The shakeup at Harvest Bible Chapel continued tonight as the sons of founder James MacDonald, who was fired last week, offered their resignations.
In his resignation letter, Lead Pastor Luke MacDonald said his “professional dream” had been “to one day grow to be the Senior Pastor of the church.” But he added that “conversations with elders and staff” had made it clear that he “should move forward to whatever God has next.”
Noting that his birth year and Harvest’s were the same, Landon MacDonald, executive pastor of student ministries, said he “always thought that something like that would be said at my funeral having served at Harvest my whole life.” Landon said his years at Harvest have been wonderful and that teaching the students at Harvest has been “a dream come true.” But he expressed that the the past few months have been “painful and heavy in ways I didn’t think possible.”
The resignations come after Harvest member Mark Banaszak wrote a letter on behalf of about 30 members, which was emailed to the elders. The letter specifically called for the resignations of Luke and Landon MacDonald. The letter also called for Rick Donald, assistant senior pastor, to resign.
The letter also asked for every elder who participated in the creation of the executive committee to resign immediately, as well as every elder who participated in the 2013 excommunication of three former elders. It then asked for the removal of the remaining elders over the next six months.
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The letter also called for the elimination of the executive committee, a group of four to five elders who make all the financial and legal decisions for the church. Additionally, it asked for a forensic accounting review of all the church’s financial transactions for the past 20 years.
The resignation letters and letter to the elders are below:
Luke MacDonald’s resignation letter:
I am resigning from my pastoral position at Harvest as of Tuesday, February 19th, effective immediately.
Pastoring at Harvest has been a delight. From my years in Niles as the youth pastor, through pastoring students in Rolling Meadows, and then to Vertical Worship and preaching on the weekends, there have been many great years. The conferences and Good Fridays and altar calls have been great, but the true joy has been the blessing of walking alongside so many wonderful individual people. We have been blessed to work alongside many talented and tireless servants. My professional dream has always been to one day grow to be the Senior Pastor of the church. Even after my parent’s ministry at Harvest ended, I was hopeful that with enough humility and time that could still happen. However, conversations with elders and staff over the past week have made it clear that we should move forward to whatever God has next for us.
I sincerely love the people of Harvest and will continue to pray that the church will find unity and fruit in a new season ahead. While we have no current future employment plans, we hope to serve the Lord again and would never choose an assignment that would hurt the church we have loved these many years. Thank you.
Pastor Luke + Kristen MacDonald
Landon MacDonald’s Resignation Letter:
To the Elders and people of Harvest Bible Chapel,
I have been at Harvest since I can remember. When I was a kid I treasured that my birth year and Harvest’s were the same. I always thought that something like that would be said at my funeral having served at Harvest my whole life. I started on the maintenance and security staff and served in plays and acting for Harvest Kids, the Worship team and then my favorite places – Harvest Students and Camp Harvest.
My time here has been wonderful and I have seen God work and move from small Senior trips with just a handful of students to arenas and the conference we just did for our students last weekend, which might be my favorite of any of them.
These past few months have been painful and heavy in ways I didn’t think possible, but through it all, my loving wife and the AWESOME people of Harvest have supported me. If it wasn’t for the Colossians 1:11 strength of God – I wouldn’t have made it this far. That said, my time at Harvest has come to a close. Its painful to say it and I never thought I would, but Bri and I have been in prayer for what seems like forever and God is leading us elsewhere. We don’t know where yet, but that is half the adventure.
This isn’t a spontaneous or emotional decision – it has become clear to us that we are not the best people to lead in this church moving forward. If desired, I am available by phone to answer any questions related to transition of responsibilities.
To the people of Harvest – your support and prayers kept us through until today -the sincerest thank you from my heart. Both to those who told me they were praying and those who just did it.
To the students of Harvest – leading and teaching you has been a dream come true. It never once felt like work, I always was stunned that I got paid to teach and lead you guys. To all students past and present, you and this ministry is the thing that I will miss the most.
I love Harvest and its people and I always will. Prayers are appreciated as Bri, Ezra, Violet, Julian and I move towards what’s next.
Letter to Elders written by Mark Banaszak:
As members of Harvest Bible Chapel, we firmly believe in the Mission Statement and the 5 pillars of our church. In keeping with 1 Timothy 1:5, the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. We also acknowledge the great contribution of our founding pastor in establishing the foundation which we now stand upon. Unfortunately, James’s actions along with the long-term failure of the elder board, leadership and various pastors to fulfill their biblical duties are the reason for this storm of devastation that has been brought upon our congregation. This church was not founded on James MacDonald nor any man and we must do our part to restore the church to its rightful founder, God.
The issues that have currently been identified as well as those to be discovered, must be addressed swiftly and in an open manner before the members of this church. There must not be any secrets that are hidden from the church body. Proverbs 28:13, whoever conceals his transgression shall not prosper, but he who confessed and forsakes them will obtain mercy”.
This small group who failed to execute their biblical responsibilities have allowed selfish, sinful and weak patterns of behavior to be tolerated and covered up at the highest levels within our church. The solution proposed at the February 16th Saturday evening service, which was consequently edited with major parts deleted from broadcast on Sunday February 17th, is not a thorough solution as it fails to address one of the largest questions, what has happened to our tithes and offerings? This proposed plan also allows many of those who are responsible for this storm to remain in positions of leadership within the church. To leave the church under the same leadership that is responsible for the current storm and determine the corrections needed is an afront to those who call Harvest their home. A large portion of our congregation finds this solution as presented, unacceptable. It is written in 1 Peter 5:2-4 that the elders are to “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly: nor as being lords over those entrusted to you but being examples to the flock.” Also, it is written in Proverbs 31:8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Today we are standing up for all the men, women and children who have been wronged by the elders, pastors and leaders of Harvest Bible Chapel. We are here to affirm in unity that it is our intent to remain diligent during this process. To ensure the body of Christ at Harvest Bible Chapel is returned to biblical governance and those responsible are removed from church leadership and where necessary held accountable for their actions. For Ephesians 5:11 says, take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead rebuke and expose them.
In keeping with the biblical requirements for elders and pastors, and the obvious failures that have been discovered, we believe that the following actions must be taken immediately to begin the restoration of our church, to remove those directly involved in these failures as well as prevent their influence in the process of returning our church to biblical governance. We ask that:
Rick Donald resign from the elder board and be placed on an indefinite sabbatical during the ongoing Harvest 2020 process and until such time as it can be determined his level of involvement/knowledge of the abuses that have taken place. First the obvious conflict of interest in being the best friend of James MacDonald for over 40 years. Also adding James’s right hand man for 30 years would call into question his objectivity and decision making during this process. Rick has observed this unbiblical behavior and pressured others to cover up this behavior. He has been as much a part of the culture of intimidation and manipulation in our church body as James. His actions or lack thereof as well as his conflicts of interest should disqualify him from remaining in any position of
leadership at Harvest Bible Chapel. During the sabbatical he should not be permitted to attend any of the Harvest campuses or to communicate with the leadership or elders in any manner.
Luke MacDonald and Landon MacDonald should be removed from their leadership and ministry roles and they should be placed on indefinite sabbatical during the ongoing Harvest 2020 process and until such time as it can be determined their level of involvement/knowledge of the abuses that have taken place. Their obvious conflict of interest, being the sons of James, calls into question most if not all of their decisions. Having such a conflict of interest should prevent them from having any oversight or decision-making responsibilities at this time. During the sabbatical they should not be permitted to attend any of the Harvest campuses or communicate to with the leadership or elders in any manner.
With the acknowledgement of the restructuring and reduction of the elder board and leadership team we also call for the total elimination of the group known as the “Executive Committee,” and there be an amendment to the church bylaws to prevent any other similar group (s) from being formed that would allow for the circumventing of elder board responsibilities. The ongoing decision to only change the structure of this group is not a solution which is found to be acceptable.
It is written in 1 Timothy 5: 19-20 “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.
We ask that elders currently serving, that participated in the 2013 excommunication of 3 former elders and the elders that participated in the 2015 establishment of the “Executive Committee” resign. Their actions ignored biblical standards and principles with the shunning and public slander of men who were being faithful to God’s word as well as facilitated the circumventing of the responsibility and oversight of the elder board. This lack of oversight facilitated the covered up of ungodly behaviors, financial mismanagement, potential embezzlement and illegal self-dealing by current and former church elders, pastors and leaders. We are also aware that there are pastors and leaders outside the elder board who have been complicit in these actions which contributed to this storm. It is expected that these individuals are held to account for their action or lack thereof and where necessary be removed from leadership if warranted.
It is expected after a determined period of time, not to exceed 6 months, that the remaining elders are to resign and have no further role in determining the policies of the church as well as be prohibited from obtaining any leadership roll until such time as the congregation determines these men have proven themselves faithful and qualified for leadership roles at Harvest Bible Chapel.
As Paul says in Philemon 1:8-9, Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you do what is required, yet for loves sake I prefer to appeal to you. All financial transactions pertaining to Harvest Bible Chapel for the past 20 years be subject to a forensic accounting review by a group with no association or relationships to past or current leaders of Harvest. This audit is necessary as Harvest Bible Chapel is $42 million dollars in debt, even with two of our seven properties being gifted to us. This debt at a minimum indicates gross mismanagement and likely even theft and embezzlement. All current members of the churches financial team should be subject to a thorough vetting process and the current CFO should be called into account for these matters.
Harvest Bible Chapel pastors, elders and the Executive Committee members have conducted their activities in secret for over a decade. This lack of oversight and transparency must be addressed first and foremost during the Harvest 2020 process. All elder board and Harvest 2020 meetings must be made open to individuals appointed by the congregation with minutes of these meetings, (not “updates”), must be published on the HBC website. The establishment of the Harvest 2020 team which was done in secret and without input from the congregation must be opened to oversight by members appointed by the congregation. The belief that the proposed solutions for this crisis should be left to the current elders, pastors and leaders is tantamount to the “Fox guarding the hen house”.
In the strongest possible terms, we request that Rick Korte’s personal relationships with current and past elders, leaders and pastors be made public so that a determination can be made on his ability to serve as the leader of Harvest 2020 team without any conflicts of interest. We desire for to give Rick an opportunity to return biblical governance and accountability to our church. However, we have also learned many lessons and will no longer blindly have trust in our leaders until such a time as they have re-established that trust; which must begin with open communication, transparency, timely and thorough updated on the Harvest 2020 process. It is our expectation that the congregation will receive frequent updates as well as our questions being answered in a timely manner.
I exhort you leaders, as the church in Sardis was in Revelation 3:2-3, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works to be perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore, if you will not watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you”.
It is with the greatest hope we that press on to restore our church to the glory of God and stand on his promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14; “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”