As many of you know, this past month has been an incredibly busy season with stories coming at such a rapid clip that none of us can keep up. By last weekend, we were so far behind, we posted five stories in one day, which is never great in terms of allowing any one story the time it needs to breathe and find its audience. But here we are, once again, looking at a Saturday morning with five stories that we haven’t posted in the past week. Some are newer. Some are a little older. Some have greater power than others. Just please know that we are doing our best to stay on top of it.
About a week a half ago, on the 16th of January 2019, Gordon Zwirkoski, a former Elder at Harvest Bible Chapel (dating from the mid-to-late-2000s) posted the first of two statements he would make on the Facebook page of FiveStone Churches. FiveStone Churches is the ministry that Zwirkoski founded after leaving Harvest Bible Chapel.
In the first statement, he makes a few opening remarks and than begins to cite a letter he wrote to MacDonald in 2014. As you can, the letter is filled with observations about the culture that MacDonald and “core leaders” have created at Harvest, a culture for which he holds MacDonald “fully responsible.”
The never-ending drama of James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel is deeply relevant to the ministry of 5Stone Churches. How so? Because Character is core to our ministry’s commitment to Edify, Protect, Encourage and Support churches and shepherds. A sickening sense of feigned repentance, deja vu all over again, comes with today’s Elder Update from Harvest Bible Chapel.
Many former Harvest elders repeatedly have admonished James MacDonald (and several current and former elders) to genuinely repent of sinful, disqualifying behaviors.
From a letter Gordon Zwirkoski wrote to James MacDonald in February 2014:
“You obviously are core to the creation and feeding of the Harvest leadership culture and are fully responsible for it. You have created and fed a culture that rewards leaders who do what you tell them to do or do what they understand you would approve in order to achieve a purpose, even if you do not directly detail a specific tactic . . .
” . . . I specifically remember Hebrews 12 and your clear and right teaching from the text regarding Esau and repentance: There are some sins that have consequences that cannot be fixed as if they never happened. What you have done and continue to do cannot be undone. That Esau-principle cleanly and absolutely applies to you and to several of your core leaders . . .
” . . . And, concerning restoration, no restoration between us quickly will be forthcoming because, in order for restoration, you and several of your core leaders would need to demonstrate authentic, biblical repentance that yields right fruit over time — of the type described in 2 Corinthians 7:9-16. And that’s just not going to happen, at least not now, maybe never . . .
” . . . During the past 10 years, the Harvest leadership culture has morphed, twisting into something that I do not recognize . . .
” . . . I am sad about this, James, but I do not know you. I do not trust you.”
The revelations of recent weeks and today lead a multitude to continue waiting for genuine biblical repentance.
Later, on the 18th of January, shortly after the Naples debacle began to unfold and Julie Roys published her story on the unfolding situation, Gordon took to his Facebook page again and related the story of two other churches in the history of Harvest that were “targeted and almost seduced … become campuses.”
This brutal Naples development is just another chapter in HBChapel take-over schemes.
Two churches were targeted and almost seduced in 2010 and 2011 to become campuses under James MacDonald. During discussions in one of these churches, a core leader representing Harvest said that Harvest wanted a “controlling interest” in the church. (The targeted church had a lot of assets, and that’s the exact term he used: “controlling interest.”)
After early talks with Harvest, the two pastors separately reached out to Gordon Zwirkoski for discussion and counsel. Gordon heard and then reviewed with the two pastors the Harvest proposal and the prospects.
Distilling the discussions into a brief review, here are several of Gordon’s questions, as well as the pastors’ answers:
Q: “Has Jesus released you from preaching here? Has He released you from leading this flock?”
Q: “Would Jesus be pleased if you stepped away from preaching, from leading this flock?”
Q: “Imagine standing before Jesus to explain why you stepped away. How would that go for you?”
A (Paraphrased): “Terrible.”
Q: “Are you weary?”
Q: Are you afraid?”
Gordon: “You’re on the verge of losing your church, man. You’d better gird up your loins and fight for the church. If you give it up, you’ll never get it back.”
These two men refused to step away from their work. So glad they did. Grieved for this pastor and the church in Naples.