James MacDonald is Fired: A Day to Mourn, to Pray, & to Plead for Revival

By Julie Roys
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I woke up this morning to multiple texts informing me that James MacDonald had been fired from Harvest Bible Chapel. My first emotion was relief. Finally, some 10 months after a former Harvest pastor contacted me and urged me to investigate the mega-church pastor, MacDonald was out.

No longer can he prey on the sheep he was supposed to protect.  No longer can he use church members’ money to line his pockets. No longer can he rage on innocent employees and get people to believe the lies he’s spread about those who challenge him.

Scripture encourages believers to rejoice in the judgment of God (Psalm 96:13; Rev. 18:20) and this morning I felt a bit of that. But it was quickly tempered.

Sadly, thousands today are reeling in pain. A church is in shambles. Evangelicals are publicly embarrassed—again. And more men remain in positions of influence who have done reprehensible things.

No, today is not a day to rejoice; it is a day to pause and reflect. A day to mourn. A day to pray. A day to sit before God and plead for revival—both personally and collectively as His Body.

It is a solemn day. And in that spirit, I offer the following thoughts and suggestions that have been ruminating in me for some time:

  • Continue the Cleansing at Harvest

While I am heartened that the elders finally removed MacDonald, he should have been fired five years ago. That’s when eight former elders sent a letter to the sitting elder board, warning them that MacDonald was disqualified for office. Yet instead of investigating MacDonald, the board excommunicated some of the messengers. And shockingly, two of the elders who participated in a video slandering those men, Steve Huston and Paul Inserra, remain on the board. Huston even chairs the Executive Committee of the Elders.

In addition, Jeff Smith, the chairman of the finance committee who’s clearly failed to oversee properly the finances of the church, remains an elder.  So do Fred Ananias and Scott Stonebreaker, who wrongfully fired Pastor John Secrest from HBC Naples. And let’s not forget that the entire elder board recently pledged their unconditional support for MacDonald, showing a grievous misunderstanding of what it means to be an elder. All of them should step down and a transition team should be put in place.

Plus, the members of Harvest’s dwindling executive leadership team, including MacDonald’s two sons, should resign. These men worked very closely with MacDonald, and certainly knew of his reprehensible behavior. At best, they did nothing.  At worst, they protected him and punished his critics. If Harvest is going to have any hope of reforming its culture, it needs a clean slate and fresh leadership. These men need to go.

  • Fix the “Evangelical Machine”

The men surrounding MacDonald at Harvest weren’t the only ones who insulated him from accountability. As I wrote last year after blowing the whistle on the Moody Bible Institute, there’s an entire evangelical infrastructure, or “celebrity machine,” that shamefully protects the powerful. Sadly, evangelical leaders have known about MacDonald’s miserable behavior for years. I’ve heard them repeatedly talk about it behind closed doors.

MacDonald should have been removed from radio in 2012 when his gambling first came to light. I remember talking to leaders at Moody about it and being assured that MacDonald was repentant, only to find out later that he had been gambling with Moody’s chairman of the board.

But more recently, I heard a recording that’s perhaps the most disgusting example of this collusion and protection that I’ve ever witnessed. I am hoping and praying that Mancow will publish the full 50 minutes of audio that he has. As I mentioned, I have heard that full audio. And it includes two separate conversations with men in powerful positions within evangelicalism. They laugh along with MacDonald’s vile comments and become accomplices in his smear campaign against me and others. This kind of behavior is reprehensible and inexcusable and needs to end now among evangelical leaders. The good, old boy network is not good. It’s sinful.

  • Renew a Commitment to Holiness

As I said recently in my  interview with Drew Marshall, we serve a God who is both loving and holy. Yes, love compelled Christ to die on the cross. He did not wish any to perish. But His holiness compelled Him too. Had his holiness not required that sin be punished, Jesus would not have had to die.

Sometimes I think we forget this truth in the church. We forget that God has standards—and that breaking those standards has serious consequences. So many times over the past few months, I’ve heard Christians excuse inexcusable behavior by saying that nobody’s perfect. But as I’ve said numerous times, 1 Timothy 5:20 is clear: elders who continue sinning must be publicly exposed.

That is not harsh. That is not cruel. It is Christ protecting His Bride and His own reputation. God hates sin. And those in leadership should possess a healthy fear of God’s judgment. Likewise, those who follow should expect and require holiness in their leaders.

  • Support Truth-Telling

In a statement yesterday, Christianity Today urged Harvest to conduct an independent investigation, which the magazine said would “bring out the full truth” in a “more healthy atmosphere than what we’re witnessing now on social media and talk radio.” In addition, throughout the Harvest debacle, Harvest has repeatedly complained about “attack bloggers” and “gossip.”

Though I concede that not everything blogged, tweeted, or broadcast has been edifying, the truth is that nothing would have happened without passionate people employing these mediums. I have repeatedly told the guys at The Elephant’s Debt that I stood on their shoulders. I never could have done the reporting I did had Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney not doggedly researched and published for more than six years. Similarly, by the elders’ own admission, had Mancow not broadcast the shocking audio clips yesterday, MacDonald’s removal could have dragged on much longer. Given the elders’ track record, I’m not convinced it would have happened at all.

Christians are sometimes very uncomfortable with publicly reporting negative news, even when it’s true and necessary. I understand that. And I’m a big proponent of reporting responsibly—naming sources, double-checking facts, seeking comment from both sides. But I think we need to admit that when a system is broken, as it is at Harvest, there often is no other recourse. And instead of denigrating those who speak, we need to support them. Public truth-tellers are critical to reform. As Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” I am grateful to every source who went on the record concerning MacDonald, and every truth-teller who posted or broadcast. Thank you.

  • Comfort the Hurting

Lastly, we need to comfort the hurting. I know many people who attend Harvest or who have been impacted by MacDonald’s preaching are crushed today. As one person whom MacDonald led to the Lord recently remarked to me, “It’s like finding out your wife is a serial killer.” The disillusionment, betrayal, and loss can be excruciating. This is a very vulnerable time for a lot of people and I am sure God weeps for every wounded soul.

I am so sorry. I am sure words fail to soothe the pain you’re feeling right now. And I understand if you’re angry at me. Perhaps you wish this had never come to light.

I want to encourage you, though, to fix your eyes on Jesus. I’ll never forget a time when I was serving in a youth ministry and we discovered that a popular youth pastor at a neighboring church had abused several girls under his care. It was awful. We knew him. We knew his wife. We knew the kids in his ministry. And we grieved—and we prayed that God would not allow this betrayal of trust to drive kids away from Jesus. Surprisingly, it had the opposite effect.

At a meeting of all the youth who had been in this man’s ministry, a teenager stood up and declared, “We never worshipped or followed Jeff. We follow Jesus.” And that became the rallying cry for all those kids in that ministry. And God used that awful betrayal of trust to purify that church and lead them to a more focused devotion to Jesus than they had ever had before.

That’s my prayer for Harvest today. I know many of you at the church passionately love Jesus. You’re devoted to His Word. You sacrifice for His mission. And God can rebuild something beautiful from these ashes. That is His will. And He will do it if we remain focused and submitted to Him.  

 

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135 thoughts on “James MacDonald is Fired: A Day to Mourn, to Pray, & to Plead for Revival”

  1. Julie, thank you for believing the brave people who brought their stories of pastoral abuse and corruption at Harvest to you.We are so grateful for all your hours of hard work reporting this story. It is so hard to believe these horrible things happen at our Church we helped start but we saw it all and now see God is bringing it to an end.God used you and Mancow in a big way to uncover the corruption -how funny have to chuckle at that duo!You made a huge difference in the outcome of the firing of James and prayerfully now a purifying work at Harvest.Been waiting a long time for this day-thank you so much.

    1. Adding to the commentary of my friend and brother Bill Stevenson, I also want to thank Julie and the others who have called out the serial spiritual abuse and institutional corruption that has festered at Harvest Bible Chapel these many years. It is truly amazing that this could continue for so long. The enabling actions and inactions of staff and elder leadership is a stinging indictment of a church gone “sideways”. My family left Harvest 8 or 9 years ago and found a wonderful church led by a pastor with a true shepherd’s heart and governed by elder leadership that is spiritually sensitive, accountable and balanced with eyes on the gospel. Of course, our church is not perfect but the love of Christ is evident in our midst and I am so thankful for that. It is the way church should be. I pray for those now seeking the same.

      Using a wider lens, Julie is also right about the growing problem in the evangelical church generally. It seems that a culture of mega church celebrity, personal branding, self aggrandizement, and financial gain is infecting the entire enterprise. In this sense, there is little distinction from that which evangelicals have long criticized as hallmarks of the prosperity gospel universe. Based on so many testimonials, it appears that a common and regrettable theme is a corrosive spirit of authoritarianism that destroys people rather than nurtures them in Christ. We should be appalled by this trend. More so than any of the characteristics noted above, the reality of spiritual abuse is the issue that should be most concerning. The evangelical world would do well to look inwardly with humility at this point…. and that starts with each one of us.

      Dave Papritz
      Harvest member 2002-2010

  2. Well said, Julie. It is bittersweet. It is sad. But I have confidence in this—it is God who sees to the justice due His sheep and who makes the dry bones live again.
    Keep praying.
    Let us submit to Him.
    In that, He gets the victory.
    Amen.

  3. I went to the Harvest prayer meeting/ Q and A in Elgin tonight ……pastor Jeff Donaldson should have had a top hat and cain for the song and Dance he and the Two Elders were doing…he spent the first t5 minutes singing Jmacs praises then said Jmac has some shortcomings…he then said that Havest ,has and always will fly the banner of Christ…that stuck me funny because there were two vertical church logo banners hanging on the wall, I still can’t get passed a church with a logo…anyways when it was my turn to ask my question I asked pastor Donaldson how can we trust the Elder XLT board because when I met with XLT Chairman Steve Huston He lied right to my face..I was immediately escorted out of the building…..I dont think The leadership at Harvest Bible chapel is Quite ready to do any Repenting at the moment…..please Julie dont stop reporting on this Harvest Cult….and thank you for all of your hard work, it means alot to me and many other former and current Havest members.

    1. Thanks for reporting this, Dan. It helps everyone see the HBC Elders’ statement from today in context. They fired James MacDonald because the broadcasted recordings gave them no other choice. These men are not righteous and have no intention of coming clean. They must resign immediately.

      Julie, if you speak to Mancow Muller, can you ask him to upload the full 50 minutes of the recording that you heard to his podcast? On Twitter, he mentioned having a “nuclear” option. The time to use that option is now.

      1. I doubt Mancow will post it. He wanted James out, and he’s out. If they take him back soon I’m guessing he’d post it.

        I wonder if many of the elders, rather than being “yes men,” as Mancow suggested on his show, if they instead have the same general approach and attitude as James. I wonder if they always said yes to James not because they are “beta men” but because they are just like him. It appears on stage they are one thing, behind the scenes another. They appear to be disingenuous with or without James around.

        1. Regardless, all 30+ must resign. So must the XLT and most, if not all, of the campus pastors.

          The debt will crush them. New Elders & leaders gives them a fighting chance.

      2. If a member asks an uncomfortable question and is escorted out, that is a bad sign. If James was removed due to the magnitude of evidence demonstrating that he is not fit for the office, but the remaining leadership seems more loyal to him than to the members that have been hurt, that is a bad sign.

        Removing James is only one step towards that church getting healthy. But there is a long way to still go. Can a member of that church ask what severance, if any, is being paid to JMac? Or would that person also be escorted out?

        Who has control of the church? If one of the primary allegations has been that JMac and his family use donor offerings to grant themselves large salaries and lavish lifestyles then how has anything changed as of today? JMac could be reaping a 10 year severance and who would know? The other MacDonalds may now give themselves raises, and who would know.

        The current XLT should humbly admit their failings, call upon the counsel of other godly men outside their own church and take their advice on how to proceed – this would likely mean that they all resign, all past non-disclosure agreements are rescinded, the books are open, the church repents and seeks God for healing and revival and looks to move forward under new leadership.

        By the way, how is it going with reconciling past hurts? Can they start with John Secrest and then work backwards from that point?

      1. Also, how about the amount of good that Harvest Bible Chapel did for his members for example: counseling department, the camp for the members for all kind of retreats, different kind of conferences for woman and man, planting churches here in Chicago and around the world, small groups, homeless ministry and so many other ministries! My family came from a church where we had nothing like this, the money (which are not our money, they are God’s money) did not show any advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ! Harvest Bible Chapel has done so much advancing the kingdom of God and it is so sad to see members and former members focus just on the negative things! We never appreciate what we have until we loose everything! So many broken families have been restored through the preaching of God’s word and not once it was not preached the word of God. I pray that current members would stand up for the truth and not let the devil crumble the work of God that has built up so many broken people!
        You are loved!!

        1. Steluta, we can find good in a garbage can, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take out the trash when it’s full.

          The good that has come out of HBC has nothing to do with the question of sinful, self-centered, biblically- disqualifed Leadership. People were saved and healed at HBC because God allowed them to be.

          It seems like you are unaware of (or choose to dismiss) the very serious sins that James MacDonald & other leaders have committed. Very little has even been confessed, let alone repented of.

          Which campus do you attend? I knew a Steluta. Are we acquainted?

          1. Yes Jessica it’s Steluta that you know!
            As you know I’ve been at HBC for over 12 years involved in different ministries and have not seen anything out of the ordinary that makes me Holy than my fellow believers. We are all sinners and fall short of the Glory of God! I’m so glad that one day we will all stand before God and answer for everything that we have said and done. There is no perfect church on this earth and no sin that God can not forgive.
            I pray that we all try to be more like Jesus, more forgiving and extend God’s grace.

          2. Steluta–Responding here because there is no reply button on your response below.

            As you know, we were at HBC Niles for 12 years as well. At one time, you & I were in a small group together. In Dec. 2017, you stood in my kitchen and said, “I don’t even want to know,” about what was going on. You were happier—and okay with—not knowing, you said.

            So, here we are again, and I confess I’m confused: Are you saying that because you have not witnessed the sins of James MacDonald and other leaders that you don’t believe that they occurred? Are you saying that the things that Julie, The Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, The Elephant’s Debt are lies? Or are you saying that the sins are not biblically disqualifying?

            Yes, we will all stand before God and answer to Him—that includes answering for covering our ears & eyes to clear evidence of sin. You’re right that there are no perfect churches, but can we agree there are churches that control, abuse, hide, and cover up aren’t just “not perfect”–they are an affront to the Gospel? Harvest won’t even show anyone a budget. James MacDonald gave $50,000 from Harvest Bible Fellowship to Mark Driscoll’s church in 2016 Did you ever give money to HBF? We did. Does it bother you that there was never a confession or repentance regarding that sin? And that is just one example, sister. Years of abuse and hundreds, if not thousands, of testimonies.

            Being like Jesus includes “turning over the tables” in the temple and calling out sin. If your version of Jesus includes only the parts that are comfortable, that is an idol. Read 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1—Elder qualifications. James MacDonald is disqualified. The Elders (including the Niles Elders) who signed their names to that unbiblical pledge of “unconditional support” for pastor James are also disqualified (for that and other reasons). In God’s eyes, Elders are held to a higher standard than the rest of us when it comes to the church. These men have sinned—and keep sinning—against the Body. That matters, and no amount of volunteering, High Five, small group, or special events can change that.

            I can’t make you see, Steluta. I couldn’t then, and I can’t now. Examine the evidence. Weigh the facts. Consider that discerning brothers & sisters who loved Harvest as much as you do are not simply bitter or divisive. We are sounding the alarm as you sit on a sinking ship—we would expect you to do as much for us.

            I would love to take you to lunch next week, if you’re free. Email, call, or text.

        2. I understand that and you are right, but you have to acknowledge all the destruction. John Wayne Gacy received many awards for things he did in the community but he killed over thirty people….Harvest is over 40 million dollars in debt….they have a herd of deer for trophy hunters at camp harvest, they have removed children from HCA abruptly, inflated salaries, over paid family members, made employees sign non disclosure agreements, misused tithes, covered for sexual predators, sued people and their wives, and hurt deeply the body of christ. Time for it to cease

    2. I was also at the meeting and Dan Keller’s account of events is not exactly accurate. I went to the meeting after spending weeks being ashamed and mad at what has happened with James MacDonald. Hearing the recordings from Mancow was like a gut punch.

      Dan Keller was not respectful in how he asked his question and he was not removed from the meeting. He stormed out after making a scene where he first interrupted another member of the crowd and then stomped over to the mic to demand that the church air James’s dirty laundry. It was a room full of mourning and hurting believers who were trying to make sense in the awfulness of what James did. It was an uncomfortable situation and Dan didn’t seem to care about any others feelings except for his own. The Q&A was ended because it was making the people upset. Because of that, Dan marched to his chair, grabbed his things, and then exited the room shouting insults and accusations. Several men from the crowd followed him to try and talk logically to him. I believe Dan has been hurt and wants answers. The way he approached it last night was not correct.

      I wasn’t blind to the fact that James seemed like a hard, impatient man. That was pretty evident in almost everything he did. I just didn’t realize the extent and my heart hurts for those people he hurt. I’m so truly sorry for you.

      I wasn’t expecting the church to have all the answers last night, but I knew other true believers in Jesus had to be feeling similar to how I was and I knew Jesus would comfort the hurting and lost. I truly feel that Dan went to the meeting intentionally to make a scene. I thought the elders and pastors actually gave a lot more information than I expected. They didn’t sugarcoat that the behavior of James in those recordings was a pattern of sin that they tried to address with him. I honestly think James was a good conman. He’d convince them that he changed and then go back to the behavior and then say that he repents and then go back to the behavior. It is a shame that it was not ended sooner, but when someone is as powerful as James I think many people were put in difficult positions

      I think more changes are coming for Harvest, but I also think that we can’t paint with broad strokes. Mancow said this morning on his show that he didn’t believe in that. James MacDonald is gone. That’s a huge step. The church isn’t going to change overnight, but I’m praying the Lord continues to make the changes that benefit his kingdom work.

      1. That is a bold faced lie …I told Pastor Jeff that I didn’t want to talk about James McDonald , that he was fired and that was over, my concern was how can we trust the leadership at Harvest…because when I had met with the chairman of the XLT, he lied right to my face, then Jeff said he was done with my questions, then I stated to Pastor Jeff you said we.. (Harvest Bible chapel) ..fly the banner of Christ and I said it looks to me like you fly the banner of the Sargent stripes…(Vertical Church)….and there is a tape out there of this interaction….I was told to leave the premises and was escorted to the parking garage. On the way out I said in a loud voice so that I would be heard, to not believe what these guys are saying that they have known for a long time what has been going on at Harvest and that it wasn’t anything new and that the Elders have brought reproach on the body of Christ because they didn’t take care of this years ago when three Elders brought the same charges against James that Harvest is dealing with now. Instead they said the three Elders were “Satanic to the core”….that’s it not verbatim but pretty close….and yes I am angry about how the leaders at Harvest have handled this from the time I first heard of this stuff until right now…I was very blunt but in my opinion not disrespectful.

          1. I believe Dan as well. Harvest talks all the time about the four pillars. Until they added the fifth pillar unconditional love. It seems actually there have been seven pillars, the seven campus pastors that have perpetuated nd supported the propaganda and lies fed to them through James MacDonald over the past who knows how many years. I get that their hands were tied because he was their boss. But really! Each week then get up and say, as puppets whatever they were told to say by James MacDonald, knowing full well his character, the truth, and that by omission or distortion they were lying to their congregation in some way or another. By those actions alone each campus pastor hi their passive support Iof James MacDonald’s agendas over the years have disqualified themselves have continued leadership of their respective campuses and should each step down immediately and allowed new fresh campus pastors to take over the flocks. 1Corinthians 15:33 “Bad company corrupts good character.” While I believe that many of these kind of campus pastors at some point may have had good intentions they went astray along the way. They lost sight of what their ultimate calling was which was to God and flock entrusted to them by God and not their senior pastor. Unfortunately that big paycheck, security for their family, having their children wrapped up at HCA, and losing sight of the hearts and minds and souls of little people like Chantel so eloquently portrayed in her YouTube video for all to see.. skewed their good judgment and they sold out for the wrong cause. They need to move on.

          1. I sat two rows behind Dan, but I’m sure your audio recording is more trustworthy… Although you can’t have felt the uneasiness it created. You wouldn’t have seen Dan’s facial expression or demeanor. What did he expect from that conversation, less than a day after firing James MacDonald? I agree with James’s firing. I’d probably agree with Dan’s feelings on firing James earlier. I do not agree with how Dan handled himself at the meeting. Ten minutes earlier the room was worshiping and there were men and women visibly shaken and upset by the events of the day. Causing a scene was not helpful given the circumstances. I’m not faulting Dan for being mad. I was mad too. But, I would hope as Dan reflects on the events of the day he realizes that was not the best way to handle himself. It certainly didn’t feel like a loving way to handle things. Harvest leadership may not deserve Dan’s love, but there certainly were people in the room who did.

          2. Hey mark how does a person show love to powerful people and institutions who over and over again abuse,slander, berate,steamroll lie to and about people who call them out and make merchandise of the body of Christ….and have had time and time again the opportunity to repent privately, but refuse to do so?….do you think Jesus showed love to people?….well I do…do you think that there was ever a time when Jesus didn’t love people? Of course not, Jesus always loved people….are you aware of what Jesus did to the money changers in the temple? He loved all people enough to drive those scowdrells out of the Temple with a whip made of cords and tip over thier money changing tables..what do you think the look on his face looked like? Do you think he had a warm smile on his ? I don’t …you can love people and be angry with them if you have Children you know that’s true…
            Sometimes a man has to take a stand against things he knows are wrong..knowing full well that some people will not like it…we are all called to contend for the Faith…do you know what that means? We train by studying the scriptures, and by constant use we become mature. and sometimes we have to confront Evil even in the CHURCH.

    1. His wrong teachings are very subtle and I think more directed in the church than on his radio broadcast. He inserts a lot of self condemnation, questioning salvation, They are the true Christians able to correct everyone else, lots is scripture they use as controlling and silencing rather than actual teaching on the in depth meaning. They love to quote first remove the log out of your own eye, but they miss the word first and use it as a clobber you can never judge them or James, then also throw around love not as true love but as love in don’t ever get upset, don’t ever qeustion cause then your an angry unloving person. Lots of sick stuff and the worse is their portrayal of the Holy Spirit I can’t even go there !

  4. I have no connection to this church but two things jump out at me after reading all this and based on my own experiences with cultish churches and leaders.

    Dan Keller – If you were escorted out for asking a question during a difficult time, you are in a cult. You are correct to call it a cult. Don’t doubt it or let anyone else make you doubt it. Godly leaders who want truth will listen to any question asked respectfully no matter how painful it is.

    And my other thought is this… What kind of sick person actually contemplates accessing and planting child porn on someone else’s computer? That is other level disturbing.

    I know that many people are sad and I am sorry for the pain because I know from personal experience how difficult spiritual abuse is. But someone mentioned this being a mark against evangelicalism and I don’t see it that way. I’m so glad these men are being exposed for who they are. I’m sick of people like this setting the agenda for the evangelical church in this country and beyond. Clean house and get them all out of this group of churches and every other sick “ministry” that has poisoned Christianity in America and beyond.

  5. Julie I pray your heart has been pure in all of this and that the rush of the power you’ve been allowed to wield hasn’t driven you at all. Just thinking about the thousands of people that have been impacted by this, and knowing the truth of Romans 14, that one day each of us will give an account to God, makes me hope your heart is pure.
    I would ask the question, what calling or history of mega church leadership qualifies you to coach the church on the correct path forward? Reporting wrong doing and feeling qualified to present the right course of action are two, totally different things.

    It’s a great thing blogs didn’t exist in David’s day or else God wouldn’t have had the chance to send Nathan, and David wouldn’t have had the chance to live long enough to repent after being pronounced guilty. But, may our sovereign God direct all of these tragic circumstances in a way that brings Him glory.

    1. Brian, The truth has been revealed, God has used several people to bring light to this issue. The fact is James MacDonald is and was 100% accountable for his actions and behavior. The lingering question was always this; has the Senior Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel been modeling the qualifications of an Elder or Senior Pastor found in 1 Timothy and Titus? The resounding truth, No. Thankful, the highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported. Gods timing is always right.

    2. Brian, what an interesting perspective you have. You focus on Julie yet conveniently forget the many godly men who confronted James and his elders for years and years They acted as Nathan many times over. The result? No repentance, no change. Keep the focus where it belongs- the thousands who have been impacted by all this due to James and his elders actions alone.

      1. Fisher, I was only conveying the need to guard against the endorphin produced high connected with power. Power corrupts and through everyone’s comments regarding James we are observing that reality. However, it is possible for all of us to be just as wrong in our defensive as someone else is in their offensive. So my hope is that all of the accusers will realize how easily any of us could be the accused.

  6. Thank you for your commitment and integrity. Please keep doing what you’re doing. And thanks for the exhortation for all of us to renew our commitment to holiness, support truth-telling, and comfort the hurting. Finally, yes, the Evangelical Machine needs to be fixed. It’s very disturbing that “evangelical leaders have known about MacDonald’s miserable behavior for years.” ST

  7. Wow, Dan. That is not an encouraging report, that asking a legitimate question – how you can trust the XLT after they enabled MacDonald’s behavior for so long – gets you thrown out of the building.

    Maybe the optimism that change is finally happening at HBC should be held back for the moment, until we see if this isn’t just a case of their hand being forced by Mancow, but the new boss(es) will be the same as the old boss.

  8. Thank you Julie, Scott, Ryan, Mancow, Jessica, and everyone who spent countless hours on this. I do not believe it is over – I hope I am wrong.

    My concern besides cleaning up main Harvest, what about all the church plants that Macdonald and Harvest planted. I know many are changing their names and distancing themselves, but they were trained under this leadership and the Harvest ways. Maybe for some, there exposure to the harvest training was their only training experience. What can be done to help them lead their churches in a healthy way and give them needed support?

    1. Considering Leaving GCC

      Those HBF and GCC pastors need to not gloss over this with name changes and point all the fingers at James. They need to be COMPLETELY transparent about their own elder board structure and financial accountability. Saying you are EFCA approved or showing that badge on your website now means nothing.

    2. Yes, yes, yes and amen! Since the elders and leaders and pastors wouldn’t care for the flock, how can we brothers and sisters step in and help them? Changes are needed in each Harvest and former hbc church due to the controlling training they received. So what steps can be set forth for those locations? And how can the group if hbc churches be reached? How can the flock be tended as a whole when the systems are still in place?

      1. Praying for each location d person involved to see the truth if the situation.

      2.Sharing these bits and links and info

      3. There has to be a way to help a d encourage these churches to restructure their leadership and set onto a healthy path, which is not “the Harvest way.” What is it? And how can others help?

  9. All Harvest Bible Chapel XLT men and remaining elders must resign soon and swiftly.

    Perhaps you should have pledged your unconditional support to Jesus and not to James.

    Perhaps you should have exposed evil, protected the innocent and abused, fought for the weak and wounded rather than cover up and be complicit in wrongdoing.

    Perhaps you would have heard more clearly from God if you had only read your Bibles and not expected to hear from God without opening His word.

    Perhaps if you had not lied to the congregation, your flock over and over again, partaking in Harvest’s unquenchable thirst to control the masses, people might not be so right to question if they can ever trust you again.

    Perhaps if you weren’t partakers in Harvest’s unending desire to do damage control and engage in spin rather than truth-telling, people wouldn’t be so quick to agree it’s time, once and for all, to fear God and do what’s right.

    Campus pastors you too must step down immediately. You have arguably been no less complicit and duplicit in all of your dealings as well, placing your concern more onto elevating Harvest’s image than the glory of our great God.

    In the meantime, I will not stop sounding the alarm and confronting evil in the house of the Lord.

    Leaders of Harvest, I challenge you to do you like Jeff Donaldson did last night to Dan Keller in Elgin and escort me off Harvest property this weekend.

    I plan on being there, not to draw attention to myself or stir up controversy, but as a voice of reason. And I am calling on all ex-Harvesters to do the same.

    Mike Medow
    Former HBC Member (1999 – 2011)

    1. Willow’s leadership were honest and sincere in acknowledging their mistakes. Thus the entire team resign to start fresh and trust in God to lead the church with an infusion of new blood. Hope that the HBC senior staff, XLT Team and elders do the same before the church hemorrhages completely to its demise.

  10. The NBC 5 story on Mancow and harvest yesterday states at the end that “Lead Pastor Landon MacDonald” stated “they” had no comment in an email. So I’m guessing Landon is taking over? And from what is reported above the elders and everyone else is staying. Too bad. I was really hoping to see a great thing happen here, in a place that meant so much to me when I went there 15 years ago.

    https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Mancow-Muller-Speaks-Out-on-Harvest-Bible-Church-Controversey-505815991.html

  11. All the headlines talk about is that James is out. Some even say that it is the second Chicago pastor to be fired in recent months. But the headlines do not see who remains in charge. Does anyone really believe that this church has turned a corner by firing James?

    Unless the two kids, along with all other XLT and elders resign and the books are fully opened to new leadership, there can be no real change…. and in the meantime there is no reason to not think that James can protect his $$ interests through his kids. After all, didn’t he set it up this way in order to make it impossible to really get rid of him?

    1. Just to be clear these are the men that I believe should resign, regardless of level of culpability or longevity in their position.

      Elders
      Steve Huston (Elder Exec. Comm Chair)
      Ron Duitsman (Elder Boar Chairman)
      Rick Donald
      Fred Ananias
      Pedro Assumpcao
      Sam Booras
      Joe Brightwell
      Mike Collett
      Gil De las Alas
      Tod Desmarais
      John Dierker
      Mike Dunwoody
      Dan George
      Anthony Honore
      Mark Hopwood
      Paul Inserra
      Jeffrey Kee
      Dale Kuntz
      JR Lang
      Mike Lankford
      Mike Lawson
      Dave Martin
      Brian Musso
      Cris Nelson
      Marcel Olar
      Jay Patel
      Jeff Smith
      Bill Sperling
      Steve Steward
      Scott Stonebreaker
      Elvin Velez
      Josh Westerholm
      Matt Woodhead

      XLT
      Jeff Donaldson
      Luke MacDonald
      Landon MacDonald
      Jeff Sharda
      Mo Zachariah (stepped down from XLT last wk, on since Sept/Oct 2017)

  12. Is Walk in the Word structurally connected to HBF? Can James take Walk in the Word with him and continue to use that as his platform for now?

    1. From what I have heard, WITW is (and has always been) James’ intellectual property, it has gone digital and all been moved to James’ personal website, and the church probably won’t have anything to do with it. So if that is all correct, yeah, he gets to ride off into the sunset with WITW in his back pocket.

  13. “Perhaps you should have pledged your unconditional support to Jesus and not to James.”

    Great comment, Mike. I couldn’t agree more. Giving any man “unconditional support” is placing him in opposition to Christ, who must NEVER have any rivals for our loyalty. Saying this is tantamount to saying that James cannot err.

    HBC will only bring about its own demise if the MacDonalds are still running the show along, with their closest confidants. The congregation won’t buy it and will leave. I expect they know this and will try to make it appear reforms are being made, but will still attempt to maintain their power and position.

    The congregation needs to demand changes and accountability or they should move on to healthy, well-balanced churches where the full gospel is preached and the whole body knows nothing but Christ and him crucified, as it were.

  14. They need to immediately hire an interim Pastor. Someone outside Harvest. I fear it will not happen as Jeff Donaldson and the Elders will not relinquish control.

    1. This is actually exactly the opposite of what they said last night at a meeting at Harvest. They are looking for a new pastor.

  15. disillusioned Harvest member

    Won’t airing Mancow’s recordings give James grounds for a major lawsuit since he was obviously recorded without his knowledge?

  16. James MacDonald and the Walk In The Word TV program have now been removed from Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Can’t confirm if this happened effective today, but the cancelation must be very recent. No broadcast today 2/14, and JMac / WITW are no longer referenced on the TBN website.

  17. Susan Vonder Heide

    Christ’s leadership was servant leadership (the opposite of prideful leadership). Pride (in whatever the endless list of possibilities might be including things as immutable as one’s gender but ultimately pride in self) is sadly all too common among some people with fancy titles in the church world today.

  18. I appreciate that your articles continue to examine the elder board — an important facet of these events. As much as I admired Dave Corning and the other men, I find myself in an internal wrestling match. On one hand, I am thankful for their service to HBC, and on the other hand I entertain a sense that “malpractice” was afoot.

    Three or so years into James’ tenure at HBC, the elders asked for a special member meeting where we were asked to decide whether or not James would remain our pastor. The “malpractice” that plagues me is how the elders handled that vote and the lack of transparency around it. We left our trust in them and I feel betrayed. I temper that with my love and admiration for them and the pressure (and perhaps naivety) they likely experienced. It was a fateful night that seems to have played out over three decades.

  19. Julie, thankful for the way God used you to expose what is done in darkness.

    Jessica, I know you have very strong views about what should be done, but I trust that God knows how to do this on His own. He doesn’t need advice. He’s got this and He will orchestrate it with utter perfection in a way that is most glorifying to Him. Let’s slow down with demands and trust that He’s got this. We know enough about who He says He is in the Word to know that He is sovereign and will not be mocked. Let’s rest in that and not be so fretful. Can’t you see how purposefully He’s unfolding this thing? Aren’t you convinced He can handle it without taking counsel with anyone?

    1. Hi Amanda.

      God absolutely knows how to handle this. He’s pretty clear in His Word about Elder qualifications, Elder disciplines, and sin. Both James & HBC have largely ignored God’s directives. As an Elder Board, these men have failed in their responsibilities to the Church. I am not “fretting,” and I will continue to call for their resignations.

      Your theology sounds misguided. Because things have unfolded over decades they way that they have does not mean it is what God wanted. God “allowing” something to happen is not evidence of that thing being in alignment His purposes, or being a right thing in general.

      God is not taking counsel with me or with anyone, and I’ve never implied as much. Unlike Harvest Elders, I am not on record saying that I speak for God. We must all submit to His counsel (not vice versa), or face the consequences, whether in the short-term or long-term.

      I’m confused by the implication that because I am boldly & directly speaking (writing) a perspective that you disagree with, I am not letting God handle things. Can you maybe address specific points that I’ve made and then question or refute those points directly? That’s more productive than false characterizations.

      Just curious: Do you attend HBC currently and/or have children at HCA? Did you/do you work at HBC or HCA? Or do you have a spouse that does/used to work at HBC or HCA?

      1. Jessica,

        Yes, God can handle it and you’re right that He’s clear about Elder qualifications. I’m not even saying I disagree with you in what should be done. I mostly do agree, however I believe that the Lord knows which hearts have since realized their errors have repented and are attempting to make the wrongs right. I believe those will be led by God to help “clean house” and I pray the Holy Spirit would also make clear to them what they need to do with when they finish their task. Some of those leaders know who is warped and without them it would be difficult to know exactly what has transpired.

        I’m curious if you’ve reached out to Elders or campus pastors in the last few weeks to let them know what you believe should be done. I feel that commenting on blogs is unproductive if we’re not actually making an effort to push for change. While commenting is an avenue to express how you feel, I don’t see how it will communicate directly to the people who need to hear
        how the body feels at Harvest. Maybe you have recently communicated this to the church, I hope you have if you feel so strongly. I have spoken to both Elders and campus pastors and think the more they hear our requests, the more they will realize people are actually watching and we aren’t clueless.

        I also think we need to be eager in prayer over the leaders and their repentance and for a true turning from sin. And even then we need to take the time to access ourselves and our own sin. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” ‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭139:23-24‬

        It’s easy to grow bitter in situations like this and maybe you don’t realize the way your comments come across, but they sound bitter. Again, I could be wrong. I only bring it up because I know the danger in allowing a root of bitterness to spring up when betrayal occurs and the way Satan uses that to harm others, yourself, and your relationship with Jesus. Sorry if I’m off on this, God knows your heart but you asked me what I’m referring to and it has to do more with the overall “tone” of your comments than specific points.

        My theology is rooted in the Word, it’s not misguided. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
        ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬

        “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
        ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭50:20‬

        We see over and over again in Scripture how God repeatedly takes what the wicked people have done and still works it out for good. Sure the evil shouldn’t be done and it doesn’t justify the wrong, I’m simply saying that it allows us to rest in a sovereign God who doesn’t let anything go to waste.

        I see that God has selected a few individuals to do His work here, and those people are moving and acting as the Holy Spirit leads them. I see that there is more that can be done in our praying and actively speaking with leaders than in spending too much time commenting on blogs.

        I’m upset about what has occurred at Harvest, I’ve been a dedicated member for over a decade. I see God has started a work here that He will finish. He won’t be mocked and I find peace in that. There is little more I can do to make things change, but I can pray fervently over it and I have. He will execute this perfectly, even if justice doesn’t come until the other side of Heaven.

        And to answer your questions, my children don’t attend HCA, nor have I or my spouse worked at Harvest.

        1. Hi Amanda. Some helpful background, assuming that we don’t know each other:

          We were active members and at HBC Niles for 12 years, serving as SG leaders, Awana leaders, and FPU coordinators. Yes, we reached out numerous times to leaders when we were there. We also attended & asked questions at two of the Q&A meetings in Oct. & Nov. 2017. (Those were the meetings that James later made fun of in a Dec 2017 sermon, saying that he didn’t even go to them on purpose, and that few people showed up.) The bold-faced lies we heard were astonishing. After more futile attempts & many migraines, we resigned via a formal resignation letter and sent it to all Elders, our campus leaders, HBC friends, and anyone else who inquired about why we left. I commented on TED at the time, and Ryan & Scott featured that comment as a separate post on November 17, 2018. Feel free to read that entry. Yes to prayer, yes I’m praying, and yes I’ve been praying for years about HBC.

          This December, we did reach out to a Niles Elder (who used to be our friend & SG leader) via text when we saw that the Niles Elders had not yet signed that unbiblical “unconditional support” statement. We expressed the hope that they would not sign it. The Elders replied that his church’s business wasn’t my business and that I should not text him again.

          The “chosen few” argument is short-sighted and ignores how change in any system (e.g., church, political, economic, education) actually happens. I thank God for Julie, Ryan, & Scott and cannot overstate the importances of their roles, or the roles of others at work behind the scenes. But both now & over time, there have been what author V.S. Naipaul calls a “million little mutinies” that have come together to help move the needle re: HBC. It’s impossible for you to know how God is using and has used the hundreds (or more) people who are speaking up inside & outside of HBC.

          You’re also assuming that my goal is to change leaders’ perspectives directly. They are not my target audience. I’m speaking to brothers & sisters in Christ, regardless of what church they do or did attend. They are free to validate or challenge my perspective. Outside the walls of HBC proper, there is a range of viable options that interested Christians can take as Americans to take informed action against unconfessed sin in the church. I spent 3.5 months on Twitter stating my hopes & prayers for HBC very clearly. If Twitter isn’t a tool that you would use or believe Christians should use to expose abuse, then we can agree to disagree. But in that time, I heard close to 100 stories & expressions of gratitude (in direct message conversations & emails) from HBC-ers past & present, here and in Canada, The devastation wrought by James MacDonald & Company is heart-breaking & ongoing.

          But make no mistake: I don’t comment here, on TED, or on social media because I think HBC Leaders will read it and say, “Wow! Jessica is right! Let’s do what she says.” I want them to do what God says, something they have long ignored. Do you think HBC leaders ignores blogs & comment board? Numerous Elder statements and a big ol’ lawsuit suggest that someone is reading–because they know what & who to target for suppression and silencing.

          You are mistaken that my articulation of strong views about Elder resignations indicates that I am bitter or mad at God, or worried that His justice & mercy will not prevail. Talking face-to-face with to leaders is not an option for ex-members until or unless HBC does an all-call for our members’ ideas. Yes to Romans 8:28 and Genesis 50:20. God’s ultimate, big-picture purposes are not in question. But His specific purposes and outcomes for Harvest Bible Chapel are unknowable to us and have little to do with those verses. So we must focus on what we do know about what He says relevant to the practical specifics of this grievous situation. “God is in control” of abortion laws & sexual predators in the Southern Baptist Convention too, but if passionate people want to start a Pro-Life Facebook page where they call for change, regardless of who reads it, then they can do so. (God bless America.) I don’t need to police them or tell them to pray because Christian lobbyists are the real change agents and they “got this.”

          God brought many people to saving faith while they were at Harvest. He is faithful to complete the work He began in individuals’ hearts, but Phillipians 1:6 is not an assurance about a particular church surviving.

          The HBC Elders are Biblically disqualified and must resign. We disagree about what needs to happen and how Christian can righteously express their views, but I defend my right–and yours–to express our opinions on a Comment Board, come what may.

  20. Is Pastor Secrest going to be able to return to the church in Naples in light of James McDonald’s firing? As a retired pastor’s wife, I believe he has been through enough and should be reinstated by his church and that all the Harvest churches should now become independent entities. God’s kingdom has suffered enough through what has happened. Julie, thank you for all you did, which will hopefully will help to purify Christ’s church.

  21. Hi Jessica! I couldn’t reply to your last comment as well for some reason.

    In 2017 in your house at the kitchen table I choosed not to know why your family was leaving HBC!
    Why? There is always two sides to a story!
    Being mature in Christ does not mean closing your eyes and ears to what is going on around! But by knowing when and how to handle those kinds of issues!
    I’m waiting for someone to tell me exactly what sins the leadership have committed that we do not commit?
    This is the problem when the members upholds the leadership at a high standard so when something happens we can point fingers!
    Jesus should be sat the highest standard in all our lives!
    My eyes and ears are fully open to everything that is going around at HBC!
    Just because finances at HBC are not handled perfectly or I should say the way Steluta or Jessica or Julie or Nancow think they should be handled the leadership is disqualified!
    Why don’t we all disclose our earnings? Our income tax returns?
    1 Timothy 3 also talks about Christ coming into the world to save sinners and we are all sinners together with the leadership of HBC!
    We are no better by any means!
    Helping our fellow brother in Christ with money to open up a church is what God requires of us because is the work of God not of Nark Driscoll!
    According to the word of God, Money is the root of all evil!
    I believe that the leadership of HBC could be restored and members that are still members and people that left could be restored and healed if we all humble ourselves and ask God to lead us and show us how to begin this process!
    I will be happy to meet with you Jessica!
    I’ll text you!

    1. HI Steluta. My recollection is that seeking the truth about HBC was not something you wanted to do. We can talk further at lunch. My treat, of course! :)

  22. “While I believe that many of these kind of campus pastors at some point may have had good intentions they went astray along the way. They lost sight of what their ultimate calling was which was to God and flock entrusted to them by God and not their senior pastor. Unfortunately that big paycheck, security for their family, having their children wrapped up at HCA, and losing sight of the hearts and minds and souls of little people like Chantel so eloquently portrayed in her YouTube video for all to see…skewed their good judgment and they sold out for the wrong cause. They need to move on.”

    Well said, Eaglesnest, well said.

    Thank you for adding your thoughts. In piggybacking with those thoughts…on the subject of campus pastors, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our time with the campus pastor of Crystal Lake, Greg Bradshaw while we were members there for many years—We loved Greg—Yet as passionate as Greg Bradshaw may be about Christ, he, along with the other campus pastors has forfeited the privilege of leading and shepherding a flock of believers… at the very least until they confess and forsake all sin associated with their complicity and duplicity by failing to expose (1 Timothy 5:20-21) James MacDonald and his henchmen (Rick Donald, Jeff Donaldson, Steve Huston, and Paul Inserra…among others).

    Greg, I pray you will do what’s right and quickly come forward to own your wrongdoing and make amends with people who were deceived and wounded at Harvest while under your care.

    Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)

    -Mike Medow
    Former HBC Member (1999-2011)

  23. What I can tell harvest church and the people there seem to be struggling with two sins.

    #1 the sin of pragmatism. If the church is doing “well” by human standards then the bible can be bent or even ignored. That is awful. We must always follow God’s will even when it is hard. Remember examples of pragmatism in rue bible and how they worked out: king saul and his sacrifice, Moses hitting rock, golden calf, etc. We must always choose to obey even when it gives us discomfort.

    #2 the sin of favoritism. Giving or treating certain people (especially leaders) preferentially. This is awful. How or why would we treat some people better and others worse? It seems that people are being treated a certain way because of either popularity or what can be gotten or gained from them. This is wicked and sunful. Look at the book of James.

    I will be praying that not only harvest but all churches will turn away from these sins all for the glory of God!

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