MacDonald is Out

Screen Shot 2017-06-16 at 5.51.50 PM copyTwo days ago, on the 14th of June 2017, a letter purportedly written by James MacDonald was sent to the approximately 150 senior pastors that comprise the Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF).  In that letter, James announced two significant events.  First, the local Harvest Bible Chapel of which he is the Senior Pastor would be pulling out of the Harvest Bible Fellowship.  Secondly, he, himself, would be “resigning” his role as the President of HBF.  Control of the HBF church-planting organization would be given to Interim Executive Director, Brian White and his “governance leaders,” including: Ron Zappia, Bill Borinstein, and Robbie Symons.  Sources indicate that in the immediate aftermath of James’ “resignation,” most (possibly all) of the HBF staff were subsequently terminated.

As surprising as this may be to some readers, the language used in the letter distributed to the former HBF churches suggests that this may not be a voluntary “resignation.”  In the third paragraph on the letter, James offers an awkward, rambling reminiscience of his relationship with Ron Zappia, the first and highly successful HBF church planter.  What is revealing about this non sequitur is that he begins by informing the reader of how difficult Ron Zappia became to manage as his time to plant drew near.  He also notes how difficult it was to release Ron from the “nest.”

Observation/Question: Why, amidst a purported resignation letter, is James MacDonald preoccupied with regurgitating his somewhat problematic history of Ron Zappia?

It bears noting, at this point in the discussion, that after more than a decade of identifying his church as Harvest Bible Chapel – Naperville, Mr. Zappia (and presumably his elders) recently made the decision to inexplicably re-brand their church as “Highpoint Church.”

Observation/Question:  What would compel a man to feel the need to rename his church if all was well?  Could it be that, as early as this past Easter, Mr. Zappia was beginning to lay the foundation of his break with Harvest?

One could, at this point, reasonably suggest that perhaps we are reading too much into the Zappia material.  But, various statements made throughout the rest of the letter strongly suggest that this was less than a voluntary separation.

“If desired, our church would be willing to consider membership in a reorganized entity, but that possibility might be best considered by us, after an extended time of healing.”

Observation/Question:  If this was a voluntary separation, why would the flagship of the Harvest Bible Chapel Fellowship ever not be “desired?”

Observation/Question:  Likewise, why would there ever be a need for “an extended time of healing?”

“Some of you will be looking for an inside scoop.  You will not get that from me.”

Observation/Question:  So is James implying that there is an “inside scoop?”

“I have been under the weight of intolerable oppression in seeking to gain support for the needed reorganization.”

Observation/Question: Who has the power to “intolerably oppress” the President of  this long standing organization?  What sole individual, in a college of 150 men, could possibly wield such power? 

“As I have often taught you, ‘To make you feel better about our decision, I would need to make you feel worse about others involved, and I am not willing to do that.'”

Observation/Question:  This unequivocally reveals that James has, in his own mind, an “inside scoop” on multiple people who he believes have acted “intolerably.”  Does this not reasonably suggest that there was a sufficient numbers within the fellowship that wanted James to leave?  Sufficient numbers perhaps spearheaded by Mr. Ronald Zappia?

“My prayer is that by releasing you to be led by capable men in your church planting movement, I can in time be welcomed back.”

Observation/Question: The use of the words “welcomed back” in a future context, obviously suggests that James is not welcome at present.  Hence, any attempt to spin this as a fully voluntary resignation only serves to obfuscate the matter.


                                                            * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Summary Argument

If we are to take James MacDonald, Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, at his word, we must believe two mutually exclusive realities to be true.  First, a sufficient number of leaders at HBF “intolerably oppressed” James MacDonald to the point where he grew “weary of doing good,” sought counseling, and voluntarily resigned from a multi-million dollar organization that he founded.  Two, we must believe, at the same time, that these men are “good men,” worthy of “your full financial, prayer and personal support.”  This is, to put it bluntly, an illogical, incoherent narrative.

So, given this, isn’t it far more likely that the “intolerably oppressive” (yet oddly “good”) men of HBF gave James MacDonald the chance to save face and “resign” from the organization he founded? 






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35 Responses to MacDonald is Out

  1. Lisa says:

    For those of you still “drinking the Kool aid” you are either not tithing or have yet to be on the receiving end of the evil your Sr. Pastor spews out. Harvest is a cult. You have somehow moved from worshiping God to worshiping your Pastor. There are no false accusations on this site. I know that because I’ve watched your Pastor waste a year of sermon time defending himself, claiming his innocence, then eventually confessing his behavior. If only every member would take a sabbatical from Harvest, you would then realize the unhealthy environment you are in. I have experienced this firsthand and I am so much better for it. My only complaint is the embarrassment I have from being associated to harvest for 10 years. I am thankful for this site and wish there was one for every aspect of my life….my employer, my neighborhood, my bank. It’s called accountability. Doesn’t harvest claim to be all about that?

  2. CA7 says:

    James MacDonald.

    Domineering, scheming, quarrelsome, avaricious, defiant…and clearly incorrigible.

    In my opinion, several decades of demonstrated, unacceptable behavior is more than sufficient to call him a false teacher. Why any sincere Christian would tolerate or have any confidence in this man is a mystery.

    (7 years at HBC Rolling Meadows)

  3. Holly says:

    Thank you for the update and I will pray that the attacks on you subside. It is never easy when you expose darkness. I had no idea that all of this was still going on. I will pray that Harvest can “right itself”. God is in control and His timing is perfect. I need to constantly remember this and know that God will not let this bad behavior continue forever……

  4. Rob says:

    Just a quick note on the name change. Harvest Bible Fellowship does not allow any church which leaves the organization to retain its name. I was a member of Harvest Orlando before we got the boot last year. We are now independent and with a new name.

  5. cindycurtis says:

    Glad to see you back. I appreciate the updates on what is happening at HBC. Was there many years. James should take some time off to get his head together.

  6. Greg T. says:

    Looking at the Patheos article:

    …I can take a guess that the other HBF pastors did not like how MacDonald was handling the organization’s funds.

  7. ileana J Forment says:

    While I acknowledge that James Macdonald did many things wrong and foolish, and sometimes even sinful (the Lord will determine) and I have watched in pain as he went so far away from the straight and narrow in so many ways, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit to remember that he also gave many many good years full time to the ministry of the Gospel. Yes, people have been hurt by his later years, but many, many people came to know the Gospel and to learn Scriptures under his teaching as well, including me. No one who is a Christian should gloat, be glad, nor revile him. We should be sad and hopeful that, maybe now, he will get a chance to get right with God in the areas he has gone astray. The goal for any Christian is repentance and restoration. Let us pray for James Macdonald.

    • john temster says:

      He also hurt many people as did the leaders of the other HBC’s especially Oakville. Many people’s lives were permanently effected by the arrogance and dictatorship of some of these churches. There may have been some good over the years but a lot of bad and Oakville is oozing with arrogance and needs to change that quickly. Pride is a terrible thing.

    • Robyn says:

      GREAT point, Ileana! I totally AGREE! I am NOT saying I agree with everything Pastor James or HBC has done. HOWEVER, I personally would NOT like EVERYONE (with an opinion or judgement) looking into EVERYTHING I do! And I LOVE Jesus Christ and TRY each day to obey HIM but if I was watched for every comment/action/etc. I don’t think I could live up to that (nor do I think anyone else could – remember what Jesus said – those with no sin cast the first stone…) Now having said that, I don’t believe those in authority should be exempt from wrong doings/choices. In fact the word says to they will be held to a higher standard. BUT WHERE is the LOVE/GRACE/FORGIVENESS in ALL of this? Is ANYONE (especially the critics) coming along side him and talking to him in LOVE. Praying WITH and FOR him. Holding him accountable in a GODLY fashion (like we should all do for one another). I don’t know all the details or what is done “behind close doors” but neither does anyone else – at least not ALL of it. I see God do AMAZING things through this man & church. Again if there is some huge sin issue then maybe he needs to take ‘time out” but we should also realize the ENEMY is trying to destroy the work that God is doing! One final thought – we as believers are HORRIBLE to OUR OWN! We WOUND our OWN AND THEN WE WONDER WHY ARE UNSAVED FRIENDS DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT OUR JESUS!! SHAME ON US!! WE SHOULD BE ON OUR KNEES PRAYING AND SEEKING GOD!! God can handle ALL OF THIS!!! We should all be claiming Exodus 14:14 14The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

      • Joe says:

        James MacDonald is a grifter…period. Will the Harvest congregation ever accept it? Some have and left, but the vast majority will say “I see God do AMAZING things through this man…”. They are hooked and will never leave. They will donate their kid’s college savings so that MacDonald can buy new houses, cars, fancy vacations etc…

  8. lydia00 says:

    I am wondering if this is not a big embarrassment for the man who was to deliver a bunch of churches to the SBC, eventually. What a disappointment for Al Mohler and Russ Moores budget. 🙂 just guessing cos I know how these types operate, some were making the kings life hell. Royalty does not put up with that.

    But they now have Greg Laurie. Jim just could not deliver. Neither could CJ.

  9. Daniel kendrick says:

    For all you haters out there it comes to amazes me when you all need to check your own HEARTS none of us are perfect and no church is perfect the first message i heard from James back in 2001 brought me to the saving grace of our lord and i haven’t turned back so let me NO when upu all are perfect would you. In his grip I stand

    • Tim says:

      The last thing that anyone would want to do to you is confuse you with the facts. We aren’t haters but neither will we be weak. No church is perfect and no one of is perfect is the incubator for someone like James to perpetuate his hate. What we object to is his intentional actions that are abusive and devisive. I am grateful that you came to Christ at a meeting where James spoke. God spoke the Balaam’s ass so using James isn’t much of a stretch for God. The problem is that James is on record saying he speaks for God. I think this is because he thinks if himself as god.

  10. Dee says:

    So glad to see you all back. This has been a long time in coming.

    TWW plans to write about this next week. Would you all like to submit anything to the blog as well? We are here to assist you in anyway that we can.

  11. Karen says:

    Knew something was amiss when Harvest Naperville changed its name.

  12. Joe says:

    Wow the Elephant rises after a 4 year slumber!!! I thought he was gonna sleep forever. Really wasn’t thinking much about the bald bearded guy with the sergeant’s stripes anymore. He seemed so naive and frankly inconsequential. Just a shrill voice in an empty forest. Is he still not playing nice???

  13. Bob says:

    Dear Sir: no doubt you say that you love Jesus and I am not going to call your heart into question as you do others. However, I would implore you to stop the attacks and assumptions and focus on cultivating your own love for Christ and making disciples for His kingdom. Furthermore, you will give account for every word spoken, and word typed, when you stand before the king of kings. While you are making judgment calls of James, you are revealing your true hear condition…you might want to check that out. With the limited information that you do have, I’m not sure how you can say that James is in the wrong. However, if you truly believe that he is, follow the words of Jesus and start mourning over his sin rather than rejoicing. Get off your computer and spend some time praying for the pastors of HBF and that the Asversary will not use this to hinder the gospel from going forward.

    • tim says:

      There is nothing on this website that isnt true. McDonald is evil, a coward. Like a bad plumber, doctor or electrician, all of which McDonald could not do given his limited IQ, isnt it wise to sound a warning? As far as I am concerned anyone on staff at HBC, past, present and future is damaged friut and other churches should be aware when adding these pieces of frut to their staff basket. McDonald’s evil extends to every part of his kingdom. Anyone listed in charge of something is just a figure head and they take their instructions from McDonald. No one at Harvest is allowed to have an original thought because McDonald finds it threatening. His task for today needs to be learning how to spell character and then tomorrow he can find out what it means. Personally I am tired of being physically threatened by Harvest security for simply asking to for a meeting for closure. Trust me. the list of threateners doesn’t stop there.

      • John says:

        “As far as I am concerned anyone on staff at HBC, past, present and future is damaged friut” … “McDonald’s evil extends to every part of his kingdom” … “No one at Harvest is allowed to have an original thought”
        I have to assume that these comments refer more to HBC Chicago than to the wider HBF…we wouldn’t want to suggest the sons and grandsons to be guilty of the sins of the father. But even if they refer to HBCC, wouldn’t it be quite a thing to know the heart character of EVERY person in a position of leadership?

        • Allie says:

          It definitely extends. The evil, abuse of the flock, and deceit has trickled down into the plants. I left Harvest Davenport after 10 years, and you would be appalled by the manipulation, twisting of truth, control of information/propaganda to keep the leadership in their places and the people, that they should be shepherding, ignorant. As I went through the process of leaving, I found out how dangerous it is to speak the truth and just how tribalistic Harvest is. I have gone through soul-crippling pain as what I thought were life-long friends completely dropped me simply because I left their church (was never asked why or how I was doing). To be honest, it was all very cult-like. The further I get away and the more my eyes are opened, the more grateful I am that I got out when I did. Unfortunately, years of spiritual abuse really took their toll on me.

        • Tim says:

          Hey Allie, I wish I could give you my contact information but the evil empire would for sure bring vengence upon me since they find it appropriate to threatened me physically and with legal action. If you are anything like me you probably go through good times and bad. Hopefully your good times are getting longer and the bad times are getting shorter. I would love to be supportive of you in some way. The evil empire tends to isolate people and that isn’t healthy either. How can I help?

      • Daniel kendrick says:

        I find it heart troubling the hate that is going on here we are to be Christ like and this is not what it is i am not prefect and we are all sinners calling people bad fruit is being very judgemental we will all be judged by the one who created us i hope you find it in your heart to pray none of us are without din remember that . In his grip

        • Karen says:

          What about integrity, truth, honesty?

        • Tim says:

          I cannot remember the last time anyone from Harvest spoke a kind word in my direction. Keep drinking that kool-aid. For sure my words are strong, but I will not sugar coat the truth. It is love for those who are fooled by James in hopes that they won’t leave the faith when they realize what a snake he is. I no longer refer to myself as a Christian simple because I do not want any association with James. I desire to be called a follower of Jesus.

  14. Zig says:

    Good riddance.

  15. Thank you for continuing to maintain this website. The long history of this man and this “church” is something we can all learn from. Hopefully you will be writing the closing chapter for the James MacDonald book that has brought us such great hits as “Congregationalism is From Satan” and “when the elders speak, they speak for God.” What a ship wreck.

  16. Tim says:

    Could James just resign from HBC and go away? This “man” is a liar, a spoiled brat and an unrepentant sinner, far from God. He is clueless about spiritual​ things and about leadership. That he sought counseling from Henry Cloud makes me feel bad for Henry. James only listens to himself and to his god, intentionally spelled with a small g. Henry was wasting his time with James. James has left a trail of wounded, hurting people in his wake. He act like a man and dedicate the remainder of his life walking in the word, reconciling with those he has hurt, even destroyed.

    • Amanda says:

      The Twelve Steps might be a good start.

    • Allie says:

      It’s not just James that needs to go away. Rob Willey at Harvest Davenport is following down the same path as MacDonald. There is a huge trail of carnage in the Quad Cities as well. And if it’s happened here, I’m sure it’s happened at other HBCs as well.

  17. Lisa says:

    Thanks for the new post! Very interesting!

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