point response to the many questions raised by our readers. But events would taken an even stranger twist.
On the evening of August 16, 2013, a comment left by “John” asked commenters why they were so bothered with questions about the Big House renovation. He suggested that their bewilderment was not warranted because HBC had a web page answering these questions. But what was troubling about his comment was the fact that he claimed that he had seen this web page “quite a while ago.” Clearly, “John” was lying and attempting to argue that the questions TED readers were asking silly and out of touch with the transparent communication HBC has with its congregants.
Our readers quickly investigated “John’s” claim, and provided technical evidence to show that the HBC web page was in fact new and it had not been created “quite a while ago,” as “John” claimed. This in turn raises an entirely new series of questions: Who is “John?” Is he part of the HBC leadership? Is he someone that HBC leadership used to get out their newly minted web page?
Hopefully, the elders at HBC will be concerned enough to investigate these questions by finding out which staff members created this page, who ordered them to create the page, and ask each party involved with the creation of this page if they or someone they know lied about its creation at this site.
Finally, why, after 10 months of this site’s existence and HBC promises to its congregation to become more transparent, are stories like this brought to the congregations attention through TED as opposed to HBC?
Why do congregants learn about elder resignations here and not from their own church?
Why do congregants learn about elaborate home remodels here and not from their own church?
Why do elders learn about their senior pastor’s salary here and not from their own senior pastor?
Paying for Expensive Renovations
According to HBC’s newly created web page, the Big House was donated to the MacDonald family for them to use as a retreat. It effectively functions as MacDonald’s personal property even while HBC holds the deed. As evidence for this assertion, we cite the fact that MacDonald family effects such as family photographs adorn the space, accordingly to individuals that have stayed at the residence. Also, this picture, provided by HBC, confirms that the property was donated for the MacDonald family to use, and these photos of the guest book show that the guests personally thank the MacDonalds for use of the property. To be clear, there is nothing questionable about accepting such a generous donation; and their decision to allow others to use the property when they are not up there certainly shows generosity on their part. But, the issue regarding functional ownership begs the question as to whom we should hold responsible for the choice to spend at least tens of thousands of dollars to extravagantly update this vacation home? Furthermore, it also begs the question as to whether the elders knew what was going to be renovated and how much it would cost. This is yet one more data point in a picture of a senior pastor that sees fit to live a privileged life through the use of donations.
Also, HBC states that the property was in need of repairs, including a leaky roof and a faulty heating/ventilation system. No doubt that all homes need basic maintenance of this kind, and no reasonable mind would object to 5G funds being used to keep this property in proper working order. However, as you can see from the photos that far more than basic upkeep and maintenance was performed.
As to the questions of who paid for this renovation, HBC states,
In January 2012 the Elders approved a needed renovation of the main retreat house (the guest house was renovated in 2003 as part of the “Seize the Opportunity” campaign in 2003).
The Lord provided Andy and Maida Korte (Harvest members since 1996 and owners of the award-winning Designs by Maida), who donated their time and renovated this “House in the Woods.” Needed repairs were funded through 5G campaign contributions and improvements to furnishing and decor were funded outside the 5G campaign by a generous and anonymous donor.
First, it must be pointed out that the question as to how much was spent and donated to update this vacation home so exquisitely was not addressed.
Second, HBC is clearly attempting to assuage their congregation, especially the 5G donors, that their money has only gone to the necessary, routine upkeep of this property, and that the more extravagant updates were paid for by a private donor. But are such distinctions really that meaningful?
If MacDonald has the ability to pick up the phone and successfully solicit this anonymous donor for at least tens of thousands of dollars for something as superfluous as opulent interior decorating on his vacation home, then could he have not solicited that same amount of money, or even more, from this donor for more worthwhile Kingdom pursuits? In other words, money used for such creaturely comforts could have been directed into the 5G campaign to make up lost ground on last year’s debt repayment schedule, church planting, Harvest Christian Academy, or any number of other necessary projects that HBC is taking on, even as giving to the 5G is slowing down.