Elders Announce Changes Coming to Harvest Bible Chapel; Executive Committee to Resign (Video)

Tonight Executive Board member Bill Sperling announced changes coming to Harvest Bible Chapel.

A transcript of Sperling’s remarks can be read here.

Sperling discussed the overall charges from all sources against James MacDonald. It all came to a head for the group last Tuesday night. Inappropriate language, anger and other conduct he didn’t name lead to the removal.

Sperling said the elders failed to act quickly enough. The Executive Committee therefore will resign and the structure of the elder board will change by downsizing.

There will be no new campus in Hinsdale.

The church will set up a group called HBC 2020 to evaluate the structure and organization of the church. The group will be led by Rick Korte.

I wonder who the outside professionals are and why they were not identified.

35 thoughts on “Elders Announce Changes Coming to Harvest Bible Chapel; Executive Committee to Resign (Video)”

  1. It is interesting they dismissed him because they concluded he engaged in conduct detrimental to the church rather than failing to meet the biblical qualifications. It says a lot that the church was more important than the Bible.

  2. Watching that video is one of the saddest things I have seen in a long time. If the average congregant sat through that and did not leave the church… oh gosh I don’t know what to say. That was the leadership there? Holy Cow. I’m trying to be polite here, I’m going to hold back. Again that was sad on so many levels.

    Just a thought, I might get rid of that logo on the stage.

    1. But they would be succumbing to temptation if they left, as was pointed out more than once in the speeches. I’m not sure it was deliberate, but it was a curious choice of words, nonetheless.

      Edit: Apparently, someone in attendance tweeted this: “Rick told us at the end of the message to not listen to the voice of the devil if he whispers to us to leave this church.”


      1. Edit: Apparently, someone in attendance tweeted this: “Rick told us at the end of the message to not listen to the voice of the devil if he whispers to us to leave this church.”

        Conversely, if one hears the voice of God saying “leave now”, it might be a good idea to do so.

      1. Worse: (from Julie Roy’s blog)

        The earlier draft also stated that it was “inappropriate to pursue a lawsuit against some of those outside the church” who raised issues about the church and MacDonald. This was omitted from the statement read tonight.

        1. In these statements, was the word sin used?
          Inappropriate is so banal.

          Someone on Twitter pointed out that this isn’t a storm as per Rick Donald. A storm is something we have no control over. Trouble with these Harvest men is all the control they have and have taken.

  3. “Additionally, now with the clarity of hindsight, the churches leadership has determined to return the Naples campus to its elders and the current elders and staff of that church will continue on autonomously.” Given one of the 2 Naple elders helped fire John Seacrest, that should be interesting as Harvest Bible Chapel washes its hands of that mess.

    The new 2020 team looks a lot like the old team so far. 2 staff, 2 elders…

    The word humble got used a lot by these guys.
    A lot about us, us, (leadership) moving forward, give us time, be patient, but very very little on the egregious harm they have been complicit in, in harming 100’s of God’s people.

    I haven’t been harmed by this church and it’s leadership, it’s culture, and while by nature I’m a skeptic, these statements just aren’t sitting right. I believe the Holy Spirit can call them to repentance, but why did it come across as corporate damage control with spiritual language?

  4. According to Julie Roys:

    “However, the earlier version of tonight’s announcement said that the church had contracted with Lawrence Swicegood…”

    GWInsida, where are you? Fill us in.

    Roys also quotes a congregant who was there who walked out when Rick Donald started to preach, along with 30-40 others.

  5. Dr. Throckmorton:

    The Harvest 2020s leader name is Rick Korte (Not Cordray (?) :^)
    The guy who spoke after Spaulding.

    Seems he is Chief Executive Officer and President at Heidenhain Holding.

    1. So a CEO is going to try to fix this mess? Good luck with that! Turning churches into big businesses is “The Great Harlot” we have been warned about by Jesus Himself in the book which is the revelation of who He is in His second coming. Doing it for money instead of love is the very definition of what harlotry is, is it not?

      1. Bill Sperling is one of the 4 elders whose name is on the lawsuit brought against The Elephants Debt and J. Roys.
        Vice Chairman/President/CEO of a bank in Chicago.
        He’s leaving his leadership role at Harvest, and couldn’t give a public apology for a public act of suing he put his name on?

      2. I don’t disagree with you. But I am curious as to what you would define as a line of demarcation between a church and “big business”. I suppose it’s possibly just an “I know when I see it” kind of thing, but if the key to accountability from those in the pews is that they are properly discipled, I’d like to see us better able to articulate some discernable boundaries. In spiritual growth and Christian fellowship terms, I have had terrible experiences in small churches and wonderful experiences in megachurches. But in both cases, parts of what I found attractive about those churches turned out to have a downside over time.

        1. A thought here. I recently listened to a speech online from an investigator instructing others on how to read people when they are telling a lie. It struck me that one of the first things she said was that a “lie is a relationship.” The basic idea was that it takes two to tango. In order for a lie to work, there has to be something in the listener that wants to believe it. This continues to be something I meditate on for I found it to be true. Every time I have been taken advantage of, it was because they were saying something that I wished was true. If there was no hook in me, then the lie would have failed.
          Your statement, “But in both cases, parts of what I found attractive about those churches turned out to have a downside over time” rings out along those lines. If you do not want this to happen again, then perhaps the time has come to look inside and see what it is that attracted you into what turned into a downside like a moth to a flame. I am not being mean here, nor am I attempting hypocrisy. This is what I am trying to do with myself and what I would suggest for all the other regulars here commenting as well.
          To answer a point you made on a prior post about small vs. big church, I was not saying that small is automatically better than big. Just that when the leadership turns toxic, the effect is much smaller and so smaller is preferable. The worst man I have ever met whom claimed spiritual authority over others was very small time. This man killed his mistress that he kept in addition to his wife and was convicted of murder. He also prostituted out his own child for Mammon. The movie “the Apostle” was very similar to his own life, except he was worse than the fictional self-proclaimed apostle. He is dead now, but just imagine the damage this guy could have done if he were a smoother manipulator? This guy was not very good at what he did so the circle of people he slimed was very small. He murdered his mistress and horribly abused his own family and his victims did not extend much past that.
          As far as the dividing line that you asked about, it became clear to me 30 years ago that assigning board positions and elders in the church according to the amount of business success was an anti-biblical practice. I saw that in the Trinity Church I attended. I was not injured by that, but that was the beginning of my own awakening to the reality of what Church was intended to be by Jesus Christ. The older I get the more that I see how Church is done in our culture does not line up with what Jesus plainly states in His Word. The dividing line is Jesus Christ. He is The Light. We focus on that light by studying The Word ourselves and being responsible to take the time to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s job is “to guide us into all Truth.” Jesus is The Way. Good church encourages us without promoting laziness or telling us what we only want to hear. It challenges us without abusing us. It points to The Way and then gets itself out of the way! Good church is humble and does not claim that it is better than it really is. Good church does not depend on Mammon in order to keep going. When the great economic troubles come, and they are coming, it will keep going because it’s foundation is good relationships between people. If the head dies or has to leave, it will keep going. It is not dependent on just one person to hold everything together. I could go on and on but all of my observations have come out of many decades of taking God’s Word seriously and my personal relationship with God too. This line cannot be defined in legalistic terms without creating another legalism when there is way too much of that already in what calls itself a church.

          1. “This line cannot be defined in legalistic terms without creating another legalism when there is way too much of that already in what calls itself a church.” Probably so, although I’m afraid that without a common, biblical ethic on these matters, churches will continue to sort themselves according to the net worth of the congregants. I guess in most congregations, the pastoral salaries reflect the norms of the congregation, and when they do not, problems start. But I look at churches (like my own, honestly) which are composed mostly of upper middle class people, with a staff that is making upper middle class salaries, and I wonder how that impacts the church’s complexion on multiple fronts. Are we frozen in place?

            I worked with a woman who was looking for a church where her kids could get involved, and I said, “Go over to ________ Church… they have amazing programs for kids.” And without missing a beat she said, “I can’t take my kids there. They’ll make of them for their clothes.” That just made me so sad, but I never even thought of it.

            I’ve said it a few times about Harvest Bible Chapel, and I don’t know what the secret sauce was (because it was definitely not conservative pastoral compensation), but anyone could go to that church. You’d have Spanish speaking construction workers sitting next to CEOs and praying together. I miss that.

          2. That first paragraph… I don’t know what you are smoking but I want some. That was a great observation.

            “churches will continue to sort themselves according to the net worth of the congregants”

            If you don’t think your mega-multi-campus church is not doing this then you are living in a fantasy. EVERY major church software out there tracks your butt’s giving…in 3D. And really what do you think that pastor of stewardship is all about anyway. Those guys literally have to pay their way by increasing giving.

        2. Yeah, the size of a church doesn’t really have much bearing on how well run it is, and the truth is that if you’re running a megachurch, you are running an organization with assets in the tens of millions, a multi-million dollar turnover, and hundreds of employees. Therefore you need all the same skills to run it as you do to run a small corporation, or at least a non-profit version thereof.

          The danger isn’t really the size, it’s the style of leadership. When there is one person in charge for decades, and they have surrounded themselves with family and friends in leadership positions, and are running things in an increasingly autocratic style, then it doesn’t matter if the church has 100 members or 10,000, the results will be the same.

          When the CEO of a private company is the founder, and has been in charge since day one, then it’s very hard for any board of directors to be a check on them, especially when the company is growing and thriving under their leadership. It’s no different when it’s a church.

          So it’s no real surprise to hear stories from congregants about how James MacDonald has been abusing his position for well over a decade without repercussions. It’s only as the issues started coming to a head (the increasing debt, the ill-conceived lawsuit) that the dam finally burst.

          But I’m also not surprised that many of their fellow congregants thought the church was just wonderful and everything was going swimmingly. After all, most people attend on Sundays and maybe one or two other activities during the week and never even meet members of the senior leadership team, let alone butt heads against them.

          The only churches I’ve been a member of are denominational Methodist churches, where the ministers are posted for a few years at most, and if the congregation wants them gone, they’re gone. So while the minister is clearly part of the leadership team, there is never any sense that it was their church, at least in my experience, and there is not really enough time for any minister to build a power base around them, and nor is there time to create the same type of personality based ministry you see in many of these mega churches.

          1. I would consider the Methodist model perhaps an extreme in the other direction, but I’m sure there are benefits.

            I went to Harvest and served for ten years, and I have to say, you have your “Family Pastor” and a “Men’s Ministry Pastor” and elders you know, and you have 50 to 100 people who are “your” people at the church, so you exist in a little subset. Those pastors do all your pastor stuff. That’s really your church, and then you listen to a pastor on Sunday and go back to your circle. We had no clue there were any substantive problems before people started speaking up. But only Julie Roys did it with enough balance and remove to make it stick. “The Elephant’s Debt” crew always had a nasty, vindictive side that undercut their credibility with many people who might otherwise have listened. They still have no credibility with me, because I know for a fact that they are sneaky and dishonest. But, God can use an ass, as they say.

          1. Says who? It’s antiquated, but still used in church settings. Go pick on someone who says “expediate”. ;P

          2. It’s not in modern dictionaries. I usually call this stuff out because alternative uses of language and invented or obsolete words are hallmarks of cults as it obscures intent and meaning to those not in the organization. Same with people constantly going on about mammon, its not a relevant term for an English speaker in a modern church. Just say money.

          3. “I usually call this stuff out because alternative uses of language and invented or obsolete words are hallmarks of cults as it obscures intent and meaning to those not in the organization.”

            Wow, bet the universities keep you busy.

      3. “…a line of demarcation between a church and “big business”.”

        Je$u$, to MacDonald and Driscoll and others of their ‎ilk, IS big business!

        1. “…a line of demarcation between a church and “big business”.”

          If this is a lesson for churches, it should be a lesson for politics, too. In both cases, the profit motive seems to subvert the original mission.

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