What Now for Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald?

Here are some issues I have been looking into.

James MacDonald appears to be on track to launch Walk in the Word as a digital program on March 1. An informed source told me that the plan remains intact. Given the fast-paced nature of recent changes, anything can happen but there doesn’t appear to be any movement there.

According to a source, this weekend’s Wake Up Youth Conference is still limping along but without the participation of as many as 30 churches. These preregistered groups pulled out after Mancow Muller’s bombshell revelations on his radio show.

According to an eyewitness at HBC-Elgin, the elders aren’t responding well to being questioned.

Many are wondering what will happen to the Rabbi Trust established for retiring or disabled pastors at HBC. The larger question relates to a severance for MacDonald. HBC is not legally obligated to disclose this information but a transparent organization would do it.

When Mars Hill dissolved, these details remain secret. Only a few people (who never talked) know the arrangements of Mark Driscoll’s severance. One might argue that his privacy should be protected. Donors might argue that those gifts were never intended to be a golden parachute for a disqualified pastor.


29 thoughts on “What Now for Harvest Bible Chapel and James MacDonald?”

  1. What’s Next for MacDonald??

    First, you’ve got to go away in order to stage a comeback. It’s cold and snowy here in Chicago in February, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes a “sabbatical”. In the Dominican Republic.

    Second: MacDonald has the whole family feeding from the same trough. He himself, wife and kids are making BIG salaries from fleecing the faithful. Maybe they should get……jobs….??

    BTW: He is a terrible speaker…”and, and, and, and, and”. He has the breathing and pausing characteristics of a former stutter. Plus I think he fiddles himself while standing on stage, with his hands in his pockets.

    This fall from grace couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fella.

  2. Warren,

    Is Harvest vetting by the ECFA? I was reading on anther blog where donor contributions were mixed and not used for their intended purpose. I wonder if the ‘real’ scandal is about to begin.

    — CJ

  3. “One might argue that his privacy should be protected. Donors might argue that those gifts were never intended to be a golden parachute for a disqualified pastor.”

    I am a Lutheran, where church finances are considered public record. The entire congregation votes on the annual budget, and we know exactly what all the salaries are. I am flabbergasted that anyone would give any significant amount to a church that isn’t willing to tell me what they are doing with it. I include in this many (probably most) Evangelical churches and the Roman Catholics too. I will toss a fiver in the plate if I am at mass, but anything serious? Not if the books are closed.

    1. Yep, denominational churches typically have a much more open operation and accountable leadership, and their congregants haven’t been trained into unquestioningly accept their pastor’s decisions. Long serving elder councils don’t help either, since they end up being more guard dogs than watchdogs.

  4. What should James McDonald do? If he had any character, he’d stay out of the Pastorate , repent, make amends to those he offended and seek therapy. What he may do, is to team up with another fellow con, Mark Driscoll and give it another whirl in a new gig and see how much fame and fortune he can achieve in another massive deception game called “Celebrity Pastorate”!

    1. He’s been a pastor for over 30 years, he’s gotten rich doing it, and even by the account of some of his detractors, he’s very good at it (aside from the obvious). Of course he will resurface somewhere else.

      1. Good evening Tacitus,
        I can’t agree with your comment. There are 6 other days of work needed to run a church. While he may be a gifted orator there is a lot more to a church than packing the pews for a few hours on a Sunday.

        — CJ

        1. Well, they did build a megachurch from nothing under his leadership, so I suspect he was pretty involved those other six days of the week…

          1. Good morning Tacitius,
            This gets back to the whole quantity vs. quality. Yes – He did build a mega church and the TED website discusses problems around the massive debt and other issues. I was reading about the feedback ‘Stupid’ .
            It wasn’t pretty and was used to show that many people had tried to advice/correct James over the years without any success. What happened to James MacDonald wasn’t just a bad day captured and spread by social media, it is the culmination of years of ‘bad’ behavior. My personal feeling that James was worshiping the Golden Calf of Fame & Forutune .
            Packing the pews was only 1 thing the HBC Executive team was compensated on, the rest involves the mundane of keeping to budget, managing your team (Bullying is not an effective management style), working with affiliated churches, weathering the enviable down turns…..
            Success doesn’t define a church – it is endurance.
            — CJ
            PS. I forgot that I’m worried that HBC will not survive this Tusnami and a lot of the walking wounded will be spiritually homeless soon. Our hopes and prayers are needed that they don’t turn their backs on Jesus.

  5. Warren, I’ve been with you since your early days of reporting on Mars Hill. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to you for the reporting you do. I know the Christian community can be prone to willful blindness, and I’m so happy someone is willing to turn the lights on.

    I think back to Macdonald’s presence on the BOAA, and it’s great evidence of how corrupt these organizations really can be. Christians, please keep your eyes wide open when your Sr Pastor lives in million dollar homes, becomes a celebrity, when the church does not have open books, practices church discipline, etc. An elder board under complete control of a Sr Pastor should not be trusted- as evidenced by almost ever Mars Hill elder eventually repenting for their behavior. Should it really get to the point where recordings have to come out where that person is threatening blackmail with CP before action is taken?!

  6. What a disgusting mess…and Pastor McDonald is arrogant to launch without hesitation.
    He has repented or sit long enough to look at what he has done.
    Submission to the people of his churches.
    Submission to correction
    Submission to silence and let the pain, disappointment, and chaos become the focus…not HOW he as the Energized Bunny going to keep spinning. No longer announced, for his greed has power now, and he’s controlling not humble.
    As a home contributing giver, I’m still in shock, but know that when people, elders, and churches don’t play by the power of the WORD…theres no transparency, no open honest communication, members lack a voice…its time for an end and a new beginning.
    James McDonald, it’s time to go away, let God restore and realign, and may the wolves be dictated by God’s domain.
    The house of GOD doesn’t belong to McDonald and his family entourage…it belongs to GOD and his people.

  7. In 2014 SBC minister Wade Burleson wrote about James MacDonald’s foolish and fraudulent theology on spiritual authority.
    Essentially, the belief is leaders speak/act for God, and therefore cannot be questioned or challenged.
    Spiritual authority is invested in them in the local church.
    Burleson points out that Jesus made it clear that spiritual authority is not in titles, offices or positions of power in any institutional church. (Matt: 20:25-26)

    Makes complete sense. Of course they will escort people out for questioning.
    The hubris of believing you speak and act for God is a root sin.


  8. Warren, great use of that photo of MacDonald and Driscoll… they were on their way to their “Act Like Men” conference, and decided to act like punks and crash MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference.

    The downward spiral of HBC is a like a slow-motion free fall version of what happened to Mars Hill.

    Although James bears the overwhelming blame, he wasn’t alone. He had accomplices and enablers. Now is the time for them to confess and repent.

    1. Yes this. The James MacDonalds of the Evangelical world are dependent upon church environments and church structures that enable their patterns of abusive behavior. Everyone in HBC leadership is likely complicit and therefore should be dismissed immediately.

      I am thankful for the 30 churches that withdrew their participation in the HBC Youth Conference. #EmptyThePews

  9. What Now?
    He bails out to Florida and the pulpit vacated by the Secrest Purge and hits the comeback trail.
    With his Brand and $$$$$.

    1. Naples is part of the HBC group of 8 campuses so unless Naples is declared independent kinda doubtful.And who gives Naples independence? The elders?And even if they get independence they would probably want John Secrest back.But you never know.Somewhere,probably in a southern state there’s a large church building just waiting for him.

      1. If out-and-out crooks like Peter Popoff and Robert Tilton can make comebacks, then of course people guilty of lesser sins, like James MacDonald can and probably will. A man’s gotta make a living, and it’s all he knows.

  10. I think the original sin of the church is telling people what to think rather than encouraging the people to think. It produces feeble follower minds and leaders to match them, inexorably approaching the result we are seeing here now.

      1. That’s very sweet. Unfortunately he is apparently not as skilled at kicking known pederasts out of his churches and clergy ranks.

        1. Yes, he trusted bishops he should not have trusted, but he has admitted to his mistake. The Chilean bishops all ‘resigned’ once he had sent in the investigators and got all the facts.

          It will surely take a while to deal with decades of abuse and cover-up, but the change in culture away from popes telling us what to think and towards them asking us to take responsibility for what we think and believe will help to deal with past abuse and make future abuse less likely.

          Incidentally, sexual abuse (and the covering up thereof) is a problem that is not only in the Catholic Church. In terms of numbers of cases, the (very large) Catholic Church is ‘worst’; in terms of incidence (ie. number of cases per 1000 adherents), the picture rather more nuanced. The Church of England acted quite early in changing the culture from a ‘pastor-who-must-be-obeyed’ one to something rather more healthy, and that has improved matters greatly over the last 30 years; the Catholic Church in England and Wales were also fairly quick off the mark when it came to dealing with safeguarding issues. Interestingly, the Catholic Church has much less political clout in England than many other places, and this has IMO helped too. The situation was much worse in Ireland, where the social and political standing of priests was higher. There may be an important point here: churches behave worse when they enjoy ‘political privilege’?

          One final point: the bureaucratic structures of, for example, the Catholic Church or the Church of England will make it easier to catalogue past outrages, and operational protocols now in place will help to prevent abuse in the future; it will be more difficult to identify in a systematic way historic abuse in ‘independent’ churches.

          1. Honestly, I think abuse is a problem anywhere adults and kids intersect. It is going to happen, so hopefully we will take proper precautions in every sphere. When it does happen, a strong and open repsonse is everything.

          2. I’m not going to mince words because I like Pope Francis: there was (and maybe still is) a particular issue with the culture in the Catholic Church, and Francis’s mistakes may well have been a product of that culture. What I think he (Francis) is trying to do is to change the culture, and he has (by his own admission) been pretty authoritarian in the past. I admire his apparent desire to change and grow (“Popes can be wrong” is one of his most celebrated statements!), and believe it is a very good thing for the Church.

            Reactionaries really can’t stand him, and are quick to call him out for being “authoritarian”. But I must confess that I see their opposition to him as a sign that he might be doing something right! 😉


      2. I have no doubt that Pope Francis is, in himself, a good, compassionate man dealing with an institutional Church in which deep faults are, and have been for centuries, entrenched. I hope that he is able, at least, to begin to make progress in ways that cannot be easily ignored or undone by his his successors.

  11. My understanding is that WITW has always been James’ intellectual property and not the church’s. Which could explain why all the WITW stuff was moved to James’ website and not the church website. So regardless of how this shakes out, James will walk away with at least WITW.

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