Harvest Issues Public Apology

I just received the following email from the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel. I was not expecting an apology, but it is a welcome development and a step in the right direction. I do forgive each one of the elders for pursuing the lawsuit against myself, the Mahoneys, and the Bryants. And I truly hope for healing and reconciliation in the days to come.

Scott and Sarah Bryant, Ryan and Melinda Mahoney, and Julie Roys:

The elder board of Harvest Bible Chapel is writing to you to apologize and ask for your forgiveness for a lawsuit that should never have been brought against you. While at the time we thought we were acting in the best interests of the church, we now realize this lawsuit, while lawful, was a sinful violation of 1 Corinthians 6 and biblically should not have been pursued.  

This action put you through undue stress, took significant time, energy and resources, and left you to defend your reputations. We are sorry; please forgive us.  

Since our action against you was public, we will be posting today on our website this apology, along with an apology to our congregation.  

This week the elder board will transition to a completely new board of elders. With a new church leadership team and new elder board now in place, along with this apology and the restitution Harvest has made/offered to each of you, we hope this will start the healing process between each of you and Harvest.

– The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

Also, below is the email Harvest sent to its members tonight. One note: if you follow the link for specifics on the lawsuit, you’ll read, “Regarding the lawsuit against Julie Roys and The Elephant’s Debt, at the time, Harvest leadership had grown weary of continued negative, and what was then believed to be untrue, commentary towards the church.” For the record, when the lawsuit was filed, I hadn’t written anything about the church–nothing. And as far as I know, practically everything printed by The Elephant’s Debt has proven to be true. Harvest needs to make note of that. 

To our Harvest Family,

Later today, Lord willing, the new elder board will be confirmed and our time serving on the board will have come to an end. Despite the challenges of this current season, it has been a privilege to serve the Lord and the church on the elder board. Yet, we also understand that as the church moves forward, it is best served to have a completely new elder board. Because of that, we willingly resign from the elder board. This will be the last communication to the church body from this board of elders.

Since announcing our intent to resign from the board, our focus has been to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12), and to transition well the church leadership structure for future success. In every meeting, discussion, action or consideration, we have strived first to do what is biblical and honors the Lord above all else, what is best for the church, and what is best for the future leaders of the church. Under that premise, we want to update you on three areas specifically.

First, under the direction and recommendation of Crossroads Resolution Group, a third-party ministry who specializes in reconciliation, conflict resolution, and mediation, we met with James MacDonald on Friday, April 12. The meeting between the Elder Board and James was attended by six of the seven elders (one was recovering from surgery), two conciliators from Crossroads, an outside attorney representing Harvest who specializes in employment law practices, James, and his attorney. The purpose of this meeting was to both begin biblical reconciliation between us, as well as make efforts to address complex legal issues and lingering disagreements still open since his termination. Harvest’s Bylaws require us to pursue matters in dispute through mediation and, if mediation fails, through more costly third-party arbitration. An arbitration or legal proceeding introduces risks, is expensive for both parties, requires significant staff involvement and time away from ministry, and delays the efforts toward reconciliation. While these efforts are still ongoing, please be in prayer for a successful, biblical resolution to these matters.

Additionally, as we look back with the clarity we now have on the lawsuits Harvest pursued last fall that were later withdrawn, we believe that these lawsuits, while lawful, were a sinful violation of 1 Corinthians 6 and biblically should not have been pursued.  We’ve privately and now publicly apologized to the defendants regarding the suits.  Specifics of this can be found here

Finally, we initiated a completely new process for the selection of the next group of elders to serve on the board of our church. This new process relied on congregational input, campus pastor nominations, and a final selection led by campus pastors and church members where we were not present. We felt our absence was necessary to begin restoring faith to our church in the biblical office of eldership. We praise the Lord for raising up these nine men to govern our church who we believe He has appointed for such a time as this.

We ask that you would fully support the Campus Pastors, the new Church Leadership Team and this new Elder Board, as we also will be doing. Our church has never before had a full elder board replacement. This is why we ask for your prayers and patience as they step into their role. We believe by faith that God is not done working in our church and look forward to seeing how He will continue to use Harvest Bible Chapel for His glory.

This has been an incredibly trying time to serve as elders, navigating the most difficult time in the history of our church. Issues we faced were complex, and we prayerfully sought the Lord to lead us throughout our time serving. So many of you have been supportive, prayed for us, and lifted us up at times when our completing this season felt like an impossible task. Thank you.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)

-The outgoing Elder Board of Harvest Bible Chapel

 

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71 thoughts on “Harvest Issues Public Apology

  1. Debbie Gowtham

    It is still mind-numbing that any of the elders would have gone along with the lawsuit in the first place. Are they just now finding out that it was unscriptural?

    • MWorrell

      I think that could be said of all of us at some point. If not by other people, then certainly by our Forgiver.

  2. Tony

    Curious if there is consensus as to whether the lawsuit was indeed lawful. I suspect many reject that assertion. Perhaps someone better versed in the law can opine.

    • I’m quite confident Harvest would have lost had we continued to pursue sanctions based on IL Rule 137. It was a frivolous lawsuit, and in my case, an attempt at prior restraint, which is unconstitutional.

      • Lester C. Fretz

        Julie, You have certainly worked assiduously with integrity, thoroughness and compassion reflecting a desire to see the Lord’s work function honestly and reputably as Jesus would desire. He has honoured your efforts!

  3. JohnMark

    “We ask that you would fully support the Campus Pastors, the new Church Leadership Team and this new Elder Board, as we also will be doing.”

    To me it certainly sounds like they know the ship has taken on a massive amount of water and is about to capsize. I don’t know the current giving and attendance numbers, but guessing it’s really bad. Note, I’m not saying what Jesus wants to do will capsize, His will be done.

  4. Jennifer Heima

    “it has been a privilege to serve the Lord and the church on the elder board.”–was the Lord (Or the church) served by this elder board??????

    • Michael

      Great question, Jennifer!!

  5. Curious William

    Now that the HBC elders have publicly acknowledged that the lawsuit was unbiblical, will they ask Christianity Today to retract the op-ed written by their former senior pastor in which he distorts scripture in his attempt to support this unbiblical lawsuit?

    • lostsheep72

      This whole thing is a publicity stunt. They are trying a new strategy of playing the Good Guys admitting mistakes so they can move on and be free of talking about this anymore, Great offensive move. Time will tell what is genuine.

  6. exmember

    Is this yet another tactic to increase giving and keep people at the church?????

    • Mike

      After all that’s transpired, it’s hard to imagine any other possible scenario. I think you’re right on target.

  7. Steve

    Yes/ it’s always about the money

  8. a Berean mama

    Hmmm…this is simply saying they are sorry they sued, not that the reason they sued was wrong! the apology would have a lot more credibility and weight if there was some transparency and acknowledgement of the misuse and abuse of finances and many other abuses of power that have happened, and a thank you to TED and Julie for raising the various concerns and bringing them to the leaders attention… empty words if there is no action to make things right… we will see what the new board does, if they are willing to open up the books, and be more transparent, or if it’s more of the same old, same old “alright, move along folks, nothing to see here, please disburse”… with the leaders hoping it will all go away and people will get tired of it, just like the leaders were tired of all the negative…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKnX5wci404

    I pray the leaders will do what’s right…

    I will keep praying that God will continue to raise up and release the prophetic role to call out the sin in His Church…
    https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/dfb9e1e8-b65f-48e4-968a-305340c8df0c

  9. David

    All one needs to know is that if the HIRELING ” pastors” are still there then all this means is that the Worldly Industrial Complex System of harvest is just gonna keep runnin’ a little longer and KABBAM all of a sudden it gets “all” better and jimmy canuck returns in (wolf’s) tears , you know like a resurrection or something , so the whole thing can just keep on deceiving 1000’s more…….into thinking they are OK
    But those that truly hear His voice will come out and separate themselves out of obedience and for the love of the truth in His Word and enter into homes as they gather together and love one another
    in sincerity and TRUE reverence. Perhaps one or two would sing a NEW song from their heart in pure worship, then one or two others would bring His Word because they waited on HIM and HIS Spirit and they did not need a bunch of other HIRELINGS to write a sermon! I bet there could even be an exhortation or two as well…….. Wow everybody fitly joined together, what a concept!!
    Wait a second ………… it’s what it says to do in the BIBLE!

    WHO TOLD YOU TO SING AN OLD SONG EVERY WEEKEND?
    WHAT AMOUNT OF PERSONAL PAIN WILL IT TAKE?
    WHEN WILL YOU OBEY HIS VOICE?
    WHERE ARE THE TRUE WATCHMEN ?
    WHY ARE ALL THE SHEEP FEEDING THE SHEPHERD?

    Jeremiah 7:23-28 King James Version
    23 But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.

    24 But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward.

    25 Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them:

    26 Yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.

    27 Therefore thou shalt speak all these words unto them; but they will not hearken to thee: thou shalt also call unto them; but they will not answer thee.

    28 But thou shalt say unto them, This is a nation that obeys not the voice of the Lord their God, nor receives correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth

  10. Every resolution needs to start somewhere so this is an encouraging beginning! What breaks my heart is thinking that in repenting and resigning, they’ll leave the church and have a fresh start somewhere else. I’ve pondered this common practice of the leaders in this particular situation. Wouldn’t true repentance have you staying to help clean up the mess and rebuild what you’ll helped tear down? Just ponderings is all :)

    • Linn

      pjrfenton-You may be surprised that some churches do check references of those who come to them for leadership/employment. A number of years ago I worked a a local Christian ministry to the low-income folks in my city. An old pastor friend had listed me as a reference, and I was approached by HR. I was honest-no-because he did not have leadership qualities. My current church let a recently hired pastor go because something came up that he had never communicated with the board, and it was important (that’s all we were ever told). There were other, obvious, issues that the congregation was aware of, anyway. Some churches also have a six-month rule before a person can serve, and in my church’s case, five years in the church before any elder/deacon position is considered (unless one is hired as a teaching pastor)..And, our congregational elders are appreciated, but not paid. So, yes, responsible churches and organizations do check. I continue to hope that more will follow their example.

      • Hi Linn,
        I’m not surprised some do — I’m more surprised a) how many don’t or b) how many allow smooth tongues “explain” the “real” situation and in an attempt at grace allow the wolves in among the sheep again as they pose as sheepdogs ;)

    • David

      From what I understand out of the Word of GOD is that there is no repentance without RESTITUTION
      ” That’s great that you are sorry for stealing my TV , BUT where is my TV? ” or in scripture :
      LUKE 19:1-10
      And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

      2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

      3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

      4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

      5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

      6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

      7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

      8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I RESTORE HIM FOURFOLD

      9 And Jesus said unto him, THIS DAY is salvation come to THIS HOUSE, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

      10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

      • CM

        I agree completely.

        Repentance without restitution and fruits of repentance is meaningless.

        Maybe the elder board should offer to pay back the financial costs to Julie, TED and others fourfold.

        Remember if JMac, Harvest, and the Elder Board members go down as criminal co-conspirators in a RICO probe, the victims get triple damages…

    • Tony

      This reminds me of a great quote from Albert Einstein

      “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”

      It may be that some people, and the organization as a whole, need healthy disruption, which may mean starting over elsewhere, in order to grow and eventually thrive. One would assume that even with new leadership at Harvest,history may present triggers that pull them back to a (real or perceived) sense of fear, anxiety, guilt and shame that is not healthy. It’s sad that the circumstances are such that many must make uncomfortable changes one way or another.

  11. Michael

    A couple different “James” Scenarios might take place. It depends if James gets Indicted by a County Grand Jury or Federal Northern District in Chicago.

  12. Mountain Girl

    This was telling:

    ” The purpose of this meeting was to both begin biblical reconciliation between us, as well as make efforts to address complex legal issues and lingering disagreements still open since his termination.”

    In other words:

    James has taken millions and millions out of your organization’s offerings to slake his spending addiction and destroyed your reputations and that of your organization with his behavior.

    However, even while your organization is sinking, in desperate need of cash to meet the debt obligations HE obligated you to have, and even though the slow rolling crash is caused by HIS malfeasance, he still thinks he is entitled to even more of your offerings. He would rather your organization crash and burn than for him to let go of a single dime he might still possibly plunder.

    • David

      Mountain Girl you’re awesome in your thinking!
      Maybe it’s possibly jimmy canuck’s only redeeming quality in bringing the whole Worldly Industrial Complex System of harvest to a grinding halt……..
      EVEN Judas threw the money back before his bowels blew all over the country side……
      Hey the Crystal Cathedral was sold to that Italian complex………
      I’m not going to hold my breath though………

  13. This seems to me the first time Harvest leadership is truly taking corrective action. With the old elder board gone, and some of management gone, they may be able to make progress. Especially noteworthy is congregation involvement, which was not the case earlier. This is why the congregation of a church always needs to be in a position to take over when leadership fails, and fully clean house.

  14. Kent

    It just seems really hard to believe their sincerity when this issue has dragged on for MONTHS. If they were so sorry and repentant, what took them so long? Maybe they had to consult with the lawyers and find out that potentially some of them might go to prison, so that was probably what persuaded them to make this awkward, half-hearted and definitely late in the game “confession”. Only the Lord knows what is in their hearts.
    And let’s hope and pray this isn’t some attempt to AVOID the potential criminal charges against both JMac and HBC for their outright theft of the faithful members tithes. Until we see them come clean about where all the money has gone, this seems like an effort at damage control, nothing less or more.

    • Mountain Girl

      Kent, I wouldn’t even try to believe their sincerity.

      They could have released the financial information they had on James’ spending and the 20% of their budget in a New York minute. They still haven’t done so and are claiming to do all of this auditing (er.. cleanup).

      Their accounting system would let them print this report with less than 10 mouse clicks.

      Also, they could have immediately released their last few years tax filings. I’m not an accountant, but I think every 501(c)(3) organization still has to file annually with the IRS, and I think Harvest is a 501(c)(3).

      They don’t have to “TRY” to become transparent. They could actually BE transparent in a matter of a few short moments.

      I’ve never been part of a church which hides the pastor’s salary or incomes from the church. The salaries of organization leaders are no big deal. The highest compensated officers in publicly held corporations, public servants and the highest paid people in 501(c)(3) organizations are required by law to disclose their salaries.

      The scandal here is that James thought he and his cabal were special in this regard (i.e … wanted to plunder without impediment) and all of his elders kowtowed to his god-complex demands.

      • Kent

        I’m a CPA so I know those financial reports could be produced in a heartbeat. I think every member of HBC should see all of it.
        This “slush fund” that they had for JMac – if it was totally discretionary on his part how to spend it, it should be classified as income by the IRS. So tax evasion by JMac, and conspiracy to conceal tax evasion on the part of the elders, could be where this ends up.
        Like I said, they are probably lawyering up to the max. The membership of HBC should demand that not a single nickel of HBC resources be used to defend these people. And if it brings the entire house down, so be it. God ultimately has the say in that…

        • Mike

          Well said, Kent.

      • David

        I like you Mountain Girl!
        You know what? We as “Christians” have not been “conditioned” to think as evil as this whole thing actually is , the “sheep” are bleating at certain known facts and some almost known facts when in fact harvest , willow creek and the other ones that are coming are only the tip of the iceberg of the extent
        of the DECEPTION that will be revealed…….. what we all thought …… IS NOT.
        Luke 16:8 ” …. for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.”

    • Mike Medow

      Kent,

      After all that’s transpired, it’s hard to imagine any other possible scenario. I think you’re on the money.

      -Mike

  15. Mark morikawa

    Get rid of Jeff sharda and Greg Bradshaw
    Both r corrupt to the core

  16. HBC is a Criminal Org.

    Well said Mark. I too know Greg Bradshaw. He is evil to the core. I saw it with my own eyes. In the history of Harvest there has never been a more committed, cringeworthy and passionate buttkissing bootlicking spineless fanboy of James MacDonald than Greg Bradshaw. None. No one even close. Anyone who spent more than five minutes in Crystal Lake or Harvest in general knows this.

    Do not doubt for one second that he was tapped for his new role specifically because of this.

    It would surprise absolutely no one if it were to come out that he and MacDonald were speaking daily, plotting next moves, or that he would be open to having MacDonald come back to further fleece and pillage the flock.

    Bradshaw was given the lead by the now unnamed back room powers that be for a very intentional and specific reason.

    Just watch…

  17. Joe Blow

    Don’t be a sucker again. The people controlling the purse during the scandals are still in place and need to stay there to protect their secrets. Also, the long history of consistently disingenuous communications from HBC makes it likely that this latest action is motivated by a desire to manage PR.

    Trust is earned. When somebody blatantly violates it, it is prudent to withhold it until a track record of integrity is built. If HBC someday earns it, I will be glad, but I am skeptical at this point.

    • Mike

      Bingo! Well put, Joe Blow.

      If the elders and leaders at HBC had a fraction of the discernment you do, the church would be led by men with wisdom from above rather than man’s wisdom.

      The continual ongoing boneheaded moves of a foolish leadership flow out of its unceasing and unbending pride.

      Frankly, I don’t expect the new elder board to make much better decisions than any of the previous ones have.
      After all, why in the world would these elders, who begin this month, still be at Harvest, giving their time, talent, and treasure to a church where Christ’s name has been dragged through the mud for years and years by men hell-bent on serving themselves and deceiving others?!?!?

  18. bikebubba

    We can ask reasonable questions about how sincere they are here, but for my part, I am praising God that these men have issued a real apology which goes to the heart of that matter. There is no “we’re sorry to anyone who was offended”, but rather they said “this was sinful according to 1 Cor. 7.”

    One big thing is missing; they should have acknowledged that they simply didn’t have the proof to carry such a lawsuit forward. They implicitly admitted as much by withdrawing the suit, but saying it flat out would be very helpful.

    • bikebubba

      Oopsie! Sinful according to 1 Cor. 6!

  19. Kathy

    What stands out to me is that they were and still are seeking to do “what’s best for the church.” What about seeking to do God’s will rather than looking out for themselves?

    • David

      I too know Greg Bradshaw. He is evil to the core. I saw it with my own eyes. In the history of Harvest there has never been a more committed, cringeworthy and passionate buttkissing bootlicking spineless fanboy of James MacDonald than Greg Bradshaw. None. No one even close. Anyone who spent more than five minutes in Crystal Lake or Harvest in general knows this.

      • David

        Sorry HBC is a Criminal Org. , I was going to quote you and then I did by accident.
        Seems worthy of repeating though…….

    • David

      Hey hey hey what’s God got to do with this? Stop it! LOL
      Remember everybody……. ” YOU CAN NOT FIX SOMETHING THAT IS NOT SUPPOSE TO EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE”
      In case this in unclear to some…. tell all of us where it says to jam 8500 people in buildings on a
      SUNDAY to listen to HIRELINGS expound or elucidate ( I like that word) THEIR version of the
      Word of God?
      I KNOW! I KNOW! ….. IT DOES NOT SAY ANYWHERE TO DO THAT!
      But somebody or something at some point in time brought the thought of deception , here a little and there a little until we all have the explosive mess of today all over us AND STILL MOST EVERYONE DOES NOT WANT TO ADMIT IT………

    • Mike

      Exactly, Kathy.

  20. I don’t know if these elders could do anything that would satisfy everyone who is critical of them (and I have been critical of them). The confession and apology to Julie, the Bryants, and the Mahoneys seem genuine to me. I was blessed by the fact that the elders sent this out. They’re never going to check off every item on every person’s list of things they think these elders should do, but this is good.

    • Jessica Hockett

      But let’s recognize what this apology is and isn’t: It IS an apology for the act of bringing the lawsuit against the 5 defendants. It is NOT an apology for the lies in the lawsuit, or the characterizations that HBC Elders made about Julie, Ryan, Scott in statements published on the church website.

  21. David

    GOOD and EVIL are ALWAYS wrapped up in the SAME TREE.
    Come out be separate and eat from the TREE OF LIFE
    Seems reasonable to me……

  22. Mark morikawa

    R any of u aware that there is enough probable cause to have James arrested?
    What r u guys thinking?
    Janes should b in jail

  23. msag55

    I am confused by the statement..it was lawful to bring the suit..after reading the blogs etc. and harvest and james knowing the truth..how can you say it was lawful yo bring the suit? what am I missing?

    • bikebubba

      To paraphrase a pet phrase of prosecutors who note you can indict a ham sandwich you can sue for just about anything legally. The thing that restrains people from frivolous lawsuits is the possibility that the victim will lawyer up and countersue for damages and win.

      I viewed that statement as objectionable personally as well because the obvious implication of saying it was “legal” to sue is that it was morally OK as well which it certainly was not. It lacked evidence tried to stop a defendant’s 1st Amendment rights and more.

    • Jessica Hockett

      Sadly, you’re not missing anything. This is how HBC Elders roll. They continue to get away with it because Congregants keep attending and tithing.

      • David

        It is also called slippery, slimy, dirty, sneaky, twisted, devious, ugly, WORLDLY and premeditated.
        Which would be somewhat understandable if it WAS a corporation of the world…………
        HEEEEEY WAIT A SECOND HERE !!!!! Boy do I ever feel dumb, I shoulda known sooner…….

        Walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, acts like a duck, looks like a duck even tastes like a duck……..

        WHAT AN ABOMINATION ………….
        1. a person or thing that is disgusting
        2. an action that is vicious, vile, etc
        3. intense loathing

        Yet 8500 people apparently still do not mind at all and are in fact in agreement with said abomination.

  24. Ed Jackson

    Sorry all you critics!
    I have known HBC for over 25 years and God has blessed many, many people through HBC . I have been attending, in Crystal Lake during summers, since I moved full time to Florida 25 years ago. While I concur James has done much wrong in his dealings with others and donated finances, please don’t ” throw out the baby with the bath water” and that includes the countless people at HBC that have been blessed and fed there spiritually.

    • Fisher

      Ed, you say you and countless others were blessed and fed spiritually. What were you fed?

      Did you and others grow in discernment to tell a sheep from a wolf? When you correctly identified the wolves what actions did you take to help others flee and find protection? Or did you do nothing.

      Harvest members were hounded for money while James and others lived high on the people’s gifts. When you realized that teaching about giving was based on guilt tactics rather than clear New Testament practices did you reject it? Did you help others reject it? Or did you do nothing.

      You say countless people were blessed. Yet dozens have testified in the past few months that James shamed them (even to tears) when they tried to hold him accountable. How was that a blessing?

      Over the years many of staff quit suddenly and elders left. Many were forced to sign NDAs. Were these people all blessed?

      Thousands of Harvest members left. Do you know anyone who was wounded or broken because of how Harvest leaders treated them? Do you know anyone whose children walked away from Jesus because of what they saw at Harvest? If so have you worked tirelessly to pursue any of those people to console and help them find their way back to Jesus?

      Perhaps you can answer yes to these questions. But if not, the spiritual food you were fed was poison and the blessing was a curse because it only produced “good feelings” and not the actions of a disciple in you.

      A disciple does not “attend church”- a disciple walks with Jesus every day. A disciple recognizes false teaching and speaks up. A disciple helps other people be disciples.

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