My Response to Harvest’s Lawsuit: Time to Confess, Repent, and Resign

For the past three months, I have wanted to respond to the allegations Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald made in their baseless lawsuit against me and the authors of The Elephant’s Debt and their wives. I have refrained from doing so because judges don’t take kindly to defendants litigating their cases publicly. Yet now that MacDonald and Harvest are dropping their lawsuit, I think it’s appropriate to set the record straight.

Like anyone who’s had lies told about them, I have a desire to defend my character, and I don’t deny that. But there’s a much more important reason I’m telling my story now.

Thousands of people still attend Harvest and collectively pledged $29 million dollars to the church as part of its recent Closer Campaign. Some Harvest attenders and supporters don’t want to hear the truth and will support MacDonald and his elder board regardless of the evil they’ve committed. But some honestly want to know the truth. And it’s for these honest truth-seekers that I write.

The Allegations in the Lawsuit are Objectively False

Harvest levels more than 100 allegations in its lawsuit, so I would need to write a book to address them all. Most of them are leveled against Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant, authors of The Elephant’s Debt. I will not comment on those allegations extensively since they don’t involve me.

However, what’s stunning about many of the allegations against Mahoney and Bryant is not only that they are false, but that James MacDonald—and presumably his elders and top staff—knew they were false. In other words, the allegations in this lawsuit are not only untrue, but filed with actual malice. This is unconscionable, especially considering that the plaintiffs are a pastor, his church, two elders (Ronald Duitsman and William Sperling), and former Harvest COO Scott Milholland.

“(W)hat’s stunning about many of the allegations against Mahoney and Bryant is not only that they are false, but that James MacDonald—and presumably his elders and top staff—knew they were false.”

For example, point #114 of the lawsuit states, “The ED (Elephant’s Debt) website falsely states James S. MacDonald’s current home in Elgin, Illinois, is larger than the home he voluntarily vacated in 2013.”

As I reported in my exposé on Harvest in WORLD Magazine, the document that MacDonald’s own attorney filed in August, 2017, with the Rutland Township tax assessor’s office states that MacDonald’s current home has 6,891 square feet of gross living area. So, by his own admission, MacDonald’s new home is nearly 200 square feet larger than the home he vacated in 2013, which had 6,700 square feet of living space. The allegation in point #114 is clearly false, and certainly MacDonald knew this. As for his elders, they either were grossly negligent and didn’t know this fact—or like MacDonald, they knew this fact and approved publishing a lie.

Similarly, point #61 of the lawsuit claims that ED “falsely and negligently states that Harvest Bible Chapel ‘by 2010 had $70 million in debt and barely survived a bankruptcy in 2006.’” Yet in MacDonald’s book, “Vertical Church,” MacDonald himself states that Harvest’s “church-building program caused bankruptcy to loom large and seemed certain for many months.” Also according to Harvest’s 2008 Financial Statement, the church’s total liabilities for 2008 totaled $70,775,028.  

It’s absolutely stunning that MacDonald and Harvest elders and a senior staff member would sign on to a lawsuit asserting such blatant lies.

However, as I stated, these allegations relate to things published on The Elephant’s Debt website, for which I had no responsibility. Yet, one of the 12 allegations that Harvest’s lawsuit levels against me is that I worked “extensively and in mutual partnership with the authors of ED.” The lawsuit also claimed that my husband “is a former work associate of Defendant R. Mahoney.” These assertions are entirely false and without any basis.

When I first read the lawsuit, I was shocked and asked my husband, “Do you know Ryan Mahoney?” He responded, “Ryan who?” I then showed him a picture of Mahoney on the internet and asked if he recognized him. He was puzzled and said no. Then I contacted Mahoney and asked him if he’s ever worked for any of my husband’s employers. Again, no.

Furthermore, my first contact with the authors of The Elephant’s Debt was via email in April 2018. Their first response to me was, “Due to life circumstances, getting together to discuss TED would be difficult.  Perhaps you would like to converse through email?  Your call.” That’s hardly the response of extensive work partners.

Given that I had no contact with The Elephant’s Debt prior to April 2018, and the last post by ED prior to the lawsuit was in December of 2017, this claim of partnership is absurd.

“Not only does the lawsuit fail to establish that I published anything false about MacDonald, it doesn’t offer a single exhibit showing that I published anything at all!”

The lawsuit also alleges in point #123 that I “intentionally made false statements in an effort to defame James S. MacDonald in (my) blog posting.” As I have said before, there’s nothing even remotely negative about James MacDonald published anywhere on my blog before October 17, 2018, when the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit further alleges that I made false statements in “an effort to harm the reputation of James S. MacDonald in other digital and written media.” This is another complete fabrication. Not only does the lawsuit fail to establish that I published anything false about MacDonald, it doesn’t offer a single exhibit showing that I published anything at all!

Similarly, in point #122 of the lawsuit, Harvest alleges that in March 2017, I contacted “multiple Moody board members in an effort to pressure them to remove James S. MacDonald and his program ‘Walk in the Word’ from the Moody program schedule . . .” I didn’t contact any Moody board members in March 2017.

The lawsuit also alleges in point #128 that I called Jerry Jenkins, former chair of Moody’s board. And, in an “effort to have (my) previous radio program reinstated on Moody Radio,” I threatened to further publicize Jenkins’ poker playing. The  lawsuit also alleges that I told Jenkins that MacDonald was “only kept on Moody radio . . . because (Jenkins and MacDonald) were poker buddies.”

Though it’s true that I once talked to Jenkins on the phone, that call occurred before I was fired from Moody. Also, Jenkins and I didn’t discuss MacDonald at all. I simply told Jenkins that many alumni with whom I had spoken had expressed objections to Jenkins’ gambling history. 

The lawsuit also alleges that I contacted former staff members of Harvest and “began asserting false allegations involving the Plaintiffs.” The truth is, former staff members contacted me and begged me to hear their stories and consider investigating Harvest. After hearing their stories, and discerning that they were credible, I began following up on leads and seeing if I could verify their stories. That’s what reporters do.

Harvest Filed the Lawsuit Without Warning

In addition to the false accusations in the lawsuit, MacDonald and Harvest have consistently forwarded a false narrative about what prompted the lawsuit. According to a statement Harvest posted online, the elders decided to sue the other defendants and me “very reluctantly” after “multiple appeals” had been made to each defendant. Harvest also posted an email it sent to me prior to the lawsuit, requesting a private meeting to divulge “information that we cannot make public.” Harvest said my response was “disappointing,” suggesting I had done something wrong.  

When Harvest sent me the email, I was simply pursuing my investigation on the church for an article in WORLD Magazine. There were no issues between Harvest and me to resolve. I responded, “I am working on an investigative story about Harvest as you know. As is my professional practice, I will be reaching out to those named in my piece so they can offer their side of the story. Any conversations, though, will be recorded and will be on-the-record.”

“What I do know is that I responded appropriately to Harvest. Harvest, on the other hand, reacted unconscionably by filing a lawsuit and then misrepresented what had transpired.”

When Harvest didn’t respond, I called Sharon Kostal, Harvest senior administrator, and left a voicemail message with my phone number. Kostal responded with a text message the same day, asking me whom I’d like to interview. I texted her back on Saturday, thanking her for her quick reply and asking for her email, which she sent the following Monday, October 15.

I then sent an email to Kostal, requesting interviews with 10 Harvest staff and submitting six questions. I never received a response from Kostal, but two days later, on October 17, Harvest surprised me with a lawsuit.

That same day, I was working with Matt Walberg, former investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune, on a story concerning a Harvest youth ministries pastor, Paxton Singer, who was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor. Harvest was aware of my activities because Walberg and I had contacted church leaders for comment after Singer was formally charged.

I don’t know whether the timing of the lawsuit was a coincidence or not. What I do know is that I responded appropriately to Harvest. Harvest, on the other hand, reacted unconscionably by filing a lawsuit and then misrepresented what had transpired.

Protecting the Innocent or the Guilty?

Harvest and James MacDonald have consistently maintained that they have nothing to hide. Yet yesterday, when a judge denied their motions to keep court documents private, Harvest dropped the lawsuit.  

“Is it, as they allege, to protect ‘innocent people’? Or, as MacDonald and his elders have consistently done, did they drop the lawsuit to protect the guilty?”

As the Daily Herald reported yesterday, some of the documents I obtained through subpoena included items from former staff and elders concerning how the church handled reports that Singer had sent sexually explicit photos and requests to minors. Also obtained through subpoena was a text from James MacDonald concerning the validity of claims that Harvest Bible Chapel knowingly misspent funds from Harvest Bible Fellowship, the church’s former church planting network that MacDonald dissolved in 2017. (I’ll be publishing more on that soon.) I had also requested 28 sets of documents from MacDonald and Harvest, including MacDonald’s tax returns and detailed financial statements for Walk in the Word, MacDonald’s broadcast ministry, which they failed to produce.

Supporters and members of Harvest need to ask themselves why Harvest would drop its lawsuit in order to keep these documents private? Is it, as they allege, to protect “innocent people”? Or, as MacDonald and his elders have consistently done, did they drop the lawsuit to protect the guilty?

Beyond that, people need to consider the documented lies MacDonald and Harvest’s leaders have consistently forwarded. How can a pastor and leaders who consistently lie be trusted to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the one who is the truth?

I don’t ask these things gleefully, but with great sadness. MacDonald and Harvest leaders had so much potential to reach people for Christ and to expand the kingdom, yet they squandered it. Now, they need to confess, repent, and resign.

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97 thoughts on “My Response to Harvest’s Lawsuit: Time to Confess, Repent, and Resign

  1. Current Harvest Employee

    As one still employed at this “hole,” I watch it unravel more as the weeks go on. Sunday worship that is to look on God has become a joke among some of us staff to see who can preach the most hypocritical sermon, so far Luke is winning (apart from James who’s busy getting rich and fat in Florida with the old people he just said are worthless and dying out his radio ministry). I watch frustrations and tempers flare, I hear sharper, louder voices, I feel the tension rising; I feel it rise in my own heart as I read about the men, these pastors (and Sharon) with whom I correspond regularly. As they come in my office, and we discuss “business,” etc.

    It’s sooo disappointing, so SAD to see the Lord give opportunity after another to repent and come clean. Yet each one of them goes with the lie they were given. They know who they are and they will not resign. I need, those of us on staff who actually serve the Lord need, someone from the outside to come inside, inside Harvest, inside my office, inside my staff meetings, and uproot this leadership that I am certain God hates. Until then…the MacDonald family will continue to profit off the backs of hardworking, sacrificial-giving people who love Jesus, but love James more.

    • Jessica

      God bless you for coming forward. Do you feel trapped? Can you leave? Praying for you tonight, dear brother (or sister).

    • Lori R

      This is utterly heartbreaking. Can you leave? Trust God to provide – don’t stay in a toxic place. I am praying for you now brother/sister in Christ. Be true to the One Who is truth. ❤️

    • Jennifer

      I’ll add you to my prayers as I pray for James, HBC and leadership. Do as God leads, no less than that. And be courageous. Thank you for sharing.

    • joemisek

      Praying for you my friend. You follow the Spirit of truth; I pray you would soon be led into an environment where the Spirit of truth is honored.

    • Kimberly

      Why are you staying?

    • JD

      Why don’t you resign? Why would you carry on there if you’re not on board? Tell your fellow staff how you feel instead of being part of the problem you’re pointing fingers at?

    • Say what

      Please believe me, I say this in love, but you are the problem. I fully believe that James’ eyes have been covered…i truly think he is one who lives out “it’s not a lie if you believe it”. We all know what he has done, what his character is. But the people that know better, the ones who see the reality, they are complicit in perpetuating the evil. That’s your source of income, a fact that isn’t quickly dismissed, but know that sitting idly by is, in some ways, just as deplorable as the the actions of the braintrust.

      • Former employee

        People on staff have children at the school, have small groups they love, have many reasons why they can’t just leave. And unfortunately, there is no recourse to address the problem.

        But stay tuned…help is on the way…

        • Pursue Truth

          It must be difficult. There’s no doubt.

          That being said it’s not like any of this hasn’t been know for so many years. It’s just troubling that so many employees, elders, and congregants quietly mumble about it at home or to close friends but continue to support the MacDonald business. THEN when they leave they become vocal about all the wrongs. Everyone who has any closer touch point than sitting in a pew on a Sunday morning have seen first hand some of the major issues at hand. Let me re-phrase…those who CHOOSE to see.

          The small group story is always the same. Heard it 100x. It’s an amazing thing to have such a close group of individuals. If this was truly about the church you could go to an elder and vocalize concerns and if nothing changed in the church people would move on. But when operating out of fear that doesn’t happen and the machine continues to grind it out. If you love your small group is their a requirement you go to church at HBC to be a part of the small group? Are we studying God’s word or are small groups about loyalty to a church/man? The unfortunate reality that is very telling is people leave small groups and relationships often end there. Sounds a bit cult like to me and not relational or Christ centered.

          Same with kids at school. If you leave the church your kids can’t attend? There are no other options for schooling?

          If one was let go from their job they would be forced to figure it out…OR maybe FAITH > comfort

          This isn’t intended to be harsh. I support your journey as well as all the other feeling the same way you do. All in love.

          • Former employee

            You will see soon what happens when people talk to the elders about it, or talk to their superiors…stay tuned…

        • Jessica

          Let’s call this what it really is: idolatry and self-interest. Harsh, I know, but that’s the truth.

      • FREEATLAST

        GODLY! CHARACTER………………
        TITUS 1:7
        FOR AN OVERSEER,
        AS GOD’S STEWARD,
        MUST BE ABOVE REPROACH.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        HE MUST NOT BE ARROGANT OR QUICK-TEMPERED
        OR A DRUNKARD
        OR VIOLENT
        OR GREEDY FOR GAIN…..

        • Gum Boocho

          If we insisted on the precise qualifications for the office of elder/bishop (pastor-teacher is the corresponding spiritual gift), what percent of evangelical pastor-elders would be expelled from their bishoprics? The husband of one wife (get rid of all bachelors); having children (get rid of elders without children) who are faithful (get rid of elders with unruly children). Just those for starters.

    • Ryan

      Thank you for speaking out. Perhaps you can rally your colleagues to do the same.

    • Ashley

      Whoever you are… thank you for sharing the truth. I was in denial for many, many months after my dad resigned from the elder board in April. I didn’t believe it and then about two months ago the veil was taken off of my eyes and I started to hear James speaking, not the word of God. I’m so saddened by the people still so blind but I hope their eyes open. And most of all I hope that the staff will repent because they are playing with the wrong person, Jesus Christ is the ruler over all.

    • Friend, you are the one God has placed on the inside. Use your position as Esther did. Speak boldly and lovingly to your coworkers and supervisors. Rally your friends to channel their righteous indignation into confronting evil-doers to their face, rather than snickering behind their backs. God will give you what you need when you need it, but you need to step out in faith and trust God with the consequences. He is faithful. As the Psalmist says, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalmist 37:25)

      • FREEATLAST

        AMEN! AMEN! AMEN!
        GOD + 1 = MAJORITY!
        GOD ALWAYS WINS!
        EPHESIANS 3:20

        • Tom

          Dear Freeatlast
          God does not need a “+1” for majority. And, He always wins, no matter what.

      • FREEATLAST

        EPHESIANS 5:11
        TAKE NO PART IN THE UNFRUITFUL WORKS OF DARKNESS, BUT INSTEAD EXPOSE THEM.

    • a Berean sister in the Lord

      Bless your heart Current Harvest Employee… I am so sorry that you, or anyone has to deal with this kind of spiritual abuse at a Church… I pray that the Lord will connect you with someone that can help do what is right in your situation, in your position – for you, for the staff, so you are not trapped…

      I encourage you to consider spending time praying/fasting to discern whatever it is the Spirit is asking you to do… it might (most likely) not be easy, but you will not regret it… God knows your capacity, God knows your situation, God knows what He can ask of you.. trust Him… I am praying that you will stand in the strength of the Lord and in His mighty power, as you discern the leading of the Spirit for what He is calling you to do…

      Father God, you know the hearts of Your faithful, those crying out for help, when they feel helplessly caught in the middle of a situation that is not of their doing… a situation that has insiduously trapped them and it seems impossible to escape without help… God, You are our refuge and our strength, an EVER present help in trouble… Lord we ask for Your ways, to help free Your flock from ungodly, unhealthy leadership… for Your glory, for Your honor, for Your praise… In Jesus’ Precious and Powerful Name…

      • Gum Boocho

        For $64,000, quote me one verse from the scripture addressed to the church which commands fasting. Isn’t fasting inappropriate as long as the Lord Jesus is with us? Fasting was appropriate from the time of the crucifixion to the resurrection of Christ, of course. Interesting that fasting is probably the only doctrine which is affected by rejecting or accepting the textus receptus (KJV). “This kind goes out only by [fasting] and prayer. Yet the demon was expelled apparently without any fasting (which would have taken some time).

        • Bum Goocho

          Acts 13:3… the church in Antioch laid hands on Paul and sent him off after prayer and fasting…

          Cash or check, please…😂

          • The verse you referenced is a descriptive verse and by no means it is a prescriptive verse. With that it has completely different ramifications… I am bringing this up as the same conundrum of intentionally mixing these two categories as needed is a specialty of James MacDonald and his buddies like Furtrick or TD Jokes, ooops, TD Jakes and other pulpit pretzels makers.

        • Former hbc attendee

          Pretty sure God rained down fire on ananias and sephira for lying about giving money to the church….or rather taking money they pledged to the church. 🤦‍♀️

        • Concerned

          Can’t let this one pass by without commenting about fasting. Try Mark 2:20. Not commanded, per se, but clearly expected. “After the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, they shall fast” (part of the new wine skins) Also Jesus did not say “if you fast” in Matthew 6:16, he’s said “when you fast”.

        • Fast Reply

          Matthew 6:16–18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [17] But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)

          The key is “when you fast” – meaning the Lord expects us to fast. Unless you think the Sermon on the Mount is irrelevant for the church, I’ll take cash only. I’ll split it with my first BG since Acts 13:3 gets us on the right track.

        • Left bc bad Theology breeds wrongdoing

          Jesus actually said there’s NO need to fast while He was with them… *see this verse in particular*

          Matthew 9:14-15
          Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and THEN THEY WILL FAST.

          …. and Here are 100 Scriptures about fasting after Jesus left them. https://www.openbible.info/topics/fasting_after_jesus_leaves

    • BJW

      What is The Lord working in you? Is He calling you to boldness? Is He refining your understanding of obedience? Is He convicting you to act?

      He is working in you…Through this mess The Lord will do great things. Paul talks of personal responsibility. James writes of pure religon evidenced in taking care of the vunerable.

      If you are vunerable its time to leave, there are many of us that will come beside you. We will physically walk you out if you feel unsafe leaving on your own.

      If you are mature in Christ and strong in The Spirit it’s time to Stand Firm in Your Faith.

      We will stand with you. Let us know how we can be of service!

      Let’s Go!

    • Julie, Thank you for standing strong against these false accusations. Peter and John were also falsely accused (Acts 4-6), as well well as Paul. Truth always wins! Macdonald has no true biblical authority over him. There elder board and church is run exactly like a worldly business corporation and boardroom. I have had 2 encounters with Pastors of there Soul Care team who also mishandled God’s word, and shortly afterward God removed them.

      If Mr. Macdonald does not repent (The Psalm 51 model), he will be removed before his 60th birthday…saith the Lord!

      Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

    • Nancy

      If you research how James started his ministry then ppl wouldn’t be so shocked at his behavior patterns.

    • Craig French

      Dear Current Harvest Employee,
      Fear is an oppressive companion. That’s not how God operates. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Follow Him. Where to? That’s not always the question to ask – but it’s usually the first one the enemy asks when he wants you to stand still.

      You’re in the prayers of many people.

    • Robert

      We must exposed their fruitless deeds of darkness. HBC only will be healed only after the MacDonald klan and its ungodly corrupt elders are gone.

  2. John Haller

    Shocking. Really

  3. Former member

    As James has said for years…your sin will find you out….

  4. A Former HBC Member

    Julie,

    We cannot thank you enough for what you’re doing. Your most recent post said it best:

    “Some Harvest attenders and supporters don’t want to hear the truth and will support MacDonald and his elder board regardless of the evil they’ve committed. But some honestly want to know the truth. And it’s for these honest truth-seekers that I write.”

    We moved here in 2015, and had a hard time finding a church that was dynamic and actually preached the Word of God. When we discovered HBC, it seemed like a winner. Aside from the occasional sermon that was perhaps a little aggressive, there’s no denying MacDonald’s skill at the pulpit, the quality of the song service, and the great children’s summer camp. Their 2018 Easter weekend at the Sears Center was phenomenal. Had no idea about the prior scandals or The Elephant’s Debt.

    In hindsight, our first warning that something was really amiss was in 2017, when MacDonald shut down HBF and, during the general announcement, actually sneered at missionaries. Even my 9 year-old son, who likes to attend adult church with us, later asked “What’s wrong with missionaries?” Never heard anyone talk like that from the pulpit, but we chalked it up to poor choice of words since we didn’t know any better.

    The real turning point was the 2018 lawsuit and MacDonald’s twisted use of Scripture to justify it. That raised a red flag and caused us to investigate further, including the “Hard Times at Harvest” article and TED. We were appalled at the cult-like atmosphere of secrecy, harassment, and intimidation, as well as the atrocious financial stewardship. Combined with the ostentatious lifestyle the MacDonalds lead, that’s simply immoral.

    In the Fall of 2018, my father was extremely sick in the hospital back in my hometown. Even though the entire HBC branch we attended knew I was in a bad way and had to fly out there on an emergent basis (I had announced it from the stage during an altar call), not a single pastor or church elder later contacted me, even just to see how I was doing and pray with me over the phone. (Only after we resigned as members, and took our hefty tithes elsewhere, did they reach out to express their “sadness” over our departure and offered to talk.)

    Prior to our resignation, our concerns were growing by the week, especially during Advent. Most ministers devote that time to sermons on the meaning of Advent and Christmas. But MacDonald chose to berate his congregation to give ’till it hurts so his pesky $40 million debt would go away, misusing the book of Nehemiah in the process.

    The last straw was on Sunday, 12/16. Early that morning, I desperately prayed for wisdom regarding whether to leave HBC, since we don’t take that lightly. When church started, they blasted live rock “Christmas” music from the stage so LOUD, our ears physically hurt. When my wife asked the pastors to turn the amplifiers down a bit, they refused, saying they had their orders to crank it up much louder than normal. So we left immediately and never came back. In fact, we saw several other families turn around and leave.

    As “luck” (or perhaps Providence?) would have it, just a week prior to that 12/16 disaster, we had a colleague of mine from work, and her family, over to our house for dinner. Turns out they’re also devout Christians (an unfortunate rarity in academia) and recommended we try out their church, part of the Presbyterian Church of America. We’d attended a PCA church back in our prior city and loved it, but had trouble finding one near us in Chicago. Either I was looking in the wrong area or PCA needs to engage the internet better (probably more the former than the latter), because we’ve already visited that church, and it sure looks promising!

    In sum, it’s generally a bad idea to assume we know exactly what God’s will is regarding every specific matter. He leaves a lot up to us. But, while sometimes God does speak in a whisper, other times He blows out the subwoofers.

  5. Kimberly

    Thrilled beyond words that the prayers of so many were answered and the lawsuit dropped!

    Continuing to pray for you to persevere,
    Julie, and that, as you said, JM and the others involved in such deep sin will confess, repent, and resign.

  6. Donna

    If you can’t be a voice in the wilderness, then get out of the hole. God will protect you. He will provide. Talk to Matt Stowell. He knows your side. He can offer wise counsel. You and others I your same situation have been in my prayers.

  7. Deb

    Julie, thank-you for never giving up. I agree with you completely. If you would like to go back now and see the documents back to 2001 (Constitutional change) or the Audited Financials 2003-2004. or any other documents to prove points – its yours. The secrecy and other issues have been there a long time. Praying for you Julie.

    As for the staff still there, please don’t let the financial gain from HBC keep you there. There is a good, honest, non-abusive life after HBC in a new church. Really, God will bless your desire to honor Him first. You’re in my prayers.

  8. Truth

    Thank you for speaking more truth harvest employee. I am sure it must be difficult for you, but know that Alrighty God is in charged.
    From my own witness of Harvest l have seen much evidence over 15 years it is more a cult than a church. It really is a front for the Macdonald business. Would a real church of Jesus ignore their own people who need help time after time? I would say no.
    When I tried to get help for a suicidal family member, I was asked if they were saved. I said I don’t think so. There answer was we can’t help them. What??? That answer will haunt me forever. Thank God the good Samaritan didn’t ask that question. Or when we had needed other help how with guidance, no one really cared or was there. I found more help in 1 phone call to another church than Harvest in years.
    This nonsense of let’s build churches around the world when you care not for the needs of your own members is horrific. I have had more concern from unbelievers than any leaders at this church. It’s so interesting how everyone leaves and he tells a great story. James is a business man and very gifted too. The only problem is using the name of Jesus as a cover. May God protect all those who speak thhe truth for him!

  9. David

    HBC is a cult. MacDonald replaced the cross with his Vertical Church symbol. I really call it Sergeant Stripes + pointy top. Anyway MacDonald is at the top of the Vertical symbol. I’d love to really see how much cash the Elder Board is taking away from the flock. Face it, it is the MacDonald family enterprise where the congregation is paying to support the MacDonald family’s rich lifestyle. Anyone left working at Harvest is complicit.

  10. Charles Despeville

    When God punishes He first takes the mind away rendering arrogant fool even more foolish. This is precisely what happened with and through Macdonald’s and Harvest’s ridiculous lawsuit. Driven by desire of revenge and intimidation these fools shown all with eyes to see and ears to hear even more who they really are, conniving, manipulating, lying, selfserving and arrogant pretenders who while serving MacDonald Inc. and benefiting from it enchant themselves to think they actualy serve The Holy One… What a blasphemous and duped bunch of fools who through their lying schemes propagated in the name of Holy God put themselves in a precariously dangerous place. MacDonald and his puppets naively miscalculated their recent scheme thinking that Macdonald’s tax returns and his businesses (for that’s what they are) tax returns and financials will not be allowed in discovery and or won’t be allowed as a public record. Ooops.
    I really think this needs to be taken now to papers perhaps then those gullible enough to pledge money to MacDonald family business aka Harvest Bible Chapel will rethink what they are about to do. MacDonald and his sycophants are publicly and relentlessly mocking God and take his name in vain and for their nefarious schemes sake. This won’t go on.

    • FREEATLAST

      AMEN!!!!

    • FREEATLAST

      AMEN!
      GOD WILL NOT BE MOCKED!!!!

      PROVERBS 16:18
      PRIDE GOES BEFORE DESTRUCTION, AND A HAUGHTY SPIRIT BEFORE A FALL.

  11. Ashley

    Whoever you are… thank you for sharing the truth. I was in denial for many, many months after my dad resigned from the elder board in April. I didn’t believe it and then about two months ago the veil was taken off of my eyes and I started to hear James speaking, not the word of God. I’m so saddened by the people still so blind but I hope their eyes open. And most of all I hope that the staff will repent because they are playing with the wrong person, Jesus Christ is the ruler over all.

  12. Angie

    I understand how hard it is to leave your job. People are encouraging you to leave but I think you should stay. There are other people who share your pain at other campuses. Stay and start to seek out like minded individuals and then pray for vindication. Pray for the hypocrites to be exposed and kicked out!

  13. Sabrina

    Julie, thank you for standing for the truth and praise God the lawsuit was dropped! Amen.

    Harvest Employee—I prayed for you too. I think the Lord is saying to repent of your fear, and Jump! He will catch you. He will carry you. Only trust Him.

    The Lord also gave me this image about Harvest too after I read Julie’s first articles about. I saw a big fist over the RM HBC campus squeezing a fruit. The fist squeezed so hard it trembled and the juice kept running out, and the fruit was nearly corky and dry. And the fist kept squeezing, like out of fear.

    I pray the HBC leaders would repent before God gives them over unto themselves.

    Help them, O Lord.

  14. Just a girl..

    WOW! Julie, thank you so much for having the courage to take this on!

    I attended Harvest up until last year around the time this lawsuit against you, TED, AND the wives of TED came out. It was about the same time the church sent an e-mail out with an update from the pastors with some information. This information was also in the Chicago Tribune the very same day. (A lot to say about that, but this is a comment section, so I am trying to make it brief.)
    I had some concerns earlier in 2018 when quite a few people who worked for Harvest left. I just didn’t know why they were leaving.
    And then October came.
    I kept asking why, why the lawsuit God? I do not know any of the defendants personally in this lawsuit, and yet I found my heart leading me to pray for you all and not my church, leaders, or pastors; and this bothered me. I didn’t understand it. Then Sunday would come, and I didn’t go to church. Then the following Sunday and same thing, couldn’t bring myself to go. Then the next week…and this went on. This was really disheartening for me because it’s not normal for me to skip church.
    I know now. John 14:15-21. 💕JESUS💕
    Thank you Father for this gift.

  15. formerharvestmember

    Julie,

    We cannot thank you enough for what you’re doing. Your most recent blog post said it best:

    “Some Harvest attenders and supporters don’t want to hear the truth and will support MacDonald and his elder board regardless of the evil they’ve committed. But some honestly want to know the truth. And it’s for these honest truth-seekers that I write.”

    We moved here several years ago, and had a hard time finding a church that was dynamic and actually preached the Word of God. When we discovered HBC, it seemed like a winner. Aside from the occasional sermon that was perhaps a little aggressive, there’s no denying MacDonald’s skill at the pulpit, the quality of the song service, and the great children’s summer camp. Their 2018 Easter weekend at the Sears Center was phenomenal. Had no idea about the prior scandals or The Elephant’s Debt.

    In hindsight, our first warning that something was really amiss was in 2017, when MacDonald shut down HBF and, during the general announcement, actually sneered at missionaries. Even my 9 year-old son, who likes to attend adult church with us, later asked “What’s wrong with missionaries?” Never heard anyone talk like that from the pulpit, but we chalked it up to poor choice of words since we didn’t know any better.

    The real turning point was the 2018 lawsuit and MacDonald’s twisted use of Scripture to justify it. That raised a red flag and caused us to investigate further, including the “Hard Times at Harvest” article and TED. We were appalled at the cult-like atmosphere of secrecy, harassment, and intimidation, as well as the atrocious financial stewardship. Combined with the Osteen-like lifestyle the MacDonalds lead, that’s simply immoral.

    In the Fall of 2018, my father was extremely sick in the hospital back in my hometown. Even though the entire pastoral staff and elders at the HBC branch we attended knew I was in a bad way and had to fly out there on an emergent basis, not a single pastor or church elder later contacted me, even just to see how I was doing and pray with me over the phone. (Only after we resigned as members, and took our hefty tithes elsewhere, did they reach out to express their “sadness” over our departure and offer to talk.)

    Prior to our resignation, our concerns were growing by the week, especially during Advent. Most ministers devote that time to sermons on the meaning of Advent and Christmas. But instead, MacDonald chose to berate his congregation to give ’till it hurts so his pesky $40 million debt would go away, misusing the book of Nehemiah in the process. That “Closer Campaign” is supposed to be about tithing, volunteerism, and witnessing. But based on actual time he devoted to each, it’s 95% about money.

    The last straw was on Sunday, 12/16. Early that morning, I desperately prayed for wisdom regarding whether to leave HBC, since we don’t take that lightly. When church started, they blasted live rock “Christmas” music from the stage so LOUD, our ears physically hurt. When my wife asked the pastors to turn the amplifiers down a bit, they refused, saying they had their orders to crank it up much louder than normal. So we left immediately and never came back. In fact, we saw several other families turn around and leave.

    As luck (or perhaps Providence?) would have it, just a week prior to that 12/16 disaster, we had a colleague of mine from work, and her family, over to our house for dinner. Turns out they’re also devout Christians (an unfortunate rarity in academia) and recommended we try out their church, part of the Presbyterian Church of America. We’d attended a PCA church back in our prior city and loved it, but had trouble finding one near us in Chicago. Either I was looking in the wrong area or PCA needs to engage the internet better (probably more the former than the latter), because we’ve already visited that church, and it sure looks promising!

    It’s always a little risky–not to mention rather arrogant–to assume we know exactly what God’s will is regarding any specific matter. He leaves a lot up to us. But, while sometimes God speaks in a whisper, other times He blows out the subwoofers.

    • KIKI

      Well said!! This accounting was descriptive yet respectful.

  16. formerharvestmember

    We moved here in 2015, and had a hard time finding a church that was dynamic and actually preached the Word of God. When we discovered HBC, it seemed like a winner. Aside from the occasional sermon that was perhaps a little aggressive, there’s no denying MacDonald’s skill at the pulpit, the quality of the song service, and the great children’s summer camp. Their 2018 Easter weekend at the Sears Center was phenomenal. Had no idea about the prior scandals or The Elephant’s Debt.

    In hindsight, our first warning that something was really amiss was in 2017, when MacDonald shut down HBF and, during the general announcement, actually sneered at missionaries. Even my 9 year-old son, who likes to attend adult church with us, later asked “What’s wrong with missionaries?” Never heard anyone talk like that from the pulpit, but we chalked it up to poor choice of words since we didn’t know any better.

    The real turning point was the 2018 lawsuit and MacDonald’s twisted use of Scripture to justify it. That raised a red flag and caused us to investigate further, including the “Hard Times at Harvest” article and TED. We were appalled at the cult-like atmosphere of secrecy, harassment, and intimidation, as well as the atrocious financial stewardship. Combined with the ostentatious lifestyle the MacDonalds lead, that’s simply immoral.

    In the Fall of 2018, my father was extremely sick in the hospital back in my hometown. Even though the entire HBC branch we attended knew I was in a bad way and had to fly out there on an emergent basis (I had announced it from the stage during an altar call), not a single pastor or church elder later contacted me, even just to see how I was doing and pray with me over the phone. (Only after we resigned as members, and took our hefty tithes elsewhere, did they reach out to express their “sadness” over our departure and offered to talk.)

    Prior to our resignation, our concerns were growing by the week, especially during Advent. Most ministers devote that time to sermons on the meaning of Advent and Christmas. But MacDonald chose to berate his congregation to give ’till it hurts so his pesky $40 million debt would go away, misusing the book of Nehemiah in the process.

    The last straw was on Sunday, 12/16. Early that morning, I desperately prayed for wisdom regarding whether to leave HBC, since we don’t take that lightly. When church started, they blasted live rock “Christmas” music from the stage so LOUD, our ears physically hurt. When my wife asked the pastors to turn the amplifiers down a bit, they refused, saying they had their orders to crank it up much louder than normal. So we left immediately and never came back. In fact, we saw several other families turn around and leave.

    As “luck” (or perhaps Providence?) would have it, just a week prior to that 12/16 disaster, we had a colleague of mine from work, and her family, over to our house for dinner. Turns out they’re also devout Christians (an unfortunate rarity in academia) and recommended we try out their church, part of the Presbyterian Church of America. We’d attended a PCA church back in our prior city and loved it, but had trouble finding one near us in Chicago. Either I was looking in the wrong area or PCA needs to engage the internet better (probably more the former than the latter), because we’ve already visited that church, and it sure looks promising!

    It’s always risky, not to mention rather arrogant, to assume we know exactly what God’s will is regarding any specific matter. He leaves a lot up to us. But, while sometimes God speaks in a whisper, other times He blows out the subwoofers.

  17. formerharvestmember

    In hindsight, the first warning was the abrupt shutdown of HBF. But for us, the real turning point was the 2018 lawsuit and MacDonald’s twisted use of Scripture to justify it. That raised a red flag and caused us to investigate further, including the “Hard Times at Harvest” article and TED. We were appalled at the cult-like atmosphere of secrecy, harassment, and intimidation, as well as the atrocious financial stewardship. Combined with the ostentatious lifestyle the MacDonalds lead, that’s simply immoral.

    In the Fall of 2018, my father was extremely sick in the hospital back in my hometown. Even though the entire HBC branch we attended knew I was in a bad way and had to fly out there on an emergent basis (I had announced it from the stage during an altar call), not a single pastor or church elder later contacted me, even just to see how I was doing and pray with me over the phone. (Only after we resigned as members, and took our hefty tithes elsewhere, did they reach out to express their “sadness” over our departure and offered to talk.)

    Prior to our resignation, our concerns were growing by the week, especially during Advent. Most ministers devote that time to sermons on the meaning of Advent and Christmas. But MacDonald chose to berate his congregation to give ’till it hurts so his pesky $40 million debt would go away, misusing the book of Nehemiah in the process.

    The last straw was on Sunday, 12/16. Early that morning, I desperately prayed for wisdom regarding whether to leave HBC, since we don’t take that lightly. When church started, they blasted live rock “Christmas” music from the stage so LOUD, our ears physically hurt. When my wife asked the pastors to turn the amplifiers down a bit, they refused, saying they had their orders to crank it up much louder than normal. So we left immediately and never came back. In fact, we saw several other families turn around and leave.

    As “luck” (or perhaps Providence?) would have it, just a week prior to that 12/16 disaster, we had a colleague of mine from work, and her family, over to our house for dinner. Turns out they’re also devout Christians (an unfortunate rarity in academia) and recommended we try out their church, part of the Presbyterian Church of America. We’d attended a PCA church back in our prior city and loved it, but had trouble finding one near us in Chicago. Either I was looking in the wrong area or PCA needs to engage the internet better (probably more the former than the latter), because we’ve already visited that church, and it sure looks promising!

    It’s always risky, not to mention rather arrogant, to assume we know exactly what God’s will is regarding any specific matter. He leaves a lot up to us. But, while sometimes God speaks in a whisper, other times He blows out the subwoofers.

  18. formerharvestmember

    In hindsight, the first warning was the abrupt shutdown of HBF. But for us, the real turning point was the 2018 lawsuit and MacDonald’s twisted use of Scripture to justify it. That raised a red flag and caused us to investigate further, including the “Hard Times at Harvest” article and TED. We were appalled at the cult-like atmosphere of secrecy, harassment, and intimidation, as well as the atrocious financial stewardship. Combined with the ostentatious lifestyle the MacDonalds lead, that’s simply immoral.

    Prior to our resignation, our concerns were growing by the week, especially during Advent. Most ministers devote that time to sermons on the meaning of Advent and Christmas. But MacDonald chose to berate his congregation to give ’till it hurts so his pesky $40 million debt would go away, misusing the book of Nehemiah in the process.

    The last straw was on Sunday, 12/16. Early that morning, I desperately prayed for wisdom regarding whether to leave HBC, since we don’t take that lightly. When church started, they blasted live rock “Christmas” music from the stage so LOUD, our ears physically hurt. When my wife asked the pastors to turn the amplifiers down a bit, they refused, saying they had their orders to crank it up much louder than normal. So we left immediately and never came back. In fact, we saw several other families turn around and leave.

    As “luck” (or perhaps Providence?) would have it, just a week prior to that 12/16 disaster, we had a colleague of mine from work, and her family, over to our house for dinner. Turns out they’re also devout Christians (an unfortunate rarity in academia) and recommended we try out their church, part of the Presbyterian Church of America. We’d attended a PCA church back in our prior city and loved it, but had trouble finding one near us in Chicago. Either I was looking in the wrong area or PCA needs to engage the internet better (probably more the former than the latter), because we’ve already visited that church, and it sure looks promising!

    It’s always risky, not to mention rather arrogant, to assume we know exactly what God’s will is regarding any specific matter. He leaves a lot up to us. But, while sometimes God speaks in a whisper, other times He blows out the subwoofers.

  19. While there is much going wrong at Harvest, whom among us is witout sin, and worthy of casting stones? Is it better to defend ourselves or look in mirror and rend our own hearts because of our own wretched condition? And then focus on JESUS, HIS amazing love, grace and mercy. As HE taught, “blessed is the poor in spirit.” YHWH is in control. The gates of hell will not prevail. HE will bring all to repentance, in HIS perfect timing, not us.

    • scottie

      you’re ok with christian leaders who lie, deceive, manipulate, and engage in financial corruption? raise your standards, man.

  20. Susan Vonder Heide

    It is very easy to be critical of people for not having the courage to speak out but those speaking judgmentally of others for not speaking out should honestly ponder whether they themselves would be willing to do so when doing so would have serious consequences for their family’s financial situation or for their status in the community or whatever. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone and let the truth be spoken in love.

    • Say what

      I did speak out. I spoke out and was unjustly disciplined. Left the church, jobs were lost, cut off from small group, all while spineless followers watched on as we were emotionally and mentally trampled. Sometimes conviction takes precedent over comfort and provision.

  21. HarvestMember

    I’m grieved at everything happening at Harvest, but I want to say that the people at the church, including staff, small groups and the counseling, have served every need of my family when we asked. I’m sure it’s hard to serve thousands and not miss from time to time.

    • Jessica

      Are you saying that as long as your own needs are met, you’re okay with what’s going on?

  22. Judy

    The Lord has sent a fire and it is falling on these wolves. Expect to see more because He is cleaning out His house and He is sick of these greedy wolves. If you’re on the inside either get out or stand up. It might cost you everything. Jesus never said the cost would be cheap or that there would be no cost at all. Find the mind of Christ in this for you and for what you should do and just do it. God will bless you for it.

  23. formerharvestmember

    I’m beginning to wonder whether the whole concept of a standalone megachurch is just a bad idea. Too centered around one person, too easy to exploit, too little accountability.

    Decades ago, MacDonald probably didn’t start out with this in mind, and had the best of intentions. But, over time, his slowly growing power, adulation, and wealth inexorably corrupted him and seared his conscience, as it would most people. I doubt I could have handled it any better.

    Of course, now HBC is in a real fix. Even if MacDonald and a lot of the elders were to resign, attendance would plummet and the church would likely collapse under a mountain of ill-conceived debt. Staying the course also means losing some people and revenues, but they may have determined that it’s likely to be less damaging than the alternative. Kind of like having the proverbial tiger by the tail, it’s a bad situation, but they don’t dare let go.

  24. If members at this church did nothing else but withhold their tithes and offerings that might get MacDonald and other leaders attention. Sad to say the only thing that will get their attention IMO is money – that is money not coming in.

    It is sad to read that MacDonald could sue with so many points in the lawsuit being wrong.

    This is so sad to read about.

    My guess is that MacDonald’s conscience is seared at Paul mentions about some leaders in I Tim 4:2. Paul also mentioned in Acts 20:30 “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” This is also what it appears that MacDonald has done and is doing.

  25. A former member, still a Christ follower by the grace of God

    So many Christ followers have left Harvest. My husband and I came to Christ in 2000 at Harvest. We were involved. Greeters, ushers, sound board, Walk In The Word volunteers. I grew in the women’s Precept Bible study for years. Then we started seeing good men and women “disappear “ from the church. Then the woman’s Precepts Bible study was stopped. My husband was more discerning than I. He insisted he would not continue to attend Harvest in 2012. I followed him. He has been proven right. Most of the good people who have left Harvest say nothing, I among them. My feeling was that even with the corruption, God would continue to use this church until He didn’t, then it would be brought down. It seems God’s word is true; “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil”. I cannot believe that all these people who still attend Harvest know. Some are deceived, others are trapped by the love of money. God has said He will build His Church and nothing will prevail against it. Take heart and trust God all who call Christ LORD.

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