James MacDonald / Harvest Bible Chapel – Under Further Scrutiny

"In our recent meeting of seven elders . . . when we requested James disclose his income to the elders he replied, 'I would lose 1,000 people before I would disclose that.' "

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It has been a while since we wrote about James MacDonald, who together with a small group of ministry partners, planted Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC) in 1988.  Nine years later he launched Walk in the Word, a daily radio program that I often listened to (it still comes on Christian radio although I rarely tune in).  Several years before Dee and I began blogging, MacDonald came to our area, and my daughter and I planned to go hear him.  We had a last minute conflict and could not make it.  I had no idea at the time that I would be writing about James MacDonald in a public forum. 

We have published several posts about James MacDonald, which we recommend in case you haven't read them.  Here are a couple of them.

James MacDonald / Harvest Bible Chapel -Examining the Elephant in the Room

James MacDonald – Vertical Church Book, Tour, T-Shirt and Tattoo

MacDonald is also known for the controversial conversation among pastors called The Elephant Room, which has been simulcast far and wide on two separate occasions (for a fee, of course!)  When MacDonald extended an invitation to T.D. Jakes to participate in the 2012 Elephant Room, it caused a firestorm, particularly in Reformed circles.  As a consequence, James MacDonald stepped down as a Council Member of The Gospel Coalition (as did his buddy Mark Driscoll, who has participated in both Elephant Room simulcasts).

It appears that James MacDonald had been the elephant in the room at HBC for quite some time.  Why?  Because some church elders are finally breaking their silence and making public pronouncements against him.  We have previously mentioned a website called The Elephant's Debt.  On June 22, 2013, the website announced that three elders had resigned.  HBC issued a statement regarding these resignations, and as perhaps expected, that statement disappeared…  However, you can read it on The Elephant's Debt blog here.

On June 21, 2013 – the day before he resigned from the HBC Elder Board – Dan Marquardt wrote an e-mail to his friends explaining his grave concerns about MacDonald.  Just today, The Elephant's Debt blog posted Marquardt's letter, along with some other pertinent information.  Here is an excerpt explaining what they posted:

"On July 23, 2013, we received an email with four documents attached, including: 1) Marquardt’s email to his friends, 2) his resignation letter, 3) a response from the HBC elder board, and 4) Marquardt’s response to the HBC elder board letter. The resignation letter was making its rounds through the electronic world while we were taking steps to verify the authenticity of these documents as well as ensure there were no legal, privacy issues with publishing all of this material. Being satisfied that these documents are indeed authentic, we were prepared to publish these documents when Dan Marquardt commented at another blog, confirming he was the author of the resignation letter in question. We are publishing these documents with no editorial, but we are only highlighting the most relevant portions for easier perusal."

We hope you will take the time to read this important information.  Here are some of the highlights from Dan Marquardt's e-mail:

After many months of prayer and after reflecting on our last meeting together it is with a heavy heart that I submit my resignation as an Elder of Harvest Bible Chapel. This decision is not an impulse nor an emotional reaction but where I feel the LORD has led me to act. In good conscience and out of love for the church and our pastors I could not sit back and quietly rotate off in ninety days. That route would’ve been disingenuous and dishonest to the congregation and the LORD. My family and I just surpassed the sixteen year mark at Harvest and considering that I’ve known James since before he was a pastor that clarifies the magnitude of my decision.

In our recent meeting of seven elders (Scott, Barry, James, Rick, Robert, Bill, and myself) when we requested James disclose his income to the elders he replied, 'I would lose 1,000 people before I would disclose that.' . . .  When Christ, the Good Shepherd, stated that He would leave the other ninety nine to save the one, that is where a Pastor’s shepherding heart should remain. It concerns me deeply and I warn that James is heading down a very dangerous path if his heart on this matter isn’t made right."

Apparently, grounds of questioning our pastor’s behavior are perceived as an attack on him and the church, rather than a loving concern for protecting him and the church. It is important to note that Scott, Barry, and I were appointed to the Pastoral Care Team and it was our obligation to care for our pastors with special emphasis on our Senior Pastor.

Often at our monthly meetings their decisions are reported to the Elder board as having been made and they are simply informing the Elders. We approved a $30,000,000 annual budget with a pie chart in thirty seconds. As Elders we requested a line-item budget and that request was denied.

The sign at the top of this post would likely NEVER be seen at Harvest Bible Chapel because it appears that pertinent information is concealed and questions are not allowed.  However, important questions are being raised outside of HBC.  For example, a new blog called James MacDonald Must Resign was recently launched.  More and more individuals inside as well as outside Harvest Bible Chapel are having their eyes opened to the authoritarian power structure that has been put in place.  They are entitled to answers, and we hope and pray that James MacDonald and the elders will have a change of heart in what they are doing to consolidate power. 

We leave you with an interview between James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll (who was also challenged by several Mars Hill elders).  Birds of a feather?  We will continue to monitor this situation as well as the ventures Driscoll and MacDonald are pursuing.

Lydia's Corner:   2 Chronicles 19:1-20:37   Romans 10:14-11:12   Psalm 21:1-13   Proverbs 20:4-6

Comments

James MacDonald / Harvest Bible Chapel – Under Further Scrutiny — 84 Comments

  1. I won’t comment on James MacDonald or HBC in general, as I know insufficient about them. But I did read the short succession of emails between Dan Marquardt and others presented on the Elephanty blog. A particular exchange caught my attention because I have seen it elsewhere in contexts that I do know a great deal about, including our own when we left a para-church congregation in Glasgow some years ago.

    Marquardt said the following regarding how he would communicate with others in future:

    Although I am leaving you have my word that I will not tell anyone they should leave Harvest, not even my brother/business partner.

    The eldership’s response included the following:

    We do trust that your promise of silence and not further dissonance in what we disagree about will prevent wider disclosure of our disappointment with your participation on our board. As discussed and agreed upon during our retreat in Oak Brook, we will not hesitate to protect any member of the church who is recruited to a negative view of this ministry by opinion that does not reflect Elder consensus.

    Whatever the intention or thought behind it, this distorting of fact and truth is common whenever a powerful group closes ranks against a dissenter, whether in a para-church organisation like HBC or in a secular/political setting. Marquardt, as we can all plainly see, did not promise to remain silent about the matters of disagreement at all.

    When we left a similar organisation, I wrote to a man to whom the local pastor had supposedly been historically accountable, expressing (and I quote) “several concerns”. I later received a letter from the local pastor stating that the other had forwarded my letter to him, that he had it in front of him, and he was sorry to hear that I had had (and he then quoted) “many concerns”. It grieved me more than many things that might seem worse to see that I was dealing with a man who would not even quote two words accurately from a piece of paper right in front of him.

  2. Citing their inability to keep “winning” and the importance of taking care of their respective families, Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald announced earlier this week that they are retiring from Christian ministry to pursue careers in Rap.

    “Jay Z says in one song that he ‘lost 30 million so he spent another 30.’ That got me thinking, I’ve never even made 3 million a year” James MacDonald, Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel and CEO of Walk in the Word, said at a press conference Monday.

    “I just realized that I’ve said everything about Jesus I wanted to say. Sermons are a pretty limiting format anyway. I’m ready to talk about other things and Rap really energizes me” Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church, stated.

    At their joint conference, MacDonald and Driscoll said they would form a new record label and be their own producers because, “We’ve never answered to anyone before and we sure aren’t starting now.”

    The label has been christened “No Girls Allowed” to reflect both men’s strong belief that women cannot be leaders and should submit to their husbands. “It’s like Kanye puts it,” Macdonald said, “I never met a shorty didn’t need a little guidance.”

    “He just gets it.” Driscoll added.

    “You just wake up one morning and realize that being a Rock Star pastor is like being king of the midgets.” Driscoll stated. “We know that we are like goldfish that have grown as big as the bowl of Christianity will let us. But we aren’t done growing. Not by a long shot.”

    When asked if there were any Biblical motivations for this change of career both of the men looked stunned.

    “Do you guys even read the Bible?” MacDonald asked…

    http://theguiltyconscience.com/2013/04/30/mark-driscoll-and-james-mcdonald-to-leave-pastoring-for-careers-in-rap

  3. I commented once before… it’s been a few years. I heard James MacDonald speak at a chapel service in college when I was a freshman. It remains, to this day, one of the most frustrating chapel services I ever sat through, and the most hurtful.

    In the years since, I’ve worked and volunteered for a few churches, and seen a lot that leaves me disillusioned, frustrated, and fed up with what passes for Christian leadership.

    This kind of post gives me hope – that other people are seeing what is wrong, and people are being held accountable for what they’ve said and done. When I was 19 having my salvation questioned (the one thing I had previously been sure about), I never would have expected that the bully on the chapel stage would in anyway get his comeuppance. To see that in some way he is gives me hope. (That sounds more vengeful than I meant it, but I’ll take that risk).

  4. My church has its share of flaws, but I do appreciate that they set out financial statements for anyone to examine. It’s frightening that even the elder board isn’t permitted to know how the money is handled at HBC. If I were going there, I would be reluctant to give them any money at all (never mind that I’d be reticent to even continue attending there for “several” reasons).

  5. If they’re a registered charity ( which I assume they are) how do they get away with such practices without the IRS taking note? If this type of thing happened in Canada, I’d assume the CRA would be paying attention…

  6. For those of you who, like @ Sarah, are a bit fed up with grim tales of “Christian” leadership, here’s one for you. It concerns the pastor of a smallish (50 or so), but growing, congregation here in central Scotland, and involved two people both of whom I know personally. I’ll change both names, because this is one of those complex stories that not everyone will see the same way as I do.

    A long-standing member of the congregation, whom we’ll call Anne, had just lost her husband of many years (he too had been a long-standing and much-loved member) and the funeral had been that afternoon. The pastor, whom we’ll call Bernard, had called round to see her. This wasn’t so much to see how she was doing – of course she was struggling – as to save her from having to be alone.

    When he arrived, Anne basically said to him, “Bernard, I know there’s a prayer meeting tonight and I’d usually be there. But I just cannae face it this week. I’m gonnae stay here and drink that bottle o’ whisky” (which was on the table).

    Before I go on… you’re the pastor. What do you do?

    Basically, Bernard said: “Well, you’re not going to drink all that on you’re own. I’ll sit here and drink it with you if I have to.” And he did. The prayer meeting that night had to be postponed because the pastor (who, while no drunkard, can hold his ale) couldn’t walk in a straight line. Providing support, however unusual, to a grieving widow was more important to Bernard than a meeting, or indeed than the normal rules.

    For what it’s worth, I think he was right.

  7. I can’t help but think about how it will all end. Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.”

    It won’t end well for some of these bigwigs.

  8. He came to speak at a conference when I was attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. To say that this man was the most arrogant speaker we had heard in quite some time is a gross understatement. Though I am Arminian, and my buddy a Calvinist, we both concluded that we could not endure this man’s teachings based on his arrogance alone. (Something about pride coming before a fall, yada yada yada.)

    And then came James’ statement that congregationalism is of Satan. Well, I suppose it is from his authoritarian perspective! If the congregation has any say over how the church is governed, then James wouldn’t get his controlling, authoritarian way. I feel so sad for people “under” his heavy hand.

  9. James MacDonald…. a shady character.

    I’m pretty suspicious of his “non-profit” Churches Helping Churches. How easy it would be to skim off some of the donations for whatever.

    or maybe it’s a question: how easy would it be to skim off some of the donations to use to pay off other debts wholly unrelated to the non-profit itself?

    how easy would it be to invest a portion of the donations and use the profits for other purposes?

    is there a lawyer in the house?

  10. @Josh . . . so then why do the elders not know what your senior staff makes? Why were they refused a line item budget before voting on next year’s budget? Why have they still not released 2012 yearly financials even though we are more than half way through 2013? Josh, get your head out the sand and start asking questions.

  11. @ elastigirl:
    There is no IRS 990 form disclosed anymore for Churches Helping Churches. It’s lack of transparency is why it is so poorly rated as a 501c3. Only a full forensic audit could reveal how money is moving around the various HBC entities.

  12. @ Fred:

    I don’t think Josh goes to HBC. He said “if I were going there [HBC]” and that his church (as opposed to “there,” i.e. HBC) discloses their financial statements.

  13. Crooked pastors tend to be abusive in order to establish the environment of control needed to enable their crooked ways. In addition, abuse tends to occur in the midst of all the manipulations required to maintain their image, cover their tracks, and manage information.

  14. @ E.G.:

    Down here, South of your border, things are done quite a bit differently. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tried to launch a Senate investigation into the financial practices of large, high cash flow mega-ministries, but to no avail. He even got stymied by the IRS itself because attorneys for the mega-biggies were able to argue successfully that they’re in full compliance with current tax law, and as such, no ‘financial irregularities’ exist.

    Remember also that Senator Grassley’s constituents (Iowans) love Jesus & Elvis too and don’t take kindly to humanists, lesbians & liberal queers trying to tear down what made America great. Better to back off than wind up not getting re-elected.

  15. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    Yay, pastor Bernard! I’ll bet that widow’s faith is still intact because of that man’s love and support. Sounds like a winner of a church to me.

  16. I haven’t read the book, “The Vertical Church”; but when MacDonald said he wanted to do away with the horizontal church and redirect as a vertical church, it raised many questions in my mind. Since the entire Bible can be summed up as Love God and Love Others, it sounds vertical and horizontal. So if I ever read the book, I will be looking to see how he defines “vertical” and “horizontal”.

    Does anyone know if there is a new swing in these larger churches to move away from being “helpful” to our fellow man, in order to focus on only our relationship with God? Hopefully, this is not at all what is described in the book, nor a new emphasis in churches, since the horizontal relationships are where we work out what we gain from our vertical relationship.

  17. @ Nick Bulbeck:

    It’s better to grieve with those who are grieving than to rejoice with those who are rejoicing.

    I think Bernard’s choice to stay with the widow was wonderful. I wouldn’t suggest one drink to the point that it makes them drunk, but I love what this man did for this grieving woman!

  18. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Basically, Bernard said: “Well, you’re not going to drink all that on you’re own. I’ll sit here and drink it with you if I have to.” And he did. The prayer meeting that night had to be postponed because the pastor (who, while no drunkard, can hold his ale) couldn’t walk in a straight line. Providing support, however unusual, to a grieving widow was more important to Bernard than a meeting, or indeed than the normal rules.

    My first thought was “He’s clearly not a Baptist from America!” :-D

    Regardless of the quirky humor that first came to mind, that pastor’s actions were amazingly … pastoral. Wow!

  19. Katie wrote:

    Does anyone know if there is a new swing in these larger churches to move away from being “helpful” to our fellow man, in order to focus on only our relationship with God? Hopefully, this is not at all what is described in the book, nor a new emphasis in churches, since the horizontal relationships are where we work out what we gain from our vertical relationship.

    I plan to look into this. Great question!

  20. Fred wrote:

    There is no IRS 990 form disclosed anymore for Churches Helping Churches. It’s lack of transparency is why it is so poorly rated as a 501c3. Only a full forensic audit could reveal how money is moving around the various HBC entities.

    Or Mark Driscoll entities.
    Don’t forget, Driscoll is the other half of “CHC”.
    He calls MacDonald, “My good friend.”

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2012/10/15/james-macdonaldmark-driscoll-sacrificial-servants-or-serving-it-up

  21. This Marquart guy doesn’t get any kudos in my book.

    Why would any responsible person serve as an elder at any church where the elders could not know the salaries of the staff?

    But it’s good that he’s coming forward now, I suppose.

    I really don’t know MacDonald or this church. But the congregation and elders not knowing how much the staff makes is ridiculous.

  22. BeenThereDoneThat wrote:

    ay, pastor Bernard! I’ll bet that widow’s faith is still intact because of that man’s love and support. Sounds like a winner of a church to me.

    I can tell you that the widow’s faith is still intact and it’s certainly a winner of a church (imho – and I know them well).

  23. @ Deb:
    Because I’m skeptical and have seen too many ministries take on an “emphasis du jour” that appears to be another pursuit of less work and more money. Focusing on only a vertical relationship, worship of God, and deemphasizing -or getting rid of- horizontal helping of our fellow man, would surely cut the overhead, and make the work much more efficient. I’m just so jaded that I would see that as less work, less cost, more income … cause ya gotta buy the books, T-shirts, tats, and I’m assuming a new water bottle with the logo on it.

  24. Anon wrote:

    Fred wrote:
    There is no IRS 990 form disclosed anymore for Churches Helping Churches. It’s lack of transparency is why it is so poorly rated as a 501c3. Only a full forensic audit could reveal how money is moving around the various HBC entities.
    Or Mark Driscoll entities.
    Don’t forget, Driscoll is the other half of “CHC”.
    He calls MacDonald, “My good friend.”

    And he’ll punch you in the nose as a SISSY if you dare question him.
    Then he’ll throw you under the bus with all the others.
    “I CAN BEAT YOU UP! I CAN BEAT YOU UP! I CAN BEAT YOU UP!”

  25. cont …

    All counseling sessions can just point the person to spend more time at church in worship. While the advice to spend more time with God is based in truth, we all know there are a plethora of issues that need some help in the form of man helping fellow man. If a church can cut down on all those “man hours”, the “job” can be much more efficient and lucrative. Obviously, I’ve been in church businesses too long!

  26. Anonymous wrote:

    Why would any responsible person serve as an elder at any church where the elders could not know the salaries of the staff?

    Do you know how many churches do not let all of the elders or any of the congregation know how much the pastor makes? This is done so the little guy does not have a fit when he sees how much the pastor is making.

    In our region of the country, there is a church(details changed to protect the not so innocent) in which it is alleged that the 30 something pastor with several kids is making about $300,000/year, lives in a $600,000 house, has a retention package so that he gets more money if he is offered positions elsewhere. So, they ran out of money to pay him all he was owed. They dipped into the church mission fund. In case you think it is a prosperity gospel thing, think again. It is one the Neo Cal hotshots.

  27. As to the subject of this post… it illustrates one of many reasons why I am a revert to Lutheranism. We have our own problems, but this kind of nonsense is not one of them.

  28. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Providing support, however unusual, to a grieving widow was more important to Bernard than a meeting, or indeed than the normal rules.

    This pastor was showing how to be a shepherd, by actually taking care of a hurting sheep. Good for him!

    Now my question is, how did the rest of the church respond?

  29. This is a little off subject, but you all might find this interesting.

    Things are better than they were. Your pastor can no longer get you admitted to a psychiatric hospital against your will. The law has been changed.

    Say what?

    Once upon a time long long ago (my childhood) and far far away (my home state) the law/procedure for having someone involuntarily admitted to a state psychiatric hospital for a 30 day period of observation required only a statement from some respected member of the community that you were…well..going over the cliff sort of. A lawyer could file a (whatever legal request) to get you released, but otherwise you were there for at least the 30 day observation period. No medical evaluation prior to admission was required.

    My informant was my father who was a lawyer and handled several of these cases. Oldest son goes to the pastor of his church and declares that Dad/Grandpa is acting strangely and may be a danger to himself or others. The pastor signs the papers attesting to this, and the old man is off to a locked ward at the local state hospital. A day or two later a younger sibling goes to the lawyer, says there is nothing wrong with Dad but that the older brother is just trying to get control of the farm. The lawyer files the papers and the hospital can no longer hold the patient based solely on the original papers signed by the pastor and the patient is released.

    Needless to say, my Dad would go into some frothing anti-clerical rant about this.

    So cheer up. At least your pastor cannot get you locked up for psychiatric evaluation.

    Disclaimer: I was a child. This is the way the stories were told to me. No doubt it was more complicated sometimes.

  30. HoppyTheToad wrote:

    This pastor was showing how to be a shepherd, by actually taking care of a hurting sheep. Good for him!
    Now my question is, how did the rest of the church respond?

    I don’t know in detail, as it was before my time in the area; but knowing the people concerned, I’d guess they responded with great practical compassion. She’s still there, at any rate.

  31. Katie wrote:

    Does anyone know if there is a new swing in these larger churches to move away from being “helpful” to our fellow man, in order to focus on only our relationship with God? Hopefully, this is not at all what is described in the book, nor a new emphasis in churches, since the horizontal relationships are where we work out what we gain from our vertical relationship.

    IMHO, this trend is already underfoot.

    I wrote on this blog many months before, that after I went through a death in the family a few years ago and needed a lot of emotional support from Christians, I instead got platitudes, criticism, unhelpful suggestions/advice (such as “volunteer in a soup kitchen! Think more about Jesus and less about you” etc).

    However, many of these same Christians who were unwilling to spend time with me as I wept my loss were very keen on raising funds to send bean and rice buckets to Haitian hurricane victims, to volunteer at homeless women shelters and cry for the homeless ladies they saw, and that sort of thing.

    I see it in many American Christian TV ministries, too, whose preachers/ churches seem more concerned with helping only types of hurting they deem appropriate, such as inner city impoverished, or orphans in India, etc.

    I do not take issue with any person or church wanting to help orphans, the inner city people, etc, only that helping them should not cancel out helping someone else going through another issue.

    There is very little compassion or effort made by Christians to help the Average Joe, middle class, divorced/ grieving/ unemployed ~(whatever tragedy they’re in)~ guy or gal in the pew.

    These average folks get told things like, “stop the pity party,” or “you go to church to serve not be served.”

    I find those views given to someone who is hurting or who has been wounded by churches, who needs help him- or- her- self, rather cruel.

    It’s startling, frustrating, and painful to see a Christian knock you out of the way but step over your bleeding body to go give a cup of rice to an African orphan, so to speak.

  32. Nancy wrote:

    So cheer up. At least your pastor cannot get you locked up for psychiatric evaluation.

    No, but they may drive a few to need psychiatric counseling and I am not kidding! Thank you for sharing that story.

  33. @Nick – that is an amazing story!

    Today I was a little taken aback by a person I saw on public transportation who was loud and I didn’t know if it was a he or a she. Then for some reason I thought of Tony Campolo’s book “The Kingdom of God is a Party” and I thought, if Jesus were physically here, instead of being repulsed by this person, he might be drawn to them to heal what really ails them.

  34. Daisy wrote:

    Daisy wrote:
    There is very little compassion or effort made by Christians to help the Average Joe, middle class, divorced/ grieving/ unemployed ~(whatever tragedy they’re in)~ guy or gal in the pew.

    It’s startling, frustrating, and painful to see a Christian knock you out of the way but step over your bleeding body to go give a cup of rice to an African orphan, so to speak.

    Daisy, I was very ill for months, with a 50% chance of dying, so they told me. I begged people in my church to visit me. They said, “We’re too busy in the ministry to visit the sick.” They were organizing the Women’s Christmas Tea.

  35. For what it’s worth, I think he was right.

    I hope it was a decent single malt and none of that blended muck! Either way, yes, he was! I bet the church never had another widow or widower go home alone after that example!

  36. @ Heather: Bernard is more of a real ale man than a whisky man, so he wouldn’t have minded. I’ve a vague recollection, from when I heard the story, of the phrase “bottle of Glenfiddich”.

    Incidentally, one of the things Bernard was wont to say from the pulpit (from which he is now formally retired) is that a congregation is only as strong as its ability to care for its weakest member.

  37. Katie wrote:

    Daisy, I was very ill for months, with a 50% chance of dying, so they told me. I begged people in my church to visit me. They said, “We’re too busy in the ministry to visit the sick.” They were organizing the Women’s Christmas Tea.

    I am so, so sorry. :(

    I sadly cannot say that I am surprised, though.

    When I hit grief forums and began sharing my story a few years ago, I read of experiences similar to yours by other people, some who were Christian, whose Christian family and friends or church friends would not help them during their time of grief.

    I’ve also seen this attitude from church members against women in abusive marriages, and other types of trials, such as sicknesses and so on.

    But goodness forbid they cancel or delay the Annual Mom and Daughter Church Tea Party for someone who may be very ill! :roll:

    It’s this sort of thing that has really soured me on the Christian faith. I have a few reasons, but this is most definitely one.

    I hope you are doing better now.

  38. @ Katie:

    I wanted to add that I think my example is not 100% what you were talking about initially, upon reflection.

    I think you were discussing churches that are so heavily theologically- and intellectually- oriented that they slack off on helping people, but in my mind, my example is somewhat similar.

    There are some churches that emphasize teaching and doctrine over helping people, so that people don’t get their needs met.

    It’s just that I see that same thing with Christians and churches who play the part of carrying out a social gospel (by sending rice to Haitians, for example), but who tell the guy sitting next to them in the pew weekly that his problems – his recent divorce, or his son dying, or whatever his calamity- are really no big deal and brush him off with shame or platitudes (“Count your blessings! You come to church to serve not be served,” and other cliches).

  39. Daisy wrote:

    Daisy wrote:
    I am so, so sorry.
    I hope you are doing better now.

    Thanks, Daisy! My heart goes out to you and what you went through, as well. Yes, I’m much better now.

  40. Daisy wrote:

    @ Katie:
    I wanted to add that I think my example is not 100% what you were talking about initially, upon reflection.
    I think you were discussing churches that are so heavily theologically- and intellectually- oriented that they slack off on helping people, but in my mind, my example is somewhat similar.
    There are some churches that emphasize teaching and doctrine over helping people, so that people don’t get their needs met.
    It’s just that I see that same thing with Christians and churches who play the part of carrying out a social gospel (by sending rice to Haitians, for example), but who tell the guy sitting next to them in the pew weekly that his problems – his recent divorce, or his son dying, or whatever his calamity- are really no big deal and brush him off with shame or platitudes (“Count your blessings! You come to church to serve not be served,” and other cliches).

    I was referring more to churches thinking like a business, trying to make “ministry” efficient by removing horizontal type of ministries that are costly, messy, and may not show the kinds of results that are measurable, in lieu of the easier vertical type of “ministry”.

    In my case, I was attending a Calvary Chapel. The typical CC culture is not one of being intellectual or heavily theological. My impression of the culture can be described more like Jr. High or High School. There’s a peer pressure to conform, lingo to emulate, and an inner circle that people often strive to get into (which requires absolute loyalty, the CC look, and the CC lingo.) Chuck Smith determined the theology and exploring Scripture, asking questions about other views is strongly discouraged. They are not into social justice, just into being at church doing whatever the pastor wants. It’s all about being there and if you sick and not there, then you are out-of-mind. I think they miss the point.

  41. MacDonald took HBC from $10mil equity to $70mil debt in 10 years. He is an admitted gambler, who refuses to disclose his income. This is a case for the FBI.

  42. Daisy wrote:

    Katie wrote:
    Does anyone know if there is a new swing in these larger churches to move away from being “helpful” to our fellow man, in order to focus on only our relationship with God? Hopefully, this is not at all what is described in the book, nor a new emphasis in churches, since the horizontal relationships are where we work out what we gain from our vertical relationship.
    IMHO, this trend is already underfoot.
    I wrote on this blog many months before, that after I went through a death in the family a few years ago and needed a lot of emotional support from Christians, I instead got platitudes, criticism, unhelpful suggestions/advice (such as “volunteer in a soup kitchen! Think more about Jesus and less about you” etc).
    However, many of these same Christians who were unwilling to spend time with me as I wept my loss were very keen on raising funds to send bean and rice buckets to Haitian hurricane victims, to volunteer at homeless women shelters and cry for the homeless ladies they saw, and that sort of thing.
    I see it in many American Christian TV ministries, too, whose preachers/ churches seem more concerned with helping only types of hurting they deem appropriate, such as inner city impoverished, or orphans in India, etc.
    I do not take issue with any person or church wanting to help orphans, the inner city people, etc, only that helping them should not cancel out helping someone else going through another issue.
    There is very little compassion or effort made by Christians to help the Average Joe, middle class, divorced/ grieving/ unemployed ~(whatever tragedy they’re in)~ guy or gal in the pew.
    These average folks get told things like, “stop the pity party,” or “you go to church to serve not be served.”
    I find those views given to someone who is hurting or who has been wounded by churches, who needs help him- or- her- self, rather cruel.
    It’s startling, frustrating, and painful to see a Christian knock you out of the way but step over your bleeding body to go give a cup of rice to an African orphan, so to speak.

    This comment abounds with truth. This is something I have experienced more than once firsthand in a couple of different churches. I think it has permanently changed my ability to trust those in church leadership.

  43. Yvonne Trimble wrote:

    MacDonald took HBC from $10mil equity to $70mil debt in 10 years. He is an admitted gambler, who refuses to disclose his income. This is a case for the FBI.

    Now that takes some real talent to pull off increasing a debt that much! Yowzers! Why do we allow anyone to have control of finances like this? We ALL know better.

  44. “Beware, The Farting Elephant In The Ring, Er…Room?”

    (grin)

    “Apparently, grounds of questioning our pastor’s behavior are perceived as an attack on him and the church, rather than a loving concern for protecting him and the church.” ~ Dan Marquardt, former Elder,  Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC).

    hmmm…

    Again , the HBC 501C will more than likely  just circle da proverbial wagons, declare a disgruntled former elder. Poof! Explained away. More than likely, addition Elders, Poof!, will be caught in a proverbial underwear bind and just fad away. What da hay, Driscoll did it. Staying  clear of the rear end of the Elephant in the room, when it farts, might be very sound advice.  Better, when it wants to sit itself down. (Might be better to offer it more peanuts and tie a knot in it’s proverbial trunk.)

    -snicker-

    Give an individual enough proverbial rope?!?

    Screeeeeeeetch!

    It comes as no surprise that  Pastor James MacDonald controls the ‘means of production ‘ there at HBC. Like Mark Driscoll realized when certainly hard pressed, He (MacDonald) would be a fool now to let it (HBC) slip through his fingers…

    Pastor MacDonald’s ministry (from 1988) is said to have focus’d  on the ‘unapologetic proclamation’ of God’s Word? 

    What?

    Sweet home “Chicago”? Are the fields truly ripe for ‘harvest’?

    Hmmm…

    Holy – Sex, Drugs, n’ Rock n Roll, Wartburg?

    ya gonna havta do better than this.

    ….maybe Jesus will leave the ‘lights’ on.

    -snark-

    Yet…Keepin’ kind folk in darkness does not do ‘His’ church any dang good,  datz4sure.

    Go fi$h…

    (grin)

    S“㋡”py
    ___
    Notz:

    All Scripture is God-Breathed?

    huh?

    But you have fully known the Apostle Paul’s doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, patience,  persecutions, afflictions, (in bible times past…) which came to him at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; as to what persecutions he faithfully endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered him. 

    Screeeeeeeeetch!

    “Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer a new @zzhole.” ~ Sopy

    (grin)

     Remember, evil 50c professional ‘religious’ men and non-profit church seducers shall wax worse and worse, and worse, and worse (whew!) – deceiving, and being deceived. (takin’ da suckers for a ride) But continue you – in purity, the things in which you have learned, and  have been daily assured of, knowing of what scriptures you have learned them from; and also from dat grace filled beginning you have known the holy scriptures, which are certainly able to continually make you seriously wise towards your salvation through faith which is found only in Christ Jesus, Himself!

    ( n’ keep you from da proverbial ‘religio-rat-trap! )

    Yahoooooo!

    All other ground is stinkin’ sinkin’ sand?

    hmmm…

    Could b more costly…

    ;~)

  45. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t understand all the approval for the pastor who stayed with the widow and got drunk with her.

    Yes, it’s good that he checked on her after the funeral. But were there not other possibilities? Try to limit her drinking while not drinking himself? Arranged for his wife or another woman to come over also to lessen the appearance of possible impropriety? Canceled the prayer meeting rather than show up drunk? Honestly, how would you feel if your pastor did these things? At the least, he put himself in a situation fraught with temptation. A pastor can show compassion without compromising biblical standards, like doing all he can to remain above suspicion.

  46. Jeff (B) – I think you are missing at least a couple of things, yes.

    The trivial ones first. He did not show up drunk to the prayer meeting – I used the word “postponed” rather than “cancelled”, admittedly. As to how we would all variously feel if our pastor did these things, I think you’ve answered your own question in observing all the approval. And lastly, you’re obviously missing a lot of specific details about the people involved (the widow, the other church members who knew him well, the neighbours and anyone else who might have inferred impropriety) which I didn’t supply. So it would be slightly unfair to go over your alternative suggestions line by line, and in any case would be somewhat beside the point. I’m not entirely sure with what temptations you feel the situation was fraught – sexual ones? Not under the circumstances. This was not a thought experiment, remember, but something done by real people in real time, so a lot of hypothetical possibilities don’t actually apply.

    So, the important one. There is ultimately only one biblical standard, namely love. All others are merely tools that describe how it might look in one setting or another, but all of them are inadequate. You ask, “were there not other possibilities?”. It’s a perfectly fair question, and I don’t doubt that there were. That was the one which suggested itself to Bernard at the time, for many reasons. His uncrossable boundaries were not “how do I uphold biblical standards?” but “what would be the deepest demonstration of love here?”. That’s why I said, I think he’s right.

    When Jesus touched lepers, coffins or corpses, he violated biblical standards that were clear and explicit. In fact, the very concept of penal substitutionary atonement is a violation of biblical standards, because God insists repeatedly in the OT that one should not punish the innocent or acquit the guilty, nor punish A for what B did. But God so loved the world. Sooner or later, love must break the rules because a person matters more than they do.

  47. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    There may simply be some cultural differences in the way Bernard’s actions are perceived. Correct me if I’m wrong. It’s been 30 years since I lived in England, and I was young. But, it seemed that everyone we knew did drink at least a little on some occasion. Even the local pub in our village did not have the same atmosphere as a bar here in the U.S. It was more like a diner where one could pop in for a bite to eat. So, Bernard’s actions were not likely to be viewed by his neighbors the same as if it had been a Southern Baptist minister here in the U.S. It seemed that attitudes toward drinking were more relaxed in the U.K.

  48. @ Nick Bulbeck:

    Yes, I had no choice but to write about it in a generic sense because I didn’t know personal or cultural details. But, even in that sense, a pastor drinking alone with a recently-widowed woman seems to me an obvious thing to avoid, not that anything *has* to happen. And there is the matter of appearance. But, of course, FWIW, I’ll take your word for it that what he did was right.

    I was reacting as much to the responses as to your comment. It surprised me that there wasn’t the slightest bit of concern about the situation.

  49. JeffB wrote:

    A pastor can show compassion without compromising biblical standards, like doing all he can to remain above suspicion.

    I guess I am not a big supporter of “conduct your behavior so as to remain above suspicion” because it has unintended consequences that can harm people.

    As an older single woman, there’s a lot of damage done due to that… there’s the assumption that older singles women (even church going, Jesus loving, celibate Christian women) are Jezebels out to tempt and sleep with all married Christian men, so the husbands and wives won’t let an unmarried woman so much as say “hello” to a guy who happens to get married.

    Then you have your Christian teachings that buy into secular concepts of the genders, that all men supposedly are 5ex fiends, all single women are loose morally, so you can’t so much as have an unmarried woman share a car ride with a man, because some people “might get the wrong idea.”

    As a result, the genders are suspicious of one another, and it makes getting married, particularly for Christians, ten times harder.

    Jesus used to hang out alone with single women (eg woman at the well who had married five times) and didn’t give a whit if people raised an eye brow over it. Ministering to them, talking to them, meeting their needs was more important to him than maintaining a pure rep.

  50. Daisy wrote:

    I guess I am not a big supporter of “conduct your behavior so as to remain above suspicion” because it has unintended consequences that can harm people.

    As an older single woman, there’s a lot of damage done due to that… there’s the assumption that older singles women (even church going, Jesus loving, celibate Christian women) are Jezebels out to tempt and sleep with all married Christian men, so the husbands and wives won’t let an unmarried woman so much as say “hello” to a guy who happens to get married.

    I agree with you, Daisy. People use “above suspicion” to alleviate their need to be kind to single women, divorcees, and widows. Suspicious wives allow their insecurities to over-rule the commands of Jesus and Paul on how to treat people. Consequently honorable single women are treated in the same insulting “unclean” manner as the injured man in the Good Samaritan story.

  51. JeffB wrote:

    But, even in that sense, a pastor drinking alone with a recently-widowed woman seems to me an obvious thing to avoid, not that anything *has* to happen

    So, the assumption is that if each person of the opposite gender is left alone, it will end in 5ex?

    This is the kind of thing that contributes to prolonged singleness among Christian adults, the idea that a man and a woman can’t be friends, can’t meet alone for coffee, a chat, or a drink of whiskey, because it will end up in 5ex.

    There are 5exual predators out there, including clergy who prey on vulnerable women, so I am not suggesting that every one turn off their critical faculties, but it also bothers me that the genders are supposed to remain absolutely segregated, due to this idea that neither one can control 5exual urges.

    I also have to say that I’m not “turned on” by most men I meet, single or married.

    There seems to be a lot of males, and married women, who assume all single women find all other people (married and single) attractive and having 5ex must be in the back of their minds, when I dare say a lot of singles probably are not 5exualizing all relationships, or not viewing all people they meet as potential conquests.

  52. Janey wrote:

    I agree with you, Daisy. People use “above suspicion” to alleviate their need to be kind to single women, divorcees, and widows. Suspicious wives allow their insecurities to over-rule the commands of Jesus and Paul on how to treat people. Consequently honorable single women are treated in the same insulting “unclean” manner as the injured man in the Good Samaritan story.

    I agree. I’ve not only been on the receiving end of it but have seen that same attitude online, and I’ve spoken with some single ladies who shared their experiences with it.

    I find it even more of an affront since my views about 5ex are pretty old fashioned – you’re talking to someone who is still a virgin in her 40s, because she feels the Bible says it’s for marriage only – so do you really think a woman like me is going to hop in bed with some married guy? If anything, I’d slap his face if one made a pass at me.

    Your comments also remind me of a similar thing I saw online; here it is:

    The current focus on the family continually misses this crucial point. The most sacrosanct reason that can now be given for turning down a position of service in the church is that “It would take away time I need to give to my family.” Say that, and the discussion is over, the question is laid to rest, and mouths are shut.
    from, http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/1981/fall/81l4043.html?start=1

    When Christians become cocooned in their marriage or nuclear families, they stop caring about people outside their marriage/family.

    Some of us don’t have marriages of our own or families, or not much of a family (I have a few family members, but some are estranged, and I can’t get along with others because they have anger problems).

    Those of us who aren’t married or who do not have a family or family members would appreciate being included over by your family for a movie on the weekends, or a holiday dinner. But we’re shoved aside or treated with suspicion by a lot of Christian married people/families.

  53. @ Daisy:

    Oh, I didn’t put an end “blockquote” tag in there, sorry!

    My comments below the quote start at, “When Christians become cocooned in their marriage or nuclear families, they stop caring about people outside their marriage/family.”

    The part I was quoting starts as “the current….” and ends at “…the question is laid to rest, and mouths are shut.” The stuff prior to that were my words.

  54. @ Daisy:

    An even better, more pertinent quote by that guy (Ben Patterson)was this:

    The truth of the matter is that the family has become a convenient excuse for turning our backs on other people.

    We want to be left alone to cultivate our own little patch of ground, and we baptize that desire by appealing to an alleged God-ordained set of priorities.

    There is nothing distinctly Christian about a strong family. Buddhists have them, secular humanists have them, and, I presume, even the Mafia has them.

  55. JeffB wrote:

    But, of course, FWIW, I’ll take your word for it that what he did was right.
    I was reacting as much to the responses as to your comment. It surprised me that there wasn’t the slightest bit of concern about the situation.

    Jeff – thankyou for your gracious confidence, and your gracious reply more generally. In my opinion he was right, but your input is strongly pertinent. When a matter is open to debate like that, it is no bad thing to have a dissenting voice, and no easy thing to be that voice if nobody else is. I appreciate your willingness to be it.

  56. Yesterday, Pastor Greg Laurie (of Harvest Crusade fame) posted a photo with James MacDonald on his Facebook page.

    To make sure I stay out of moderation, I won’t post the link, but the photo is on his Harvest.GregLaurie page.

    He will probably delete your comment, but it might be worth trying anyway.

    Also Twitter: @GregLaurie @JamesMacDonald

  57. Greg Laurie deleted my Facebook comment and blocked me when I complained that he is keeping friends with James MacDonald, the pastor with a secret salary and massive debt who is seeing a mass exodus of his elders and members. http://www.elephantsdebt.com

    Greg Laurie is not getting another donation from me.

  58. Nick – Thank you for your comment.

    Daisy and Janey – As a single, I understand what you’re talking about, and I agree that people can go to ridiculous lengths to try to keep men and women separate because they think sex is inevitable. First of all, when I wrote “above suspicion,” I was thinking only of pastors, because I think that they do have a higher standard to maintain. It’s why Billy Graham would never meet alone with a woman.

    Let’s look at the situation in a generic sense, because I believe what Nick says about it in this particular case. 1) A pastor and a woman spend hours together getting drunk. (I know his motivation is honorable, but this is a plain fact.) 2) The woman is miserable because she has recently lost her husband. Is it unreasonable to think that she may be needy in a way that she otherwise is not? (BTW, if the sexes were reversed, I’d feel the same way.)

    Given this special situation, I don’t think my suggestions are unreasonable.

  59. @ JeffB:

    You said,
    “) The woman is miserable because she has recently lost her husband. Is it unreasonable to think that she may be needy in a way that she otherwise is not? ”

    Why assume her grief will lead her to want to bed the preacher? Is that a reason for every preacher to stay away from every mourning woman?

    You said,
    “I was thinking only of pastors, because I think that they do have a higher standard to maintain. It’s why Billy Graham would never meet alone with a woman.”

    I am aware of Billy Graham’s standard. In my younger days, I though how honorable of him. Once you are my age though, you realize the problems it created.

    Preachers should not have a policy of “never meet alone with a woman, married or single, so as to avoid the appearance of wrong doing.”

    Please get a copy of the book “Quitting Church” by author Julia Duin where she discusses this topic.

    Women who have problems go to a preacher, but he rebuffs them by saying “sorry, it might look suspicious to others for me to meet with you” Thus preachers shirk their duties or acts of kindness to women who may need their help, support or counsel.

    Meanwhile, these same preachers have no qualms about meeting alone with single or married men.

    An entire gender is being discriminated against due to the preacher guy being too concerned every one will suspect him of getting it on with some woman.

    It’s also just very insulting to women. I’m a goody goody, a virgin at age 40+ – to suggest I might want to hop in bed with a married man (or any man) is insulting to me.

    To assume if the preacher made a pass at me that I’d naturally go along with it because I am a bimbo, or no self control, or no standards = insulting. I’d shoot him down in a heartbeat.

  60. Daisy wrote:

    I am aware of Billy Graham’s standard. In my younger days, I though how honorable of him. Once you are my age though, you realize the problems it created.
    Preachers should not have a policy of “never meet alone with a woman, married or single, so as to avoid the appearance of wrong doing.”

    Hmm… I know what you mean, but (at risk of flying off on a tangent here) I think Billy Graham is the exception that proves the rule. He has never held pastoral responsibility among a specific group of believers, i.e. he is a preacher, not a pastor. Moreover, he was the head of a large and high-profile organisation in an era when political bigwigs were well-known to go to extraordinary criminal and/or otherwise dishonest lengths to smear their opponents. (For instance “planting” prostitutes and photographers in hotel rooms.) Thus, he even had to avoid presenting anyone with the chance to manufacture evidence against him.

    But a typical local minister does have pastoral responsibilities, and is not the public face of a large organisation. I do think Jeff has a point, though; and it will always be possible for a congregation and pastoral team to discuss and agree locally appropriate policies in this area that are both wise and compassionate. The Holy Spirit is always available to help, of course; he’s not as stupid as some people think, at least here in the UK.

  61. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    I think Billy Graham is the exception that proves the rule. He has never held pastoral responsibility among a specific group of believers, i.e. he is a preacher, not a pastor. Moreover, he was the head of a large and high-profile organisation in an era when political bigwigs were well-known to go to extraordinary criminal and/or otherwise dishonest lengths to smear their opponents.

    I agree with Nick. Graham was a celebrity, not the average pastor. He had to take precautions around the paparazzi of his day who were actively plotting to humiliate him. But any normal pastor who does that is much too egotistical.

    I tested my new pastor the same week I switched churches. I asked him to meet me for lunch. He did. He passed.

  62. Daisy – I wrote: “(BTW, if the sexes were reversed, I’d feel the same way.)” I’m saying that, for both sexes, alcohol often breaks down inhibitions. Add to that the loneliness of losing a spouse. No, it doesn’t mean that it’s inevitable that it will lead to some sort of sexual activity. But I think one would have to be naive to think that these two factors have no effect at all as far as temptation is concerned.

    Janey – I think it’s unfortunate that your motivation was to test the new pastor. But, if you were to have lunch at a public place, and he passed because you are a woman, I think he was wrong.

    Nick – “The Holy Spirit is always available to help, of course; he’s not as stupid as some people think, at least here in the UK.” Funny. And, unfortunately, true.

  63. JeffB wrote:

    Janey – I think it’s unfortunate that your motivation was to test the new pastor. But, if you were to have lunch at a public place, and he passed because you are a woman, I think he was wrong.

    JeffB — Don’t put words into my mouth.

    I wanted to talk with him about a number of issues, all of which he answered well. The fact that he was willing to have lunch with a woman was just one of many indicators.

  64. Janey – Sorry. When you wrote “He did. He passed,” I thought you meant that he agreed to have lunch with you, then passed on it. Admittedly a dumb interpretation.

  65. @ Josh:
    Having seen a Harvest move into our area, it was clearly evident that they operate unethically. They planted their new harvest in the same small village that was home to a church that supported WITW for years. This type of practice is frowned on even by worldly standards. They even had the nerve to send people to other churches to see who the key people were, then recruited them. Frankenstein is a fictional monster made from dissected body parts. Harvest churches are the same, made up of the members from other churches. You cannot build on a poor foundation.

  66. I am frustrated about how satan uses even the Christians to slander his enemies. The only thing you have accused James about are judgment calls (he sat with Jakes to discuss their difference), not disclosing salary, tattoo, and oh behavior problems. Nothing doctrinal aside from taking James’ preaching out of context in some short video clips. Really? If my life was publicized, including my thoughts, then I would be called a whore in those regards, ON A DAILY BASIS. Some elder didn’t have it his way compared to majority so he left the church, and has been spreading poison since then. DO NOT CALL IT TRUTH UNLESS YOU HAVE INTERVIEWED ALL PARTIES ALONG WITH A PANEL OF REPUTABLE BELIEVERS. You all sit in the comfort of your homes while Harvest plants 100 churches, bring 1000s of believers to the cross of repentance, and worship their hearts out. May the Lord judge between you and James, and me as these words are spoken by all of us and are accountable for.

  67. Dan Marquardt’s email ended with: “As Elders we requested a line-item budget and that request was denied.” This is huge! The mere fact that the elders had to request a line-item budget and that it was not simply presented to them as a matter of course is a major flashing red light that something was very, very, VERY wrong!

  68. Ron Henzel wrote:

    As Elders we requested a line-item budget and that request was denied.” This is huge!

    This has become the modus operandi of a number of churches in which the pastor has become quite well to do. Why is that? Could it be that the little people wouldn’t be able to understand the monetary needs of the “famous and important?” Three to one odds on that :)

  69. Niaz wrote:

    I am frustrated about how satan uses even the Christians to slander his enemies.

    And I am frustrated by how ‘satan’ uses the blind followers of greedy ‘ministers’ to enable him to hide the truth. There has been ample evidence to suspect that James MacDonald has been squandering money given to the church and borrowed by the church. Yet MacDonald refuses to pony up the details of the church’s spending to let his congregation know where the money is going.

    DO NOT DISREGARD WARNING SIGNS UNLESS YOU HAVE INTERVIEWED ALL PARTIES ALONG WITH A PANEL OF REPUTABLE BELIEVERS (IN CHRIST, THAT IS).