Harvest Elder Resigns From Board, Saying Former Executive Elders Continue “Sinful, Secretive…Controlling Culture”

By Julie Roys
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About a month ago, Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Dan George issued a public apology and vowed to use his position to push for reform at the church. However today, George sent me the following statement, announcing his resignation, saying he feels “powerless” to change the culture at Harvest. George says the former executive elders who remain on the boardJeff Smith, William Sperling, and Sam Booras continue to control the board and impede change. These are the same elders who approved the “ungodly” and potentially fraudulent spending at Harvest that recently prompted the ECFA to suspend its accreditation of the church. 

Hello Harvest,

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter asking you for forgiveness. In that letter I asked to stay on as an elder for a short period “to help redirect and change Harvest.” The time since I wrote my first letter — including numerous 4-5-hour meetings followed by sleepless nights — has revealed to me that I am powerless to make the necessary changes to correct the culture at Harvest Bible Chapel from within the interim elder board. It is for this reason that I resigned from my position as elder of Harvest Bible Chapel effective yesterday, March 20, 2019.

The elder board at Harvest continues to be controlled by former executive committee (EC) members who are focused on governing at a time when our church needs leadership and reform. These men should resign immediately and make room for change. Instead, they remain impeding progress. Below are some interactions which illustrate issues that are preventing change. Ephesians 5:11-14a is my guide here:

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light …” 

  • Even with a smaller number, the elder board continues to operate as a two-tier board. The former EC members owned the agenda and communicated among themselves much more readily than with the full board of what was nine men. Information needed to effectively govern and lead the church was still withheld. My requests for information and documents were met with, “Why do you need that?” These actions represent the old siloed, tiered, secretive culture.
  • The board has not shown a willingness to really listen to the congregation. A letter submitted on behalf of 30 members with recommendations for how the church moves forward was never discussed by the board. Most elders never read any portion of a petition signed by ~200 people that was hand-delivered to the board. For Harvest to thrive, the congregation needs a voice. (There have been steps here with Q&A sessions and town halls.) 
  • Several weeks ago, former elders and key volunteers with valuable experience and financial know-how, including Scott Phelps, Dan Marquardt, Barry Slabaugh, and Dan Tolbert, offered their services to the board at no cost. However, the board resisted this outside help from highly experienced individuals who love our church and want to help us. We need to humble ourselves and ask for and accept help NOW!
  • The board continues to defend the decision not to make the six letters bringing charges against James MacDonald available to all the elders. Instead they still believe having only a few elders read the letters would have been the right course of action. Doing that would have meant shirking our responsibility as elders as called out clearly in 1 Timothy 5:19-21. Per Hebrews 13:17, each man will give an individual account to the Lord for how he watched over the souls entrusted to us. The argument now is that other elders could not be trusted with the letters.
  • When I sent those letters addressed to the elder board to all the elders via email, I got a phone call from Jeff Smith, a longtime EC member. I chose not to answer the call. Jeff left a voicemail in which he accused me of sowing discord, warned me to guard myself against stirring up anger and lawlessness, asked me to “comply” and wondered whether I had “permission to do this.” I shared this with the elder board recently. There was no response let alone rebuke of Jeff or of me, if they believe I was wrong. 

If the workings and culture of the Harvest elder board does not radically change, our church will not be able to rid itself of the old sinful, secretive, siloed, controlling culture. This might sound like I am giving up. I am not. My hope is for our church to return to Christ alone and be the church (or churches) I know we can be — a church with real uncommon community where anyone can ask questions, where we say hard things to each other when needed in love, where we communicate more; a church with full transparency; a church where every member entrusted with spiritual oversight really lives out both “What does God say about this in His word?” and “What is best for the church, for the people?” But this change can happen only with a new board that has left behind the ways of the past. So, I am resigning, and I am calling on every member of the former EC to resign immediately (Steve Huston led the way here with his resignation two weeks ago), for any board member tied to the old culture to resign immediately and be replaced by men who not only are willing to reform Harvest but know how to do it—men like the former elders already named.

Harvest needs reform. It needs to start now. I am willing to help in any way I can.

Your fellow worker,

Dan

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39 thoughts on “Harvest Elder Resigns From Board, Saying Former Executive Elders Continue “Sinful, Secretive…Controlling Culture””

  1. My head pounds and hurts reading all this puzzling conundrum that still continues to surround and befall Harvest. It is indeed tragic when every linked chain supposedly holding key pieces together in the end has massively and collectively failed. My family and I made the right decision leaving (the minute JMac was removed) and opting for a smaller family/ community church instead. There’s too many things at stake. It’s time to just end, cut ties with this insanity called Harvest and gain a fresh start elsewhere. You deserve that. We all do.

    1. Leza. David. Jessica. John.

      Harvest would do well to listen to people like yourselves. Unfortunately, its leaders are continuing to lead like people who don’t have a fraction of the discernment and sense as you have.

      In the meantime, I want to encourage people to continue to reach out and encourage friends of yours…those still attending and serving at Harvest…to flee now and find fellowship with believers elsewhere.

      Men, do the right thing. Lead your families well and leave Harvest now. Your wives will be beyond relieved and grateful. I can’t urge you strongly enough to walk away from HBC and find fellowship and freedom in Christ elsewhere.

    2. I agree! How grieved I am over this whole situation. These remaining crooked people have something to gain. They do not care for God’s people. You can see that by the evidence they try to supress the letters written and don’t even read the ones signed by members, they don’t care at all. Praying God will bring his people to a better place and destroy this evil.

      1. The thing these remaining people have to gain is they want the assets of Harvest Bible Chapel. Regardless of the amount of debt those assets are worth millions more. What a better quicker way for the church to fail than to leave it in the hands of the wrong people.

        They give the appearance of wanting to do good when what they really want is the place to fail. Look
        at Dan George’s letter.

  2. They removed Dan’s name from the Elder page but did not publish his letter. As usual Harvest leadership will not be transparent. The new is the same as the old. I wouldn’t give a dime to Harvest.

  3. Wow! Dan George steps up by stepping down with a real-time, public account of ongoing corruption at the core of Harvest Bible Chapel. The opportunities for leadership to fully confess, repent, and make restitution while keeping the church intact are dwindling. Pretty soon, a crew of “Esaus” (Hebrews 12) will be left standing on the deck of the H.B.C. Titanic.

    I pray that the men (& women) who need to resign do so immediately. The most urgent include Elders Jeff Smith, Sam Booras & Bill Sperling; CFO Jeff Sharda; Talbott Behnken, and most campus pastors. More resignations must follow in the next 1-3 months.

    Congregation, it’s time to

    1) open your eyes & ears – no more ostriches!

    2) get righteously angry and call LOUDLY for full confession, repentance, resignations, and restitution

    3) call Harvest 2020 what it is (a joke)

    4) fire the two consultants

    5) demand that godly leadership assume the helm. (Elders, of course, but also other men AND WOMEN who actually LEAD.) Do whatever it takes to take up Phelps, Marquardt, and Slabaugh on their offers to help. Dan Tolbert, too, provided that he releases the statement he gave to the Elders in February.

    Act now, before it’s too late.

  4. I went to Harvest for 10 years and left in October 2012. I was shunned by the entire membership except one person. I had 30-40 friends and one of them stayed with me for a few months.

    The day after I resigned as a flock leader, it was announced that I had left Harvest in sin…the letter I sent at that time begged MacD to repent. Just come before the Lord with a broken heart.

    All of that to say this: Harvest needs to close. Why? Because the people of Harvest think Harvest is something special. It’s not and in fact, the opposite is true. It’s a complete train wreck and those who defend the “poor congregation”? I would be careful with that…they watched 2000 people leave the church…so pleas of ignorance are a sham. They all knew and chose to shun those who left and support the tragedy that just exploded all over Christendom.

    Close the doors. Let all of the people there go to churches who don’t have the perfect program and spend millions on their music and have the lighting just perfect and the theatrics. The preaching for the last six years has been vomitous…

    It’s going to financially collapse anyway unless their big strategy guys can bring in a grand slam cult of personality as James was…

    Close the doors.

    Disaster.

    1. unfortunately this story has repeated itself for years in other harvest churches – the entire movement is suspect – Canada and US. Run away – far away

  5. Jmac is still in charge with ricky d calling the shots!

    If these two don’t get the money they think they are owed they will completely destroy the physical remains of harvest just like they were destroying the spiritual harvest.

    Dan George needs to release all the letters tonight to everyone, everywhere!

    Everyone needs to see the payroll, books, and records. Then and only then will the people know the extent of the greed that continues to destroy their church/s.

    May God have mercy on their souls!

  6. This is so sad! Reading this right after getting an email from Harvest with explanation that “everything is moving in the right direction” and “Harvest 2020 is done” because they’ve “done what they were supposed to do”. Well, not according to this elder. I just came back, now I dont know what to do. I am so sad.

      1. Marisa Nordstrom

        The wolves in sheep clothing have and are setting up shop to receive the Harvest casualties. I can think of one on radio and somebody ought to check why he was basically kicked out of his large church as lead pastor. He may not look like a bully, but he is, and that was the major reason he was ousted from the mega group he now brags about to entice you to join his new one thousands of miles from the old one.

  7. Still watching from afar BUT people please stop the madness. Do you recall that Jesus said broad is the road to destruction and narrow is the path…. FEW WILL FIND IT! What does ‘few’ mean? It means FEW! So when we take Jesus’ words at face value and Paul’s admonitions of wolves in sheep’s clothing well 2 + 2 = 4 and so on and so on!

    My husband and I were backstabbed by a Pastor and his wife and believe me it took years to get over the hurt but it subsided under the healing wing of God! Run to Him….to quote Oswald Chambers
    ‘Never ask another person’s advice about anything God makes you decide before Him. If you ask advice, you will almost always side with Satan.’
    “I did not Immediately conferr with flesh and blood” Paul told the Galatians!

    What additional information, video, spread sheet will it take to convince those still hanging on?
    Admittedly, I learned a lot from James BUT I challenge anyone to go back and listen to just ONE sermon in light of theses allegations? You cannot! It’s sickening! Shut Harvest down, create small churches in your homes to study God’s Word!

    It’s a joy… indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit!

  8. So many more need to resign. Any of the old leadership and staff need to go. I would say anyone whose been their longer than a decade, and especially who have worked closely with James – it’s time to go, start over and let harvest rebuild. The sickness runs deep to the bone unfortunately.

  9. Dan, thanks for your honesty in speaking the truth and letting us know what is truly going on behind closed doors. The sin, corruption and deceit continues and lives on for JMac has taught his disciples well. HBC family, leave and find a Biblical church. If you do stay, withhold your tithes and give directly to the missionaries and missions you support. Pacific Garden Mission, Awana, CRU, the local food bank and others can use the funding more wisely. The status quo of using HBC has an ATM must stop. Non-essentials like mansions, motorcycles and trips does not further God’s kingdom on earth. Offering is down 40 percent. Let us set a goal of 50 to send a message to the leadership that change and true transparency must occur. We will not take the lies and abuse any longer.

  10. It really makes me sad to read all of this about former Pastor James MacDonald and the Harvest Churches. I enjoyed the preaching and teaching ministry of Walk in the Word for many years and was wondering what happened when all was going digital and the digital had messages dated back to January of this year. I pray for reconcilation for all involved to God and their brothers and sisters. I am disappointed with James MacDonald. He had a preaching and teaching ministry long reaching across this country and due to bad decisions, sin and probably greed many have been affected and not for the good. This definitely does not bring glory to God and it leaves the door open to those who find some pleasure in attacking the church. Ms. Roy I also don’t find your “ministry” to bring togetherness but division which we have biblically been warned about. I don’t believe corruption in the church should be allowed however I don’t know if blogging and airing an imperfect churches dirty laundry so to speak is the answer either. Love covers a multitude of sin. We all fall short of God’s glory and thank God for grace and mercy. The seeds we plant will bloom. God help us all.

    1. Debra Szemplinski

      Mara, I believe we all can appreciate your heart felt sentiment. But bringing evil to light within the church is also a mandate of scripture. Apply your concerns to the corruption exposures of the Catholic church and you’ll find the logical, legal, and scriptural error, perhaps eith better clarity Sin must be routed. Our attitude in light of such truths needs to be tempered by the Holy dpirit so that we don’t glory in the downfall of an enemy. Also, please recall, Ms. Roys was a front line victim in this battle, being sued to suppress hard won evidence of corruption. I, like thousands, thank God for Christian soldiers like Ms. Roys.

    2. Mara-
      Julie Roys didn’t create division at HBC. The internal conflict has been going on for years at HBC until it was brought to light by former elders from the elephant’s debt and Julie did what any fearless Christian reporter would do- ask permission from elephant’s debt authors and help bring all the evil doings to light.

      Do you realize the pattern of elders that have left to date and how every single one was complicit out of the fear of being blackballed or obliterated? Do you know that JMac filed a defamation lawsuit on these very people and their spouses to intimidate and silence them?

      Blogs exist for that very reason so people can talk of anything and everything under the sun- even if it means exposing someone to light for who they really are- that’s accountability that sadly senior and executive spiritual leaders at HBC shunned staff people from doing and failed collectively to do. That’s the irony.

    3. Susan Vonder Heide

      It is so easy to blame the messenger for the message. If Julie was exposing some meaningless trivia that would be one thing but that is not the case.

    4. Mara, I appreciate your concern that we all display the image of Christ to the outside world and bring glory to God. Yes, love covers a multitude of sin yet Julie Roys had to expose these lies, deceit and sinfulness that was hidden behind closed doors for so long. The old guard did not want their sins known and tried to suppress the truth with non-disclosure contracts. Dismissal, excommunication, lawsuits, bullying and other evil practices were disguise as Christian piety. The truth had to brought to light as a warning for others not to tolerate, engage or accept this evil behavior in the local church. Even with believers sharing thoughts and feelings on what is happening now, it seems that the “new” leadership wishes to continue the “old” practices of JMac; thus the resignation Dan George. The HBC family and the Church needs to be aware of these wolves before they go to another church and violates that flock.

  11. Please pray for me and our church!

    I’ve been trying to come to grips with the fact that the Great Commission Collective church I go to is run by the exact same leadership culture as what Dan George describes in Harvest Chicago.

    When people respectfully ask about something or express a concern to leadership they are shut down, dismissed or warned. And honestly I’ve seen cases where it seems like they are then blacklisted. Sometimes these warnings are even done proactively, in advance, not so subtly from the platform that members need to seek unity or be flexible. It’s intimidation.

    I’ve also seen numerous instances where someone is gifted or trained and wants to serve, but they were either not welcomed to serve or ignored. This is particularly true if the person was formerly on another church staff or trained by a parachurch ministry.

    I’m afraid that this leadership DNA comes out of Harvest Bible Fellowship. The underlying principle seems to be, “If someone isn’t agreeing with you, they are a threat. If ignoring them doesn’t work and they speak up again you need to boldly, decisively shut them down because you are the spiritually anointed mouthpiece of God and they are from the enemy.”

    There might be head knowledge that each part of the body is equally important, but the behavior from leadership is that the leaders are in a special class. Isn’t this the total opposite of what Martin Luther believed? In fact, there is a mindset from Harvest that has crept into Great Commission Collective that pastors carry a greater burden than anyone can fathom and that entitles them to treat people a certain way or even perks. You can get this from information online about the emphasis on caring for GCC pastors and from the Dominican Republic retreat. Don’t get me wrong, our pastors do deserve care and love and respect, but they are NOT as a special elite spiritual class. This feels like how James MacDonald convinced himself he deserved exorbitant trips funded by member’s tithes due to the stress of his job that “no one could begin understand.” Each of us serving in the church has burdens and stress.

    As I’ve written before, these issues are cancerous. They are extending beyond Chicago.

    *Father, help us as your Church regain connection with the Head, Jesus Christ. Help us to have TRUE unity, that we may build each other up so that we make glorify you. Help us to make disciples like Jesus did, not in our own strength and wisdom. Help our pastors be refreshed in you so they may lead with honor, integrity and your power. If we can not do that where we currently are, please open the door clearly to where we should go to worship and serve you.*

  12. Our family attended Harvest for many years, but finally left by the bullying and mocking attitude James displayed in the pulpit. I looked on the Harvest FB page and noticed that it still refers to James as the pastor, and has links to provided to Walk in the Word (Jamesmacdonald.com). And the Harvest website announces the “transitions” of leaving pastors with many kind words for their service. All of which tells me that not only is Harvest not willing to repudiate James or his supporters like Rick, Jeff, etc., but don’t even seem to want them gone at all! What will it take for the remaining staff, elders and members to accept that they’ve been fleeced and will continue to be fleeced?

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      For the remaining staff, elders, and members to accept they have been fleeced…and will continue to be fleeced, some of them—flat out—must be born again before their eyes will be opened. Without the Holy Spirit, these folks are blinded…blinded by their pride…unable to discern right from wrong, truth from error, and good from evil.

      Like all churches, Harvest undoubtedly has people in its congregation…elders, leaders, members, and attenders who have never set their gaze on the Lamb of God, the One who has taken away the sin of the world. Harvest is no different than other churches where false converts abound…people who have not esteemed and appropriated Christ’s shed blood as the only means to be forgiven and be reconciled to God…churchgoers who do not have the mind of Christ but have their minds set on earthly, carnal things.

      But for the people at Harvest who are truly saved…and reading this…may the Holy Spirit search your hearts, break your wills, and work in you a deep and true repentance—Repentance for seemingly showing more concern and outrage over people like me sounding the alarm than you have shown for people leading your church and who profess to be followers of Christ yet have deceived, duped, and defrauded your flock; repentance for expressing less righteous anger over cons, cheats, and charlatans who have misused funds that were the Lord’s than you have toward people who would dare say to withhold your giving at Harvest and redirect it elsewhere; repentance for having more compassion on bullies and browbeaters who have mocked the ones who lovingly sought to bring those ensnared in sin to a place of repentance than on those who were “beaten up” by leaders who should have served more than they led; and above all, repenting for maligning the name of Christ and word of Christ in all of these ways and more.

  13. I probably shouldn’t second-guess Dan George for leaving here, as he knows the lay of the land in a way I don’t. That noted, another approach is what John Piper did with the BGC (now Converge). Faced with a situation where many there were promoting open theism, Piper decided to stay, reckoning perhaps that he would either win or force the rest of the BGC to force him out. I believe he ended up winning.

    Each person can make their own decisions–I’ve chosen to leave three churches myself for various reasons rather than to fight it out like Piper–but there are at least two ways of offering battle here.

  14. Bike Bubba, Thanks for your perspective about staying as an option. I’m torn. I want to move on because I don’t want to be here another year hoping it will change when leaders don’t want to, but I also want to see things be healthy. I want to see everyone grow in Christ.

    I see new people coming in and am very concerned for them. They see the glitz and hear the teaching and excellent worship, but as they get more invested they get hurt more. This doesn’t happen in every church ministry. It seems to be any time there is a mid level leadership role or the ministry is a higher profile. But to see people invest their time, prayer and do multi-year financial pledges and then be hurt, it’s tragic.

    I don’t sense God has appointed me to go around warning people which is exactly why I am not naming the church here. At the same time I don’t want to look the other way like what happened in Chicago and have people wonder why I never spoke up.

    Doing a lot of praying because respectfully confronting the Harvest Chicago mindset has not worked for several of us.

    Thank you for your counsel and prayers.

  15. Dan,

    Thank you for your courage in standing up and making this behavior known! My wife and I have experienced this old sinful behavior over the past 4-8 weeks from current staff members. It seems as if nothing has changed! We recently wrote two letters to the elder board stating that we are experiencing this behavior and did receive a phone call from Dale Kuntz who was very concerned about this and answered ALL of our questions and even offered to answer any follow up questions we might have in the future. I thank the Lord for men like you and Dale.

  16. What do you want to bet the old EC members are still taking direction from JMac. Some brave soul needs to go unplug the shredders and preserve the 20% financial documents. There is no justification for this church to survive if the shroud of secrecy is still there. And it won’t.

  17. JohnM,

    Unless you are an elder or other highly influential leader of your church, it’s probably time to go. In your mind, your leaders have not earned the reputation that is required of them in 1Tim 3. Also, the ungodly environment is probably worse than you realize for the spiritual lives of your family members and yourself. Luke 6:40 says that when fully trained, you will become like your teachers.

    Meet with your leaders and quote Mt 10:42-45. If your leaders really are the abusive bullies that you make them out to be, they will play the authority card, condemn you, and insist on thinking for you, thereby violating these verses and validating your concerns. If they show genuine concern for what you have observed, that would be a pleasant surprise and perhaps you can work with them.

    You might think that this will not make a difference, but if dozens and dozens of people say the same things over a period of time, perhaps the Spirit will quicken their hearts. The battle is the Lord’s. Remember that as you enter the lion’s den.

  18. Joe Blow, Thanks for taking time to respond. It is very encouraging. I’ll pray about approaching leadership one more time.

  19. This ugly structure created by greedy, controlling, conspirators can be easily resolved in 3 steps:

    1. God’s children need to go forth and start home church/s just like 2000 yrs ago.

    2. File petition for involuntary bankruptcy w/ judge appointed trustee who will automatically have
    ‘claw back’ authority (the taking back of assets and or money previously spent, by force of law) for
    benefit of creditors owed and people who were cheated.

    3. Open your bibles and follow only Jesus. Do what Jesus says! Jesus said, “‘Follow me.’ But the man
    replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own
    dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God'” (Luke 9:59-60).

    If we keep rationalizing what’s happening here we will merely become complainers and God hates
    complainers!
    Thank God for exposing these evil creatures in your midst!

  20. Heard that the cpa accounting firm that was supposed to do the audit suddenly resigned
    What did they find that they made them exit so quickly?

  21. Why is Jeff sharda still on staff?
    Should b fired immediately
    Major tool of Satan
    Why is it that the church is so full of elders w no wisdom and pure stupidity?
    Sharda must go!!!!

  22. Why is Jeff sharda still on staff?
    That corrupt piece of crap should b fired
    Past elder board filled w men w no wisdom and pure stupidity

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