Seven years ago, The Elephant’s Debt was launched amidst mounting concerns about the theological drift at Harvest Bible Chapel. But what began with apprehensions over Trinitarian formulations and prosperity gospel inclinations quickly morphed into something much larger, and far more troubling. Reports from former elders and pastors began to pour in. Harvest was deeply in debt and the campuses were cross-collateralized against one another, tying all of them to the same financial fate if something were to run afoul. As 2012 rolled into 2013 and The Elephant’s Debt continued to publish its’ concerns, Harvest began to experience a precipitous drop in giving. According to the lawsuit MacDonald and the leaders of Harvest filed against TED, more than 2000 congregants left the church, taking their tithes with them. Making matters worse, Harvest was in the midst of the 5G campaign, which was supposed to bring in $30 million between 2012 and 2014. But by the end of the three years, less than $20 million had been raised, and HBC was forced to try to extend the campaign into 2015. All that to say, when The Elephant’s Debt was the sole voice of dissent, Harvest experienced tremendous financial pressure. By the end of 2013, it was averaging 18.5% shortfalls against its projected budget.
Now fast forward to the past 18 months. There have been a series of disastrous decisions and events that include:
- the dismantling of Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF),
- the initiation of a lawsuit against the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU),
- the initiation of a lawsuit against TED, our wives and Julie Roys,
- the Naples campus debacle and the firing of John Seacrest,
- the publication of the Randy Williams’ text thread
- the publication of Julie Roy’s investigative piece by WORLD magazine
- the publication of MacDonald’s defense of lawsuits in Christianity Today,
- the publication by Julie Roys of MacDonald’s texts and financial admissions to David Wisen
- the widespread coverage of Harvest by The Daily Herald, the Chicago Tribune and Mancow
- the recent submission of detailed accounts of MacDonald’s behavior to the elders by former staff members
Not surprisingly, Harvest is taking another punishing financial blow. But this time, it would appear that the weekly losses may be even worse than 2013. From the first week of October to the fourth week of December 2018, Harvest Bible Chapel did not make budget for 12 straight weeks.  And as a result, the leadership appears to have reduced the planned budget for 2019 by a little over $1 million per year. And it is against that newly reduced budget that Harvest is still coming up short. Over the course of the first four weeks of this year, Harvest is running 31% behind. This is clearly unsustainable over the long term. And perhaps the elders have figured out that Harvest may be better off without the MacDonald family.
Last night, several different sources began to reach out to The Elephant’s Debt suggesting one of two distinct possibilities. Either, MacDonald was set to be fired by the elder board this weekend or, alternatively, he would be given the chance to resign his position. It goes without saying that these reports should be received cautiously, as reports of this nature have come to us on at least two previous occasions including the morning that the HBC elders announced that MacDonald would be placed on an “indefinite sabbatical.”
Given our desire to be patient with the process, we elected not to publish last night. However, this morning, Mancow Muller made the following announcement on his radio program. And as has been our practice as of late, we are merely pointing to what another figure is now publicly reporting as fact.
Does money always corrupt? Does power always corrupt? I want to talk about what I believe is the bankrupt soul of a man named James MacDonald, the leader of thousands and thousands of Christians. I count myself as a Christian and a member of that flock; and what I saw behind the curtain sickened me. The amount of lies and deception that I witnessed sickened me. I went public in The Daily Herald. And this weekend, they will announce: James MacDonald is no longer a part of Harvest Bible Chapel. That is what my sources are telling me. There are many locations including the brilliant, beautiful cathedral in Chicago. And this will be the biggest story in religious news on earth today and you’re hearing it here first. I take no joy in this, but I really found him to be just a conman. Would have been a great car salesman. Would have been a great radio salesman. I would’ve liked to offer him a job selling the Mancow show here. My sources tell me he was fired, his assistant Rick will soon be gone and also the boys who I like a great deal, Luke and especially Landon. Again, I take no joy in this, but they also will be gone shortly. Again, I take no joy in this. But half a million dollars here, half a million dollars there, books that weren’t open, really just laughing at these fools – I mean I witnessed it – laughing at the fools around him and the flock that he saw as a bunch of marks – you know, the poor people, the old ladies, whatever that come in that really – I give 10% of my salary to charity, including money to Harvest Bible Church. And I’m not – I’m not – you know people don’t donate to have some guy move this here and that there, pass the buck, and buy himself a $100,000 truck or whatever, half a million dollar deer farm that was supposed to go to plant churches. Whatever it is, I wanted open books. Where’s our money going? Forty-two million dollars in debt … [conversation diverts to other topic] … So this guy, James MacDonald, who will be out this weekend, $42 million dollars in debt … he’s going to walk away – God knows how many millions he has – and he leaves behind $42 million dollars of debt. Wow, what a scammer!
Again, we must stress that this situation is very fluid, and additional meetings may take place that could potentially alter the outcome that Mancow is confidently predicting and was the first to report. Thus, until we hear it clearly from the elders of HBC or MacDonald himself, we will but hope and pray for the elders to have the strength of character to do the hard thing.
In recent days, we have elected to remain silent to give the elders time and space to think, pray and act. Clearly, this story was far too significant to let it pass without comment by TED. But as a continued sign of our good faith and hope for this institution, we will keep the comment section on this post closed.
 The final week of December 2018 was not reported on the website. Instead, the year end numbers were announced in service.