The Elephant’s Debt Roars. Are James MacDonald and HBC Deaf?

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still”
Lao Tzu link

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TWW thanks the good folks over at The Elephant's Debt (TED )for allowing us to extensively reprint from their informative website. Today we will review the history and outline the escalating problems at Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC). On Wednesday, we will do an indepth analysis of a troubling "grade-school pageant" video in which 4 elders trash the opposition. Can we say "Teleprompter, baby?"

TWW has been following the financial and spiritual brouhaha surrounding Pastor James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel over the past year. There have been a number of valid concerns that have been raised about the ministry of MacDonald and Harvest Bible Church. For the purposes of the TWW posts this week, we want to focus on what appears to be the extreme nature of the monetary problems at HBC as well as the seeming devotion to an authoritarian pastor and elder board.

In our view, things are going downhill rapidly. Former elders are being excommunicated, disciplined and shunned while former HBC church leaders are speaking out to corroborate and defend their testimony.

Here is a brief recap.

Ryan Mahoney and Scott Bryant left Harvest Bible Chapel in 2010 and, after a period of time, decided to discuss the problems at the church via The Elephant's Debt. You can read a summary of the history at James MacDonald/Harvest Bible Chapel-Examining the Elephant in the Room.

Harvest Bible Church reportedly acquired an enormous debt.

By the close of 2010, Harvest’s balance sheet revealed that the church, while under the pastoral leadership of James MacDonald, had amassed approximately $65 million of debt.  While this number in and of itself is shocking, what makes it worse is that HBC leadership told the people in a letter that they were “not going to put our church in a bad position financially.”  Moreover, as will be demonstrated later, this debt load far exceeds what churches of similar size are known to carry.

James MacDonald reportedly received a huge salary and has an expensive house.

"In 2009, Pastor James MacDonald received over $500,000 in monetary compensation from Harvest Bible Chapel and Walk in the Word.  This does not include any monies received from Harvest through his access to a staggeringly large personal expense account. It also does not include any possible, additional income he may have derived from other sources including: preaching fees, outside speaking fees, Churches Helping Churches, Harvest Bible Fellowship, book royalties, advances on book sales, 403B employer contributions, health benefits, or any other potential sources of income.

In October 2005, Pastor James MacDonald purchased a home in Inverness, Illinois for $1.9 million…"

Humorous interjection in the narrative: The sliding scale tithe

I am working on a new idea called the sliding scale tithe. Here are my preliminary thoughts. For those of you who believe in a tithe, you should reduce the percentage of giving as the cost of your pastor's home rises. So, for example, if your pastor owns a $1.9 million home, give zippo. In fact, the pastor should give a percentage of his money to help you pay your mortgage if you live in a less than $1 million house. Input appreciated. 

Reportedly, as the debt began to climb, so did pastoral authority and power, which resulted in elder board conflicts. 

By 2007, as a direct result of the unprecedented debt that had been accumulated under the leadership of James MacDonald, there were significant and routine conflicts occurring between MacDonald and the elder board.  These meetings culminated in a particularly tumultuous confrontation which reportedly functioned as an ultimatum by the elders on MacDonald’s leadership.  At the climax of this meeting, the Senior Pastor of HBC reportedly said something to the effect of:

“If you want to remove me, you’re going to have to sue me to get me out of here.  And gentlemen, I have two things you don’t have: control of the pulpit and the control of the money.  So good luck.” (Ed.-At least he didn't say God bless.)

The sheriff (head of elder board) and the boys rode out of town.

Here is a list of elders and church staff who decided that things were changing for the worse and it was time to get out of Dodge. In June 2013, three elders resigned from HBC and released statements. You can read about this here.

When a number of elders leave and publicly speak, it usually means that things are going very, very badly.

On a number of occasions, TWW has written that we have little confidence in the elder selection process, no matter the church polity. We believe that, in many churches, elders are selected for their single minded devotion to the pastor and his authority. These elders are usually big contributors of money to the church and have social stature within the community (doctors, lawyers, etc.) We know of one elder who makes sure his pastor gets to fly in private jets. If we are wrong, why are there rarely any people in blue collar jobs found on the elder boards at big churches? These men are not selected to function as checks and balances but as the "mouthpieces" for the pastor.

  • Example: A pastor told Dee  that his elders had only disagree with him twice in 28 years and that they were there to implement his vision.
  • Example: A deacon board (soon to be converted to elder board) disagreed with the pastor on a number of issues. One deacon defended the pastor, saying that the deacons existed to implement the pastor's mandates and visions. The deacon board was disbanded, new elders appointed and the one deacon who defended the pastor got a cushy job in the church which pays him, and his boss, a pretty impressive salary.

As you will see on Wednesday's video, HBC is into elder authority which is given to them by God. Therefore, when such elders leave, and begin to talk about "private" matters, you can be pretty darn sure that the problem is significant.

We now deal with what has happened in the past week or so.

Things are happening on a daily basis and by the time this is posted, more may have happened. We will post further developments on Wednesday.

Harvest Bible Church decides to "excommunicate" and shun two elders link.

Boy, oh boy, are some churches and elder boards really dumb. Instead of letting the elders go and ignoring their talk, the church decided to excommunicate two of them. Do these guys have anyone on the board to protect them from themselves? This action only gives credence that TED is onto something big. 

To make matters worse, the current elder board made a harebrained video which should disqualify them from not only from serving as elders, but from serving coffee on Sunday. I will have great fun with the video on Wednesday. Hint: The ever damning "Satan" word is linked to the dissenters, assuring us of "Christian" codswallop and good laughs to be had by all. For all the money they spend, you would think they could get a script writer.

The bottom line

Near the end of the video, the congregation is informed that Phelps and Slabuagh are no longer allowed to worship at HBC until they publicly repent.  Furthermore, the congregation is strongly advised to avoid any and all contact with these two men until such time as they might turn from their “sin.”

Even worse, eight former elders, including a former chairman of the elder board, have written a letter of concern.

Concern? That's like saying the iceberg incident involving the Titanic was "concerning."

In addition to making the brief public statement above in support for our friend, we also felt it necessary to send a private letter to the elders.   Eight of us former elders, including the former chairman of the board, drafted a strong private letter of concern to the elders.  We want to emphasize that this was a private letter sent only to the elders.  The existence of this letter has only become known because the elders announced it to the church during the weekend worship services.   This letter was never intended to be made known.

On the weekend of September 14th & 15th, we were publicly rebuked by name, in all services on all seven campuses.  This rebuke was then posted on the Harvest website.

Paranoia appears to be spiraling out of control at Harvest Bible Chapel.

Advice to budding authoritarian pastor types. Do not tell someone to get out of your church service if it is open to all and you have nothing to hide. Incidents like this send a clear message that something is going wrong.

Scott Bryant is one of the two editors of the Elephant's Debt.

Finally, we wish to inform you that Scott Bryant attended Harvest Bible Chapel – Crystal Lake on the morning of 15 September 2013.  He was a quiet participant through the service; and had attended solely for the purpose of confirming the Phelps/Slabaugh discipline statement first hand so that The Elephant’s Debt did not inaccurately portray what had been said via video. 

After the service, Greg Bradshaw, Campus Pastor of Crystal Lake, confronted this author in the lobby of the church.  After chastising this author for failing to bring his Bible to church, Mr. Bradshaw informed this author that he was not welcome to attend services at Harvest until such time that he would publicly repent of his “gross, sinful behavior.”  This is the first time that this author has been informed that he is not allowed to attend the church; and thus, it should be noted publicly that he was not acting in violation of previous church mandates.  In point of fact, no leader of Harvest has ever contacted either author of TED following its publication in October 2012.

I guess that, If you are a "real" Christian, you carry around a huge Bible, autographed by your idol, with which to beat up your opponent. If it is on your smart phone, you are wussy, suspicious Christian. My husband takes sermon notes on his IPhone in Evernote. I shall alert him, forthwith. 

Events continue to unfold rapidly.

A fourth elder, Russ Barney, who recently resigned, issues a statement defending The Elephant's Debt and those elders who resigned link.

First, I am another ‘former elder’ of HBC. My wife and I left in 2011.  We did not leave under pleasant circumstances,  and found that we were ostracized following our departure.  Barry was the only one to contact us afterwards, which is the reason I am writing in his support now.

We all need to be in prayer for the gentlemen who have resigned because their consciences would not allow them to remain on a puppet elder board.  Please be praying for their families as well, as they will also be targets of this uncalled for retribution.

Scott, Barry, and Dan are men of integrity, as are the others mentioned in “the Void.”  Can anyone who has known those who have left honestly doubt that there is a major problem at Harvest? It is heartbreaking for those of us who have invested time, prayer, love, and money to help Harvest grow to see the vindictiveness presented in the video. (Link removed)

My wife and I both applaud Scott Bryant and Ryan Mahoney in their attempts to bring the truth forward, and to strongly defend the above elders.

Dave Corning, the former 20 year HBC Chairman of the Board of elders, speaks link.

Dave left quietly a couple of years ago. He is now irritated at HBC and rises to the occasion. His concerns involve James MacDonald's apparent control and authority issues. You can be sure that when you lose a guy like this, the dark clouds are gathering. It appears that MacDonald does not think highly of his elders. Is he getting a bit too big for his britches?

Nearly two years before leaving Harvest, in February 2009, I met with James and told him that I had lost confidence in him and his leadership and that I didn’t want to work with him anymore. Immediately after, he began a concerted effort to weaken the elder board. He used degrading statements such as “You guys are useless; I do my best to make you feel like elders”. Solid leaders left the board.

…In that last meeting, James and I agreed that our differences would remain between us. However, Betsy and I would soon discover that he had set upon a deliberate course to discredit us. What was between James and I, and was to remain as such, became a series of ever-expanding concentric circles of James’ influence of others against us – pastors, staff, flock leaders, friends, even Fellowship churches and leaders of ministries outside of Harvest. James has enlisted the aid of staff, including pastors and elders to slander us, calling us deceptive if we haven’t spoken, or divisive if they believe we have. This lie has been spread not only about us, but about many godly people. Apparently simply to leave Harvest is viewed as “betrayal”.

…We stand behind Scott Phelps, Barry Slabaugh, Dan Marquardt and others who have asked simple questions that elders are required to ask and to be given full and satisfactory answers. The church discipline being done is just wrong. People should not be disciplined over the Internet and they should not be disciplined for something the elders are assuming they will do. In fact, church discipline in no way applies to these men. These actions are the result of James’ continuing pattern of using and abusing people.

Rod Van Solkema, former HBC pastor, issues a formal statement in support of David Corning link.

 In a show of support for David Corning, Mr. Van Solkema had the following to say:

Dave, Thank you for speaking the truth about James and HBC. This needed to be said, and there is no better to say it than you. Even more than that, I want to thank you for being my elder. You were always one of the few in the inner circle at HBC that I could trust. Because, anyone who has ever been on staff at HBC knows the dissonance caused by what’s seen on a Sunday and what goes on behind closed doors the rest of the week. Your humility, integrity, and godliness always brought comfort to my angst. You were always a light shining in the darkness, pointing me to the true essence of Christ and His Kingdom. 

Finally (well, at least through 9/21) Matt Till, former Director of Productions Ministries at HBC Elgin, speaks out for the first time link.

The tree of Harvest Bible Chapel is deceptive, luring in innocent children of God, full of hope and promise to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in full devotion. However, once inside and under its shade, your full sense of reasoning becomes distorted and twisted, no longer serving Christ, but Harvest, James MacDonald and its leadership.

The factual and well supported testimonies laid forth on The Elephant’s Debt against your leadership are of great proportion. I pray that you will have ears to hear and the courage to speak out.

OK, they've convinced me that there is a real problem at HBC and with James MacDonald. On Wednesday, I'll roll out the boys from the current elder board for their perspective. (Word to the wise: never use video unless you want it to play over and over again in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, etc.) I will also include some information from Gene Getz who supports the HBC ministry. Both the video and the letter only served to convince me that the editors of The Elephant's Debt are providing a vital service in exposing what appears to be serious mess. The concerns must be addressed by the church.

Perhaps it is time for the sheep to speak up?

Lydia's Corner: Nehemiah 11:1-12:26 1 Corinthians 10:14-33 Psalm 34:11-22 Proverbs 21:14-16

Comments

The Elephant’s Debt Roars. Are James MacDonald and HBC Deaf? — 151 Comments

  1. When you are in a church like this, you need to realize you’ve got NO power. If wonderful godly elders could not change the pastor’s direction, what makes you think you can? It’s best to find a new church. Yes, it will feel awkward for 3-6 months, but you will soon find kindred spirits and a loving community of believers.

  2. Part of MacDonald’s *problem*, from my limited perusal, appears to be elders who aren’t paid, professional pastors. So while they’re there, they sound and look less polished and less likely to *speak for God*. And when they leave, he can’t coerce them with non-disclosure agreements or career-wrecking. His buddy in Seattle (MD) has fewer such worries since 2007. How many top MH leaders have quietly moved elsewhere since then? Of course, this won’t safeguard MH from following HBC into debt, as they relentlessly pursue expansion.

  3. cm wrote:

    You do know that Getz is on the HBC payroll.

    I did not. Could you please tell me why he is on the payroll and how you know this to be true?

  4. The four stooges in that video made me want to vomit. There was more crap there than a municipal waste water treatment plant.

  5. I nominate James MacDonald to be the replacement for C.J. Mahaney at the Together 4 the Go$pel conference!

  6. We can talk about the multiple issues here, but bottom line, MacDonald has an addiction to spending money, and this has caused HBC to rack up an enormous, almost unfathomable debt. To put it in perspective, if that debt were invested in the Franklin Templeton International Growth Fund, it would have generated $6.76 MILLION dollars in the first six months of the year alone. This kind of spending addiction is a serious psychological disease, similar to gambling addictions, and MacDonald should seek professional help.

  7. TedS. wrote:

    According to the auditors report, they are not helping churches anymore. So was it a flash-in-the-pan mega-publicity stunt hatched by Mssrs. MacDonald and Driscoll?

    Now this is interesting. Great pickup. Want a job at TWW? I will read today and maybe add that to Wednesday’s post.

  8. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist wrote:

    if that debt were invested in the Franklin Templeton International Growth Fund, it would have generated $6.76 MILLION dollars in the first six months of the year alone. This kind of spending addiction is a serious psychological disease, similar to gambling addictions, and MacDonald should seek professional help.

    You and Ted are on a roll! This is an excellent point. I wish I had thought of it.

  9. Anonymous wrote:

    How do people attend churches where stuff like this goes on?
    Life is way too short!

    I think I can answer that one, having had a similar experience at a somewhat smaller, but similarly ambitious, church in Scotland. The answer lies in this quote from Matt Till’s post:

    Like you, I was once drawn to a seemingly Godly tree that was growing, flourishing and beautiful to the sight. The unfortunate reality about this tree is that you would never know that the fruit is bad and poisonous to the soul from just the looks of it…. The tree… is deceptive, luring in innocent children of God, full of hope and promise to serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in full devotion. However, once inside and under its shade, your full sense of reasoning becomes distorted and twisted, no longer serving Christ…

    Lesley and I (who met when I joined the church, she having been there for a year) have both always been all-or-nothing people. Thus, we were a) never going to be content with the gentle, padded safety-Christianity on offer in most settings here in the UK, and b) ready and willing to commit ourselves to something with a declared intention to expect great things from God.

    In other words, we helped build a church like that precisely because life is too short to waste. I met a pastor from southern Africa a few months ago who commented that the only Christians he has no way of helping are those who are just twiddling their thumbs waiting for Jesus to come back, and – as he put it – “inventing ways of ministering to ourselves while we’re waiting”.

    Businesses like HBC depend on the sacrificial commitment of a core of serving members. Obviously, they also depend for their wealth on a critical mass of followers attracted to success which, in turn, attracts more followers, and so on. (For those interested in the physics, I think it’s a bit like the gravitational collapse of a stellar nebula or, eventually, a high-mass stellar core – for those not interested in the physics, please just ignore this sentence!) There’s more that can be said on how this process works, but I’m trying to keep this short!

  10. ” Furthermore, the congregation is strongly advised to avoid any and all contact with these two men……. ”

    To paraphrase her Ladyship, the Dowager Duchess Grantham:

    “Do they promise”?

  11. @ Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist:

    Addition: an addiction to spending “OTHER” people’s money.

    I will never understand why folks continue to support churches where they cannot see a budget and vote on it. You don’t have to check your brains at the door to be in the Body.

  12. @ Nick Bulbeck:

    Nick, I will go a step further because I totally get where you are coming from and was the same way as you guys. Over here, the big thing is “evangelism”. I am not saying anything is wrong with that but it has become a business here. The “evangelizing” is about growing “church” and garnering followers for the leaders.

    What are we missing? Living out the kingdom now on earth. It is strange but when you begin to focus on that, often you are accused of works salvation. As if seeking the help the poor single mom is works salvation. Many pastors talk a good game on this but are very worried that money won’t come into their coffers if we are busy living out the kingdom now. They want to micromanage that and convince you that filling up the church is first priority.

  13. Anon 1 wrote:

    To paraphrase her Ladyship, the Dowager Duchess Grantham:
    “Do they promise”?

    I believe that this will be the funniest comment of the day!

  14. My name is listed, because this is the truth. There are so many layers to this story, this will take awhile to unfold in its many paths (think spaghetti). In 2005 while reviewing the blogging about James’ $1.9 million home purchase, in an old cache file we found HBC’s first attempt at getting a multi-million dollar bond. Knowing that James doesn’t take a “NO!” very well, we looked for more on the internet. By God’s grace and mercy we found significantly more. We went the full route of Matt 18 and eventually met with James over: (1)staff abuse, (2)his home and lavish lifestyle and (3)the “very, very secret” debt over $60 million. Contrary to what James told the congregation that June Sat night, we did not reconcile with him. We left in 2006, and have been waiting for God to reveal the truth. It appears the time is now. Thank-you TWW for picking up the story, and for all those with the courage and integrity to tell it.

    BTW, the home was mortgaged Oct 2005, at 1.4 million as a 15 year loan ending 2025, so you do the math on what his 3 year salary would be to qualify for that kind of bank financing in 2005.

  15. Anon 1 wrote:

    Many pastors talk a good game on this but are very worried that money won’t come into their coffers if we are busy living out the kingdom now. They want to micromanage that and convince you that filling up the church is first priority.

    My former pastor used to say “Man’s greatest need is for salvation”. This meant it was OK to ignore other types of needs and focus on ‘building the Kingdom”. (Pastor’s Ministry)

  16. Participant Observer wrote:

    It is Harvest Bible Chapel, not Harvest Bible Church.

    My brain knows that but my fingers automatically type “Church” due to my long time association with Bible Churches. I think I am getting old, rapidly. Thank you for your kind correction.

  17. @ Deb Richardson:
    Thank you for adding to the discussion. Do you know anything about the gambling woes of MacDonald? I know he supposedly repented but has the behavior stopped? That one worried me. Gambling can be a compulsive behavior with serious consequences.

  18. @ dee:

    No problem! There are so many variations on the Harvest name that I thought I should throw it out there to you all 🙂

  19. I do not think the object of pastors should be to become rich. The tithes to the Temple were part of a different historical period and context and, arguably, a different religious system. In the New Testament, it appears that giving went to the Apostles, who distributed to all according to their need. If a pastor sincerely thinks he needs to be rich while others do not, I would like to hear his or her justification for that position. I think you are right to say that, according to the New Testament, a wealthy pastor would be one to contribute the church’s benevolence efforts amongst those in the congregation and the community. In the case of Harvest, it appears that lower middle class people are sacrificing while the pastor is not. In fact, he even seems to be benefiting from their sacrifice, which is wrong. From what I know, Harvest is not very active in compassion and justice ministries. It’s main concern is planting more (Harvest) churches.

  20. Dee, it would be difficult to know. In the past, he’s had comments of a gambling set-up in his basement end up in others Facebook comments. He has friends inside and outside of HBC that gamble with him or his son. He also travels extensively and many cities have casinos. You’re right it would be a hard habit to break, especially since he views poker as a sport, not as gambling. He repented and that’s all that can be said.

    anddee wrote:

    @ Deb Richardson:
    Thank you for adding to the discussion. Do you know anything about the gambling woes of MacDonald? I know he supposedly repented but has the behavior stopped? That one worried me. Gambling can be a compulsive behavior with serious consequences.

  21. Watching the video from the church gave me a sense of deja vu. I’ve seen this same mindset in other cases. It’s a closed system. If you disagree with them, you become a member who lacks good standing and therefore have no say or credibility in their closed system. If you want to be in good standing, you have to agree with them, or at least fake it and not make waves. So there’s no way for a dissenting voice to survive or gain any credibility within the system, no matter how valid.

    I have a family member who employed this same system on a personal level to justify some horrid decisions and actions. I received exactly the same kind of accusations as those in the HBC video when I objected.

    Lots of red flags here, not the least of which is the fact that in these situations those circling the wagons never want to discuss the details of anything in question. No transparency when it comes to financial dealings or other decisions. No accountability. No openness. No admission that they too are human and sinners.

    I’ve learned to run, do not walk, away from these kind of people. They are not safe.

  22. @ anonymous: I am deeply concerned about this behavior. It is a “mea culpa” minus the “culpa.” I did something and feel really bad especially because you all know about it. Worrisome.

  23. @ Deb Richardson: Here is my concern. I have no problem with some good old boys playing an occasional poker game. I don’t want to get legalistic. But, when people in your life pick up on your gambling and begin to discuss it, you could have a problem. The same goes for an alcoholic. I have an occasional glass of wine. However, I know some folks that tend to drink a whole lot more and in such a way that it causes conversation. That probably means those people have a drinking problem.

    If you add a past concern on gambling onto the other issues, one might begin to see a pattern of behavior in the HBC debacle. Let me get you all going with this article from the NIH on the association between gambling and personality disorders.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2593739/

  24. @ anonymous:

    “Here’s more:

    http://player.vimeo.com/video/41102661?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&autoplay=1
    ++++++++++++++++++

    watched a few minutes of this. almost everyone in the background is furiously taking notes. on what?? (strikes me as automaton behavior)

    I was also struck with what seems like an idiom in the words “your pastor”…”my pastor”…. like, it’s something so basic & essential — as in “your toothbrush”, “your car”, “your mother”, “your father”, “your job”, “your doctor”. Something or someone that is such a basic necessity for living that everyone simply has one, and really can’t do without.

    When did all this attached meaning start? Do people really think this? Or is it pastors who think this, & everyone goes along with it, because it’s not concerning enough to make a fuss over?

    well, it’s kind of squirm-making, & faintly nauseating.

    In all honesty, I’ve never met a pastor who isn’t all that different from me. I simply haven’t heard anything on a Sunday that I didn’t already know with quite a bit of depth of understanding myself. I haven’t observed a pastor doing anything I didn’t know how to do or wasn’t willing to do. I certainly don’t need a person “overseeing” my life.

    I really think this elevated “pastor” thing is going the way of powder blue station wagons with shiny navy blue vinyl interior.

  25. Anonymous

    Thank you for the link and comment.  I needed to asterisk out a word you used. That word is a diagnosis and it figured prominently in the FBC Jax Watchdog lawsuit. I thought it best to protect you. BTW, I think others might share your sentiment. One way to get around it is to say something like “Some might think he is a ********* or ” I’m no doctor but it sure sound like something I read about *******. 

  26. So refreshing last week when I took a grandchild to acolyte practice for the pastor to sit down with the kids and explain “the priesthood of the believer.” She made it very clear “pastor” is a job to do like “organist” or “acolyte” or “reader” or “greeter” or “janitor.” She also made it very clear no job is more important than any other, and that the people with no jobs in church are every bit as important as those with assigned jobs.

    So refreshing to worship in a community of believers rather than be a tithing unit expected to shut up and obey.

  27. elastigirl wrote:

    watched a few minutes of this. almost everyone in the background is furiously taking notes. on what?? (strikes me as automaton behavior)

    This comment made me laugh. It reminds me of a true story in a church I attended (note the past tense). One of the pastors was giving a dull sermon. Most of the congregation was polite but half asleep. He got mad. He pounded the pulpit and yelled that he was speaking the very words of God and we all better be taking notes.

    Dee, in characteristic fashion started to giggle. Never went back to one of “God’s own mouthpieces” sermons again.

  28. elastigirl wrote:

    I really think this elevated “pastor” thing is going the way of powder blue station wagons with shiny navy blue vinyl interior.

    You are on a definite roll. I must quote this in a post soon.

  29. linda wrote:

    So refreshing last week when I took a grandchild to acolyte practice for the pastor to sit down with the kids and explain “the priesthood of the believer.” She made it very clear “pastor” is a job to do like “organist” or “acolyte” or “reader” or “greeter” or “janitor.” She also made it very clear no job is more important than any other, and that the people with no jobs in church are every bit as important as those with assigned jobs.
    So refreshing to worship in a community of believers rather than be a tithing unit expected to shut up and obey.

    *Like*

  30. @ dee:
    In Getz’s support letter, he says, “I remember your response, James. You stated that you were taking prolific notes and listening carefully to what I was sharing. I sensed deep sincerity.”
    So it appears to me that for JM, prolific note-taking is a means of conveying the image of deep sincerity to others.

  31. +a question and a comment: Who is on the hook for that debt and what if anything is it secured by? I was raised as a methodist and I now see the wisdom of moving pastors every few years.

  32. This is off topic for this particular thread (I apologize), but it kinda fits one of the themes of the blog (IMHO).

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that most of the time, when one of these mega / famous preachers “feels led” to create a new church plant/ satellite campus, it’s hardly ever in a third world nation, or even in a poor/ run down area in the USA? It seems they always choose an affluent, middle class / super wealthy area, like this:

    Will Los Angeles-Area Churches Be ‘Swallowed Whole’ When Hillsong Arrives?

    Fears That Australia Megachurch’s Plans for Southern California Could Crush Existing Ministries

    Despite assurances from Ben Houston that the Hillsong LA church he feels called to plant in Southern California will not “build on anyone else’s foundation,” some observers are concerned that the popular Australian megachurch’s expansion to the Golden State could mean a substantial loss of members for already-established churches in the area.

    He picked S. Calif? Why not some less affluent nation, or even less affluent area in the USA or his own nation?

  33. nmgirl wrote:

    +a question and a comment: Who is on the hook for that debt and what if anything is it secured by? I was raised as a methodist and I now see the wisdom of moving pastors every few years.

    Crazy like a fox. Good luck ever paying off that debt without the JMac show. Pretty savvy planning if you ask me.

  34. Participant Observer wrote:

    linda wrote:
    So refreshing last week when I took a grandchild to acolyte practice for the pastor to sit down with the kids and explain “the priesthood of the believer.” … She also made it very clear no job is more important than any other, and that the people with no jobs in church are every bit as important as those with assigned jobs…

    I got one.

    A wee while back we were invited to the home of some friends out in the Trossachs, along with some other folk, to meet their spiritual “mentor” who was up visiting them. Sharon, it should be noted, travels extensively and usually preaches to large gatherings. But I had a really interesting conversation with her in the kitchen in which she described her relationship with a denomination over here with which she and I are both acquainted (it has mixed views on the role of women). All while she was happily loading the dishwasher after tea, and hand-washing the stuff that wasn’t dishwasher-proof.

    They do exist! Thank God.

  35. @ anonymous:

    You secure it eventually when the bank takes the hit. What I would like to know is how can anyone sit in a pew, put a check in the offering plate if they know about that debt and his salary. Now, I did know quite a few people in my past who think the Pastor should be driving a Bentley and living in a mansion. That is how they picture God’s blessings. So who knows, maybe JMAC cornered the market on such types up in Illinois?

  36. Elastigirl,

    Some of us have powder blue station wagons in our childhoods. My Florida Aunt had one and I have a pic of her standing next to a block long powder blue Buick station wagon that could comfortably transport a family of 12 wearing her big cat eye white sunglasses, white sleeveless peter pan blouse and white capri’s. She was very chic.

    Why powder blue? Because the husbands wouldn’t be caught dead driving them and so get the ashtray dirty with pipe/cigar ashes.

  37. The video was priceless! Only thing missing was a minister with a shears fleecing the flock while they bleat.

    The Law of Tithing: If you aren’t told where the money given to the church is going that means it’s going into the minister’s pocket.

  38. @ Anon 1:

    I remember those well (although we never had one). nothing like a country squire with the simulated wood paneling for funky retro. the 2-tone blue was just gross, though. I can match it with 2 crayolas (sky blue and midnight blue).

  39. linda wrote:

    So refreshing last week when I took a grandchild to acolyte practice for the pastor to sit down with the kids and explain “the priesthood of the believer.” She made it very clear “pastor” is a job to do like “organist” or “acolyte” or “reader” or “greeter” or “janitor.” She also made it very clear no job is more important than any other, and that the people with no jobs in church are every bit as important as those with assigned jobs.

    Even as a Catholic, that’s been pretty much my view. I view even ordained Priests and Bishops as just specialists within the congregation.

  40. anonymous wrote:

    Crazy like a fox. Good luck ever paying off that debt without the JMac show. Pretty savvy planning if you ask me.

    In the days when Corporate Takeover was the dream of every M.B.A., this was called “the Poison Pill”. Make sure if anything changes (especially if YOU get fired), “Narnia WILL be Overthrown and Perish in Fire and Water!”

  41. Jeannette Altes wrote:

    I had to laugh. I actually drive a powder blue station wagon. The interior is dark blue fabris, though….

    My first car was a ’65 Mustang. Light metallic blue, with gloss black trim panels. Interior was a reversal of the exterior, mostly black with blue upholstery.

  42. Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist wrote:

    elastigirl wrote:

    …or was comparing pastors to powder blue station wagons triggering?

    NO, it was just the station wagon. *Shudder*

    See! You wouldn’t be caught dead driving a powder blue station wagon, would you? Men are not that different from the 60’s to today. Although there was a time pink was considered masculine in dress shirts.

    We are finally seeing a crack in the gender role differences at TWW.

  43. @ elastigirl: We tend not to see such old cars in the Northeast, due to the hard winters and tons of slat on the road.

    On my 1st trip to the Pacific NW, I could not get over the number of literally ancient cars on the roads! (This was in the late 70s, so… lots of 50s and early-mid 60s models.) I suppose this is true in many parts of the South as well.

  44. @ Anon 1:

    Ours was green with the wood grain panels. It was like being in a tank. All 11 of us could ride in it easily, before seatbelts of course.

  45. @ Jeannette Altes: My parents had a Chrysler with a powder blue exterior (navy top and interior, though) for a *long* time.

    the idea of my dad having been bothered by something like powder blue makes me laugh – he just didnt care! Now, mustard yellow or bright orange would have provoked a reaction (from my mom, too), or lime green, but powder blue rated a meh at best.

  46. A Christian school (“Strong Rock Christian School”) wouldn’t allow Maddy Paige to play football anymore due to their beliefs about gender.

    She quit that school and is playing football on another team.

    I’ve read the Bible before and do not remember a verse reading, “Women shalt not play football.”

    Maddy Paige playing football again

    (The “private school” mentioned in that report is a Christian one)

    Paige’s mother, Cassy Blythe, said that the CEO of the school gave a number of reasons why her daughter should not play, including saying that boys may have impure thoughts and noting that it’s private and they can do what they want. At one point, Blythe said that the CEO cited the Bible.

    “They couldn’t find an exact quote of why she shouldn’t play,” said Blythe. “He said, ‘The best I can up with is that men and women are created equal but different.’ And that is all he could say.

    Source: My Fox Atlanta, author Patty Pan

  47. Needless to say, this situation has reached “critical mass.” It won’t be long before this whole mess explodes, bringing down the James, the board and the church. Legal charges may be filed and certainly, many will be stumbled, especially those who trusted James and the leadership.

    I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but having witnessed this before, it is only a matter of time.

  48. I loved my old air-cooled beetle. The Doors had just cut their first album and it was great to be young and alive, full of piss, vinegar, and immortality…

  49. randall slack wrote:

    Needless to say, this situation has reached “critical mass.” It won’t be long before this whole mess explodes, bringing down the James, the board and the church. Legal charges may be filed and certainly, many will be stumbled, especially those who trusted James and the leadership.

    I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but having witnessed this before, it is only a matter of time.

    Randall, James MacDonald is too big to fail. :o)

  50. @ Bridget:

    My mom had a white Ford Station Wagon but not sure the make. Anyway, before seat belts we were way in the back hanging out the window which was cool because it was “electric”. Mom! Put the window down! She would be in prison today.

    But then, those cars were like tanks.

  51. @ Muff Potter:

    “I loved my old air-cooled beetle. The Doors had just cut their first album and it was great to be young and alive, full of piss, vinegar, and immortality…”
    +++++++++

    best way to be. what color? red with black top? putty? metallic green? we had a green & white vw bus with all the little windows. remember the smell of the interior? the feel of the pin-striped ridges on the handgrip? nostalgia at its finest.

  52. @ Anon 1:
    Seat belts? What are those for? Remember how with station wagons all the kids could sit in the back on the floor and play UNO or whatever?!

  53. @ lilyrosemary:
    Now that I think about it, that was a (not powder) blue Chevy van where we all sat in the back on the floor with no seatbelts. Probably the biggest hazard was frostbite ’cause there was no heat back there (this was in upstate NY).

  54. It’s unfortunate that many pastors of churches seem to function more like CEOs of corporations.

    MacDonald seems like he would be successful in the business world. If he enjoys making lots of money, and buying nice things, I think he would better serve the kingdom as a secular CEO, and he could leverage his substantial financial resources to help fund important ministries.

  55. nmgirl wrote:

    +a question and a comment: Who is on the hook for that debt and what if anything is it secured by? I was raised as a methodist and I now see the wisdom of moving pastors every few years.

    *Like*

  56. Mr.H wrote:

    MacDonald seems like he would be successful in the business world.

    I fear that the reason he ended up in the pastorate was probably precisely because he couldn’t make it in a real job. The pastorate can often serve as a shortcut to amass a fortune and corporate-style perks, along with a load of respect and trust, all without having to have any particular skills or qualifications beyond charisma.

  57. @ Mr.H:
    @ Garland:

    Certainly it seems that Macdonald envies the lifestyle of the corporate CEO. Garland may be right in that, for a company to survive, it has to earn a lot more than a megachurch business does. You can’t just shout at your customers and tell them that God orders them to buy your products, for instance. And you can’t get the dedicated commitment of lots of staff who give you their time for free because they believe merely being part of a big and successful company is reward enough for them – you actually have to pay all of them properly, not just a tiny select few whom you want to keep totally under your thumb. And finally, of course, it’s certainly true that you have to display some competence and delivering in order to rise to the top of an existing business or build one of your own.

    I’ve noticed a common theme in many megachurch business pastors; they tend to be salesmen. Sales staff are trained to choose facts selectively to suit themselves, and the most successful sales staff are sometimes the ones who are the most comfortable with lying to people. And in the bigger scheme of things they are the most comfortable with taking personal credit for the hard work and achievements of others.

  58. Garland wrote:

    I fear that the reason he ended up in the pastorate was probably precisely because he couldn’t make it in a real job.

    Think about it. Can you imagine him being really accountable? Can you imagine him having to face off with a bunch of investors who see their money going down the drain, building new little companies with his picture on it , and driving the company into serious debt?

    A rebellion would ensue, a corporate takeover would begin, MacDonald would be thrown out, subsidiaries dumped and the debt consolidated while they return to “sticking to the knitting,” -an old business axiom.

    The only sad part of the scenario is that the fallen leader probably has a golden parachute. But, in this case, it might all get lost at some casinos.

  59. @ lilyrosemary: When we were dating, my husband had an old Falcon which had rotted through and you could see the road underneath when we were driving.We had to bring blankets for long drives because the weather is cold in New Hampshire in the middle of the winter. I have to admit, I do like heated seats.

  60. Jeannette Altes wrote:

    @ elastigirl:
    I had to laugh. I actually drive a powder blue station wagon. The interior is dark blue fabris, though….

    Girl, you are tres kewl. Hipster, almost. w00t

  61. Muff Potter wrote:

    I loved my old air-cooled beetle. The Doors had just cut their first album and it was great to be young and alive, full of piss, vinegar, and immortality…

    I had a bug with vines painted on the sides. Olivia was her name-oh. My first car and I loved her dearly.

  62. @ dee:
    I have to disagree with Mr.H’s comment only in that I am in the business world, and if I got my company into $65M debt, I would be fired and sued (although it would never get that far). Can anyone say “over-leveraged”? I did not know about the allegations regarding MacDonald and gambling, but it does not surprise me. I stand by my previous assessment – the man needs professional therapy. We can work out his Christianity later.

  63. elastigirl wrote:

    http://player.vimeo.com/video/41102661?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0&autoplay=1”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    watched a few minutes of this. almost everyone in the background is furiously taking notes. on what??

    I took notes so you don’t have to lol. Jimmy McD’s points:

    5. “Preaching well is a crushing weight and you’ll never understand and you can’t help me.”

    4. “I’m not puffed up needing accountability, I’m weighed down needing support.”

    3. “I’m not perfect. I need pastoring but timing is everything…..So often people burden the pastor with their need to give him something and they’re not sensitive to the timing and the giving becomes another burden.”

    2. “I wish that my elders had these two verses for their favorites…
    a) ”Reject a factious man after the second admonition”…Rejection means ‘you can’t come here anymore’…I am releasing you to take a small portion of your church’s budget, build a catapult, put it in the church parking lot, and load it regularly. ‘I think we can shoot this one right out of our county!’
    b) “Cast out a scoffer and strife will cease.” How often I’ve been in the position of having to cast out the scoffer! How often I’ve had to come to staff members and say, ‘You haven’t dealt with this yet??’…Sometimes mercy creates a gap between the failure and the catapult and causes confusion in the heart of the person as to why they’re flying out of the church.”

    1. “Assurance of enduring commitment brings peace of mind” [to the pastor]

    **Spiritual Lessons for the Week: 1. Delusional thin-skinned egotistical rants are ridiculous. 2. Run, you silly people. Run!

  64. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    I’ve noticed a common theme in many megachurch business pastors; they tend to be salesmen.

    Salesman. Glad-handing, back-slapping, always SMIIIIIIIILING — with their other hand in your wallet.

  65. There seems to be a bit of a vogue for church CEO’s boasting about how they throw people out of “their” churches.

    If they really believed all that **** in the Biblescriptures about the last being first and the first last, or about how lording it over the underlings was a hallmark of worldly rulers, or about Jesus taking most personally what was done to the least of his brothers/sisters, they might be less keen to order their minions to hope for an “eternal” reward so that they themselves can live it up in this life.

  66. @ Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist:

    That’s what I was thinging, Dr. Fundy. The lack of ethics by Mr. McD wouldn’t be allowed in a public company in the business world. It’s a shame that it is allowed in organizations that call themselves churches.

  67. Patrice wrote:

    b) “Cast out a scoffer and strife will cease.” How often I’ve been in the position of having to cast out the scoffer! How often I’ve had to come to staff members and say, ‘You haven’t dealt with this yet??’…Sometimes mercy creates a gap between the failure and the catapult and causes confusion in the heart of the person as to why they’re flying out of the church.”

    Well, they’ve just cast out TWO big-time *scoffers* so by biblical promise stife will now cease big-time, on the double. Unless the catapultees aren’t scoffers, of course.
    And if low-level management or pew-sitters have questions about this? Hot off the press of Pastor Rick and Pastor Dave 5 days ago:
    http://theelephantsdebt.com/?attachment_id=2155 (Written to small group leaders and disciple makers)
    “It is not your responsibility to bring your people to a place of acceptance regarding necessary actions you have no knowledge of or part in.”

  68. If there is amply warning in scripture about false teachers and hirelings, and
    If there is plenty of evidence in our current secular/government of how money foolishness looks, and
    if the current pope is talking about the god of money, and
    if Himself has been clear about what he feels about people worshiping other gods, and
    If we have the specific statement in scripture that you cannot serve god and money, and
    if people identify themselves as believers and apparently function well enough in the world to stay alive,
    The why do so many people flock to these mega-money “leaders?”
    Why do they not put 2 and 2 together?
    Why do they not “get it?”
    Why do they throw their hard earned money in the plate to enable such mess?

    Sorry, but I am inclined to say that not only the leader-ship is in error but also the “follow-ship.”

    (Spell check is fighting me here, but I am join to try that last sentence.)

  69. Dee–yes, I am blessed.

    While it is very much an ELCA congregation it is a mixed congregation of Lutherans and former Episcopalians (local church closed.) And then much of the leadership is either former Catholic, former Southern Baptist, or former Methodist.

    In order for us to function at all, we have to treasure everyone’s gifts and allow room for dissent. And it can get lively, with pro gay and pro abortion kneeling for communion next to someone actively seeking to minister to gays to help them find ways not to act on it, and little old ladies in right to life t-shirts.

    We are a confessional congregation in a liberal denomination, which can be challenging in itself. And we are really high church in an area with lots of evangelical fundamentalists.

    But you know what? We focus on Christ and not on special interest groups when we are in church. And then we spread into those interest groups as individuals outside the church. It isn’t church for yuppies or the poor, for marrieds or for singles, for men or for women, or for any particular age group. It is just church.

    Salt and light seems to be growing us like gangbusters without any purpose driven drivel. And sometimes our beloved liberals, not under attack, break out in tears at the altar and later tell everyone “I think I took a wrong track.” Happens to our beloved conservatives also.

  70. Nancy wrote:

    Why do they throw their hard earned money in the plate to enable such mess?
    Sorry, but I am inclined to say that not only the leader-ship is in error but also the “follow-ship.”

    Too true! But to counteract this, leader-ship teaches follow-ship that they don’t have a “need to know”. Leadership knows best what to do with the money, and can be trusted. Look– God is doing great things at $BC and He can’t keep it up if you stop giving!
    Speaking of a need to know, conversations like this must be going on this week at HBC:
    Follower: I watched the video about those 2 wolves in church. But I’m confused. Just a few months ago they spoke for God. Now they’re Satanic. What did they do? Sleep with their step-moms?
    Follower-maker: I don’t know anything about that. I have no part in those necessary actions.
    Follower: How do I find out– look on-line?
    Follower-maker: Don’t do that. Critical outsiders slander us there. The Elders have a new open-door policy. They want you to be informed.
    Follower: OK! I’ll go see an Elder.
    Follower-maker: They’re very busy. All questions should be addressed to Head-Elder Jones.
    Follower: OK! I’ll shoot him an e-mail.
    Follower-maker: Oh, No. He gets lots of spam. Print out a snail-mail and send it to the church office address.
    Follower: Who writes snail-mail anymore?
    Follower-maker: I don’t know. Not my place….

  71. @ Bridget:

    “The lack of ethics by Mr. McD wouldn’t be allowed in a public company in the business world.”
    ++++++++++++++

    Some life “boundaries” I hear about from pastors wouldn’t be looked kindly upon in a public company, either.

    Recently I’ve heard some pastors talk about the importance of a “Sabbath”, of making room in your life to relax and have quality time with your family. Talk of guarding against “overwork”.

    While these ideas are good, the examples they gave of how to do this (and how they make it happen for themselves) left me wide-eyed. What they were describing seemed to derive from an outsized sense of entitlement, & was only possible for people who work in churches. None of it was applicable to anyone with any other kind of job.

    Quite simply, if you don’t deliver the goods and do it on time & with excellence, you are demoted if not replaced.

  72. @ Nancy:

    “The why do so many people flock to these mega-money “leaders?”
    Why do they not put 2 and 2 together?
    Why do they not “get it?”
    Why do they throw their hard earned money in the plate to enable such mess?”
    ++++++++++++++

    the power of persuasion and the God card.

  73. elastigirl wrote:

    best way to be. what color?

    It was a kind of off-white color with a sort of brownish-reddish colored seats and interior door panels.

  74. @ Patrice:
    😀
    It was recently pointed out to me that my first two cars kind of reflected me. I’ll leave that for others to decide….1st: Ford Maverick….2nd: AMC Rebel….. neither of which have been in production for a long time. 🙂
    It is time for a new car, but I will miss his powder blue wagon with 175,000 miles on it. …

  75. @ Jeannette Altes:
    I hope your next car will be new only when compared to the others and not actually so new as to be gauche. You know, to maintain your long-established cache. 🙂

  76. What’s truly sad is that the problem of greedy ministers is not new, it has been an insidious part of Christianity almost from the beginning of the post-apostolic age. The Didache (pronounced did-a-kay), called ‘Teachings of the 12 Apostles’ is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, non-canonical writings of Christianity. One of the teachings of this writing is:

    “But whoever says with the spirit, “Give me money (or something else),” you will not listen to him. But if he says to give on behalf of others who are in need, no one should judge him.”

    Too often, the reason given for tithing is not to help others, but because ‘the Bible requires it’ and, therefore, makes you a REAL Christian; it will ‘come back to you’ and make you wealthy; etc.

    BTW, the saying “cast your bread upon the waters, and it will come return to you tenfold” is NOT in the Bible. It is a perversion of Ecclesiastes 11:1, which actually says “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again”. Yet how many times have we heard the ‘tenfold’ given as a Biblical reason for giving?

  77. elastigirl wrote:

    What they were describing seemed to derive from an outsized sense of entitlement, & was only possible for people who work in churches. None of it was applicable to anyone with any other kind of job.

    Yes. And those with real jobs or business owners cannot just tell their customers to give them a tenth or more of their income because to do otherwise is “robbing God!” For professional clergy, that is a sweet deal if there ever was one.

  78. JeffT wrote:

    What’s truly sad is that the problem of greedy ministers is not new, it has been an insidious part of Christianity almost from the beginning of the post-apostolic age. The Didache (pronounced did-a-kay), called ‘Teachings of the 12 Apostles’ is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, non-canonical writings of Christianity.

    And I understand a whole THIRD of the Didache is how to spot phonies and con men.

  79. (I haven’t read all the comments…_

    There are ways to select elders and deacons that minimize the possibility of yes men and cronyism.

    Our church puts a list together of everyone who is eligible for both offices. You have to have been a member for three years and there are a couple of other qualifications. The list is then given to the members where they can mark to affirm or decline each person on the list based on whether people think they are qualified for the office. Every candidate who is sufficiently affirmed is put into a bowl. The deacons and elders are then drawn by lots.

    This is the only church I’ve ever been in that does it this way. It really does have a sense of trusting God to put together the Council He wants to lead the church for the coming years. The Council is always made up of a very eclectic bunch of men and women. Some years it is more 50-50 and others it leans more in one direction or the other. But there is always a sense that this is the Council God has put together and not something made by man.

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  81. Sallie @ A Woman’s Freedom in Christ wrote:

    (I haven’t read all the comments…_
    There are ways to select elders and deacons that minimize the possibility of yes men and cronyism.
    Our church puts a list together of everyone who is eligible for both offices. You have to have been a member for three years and there are a couple of other qualifications. The list is then given to the members where they can mark to affirm or decline each person on the list based on whether people think they are qualified for the office. Every candidate who is sufficiently affirmed is put into a bowl. The deacons and elders are then drawn by lots.
    This is the only church I’ve ever been in that does it this way. It really does have a sense of trusting God to put together the Council He wants to lead the church for the coming years. The Council is always made up of a very eclectic bunch of men and women. Some years it is more 50-50 and others it leans more in one direction or the other. But there is always a sense that this is the Council God has put together and not something made by man.

    Fascinating! How long is the term of service? Does the entire council roll over at once? Do you see any drawbacks in this method?

    I can only imagine the reaction at my church if such a system were suggested! But what a way to avoid a panel of yes men.

  82. @ Sallie @ A Woman’s Freedom in Christ:

    I agree with Lucy – this is a really interesting idea. Presumably, those who don’t wish to be elders/deacons for whatever reason can withhold their names from the Bowl of Destiny?

    One of the great things about this system is the eclectic mixture of men and women whereof you spake. Within the limits of cultural similarity you always get in a local body of believers, the two teams of elders and deacons are forced to knuckle down and work with – and, by extension, love, honour and mutually submit to – people who are unlike them in various ways and whom they might well not have chosen as team-mates themselves. Isn’t this is a vital test of the transforming power of the gospel? I.e., if we only love those who are like us – I paraphrase – then, big deal. So then, you have elders who are leading by example first and foremost in the central business of loving one another.

  83. @ Alex R: Wow-10,000 people. And that means what? You should see how many people showed up for Cirque du Soleil. They are awesome entertainers.

    Your church has some serious problems. Your former elders are not stupid. A “rah rah” Jesus rally does not make that go away. And I did not say that your pastor couldn’t preach. He can. That’s the problem. It is concerning when some Christians equate a nifty sermon and lots of people as “a move of the spirit.”

    Your comment did not speak to the issue. If you really care, you will address the problems, not try to prove how many people will flock to hear MacDonald. We had more people in Raleigh show up to hear Taylor Swift.

  84. @ Nick:

    But what if your worst enemy puts your name in the Bowl of Destiny without your knowledge in an effort to destroy you? 😉

  85. @ dee:
    I’m just sharing the truth. Because the overwhelming preponderance of comments here appear to be from those who have never been part of our church, come by their ‘information’ second-hand (at best), and have no problem hurling disrespect and slander regarding a godly and compassionate human being about whom they have no clue.

    Maybe y’all are just used to it, but it smells like a bunch of puffed up, disconnected, fleshly minds around here.

    Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God. -Col 3

  86. @ Alex R:

    Do you think 60+ million in debt is a growth that is from God? It appears that parts of the body need to start doing their part and put a stop to the over indulgence. Actually, it seems that when the hand tries to stop the feeding it gets amputated for resisting. Hmm . . .

  87. Alex R wrote:

    and have no problem hurling disrespect and slander regarding a godly and compassionate human being about whom they have no clue.
    Maybe y’all are just used to it, but it smells like a bunch of puffed up, disconnected, fleshly minds around here.

    Oh good night, Alex. You need to take a chill pill. You have been hanging around the elder collective just a bit too long. You misused the word slander which is my very first clue that you are into authority and do not really understand the Biblical definition of the word.

    Then you use silly Christianese just like the elders. “Puffed up” “Fleshly minds”-do you know how that sounds to normal people? Of course, the typical “proof” verse that shows you are are “godly” and the rest of us are not. The verse made absolutely no sense within this context.

    Just like the elders, you do not offer one bit of proof to counter the careful charges made against James MacDonald. You sound like you have been brainwashed. You did not make your point and, in fact, just added fuel to my concern for the conflagration ongoing at the HBC collective. Have you been fully assimilated?

  88. @ Alex R:

    Alex, You have also added to my concern that it really is a cult. do you not see you speak the cult language of that video?

    Do you even know what the 13 points were? Or do you think it is a sin to know?

  89. Bridget wrote:

    Do you think 60+ million in debt is a growth that is from God?

    Slander! Puffed up! Fleshly mind! Repent for mentioning facts. We are only supposed to use Biblical sounding words to attack the person while studiously and vigorously ignoring the real concerns.

    Next comment will probably add the “tool of Satan” charge.

  90. Anon 1 wrote:

    do you not see you speak the cult language of that video?

    Ha-you beat me to it, you fleshly minded, puffed up flinger of slander and disrespect. If he could you would be excommunicated and turned over to Satan.

    Poor fellow, if you ask him why…he won’t know. He is like Sgt Schultz: “I see nothing!”

  91. @ dee:
    Actually just withholding cause there’s this proverb about throwing pearls to…um yeah. HERE’S THE TRUTH: they’ve admitted debt was a huge prob, explained the cause ad nauseum (building project over budget + rescuing a failing church + increasing ministry impact), have 7 thriving campuses to show for it, taken on no new debt since 2007, are on track to be debt-free by 2020 AND HAVE $150,000,000 IN ASSETS – 5 church buildings, Christian school, radio broadcast, and how about a global church-planting ministry. I know this because a) unlike you, it’s my church and b) they’re answering questions face to face and sharing the facts with anyone who sincerely wants to know.

    Call me what you want, but there’s a name that fits when you diss so easily what you know nothing of factually. Rhymes with prig.

  92. Alex,

    Nice of them to “admit” the huge debt to the people who pay for it. Why was it allowed to happen? Since they speak for God surely they would be better stewards of other people’s money.

    What about the 13 points. Do you know what they are?

  93. Alex,
    For more than 4 decades I went to a mega church that has planted 11 new churches in the past 10 years. We didn’t have to ring up that kind of debt. In fact, we’re not in any debt. Something is wrong with the HBC model.

  94. Alex R wrote:

    I’m just sharing the truth. Because the overwhelming preponderance of comments here appear to be from those who have never been part of our church, come by their ‘information’ second-hand (at best), and have no problem hurling disrespect and slander regarding a godly and compassionate human being about whom they have no clue

    Alex, please. Go over to the Elephant’s Debt. Former pastors/elders in great numbers all saying the same things about JMac. Not just one or two. Many. This isn’t just a couple disgruntled people. And when your pastor puts out reprehensible videos like “5 things your pastor wants you to know but can’t tell you” and then goes on to tell you anyway, and it is the most blatant, whiny, manipulative, acid “sermon” many have ever seen, and makes a blog post called “my resignation” which just continues the acid vinegar and ends with “take this job and shove it” (I paraphrase)… well, people outside of the collective know something is seriously amiss.

  95. Alex R wrote:

    Call me what you want

    You were the one who entered with the name calling. When we see that, we yawn. It is silliness born of an atmosphere within your given church system that is an attempt to isolate and denigrate those who raise the issues, and believe me, there are issues.

    Then you end your followup comment with another name. If your comment is an example of how your pastor and elders view dialogue, no wonder you are in hot water. This is how you guys represent Jesus? Good night! You are a mess.

    So, if all is well, and you have $150 million in assets, why did all of the former elders just have a stroke and go off message? Oh, better yet, were they overcome with Satan (your “elders” like to fling that one around) and forced to do his evil bidding?

    You, Alex, along with the elder video, are representing your church poorly, only adding fuel to the fire that there are deep problems at HBC. Based on your comment alone, i would not recommend that anyone go to your church.

  96. Note to readers: How to Avoid a Bad Church

    Look at Alex’s two comments. It is obvious that he is a loyal member of HBC.

    Note the tone, the name calling, and the obfuscation. Then compare that with the elder video which pulls the Satan card.

    When members and leaders proceed in this manner, you can be sure that there are problems at that church. These are not problems that are easily overcome. As you can see, when the going get tough, these weak men start name-calling.

    This means that dialogue is useless. In such a church, there is a high probability of negative interaction if you have an issue. Remember, they wouldn’t even listen to a number of their elders. These are the guys chosen because of their proclivity to be supportive of both the pastor and church.

    I am most grateful to Alex and the HBC elders for demonstrating the type of church that I would advise our readers to view cautiously. I will be using this situation as an example of a bad church for years to come.

    In other words, aren’t there better churches out there? Do you really want your tithes to support things like the elder video, enormous debt and a high pastoral salary?

    And, Alex, as opposed to name calling, let me end this by telling you that I am sitting here, right now, praying that God will fill you life with grace and peace. May you become one of His peacemakers.

  97. To our readers: McDonald exhibits symptoms of paranoia

    Further example of some strange ideations of James MacDonald. Thank you to a reader for reminding me of this.

    If you do not think there are deep seated problem, you need to read this.

    http://jamesmacdonald.com/blog/my-resignation/

    Here is the relevant passage:

    “I have accepted, even solicited, and been blessed by the critical feedback of friends, and picked diligently through the rubbish of those who sought my ruin to great advantage. ”

    MacDonald believes that there are actually people “seeking his ruin.” Instead of accepting such statement from pastors at face value, ask a simple question. Why would a group of former elders seek the ruin of their former pastor? Did they all suddenly join the evil empire? Maybe thy all had a stroke at the same time?

    Sometimes people have an inflated idea of their own importance. Notice that he believes that there are people out to get him. This type of statement deeply concerns me and should have raised the concerns of good people at HBC. Where are the counselors? Is everyone too busy making videos and writing snarky comments? P

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  99. Hester

    In today’s real estate environment, the estimates of what things are worth are not necessarily the income that they will realize. 🙂

  100. Lucy Pevensie wrote:

    Fascinating! How long is the term of service? Does the entire council roll over at once? Do you see any drawbacks in this method?

    You know, I can’t remember. It is either two or three years. I know the terms overlap and not everyone comes on and goes off at the same time.

    The only drawback I see (and this is my own opinion) is that one year there were very few women on the deacon board. A part of me would like to see a requirement to have at least a certain percentage be represented by each sex. But I don’t think that’s a drawback as much as it is my way of seeing things.

  101. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    I agree with Lucy – this is a really interesting idea. Presumably, those who don’t wish to be elders/deacons for whatever reason can withhold their names from the Bowl of Destiny?

    LOL Bowl of Destiny… I’m not sure about keeping your name out. I’m assuming you can ask to not be included. We’re just coming up on being members for three years so this next round would be the first time my husband and I would be eligible for the Bowl of Destiny. 🙂

  102. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    One of the great things about this system is the eclectic mixture of men and women whereof you spake. Within the limits of cultural similarity you always get in a local body of believers, the two teams of elders and deacons are forced to knuckle down and work with – and, by extension, love, honour and mutually submit to – people who are unlike them in various ways and whom they might well not have chosen as team-mates themselves. Isn’t this is a vital test of the transforming power of the gospel? I.e., if we only love those who are like us – I paraphrase – then, big deal. So then, you have elders who are leading by example first and foremost in the central business of loving one another.

    Good thoughts. I’m not plugged in enough to really know much about the dynamics of the board. We do have a good relationship with the pastor and the sense I get is that the board really does work together pretty well and honestly seeks the leading of the Holy Spirit. This congregation is over a hundred years old and has never had a split. There is a different spirit in this church than I’ve experienced anywhere else. A lot more grace and peace. It’s not perfect (of course), but there is a lot positive.

    Here’s another example. For reasons I won’t go into here, we didn’t attend church from April to the beginning of September. We had talked with the pastor about it via email and there was NO pressure, shaming, guilting or anything. We showed up again this fall and no one batted an eyelash.

  103. Truth and time walk hand in hand – http://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/blog.aspx?blog_id=368679

    And my last words on this forum – I apologize for being less than Christ-like in my dialogue. Hard to see the crassness and flippancy expressed here toward my church and pastor – a good and godly man – and not respond in kind. But it’s not my heart. Will trust it isn’t any of yours either, Phil 4:8. Shalom.

  104. @ Alex R:
    I apologize for some flippancy (though not crassness) I’ve expressed toward your church and pastor. I read the Elder Update you linked, and if that were ALL which was happening at your church right now, it would quell my concerns as an outsider. But, at exactly the same time as all those good things, two other apparently “good and godly” men are being catapulted out of your church for seeking the same transparency affirmed in the Elder Update. Let me ask you to consider the words of your 21-year Elder Board Chairman (still qualified, IMO, to be considered your Elder), Mr Corning:
    “Over the past nearly three years, the full force of James’ wrath has been manifested against me, and Betsy in nearly every possible way (though often cleverly disguised as the decision or action of another and usually executed through a long-time friend or acquaintance who must betray us to prove allegiance to James). He has worked behind the scenes to destroy our reputations, our ministries, even our livelihoods. One of the most perverse and shocking (though lightly veiled) accusations came in a public sermon by James on June 5, 2011, which also aired on Walk in the Word a year later. The Saturday night message was harsher; the Sunday message was edited. We were portrayed as “blaspheming the church and taking advantage”. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
    What say you to this, Alex?

  105. Alex R wrote:

    Hard to see the crassness and flippancy expressed here

    Good night! Even in your supposed apology, you just can’t help yourself, can you? Is it a function of the teaching of your pastor or what?

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