Two top Harvest Bible Chapel pastors today announced they’re resigning, following a “season” of difficulty sparked by the termination and scandal involving disgraced celebrity pastor, James MacDonald.
Saying he had hit a “wall of exhaustion” in June, Lead Ministry Pastor Greg Bradshaw said he is not only leaving Harvest, but also the ministry.
“It’s hard for me, but I’m really trusting God,” Bradshaw said. “This is not about a senior pastor. It’s not about a campus pastor. It’s about Jesus. And it’s about the family of God.”
Similarly, Ed Ollie, lead pastor at Harvest’s Chicago Cathedral Campus, said that in February 2019 (when MacDonald was fired), he felt called by God to pastor Harvest through the following “season.” But during an annual “goal review” last August, Ollie said it became “clear that that season was coming to an end.”
“I’m in a space where, while I’m excited, I’m also mourning because this is an amazing church,” Ollie said. “And this has been an amazing season that we’ve had together. But it’s time.”
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Harvest fired James MacDonald about 20 months ago after lewd comments on a “hot mic” recording of MacDonald were aired on a Chicago radio station. For months, MacDonald had been under scrutiny for published allegations of bullying, financial misconduct, and a pattern of deception.
This summer, Harvest found itself at the center of controversy again, when it was discovered that some students attending a camp run by Harvest had been subjected to hazing.
Since MacDonald’s departure, Harvest has been seeking a senior pastor, but has not yet hired one. According to an Elder Update in August, Harvest, with the help of the search firm, Vanderbloemen, has narrowed its search to a “smaller group of candidates.”
The multi-site, Chicago-area megachurch, which once had about 12,000 in weekly attendance, reportedly has about half that many attending today. Last year, one of the church’s seven campuses—the one in Niles—separated from Harvest and became a fully independent church, called CityLine Bible Church.
According to Harvest’s latest financial document, the church remains more than $36 million in debt and has been running a deficit budget all year.
Pastor Ollie said he and Bradshaw came to their conclusions to resign on the same day, independent of one another.
“We’re sad about it,” Bradshaw said, “but we know God is leading us.”
Worship pastor Eddie Hoagland, who appeared in the resignation video with Bradshaw and Ollie, admitted that the twin resignations could be “unsettling” for those who remain at the church.
“This is where we have to remind ourselves that this is the church of Jesus Christ and He’s the one who’s leading this . . .” Hoagland said. “He’s not just going to leave us in the dark. And so we know that there’s something God’s doing.”
Bradshaw says in the video that he’s been at Harvest for 17 years.
Ollie came to Harvest in August 2017. Prior to that, he was senior associate pastor at Hermitage Hills Baptist Church in the Nashville, TN, area.
23 thoughts on “Two Top Pastors at Harvest Bible Chapel Resign Following “Season” of Difficulty”
This model of “church” just seems so tired, and so played out at this point. These campuses are too big, too impersonal, and too easily shrouded in secrecy and abuse. My opinion on churches of this size is that they simply should either fold/close, or be spun off into much smaller, more manageable-size churches. There is something wrong when a CHURCH is $36 MILLION dollars in debt! How does any church ever cover an obligation like that in the midst of this COVID era?!? Will people even return to church? I have to believe that the choices of these men to leave the ministry are, at least partly, related to the very real financial implosion happening in real time within these large corporate churches. I don’t blame them, on some levels, for simply wanting to walk away and be done with all of it. All of this is very sad to me, but also probably very, very necessary in the greater scheme of things. I appreciate these updates that tell the truth about what is going on in the churches of this country in our modern day, and am prayerful/hopeful that God will clean up, clean out and restore His church!
Sentence upon sentence, every comment you’ve written here resonates with me, Susan.
The one thing I’ll add for myself is how tired I am of the word “season” used this way. Oh, it is such an autumnal word, evoking images of young white Christian women who sit beneath shading oak trees and wear big floppy hats, knee-high boots, and long sweaters over their tucked-in jeans while drinking coffee, reading their huge Bible, and with girlish pitched voices overuse the word “just” in their prayers. Yet funny that we don’t find any other context in which “season” is used by megachurch leaders except when their “season” is characterized by excrement striking whirling fan blades.
Those two look happy! The one in the middle is glowering! How fascinating that “worship” needs “pastoring” – I never did know that!
it creates jobs.
but no, worship does not need pastoring…. getting closer to scuba pastor, there. ridiculous.
Harvest never was a church. It was a money making business with a CEO named MacDonald who was a great promotor. As an outsider,(a Canadian) he was able to pick up on what Americans like; he told them what they wanted to hear, brought in good musicians to tickle their ears,invented all kinds of unbiblical clich’es, did a lot of unorthodox acting, bought huge buildings to awe everyone with, spent money like a drunken sailor and made everyone sign one sided contracts. He then just helped himself to the trough while he basked in the limelight. And everyone around him just let him do it. They were either naive, complicit, ignored his sins for ‘the greater good’, did not care or were too afraid to confront him. And he got away with it for years. And he still is.
No one has ever been able to restore or reform a church. By exposing the sin within an organization as commanded by God in the Bible one can have an opportunity to leave a false church.
Hey this may be the first time as a Canadian I like the label “outsider”!
Hey, Julie. Can you translate the code talk from those guys in the video?
“Hey, Julie. Can you translate the code talk from those guys in the video?”
Julie may need to call upon Dr Julia Dahl for help in the analysis.
Personally, I call this sort of code talk “meaningless God-words”. When prominent pastors suddenly and mysteriously resign with no apparent new gig lined up, spouting meaningless God-words, I feel free to speculate, and I think the flock should as well.
One thing it NEVER is, is that the pastor was praying one day and he heard God calling him to leave his good job for the unemployment lines. The guy on the left heard God call him to unemployment after his annual performance review. In the business world we’d know he got fired. This happened frequently when Driscoll would fire a pastor at Mars Hill. If the fired man didn’t just vanish without a trace, he’d spout some meaningless God-words. Because he’d signed a NDA and couldn’t get his severance package if he told the truth.
With the guy on the right, it’s more complicated. Since he says it’s NOT about “Senior Pastor”, that’s likely exactly what it’s about. Or there could be some scandal, since he says he’s leaving the ministry. He didn’t suddenly get all exhausted in June— something happened. There was a guy in Nashville a few years ago who suddenly got all exhausted and burned out and spouted a bunch of meaningless God-words when he resigned. Everyone felt sorry for him and many articles were written about pastoral burn-out. But the guy had forgotten to mention he already had a new job lined up as a consultant and was all excited to get back to work immediately. He also forgot to mention the impending divorce or the future new wife who’d resigned from the church staff to go to work at the same church growth company shortly before he got all burned out.
Did any1 ever confirm which 3 pastors were terminated for the hazing? Was Bradshaw’s son 1 of them?
Yes, you are correct
Just follow the bread crumbs (or money). Does anybody else see the connection and timing of events? Coincidence? I think not!
1. Harvest settles the arbitration with JMac. (Terms undisclosed)
2. The foreclosure against JMAC’s McMansion has been dropped and his mortgage has been reinstated.
3. Suddenly, on the same day, TWO Campus Pastors AND elders resign.
4. Elders announce they can’t find a qualified Senior Pastor to replace JMac and go back to square one.
The dust at Harvest isn’t close to being settled:
Where did JMac suddenly get all this money?
How much money did the elders pay JMac AGAIN?
Where is Harvest going to get $36M to pay IT’S mortgages?
How many more elders will “throw in the towel” or be forced out?
How much longer can Harvest survive with diminishing attendance and
When will Harvest membership stop drinking the Kool-Aid and wake up?
“Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”
I started attending & eventually joined Harvest after a pastor at another church, another denomination, helped destroy my marriage. Shortly after that other pastor attacked my marriage, that other church closed it doors and went out of business since no one wanted to attend a church led by a marriage wrecker.
And to be perfectly clear, that Pastor and my ex falsely accused me of abuse, but the truth was that my ex was the abusive one. In that denomination, men abuse and women are abused, but the Police Reports indicated otherwise, and had those Pastors interviewed our Pediatrician they would have known the truth.
Our family Dentist also was witness to some interesting things. He was raised Roman Catholic, was a graduate of Saint Viator, Notre Dame University and Loyola Dental School. Yet, he was, as an adult, converted from Roman Catholic to being a Born Again Christian and he, our Dentist, attended Harvest. I don’t know if he ever joined or not.
I was very clear in Divorce Court that one of my wife’s accusers was our Pediatrician and while my wife and her lawyer challenged my statements, I told them to bring that Pediatrician to court and try to make her disagree with my testimony. I told our Judge straight out that they will never bring that Pediatrician to court and If I tried, they would do their best to block her. And to make a long story short, shortly after I issued my challenge, they agreed I could have sole custody, not joint custody, of our children, and they never attempted to bring our Pediatrician to court again.
Julie should do an expose on that group, but let me get back to the subject at hand:
I could see from talking to Jimmy Mac D and how he wanted to be called “James”, that he was not humble.
I began to openly refer to him as “Pope Jimmy the First”.
Rick Donald was the real pastor there, but he lived in the shadows of Pope Jimmy.
i also knew several of Harvest’s Elders and when those Elders spoke about Harvest being led by a group of Co Equal Elders with James as the first, it struck me very odd.
As I read the articles Julie and others have written about Harvest, my suspicions about Pope Jimmy the first, were correct, he was the Pope.
In the same way, 5 miles away there was another “Pope Billy”.
When I learned about the letter of rebuke, written to Pope Jimmy back in 2005 or 2006, I wondered why those Elders didn’t fire Pope Jimmy then.
The sign of a good Pastor is, that after he leaves a Congregation, it continues to grow AFTER he has left while following his guidelines.
“Harvest being led by a group of Co Equal Elders with James as the first, it struck me very odd.” In the words of Pope Pig in Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
The only insight I have is the pastor on the left came and left within only a few years. My guess is that he didn’t know what he was getting into, saw what was going on with JMac, and wanted out. Not saying this makes anyone innocent, but as someone who has left a job for what turned out to be a ticket on the Titanic, I can relate.
So Pastor Bradshaw hits a wall of exhaustion in June, goes to his fellow elders and asks for some time off, and they generously respond by telling him to take a sabbatical. I assume Bradshaw already had a generous allotment of yearly vacation time, and now on top of this he receives an additional 4 months of paid vacation (sabbatical, if you will).
I see this frequently among the pampered “Shepherd” class. They are an entitled bunch of men, totally out of touch with the “working” class who faithfully fork over their hard-earned money to support these guys.
Great job if you can get it.
Bradshaw returns from his 4 month vacation and promptly resigns, telling us he will be leaving the ministry altogether. Welcome to the real world Mr. Bradshaw. I expect you are going to have a rude awakening.
Oh, and don’t forget to “honor” Pastor Ed and Pastor Greg on their way out the door. I assume that means dig deep for a “sacrificial love offering.”
And is this Bradshaw son, (that was fired for the hazing incident) the same Bradshaw son that was a roommate of Paxton Singer when Singer was accused of sexual misconduct with a minor boy he met at camp harvest?
Maybe Greg’s crashing into a wall was a looong time coming…and to think AFTER James MacDonald gets a settlement from arbitration that the Elders and Bradshaw said they would be open about, but was covered in privacy, he resigns.
Is he getting out of ministry or realizes that he doesn’t have a chance to get hired anywhere else?
Well, maybe James would hire him if he starts up the home church network, again.
For those who don’t know Greg’s background before working at Harvest, he was already a success working in a highly paid marketing position for Gatorade, Greg humbly yielded to God’s calling to leave that glamorous sports world and start a ministry for young athletes in McHenry County called PowerKids. This was obedience as it made no sense to leave a lucrative position to start a ministry from the ground up that had no guarantee of income or success.
My family and I just started attending Harvest Bible Chapel Crystal Lake shortly after that church plant meeting at Crystal Lake South High School. In the first service we attended Greg came forward to announce to the fellowship his departure from Gatorade and how God called him into ministry. PowerKids was born and had a very impactful ministry in McHenry County mentoring student athletes with a Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) type ministry.
As I grew in ministry responsibilities at Harvest, including serving as a Deacon for 4 years, I got to know Greg very well. My business supported PowerKids financially in the growing years. Greg was and is the real deal. He loves our Lord and continues to faithfully serve Him even in the midst of a fallen world and a broken church.
Harvest had been built on a culture of pride and arrogance, both from leadership and many of those who called it their church home. It continues to go through the pains of brokenness as that prideful spirit came long before the fast and painful fall that is a consequence of that particular sin.
Much has been written about the demise of Harvest that doesn’t need to be repeated in this short post. But I just felt compelled to provide a little history about Greg Bradshaw, who I have only known to be opposite that of what is commonly written about Harvest’s leadership. I pray Greg and his family will take the time needed to heal and listen to what the Holy Spirit reveals to them as they meditate on God’s words and godly counsel. Stay tuned for the good things ahead for the Bradshaw family as they humbly move forward in obedience. Thank you for your service to the Kingdom. You are appreciated!
Thank you for your spin on Greg Bradshaw. I worked along side him for 10 yrs.
The problem with Evangelicalism is that there is no recognition, or external and open mechanism, to deal with ongoing sin in the life of every believer. Consequently sin must be managed and hidden lest the faithful find out about it. No one wants to confess to the group that they are a poor miserable sinner who needs forgiveness daily. They fear it makes them look weak.
Mega pastors especially must hide their sin and pack it in, until it builds up and either explodes or they move on to greener ($$$) pastures.
The whole saga at Harvest is an example of this practice and how it often works out in real life. Someday everything hidden is revealed.
For the survivors, perhaps it’s time to recognize the need for confession of sin on a regular basis, and absolution, and to anchor your faith in God’s Word and Jesus Christ, rather that hitching your wagon to the next charismatic figurehead that shows up on your doorstep, TV, or church.
As a former Evangelical, I have lived through these experiences too many times to count. Maybe it’s time to look elsewhere theologically and really examine what you have been taught.
Lutheranism might be a good place to start. There the emphasis is on Christ at the center, not in fallible men. Perhaps God has brought you to this point to lead you into the Scriptures so that you will see megachurch evangelicalism for what it truly is.
Kristen Kobes du Mez’s book, Jesus and John Wayne, is a good place to start to understand the roots of this long-standing phenomenon. The essential questions are, what is our understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ and are we prepared to strive, in faith, to live the gospel message esp. Matt 5-7?
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