Matt Chandler & Other Evangelical Leaders Rejected TED Bloggers’ Pleas to Expose Harvest in 2012

By Julie Roys

Former celebrity pastor, James MacDonald, has been fired. His sins have been splashed on national headlines. Every elder and senior leader at Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) has resigned. And the church is scrambling to stay afloat.

But it all could have been prevented.

That’s according Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant, authors of The Elephant’s Debt (TED), a blog critical of Harvest and MacDonald.

The two revealed on my radio show last Saturday that in 2012, when they launched TED, they sent emails to prominent evangelical leaders and pastors, urging the leaders to visit TED and then use their influence to expose wrongdoing at Harvest.

Only two leaders responded to the email (posted below). One was Matt Chandler, lead pastor at The Village Church and president of the Acts 29 Network.  Instead of offering help, Chandler said he would do all he could to oppose what Mahoney and Bryant were doing.

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Pastor Matt Chandler

“I might not agree with decisions made by James or the elders at HBC,” Chandler wrote, “but I have no intention of drawing any attention to your blog and if I can in any way deflect others from giving it ‘coverage’ I will use my influence to that end.” Chandler said he believed the blog was “unhelpful and maybe even harmful,” and added, “This will not lead to repentance, this will only serve to push people to the fringes where helpful discourse is impossible and ignorance and aggression will take over the conversation.”

I requested an interview with Chandler to discuss his response in 2012. He responded via email with the following statement:

Thanks for the opportunity to respond to your request. I went back and reread the email I sent in 2012. Reading the quote in context, my hope at the time was to see a best case scenario of a local church exercising healthy accountability. In hindsight, I was naive to James’ dysfunction and the brokenness of the whole situation. I am hopeful for light to continue to shine in dark places and am thankful for your work.

The only evangelical leader who responded positively to Mahoney and Bryant was Scot McKnight, a prominent evangelical speaker, writer and professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary. Bryant said McKnight briefly mentioned TED in a “Weekly Meanderings” post on his Jesus Creed blog.

Bryant and Mahoney said they can’t say definitively which leaders and pastors received the emails because they’ve lost records of some past emails. However, the two said some of the other recipients were leaders in The Gospel Coalition, a network of Reformed churches and pastors. Others were simply megachurch pastors known to have a relationship with MacDonald.

“Scot McKnight was the only one who stood with us,” Bryant said, noting that the blog got a brief bump in traffic from people migrating from Jesus Creed. “(Sending the emails) was an honest attempt to reach out to (the leaders) in the hopes that they would reach out to (MacDonald) and he would repent, and they would walk him through that,” he added.

Sadly, that never happened.

Yet Bryant and Mahoney said they weren’t surprised by the negative response. The night before publishing, Bryant said he looked at Mahoney and said, “You know we can’t win, right? There is no win here. This is just going to be—we’re going to walk onto the field and we’re going to get slaughtered.”

“You know we can’t win, right? There is no win here. This is just going to be—we’re going to walk onto the field and we’re going to get slaughtered.”

And that’s essentially what happened. That is until this past February, when the wrongdoing became so great, and so public, that Harvest finally fired MacDonald.

But for six years, Bryant and Mahoney maintained the blog. And Harvest and MacDonald maligned them. Practically everyone I interviewed during my investigation of Harvest said church leaders told them that TED was full of lies and that Bryant and Mahoney were malcontents who were sowing discord.

And in the larger evangelical community, almost no one came to TED’s defense. Christian media largely ignored TED and the problems at Harvest. The only exception was WORLD Magazine, which ran an article in 2013 after MacDonald was caught gambling, and Harvest excommunicated some former elders.

MacDonald, on the other hand, continued to enjoy broad acceptance in the evangelical community, speaking at conferences, broadcasting on Christian radio, and publishing books with evangelical publishers.

How Much Did They Know?

In some ways, Mahoney and Bryant say it’s understandable that only one evangelical leader supported them. “We were nobodies,” Bryant said. “Two nobodies send you an email and say, ‘Hey Matt (Chandler), there’s all these problems at Harvest.’ . . . And Matt says, ‘I’m not going to tear down a ministry based on two guys I don’t know.’ There’s a sympathetic read to it and I hear that.”

On the other hand, both Bryant and Mahoney argued that there was too much evidence posted to TED, even in 2012, to dismiss it.

Using the Wayback Machine, I was able to access the homepage for TED that was linked in TED’s 2012 email. On the page, the authors disclosed that Harvest was about $65 million in debt. They also revealed that MacDonald had invited Bishop T.D. Jakes, a prosperity preacher “historically linked” to a heretical theology called modalism, to speak at the Elephant Room 2, a conference hosted by MacDonald.

The TED authors also reported that Harvest was paying MacDonald more than $500,000/year in salary and that MacDonald lived in a $1.9 million estate. They also explained that MacDonald had reorganized the elder board to shift power away from the board and to himself.

The website also included a tab called “The Void,” listing 18 “highly influential” staff who had left Harvest. These included Joe Stowell III, former teaching pastor at Harvest, and previous president of the Moody Bible Institute. Also listed in The Void were Stowell’s two sons—Joe Stowell IV, former executive pastor at Harvest, and Matt Stowell, former worship director at Harvest— as well as Dave Corning, who served as chairman of Harvest’s board for more than 20 years.

In addition, Bryant said sometime in the several months before TED launched, he had an extended conversation about MacDonald and Harvest with someone he identified as a “senior leader in The Gospel Coalition (TGC).” (Chandler is an author at TGC, but not in leadership there.)

Bryant said the leader from TGC told him that MacDonald did not resign; he was pushed out of TGC and theology was “the least of our concerns.”

Less than a year before TED’s launch, MacDonald abruptly resigned from TGC in the wake of the controversy over T.D. Jakes’ appearance at the Elephant Room II. At the time, MacDonald said he resigned because of “methodological differences” with TGC. But Bryant said the leader from TGC told him that MacDonald did not resign; he was pushed out of TGC and theology was “the least of our concerns.”

So reportedly, top leadership at TGC recognized serious issues with MacDonald in 2012, but kept it quiet.

I emailed the two founders of TGC for comment—D.A. Carson, who’s now president of TGC, and Tim Keller, vice president of TGC. Carson is out of the country at a conference and did not respond to my email. Similarly, Keller’s staff said he is out of the office until mid-August and is not available for an interview.

 Blogs & the Machine

When I asked Bryant and Mahoney about their initial reaction to the lack of support from evangelical leaders, Bryant said, “I don’t remember having much of an emotional response. . . . But I remember saying with Ryan, ‘We’ve come up against something even larger than Harvest.”

For the past couple years, I’ve written extensively about the evangelical “celebrity machine” or “industrial complex”—the network of Christian media, ministries, megachurches, and celebrities, who support and protect each other. Bloggers threaten this machine. So the machine hates bloggers.

Bloggers threaten this machine. So the machine hates bloggers.

I saw this machine in operation when I blew the whistle on the Moody Bible Institute. I also felt the force of this machine when I reported on MacDonald and Harvest, as did Mahoney and Bryant.

I still feel it.

Just this week, Craig Parshall, general counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), was asked by a Christian Post reporter to comment on my story about NRB being on the brink of bankruptcy. Rather than addressing the facts in my article, Parshall resorted to an ad hominem attack on bloggers.

“Because the internet is filled with bloggers citing ‘facts’ that can be inaccurate, outdated, misleading (or even defamatory),” Parshall said, “the National Religious Broadcasters association practices restraint in responding to blog posts.”

On one hand Parshall is right. Some blogs are inaccurate and misleading. But some (and I would argue this one) have proven factual and truthful over time. And to reject blogs out-of-hand reveals a regrettable bias.

Chandler may have been naïve in 2012. But he also mimicked the establishment’s hatred and disparagement of blogs during the Elephant Room II conference in January 2012.

During the conference, Perry Noble, former pastor of NewSpring Church, asserted that pastors and elders should be the ones calling out doctrinal error, adding, “I don’t think God raised up internet bloggers to call out wolves who have an opinion . . .”

“Hey, no fan of internet bloggers in here,” Chandler interjected.

“Ya, you can’t fight for those guys,” MacDonald said. “Nobody’s fighting for that.”

Then Chandler offered the final jab: “No fan in here . . . of anyone that lives with his mom.” 

Video of Elephant Room II discussion of Blogs (Editorial comment in video is not by me):

I’m heartened that Chandler may be changing his tune. But I am underwhelmed by his response. The failure by Chandler and his unnamed colleagues left thousands at the mercy of a vicious wolf, including Mahoney and Bryant. These leaders should be cut to the heart right now and asking these men and others hurt by Harvest for forgiveness.

Christian leaders are supposed to protect the vulnerable, not aid and abet the abusers. Yet sadly, those who do the former seem to be the exception, not the rule. In addition to the national leaders who turned their backs on Mahoney and Bryant, a local church told these men six years ago that they needed to either take down their blog or leave the church. Thank God, Mahoney and Bryant chose to leave the church.

Mahoney told me this week that had he not gone to seminary and studied the history of theology, “these sorts of men would lead me to a place where I don’t know that I would have the tools to still believe. . . . The story of the church is a story of unending reformation movements. We keep getting it wrong again and again. Why should I expect that in the 21st Century, we’d get it right?”

“I don’t know where my kids come out of this . . . All of them know of church as a place that protects wicked men.”

Bryant said his greatest concern is for his kids. “I don’t know where my kids come out of this,” he said. “All of them know of church as a place that protects wicked men.”

That comment made me cry.

Though my children are older than Bryant’s, I have the same concern. One of my sons admitted to me this week that he’s having trouble finding a church in the city to which he moved six months ago. He’s seen what’s transpired in my life the past 18 months. Plus, he’s seen Christian leaders behave badly at other ministries during his college years. I’m sad I’ve had to talk to him about how to spot wolves among the sheep.

But as Mahoney said, this is an age-old problem. I’m just hoping the evangelical community is finally ready to own the problem and talk seriously about reform. 

Below are the 2012 email communications between the TED authors and Matt Chandler:

ChandlerTEDEmails

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84 thoughts on “Matt Chandler & Other Evangelical Leaders Rejected TED Bloggers’ Pleas to Expose Harvest in 2012”

  1. To be fair to Matt Chandler, no pastor is going to give publicity to a blog that is critical of a church. All Christians should assume that godly Christian leaders will be responsible in their actions. Obviously, all Christian leaders are not responsible, but “believing the best” should be our first response.

    1. Unepetiteanana

      At what point do we stop “believing the best” ? When there’s enough evidence to show that “the best” didn’t take place?

      I struggle with comments like this. I don’t disagree that this wasn’t Chandler’s responsibility, but I fear we sit around hoping there won’t be conflict when there should be copious amounts of conflict. This was one of those situations. We sit around biting our fingernails hoping we don’t sin when in fact, the inaction leads to deeper sin.

  2. Valid point. What I don’t get is why none of them approached other leaders and/or James MacDonald himself. And why did The Gospel Coalition allow James to resign and refrain from telling the world the truth about the man in 2012? Every time a Christian leader gets fired for bad behavior, the organization allows him to resign and says how great he is. That may prevent a lawsuit, but it isn’t faithful to 1 Tim. 5:20. And it enables these wolves to continue to feast.

    1. I’m sure Matt Candler was busy running his own church. I’m sure he didn’t have time researching the sins of and being responsible for another denomination’s church. At the time, he was also busy staying alive as he was still being treated for a brain tumor. I don’t feel he had an obligation for Harvest. MacDonald was getting plenty of pushback for the T. D. Jakes mess.

      1. Jessica Hockett

        Just to make sure we are all operating on the same timeline:

        Nov 2009 – Chandler diagnosed with brain tumor

        Sept 2010 – Chandler receives clean bill of health

        ~March 2011 – Chandler participates in Elephant Room 1, hosted by James MacDonald

        March 2012 – Chandler is named president of Acts29 (replaces Mark Driscoll)

        October 7, 2012 – Scott Bryant sends email to Matt Chandler, asking him to read TED and consider giving it coverage via TGC

        October 8, 2012 – Chandler responds to Bryant, telling him he hasn’t read the whole site, but gets the basic premise and can hear Bryant’s heart begins it. Chandler says that he will not publicize the website and use husband influence to limit TED’s reach.

        So, yes that Chandler was—and still is—a busy person. But he challenged the website without reading all of the content, and then said he would make an effort to keep it from being publicized by others. He doesn’t cite his health or church responsibilities per se as reasons for not reading the whole website—although he does mention being busy as a reason for not wanting to continue the conversation with Scott Bryant.

        In short, Chandler’s response is consistent with what he said about bloggers in Elephant Room 1. He was opposed to blogging as a method for exposing wolves. His recent response to Julie indicates that he supports her work to expose wolves, but doesn’t state his position on other bloggers, including Scott Bryant, a blogger her admonished directly.

        1. Still, another church is not really his responsibility just because someone else says it is. And he should not be put down for it. Blogs were still rather new even 7 years ago, and couldn’t be taken seriously. We still have to be careful with online statements. Chandler is responsible for his church.

          1. Jessica Hockett

            No one said James MacDonald’s church was Matt Chandler’s responsibility.

            Scott Bryant wasn’t asking for Chandler to investigate MacDonald’s church. He respectfully requested that Chandler to read the website & consider giving it coverage on the TCG website. (I checked the Internet Archive and don’t see a Chandler blog hosted by TGC. Still, Chandler’s response to Bryant indicates indicates that he had some kind of content role at TGC.) Note that a TGC leader told Bryant that MacDonald did not resign from TGC but was pushed out due to various concerns. In other words, Bryant’s request was of Chandler as a leader in TGC–not as pastor of The Village.

            Contrary to popular Evangelical opinion, identifying and exposing wolves, false teachers, and unrepentant disqualified pastors is everyone’s job–not the sole province of the Evangelical elite or church Elders…especially when those leaders refuse to listen to current/former congregants who are pleading with them to hear the truth. People are called to play different roles in that, for sure. But ignoring the problem & casting those who speak out as the problem is unhelpful.

            In 2012, as now, the group of high-profile pastors who ran in the same circles spent much time & effort speaking at one another’s churches, endorsing one another’s books, etc. TGC connections aside, it’s reasonable to reach out a pastor’s peers, in an effort to warn them and to enlist their help in some capacity, however modest.

            P.S. Personal blogs and websites were not new 7 years ago. What WAS new was using blogs/websites per se corruption in churches. From my perspective, Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney helped blaze a trail.

          2. We do have a social responsibility to our fellow man to speak up for what is right and to look out for the interests of others – not just ourselves. The greater the platform, the greater the responsibility. If these pastors refuse to do that, then they are frauds.

          3. @WrestledWithGod

            It became his responsibility when he filled Harvest’s pulpit May 25-26 providing a public endorsement to the guy who had preached on “Money” on Easter Sunday rather than the resurrection seven weeks prior.

            Sorry, but “too busy” doesn’t cut it.

            Reckless is the BEST word I can find to describe the timeline describes.

      2. Matt Chandler is simply another hireling like all the rest of them. A paid professional that isn’t even wise enough to see that only Jesus owns his church (ekklesia) and that the New Testament knows nothing of a single leader called “Pastor” let alone “Lead Pastor.” Every local congregation had multiple equal elders who oversaw (not ruled over everybody else).
        This is what results when men create religious empires and machinery and stamp their own names as rulers over them. Institutional religion is a creation of men and has nothing to do with Jesus Christ’s kingdom which is not of this world. I thank God He is shaking them unto the destruction that they deserve.
        Follow Jesus Alone!

    2. July hope you are well. The bible is replete with leaders that went astray.
      Should we start with Jacob or Saul or even David then you had the Kings!
      Today money is the god of the culture and sadly the church. Just look at our
      political leadership, congress and you will see our spiritual leadership.
      Remember, JESUS said we are the light of the world! When we allow darkness
      into the church(Body) it gets into the culture.
      The immorality so prevalent in the culture didnt start in the culture it started
      in the Body
      The LORD said HE would send a famine for HIS words also, would he find faith
      on the earth when HE returns?
      Its the Laodicean Church not all but most and its hard to hold out when you see
      the leaders not preaching Scripture in context. The LORD told Elijah I have 7,000
      that never bent a knee to baal.
      Hope Im one of them let me leave you with
      Eph 4:11-15
      11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

      14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
      NIV
      Theres a lot more Scripture to call out leaders
      Blessings

  3. I am disillusioned with the church in general. I either see leaders who are yes men or leaders who lord over. I am between churches and am thinking of forming a group of like minded people to meet in homes. There are quite a few. I am not a church jumper. I am a realist. The best people who give of themselves always seem to get steamrolled. As far as your trying to get the feedback of other mega church leaders. That won’t happen.

    1 Peter 5:1¶So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:
    2shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;fn not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
    3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
    4And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. ESV

      1. i think the idea is why in the world can’t evangelicalism police itself, instead of being one big lukewarm pool of enablement? to which those on the outside shake their heads in disbelief and disgust.

        this is how i see it: evangelical churches are like extensions of all the men-leaders anatomical vulnerability — the locus of their manhood, ego and vulnerability. they have a need to stoke it, to protect it from threats, and to aggrandize it. they have a natural aversion to that of their men-leader peers and so they steer clear and leave it alone.

    1. Good idea Tim. Read over the New Testament. You will find nothing that even remotely resembles what people are calling church today. Jesus is not building churches/denominations- never has been.
      The Bible is very clear about what Jesus is building and it is not sectarian in nature or even named for that matter. He is bringing individual Christians together in local assemblies to share life (the life of Jesus together) daily.
      Man’s church didn’t just start recently failing- its always been a failure because Jesus isn’t building it. He is not the foundation of a religious enterprise.
      Look all you want and the end is always the same: EVERY so-called christian hospital, college, church or religious organization ALWAYS becomes compromised over time. Despite how well meaning the creators of these places were at the time, you can’t make an entity christian- only people can become christians. What is of the flesh is flesh- it couldn’t be more obvious to anyone willing to be honest with themselves.
      This whole scandal with James as well as any other public scandal could have been prevented. Not by having more accountability or acting sooner, but by never following a pattern of institutionalism that is never supported or sanctioned by the scriptures.
      If God’s people would simply embrace their personal cross as He requires, this would be the death knell literally to all professional ministry and bring us back to really having to trust God for everything.
      God has elders among His flock who can lead today- but NONE of them are in modern day pulpits promoting themselves or their own brand of religion. I stopped following those men 2 decades ago and I’m doing just fine in the wilderness.

  4. I wish, seven years ago, the TED bloggers would have talked to us themselves. As someone who knew the authors personally and my husband was sitting on the Elder board, it was easy to believe James when the people who were writing the blog stopped talking to us. It’s water under the bridge now. But that was my thinking at the time.

    It all came together when a friend sat us down to give us the “truth.” My first reaction… “You mean it’s all true??” My biggest regret is not reaching out and asking people myself. I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure this all out.

    After all these things finally came together to those of us were in leadership and our eyes were opened it was sad for me to see and hear that pastoral staff and the remaining elders we’re not willing to come clean, totally repent and restore what was left of the church. I believe that is why they are still seeing a decline in the people who go there. God will not be mocked. The continued decline of Harvest is on them. I still grieve over all this.

    There is a lot more available to us now than there was back in 2012 when the TED blog began. It’s disheartening to see people choose to look away and I now know what it must’ve felt for the bloggers to watch us all those years.

    I won’t go to a church where the leaders don’t fear God. Period. And it’s hard to trust again.

    Thanks for continuing the good fight. I am with you.

    1. “I wish, seven years ago, the TED bloggers would have talked to us themselves.”

      well, why didn’t you talk to them yourself? you seem to have known them personally, as well as the allegations.

        1. The way Kim worded it, it sounds like she is blaming Bryant/Mahoney. Making them at least partially responsible for the anemic response.

          Why are frank questions not allowed?

    2. I’m so sorry this happened, Kim. I can’t imagine the confusion and disillusionment you and your family are going through. May you stay in the ‘shadow of the Almighty’ during this difficult time. I prayed for you this morning.

  5. For me this boils down to the structure of church government. HBC exemplifies the danger of independent churches. When a pastor goes off the rails, there is no higher authority for the local church plead their case.

    There are other systems that help mitigate the damage of a Pastor like JMac.

    One of the strengths of the Presbyterian system is that the Pastor is not a member of the local church, but if the regional body of ordained pastors and elders. So, if a Pastor goes off the rails, the Elders of the local church report it to the regional body and an investigation is launched.

    If found guilty and unrepentant, the regional body votes to remove the Pastor from the church and he loses his ordination. I have seen this happen several times. As painful as the process is, the pruning protects the flock and the name of Christ.

    However, that doesn’t prevent the defrocked pastor, like Tullian, from starting a independent church outside the authority of the regional body.

    If HBC, was operating within the Presbyterian form of government, James would have been defrocked no later than 2012 and the local church would have been spared the misery and hurt. Most importantly, Christ’s name would not have been dragged through they mud like it has.

    1. Honest question….I believe Tim Keller was operating under the Presbyterian form of government and was on the list of those notified in 2012. Even though I realize James MacDonald was not PCA…why do you think Tim Keller remained and I believe still remains silent?

      1. You are correct. Tim is ordained and under the authority of his Presbytery (the regional body). To your question, I have no idea. I interpreted the sent letter by the TED crew as vague and it did not communicate a glaring and/or specific sin that required immediate action. To me, the letter communicated that HBC lacked financial controls. The letter could also be interpreted by some as a PR piece because of the ask at the end to publicize it. Not knowing the TED crew or their motives, I would be hesitant to act as many of the evangelical leaders had.

        Not having any authority within and independent church such as HBC, the dudes at TGC, other organizations, and conferences are limited to their influence in internal church affairs. The most realistic thing the could do would remove him from their organizations and speaking lists.

        1. that seems like quite the cop out. Leaders who read their letter could have reached out to Bryant/Mahoney to try to understand better. what, they had no curiosity? no conviction? no concern?

          as to them having no authority, that is nonsense. neither do consumers who are taken advantage of, employees who are mistreated, and victims who are abused by those who are more powerful. But the speak out, loudly. If they are not heard, advocates with a conscience lend their influence.

          but not so with evangelical leaders. they appear to be short on convictions, let alone the courage to act them. they appear to be impotent, and not all that concerned about that either.

    2. David Jankowski

      I’m glad the defrocking in the Presbyterian group you referenced took place. However, one problem of the presbyteries is that you have pastors judging other pastors, and sometimes they’re reluctant to call a spade a spade against one of their buddies.

      1. Not exactly true. The Elders of the local churches at these regional Presbytery meetings usually represent about 50% of the crowd. I know the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church) committee that does the initial investigation of misconduct has a 2:1 ratio in favor of the Elders. I believe the PCA has a 1:1 ratio. These denominations designed it this way to mitigate the buddy factor.

        The challenge to this system is developing mature Christians into wise, strong, and mature Elders who will take a stand. It is possible, but it takes intentionality, training, and time. If those Elders are not developed, then the professional Pastors can ramrod the group and get their way.

  6. The irony in this story is that Matt Chandler and Ryan were both actually correct. TED didn’t lead to repentance of James and it did push everyone to the fringes of the church. And Ryan was correct…”we” didn’t win. At least it doesn’t feel like a “win” to me. It feels like we ALL lost. And that is the worst part. So much sin, so many mistakes, so many lies and destruction. Not only do I worry about our children, but for our own faith. I am very much disillusioned by all of this. Yes, I still attend a church in Texas, but my passion for attending is so much less…and yes..that is wrong. I do kinda expect to be hurt again…UGH!

    On the positive note, you “attack bloggers” ;-) have shined a very bright light in to some dark places. People are being exposed. People are beginning to see the light. I pray that the church will begin to heal in the large sense of the word.

    Also, I feel like Matt’s response to this story was encouraging. I hope more Pastors will have similar awakenings to the wrongs of Jmac and the Evangelical Mega Church complex.

    1. @WrestledWithGod

      I’m not encouraged at all by Matt’s Response. Chalked it up to naïveté which places a shield around his lack of response THEN…

      6.5 years later, he, nor his rich buddies, have uttered a syllable publicly against the greatest catastrophe in evangelicalism in my lifetime and I’m 56…

      Driscoll was a lunatic, but he didn’t try to hire two people to be murdered and wasn’t caught on tape stating he was calling off the plan to plant child porn on the CT President’s website..

  7. Thank you Julie for your tenacious pursuit of truth! This is where freedom is found. It’s sad that the coverup to take on a life of it’s own, at times bigger than the original issue. Either way, God wants sin exposed, truth told, and change to take place. The GOSPEL :))
    Praying for you daily!

  8. The system of ministry in many denominations is set up to protect the wolves. I personally, have dealt with this enough to recognize it. Yet, we know that our king will be victorious over the institutions we have created. I am not anti-church, I love the church. Yet, I think a larger discourse needs to be had. One which thinks on the question of responsibility, both active and passive. These churches (like Harvest) have large staff structures, structures that know the truth about these ungodly leadership practices. That is one thing that has become clear as a result of the HBC story. It takes a culture of tyrants to make a tyrant. Additionally, when the culture falls apart, the benefit of pointing fingers has long since passed. We do not get to build to the sky using popsicle sticks and gasoline, only to strike a match, and blame the other guy. It is my understanding (and my anecdotal experience) that more people knew than we would be comfortable to acknowledge. We would do far better to make Machiavelli’s The Prince standard reading material in many of our Seminaries. The sheer magnitude of what we are seeing would implies that people have either been complicity involved, implicitly involved, or plain stupid. In any of the three options, these are not people that should be leading our churches. I could be off base, yet when I meet a person that has managed to make a career out of such styles and places of ministry, I have an instinctive mistrust.

  9. Julie, I am interested in learning what happened to the church in Florida and its pastor who got booted out at the end of McDonald’s tenure. Such a sad situation.

  10. One thing worth noting here is that I believe MacDonald was on a board for accountability for Mark Driscoll, so the notion that another pastor ought not call a pastor to repentance seems “outside the theology MacDonald publicly espoused.” No? Plus, in a world where Paul speaks to Hymenaeus, Alexander, and Philemon in regards like this, and in a world where John rebukes Diotrephes, I am at a loss to consider how a pastor who holds to Scripture would avoid participating in a rebuke.

    Closing the ranks/circling the wagons seems to be one of the nastiest things we’ve got going on in our circles, and if we don’t figure out how to stop it, we are going to kill the churches we claim to love.

    1. Driscoll knew he was accountable to MacDonald. Did Chandler know MacDonald was accountable to him? The only reason we think this today is because we are all aware of
      each other’s business due to widespread communication. It would be inappropriate for a pastor, especially outside of his own denomination, to comment publicly about about another church’s pastor. Privately, only if asked by a leader of that church.

      1. Jessica Hockett

        “Driscoll knew he was accountable to MacDonald.”

        Do you mean Driscoll knew that he was NOT accountable to MacDonald?

        A few years after the Mars Hill implosion, MacDonald dipped into Harvest Bible Fellowship donor-restricted funds without permission to give $50,000 to Driscoll’s new church.

      2. “It would be inappropriate for a pastor, especially outside of his own denomination, to comment publicly about about another church’s pastor. Privately, only if asked by a leader of that church.”
        —————

        why?

        christian culture tolerates all kinds of egregious behavior in its own ranks, especially amongst leaders. it starts at the top with the leaders themselves. This is a perfect example.

        those outside christianity observe it, find it appalling, and have no respect for it.

      3. Again, Diotrephes, Philemon, Alexander, Hymeneaus, Barnabas, etc.. I don’t think that you’ll find clear guidance through Scripture that you have to go through official channels. It’s somewhat muddied given that people cannot legitimately claim apostolic authority (at least IMO), but the long and short of it is that we do indeed appear to be free to rebuke our peers, and solicit (if we’re not elders/head elders and they are) elder feedback if our criticism is not getting through.

        And let’s be blunt here; what happened at Harvest was eminently avoidable if people on the elder board and/or MacDonald had been convinced that what they were doing was sinful and idiotic. There are times when people do indeed need to say “thank you for your input, but I respectfully disagree”, but there are other times when public furor does an important and necessary service. And the earlier in the process you get it, the less damage will be done.

        1. @wrestledwithGod

          People are weaponizing scripture in order to try to justify their sinful nonsense. They are protecting their own churches numbers and giving. “What good does it do us to say something “hard” about someone outside of our local church?”

          It’s just the typical megachurch brand protection going on literally with everyone one of these places.

          All they care about is the giving…and anything that disturbs it. None of them say anything about any of the others except Joel Osteen seems to make a good punching bag for everyone…

          Osteen is not the threat—he’s easy to spot.

          The threat is Chandler and all of these other guys we have beheld as our leaders…these guys are DEFINITELY the threat.

      4. @wrestledwithGod

        I disagree with absolutely every word you have stated here MATT. You continue to try to make a defense for the indefensible. Chandler is a robber and a thief for what he has done. He preached in Harvest’s pulpit 7 weeks after MacDonald lost his mind and start a series on MONEY on Easter Sunday.

        He came in and stabilized the church for MacDonald. Everyone on the planet knew what was happening at that point and to say otherwise makes you sound like Matt Chandler himself trying to justify his sinful response to what happened. This is on Chandler entirely in my opinion and it’s on all of these megachurch multi millionaires running around the country with their “national presence” and selling their books nationally and collecting money nationally…and yet won’t say one word…even to this day… about what has happened. It’s destroyed evangelicalism. You just don’t know it yet MATT because you’re still defending the very thing that has led us all off the cliff here.

        Protecting the abusers, while vilifying anyone shining a light on what is happening.

        THAT is what Chandler did… And the evangelical church in North America has already been destroyed by it. Driscoll, Mahaney, MacDonald, Hybles have all fallen and ALL were protected well past when it had become absolutely my obvious to anyone watching that they were wolves and yet MATT CHANDLER? What does he do for the guy who starts a series on money on Easter, abruptly leaves TGC in an unhealthy way, blesses TD Jakes (known heretic) as orthodox and tells us his views on money are more orthodox than we might think..

        CHANDLER fills THAT pulpit knowing at LEAST that much. Thousands were leaving Harvest…Chandler comes in right before the summer break and preaches to quiet the storm and yes, ENDORSE his “good buddy” James MacDonald.

        Stop defending the TOTAL nonsense you are defending.

    2. Mike L. Willis

      That’s because Paul was an Apostle. Apostles and prophets were set up by God to correct pastors, evangelists and teachers when needed. Apostles and prophets have been removed from the modern church, thus the order of God as the foundation of the church. Apostles don’t have jurisdiction, and neither does the gift of discernment and wisdom and the gift of knowledge.Everyone is still falling for the spiritual head-fake. The problem with the “so called” church is bad and false doctrine God always starts at the top when chastisement and judgement occurs. Judgement starts in the house of God, Pastors, bishops elders deacons and teachers, owners and Presidents of company’s, the president of a country, and so on. The greatest sin is these so-called leaders have imposed these false doctrines upon the sheep to a level that they read and study the bible thru the lenses of how they have been taught. People teach in the manner they have been taught. If your taught you can’t live above sin then you won’t, if you are taught to raise your hand and parrot a few words, then you think you’re on the road to salvation, that will be your lense of what salvation is, but you’re not saved. Salvation is a destination, not an event. God is tearing down these false institutions!

  11. I have appreciated your writings and the writings of TED, and yet, in this matter, I think Matt Chandler was heartfelt, and appropriately humble-hearted in his more recent comments. I think you do him a disservice to expect more. As a pastor he is primarily called to shepherd his flock, and to have expected him to do more years back is to expect too much.

    1. it’s expecting too much of christian leaders to lend their influence to stand up for those who are being taken advantage of by one of the leaders’ peers? why on earth why?

      there are such low standards in christian culture for right behavior. it starts at the top. clearly, this is one such example. your reply is very disappointing.

  12. Aubrey Sanders

    Everyone says society is falling apart but doesn’t a fallen world simply fall? The Supreme Court just “informed” us that from a societal perspective the cross is an irreligious symbol. In other words in terms of our secular society, a secular symbol such as the cross has no ability to impact or influence the separation of state and church. While there should be separation, is this a cost we fully appreciate that will be paid over time?

    It seems there are 2 things that have been occurring for some time. To a degree, there is a form of totalitarianism that operates within Evangelicalism which has its focus on things which are not primarily Christ. How can there not be confusion that simply spreads and then is stopped by this type of leadership as best it can?

    What has made this more difficult to comprehend or understand for the average person is to some degree there are teachers and leadership that demonstrate a relativism in terms of Christianity. It is far and away most notably at conferences and partnerships where teachers one thought spoke truth share platforms and communication channels with teachers who teach in a manner I personally cannot comprehend as truth. That this is regularly mixed together, are we left as Pilate saying “What is truth?”

    If you Julie started traveling the country, stopping at cities to give conferences with heretics, do I question your teaching, your motives, or do I begin to embrace things because faith is embraced and defined from teachers who offer my personal preferences in terms of their hermeneutics?

    I could go on and on about this. Someone wrote “It was the heretic Marcion who made it necessary for the church to define the canon of sacred scripture. It was the heresy of Arius that provoked the council of Nicaea. It was the distortions of Nestorius and Eutyches that made the Council of Chalcedon necessary. The heat of controversy has been the crucible by which the truth of theology has been made more sharp, more lucid.”

    In a postmodern post-truth secular society, what is truth, the church, God?

    Keep asking and reporting.

  13. Matt Chandler cannot have it both ways. He wants to protect his buddies and when it hits the fan he runs for the hills. Tsk tsk Matt, grow a spine. Take a lesson from Julie Roys and be courageous.

  14. Susan Vonder Heide

    What too many people with fancy titles in churches do not realize is that a condescending pat on the head or a disgusted eye roll or an intimidating threat are not normally appropriate responses when another member of the body of Christ expresses concerns. The Spirit distributes gifts to all members of the body of Christ not just to those with fancy titles.

  15. Amos 7.14
    Amos call out Amaziah the priest of Bethel. Amos said he wasnt a prophet or son of a peophet. God has raised up common people to bring His message. Those whose hearts are fully devoted.

  16. Matt Chandler was too busy to visit a family 25 miles away whose daughter was molested at his church’s camp. Do you really think he’d take the time to investigate one of his fellow celebrity pastors?
    I think it was Andy Stanley who famously stated you shouldn’t call him a “pastor,” because his responsibilities didn’t coincide with 1st century titles (my paraphrase.)
    So who suffers in the end, the sheep who have no shepherd – other than Jesus….

  17. I’m so glad someone has finally given voice to this issue of how the children of those of us who have been in harms way of this destructive mess, are going to weather church life as they make their faith their own. I’ve pondered it a lot! Regrettably, comments and conversations have been aired my home as my husband and I processed our own pain before their watching eyes. Unfortunately, our children were innocent observers. Our personal hurt had such a dramatic impact on our lives that it would have been impossible to totally shield them from it. I can only repent for those mistakes now, seek their forgiveness and educate them on the distinction I now see between the true Bride of Christ and the institutional church in America and pray for the Lord to redeem even this.

    1. Angie, I pray that God uses this whole situation and every conversation that happened in your home for HIS glory! That your children will be strengthened, that your children will have an abundance of discernment in a day that is becoming increasingly wicked BECAUSE of what they have seen and heard! What satan would like to use for destruction, our LORD will use for their good and His Glory! In Our Father’s Name I pray this for your children and for all of our children! Amen!

  18. Jessica Hockett

    We were HBC members in 2012. Like many, we looked to leaders inside and outside of the church to respond in some direct way to TED’s claims. Instead, we heard veiled references to factious men/critics, accolades from James MacDonald’s bromance buddies, and…silence.

    To know now that we can add The Gospel Coalition to the list of those who failed to love fellow believers well by publicly speaking the truth about James MacDonald is deeply frustrating. If TGC leaders pushed James out, why on earth wouldn’t they tell his church? Instead, they let him say that he resigned. Or let him resign, but didn’t express reasons in a direct, public way. Perhaps Keller, Carson, et al spoke with HBC Elders? If they did, we know what those Elders did with that information: hide it from the Congregation.

    For anyone who is interested in seeing TGC’s and James MacDonald’s responses, please see this link: https://padlet.com/jessicahockett/JMACTGC

    I find it interesting that D.A. Carson and Tim Keller co-authored a response in Feb 2012, not directly to/about James MacDonald’s “resignation” from TGC, but about Jakes and ER2. Note that Tim Keller’s name has since been removed from that article. Why? I’m hoping that one/both will respond to Julie so that she can report that angle.

    1. “I find it interesting that D.A. Carson and Tim Keller co-authored a response in Feb 2012, not directly to/about James MacDonald’s “resignation” from TGC, but about Jakes and ER2. Note that Tim Keller’s name has since been removed from that article. Why?”

      they are obsessed with being “biblical”, to the point where common sense is devoured by it. and funnily enough, “biblical” can be very convenient. (biblical spin, really)

      it is easy, heroic, and builds one’s powerbase to call out ‘theology’. a very self-serving thing to do.

      the high road is to call out corruption and abuse. there is a cost. clearly, the cost is too great, and human beings in the pews who go without so they can give sacrificially are clearly not worth it.

      the lore that has developed in TGC, their friends, and those in their sway is that there has to be 3 witnesses or else it didn’t happen. Bryant and Mahoney were only 2. And it was too much work to see if there just might be a 3rd.

      it was also too dangerous. it would have opened them up personally and corporately to scrutiny they don’t want.

  19. It’s a shame what people who have been spiritually abused have to go through to be believed, especially to be believed by the pivotal people who can give satisfying confirmation of the abuse. I’m glad Matt admitted he was naive to James’ dysfunction and affirmed efforts to expose “dark places” even though it took seven years of hindsight.

    Ten years ago, Matt delivered a talk at a Desiring God conference and a clip from it went viral called “Jesus Wants the Rose”. In short, he talks about how he had been evangelizing a single mother who was having an extra-marital affair and brought her to a church event and some guest pastor preached on sexual purity. That pastor had the audience pass around a rose and by the time it was passed back to the pastor it was broken and in pieces and he held it up and asked, “Who would want this rose?” In effect, the pastor spiritually abused the congregants by teaching them that no one wants someone who has had multiple partners. Matt talks about how he was so angry he wanted to hurt the pastor and it was all he could do to not stand up and scream, “Jesus wants to rose!”

    My rhetorical questions are: Why don’t pastors have that zeal when someone within their own church says a minister or staff member is abusive? Did Matt say anything to the church leaders after that message, and if so, what was their response and what did he learn from their response?

    In my own experience, I have learned that accountability feels like an attack when I’m not ready to admit how my behavior is harmful to others. I have felt, and still feel at times, the spell of self-deception. In addition, my own experience of being marginalized by my ministry leaders after telling them accounts of an abusive elder has heightened my awareness of my posture when someone tells me I did something harmful. Unfortunately, we learn a lot about leadership from bad leaders. I pity these ministry leaders and pray for them for we have great reason to fear they do not know what they say nor what they affirm.

    Thanks for your reporting, Julie!

    1. “Matt talks about how he was so angry he wanted to hurt the pastor and it was all he could do to not stand up and scream, “Jesus wants to rose!”

      Ironically, Matt won’t stand up for the sheep under his own care because it would hurt his brand’s image.

  20. Love covers a multitude of sins. It is clear from your writings that Moody, and Harvest church and the former pastor there did you wrong. They were mean, went beyond Scripture and sued another believer. It is clear that their actions disturbed you, angered you, and threatened your livelihood. Yet in the end you’ve been vindicated. Their own pride and error exposed themselves. Allow God’s love to heal the hurt, the betrayal, and the bitterness.
    There is a lot of more pressing issues in this fallen world. We have a radical left wing extremist democrat party who is seeking power, wanting abortions until point of birth and even want a baby killed if the child survived the procedure. With their quest for power, will any church or religious organization be safe from having their rights infringed by these radical Marxist politicians? Drugs are now being made legal for recreational use. What is the Christian response? Is it Godly to smoke dope “in moderation?”
    While Christians argue about speaking and tongues, whether or not there is a rapture, or if salvation is secure or not, the World system has sunken into darkness further and further. We need all the Church to be one, we all need each other. We need to shine our light brighter and brighter and show that we can love and forgive and move on from hurts and continue showing love. This World needs a love filled, Holy Ghost empowered Body of Christ to shine the light brighter and brighter!
    For the only cause that counts; World Harvest!

    1. Susan Vonder Heide

      It is true that other issues are important and, of course, love is always important but sometimes the church has to remove the plank from its own eye if it is to see clearly to deal with the world. I would argue that whether salvation is secure or not is crucial. If one is in a constant state of worry about whether one will go to heaven based on Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross or to hell based on some legalistic rule infraction one has a very hard time focusing on Christ or on reflecting the love of Christ to the world.

  21. marshawest1689

    One blogger who reported on James MacDonald and the Elephant Room fiasco, his gambling, etc., was the late Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries. Ken pulled no punches, thus he was a thorn in the side of many “Christian” celebs, including Matt Chandler and Perry Noble. Here’s what he reported on MacD in 2012. http://apprising.org/?s=james+MacDonald&submit=go

    Marsha West
    Christian Research Network

  22. Your public call-out method is not Biblical. Jesus says to approach the peraon one on one, then with a few others from the church, then with the whole church. What you asked Matt to do is what you are now doing to him: engage in “call-out” culture, which can produce injustice in spite of any justice that may be desired, and ia definitely not Biblical or appropriate for every situation. Why single out Matt? My guess ia that he’s vulnerable from recent bad press, and you are piling on to hurt hia reputation out of apite. I see no other reason why he’s in the title, yet you “can’t remember” the other pastors that you sent the e-mail to. Everyone knows you can look in your “Sent items” folder for everything. This article seems predatory toward Chandler and his ministry.

    1. Jessica Hockett

      Hi TC. I’m not sure if you’ve followed the James MacDonald/Harvest Bible Chapel debacle over the years. By the time Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney decided to publish The Elephant’s Debt (TED), Matthew 18 had been attempted (even though Matthew 18 applies to individual, personal offenses) but to no avail. The website was the “tell it to the whole church” step. Especially with large churches that strip members of rights, there is no way to tell “it” to everyone

      James MacDonald’s sins were against the church, not just individuals–especially with regard to money. By my read of Scripture, wolves, false teachers, Elders who continue in sin, and fruitless deeds done in darkness must be exposed in order to protect the sheep.

      In her article, Julie indicates that the catalyst for her coverage of this topic was Ryan Mahoney mentioning on Julie’s show last week the email that Scott had sent to Matt Chandler. She followed up on their claim and was able to get the email and a statement from Chandler. (A source said x happened, and she sought to corroborate what the source said.) I call that journalism, not being “predatory”. They and Julie’s article also mentioned Scot McKnight.

      It’s my understanding based on conversations with them Scott & Ryan no longer have access to the email account from which they sent the email. I believe Ryan & Scott said either last week or on Thursdays podcast (posted yesterday) that they had also reached out to John Piper & John MacArthur, among others. As far as I know, it wasn’t Scott & Ryan who provided Julie with the actual emails to & from Chandler.

      You are correct that Matt Chandler has his own kettle of fish on the fire right now. I’m curious: do you believe that New York Times reporter Elizabeth Dias’ article is “predatory”? Did you reach out to Ms. Dias — or post your opinions in the Reader Comments that follow her article? https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/10/us/southern-baptist-convention-sex-abuse.html

    2. I’ll give you a reason to single out Matt Chandler. For years I sought an audience with Matt Chandler to address sin issues in his church. As a “pastor” he is basically unreachable. Ultimately, we resorted to hand delivering letters to his house. No response. The public call-out method is available and will be used.

  23. You seem to be conflating me with TED. I don’t have access to their emails. I can report only what sources tell me. TED authors said they didn’t have access to some of the old emails because it was an old account–from Bloodstained Ink, the blog they maintained before TED.

    That being said, in the podcast we recorded after this article published, Scott & Ryan named several other pastors/leaders who received emails–John Piper, John MacArthur, Tim Keller and D.A. Carson. None of those pastors responded positively or negatively. They said Rachel Held Evans also got an email. She reportedly said she had her hands full and couldn’t take on MacDonald.

    But to your point… No, Matt 18 is not the model for confronting leadership in error/sin; it’s the model for how to deal with a personal issue you have with another believer. 1 Tim 5:20 would be the appropriate verse for dealing with a pastor/elder–or perhaps Paul who confronted Peter publicly for refusing to eat with gentiles. See: http://julieroys.com/3-ways-wrongly-apply-matthew-18/

    1. Thanks for the article on “Three Ways to Wrongly Apply Matthew 18”. I found it to be really helpful.

  24. @wrestledwithGod

    All these “megapastors” want is control and anything that destabilizes that is avoided or removed.

    It has led to there being no accountability in the church except within their own empires.

    What about the “friendship” JMac and Chandler had? Didn’t that require something to be said? Or if that person happens to be outside of your local church you desert him until a Good Samaritan comes by?

    Matthew 18 and 1 Tim 5 are there to love and protect the person who has fallen. And they are there to love and protect those who have been hurt. And they are there to love and protect the local church and they are there to love and protect the universal church. They aren’t there for us to parse words and weaponize scripture and find where the loopholes are so we don’t have to do it.

    To segment parts of what is and isn’t someone’s responsibility is simply justifying wrong behavior, and has led to great error and great sin in Christ’a Church

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