An Open Letter to HBC Elder Steve Huston on the Subject of “Satanic” Language and “Speaking for God”

Update (17 Sep 2013)Dear Mr. Huston,

For the first time in the eleven-month history of The Elephant’s Debt, we are using this platform to address a specific member of the HBC Elder Board who is not James MacDonald.  Before we go any further, you (and any who support your role in HBC’s (appalling  video) should know that we will not get bogged down in any discussion of Matthew 18.  We will openly admit that we have not brought this to you personally, nor have we brought this to you with two or three additional witnesses.  Instead, we are bringing this to you before the Church because you are an Elder that dared to “speak for God” in front of thousands upon thousands of people.  You are an Elder that dared to publicly attack the reputations of two brothers in Christ.  So our concern with you is a not a matter in which private sin must be addressed in a private fashion.  You took the microphone; and then, with all the power of your church office, with all the power that is invested in your church title, you posted a video on the internet trashing the names and reputations of two God-fearing men.  So today, we address you as two brothers in Christ to another; and we want to challenge you to answer a few questions in a public format.

First, in your video message to Harvest, you argue that “church matters are not to be tried in the court of public opinion.”  You argue that “publicizing viewpoints rejected by the elder majority for any reason is Satanic to the core.”  (3:30 mark)   Whether you authored these words or merely spoke them into a camera, these are your words, Mr. Huston.  So we ask you, was Martin Luther “Satanic to the core” when he nailed the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door?  Was he “Satanic to the core” when the church cast him out and he continued to publish and circulate essays throughout Europe?  Remember, Mr. Huston, according to your Senior Pastor, “when the elders speak collectively, in agreement, the elders speak for God to our church.” (0:29 mark)  So tell us, when the Church at that time “spoke for God,” was Luther “Satanic to the core?”  Or what about John Wycliff?  When all he wanted to do was translate the Bible into English, and the ruling elders of the British Church would not allow him to do so, was he “Satanic to the core” for publicly defying their wishes and publishing a Bible?  Your lack of consistency betrays you, Mr. Huston.  When you and your church claim to be heirs of the Protestant Reformation, you cannot claim to speak finally and authoritatively for God without the humility to recognize that everything you say must be tested by the Scriptures.

Secondly, lest you forget what we are discussing here, you assert that “publicizing viewpoints rejected by the elder majority for any reason is Satanic to the core.”  So we ask you, when your Senior Pastor published a blog post entitled “Congregationalism is from Satan” as a direct response to Winnetka Bible Church’s decision to reject (on two different occasions) coming under the fold of Harvest Bible Fellowship, was your Senior Pastor “Satanic to the core?”  When he lashed out at that church, was he in league with Satan?  You tell us.  Because we would be fascinated to hear how MacDonald’s use of the internet to battle matters out in “the court of public opinion” is so Godly by comparison to the morally reprehensible – nay, Satanic! – decisions made by Mr. Phelps and Mr. Slabaugh.

Finally, we would like for you to answer one last question.  If you agree with James MacDonald when he asserts that “when the elders speak collectively, in agreement, the elders speak for God to our church,” and if you believe James MacDonald when he publicly asserts that the former elders knew about the extreme levels of the debt and that the former elders are responsible for leading the church into debt, are you prepared to say that God Himself was leading the church into colossal levels of debt?  Is this the theology that you wish to stand behind?  Because this is the logic that follows from the two assertions that have been made; and we want to know if you would feel comfortable standing before the body, as an Elder, telling them that God wanted them to live with colossal levels of debt.  Please recall, this is not the first time that James MacDonald has felt the freedom to assert that he can speak for God.  During the 5G Campaign meetings, MacDonald said to his congregation: “I’ll tell you how to figure out what the Lord is leading you to pledge.”  So we ask you, is “speaking for God” now a part of Harvest’s theology?

You should know that very little of what has transpired over the past twenty months has angered us.  We have come to a place where much of the “discussion” that surrounds this crisis in leadership at HBC has little emotional resonance with us.  We knew what we were getting into when we began to write about these issues; and we do not struggle with the harsh things that some people say about us.  But what we do struggle with is a man daring to “speak for God” as he condemns two brothers in Christ as being “Satanic to the core.”  You and your fellow elders owe both of these men a public apology; and anything less than a public apology that is shown to every campus will merely demonstrate to the world a complete and utter lack of character on your part.

Mr. Huston, we have addressed you specifically because you are the individual that spoke the most degrading and ultimately harmful words.  To be clear, we are not asking you to publicly agree with The Elephant’s Debt.  We are not even asking you to allow Phelps and Slabaugh to worship at your local church.  These are matters that you must decide on your own as a group charged with leading your body.  But we are asking you, individually, to publicly repent of the hyperbolic language that you used and we are asking you, as a body of elders, to repent of the dangerous language you affirmed in suggesting that your collective decisions are the equivalent of “speaking for God” in your church.

We submit this to you as your brothers in Christ,

Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney

58 thoughts on “An Open Letter to HBC Elder Steve Huston on the Subject of “Satanic” Language and “Speaking for God”

  1. If anyone’s interested there’s a full transcript of the elder’s update video and ongoing conversation at SSB

    1. Scott/Ryan – Feel free to copy the transcript of the video from my site if you like. The words speak for themselves, don’t they?

      ~Julie Anne


  2. Do the HBC fellowship church plants support the video message? Are all the HBC fellowship Pastor’s in agreement with the video content???

    1. I would imagine that most of the pastors who oversee Fellowship church plants are not at all happy to see the debacle that is occurring in Chicago. They will need to act very soon.

  3. HBC Elders,
    “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.- Matthew 6:1

    From the letter to Mr. Huston
    “… and if you believe James MacDonald when he publicly asserts that the former elders knew about the extreme levels of the debt and that the former elders are responsible for leading the church into debt, are you prepared to say that God Himself was leading the church into colossal levels of debt?”

    For my former HBC church home to consider…
    John 12:40 – He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

    Ephesians 4:13-14 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;

    1 Peter 5:8 – Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walking about, seeking whom he may devour:

    For the authors of TED to consider…
    Galatians 5:10 – I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.

    I believe these Biblical passages to be in context, however I am open to reprove and correction by those who seek only please the Lord and put themselves aside.

  4. For years, James has espoused the idea that when the elders reach consensus, they speak for God. That’s not news to me, so make no mistake about it. Yes, that’s what James believes. Absolutely. He said it to my face back in 2003, followed by “so if you don’t like it, there’s the door.” Like Scott and Barry, I wasn’t about to follow the herd off a cliff even though the herd claimed to speak for God. So I left Harvest and never looked back.

    But this forum (particularly the elder video) brings a sensitive issue to the fore: What does it mean that the HBC elder board makes decisions by “consensus”? What is the consensus process? And what is the Biblical basis for it in the church?

    First of all, it’s important to understand that consensus is NOT a classic unanimous vote. It does not mean that when an issue is first presented to the elders, they all unanimously voted for or against it. Nor is consensus a decision that is reached by each elder voting his conscience, and the majority rules.

    No, consensus is a process of COMPROMISE. It’s group-think, to be exact, also known as Hegel’s dialectic.

    In meetings where there are opposing voices, the consensus process presumes that no individual can be 100% right and no individual can be 100% wrong. No black. No white. It presumes that truth, if it exists at all, does not exist outside of the “collective” mind of the group. Therefore, truth is attained only through the synthesizing of opposing views. Once opposing views have been sufficiently synthesized to a “gray” area in the middle (a compromised position to which all present can subscribe), a higher “truth” is attained.

    The elders basically hash and rehash their differences away until they can all SETTLE on a COMPROMISE to which all will agree, reluctantly or not. Their consensus does not mean that all liked it. It simply means that they all decided on something that they could tolerate. And the original opposing views – the original thesis and antithesis – have been merged into a higher “truth.”

    But the elders don’t call it a higher “truth,” of course. No, they call their collective compromise “God’s will.” They’ve been taught to believe that because they’re a “unified” group, they collectively speak for God Himself.

    Don’t believe me? Did you notice James’ use the word “collectively” in his preface to the video? He said, quote, “When the elders speak collectively, in agreement, they speak for God.” Well, now you know from where this idea comes. It comes from group-think. And now you know how 30+ men can ALL come to FULL agreement on any issue. It’s not because God revealed something supernaturally to them. It’s because they’re pressured to compromise their convictions away, to go along to get along with the others in the group, supposedly to seek the higher truth or greater wisdom of their collective mind known as “God’s will.” (Any comparison of the elder video and a google search for “consensus,” “group think,” and “Hegel’s dialectic” should confirm that my contentions are true.)

    But group-think isn’t Biblical. Compromise is no way to govern God’s people. As a matter of fact, in matters of truth and doctrine, the consensus process of compromise is poison to the church of God. I find no Biblical basis for it, except for the admonishment to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-16: “You are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were either cold or hot. But because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

    Hat’s off to Scott Phelps, Barry Slabaugh, and Dan Marquart for not going along with the group. You may be out-numbered ten times over, but “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to everlasting life, and those who find it are few.”

    1. Wow–interesting analysis. Yours is the second time today that I have read something by a Christian who warns of “Hegelian Dialectic”. Here’s a link to the article:

      Suddenly, it’s like all sorts of “famous Christians” have attended some kind of conference and have become “Stepford Christians”. Is there some kind of spiritual virus spreading rapidly through evangelicalism? If there is, it likely is being carried through Contemplative Spirituality which a lot of big names are embracing these days.

      It would be interesting to know when James MacDonald started to go off track. I’ve never quite trusted his association with Mark Driscoll. Driscoll was part of the Leadership Network and they were majorly into Hegelian Dialectic, as are most of the big shots in the Emerging Church.

      We live in “perilous times.” We need to stay very close to the word of God.

    2. Your comments only reflect a binary condition. That men either are in support of or in opposition to a particular issue at hand. With the implication that “support” or “opposition” have some standard “weight”. But that does not reflect what I’ve experienced.

      Elders can be in the range of mildly to wildly supportive or opposing, and yet others can be none of the above. There have been occasions where I had neither a sense to support or oppose an action. I saw no Biblical prohibition against it, saw no Biblical command to require it, and felt no stirring from the Spirit either way. I felt comfortable with the consensus. Unity not unanimity.

      You contend that a plurality of elders shape a consensus “because they’re pressured to compromise their convictions away”. While that may happen with some elder teams, it is dangerous to claim that it is the only motivation for every elder team. You have a very specific and narrow definition of “consensus” and then proceed to explain why it is wrong. But it isn’t the only definition.

      Proverbs 15:22 reads, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” What is the purpose of having many advisers? To simply offer carbon-copies of a particular thought? Or is it use men of varying experiences and giftings but indwelt with the same Holy Spirit to help shape a plan? Maybe, no single man has the entire plan. This verse seems to imply that no single man has the entire plan. Maybe the multitude of counselors bring different perspectives to the table… that the Spirit weaves it all together so that no single man can take the credit… or the blame.

      1. Well said, Tom. Very well said. Because a church leader screws up a system it does not make the system wrong.

        What is your alternative Watchman? Majority rule? A one man show?

        I attend a church operating under elder rule by consensus and it may not always be perfect but it sure seems Spirit led and a million times better than the voting environment I saw in my previous church.

        1. Not a “one man show.” A majority vote, where each elder is allowed to vote his conscience. And those votes should be published to the congregants of the church for the record. No secret meetings of a “ruling class.”

      2. Nevertheless, Tom–what appears to happen under JMAC’s direction is that one either goes along with what HE wants or is shown the door. Never mind about what God wants. That has been well-documented on this website. That’s one of many problems with using the Hegelian Dialectic in decision-making–it is subject to the domination of certain strong, articulate and loud voices, whether or not the decision that is being prompted is a sound one. In any case, no Christian should subscribe to such a decision-making milieu. WE HAVE THE HOLY SPIRIT and the risen Lord Himself admonishes us over and over to LISTEN to HIM. (See that admonition at the end of every letter to the seven individual churches in Revelation 1-3.)

        That is why it is so very important to have those who are deeply spiritual and extremely well-versed and skillful interpreters of the Bible, as leaders. So-called “fleshly Christians” or immature ones (and it is apparent, from his actions, that James MacDonald is both fleshly and immature) cannot be trusted to make sound, wise, Godly decisions. It is like putting a four-year old behind the wheel of a car—a disaster waiting to happen.

        1. James 4:7, I appreciate your response. If Watchman had limited his comments to what is happening in Harvest Chicago then I would be unable to respond because I do not know firsthand what is or is not happening in those elder meetings.

          But in using a broad brush to paint all elder teams as being manipulated through a two dimensional strawman of a narrow definition of “consensus”, it does harm and a disservice to those faithful men who seek the Lord for direction, humbly submitting to the Lord and each other to arrive at what are hopefully decisions that honor Christ, are in accordance with His will, and bless His people.

        2. There’s no reply button under Tom’s last comment, so I’m replying to it here.

          Let’s not lose sight of the big issue: James and the elder board claim that when they reach consensus, they speak for God —- perfect, immutable, infallible, all-wise God. In so doing, they present THEIR group-think consensus as the commandment of God Himself; and the commandments of God, by definition, are always like God – perfect, immutable, infallible, all-wise, etc.

          When has anyone heard James say something humble like, “The elder board THINKS such and such is what God wants us to do” or “We are doing this, and we HOPE that it is the Lord’s will; but if problems arise we will revisit the issue again.”

          Answer: Never.

          Why? Because when this elder board claims they, as a group, speak for God, whatever they announce, whatever decisions they make, must be perfect, immutable, infallible, and all-wise . . . like God Himself.

          Remember, Lucifer’s sin? In his PRIDE, Lucifer wanted to be “like God.”

          I cannot comment on how elder boards of other churches are run or if their elders seek the Lord’s will with discernment, fear, trembling, and humility. However, any elder board that claims to speak for God Himself is profoundly presumptuous and breath-takingly arrogant.

          For additional information about the consensus process (conflict resolution, the Hegelian Dialectic, group-think, group dynamics, brain-washing, or whatever else you want to call it, THIS IS A TERRIFIC LINK:

          It’s a “must read” for anyone who wants to truly understand what’s wrong with Harvest leadership.

    3. Despeville (6' 1" Brunet with charming smile) September 17, 2013 — 11:26 pm

      Watchman, precisely and Hagelian Dialectic was and still is favorite technic in attaining desired agenda by old and new communists, socialists and all kinds of leftists working to move forward their vision of society according to Antonio Gramsci’s grand plan. Sadly but not surprisingly this manipulation technic found its way into the visible church well over a quarter of century ago with the advent of mega “churches” in America thanks to corporate model for the “church” designed and implanted Peter Drucker and his three pupils of contagion – The Druckerites, one of which is in Chicagoland. HBC is only following the Druckerite model with its own spin on cult of personality with all its dastardly ramifications. So the dialectic manipulation will go on, with mantra of “love” played on the lips, checks will be signed and handed over while catapult parked behind the church is being regularly loaded… Until, until God’s timing and purpose in all of this will be fulfilled and then all of this will be no more.

      1. Despeville … Please know that the humor in your handle did not go unnoticed. When Kevin Hillinger first identified himself in such a way (for the sake of James MacDonald), I smiled. When you picked up the theme and ran with it … I laughed out loud. Well played.

        1. No problem and thanks. I just hope that describing myself that way will not be “sowing to flesh” 🙂

        2. Care to fill the rest of us in on the joke?

      2. google de Speville

        Anticorruption Review and Risk Analysis Consultants

  5. Pastors and elders are given power by the congregation. This is because pastors are not called into office. Elders are not called into office. And congregations are not called to a specific location. There is no scriptural support for a “calling” in general, let alone a call into a vocation or a local body.

    At best, proponents of the “calling” doctrine have only verses divorced from textual, historical, and cultural context. While I’m willing to wager that most pastors do no harm, it is obvious many still inflict a lot of damage by insisting on a God-given authority. This is the prevailing mindset in the Church, be it clergy or laity. And what is the earnest, God-fearing Christian to do but obey God’s “calling” to a church run by an abusive “authority” that God has likewise “called”? A true bind, indeed.

    Church abuse will stop dead in its tracks when believers realize they are free to worship at their discretion and that pastors/elders like James MacDonald, et al., have no calling and, thus, no commanding authority.

    1. The commanding authority every Spirit-filled member of the body of Christ possesses is an authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy. No one, let alone an elder, has commanding authority over any other saint. Any assertion to the contrary, I believe, is a misreading of Scripture.

      Also, Chris, where in the Bible do you find a clergy / laity distinction? I propose there in none.

      1. I agree with your proposal. I find clergy/laity to be a useful shorthand only when addressing those who may think in terms of leadership vs. parishioners (as some who comment on this site do). In a lengthier write-up, I would have footnoted my belief in no such distinction.

        1. Very good, Chris. You’ve saved me from pounding out a lengthy response.

          However, if there’s anyone else out there that would like to challenge my assertions via Scripture, of course, please know, I certainly do appreciate having my irons sharpened, having my theological worldview polished. So I’m open for corrections.

  6. I just ran acosss a Blog by James McDonald entitled “Why We Don’t Air Dirty Laundry”, Here is an excerp:

    “Better to be wronged than reveal by public word or post: unpleasant believer business, church disputes, or relational strife, etc. We are to be known for our love, but in our fallenness we can fall into unloving conduct. Whether you are the cause, or the affected, or possibly both, don’t display on the ‘clothes line’ for all to see, disputes that reveal our depravity. Even if you have been wronged, even if someone has come at you in hurtful ways, bow in silence, commit your way to the Lord and wait for His deliverance. Be as public as you want about your own sin and relational shortcomings, but NEVER about another’s….”

    So…put into perspective, what happened this past weekend? Sure sounded like Dirty Laundry! Just one more tactic by James to ‘do as I say’ and not what I do.

    I’ve had enough! 16 years of it..and it is just getting worse, friends.

    I’ve had enough…

    1. John on the island of Patmos September 17, 2013 — 3:56 pm

      Ouch that one is going to leave a mark.

    2. “Airing dirty laundry” is never easy, but the freshness that comes is worth the hardship. It’s time to let the fresh wind of the Spirit blow!! May the “Church Triumphant” be protected as those who seek to serve themselves are humbled. To all my dear brothers and sisters who attend HBC, as you are drawn deeper into this season of dissonance, may you know the love of our Heavenly Father who knew in advance of this need, in this season and at this time, to have these things made known. May you (those who are seeing the “dirtly laundry” perhaps for the first time, go DEEP into His Word to find truth and a way forward. He is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him alone! God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow! David & Betsy Corning, you are loved! Scott Phelps and the other board members mentioned you are loved! James MacDonald you are ‘His’ and by His stripes we are healed – thank you for teaching the basics of salvation to so many over so many years. It’s time for the freshness of a return to that begin! May you each, may we all, be willing to wash the others feet, and be bold in the ongoing proclaimation of TRUTH. For the sake of the lost, may we be willing to turn toward the Lord in repentant love and action. May the true gospel continue to be shared for the hope of those who need it most…those who are perishing! God will use this day as He has others before it. As you move on, and thank you for “airing the dirty laundry”, may you continue to abide by this simple truth – in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in everything charity! Be encouraged HBC…be encouraged! The hem of His garment is never soiled, and He alone is perfect. May grace abound, may hope return, may truth continue to be shared, may pride be smashed and idols brought down. May the lost be saved, may the saved be sanctified, and may we all become more like Christ everyday until He returns. This is a sad day and a joyful new moment both. The ‘world’ is watching, be like Christ! Cleanse the temple, restore the worship of God alone!!

  7. “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” Matthew 12

    It is dangerously thin ice for one to claim that the actions/heart of another are from Satan, when they may be in fact be from the Spirit of God. Just saying… we are talking eternal consequences.

  8. Set Free From HBC September 17, 2013 — 1:53 pm

    The letter and video were put together with very little thought. It is among the poorest examples of PR and spin control I’ve ever witnessed and something that should never take place in the body of Christ. In addition to its theological flaws (which have already been mentioned at length), I found the following communication flaws (and there are certainly more than these three) in what I observed:

    * No clear message (attack people not the facts). Just vague charges of disunity.

    * Inauthentic method in communicating this (i.e. not genuine) in a highly scripted video with robotic messengers.

    * Playing the “devil” card – always a bad plan. Satan is certainly at work against the church, but to label men who love Christ as Satanic is going way over the line.

    I think Dan Marquardt’s letter stated it well that Harvest is not led by its elders, only by a few JMac cronies and the rest better fall in line or they will be shown the door.

    “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.”

    “Hiding information.” That’s what it has come down to. Any elders or church leaders who speak out and try to disclose the “truth” will be hammered to the ground by James MacDonald and his thugs. JMac is the schoolyard bully that no one likes.

    Thanks for bringing the truth out in this website. As someone who was a member for almost 15 years (and now thankfully gone), the observations and experiences that people have stated here line up with many things I witnessed and observed myself. All of this makes me sad.

    1. Speaking of subordinates and hiding information, I bet that the only people on earth who know James’ salary are subordinates ON STAFF at Harvest — subordinates who are compensated with healthy six-figure incomes APPROVED BY JM.

      If so, it would behoove them to never, ever, question the reasonableness of James’ salary, no matter how outrageous it may be – sort of like “I’ll approve your outrageous salary if you approve my outrageous salary.”

      Yet congregants are expected to blindly trust the discretion of these subordinates?

  9. I have relatives who used to live under a communist regime. The way they described being led and brainwashed under a dictator is similar to what Harvest is becoming. The only difference is that JM can justify his dictatorship with Scripture.

    1. Thing is: JM can NOT justify his dictatorship with Scripture.

      There is absolutely no Biblical warrant for what’s transpiring in the leadership of HBC.

      1. Agree completely, but most people who follow him and think he can do no wrong really believe that to be true. So sad.

        1. Truly sad. And it seems it’s in JM’s interest to have biblically illiterate and undiscerning sheeple to fleece!

      2. Agreed. That is why despots always seek to remove the word of God from the people.

      3. ‘Thing is: JM can NOT justify his dictatorship with Scripture.”

        Surely not and not with his lifestyle either. Someone rightly sad that if the income of a shepherd is a multiple of the income of his average sheep in the congregation then he in fact ceased to be their shepherd and instead became their master.

  10. Gentlemen, I applaud your efforts in exposing this. One look at the video shows a blatant form of abuse of power that we do not see shown scripture. We all have equal access to God – – MacDonald tries to present the idea that he has some special access. Hogwash. This is nonsense.

    1. Indeed, the concept has been tried and is still operating as a hecatomb and is known as Romanism. Every other misguided cult or cult like group is replicating its techniques and parts of its theology too.

    2. Well said, Julie. Indeed, we all have equal access to God, for God is not a respecter of persons.

  11. Russ & Gini Barney September 17, 2013 — 11:59 am

    Perhaps this comment fits in with the previous post regarding Scott Phelps, Barry Slabaugh, and, indirectly, Dan Marquardt – but since the first two gentlemen were the target of this the video’s diabolical tirade, I will post here.

    First, I am another ‘former elder’ of HBC. My wife and I left in 2011. We did not leave under pleasant circumstances, and found that we were ostracized following our departure. Barry was the only one to contact us afterwards, which is the reason I am writing in his support now.

    We all need to be in prayer for the gentlemen who have resigned because their consciences would not allow them to remain on a puppet elder board. Please be praying for their families as well, as they will also be targets of this uncalled for retribution.

    Scott, Barry, and Dan are men of integrity, as are the others mentioned in “the Void.” Can anyone who has known those who have left honestly doubt that there is a major problem at Harvest? It is heartbreaking for those of us who have invested time, prayer, love, and money to help Harvest grow to see the vindictiveness presented in the video. (

    My wife and I both applaud Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney in their attempts to bring the truth forward, and to strongly defend the above elders. We pray that the members of the congregation will not turn away from the Lord as this ugly mess continues to unravel.

    Russ (and Gini) Barney

    * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    Editor’s Note: A full post pertaining to Russ and Gini Barney’s comment can be found here.

  12. You guys have seen this one right? I can’t find it on your site

  13. The book “Take Back Your Life: Recovering from Cults and Abusive Relationships” was researched and written by Janja Lalich and Madeleine Tobias (Berkeley: Bay Tree Publishing, 2006). In this book, they published a well known checklist of characteristics associated with cults, originally authored by the well respected psychologist Michael Langone.

    Please take time to read this basic “checklist” of cult-like behavior, and resonate on its potential applicability to this situation.

    (1) The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.

    (2) Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

    (3) Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

    (4) The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

    (5) The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

    (6) The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

    (7) The leader is not accountable to any authorities (unlike, for example, teachers, military commanders or ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream religious denominations).

    (8) The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

    (9) The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

    (10) Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

    (11) The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

    (12) The group is preoccupied with making money.

    (13) Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

    (14) Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

    (15) The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

    By my count, 11 of the 15 may be of concern.

  14. Mr.Huston, Mr.Williams,

    I would like you and the other two elders who also spoke and abused and twisted the Word of God, abused those two Christ Blood REDEEMED Brothers and most importantly BLASPHEMED and MOCKED God the Holy Spirit residing in those two Brothers by calling Him in them as “SATANIC” in your sorry video of deception, confusion, lies and manipulation to do something…

    I would like you and readers of this to compare your words with the words of Jehovah Witness organization addressing their members. JWs warning although dated in this quote is just as fresh and active as your sorry video I think there is not much to juxtapose here on the substance and meaning level. Essentially both messages are the same in the content and ramifications:

    “… publicizing view points rejected by the elder majority for ANY REASON is SATANIC TO THE CORE and must be dealt with directly. Those who have no standing in local church but continue to assault it from outside with factious messages must be rejected according to the Word of God…”
    ~ Elder Steve Huston @3:27 to @3:44 LINK:

    “…voice of the enemy…”
    ~ Elder Randy Williams @ 5:46 LINK:

    “Have No Dealings With Apostates, … For example, what will you do if you receive a letter or some literature, open it, and see right away that it is from an apostate? Will curiosity cause you to read it, just to see what he has to say? You may even reason: `It won’t affect me; I’m too strong in the truth. And besides, if we have the truth, we have nothing to fear. The truth will stand the test.’ In thinking this way, some have fed their minds upon apostate reasoning and have fallen prey to serious questioning and doubt.”

    ~ Watchtower, March 15, 1986, p12

    PS. Readers, Huston’s misguided and clueless pronouncement is directed to ALL Believers not just two ex communicated ex elders of HBC. Essentially, any Christ Redeemed Believer, sealed by God the Holy Spirit is now SATANIC is he or she raises HBC shenanigans in a conversation with other Believers, regardless if in a personal meeting, phone call, Skype call, email, twitter, Face Book, email, blog or any other public from of information. ICHABOD.

  15. Ryan and Scott,

    What I see with HBC is a Christian community becoming something other than a true Church of God; presently they’re effectively operating as a cult.

    In the latest “Elder Update” video I see four savvy wolves willing to call Satanic anyone who dares call their alpha wolf to account.

    Now, if James MacDonald doesn’t have to answer questions from even his own elders, what makes you think you demons are worthy of an answer from Wolf Huston?


  16. John on the island of Patmos September 17, 2013 — 11:16 am

    I think the man’s character is what brought our Church to the all time new low level that it has now reached. Certainly the congregation, the worship team, security detail, ushers, greeters, parking lot attendants, janitors, administration, etc. are not responsible. He is the the head pastor of the Church and based on what has unfolded here over the years there is a growing pattern here….a very disturbing pattern of reckless pastoral behavior and most recently exhibited via Sunday’s antics – continued character assassination that is now in plain view for all to see and read about – unfortunately has obviously permeated throughout the highest level’s of Church leadership. It is no longer hearsay, but historical fact forever archived in the abyss of the internet both in print and video.

    While none of us can see the Church leadership’s hearts, we can see and judge their actions, can’t we? I see that as discernment. Matthew 12:33-35 (New International Version)
    33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. Nothing good came out of that despicable video..they publicly humiliated those men (and some will extend that humiliation to their families). We are told to stay away from them? They are called Satanic because they call into question finances? They speak for God? Yikes….

    Hebrews 5:14 (New International Version) 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Where was the “solid food” in that character assassination video???

    We are supposed to avoid angry people because those sins may rub off on us (Proverbs 22:24). As of late, pastor James and Elders are a bit “angry” … remember Easter service? Do you recall any message about salvation? All I recall was, “HEY, I AM GOING TO PREACH ABOUT MONEY AND FINANCE AND WATCH ME DO IT EVEN THOUGH I WAS ADVISED AGAINST IT (paraphrased but pretty close I bet)!” Or, remember the elderly lady story he told us all about how she mentioned the music was too loud and asked him would you play older hymns from time to time and he responded with, “GET EAR PLUGS AND NO, THE LORD SAYS SING A NEW SONG!!!!” What is with that? Type A personality or something else going on here??

    We must be able to discern both good and evil in the actions of men and ourselves in order to grow in wisdom and avoid falling into sin problems ourselves. So, based on what I have personally observed going on here and have read about, Holy Spirit has provided me with discernment…thank you Lord!

    Lastly, In speaking with some long term folks that have been attending HBC for many many years, last Sunday was the final straw. That is/was a painful decision because they love their brothers and sisters in Christ and they are walking away..they have had it…and that decision is because of James’ character which now reeks through and through the Elders. You CAN measure (not judge) a man’s character by the company he keeps. Shameful, revolting and makes me want to vomit.

    1. “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…’ ” (Matthew 20:25-26)

      Our Lord has given instructions on the way to lead as He led. He was the Suffering Servant to all who believed. He humbled Himself and offered His own body as the great sacrifice necessary to redeem and cleanse our sin-darkened souls. The kingdom of God is like an inverted pyramid, if you will, where the weight and breadth of the souls of many millions bears down on the single point in space and time called Calvary. The kingdom of men is a pyramid in which the bodies and souls of men support a small hierarchy who rule over them. The slavery of the children of God in Egypt is a lesson on how the kingdom of men destroys.

      The struggle for human freedom and dignity has always rested on obedience to the word of God. The Living Word gave His Blood to purchase all for us, and we are living in the anticipation of its soon arrival. But dark times surround us and we must pick our paths very carefully in the darkness. An historical perspective may be useful in seeing into the murky future. Let us look at the current struggle in light of the lessons that the past affords. The “megchurch” is, of course, nothing new. The Roman “church” has been at it for many centuries now. It is a point of amusement that James MacDonald chose the phrase “the first among equals” for himself. The Pope is described in precisely the same language by the Roman “church”.

      As churches grow in wealth and power, the temptation to spiritual arrogance is very strong. The Roman “church” became a monstrosity because their “priests” aspired to become princes and presumed to speak for God. They lived like kings and behaved like them. For one thousand years, they absolutely ruled over the souls of men and eventually their bodies, during the Inquisition. Satan must surely have been delighted by those circumstances. And then the Lord caused His Word to once again emerge from the dust of the centuries. It inspired churchmen like Luther and Tyndale to bring the word to the people, in the hope that they would be enabled to throw off the yoke of slavery that had been placed on God’s people.

      Unfortunately, many big-name pastors have taken on the leadership style of the “Gentiles” rather than Our Lord, and it has infected the many megachurch structures–like yeast through the whole batch of dough. We are fortunate that we don’t yet have the government-mandated one-world church “unity” that will mark the End of Days. But does anyone doubt that it is coming? Religious tyranny always accompanies the tyranny of the state. Even Communism was a religion of sorts. Many millions of Bible-believing Christians perished under Communism’s competing claims. Despots always hate the word of God because it shows them for who they are and inspires men to rise up against them.

      A real point of concern over the actions and words of HBC leadership is that they are much more reflective of religious tyranny than the truth of the word of God that sets humans free. But God always places choices before us. For those who are still part of Harvest, I would advise you to choose wisely. Are the leaders you have chosen, Gentile “lords,” living like kings and making “merchandise” of God’s people? Or are they humble servants like Our Lord? Are they willing to give their lives for the sake of righteousness or do they make excuses for their lack of it? There is a darkness that is threatening to swallow even those who count themselves the “sons of the Reformation” and it is coming soon.

      The New Testament sets a VERY high standard for those who would lead God’s people. Please don’t settle for less.

      1. I think your inverted pyramid analogy is brilliant, as well as its use to contrast between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of men. I’m going to share it with my family.

        That said, I contest that it is the “leadership style of the Gentiles” that has given rise to the megachurch – that megachurches aren’t infected with it; they’re built upon it.

        1. Agreed, Watchman–but we have friends who were used and abused by a megalomaniac pastor (with megachurch aspirations) in a small church of about 200 people. Our friends had been in that church for over 50 years (the wife had been in the church since childhood). They met and married there and raised their children there. The husband, a deeply spiritual man, had served on the Board of Elders, for many years. When the new young pastor arrived and started putting “church growth” formulas in place, our friend found himself at odds with the pastor on many points, theological as well as practical. Finally, after suffering much abuse, they left. They have never joined another church. They attend a small house church. It isn’t the size of the congregation but the Satan-inspired will to power (some dress it up with the words “desire for influence”) that is the problem. The Book of Revelation tells us that the kingdom of Antichrist will enslave the “bodies and souls” of men (Rev 18:13) and that has always been Satan’s desire–to enslave mankind. And that is what our ancestors have repeatedly chosen since the fall of mankind. But our God, in His infinite wisdom has chosen freedom for man. Ultimately, His will will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. We have His promise. Amen?

        2. Yes, James 4:7, we have his promise. Amen!

          Hey, have you ever read Mac Dominick from Cutting Edge Ministries @
          His books Outcome-Based Religion and Rebuilding the Tower of Babel were eye-openers for me; and the first can still be purchased on amazon:

          He even posts the preface and some of the chapters online for FREE (imagine that) at:
          If anyone’s interested, you can just click on a blue chapter heading and read.

  17. Is the link to the video in question posted somewhere online?

    1. it is the second paragraph

  18. Whether Harvest is wrong or TED is wrong I do know that the Lord is never wrong, and in Him I put my trust. We all suck without Jesus, which is proven every day by the church and this site. The Lord’s will WILL be done. Guaranteed.
    Numbers 32:23 says “But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out”. The church, TED or both. Come soon Lord, because I’m really tired of this.

    1. This is a well thought out post…it recognizes that we are not God. This has become way too political appearing, with the regulars folks asking, “what is really true?” I actual have never minded this site, but what I have minded is the anger, harshness, critical spirit and “lynch mob” mentality of SOME of the posts. Do you aggressive posters realize that you’re in essence NOT calling for repentance, but rather James and the elder’s heads on chopping blocks…that ironically yours and mine deserve to be on too?
      This is from a Matthew Henry commentary on James….For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God, James 1:20. It is as if the apostle had said, “Whereas men often pretend zeal for God and his glory, in their heat and passion, let them know that God needs not the passions of any man; his cause is better served by mildness and meekness than by wrath and fury.” Solomon says, The words of the wise are heard in quiet, more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. In my opinion, it’s better to focus on your own unworthiness before God, than focus on everyone else’s…and let God be God.

      1. “and let God be God.”


        This above is not only misapplied here but also so idiosyncratic of men centered culture and not of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. God will be God regardless if anyone will allow Him for something or not. He does not need nor expects permission for anything. He does what pleases Him and His good will. God is God for he cannot be anyone else. God is God whether you or I or anyone else is passionate or indifferent. Our own unworthiness is not a substitute for the subject of someone being unfit for the position of shepherd in the church for if continued as such his unfitness only amplifies the unworthiness of those under his influence. As far as focus, have you forgot about this admonition?

        “Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to CONTEND EARNESTLY for the FAITH that was once for all entrusted to the saints”

        ~ Jude 1:3

      2. Quinn,

        Our Lord Himself was capable of righteous anger–He was zealous for the purity of God’s Temple. As Christ’s Body, we believers have been given the watch over the purity of the Church but it is with regret that we must act to remove someone who is not leading the sheep in a righteous way. For most of us, our purpose is one of convincing those who have the power to remove unworthy leaders, to do so–not out of anger or vindictiveness but with the firm conviction that it is the right thing to do to protect the Bride from shame and ridicule.

        While I am mostly sad over the spectacle that this has become, still, when innocent men are maligned, it is right that we have righteous anger (that is the ONLY righteous anger that we sinful humans are capable of experiencing–anger for the sake of an innocent who is being harmed). Jesus gave us the task of “judging rightly” and that is where discernment is called for. The best path of discernment rests solely on the word of God and not on the thoughts of humans as humans are very easily deceived. It is a false humility that refuses to judge the words and actions of another Christian when we are explicitly told to do so. (See 1 Cor. 5:11-15 for one example.) God holds us to a high standard but He holds our pastors, elders and teachers to an even higher standard. However unpleasant it is to speak out, if we fail to speak and instead tolerate wickedness in our leaders, we fall prey to the decline of morality that afflicted the children of Israel. But we have the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and we must listen for His voice in this matter. He never denies the word that He inspired, and John records in the New Testament that the Lord Himself rebukes sin in the churches called by His Name. While it is true that the “gates of Hell will not prevail” against the true Church, there are many trapped in wealthy Laodicean churches who must be rescued. Indifference toward the integrity of our leaders is one aspect of the Laodicean church and the Lord Himself tells us, “Be dilligent and turn from your indifference.” The Bridegroom is coming and the Bride must make herself ready.

  19. It should be noted that The Elephant’s Debt did send a text message to Mr. Huston informing him that we had posted this article on the website. The text read as follows:

    “Steve … Earlier today, The Elephant’s Debt posted an open letter addressed to you on the website. We are letting you know as a courtesy.”

  20. The argument in this week’s video was indeed repulsive. I think the worst thing about this [crisis, disagreement, exposure, attack – depends on your viewpoint] is the way it has been handled. By the Elders.

    I don’t really have a problem with James’ character, although he IS type A to point of being abusive at times. And T.D. Jakes isn’t a problem here too – Hybels had his James Meeks, and I stopped by Willow one Sunday to hear Meek’s bellyaching about never getting his “40 acres and a mule.” I believe Jame’s has aped Willow’s marketing approach with about a 10 year lag in many cases. Hybels found a friend from the other side of the most segregated hour of the week” – James then did too. [and BTW why can’t I be left to worship in a culturally familiar way, and why can’t others as well if they choose.]

    My problem is with the borrowing itself. In one of the meetings this week, an answer came that we were told about prospective borrowing in the Seize meetings. I didn’t hear it. I was shocked to find out. Moreover, borrowing to rescue us from a lousy general contractor wanna-be is different than this. Finally, we were told in the last few years [by James] that the Elgin buildout was “taken care of” which I took to mean it was paid off.

    Now, I am told by an Elder this past Sunday that “quite honestly we had these meetings so we wouldn’t have to discuss this on Sunday” when a few moments later I was treated to a video precisely about these issues by some folks I for one have never seen in 13 years at Harvest.

    So I see the biggest problem as we’ve gone 100% corporation-style now, and are treating these issues like the J&J Tylenol scare. The thought police have taken over and the church’es message is ruined. It IS handy that there is a powerful gospel to sell to new attenders, but still a shame that the revolving door is promoted by the leadership.

    Finally, I don’t want to know about James’ character – the card-playing was worrisome but he corrected that. But this squelching of dissent is beyond the pale. Next time let’s do an answers session instead of a questions session.

    1. James Meeks came to Harvest too, a long time ago. If I remember correctly it was just a friendly worship team “swap”, but he was there.

    2. “Hybels found a friend from the other side of the most segregated hour of the week” – James then did too. ”

      @William Palmer,

      You are missing one massive elephant of a difference here. TD Jakes is a Trinity denying modalist heretic and a purveyor of false, vampiric, pseudo “gospel” of prosperity through which he personally robbed, abused and deceived hundreds of thousands of people. Yet this man was welcomed by James MacDonald and his clueless friend from west coast and pronounced as “orthodox” allowing him and his money sucking schemes and more importantly eschewing of clear view of the Trinity to be accepted and replicated in the broader confused American Evangelicalism. It is already happening two years out from Elephant II “conference” and James MacDonald is PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE for this virus spreading.

    3. Hi Bill,
      Let’s talk character. Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven… not on earth… moth & rust.. thieves…Scripture does not specifically say how much the paycheck should be, and we are not to muzzle the ox, be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching…the laborer deserves his wages.. so, how much is enough? When is it too much? How much is too much?

      Consider Romans 14 while attempting to answer. Does supporting a >6,100 square feet home on 2 acres of lakefront in Inverness @ a purchase price of $1.9M and $30K in real estate taxes/yr. constitute a deserving wage? I am not talking about fruit, the home, but the root (heart) that desires such a palatial abode. God judges the heart, but we are called to judge (I. Cor 5:11-13) the fruit (behavior) so we must look at it. I Thes. 5:21 calls us to test, approve: allow, discern, examine, prove, try.

      Point being we inside the church examine behavior against Scripture to exhort, reprove, rebuke, teach, convince, and correct. I have to wonder what allows a pastor to believe that drawing the amount of compensation necessary to prove to a lender that the payments can be paid back faithfully is God glorifying behavior and pleases the LORD. I believe it does not. I believe it says more about self than it says about our Great King Jesus. We are ambassadors of Christ. Teachers receive a stricter judgement – James 3:1 says. Any way you slice it, it comes up nuts.

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