MacDonald Placed on “Indefinite Sabbatical” by the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

Early this morning, James MacDonald and the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel released their latest Elder Update.  In summary, they announced that James MacDonald, suffering under repeated cycles of anger, etc… will be taking an “indefinite sabbatical,” during which time Harvest Bible Chapel will be employing the services of two “highly respected” peacemaker ministries in the hopes of resolving the ongoing crisis at Harvest.  After reading both statements made by MacDonald and the Elders (which are copied below), we have three very simple questions for the Elders:

1.  How is a man who has confessed to “cycles of injustice, hurt, anger, and fear” – cycles which “have wounded others without cause” – fit to be a pastor?  Look carefully at his own language.  He describes these actions as a “pattern” of “sin.”  How is this behavior “above reproach” as Scripture calls for a pastor to be?  Recall, if you will, that this is not the first time MacDonald has confessed to these very issues over the years.

2.  Is Harvest Bible Chapel one church with eight campuses or is it eight separate churches?  We ask this question because after assuring the congregation that MacDonald would be removed from “leadership and preaching” in Chicago-land during his “indefinite sabbatical,” the Elders then go on to say that he “may continue preaching at Harvest Naples.”  How does this make sense coming from those who are charged with task of shepherding all eight campuses?  Either MacDonald is currently fit to preach at all campuses or he is not fit to be preach at any of them.

3.  What are we to make of the assertion that Harvest will be employing two “peacemaker” ministries to resolve ongoing issues with former staff and elders?  How is it remotely just or a sign of good faith that MacDonald and Harvest would dictate the terms and the parties to whom MacDonald’s victims will have to answer if they seek to be “reconciled?”  Who will be paying these “peacemakers” as they do their work of trying to reconcile MacDonald and Harvest to his many victims?  Will it be paid for by members’ tithes?  Will it be paid for by MacDonald?  Will it be paid for by the same two wealthy elders who funded the litigation designed to silence the victims?  No matter how you answer this question, how are the victims that MacDonald has “wounded without cause” ever to believe that this will be a fair process when the mediators have been selected by and presumably paid for by MacDonald and/or Harvest?

We said it before and we will say it again.  If MacDoanld’s confession is to be taken seriously – and seen as anything other than an attempt to manage public image – it must be complete and accompanied, at a minimum, by public acts of repentance as outlined in our previous Open Letter to James MacDonald and the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel.  In the absence of that, it is difficult to read this as anything but yet another attempt to spin a story.

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

From the Elders:
Dear Harvest Staff, We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years. It has become apparent that these efforts have failed to fully identify and address our personal failures, sins, and errors in leadership, thus perpetuating a continuation of the criticism. In prayerful reflection upon all that has happened and how we got here, a private meeting of the Executive Committee of the Elders on Monday, January 14, led to the decision to be part of a peacemaking process that seeks both reconciliation and change where needed, which was reviewed by the entire Elder Board last night. We are reminded of these biblical imperatives: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’ Matthew 7:3-5 In an effort to invite others to join us, we are working with two highly respected ministries (modeled after “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict,” though not directly aligned with the organization of that name) that specialize in helping churches resolve issues in God-honoring ways. The peacemaking process will include: The selection of a team of experienced and highly respected conciliators and organizational consultants who will guide us through an objective and comprehensive review process. Reaching out to individuals who have left our fellowship or have complaints against us, listening carefully to their insights and correction, and asking God to enable us to confess our sins and make needed changes in our leadership. Thoroughly examining our church’s organizational, financial, management, and leadership policies and practices, and making whatever changes are necessary to ensure that every area is being managed according to professional best practices and in a way that honors God. While we had hoped that successful audits and re-examined/confirmed ECFA compliance would help heal some relational wounds, it simply hasn’t happened. As part of the peacemaking process, Pastor James is taking an indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership at our church in Chicago. He has recused himself fully from any direction of this peacemaking process, other than to participate when and how requested. He may continue preaching at Harvest Naples through some of the winter months and will be on sabbatical, pending the completion of the reconciliation process and a full report to the congregation. Please be in prayer for Pastor James and Kathy through this season. We are asking the Lord to lead us as we engage in this peacemaking process. The Lead/Campus Pastors will continue to lead the day-to-day ministry of the church, and we ask for your support as they do so. Campus Pastors will be present and available during normal Wednesday ministry tonight on all campuses. – The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel


From Pastor James:
For a long time I have felt unequal to all but the preaching task at Harvest. I have battled cycles of injustice, hurt anger, and fear which have wounded others without cause.

I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin. I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns.

I have long known and taught it is not about the messenger, it is about the message and I am grateful for a time of extended sabbatical, during which Harvest will be in capable hands. I may continue preaching at the Naples Campus through some of the winter season and have postponed all writing and leadership to begin in earnest now. I will continue this focus as long as it takes and participate wholeheartedly as requested in the process shared above. 

Please pray that this welcomed time of sabbatical rest will lead to needed changes in me and a fresh opportunity to reconcile with others in God’s time.

Christ is all He promised to be and more… “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me by still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3). Please pray for me and Kathy as we step away from the work, so God can do all He wants to do in the worker.


72 thoughts on “MacDonald Placed on “Indefinite Sabbatical” by the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

  1. How disgraceful of what Harvest did to John. Harvest doesn’t care who they railroad. It’s their way or no way, period. And this might as well be James ‘ corporation because he isn’t getting kicked out or resigning. Those who he wants to keep in his circle aren’t going anywhere and neither is he. Congratulations on building this empire. Only the business you are in is about our Lord Jesus who gave his life for the church you are profiting from. Why are you in this business? This puzzles me because you seem to show no genuine concern for God’s church. Perhaps you are in the wrong business. God is NOT for sale. The truth is you can not serve God and Money, because you will love the one and hate the other. Jesus said the true shepherd cares for his sheep.
    John 10: 11-13
    11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

    Matthew 23 has been on my heart about this leadership for a long time. Look at Jesus own words to leaders like this.

    Matthew 23 New International Version (NIV)
    A Warning Against Hypocrisy
    23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
    5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

    8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

    Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees
    13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

    16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

    25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

    27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

    29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!

    33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.

    37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c]”

    This sabbatical wasn’t because of a repentant heart or change. Its a PR move to address this disaster and denial in court which forced you to drop the suit to prevent more truth from being revealed.
    Lord Jesus rescue your church and guide them from false teachers!

  2. Here is a copy of the email that was sent out on Fri. Jan 18th at 11:42am by John Secrest, Lead Pastor at the time of Harvest Bible Chapel Naples:

    Dear Harvest Naples Friends,
    I want you to know that I have asked the elders to reverse their decision to allow Pastor James to preach in Naples while on his sabbatical as outlined in the elder update sent to you on Wednesday 1/16/2019. This request was denied.
    The good intentions of our ministry partnership with Harvest Chicago have been overshadowed by these developments. Furthermore, when we entered into this agreement there was not a disclosure of the investigative reporting which led to a lawsuit and the resulting fallout.
    I am grieved over my own failure of leadership to not stand firm in objections I raised during the process of making this agreement. I allowed my fear of man and my own insecurities to compromise my responsibility to protect our church. Please forgive me.
    These, among other factors, lead me to the conclusion that this agreement is not in the best interest of our local church in Naples. Therefore, I have asked for our agreement to be revoked and for our local autonomy and self-governance to be restored to Harvest Naples.
    I will continue to serve you as long as God allows. My heart for you and our vision for God’s church in Naples has not changed. I am praying for you and trust God to guide you in your decisions. Please feel free to reach out to me as needed.
    My request to the Harvest elders is included below.
    You are loved!
    John Secrest
    Lead Pastor
    Harvest Bible Chapel Naples

    January 17, 2019

    Dear Steve and the Harvest Elders,
    I am writing to express my disagreement with the decision to have Pastor James preach in Naples during this season of sabbatical. Based on our conversations and other factors over the past 8 months I believe it would be best to revoke our ministry partnership and return Harvest Naples to self-governed autonomy.
    This has been a challenging time for all of us and I am writing you at the recommendation of Pastor Trei and Pastor Rick, with whom I have had very difficult conversations over the past couple days.
    The decision to have Pastor James continue to preach in Naples does not align with the overarching goals outlined in the January 2019 Elder Update. I was not consulted in this decision, I do not support it, and the elders from Harvest Naples did not represent me in that meeting.
    This decision among other factors leads me to the conclusion that our intended ministry partnership is not working in a way that benefits Harvest Naples. I am asking that the agreement be revoked and autonomy and self-governance be returned to Harvest Naples.
    Thank you for your consideration.

    John Secrest
    Lead Pastor
    Harvest Bible Chapel Naples

    And then at 2:59pm the following email was sent from Harvest Bible Chapel:

    Dear Harvest Naples Family,

    It is with great sadness and regret that we write to inform you that John Secrest is no longer an employee of Harvest Bible Chapel.

    Despite great efforts and reasoning, John has chosen not to yield to the consensus of our local leadership team or the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel. Conversations with John over the last few months, culminating this week, have made it clear that he no longer desires to work for Harvest Bible Chapel.

    Because of his continued unwillingness to yield to the direction of the elders and the insubordinate email he recently sent counter to the elder direction, it became clear that he should not continue in his role.

    Our hearts are grieved as John’s contributions to the Naples Campus cannot be understated. We wish him, Jessica, and his family well.

    Harvest Naples will continue as a campus of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago with Pastor Rick Donald serving as interim Campus Pastor and Associate Travis Doucette as Pastor of Worship and Leadership Development. Pastor James MacDonald will not be preaching this weekend. Services will continue this Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00 am.

    We recognize that situations like these often yield more questions than can be answered in one email. The local elders of Harvest Naples, Scott Stonebreaker and Fred Ananias, are available to field any additional questions.

    We ask for your prayers as our church grieves this loss.

    We are believing for good things as we lean into God and His Word.

    Standing together,

    The Harvest Naples Leadership Team and Elders

  3. JMAC Preeminent in all things , right? What a disgrace Col 1:18 Time to wake up Rick Donald, no more Koolaid, and where is Fred Adams, track him down@julieroys!!

  4. I haven’t seen many comments showing compassion or really asking for all true believers to be in prayer about all that has transpired in the last 4-5 days. No wonder the world doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus after they see all this publicized. Forget using the word Christianity since everyone has their own opinion of that word. Let’s look at WWJD. Yes, Elders are supposed to be above reproach but not perfect! We see many examples in scripture of God using flawed men and women to accomplish His purpose. Are we not reading our Bibles? Are we simply drawing our own conclusions and opinions based off of what he or she said, or did or didn’t do? This should not be in the body of Christ. We are sinful people by nature. Just maybe all of this is what God is using to allow a good work that He has been doing at Harvest to continue. Brothers and Sisters let’s be in prayer and search our own motives. We are not the judge or jury. Be careful what you say about another brother or sister in the Lord. Accusations true or false will come out during this process at Harvest and God will get the honor and Glory He deserves. The gates of hell will not prevail agains His church.

    1. Cliff, the point is that an abundant amount of compassion had been shown many years prior to this being public and even during. But what do you expect when James made it even more public by filling a lawsuit. Actually I think the world is even more sick at a bunch of Christians who hide sin and sweep it under the rug with their power. The fact that people have been speaking out is not mutually exclusive of prayer. People have been praying for years.

    2. hey Cliff……do you know who said he didn’t care for the WWJD references?
      I’ll give you a few clues…….rides a motorcycle, has a goatee and likes to gamble

  5. Another Former Member January 17, 2019 — 7:10 pm

    30 years in ministry… Imagine all who have been hurt, all who have turned from Christ as a result of his abusive behavior. I can only think of one thing that will happen from this. at Judgment Day, the Lord, Himself, will say “I never knew you”. Or James will truly repent and accept Christ as savior. I can’t imagine anyone behaving like this, deterring the Lord’s flock, and thinking there won’t be some sort of repercussion from God. I thought it was interesting when I had heard his cancer had returned last year. If that is true, I find it potentially indicative of what the Lord has in store for him now.

  6. An observation:
    I lost my small group to HBC drama for quite a while now. When it happened I was sinning in my response, really struggling between was it the church and God’s people I wanted to see defended, or the desire to see someone I thought as narcissistic and arrogant knocked off his throne? To this day, I think it was more of the latter.
    But now with all the new things that keep coming to light, I’m asking myself why do we all get so mad and want to see justice? Is it for God? James himself would say, “Jesus is running the world with his feet up!”
    For me, and maybe for you, it may be this…..
    If you pay attention to the world system, philosophy and worldviews, we are living in a post-Christian America. There’s an anti-Christian wave that is building, that we have yet to see reach its full apex. With that being said, I need a church that can stand in the midst of all this craziness.
    It’s so disheartening that we can’t trust the world, most of the time the people, spiritual battles with our adversary and our own hearts. To me, there’s nothing more demoralizing than seeing “the world” in a place that is supposed to be a beacon for Christ and a port in the storm for all of us.

  7. Basic question: does Harvest Bible Chapel belong to the MacDonald family OR are the MacDonalds employees/servants of the church? Assuming it is the latter (they are employees of the church), why is their behavior tolerated and what can the congregation do to, at a minimum, remove their worldly ‘power’ and bring them down to employee/servant status? Pastor James: you need to return to Chicago. Please face this like a man.

    1. The congregation is going to have to speak with their check book.

      Hopefully, Julie will be doing a story on the assets of HBC.

      1. Does anyone know if such a story is in the works?

  8. This is madness at its finest. “I MAY continue preaching at the Naples Campus…”, while simultaneously Harvest Naples has all the promo videos made and hype material queued up stating that James will be in the pulpit from January to March EVERY YEAR Do you think people are fools and unable to read between the lines and research for themselves what’s going on?
    The Elders mention “We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years”…in essence, it’s all YOUR fault, disgruntled ex-Joe Member, for everything that’s gone wrong. James gets a paid sabbatical to preach in Southern Florida during the winter months…oh how convenient. Why not Harvest Bible Chapel West Side of Chicago, if you’re feeling the need to preach? If you’re recusing yourself from preaching and leadership in Chicago, what makes you think you’re appropriate for Naples? The same bag of you-know-what gets pulled to the next place, and the next place, and the next place, until it is repented of and dealt with.
    The only thing that will fix this is the resignation of every, single, solitary elder, XLT member and anyone whose last name is MacDonald. Willow part II. As James has preached correctly on so many occasions “God will not be mocked”. Well, the chickens have come home to roost and I hope that this clown show leads to drastic change. Harvest used to be the church filled with godly men and women that led the way for the cause of Jesus Christ. Although there are still some incredible godly people still there, now it is a mockery. I hope and pray that James, as well as the church as a whole, repents, forgives, reconciles and puts Christ back at the center. No more campaigns. No more smoke and mirrors. Jesus Christ elevated. The gospel spread. Disciples made. Integrity, kindness and love from the pulpit and elders.

  9. As it has been mentioned in a prior response the healing of Harvest Bible Chapel – Chicago/Naples starts with the resignation of James MacDonald, his family, elders and other supporting cast (yet to be determined). Not everyone can resign at once but the head(s) of the leadership would need to be removed NOW, FIRST, TODAY. That would include JMac and family. The authority of XLT and Executive Committee should be nullified. There could be a orderly transition to new leadership.
    Much like what Willow Creek did in seeking expertise in helping select a new elder board and then
    the selection of a new senior pastor and team.

    JMac has created such a toxic structure of leadership that there is no restoration that could happen with JMac, family and the present elder board. They have supported JMac’s rise to supreme ruler through the changing of the by-laws. They have allowed JMac to create a structure of ME ALONE.

    As much as people need to be forgiven of their sinful ways; restoration is not a solution. Harvest Bible Chapel needs new leadership from the tip top down.

    There is a need for an orderly transition to keep Harvest Bible Chapel from imploding in it’s debt. Surely there are people in the church that haven’t drank the kool-aid or former elders that would be willing to help keep the ship upright.

    Much has been disclosed and discussed about the personal hurts that JMac, family and leadership have caused to hundreds if not thousands but the other issue that hasn’t began to be disclosed is the mishandling of the finances of HBC and HBF.

    The CPA audit shows many supporting statements for the finances. What the audit doesn’t show is what people were told how it would be spent. The audit that Wisen and other’s did show that the money wasn’t spent as they were told it would be. (One side note – JMac has more than met his match if he wants to debate if there was misallocation of HBF funds with David Wisen).

    There should always be forgiveness when one is sincere about asking for forgiveness. None of us are worthy of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ yet it is available to all that ask and believe. That doesn’t mean there is going to be a restoration of relationships or leadership.

    JMac has been gifted in speaking God’s Word, the issue at hand is he has been such a toxic leader at Harvest that restoration at Harvest is not an option.

    One last word to James – The quicker your family and you resign from Harvest the quicker God will restore his Church.

    1. Agreed. The idea that “successful audits” and “ECFA compliance” would heal relational hurts is incomprehensible. Implementing “professional best practices” similarly does not address the root problem. The elders and other leaders responsible for this situation should resign similar to what Willow Creek is now doing.

    2. BruisedNotBleeding January 19, 2019 — 6:00 am

      As of yesterday Jon Secrest after writing a letter requesting HBC Naples Florida return to autonomy an independent from Chicago campus has been fired as Pastor and no longer able to communicate via email as he has been removed.

  10. Another Former Member January 16, 2019 — 11:31 pm

    Pastor James:

    I hope that the words you wrote are sincere and represent a change in your thoughts and actions moving forward. I have some concerns that I hope someone can address:

    1) I feel that if you sincerely want to repair relationships and reconcile, you should return to us here in Chicago. To have you living in southwest Florida (January through March) isn’t helping. To repair this damage you need to face it directly, not from hundreds of miles away. I’m not a “pr-guy”, but this doesn’t look good.
    2) I’m concerned about recent comments on Joyce Bartholomew’s twitter. She says you defended yourself well and that the media is one sided and “He is able to refute anything”. This was just 8 days ago. This does not sound like someone who is truly repentant.
    3) If you are truly sorrowful and desire as restoration to ruined relationships, please start by disclosing the whole truth. No more hiding behind statements of hurting 3rd parties. Just be honest. Give specific instances where you have lied and deceived the people in the church. Don’t minimize it. Answer our questions (without being screened ahead of time).
    4) This needs to happen between you and us. There should not be the need to have the two groups of conciliators and organizational consultants come in to tell you what to do. If you desire to repent, you know what you need to do on your own. You have preached on it many times.
    5) I am concerned about the harvest structure. I thought all 8 campuses were under the same elder board and same governing structure. If the elder and XLT came to a decision that you need a sabbatical and should not preach (in chicago), how come you are preaching (in naples)? Something doesn’t fit? Just because you are in a different state, your past sins aren’t left behind allowing you to just start over. Is harvest naples on its own now? That would be the only explanation that I could see, until you explain how this all works to us.
    6) A direct accounting of all church funds really must be discussed and given to church members. As a church, leading people with integrity, there should be no reason to not disclose where the people’s money is going. (No pie charts with percents.) Exact dollar amounts need to be given. A good step could be to disclose all spending in 2018 and then an updated spending plan for 2019 showing decreased spending in areas that you feel should be changed. If everything is being done according to God’s Word, I truly do not know why you would want to hide the “books”. Even teacher salaries are public information (because tax dollars support their pay).
    7) What happened with old leaders and staff? Some examples, Lindsay McCaul who led worship beautifully, quietly walked away. Pastor Joe Stowell and his sons, quietly left. What happened? You had public relationships with these people, so please make public restorations with them.
    8) I think it may be best to suspend the “Closer Campaign” until all this is made right and repentance and reconciliation has been made. I believe that before the members give 29 million above the normal tithes, that things should be made right with all. I think this could go towards showing where your heart truly is.
    9) Lastly, your two sons and employees of harvest should not be on the board of XLT, making these important recommendations and decisions. That is just too much conflict of interest. Would it be possible to bring in some of the godly men that know harvest from the past, such as Dave Corning, Joe Stowell, and others, to advise and give direction to Harvest. I believe that would build trust back up.

    I am only looking for the truth so that the “C”hurch can start to rebuild and glorify Jesus again.

    Thank you.

    1. I am a current attendee of Harvest. Been following this website for many years…long before I started regularly attending HBC. I must say that what you have suggested is spot-on. People have been saying all kinds of things, but I really appreciate your thoughtful, logical, well-balanced suggestions that are not emotion-driven!

    2. Another Former Member January 17, 2019 — 6:37 pm

      Agree with this and want to add that going to Florida sounds a lot like running away and trying to hide from one’s problems. We all know that doesn’t work. Your problems will follow you because it is YOU that needs to change, not your location. Without changing, this problem will perpetuate, and continue to spiral out of control. There was a time when I felt proud to call HBC my church home. I served at both RM and E. I started feeling like things were falling apart a couple years ago. Since this is the 3rd major debacle since I have been a member, I can only say “Fool me once, even twice, shame on me. There is no 3rd time. I’m out”

  11. Your first question can’t really be a supporting reason?? No one is perfect and you calling him out on it, sorry, ya just as bad yourself. Literally, EVERY pastor struggles with sin, we would not have any one thinking they could preach Gods word if they had to be perfect. MacDonald obviously has a repentant heart.

    I think MacDonald should resign to serve one church, this idea that he should be preaching to 6 campuses is a nice idea, because he is a great preacher, but he is getting burnt out, OBVIOUSLY. And over 25 years of preaching to Harvest, there are BOUND to be people who have a bad taste in their mouth from him. Not everyone likes everyone, also another thing a pastor has just like you and I. Guess they are all just humans, too. (Sorry, I am being condescending, but your point was so condescending to pastors who have struggles, it’s not right for you to put them on hand pedestal and makes me upset)

    Here’s the issue: Harvest is biting off more than they can chew and MacDonald will always have to take the heat. People love going to a church when it’s easy and they benefit, but when the going gets tough, they get going.

    The church should notice the hurts, but should help itself heal, you writing this and mocking their attempt at peace is how the church continues to hurt itself. That is a conspiracy you are making up there, it’s called gossip, unless you know it’s a fact. If this is the information you share on this site, then maybe you should check your audience. You are forming a team that doesn’t trust the church, and the church is US, not the building.

    It is sad to see megachurches pastors go through such hard times, I really do pray he can get a mentor and be walked through this time. I’m sure there is hurt that he didn’t know of that is really affecting him at this time.

    1. To bad for Ananias and Sapphira that you weren’t around to rationalize for them to Peter.
      As many students of the bible have concluded they were guilty of the sin of hypocrisy, but then again I gossip!

    2. Lily, you really can’t be this naive. First, it is not obvious he is repentant. That’s why scripture is full of the truth calling for fruit befitting repentance. Based on repeated sin, his previous words of repentance are not trusted. So people have a right to be skeptical. They are not saying no pastor is without sin. Many of us have already patiently given him grace. Second, this has nothing to do with burnout. He put himself in this position by creating a leadership structure giving himself full power (first among equals), both in the Chicagoland churches and the previous Fellowship. By this he rejected the very purpose of having a plurality of equal elders who could have already mentored him. Even he admits that his power had created a situation where people could not minister to him (yes the spiritual edification of gifts applies to pastors from the laity too). When will Harvest see the weakness of the first among equals and pastor for life principles? It gives them every motivation to protect the pastor at any cost and for the pastor to compartmentize power between different groups (such as elders vs ministry directors, or church bodies vs the Fellowship). No one wants to see or be a member of any church go thru trials like this. But sin is a reality and Jesus’ truth that you will have trials applies to the church as well.

  12. I cant help but think this wasnt all a huge attempt to manage the problem.

    Try to basically try to assure people in the church that they were working on issues but at the same time still allow james to continue to work and do his thing somewhere else.

    To be clear: members at harvest dont vote. But what they do do is write checks. That is the only way they can really let their voice be heard. And from the sounds of it for the last month and a half giving has tanked.

    So harvests leadership is panicking and trying to do something.

    1. Yup, and sabbbatical sounds like a well-earned treat so they added the word indefinite to make it sound somehow punitive. Are the current members at Harvest really so naive that they can’t see through this? I would be ashamed to give and attend this church….

  13. Appears he is going the Driscoll route.

    His tact seems to be that since he hasn’t hurt anyone in Florida that it’s cool for him to preach down there.

    But is in the same association of churches. If he is really sorry for the people he has hurt and the “cycle” of sin he talked about he wouldn’t continue preaching and would instead work on counseling and trying to break this cycle.

    Since when is taking a sabbatical continuing to do the same job you did before?

    Doesn’t compute.

    1. Another Former Member January 17, 2019 — 6:42 pm


  14. Hurt Anger

    An imaginary term used by fake pastors to excuse disqualifing behavior based on the inSINuation that personal injustice, such as being asked to tell the truth by “simple” sheep, crossed sacred lines leading to justifiable retributive anger.

  15. Maybe James should start writing fictional stories instead. He is a master at story telling. Perhaps he in on Bill Hybels yacht sharing stories counting the millions they made from the name of Jesus. Time to fear the living God. Maybe there is a big whale out there waiting

  16. MacDonald and HBC need to take the same action Willow Creek took. JMac and the XLT need to resign, leave the church permanently and all the ellders resign over the next 6 months. Start with a clean slat. Anything short of that, they are just biding time and working on image control. I’m so glad I left.

    1. Amen. As should the campus pastors.
      Shame on them for being complicit in covering up what God is bringing out into the light. Flee people, flee!

      1. ‘campus pastor’ is nothing more than a ‘lobby floating spy’ identifying people who are asking questions, so they can be put on jimmy’s and his BOMMEE ( band of merry men elders enemy) list.

  17. Notice from the start “external criticisms”. Read… it’s not us or James, it’s them. No ownership of sin.

    The next start… “unequal to all but the preaching task”. You can’t preach or lead when you are unqualified. Once again… no ownership.
    And then…”postponed all writing and leadership to begin in earnest now”, except NOT. Still preaching and leading in Florida. Suffering for the Lord in the sunshine until the heat is off up north.
    The arrogance displayed by those letters thinking that the sheep are so stupid to fall for it. I don’t respond BAH. I respond BS.
    You guys are right on in your assessments. Stay the course.

    1. Amen. What a joke.

  18. So that means the clean up/reconciliation effort is being led by Rick Donald? Ok.

    All I heard in those two statements is that James is still working and getting paid as he winters in Florida. And the (majority of) the elder board that signed a letter of full faith in James is to be believed and trusted in a reconciliation process. Yikes.

    1. Donald. Now there’s a stalwart of Stewards hipness……to jimmy mac. He will only leave harvest when it’s time to report to jimmy that not one brick remains standing at any harvest asset.
      Bet they both have ‘golden parachutes’, in writing, that will make the angles puke!

      1. BruisedNotBleeding January 19, 2019 — 5:47 am

        Yup and he Rick is now charge of Naples campus as of yesterday 1/18/19. It’s been announced that Jon Seacrest has been terminated. So grieved over all of this.

        1. The Least Of These January 19, 2019 — 12:28 pm

          Sea rest being fired is just further proof that there was never any change intended. Agreed, this whole sham is a joke.

  19. So that means the clean up/reconciliation effort is being led by Rick Donald? Ok.

    All I heard in those two statements is that James is still working and getting paid as he winters in Florida. And the (majority of) the elder board that signed a letter of full faith in James is to be believed and trusted in a reconciliation process. Yikes.

  20. There is so much to address here, I don’t know where to begin. My husband and I attended HBC for 2-3 years; left in 2013 so we have seen first hand some of James’ and the elders’ behavior.

    These announcements from the elders and James are just one more pathetic, manipulative attempt to control a situation that is going to and should unravel. It is toxic at the core and spreads like a cancer leaving victims in its path, all in an attempt to cover for one man. The elders think Harvest IS James MacDonald, It is NOT. Harvests belong to God and his son and will survive ONLY if HE is at the center.

    The elders and XLT are the biggest enablers of James’ bad behavior. Stop the dancing around trying to save him. Your first responsibility is to the church (members as well as James). It’s time to stand up to him and do what is right. None of your past actions have carried any real consequence to James. Put him on sabbatical without salary. He is a repeat offender; he will not really deal with any of his issues unless there are severe consequences. Money would be a great motivator since he is addicted to it. He would either sincerely deal with his problems or leave. Either way HBC is better off.

    As for the professional conciliators, don’t waste your money. We were members of a church that utilized one of the well known group’s services. No great result. They are outrageously expensive (no matter who is paying for it). A really good place to start is by the elders, XLT and James getting brutally honest about what’s going on. The solution will become glaringly apparent and you’ll save thousands of dollars.

    Also, James needs to stop using nepotism at HBC. It is to his sons’ advantage to cut their teeth at another church that James has no relationship with or interest in.

    Elders, develop some guts, show some courage, admit the truth and do what is right. AND REMEMBER —— HBC BELONGS TO GOD —– NOT JAMES.

    1. Debra Szemplinski January 17, 2019 — 7:52 am

      Very well said!

      1. Another Former Member January 17, 2019 — 6:48 pm


  21. Here’s the thing to remember! And bang THIS drum loudly! There are no elders! Its all a facade.

    NOTHING has changed. This vacation was planned.

    And this outside help will be plants. More fakery.

    1. Still recovering January 16, 2019 — 4:04 pm

      Amen to that. Harvest does not have elder nor do the have godly men, or any type of men.

    2. And I’m pretty sure a significant amount of money has already been spent at the Naples campus….

      1. BruisedNotBleeding January 16, 2019 — 8:06 pm

        Can I hear “Closer”

  22. Time will tell if this is true godly grief or worldly grief.

    1. Osc,
      Given this was posted 9/16/18 it is clear that JMac has long planned to be wintering in ‘Paradise’ (as the Napoleons refer to it) with the uber wealthy of the world. It’s bad enough this man embodies Falsehood and Destruction and Deceit, but I now classify the elders the same way.

      This debacle has reached every church’s ear in the Chicago-land area. The Harvest catastrophe was used as an example at RCIA (Catholic education for adults) for the purpose of the Magisterium, as several former Harvest members sat in class. This example demonstrates too the dangers of the Cult of Personality and countless other lessons to be gleaned regarding the open mocking of the majesty of Christ concurrent with the love of money and fame. Whether JMac or the elders believe this or not, God will not be mocked. Brace yourself boys.

      1. That’s what has been going through my head all morning. “God will not be mocked”, as well as “your sin will find you out”.
        It’s a chilling reminder to us all.

        1. Debra Szemplinski January 17, 2019 — 3:54 pm

          And we serve The God who sees.

        2. Another Former Member January 17, 2019 — 6:56 pm

          And another of his quotes… when God says don’t, He means don’t get hurt or don’t hurt yourself. There is a reason He gave us the Bible and the rules we are to follow. Granted, we are all sinful. BUt I recall James repeatedly saying that pastors and other leaders who tend the flock are held to a much higher standard because they are to be role models of what truth faith looks like.

      2. Debra,
        This is kind of magic trick the elders are trying to perform. Not to see what the other hand is doing. How can you call it a “sabbatical” when he will continue preaching? How can this be a “lesson” to Jmac when it has been planned since Sept. 2018? More like “stay out of the public eye, until all blows over”. In sunny Naples. Do the people in Naples even care?

        1. Debra Szemplinski January 17, 2019 — 10:42 am

          I think most of the people reading this blog are savvy enough to see through this ruse. It’s even more maddening that the elders seem to think all observers of this circus are rubes. Like you and every other thinking human being reading this, the indefinite sabbatical was presented to imply punitive action had been taken for his wrongdoing. Instead he’s sent off to the sugar white beaches of Southwest Florida to hobnob with elites to help prop up his crumbling empire!! I now fully understand why the man had six armed bodyguards encircling him on multiple occasions after church.

        2. There’s an old trick for politicians.
          “When in trouble… travel.”

  23. This saddens me greatly.

    Instead of this ‘strategy’ set in place and publicized to the church, imagine this:

    “Pastor James’ eyes have been opened to his sin and to the multitudes of people he has sinned against. He has been one by one, for quite some time, seeking these people out for the purpose of confessing his sin and asking for their forgiveness. God has been using that mightily in his life and we are asking the church to pray for those he has reconciled with and for Pastor James. At this point, we believe he has sought out each of the wounded and confessed to them privately. Our desire is that God be glorified by true repentance and forgiveness being displayed in the midst of this mess caused by sin. We are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory; only by His grace can true reconciliation occur. Prayers are coveted; the reputation of Christ’s Church has been damaged but we believe in His Sovereignty and by His work of grace, He will use this for the good of the Kingdom.”

    Wouldn’t that be an indicator of something real and authentic happening? And wow, what if he, the elders and all that have left could go before the church to share (together) that they had reconciled and to sing the praises of the Lord for what He had done?!

    Instead he gets to winter in Florida and think about what he’s done? While the elders in Chicago try to clean up the mess? He still gets to preach? I cannot help but think if he were truly broken and repentant over his past sin, he wouldn’t want to be God’s mouthpiece until all were resolved.

    Elders, yes, you need to reflect on your failures in leadership and also do the right thing by those wounded. But to make this about a strategy, a process, an effort, etc. reveals you also do not understand the deep sins committed and what true, authentic repentance is needed. “While we had hoped that successful audits and re-examined/confirmed ECFA compliance would help heal some relational wounds, it simply hasn’t happened.” What is that? This saddens me that these are the leaders of the church!

    “As part of the peacemaking process, Pastor James is taking an indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership at our church in Chicago. He has recused himself fully from any direction of this peacemaking process, other than to participate when and how requested. He may continue preaching at Harvest Naples through some of the winter months and will be on sabbatical, pending the completion of the reconciliation process and a full report to the congregation. Please be in prayer for Pastor James and Kathy through this season.” Again, so many indicators of cluelessness. The problem isn’t with “external criticisms” but internal sin.

    God do what only you can do, for your glory! In the scheme of things, James MacDonald ever preaching another sermon matters not. James MacDonald truly repenting and making restitution to thousands (when you consider the ripple effect to the other Harvest churches) does.

  24. And all the elders need to step down as well as the executive leadership team.

  25. Still recovering January 16, 2019 — 1:38 pm

    Sabatical – a period of paid leave granted to a universtiy teacher or other worker, for study and travel, traditionally one year for every seven years worked.

    So if this is a sabatical, he is going to Florida on Harvest’s tab and getting paid while being there. He should have been suspended without pay but thsta would mean the the “elders” at Harvest have been replaced by Christans instead of the spinelessdonkeys they have now. This is juwt deepening the sin at Harvest. Given what I am experiencing in my own church personally and the horrible abuse heaped upon those attending I have been very sad this week. You Christians are an embarrassment and should be ashamed.

    Please dont write and tell me about the strong preaching. Just about anyone with a brain can come up with a decent sermon. When was the last time MacDonald called someone up on stage for a message illiustration and he didnt humilate the person on the stage. Heck, he does it to his own kids. I remember the Sunday that he ripped Bill Gaither for a line in one of his songs. Given all the ministry that Bill Gaither has done off stage, James has very little right to rip someone from the stage given all the ministry James hasn’t done off stage.

    When James gets serious I am going to be one of the people he has to speak with and seek reconcilliation. Lets run some numbers. if there are 500 people out there needing to let James know how he has hurt them and he can reconcile with one person a day, with no days off it would take almost 17 months before he would be done. I contend that there are far more than 500, probably closer to 3 ot 4 thousand. If there are that many he is looking at 10 years plus. In my case I am far from a one day reconciliation. He should not be allowed to pastor, take a salary from any christian organization or do any type of ministry except to make things right with the people he has harmed. Then and only then can he even apply for reinstatement.

  26. “Indefinite Sabbatical” typically implies paid. So, let me get this straight, for James’ repeated patterns of sin, the Elder’s of HBC just gave James an indefinite paid vacation at the beach in Naples? Yeah, that’s really rough. I’m sure he’s suffering greatly spending the winter in SW Florida. Insert eye roll here.

    1. This statement came from the Executive Elders. There are 5 EE, 3 of them have the last name “MacDonald.” Therein lies the problem….

  27. I am wondering if he is getting paid during this “sabbatical”? I still can’t understand why it is so hard for Harvest or James MacDonald to apologize. Are they really that far gone that they need to hire a third party to reconcile with the people they hurt?

      1. Is that a flak jacket?

        1. Another Former Member January 17, 2019 — 7:04 pm

          That’s his Act Like Men jacket I believe… He might want to take his own training to heart… and Act Like a Man…

        2. Yea, went to the Naples web site and saw picture of jimmy mac posing with his wife with his arm around her neck like she was in a head lock. Instantly had 2 thoughts:
          1. This is how he is holding a church that does not belong to him.
          2. He thinks that a pose like that makes him look ‘cool.’ NOT COOL!

    1. Still recovering January 16, 2019 — 4:02 pm

      It is very difficult because it always has to be on their terms.

      1. BruisedNotBleeding January 16, 2019 — 8:12 pm

        I can wrap my head around all that’s taken place. This is all so grevious!

  28. Pretty sure you could hear a collective “eye roll” from everyone who is watching and hoping for change….

  29. This appears to be little more than PR. How can he preach ANYWHERE? Also, his schedule will be packed if he is to reconcile with all those that he has bulldozed with his anger and bullying. Will this job of bullying be left to his other family members to carry on? I don’t think you need to hire a company to repent. James need to repent and resign from all preaching and teaching.

    1. Couldn’t agree more.

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