MacDonald “Terminated” by Harvest

Update Button 13 Feb 2019Yesterday morning, on his drive-time radio program, Eric “Mancow” Muller precipitated yet another crisis at Harvest Bible Chapel.  In addition to releasing what appears to be a controversial, hot-mic audio tape, Mancow threatened to initiate a class-action lawsuit against MacDonald and Harvest.  Last night, the Harvest elders met again, beginning at 7:00 pm, continuing their ongoing conversation regarding what to do with MacDonald.

At this time, it appears that Harvest Bible Chapel has finally elected to release James MacDonald from his role as the Founding and Senior Pastor of HBC.

Harvest’s statement, emailed out to the church in the middle of the night, reads as follows:


Below is an update from our elders. All campuses will be open this evening for a time of prayer. Please look for communication from your campus regarding time and location.

Dear Harvest Bible Chapel Family:

It is with great sadness that we as the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel wish to convey to you a very recent development that has caused us to take immediate action regarding our Senior Pastor, Dr. James MacDonald.

Following a lengthy season of review, reflection, and prayerful discussion, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel had determined that Pastor James should be removed from his role of Senior Pastor. That timeline accelerated, when on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor James were given to media and reported. Given that and other conduct under consideration, in accordance with the procedures in our Bylaws, Pastor James was removed as Senior Pastor and as an Elder of the church for engaging in conduct that the Elders believe is contrary and harmful to the best interests of the church. His employment has been terminated from Harvest Bible Chapel, effective today, February 12, 2019. This decision was made with heavy hearts and much time spent in earnest prayer, followed by input from various trusted outside advisors.

Our Elders and Staff are committed to fulfilling our fiduciary duty as the leadership of this congregation, knowing that at times the outcome may be misunderstood or emotionally painful. A more detailed communication regarding next steps for our church will take place in our weekend services.

We sincerely thank you for your prayers, your support, and your patience as we work together to restore a trust in leadership, a humility to surrender to biblical authority, and a firm resolve to move forward as a church family. Please continue to uphold our church, the Elder Board, staff, and the MacDonald family in prayer at this time.

– The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel


76 thoughts on “MacDonald “Terminated” by Harvest

  1. Having been part of a seriously flawed church in the past, and a midweek attender of Willowbrook for a few years, I fled Harvest when I saw signs of Pastor MacDonald’s arrogance. Hesaid on more than one occasion that the elders felt one way but he chose to pursue his way, when he bragged about being on his Harley and trying to run directly into a small flock of Canada geese because he hates those things, and chasing a “door knocker” from “his” neighborhood for trying to spread a false gospel, to name a few things.

    I’m seriously disturbed not only by MacDonald’s arrogance, but also the lack of ability or willingness of the elders and other key leaders to call him to account about all his heavy handed, dictatorial antics. Every elder, fellow pastor, and inner-circle member are to be considered as duplicitous as MacDonald for allowing this to continue by refusing to bring these things into the public light.

    My greatest heartbreak in all of this is those who are new to faith in Christ Jesus and will deny Him because of the lax and broken leadership of Harvest as a whole. The second group is those, like myself, who no longer trust the leadership of ANY church because of the deceitful and/or evil behavior of one or more previous churches, and lastly, those who will more resolutely rebuke Christianity and Christians because of these same underhanded dealings.

    I lean all the more on each person of the Trinity and power of God’s Word entrusted to us, but not on those who call themselves His teachers. Fully understanding that all of mankind is flawed I don’t expect them to be perfect for such an expectation is foolish. but fully expect church leaders to put themselves in totality under the authority of a broad base of unbiased elders that are not yes men nor respectors of persons.

    1. Bruised Not Bleeding February 15, 2019 — 12:39 pm

      I agree with you.

  2. If the elders of Harvest have decided to fire James MacDonald, which sounds like it should have happened years ago, why won’t they realize their wrong doing towards one of their own church planting pastors, John Secrest, and restore him to being the pastor of the church in Naples. Even better, why not allow the Naples church to separate from Harvest per their request and be allowed to be on their own. John Secrest did nothing wrong. He stood up against Pastor MacDonald and respectfully, asked the elders to support him. They did not and he was fired. Pastor Secrest and Pastor MacDonald do not belong in the same category of men or pastors. The elders need to rethink their decision to fire Pastor Secrest.

    I also am praying that if Pastor MacDonald or any other’s in the church who have committed crimes, will be brought to justice and required to stand before the law that applies to everyone else.

    We are called to be a part of the body of Christ (Romans 12). We are to worship God and Him alone (Solo dei Gloria). We are not to worship pastors, and yet, Satan loves nothing less than leading us astray looking for those whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8). We all need to examine our hearts and ask God to show us the idols of our heart and ask Him to destroy our idols and set our minds on things above. Church should never revolve around a personality. It should however always draw us closer to our Lord so His love can shine through us as we delve into the Word and live out of faith.

    We live in an area with mega churches and the leaders are tumbling down for many reasons but perhaps, more importantly, because they sought to take the place of the Savior and they wanted to be worshiped by man (Galatians 1:10).

    It is good the elders at Harvest finally stood up to their Pastor who was no longer leading sheep into Heaven but astray. They have acted very tardily and need to look at other decisions through the lens of Scripture and do what is right in the eyes of God.

  3. Mars Hill folded up pretty quickly after their celebrity pastor was removed. I am not a financial guy but Harvest is over $40,000,000 in debt. How will that work out?

    1. What do you think? Here’s the debt as of 12/31/17:

      $27 million Elgin (incl. Cathedral as collateral)
      $11.5 million RM
      $2.2 million Niles
      $2.4 million Crystal Lake
      $2 million Camp Harvest
      Deerfield Road and Aurora owned by two LLCs (respectively) in which HBC in a member. LLCs lease to HBC the Church.

      HBC does not own any of its properties free & clear/100%.

      Because HBC doesn’t report giving by campus, it’s hard to know if a “plant the campuses” strategy could work. They could sell the Camp, sell shares in LLC to Class B investors, close DFR & Aurora accordingly, plant Niles and Crystal Lake (let them fend for themselves), try to sell Cathedral and Rolling Meadows, and throw everything else at Elgin?

      That massive loan has not yet been refinanced and (I believe) is set to balloon on July 1, 2019.

      1. Yikes!!! On a building that was given to them, as I understand it.

        1. Yes. Three properties were debt-free when HBC acquired them: Elgin, Niles, & Camp Harvest.

    2. I’m curious to know if there’s any way of tracing the money he used to gamble with; meaning, if it was legit his own money or misappropriated from one of the churches accounts.

  4. First of all, my sympathy to all who were ignorant or naive, and have been broadsided by all of this. I know how it feels to discover that the pastor you know and love is not trustworthy. It takes time to heal.

    Secondly, I am encouraged that so many are calling for more. For public rebuke, removal of all complicit elders and pastors and a serious, unbiased financial review. MacDonald needs to make restitution of all that he has taken wrongfully, while leaving the church with enormous debt. Same with all others who have profited, leaving those who give faithfully holding the bag of bills.

    Lastly, hard questions need to be asked of all of the ‘friends’ and long-time supporters in high places of James MacDonald. The complaints have been too loud and too consistent for anyone to pretend that they knew nothing.

    Institutions may rise and fall, but they are the mere works of men. The work of God, including this necessary exposure of evil, will continue in spite of anything mere men may do. Maybe it’s finally time to take a second look at the seeker-friendly, mega-church philosophy. In a real ekklesia, people know, encourage, support and hold one another accountable. There are no kingpins or rulers.

  5. Former HBC Member February 13, 2019 — 4:35 pm

    Reading through the posted Elder Updates and saw this in the February 2018 posting:

    “Pastor James opened the meeting with a devotional from Matthew 18. This passage has great relevance for Elders and church leaders, so it’s critical that it is well understood and applied. He reminded us of the lengths we must go to resolve issues and the care we must undertake to avoid spreading offense — the end goal always being unity and reconciliation.”

    Sad that he and the Elders could not live up to the message he gave to them

    1. It seems that pastor James has not lived up to many of the messages he preached. So very sad, not sure where it all went wrong. Praying for the people of HBC

  6. Okay.
    So after all this, what happens then to TED? They’ve got nothing else to grill.
    The fall of Harvest will also be the “retirement” of this blog.
    Let’s all go back then to our day jobs.

    1. No, this is the first necessary step in returning Harvest to build the church of Jesus Christ and to remove the kingdom of James MacDonald. There still is a lot of cleaning out before that process even begins.

      1. Debra Szemplinski February 13, 2019 — 4:42 pm


      2. There’s definitely the danger that his sons or his inner circle will remain in control and the culture will continue.

        TED can still help flock who remain there to see that the church reforms continue all the way to the end, and that HBC if at all possible can become a healthy and open church.

      3. You are quite right. Harvest had become the kingdom of James MacDonald and his pursuit of the wealth of a king.

  7. I’m so glad that things have come to light and things are changing in the right direction…I remember, years ago, when James came to Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Ca, (Greg Laurie) and gave a message about giving. It was rude, he actually asked if anyone had a hundred dollar bill, then he put it in his pocket. I’ve not cared for him ever since. KWVE (Calvary Chapel’s local station) just recently stopped airing his program and I’m so glad, I don’t care for pastors who yell at their congregations.

    1. Very true. He was scolding the congregations from the beginning- maybe to scare them into obeying him. We left though. This situation reminds me of Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. A “servant” who was with Elisha for his own reward rather than God’s glory.

  8. We need to start calling you, The Terminator. Good work. As a former member at HBC, I cant thank you enough for all your hard work.

  9. Thank you to the two of you and to all who told their stories here. When I left Harvest in 1993, I had many conflicted feelings. I did not go around talking about my concerns. I had talked directly to James, and he had not received it. Friends of mine had gone to the elders, who also seemed not to receive it. So I shared my concerns with a friend here and a friend there, and none of them received it, either, though most of them eventually came to see the problems I saw. I lived for years conflicted, knowing that James was a gifted preacher/teacher with a growing ministry while still knowing big problems existed. Since people had not listened to me, I mostly kept things to myself. I actually feared someone would buy me a ticket to a Harvest leadership conference and I would have to explain that I didn’t want to go to something that they thought was so awesome (this never happened, though). After years of this, I stumbled upon The Elephant’s Debt, and it was here that I discovered I was not alone. I cannot tell you what that did for me! I went from not being able to drive past the Harvest Rolling Meadows campus on Rt 53 or hear James’s voice on my car radio without sinking low to being able to do those things without batting an eye, and that was all because I now knew that I was not alone. I am sorry that things have turned out this way for James; I had hoped long ago that he would listen to wise counsel from someone and would allow the Lord to change him, but he only seemed to dig in his heels and get worse. What happened today had to happen. I pray his eyes will yet be opened to reality. In the meantime, thank you again to the two of you for this therapeutic blog. And by the way, I knew both of your dads back in my Harvest days. 🙂

    1. Hello Mark. Have you ever considered that God Himself is allowing these past and present difficulties to happen for a very specific reason? Can I ask you something? Does Harvest or any workings of an institutional church even remotely resemble 1 Corinthians 14:26-39?
      And what does God say about those (leaders or otherwise) who refuse to recognize and acknowledge that these things are the commandments of God? Here’s your answer in verse 38:
      “But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized”

      The problem is that sheep are sheep. They are afraid to stand up for what should have been dealt with long, long ago. I don’t just mean an individual leaders sin, but the many false teachings and practices that derive from institutionalism itself.

      Jesus says plainly that he who loves me keeps My commandments. Those commands are both restrictive and prescriptive.

  10. On Mancow’s show Feb 12th, when he played those shocking recordings, he did add the qualifier that the voice *sounds a lot like* James MacDonald, presumably for legal purposes. But I notice that in the HBC February 2019 Elder Update, the elders acknowledge that “on Tuesday morning highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported.”

    So, by their statement and subsequent actions, they are absolutely confirming that it was James MacDonald who made those recorded statements, and based on that we can presume that the rest of the recordings not yet aired are also of James MacDonald.

    The level of raw malevolence and foul speech in those short recordings of JMac is absolutely devastating. How could anyone support this man? I wonder if somewhere on those recordings we will find out how JMac *really* feels about his current friends whose future support he is relying on…

    1. The Least Of These February 13, 2019 — 1:47 pm

      Thinking about what you (andvthe elders) said… why did they wait until AFTER the recordings were given to media and put on air? They had the responsibility to remove him as soon as words like that came out of his mouth the first time. He disqualified himself in that behavior immediately and yet was allowed to continue leading a (massive) flock. Why? And those who allowed this to continue, and even encouraged it have also disqualified themselves. So they, too, must go. ALL of them.

      I know and trust God has a purpose in this. He used/is using this to bring people closer to him. I have to rest in that. It is the ONLY way this is tolerable to me.

      1. Thank you for your comments. It seems the leaders waited to caught between a rock and a hard place. James was disqualified years ago, had he held everyone hostage? The leaders, his sons, accomplices all need to leave.

    -Remove remaining MacDonalds
    -Make restitution & apology to the 5 people you sued: TED, wives, & Julie Roys
    -Restore John Secrest & give him Naples church back if he wishes
    -Amend bylaws to remove concentration of power in Sr Pastor role
    -Revoke JM Rabbi trust & reclaim funds
    -Publish detailed source & use of cash for last 6 years-financial, salaries, perks, benefits, separate reports for black box 20%, WITW, HBF, Camp Harvest, Vertical Worship, all LLC’s & name LLC members
    -Fire Capin Crouse & Jeff Sharda
    -Resign from ECFA
    -Terminate everyone who signed letter of unconditional support of James MacDonald
    -Apologize for helping James lie for all these years & divert resources for his personal use
    -Declare yourselves disqualified to ever be an overseer again
    -Sackcloth & ashes humility going forward

    1. At a minimum the elders should:

      All the MacDonalds need to be fired, and they need to NOT receive golden parachutes from a church they left so deeply in debt and which will be struggling for its very survival after all this.

      Void all NDAs and non-competes that staff were required to sign.

      Repent publicly for the malevolent lawsuit against TED, the wives of the TED contributors, and Julie Roys, and commit to repaying their legal fees.

      Restore Naples to independent control and return the church to its rightful pastor.

      Give other campuses the option of becoming independent of HBC if the congregants so desire.

      Develop a plan to have the bylaws re-written to include oversight, accountability, and biblical church discipline for everyone, even the pastors.

      Designate members to lead the search process for new leadership and elders

      Then, all resign as a group to hand leadership over to new elders the congregation will select in order to move forward as a healthy, new body.

      1. We attended Harvest over 10 years ago and saw ALL OF THE CORRUPTION TALKED ABOUT in the many responses. We lost many wonderful friends over this whole “cultish” community James fostered. We saw first hand his cruelty and demoralizing of many of the people we loved. We are sickened by all of this but have to say how deeply disappointed we are in Rick Donald who has been one of the founders of Harvest with James and who has NEVER spoken up about the truth of all this mess. Rick donald YOU ARE A COWARD and need to go too!! Shame on you!!! We always knew that James was evil but I’m sorry you’re an accomplice!!

        1. Louise,

          As one of the early charter employees at HCA, and one of the last to resign (thus I experienced & observed the abuse at the school first-hand), I can attest to Rick Donald and Fred Adams’ manipulative behavior. I have email correspondence that attests to the almost identical abuse at HCA that has been exposed at HBC – abuse that occurred from my interactions with Rick and Fred Adams.

          I have composed my Harvest experience, many times over, into a narrative that captures what happened at that time, thinking I would post it here at TED. Each time I have considered posting, I have wavered because of the gaslighting I experienced then, at the hands of Rick, Fred, and the then Acting Headmaster at the school. Even today, amidst the validation of so many who have posted here and elsewhere of the abuse at Harvest, I’m still not yet able to publicly post what happened during those years at HCA and HBC. I hope to be able to do so in the future to put a final marker on this very difficult journey.

          My time at HCA/HBC permanently changed the trajectory of my life and the life of my family. We bear a permanent scar from our experience there.

          I stand tall with those who have found the courage to expose this devastating situation, and I stand quietly with those who suffer silently…

    2. Absolutely agree! Excellent list of steps to help and heal those hurt and abused. I pray this is what follows, excellent list!!! I would only add that EVERY Harvest church do the same regarding structure and governance as they all shared “the Harvest way” or the harm will continue to happen under the radar. The structure, system are toxic and produce abuses.

      1. Didn’t Jesus say that the church (literally ekklesia) would be built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets? The real trouble here is that NO institutional religious organization (non-profit or modern day church) is built upon that foundation. Is is not only that James had unresolved issues, but that the whole bedrock of Harvest and EVERY religious institution is not based upon an actual Scriptural foundation. Such a foundation condemns ANY religious hierarchy, clergy and laity distinctions, special religious titles or positions, paid salaries, special buildings, special attire and anything and everything else that is not momentarily and spontaneously directed by God The Holy Spirit.
        One would think after generation after generation claiming to read and obey the Scriptures that someone somewhere would have actually read 1 Corinthians 14:26-39 if not the whole book of Hebrews… least once.

        People, brothers and sisters, please listen well……..EVERY foundation that is not laid upon the rock will be what? This is not to call into question your individual faith or salvation, but it is to call into question what our Lord has never established: the manmade mechanism of religious institutionalism. It is none other than our adversaries greatest accomplishment- that which John the apostle calls MYSTERY BABYLON in the book of Revelation.

        Every professing Christian can look at this in one of two ways. They can be sad that what they built or help build is coming to an end and be sad, or they can abandon what they built in error and actually get about building spiritually with God what He is building in the spiritual realm.

        No one, no man, no human can destroy or adversely impact what Jesus is building. This is so far beyond all of own lofty cathedrals- so far beyond our wild ideas and imaginations for ministry- far, far beyond our own limited abilities.

        Jesus’ return is coming soon……and the compromise of those who put their religious ambitions before honoring Christ through their own inventions makes this all the more clear. ALL religious institutionalism will merge together under Rome and eventually the ANTICHRIST. Only these two questions and options remain:

        1) Will YOU try to save, salvage or resurrect what Jesus is NOT, and has never been building?

        2) Will you leave institutionalism for good and join up with the few outcasts in God’s wilderness?

        I endorse no man, but please find and read the article on called “The Gates of Jerusalem” This may be the most prophetical and accurate read in the last 20 years or more. Please, for Jesus’ sake?

        1. I can understand your concerns about several issues you raise but was there no hierarchy in the New Testament church? Different, essentially clerical offices were described – deacons, bishops etc & the apostles organized a church council in Jerusalem to make authoritative decisions on issues.

          I understand that problems come with any hierarchy but without any, how do you keep out heresy, as the early church encountered?

          I believe in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit but what we think are “momenta(ril)y and spontaneous(ly)” directions of the Holy Spirit can be a bad meal from last night, what we ourselves really want or a dangerous delusion.

          I really appreciate the passion of your faith. But I have a hard time believing that Jesus would leave us with NO valid Christian organizations today, and I’m guessing you believe, for the past 1900 years+ since the last apostle died.

        2. Good morning. First, let me just say I appreciate your response. That’s more than any so-called Christian leader has ever offered me when I’ve attempted to address one or more of these issues over the last 20+ years with them.
          As much as I would be willing to, I obviously cannot address all of these issues here. Obviously you have some valid questions and concerns in your response and I assure you that many others have sought those answers and found scriptural answers to them. I’ll try to just briefly address hierarchy and what this actually is and is not.
          A hierarchy (or top down authoritative network of persons) is necessary in society due to sin. It’s necessary in a fallen world where sinful people don’t naturally act in a manner in which is proper- they’re has to be a manner in which to force people to do what they ought to. This is why hierarchy exists everywhere in our world in businesses and in the military etc. People have to be controlled or nothing would get done and chaos would ensue.
          When a hierarchy exists, that same sinful nature of mankind doesn’t naturally want to submit but naturally wants to control. The manner of gaining control is directly tied to where one’s position exists within the hierarchy, which naturally leads people to attempt to move higher up in the chain of command. The higher up they are the more control they have and the less they have to submit to other people. This is true in every hierarchal system.
          Now consider what Jesus says in Matthew 20:20-28. I won’t write it out here because of space. Jesus is here contrasting the type of authority that exists within this world with the type of authority that exists within His ekklesia (note: not an organization but a family). Jesus says plainly this this type of authority is not to be among you- the followers and family of God.
          Now why not? It can be ascertained from simple reasoning that Christians are commanded not to live from their old selves for they have been born anew. They have a different source for living, The Holy Spirit that transforms they into something and someone who now acts in a manner that is pleasing to God- in a manner exactly opposite than those without God. Hierarchy simply isn’t necessary where men and women are truly changed by the Spirit of God. The real problem is that many of these professing believers are not truly changed because they have never really learned to die to themselves, nor have they been willing to. An individual who has died with Christ (first positionally and in daily practice) doesn’t have any agenda of their own anymore. They are no longer self driven but Holy Spirit driven. This is why hierarchy is unnecessary in the family of God.
          No hierarchy doesn’t mean no elders. Elders have functions to serve, but it is not to demand but to persuade by example. The word “office” is not a Bible word and doesn’t exist in the original languages. Offices exists in hierarchal organizations, no office exists within a family. Furthermore those with an office have more authority than those who don’t- once again denoting hierarchy.
          Lastly, I understand that people can and do speak from themselves and confuse what they think God says or is saying. It is both the responsibility of the elders in a fellowship to weed error out and also the responsibility of individual Christians and the entire local assembly to judge rightly what others share. God’s family is not a free for all but a place where all of the members are commanded to contribute as they learn to know God and trust Him more.
          God plan for His people is perfect and found in the Scriptures. Sadly, many if not most professing Christians have deemed what He has commanded as optional, when in fact it is prescribed. In its place they have constructed religious organizations which will all be destroyed and are in fact being more and more compromised by the day. What is little understood is that God Himself is behind this- not making people sin, fail or apostasies (that is the result of disobeying Him) but using these people to drive His people to Himself and His solution.
          We don’t need any more churches or to fix the ones we have. We need to abandon them altogether and return to God by denying ourselves and every idea and imagination that stems from our old

          If your feeling courageous you can read the article “The forgotten Christian of New Testament Christianity” on my other site to see just how far we have abandoned what Jesus originally established for His people.

        3. Amen! That has been and still is the problem with Harvest and all the other “so-called” churches. The seminary (cemetery) schools have removed the true foundation and power of the church. If there was an apostle or prophet at these churches these scandals and charlatans would have been dealt with, or better yet never would have started out!

          Pastors are only mentioned once in the NT, apostles and prophets are mention dozens of times. God IS a God of order 1 Corinthians 14:33: Ephesians 4:11-12 King James Version (KJV)
          11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Pastors (which are really elders and bishops), come UNDER the authority of apostles. That’s why sin is so rampant in these corporation run 501C3 institutions. By becoming a “corporation” they have lined up with Ceasar. The church has always been separate from the state. The IRS NEVER has required churches to be a 501C3…It’s a VOLUNTARY engagement these fake news churches have entered into.

          God is bringing down these fake institutions and exposing sin and raising up true men and women of God who will be true image bearers of the Father. Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but rather division Matthew 10:34! Truth divides. America has NEVER been a Godly country. We lead the world in sin and everything bad…starting with the so-called church. I’m not talking about the real church. The real church lacks NOTHING and is fully equipped for EVERYTHING. There has to be a “falling in” before a “falling away”!

          I’m rejoicing in this. Why? Because this is God’s doing. We need to love what God loves and hate what God hates. That road will always be narrow and few will find it! I would suggest if there are any megachurch goers here to start with at least 3 to 5 hours per day with the Lord and develop a real intimate relationship with the Lord. We have to learn to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

        4. Long ago I chose to “leave institutionalism for good and join up with the few outcasts in God’s wilderness.” I may not ever know the others who reside in God’s wilderness, but I have assurance of where my understanding of God’s Word comes from. God’s Word teaches me, Christ has secured my place in eterninty with the shedding of His blood for my sake, and the Spirit helps me to stay true to God’s Word through His opening of my heart.

        5. Amen sister. Always great to hear about others who have counted the cost of following Jesus.

      2. The Least Of These February 13, 2019 — 1:53 pm

        Culture needs to change all around.

    3. Amen!!!! Totally agree!!!

    4. Tough Decisions Ahead... February 13, 2019 — 3:00 pm

      I agree Angie! I posted this about a week ago about next steps for the feckless elder board and complicit leadership.

      As it has been reported that James MacDonald has been dismissed or fired, the remaining elders and leadership have an almost insurmountable task facing them if any vestige of Harvest Bible Chapel is to remain. Here are some thoughts for the elders and leaders at Harvest to consider:
      1. Complete and unadulterated transparency. No more spin. No more euphemistic language. NO MORE LIES. The Harvest Bible Chapel Board of Elders need to completely and wholly be transparent about the events and actions that led to this debacle. It is neither loving or protective of the congregation to withhold all details of sin, lies, deceit, fraud and mismanagement. If the elders are sincere in being transparent, then share all the good, bad and ugly (warts and all) of this situation. Anything less than full transparency by the elders will only solidify what many believe to be true, which is their own complicity and duplicity in these matters.
      2. Removal of key pastors, elders and leaders that have been and continue to be complicit in this scandal. Specifically, all pastors and elders that pledged unequivocal loyalty and allegiance to James MacDonald should either make the right decision and “Resign” or be “Removed” with no path for them to return to any type of leadership position at Harvest.
      3. New Elder Board and Leadership. Let’s wipe the slate clean in an orderly fashion. All current elders, in a systematic and orderly fashion begin to roll off the elder board. We can no longer have elders that have been complicit in action or silence remain on the board. New elders need to be in place and will have voting power. Existing elders that will be rolling off can serve only to provide any history or information to be considered for the new elder board. They would have no authority in future decision-making. All existing campus pastors and key leaders need to be re-vetted/interviewed to determine if they are found worthy to remain in a pastoral or leadership position. Any pastor or leader found to be actively complicit in the deceit, fraud and financial mismanagement of the current demise of Harvest Bible Chapel should be immediately dismissed with no severance compensation.
      4. Discontinue the role and function of the Executive Committee and XLT. Equal voice and vote for all members of the Elder Board and not by a few hand picked ‘yes men”. The Senior Pastor (or his sons) do not hold any type of “veto” power over the elder board.
      5. Complete transparency of the budget. No more “Black Budgets” and “Pie Charts” that lack transparency or accountability. The budget, which includes all salaries, benefits, expense accounts etc. are posted and available for the congregation to see. I would add that the elders should go back and share all the financial information and dealings of the church since its’ inception back to 1988.
      6. Launch and cooperate with a full investigation. A full and complete investigation of any fraud or fiscal mismanagement should be initiated and reported to local, state or federal authorities. If it is determined that a fraud or crime has been committed, the elders should pursue full restitution by those that have defrauded the church. [There should be no concern of pursuing a lawsuit, as we have precedence to do so (tongue firmly planted in cheek). I recently read an article on why it’s ok and justifiable to sue other Christians.]
      7. Comprehensive Fiscal Audit. Someone other than Capin Crouse or ECFA. Need I say more?
      8. Stop building/adding on and planting more churches. The church is carrying at least $42 million in debt, with a rapidly declining church attendance, which translates to a decline in giving. Harvest will not be able afford and maintain their current facilities under the current conditions, so building and adding new church plants will only accelerate the almost inevitable closing of Harvest Bible Chapel.
      9. Consolidate campuses and streamline personnel. The greatest expenses in an organization are in places and people. It’s time to close some of the 8 campuses and consolidate down to 1 or the most 2. Sell off or liquidate unused and costly facilities and put that towards existing debt. Harvest has endorsed Dave Ramsey and his “Peace University” and I am sure that Dave Ramsey would support this type of action. In closing church plants, you will not have the need for all the extra personnel. Harvest will literally save millions of dollars in salaries, insurance and fringe benefits. In consolidating campuses, you will also save millions of dollars in maintenance and upkeep costs.
      10. Sell off and eliminate all non-essentials ministries and take proceeds and apply to the debt. As difficult as it may be to stomach the idea for some, but Harvest Christian Academy(HCA) must close at the end of this school year. It is not self-sustaining ministry that can be funded through tuition alone. HCA is being subsidized in part through the tithes and offerings of the congregation. The savings from the closing HCA could also reach millions of dollars, which should be applied to existing debt. In addition, HCA takes up half of the office building in Elgin. Once you close HCA, find a company or companies to rent out the office space. Funds generated through the renting should be applied to existing debt. Harvest Bible Chapel should close and sell off Camp Harvest in Newaygo, Michigan. Needless to say, there is no need to be building new training centers or maintain Freedom House or for White Tail Deer Herds for crying out loud. All proceeds of sale of property should be applied to existing debt. Harvest Bible Chapel can still provide a camp experience to children by sending them to other Christian Camps in Michigan or Wisconsin. It is not a crazy idea, as many if not most churches do this.
      11. Close Vertical Worship Band. This must be disbanded (excuse the pun) immediately. No more tours and recording fees etc. In the past, Harvest Bible Chapel produced CD’s, which were live recordings of worship. Yes, it would maybe not to the level that we have now with Vertical Worship, but under the circumstances a needed action. Take all funds saved and apply to existing debt.
      12. Close Vertical Church planting/Mission Harvest. Besides the obvious cost savings associated with maintaining this ministry, should Harvest Bible Chapel on any spiritual or moral ground continue trying to replicate the deception, corruption, fraud and mismanagement to other churches? Needless to say, all funds saved in closing Vertical Church planting/Mission Harvest should be applied to existing debt.

      In my opinion, even if these 12 recommendations were enacted, I am still not sure that Harvest Bible Chapel will survive. I have no desire to see the fall of Harvest. I fully understand the seriousness and implications of making these recommendations. At the same time, I also understand the seriousness and implications if we continue along the path that we are currently on. Yes, we might lose some good people. Yes, we may have to temporarily or permanently discontinue some current ministries. This would be sad in some cases, but in some cases it may be a blessing. If Harvest Bible Chapel is to survive, drastic and courageous decisions need to be made. Harvest needs to be rebuilt on the True Foundation, which is Christ and not the house of cards that is collapsing under the weight of sin, deceit, fraud and debt.

      I end this post with the following verses:
      “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9 (ESV)

  12. I’m wondering if this is what James wanted all along. He’s terminated so does that mean he’s not fully responsible for the debt the church has incurred?? Also, now there’s possibly a stop to the class action lawsuit Mancow Muller and others wanted to go against Harvest. Is this his Get our Jail nail card? Will he get a severance package? Keep in mind—his sons are still staffed along with Rick Donald and the rest. Will he still be running the church through his sons without being held accountable for the misused funds? This decision seems to quick and hasty… I have my doubts it’s over

    1. You people will never be satisfied! The decision seems too quick and hasty? The minute the audio came out yesterday people were all over social media demanding that the elders fire James NOW. Now, everything seems suspicious. The elders have been meeting frequently trying to come up with a game plan and this just accelerated the process. His sons are still staffed, but give it some time. James literally got fired less than 24 hours ago. We do not know what the next steps will be or the moves that have already been made but have not been made public yet. My heart hurts not only for all the members of Harvest, but for all those who claim they are Christian but cannot show an ounce of sympathy for any of those that are hurt but would rather plant doubt and gossip. Give it some time! This is not an easy process.

      1. Anna, with all due respect and indeed empathy, James has created his own problems due to grievous sin. Surely you’re aware of James 3, which warns of the increased accountability for teachers/pastors. This is not a hasty reaction. This is an explosive revelation which Mike Bryant himself says is an authentic recording of James. Mike worked alongside James for years. Anyone who threatens to plant child porn on the computer of a perceived enemy is doing the will of demons and has disqualified himself yet again. That is merely the most recent offense, and there are no doubt others.

    2. Michelle I’ve wondered the same thing. His sons & Rick Donaldson & all elders who were involved with James should be removed. Praying for the thousands of people who attend these churches and are now having to deal with unbelievable betrayal

    3. I agree with you. Harvest is really James’ business and he has power to control with his sons and others there who do his will. He is like an Enron executive bailing with a golden parachute while all left is destroyed. This sends a message to the other pastors in the world who begin to think they are too big to fail. This is a Wallstreet Repeat, Too Big To Fail.
      God is not for sale, it’s so sad how these people have used his precious name this way. How they are so in debt is a great question. Seems they leveraged these properties for cash. Where did all that money go?
      I agree with Mancow about asking those questions.

  13. I’m wondering why it took this coming public? The elders all KNOW that he (and sons) talk like this. I knew it and I barely spent any time around James. They knew and it still wasn’t enough for them. The most common defense I heard of James from an elder and staff was how much he has “grown” throughout the years. If this is his height of growth- that’s not terribly comforting. So why now?

    1. The Least Of These February 13, 2019 — 1:57 pm

      I agree, why did it have to be public for them to terminate. So had that not happened he would still have a job? What a joke.

  14. Modern mega churches are most always inevitably founded and sustained by “personalities” who have a “gift” for performance, entertainment, and drawing people through their personality. Their teaching and doctrine may appear to be fairly solid or not solid at all or even in flux. But the fact remains that such a “church” is founded upon the perceived personal charisma of a person who is brimming with self confidence.

    It is such a far cry from many of the early churches which met in homes, and the Apostle Paul, who was regarded as an unimpressive public orator (see 2 Cor. 11). And, regarding Paul, if he was unmarried as many suspect, then it’s not a stretch to speculate that 99% or better of modern Protestant Christian churches (and this is not an endorsement of Roman Catholicism or unmarried clergy) would not have the man from Tarsus as pastor if he were preaching anonymously today. He would never make it past a pastoral search committee.

    People, and most unfortunately that includes people in churches, are drawn to leaders with self confidence, leaders who know nothing of the self deprecation that Paul expresses in passages like 1 Cor. 3.

    In many ways people are getting exactly what they want, and, dare I say, deserve.

    1. Yes, there are still people with eyes to see!

      The sooner all institutional religion is abandoned or more likely compromised, the better. Senior Pastors are just one of the inventions of mens religion found nowhere in the Scriptures professing Christians claim to obey. Saying that church is actually a people and yet advertising one’s religious name and emphasizing the need to attend a building is hypocrisy. That is an obvious mixture of truth and error EVERY institutionalized “church” promotes through their leaders and followers. What a sham and a shame.

  15. Debra Szemplinski February 13, 2019 — 9:10 am

    Legitimate threat(s) of a full scale, very public, class-action lawsuit, complete with ancillary filings and findings, i.e. Illinois Attorney General and 100 hrs. of ‘hot mic’ (type) recordings, in addition to nearly 7 years of ‘outing’, finally resulted in this man’s ‘removal’. Now hundreds are sincerely asking/hoping that criminal charges be pressed in light of the latest disclosures. Yesterday we heard a ‘pastor’ quasi-joke about placing child pornography on CT CEO Howard Smith’s computer as a design to have him terminated (if not implicated for related crimes). This is just the beginning. The days of the mega-church must end. Perhaps James MacDonald and his ilk will serve as precedent.

    1. The other MacDonalds and the elders must all go too. This went on for years (decades?) in full view of them all, but they only took action when it became public.

      They all at least turned a blind eye, to say nothing of the individuals who were actually participating in suppressing it. If you don’t speak up or leave, you enabled it.

      This is much, much worse than Hybels, and the elders at HBC should take a cue from the elders at Willow

      1. The Least Of These February 13, 2019 — 2:01 pm


  16. I wonder if he will go to another state and launch the Vertical Church under his leadership. Seems that stage has been set for some time.

    1. It is quite possible. One of MacDonalds friends in NC, where the Vertical Church Network (VCN) is located, is on the board of the VCN. What is interesting is that in checking the VCN website for their “leadership page that page is “missing”. On it was the friend of MacDonald I mentioned as well as Luke MacDonald and other pastors. I noticed it was missing since early the end of January.

      1. The Least Of These February 13, 2019 — 2:04 pm

        That and the Vertical and Harvest names are very well known and google-able.

        1. Men cannot name what Jesus is building- they name what they intend to build, namely religious organizations.

        2. They name what they have every intention of directing and controlling. Somehow this seems to be at odds with God the Holy Spirit.

      2. This is my guess as well. Cristian Barbosu (pastor of HBC Romania) was visiting Naples a couple of weeks ago. My guess is James was already networking to see who is willing to join Vertical Churches. This isn’t over. James will not merely slither off to retirement.

        1. The Romanian Pastor, The Pastor from St Vincents, Luke MacDonald, and the Pastor and Executive Pastor (MacDonalds friend) of Harvest WS (where I went) and I think one from Canada and Fayettville NC were listed as leadership of the VCN.

  17. Repentance still needed February 13, 2019 — 8:34 am

    Joshua 7…the sin of Achan and the devastation it caused all of Israel–UNTIL the sin was authentically confessed and (literally) uncovered. There is hope; the Valley of Achor became the Door of Hope (Hos 2:6), and yes, Achan had to lose his life over that sin! Obviously I’m grateful sin isn’t dealt with that way these days, but I am in agreement with the comments already posted. This leadership team at HBC was given a ‘gift’ with the recordings being released. Now they had something they could point to when in reality they have had justification and the responsibility to deal with the sin for YEARS. Have they stopped to think about how the Kingdom has been affected? Not just by the wounded people over the years, but by the number of people that refuse to enter a church because of the hypocrisy? Can we just stop giving people excuses to not trust Jesus who is always faithful?

    I have only seen the upfront and personal leadership style of one of James’ trainees and there is a far greater concern than just the Chicago Harvests. God takes sin so seriously and I pray there is true authentic introspection on the part of every pastor that was trained under James MacDonald and their elders. Loyalty to the senior pastor is how the elders at the one church I was from were trained.

    It’s no wonder it took years. And this in no way indicates there has been repentance on the part of the leadership. Even their plan put forth to the church in the Campus Pastor update (Feb 2-3) was a perfect five-point alliterated plan with the first one reading “as the elders and leaders identify areas of sin, the first priority is repentance.” That proves they don’t really understand the workings of the Holy Spirit and that you don’t make a plan to repent. You are cut to the heart and you can’t help but repent.

    Praying for brokenness and authentic repentance for all. Be glorified Lord Jesus.

    1. You are absolutely right. The problem is also in the HBC/Vertical DNA. Showpiece reforms are not the answer, the entire institution needs to be rebuilt around a healthy, accountable, and above all God-honoring culture.

  18. I think Harvest will fold just a Mars Hill did. MacDonald was the show, the draw, folks drove miles to see him. With him gone attendance & tithes will drop drastically. The church is over 40,000,000 in debt. The banks will call the loans.

    1. You have no idea what was driving us to go to church. It definitely was not James. Actually, after his sabbatical, MANY people at my campus made comments about how they preferred the campus pastor preaching and enjoyed not having the satellite.

      1. Anna I am praying for you all, I can’t imagine what this has been like for all who attend church there. Praying you all will keep your eyes and hearts upon Jesus during this difficult time and look to Him alone for all wisdom and strength. People will always fail you, Jesus never will. May God bless you.

  19. God is giving him space to repent. Hopefully, this will cause him to get it right before the Father and the sheep. God has been removing these so-called pastors and sheep for years from Harvest as a warning, but there was (is) no discernment. If he doesn’t repent his removal will be the least of his worries…he will not make it to his 60th birthday and will be in danger of eternal judgment. His sins are not just against God, but against the body of Christ that he oversaw.

    MacDonald needs to be rebuked openly, not from some board of directors called elders, THEN removed from his office of Pastor since he has disqualified himself. 1Timothy 1:5:20,21: But those who persist in sin should be rebuked IN FRONT OF EVERYONE, so that others will stand in fear of sin. Verse 21: I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to maintain these principles WITHOUT BIAS, and to do nothing out of partiality.

    Ephesians 5:11: Have NO fellowship with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather EXPOSE them. Open rebuke is Gods way of getting us to face our sin. Then 2 Corinthians 7:11 is the evidence of TRUE repentance: 7-11: Consider what this Godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what vindication! In every way you have PROVED yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

    That remedy is NOT a “piling on” or jump on the bandwagon of take MacDonald down at all cost, but rather God’s deep love to restore him. It should be done in front of all the campuses via simulcast. That would be the first steps of receiving grace to get thru this process and develop a broken heart and contrite spirit, that God will give him. God gives grace to the humble. Restitution will then just be the fruit of that repentance. Without doing it the way scripture commands us, then it will just be mere words…If James does not take this route……

    God is bringing down all these prominent false prophets and institutions like Willow and Harvest and many others as a warning. He is removing the veil that has covered the eyes of the “so-called church”. Matthew 23 applies to the modern church pastors today:

    Matthew 23 King James Version (KJV)
    23 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

    2 Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:

    3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

    4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

    5 But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

    6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

    7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

    8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

    9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

    10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

    11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.

    12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

    13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

    14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

    15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

    16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!

    17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

    18 And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.

    19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?

    20 Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

    21 And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.

    22 And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.

    23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

    24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

    25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.

    26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

    27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

    28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

    29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,

    30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.

    31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.

    32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

    33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

    34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:

    35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.

    36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

    37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

    38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

    39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

    Mike L. Willis

    1. Beautiful Comment!!!!!!

    2. God has put on my heart for a long time that Harvest leaders were those in Matthew 23. The danger is that when leaders know better and violate God’s word over and over again, God will give them over to what they desire. Just like the people of Israel did and they suffered. I am not even sure of James’ salvation and is sad to think I listened to him for years. He is really in danger. He knew Gods word better than most and did not heed any warnings. Isn’t that a hard heart?
      Does he even believe in the living God? Shows over James and group. God will now step in and you should fear his correction.

  20. Burned in Deerfield February 13, 2019 — 7:32 am

    Spot on Jim. None of this happened in a vacuum.

  21. Read between the lines. These men are incapable of truth. There is more to the story.

  22. Unreal that it took this long to remove James MacDonald. Utterly pathetic. If the next letter from the Harvest elders doesn’t inform the congregation of the soon and swift resignation of EVERYONE on the XLT and elder board (including campus pastors), then not a single HBC member ought to stick around to wait and see if these incompetent oafs can be trusted in the future.

    Friends, find freedom and fellowship elsewhere. Clearly these men cannot be trusted to oversee a church going forward.

    I stand by what I’ve repeatedly said for years and years. These men have proven over and over again they are not fit to lead any church, in matters of doctrine, direction, and discipline.

    A Former HBC Member (1999-2011) Who’s Rejoicing that God is Purifying His Church

  23. The next step is for all Elders and Campus Pastors to resign. Confiscate all computers. Hire one of the big accounting firms to conduct a forensic audit.

    1. Yes, yes, and yes.

    2. Unfortunately I agree

  24. This sounds good, but to me, this could change the whole focus and lead people to assume the problem is “solved”. In my opinion, it’s no where near solved.
    It took audio recordings to “force” this decision. The other information wasn’t enough?
    Unless there’s a full scale change, James getting fired is a distraction.

  25. What truly is sad to me is the “black eye” it gives to the church and to Christ. Also what is sad is that it took the release to the public of these tapes to get MacDonald removed. Its sad especially when one thinks that most of these elders had known what he said already but never acted upon it. Why didnt they act upon the statements THEN and call him to account. They acted only because they had no choice. Thruout this whole saga none of the leadership at Harvest “Acted Like Men”

    1. That is SO MY FIRST WORDS OUT OF MY MOUTH THIS MORNING. The Elders have not listened to their people over at least 10 years. The elders have been complisent and complacent. Rick, Jeff, Trei, all of them are fully aware of the way James Macdonald talks. The others that went with James and Luke to Scotland were fully aware of the way he talks and that they stole something from the golf shop. They make excuses in their thinking. Fear based. The elders, pastors have spun the updates, meetings to staff, and in meetings where people had concerns, hurts, and complaints….. no responsibility typically ever taken from the leaders and pastors of Harvest. I know this personally. The elders have failed in so many ways they should all resign. We attended Harvest for 15 years, and recently made a call to a current elder. He said he was waiting to hear from God, and that outside media and blogs are not or are never helpful. Our point was is that the Scriptures say that” the one who states his case versus right until the other one comes along and examines it. “. The elders and staff were actually told not to look at blogs or listen to any media in regards to the toxic environment and corruption in this church. And if you did listen or have concerns I was told, “ be a good soldier and do not get entangled with civilian affairs “. Seriously?
      Let’s pray for the precious people will be left at Harvest and have to navigate their way through this. Romans 15 first five verses. Praying. Also let’s all be available to listen and pray with people that are hurting.

      1. Wow!! just reading that the leaders were told not to read blogs confirm that Harvest was a cult! They used the bible to manipulate and hold people hostage, very sad. Houses built on sand shall not stand and rightfully so if only to save our souls! I hope a lot more people are being fired alongside James.

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