In the later half of 2011, Harvest Bible Chapel launched a new capital fundraising project called the 5G Campaign. According to the vision statement on the campaign website, 5G is all about glorifying God and growing Christians who are gracious, generous, and grateful. At the same time, within that context of discipleship, Harvest is also hoping to raise money.
As you can see from the screen capture below, as of September 7th, 2012, over 5000 pledges have been made to the 5G Campaign, totaling $30 million in pledges to date.
So, how did Harvest Bible Chapel go about inspiring people to give to this campaign? It began with James MacDonald visiting each campus location, a practice that is rare to say the least. During at least one of these visits, he not only cast a vision for the campaign, but also took the added step of helping attendees discern how much the Lord was leading them to give. The attendees were given a pledge card listing various dollar amounts in descending order. As you can see from an electronic copy of the card below, the smallest suggested amount listed was $83 per month.
With the card in hand, attendees were then told the following by James MacDonald, Senior Pastor of HBC:
“I’ll tell you how to figure out what the Lord is leading you to pledge. Go down that list – start at the top…and eventually you’re going to get to this place where there are two numbers. The one below – doable. The one above – stretch, faith. Pick the one above, that’s your number.”
Now let us be very clear about what was just described to you. A man with a gifted tongue, a powerful personality, and a spiritual office endowed with authority just told his flock that he knew what God wanted them to give to a financial campaign, above and beyond what they were already giving through their tithe. Even if you believe that there is a biblical, New Testament mandate to tithe, please understand that there is no biblical mandate surrounding the giving of offerings, above and beyond the tithe. No human has the spiritual or moral authority to speak on behalf of God as to what the gifts or offerings other people should give, and any attempt to do so, in our opinion, is an abuse of spiritual authority.
Leaving that discussion behind us, for the moment, we return now to the question of the financial management. How much of the money raised by this 5G campaign has been publicly earmarked for debt reduction?
According to Harvest’s FAQs about the 5G Campaign, two projects have been assigned the highest priority. First, Harvest intends to utilize some of the funds raised to “build out the Worship Center at the Niles Campus,” allowing more people to attend and, more importantly, tithe. Following that, the second stated priority “would be to make the Harvest Cathedral ‘fit’ to become a campus location.” And after that?
“Other projects will follow as funding allows.”
So, faced with a staggering $65 million debt, James MacDonald and the leadership of Harvest Bible Chapel have publicly elected to place the highest priority upon expanding their material assets as opposed to directly paying down on the debt and securing Harvest’s financial stability.