MacDonald V. Roys and the Case of Declining Conversions

Image by Ryan Ashton

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.” JRR Tolkien

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I wanted to let you all know that I am celebrating Christmas on Sunday because my husband and daughter are working on Christmas. I always have people over here and do all of the cooking. I’m even making homemade Farmer’s cheese for my pierogis. So, unless something major happens, I may put up a rerun column on Friday and post as usual next week.

Also, I will be spending two weeks in Israel and Jordan starting on January 7. I will have posts that are not time sensitive running during that time and will also try to post some pictures of the sites I visit. Thankfully, adult family members will be living at my house to care for the pug dogs and my backyard birds.

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Should pastors seek redress by claiming, because of negative reporting, that they can’t convert new people to the faith?

Today, I spent some time going back over the stories surrounding the lawsuit that James MacDonald/HBC (hereafter knowns as JM/HBC) have filed against the bloggers. An action by JM/HBC made me sit up and take notice. Religion News Service posted Harvest Bible Chapel sues bloggers for spreading ‘false information’ on 11/8/18. How had I overlooked this? Many people who read this blog, myself included, like to discuss theology and this one fits the bill. I highlight the section of particular interest to me.

The plaintiffs asked a judge for a restraining order to stop the defendants from publishing information about MacDonald and the church while the lawsuit moves forward.

Defendants’ false and defamatory statements have a negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to convert new persons to the faith, maintain their congregation and raise the funds necessary to operate,” the petition claims.

The judge denied the request.

I do not believe that TED, their wives and Roys lied. Leaving that aside for a minute, let’s look at JM/HBC’s claim that negative press had led to their inability to convert new people to the faith. Say what? How in the world does JM/HBC prove this one to a judge in a secular courtroom?

So, what is the problem with MacDonald’s request of the courts (which thankfully was denied?)

  • How does a court, presumably made up of people of religious and non-religious persuasions, rule on the claim that some people didn’t become Christians because other people said mean things about JM/HBC?
  • How would JM/HBC prove that people didn’t become *converted* because of a blog post or two?
  • Assuming some court somewhere bought this argument, they would have to come up with some formula to prove that JM and friends usually convert *x* number of people on any given day? Is that possible?
  • Assuming JM/HBC wanted to sue for the loss of conversions sometime in the future, how might JM/HBC put a value on conversion? Is it worth $12,000, $0.05 or $100,000,000? Would that be based on their expected tithes or some percentage thereof? Gross or net?
  • If MacDonald is Reformed, he might believe that he has nothing to do with the conversion of those who enter his sphere. That decision was made by God somewhere in eternity and MacDonald’s role is only to faithfully preach the Gospel without expectation of conversions or monetary awards.
  • I question MacDonald’s trust in the power of Jesus. Is he saying that if someone says bad things about him, people will stop being converted? Is his God that weak?
  • I have another idea for MacDonald to consider. Christians were persecuted and lied about throughout history. Yet Christianity was never stronger than during the times of persecution. An argument could be made that the church attracted more people when Christians went boldly into the Coliseum. Therefore, shouldn’t MacDonald be *converting* more people due to the negativity? “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

In the meantime….

On 12/18/18, Julie Roys posted Harvest Elder Accuses Church Leaders of “Deceitfulness and Manipulation” and Attempting to “Run a Cult”

The following is an excerpt from the blog which featured emails that Roys obtained. There are many more in her post.

James MacDonald and the senior leaders of the Chicago-area megachurch, Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC), operate with “deceitfulness and manipulation,” and are attempting “to run a cult and control the masses.”

That’s according to Randy Williams, a current Harvest elder and former chairman of the executive committee (EC)—a group consisting of MacDonald and four to five elders, which make the financial and legal decisions for the church.

Williams makes these statements in a November 10, 2017, text I obtained through a subpoena in defense of the lawsuit Harvest brought against me. Williams tells Brian White, lead pastor of an independent Harvest Bible Chapel in Indianapolis, IN:

“I am fully recusing myself of any involvement with the EC (executive committee) and James (MacDonald) and XLT (executive leadership team). I’ve had it with the deceitfulness and manipulation.” (Williams)

Williams also expresses dismay about an Elder Update published the previous day, saying:

This update and all that it represents is beyond my comprehension of anything but an attempt to run a cult and control the masses. (Williams)

Apparently, the Executive  Committee of the HBC Elders are upset with the emails that have been posted.

They responded in PASTOR JAMES, RANDY WILLIAMS, AND HARVEST ELDER AUTHORITY Hey, elders, this is what happens when you start lawsuits. All of these awkward things get released and it is hard to deny copies of emails, etc., which appears to be happening here.

We believe that Randy Williams is not the man portrayed in the texts publicized by Julie Roys. He has never said anything to the leaders of our church in the many years we have served with him that resembles the content of the texts she published today. If Randy Williams was secretly antagonistic about the health of our collective governance, it was not known to any of us.

…Randy has not been available to us by text or phone. Based upon what is known about his love for our church and Pastor James, we believe he must have read what Julie Roys published and felt devastated.

…For more than five years (from 2013-2017), Dr. Garrett Higbee, a respected counselor and member of our pastoral staff for eight years,

They thought it *wise* to post the following evaluations by Higsbee?

…Oct 2014 – “Love the spirit in the room. Elders are enjoying being together. They are owners at the table and expressed their questions in a good way.”

…June 2014 – “High [rate] of participation with great respect to contrary opinions. Observed an onus for responsibility of leadership. Reminder to not talk over one another.”

…Nov 2014 – “Thanks for bearing with a long process of tonight’s evaluation of the past. God is doing something good with the Elders. Thank you for submitting to the leadership of a smaller Executive Committee.”

…Jan 2017 – Garrett Higbee encouraged Pastor James with his growing transparency [regarding personal matters].

It is my opinion that JM/HBC are facing a world of hurt. I find it difficult to believe that they will prevail in the lawsuit since there have admitted to some serious issues. TED and Roys have done HBC a favor by shining a light into the *chapel.* I don’t see how things can continue in this vein.

12/17-12/19: Roys 2  JM/HBC 0

Please join my in praying for TED, their wives and Julie Roys.


Comments

MacDonald V. Roys and the Case of Declining Conversions — 174 Comments

  1. “Thankfully, adult family members will be living at my house to care for the pug dogs and my backyard birds.”

    You should warn them about drstevej under the table or they could become alarmed.

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  2. Below is a basic definition of the narcissist.

    -Narcissistic personality disorder — one of several types of personality disorders — is a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others.-End

    Narcissism cannot be treated with medication and therapy can help modify behavior, however the narcissist generally does not seek help because their egos will not admit there is anything wrong.

    In reading articles and blogs there has been indication that James exhibits these behaviors. Having not been close to him, I cannot evaluate nor would I be medically qualified, but if this is true, it will be near impossible for the narcissist to see themselves as others do.

    Let’s all pray for the 12k+ congregants at this time. Let’s pray that James has a “come to Jesus” moment and desists from the lawsuits and pray for him and his family at this time. Let’s remember that God deals with His children in His perfect will and way and we can trust Him. . Let’s remember that God’s vengeance is His, not ours. Yes, let truth prevail and God’s light shine and reveal any darkness, but let’s not forget what God would have us do above and beyond. Pray with humble hearts. GOD IS IN CONTROL❤️

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  3. GMFS!

    Where, incidentally, it is currently 4:22am. (I wouldn’t normally be up at this hour; I’m addressing some entertainingly large swings in blood sugar levels…)

    Have a great Christmas, Dee – you deserve to have two of them! Plus a great time away.

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  4. Thanks for bringing up how really ridiculous the statement is about “Defendants’ false and defamatory statements have a negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to convert new persons to the faith…” This is a sign that Old MacDonald and his farm really are out in space somewhere with this lawsuit. There is such a brazen tone of self-importance and over-the-top pride in this. Thanks for bringing out that Reformed teachers do not really preach that they believe a statement like this.
    Preaching it and practicing things are frequently not in-sync because of hypocrisy. There is such a thick cloud of deception over so many who think that they are Christians but do not actually know and do not practice what Christianity is supposed to be all about. Taking up your cross will never make you famous and rich. It might make you fairly poor and infamous to some. It is all so very simple, and yet few can see this.

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  5. From the article:

    “The plaintiffs asked a judge for a restraining order to stop the defendants from publishing information about MacDonald and the church while the lawsuit moves forward.

    “Defendants’ false and defamatory statements have a negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to convert new persons to the faith, maintain their congregation and raise the funds necessary to operate,” the petition claims.

    The judge denied the request.”

    JMac and Co. are going to see that the coercion, bullying and strong-arm tactics they use to run their ‘ministry’ won’t work very well in court! I’m certain that judge doesn’t give a hoot if they are getting any new converts. The real key however, is found in their statement of “…negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to…raise the funds necessary to operate…”. THAT, good people is truly the entire essence of this law suit!

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  6. Perhaps the negative publicity also interferes with the ability of the leaders of the church to “pray to the Father in Jesus’ name” and have the Father grant their requests, whatever they may be.

    IMO, if they can’t do that, they have no claim to any of the other promises Jesus made to His apostles. They’re just men who have been “ordained” by other men. They have no actual authority at all, IMO.

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  7. Who writes these HBC Elder Executive Committee letters? James MacDonald? The writing is so over the top in the adoration and praise for James MacDonald. The letters seem so unhealthy and quite frankly weird. You can’t tell me that HBC is not a cult.

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  8. “Defendants’ false and defamatory statements have a negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to . . . . raise the funds necessary to operate,”

    Seems plain as day why they are doing this. Must be getting hard to service their debt.

    That and there (in my opinion) seem to be some real jerks running things (to put it in nice language).

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  9. I am still trying to get this straight in my mind – as Bible professing Christians and Gospel glitterati, we don’t report CSA to authorities because we don’t want to drag the workings of the church into the secular courts and sully the reputation of Jesus, because 1 Corinthians 6. HOWEVER, as Bible professing Christians and Gospel glitterati, when our feelings get hurt and our personal reputations get challenged, we absolutely go to court because 1 Corinthians 6 does not apply?

    Bizzaro-Christianity 101

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  10. Dee… Thanks for making the point about him being reformed. I would love to hear him explain that it a deposition.

    As a person that deals in lawsuits everyday. I can’t believe that someone did not explain three words to him…

    Interrogatories
    Subpoenas
    Depositions… And the failure to comply.

    Any defense attorney worth their salt… buy the time this is all over we will know his underwear size. When you sue someone you better count the cost. I hope they video his depositions. There is no hiding anything now.

    It’s all about the control and money.

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  11. A.Stacy:
    Dee… Thanks for making the point about him being reformed.I would love to hear him explain that it a deposition.

    As a person that deals in lawsuits everyday.I can’t believe that someone did not explain three words to him…

    Interrogatories
    Subpoenas
    Depositions… And the failure to comply.

    Any defense attorney worth their salt… buy the time this is all over we will know his underwear size.When you sue someone you better count the cost.I hope they video his depositions. There is no hiding anything now.

    While I’m not qualified to hold an independent opinion, it appears from the recent “Response” to plaintiffs’ motion, accessible at TED, (and the plaintiffs’ motion itself) that the plaintiffs are not happy that JR has already started discovery and that non-confidential but previously concealed documents are starting to see light of day.

    IIRC Jesus said something about whispered things being shouted from rooftops.

    One wonders how much the plaintiffs are willing to have “shouted from the rooftops.”

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  12. So, it’s the fault of the bloggers that JM/HBC cannot convert people to Jesus?

    “BLAME CANADA!
    BLAME CANADA!
    BEFORE ANYONE CAN THINK OF BLAMING US!”

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  13. Afterburne: “Defendants’ false and defamatory statements have a negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to . . . . raise the funds necessary to operate,”

    Seems plain as day why they are doing this. Must be getting hard to service their debt.

    All about the Benjamins, Baby.

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  14. Mr. Jesperson: Thanks for bringing up how really ridiculous the statement is about “Defendants’ false and defamatory statements have a negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to convert new persons to the faith…” This is a sign that Old MacDonald and his farm really are out in space somewhere with this lawsuit. There is such a brazen tone of self-importance and over-the-top pride in this.

    AKA “DO YOU KNOW WHO *I* AM?????”

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  15. Pingback: James MacDonald and Harvest Church Claim in Lawsuit that “Bloggers” Are Keeping People from Getting Saved – Pulpit & Pen

  16. David:
    Who writes these HBC Elder Executive Committee letters?

    I was wondering the same thing as I read this latest one. The writer seems to have an “unhealthy fixation” with the 3 excommunicated elders, blaming them for the old lie now being regurgitated by Julie Roys. Maybe it’s Elder Huston, who called them satanic to the core 5 years ago. Elder Duitsman, who compares the opposition to Sanballat and Tobiah, is another good suspect.

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  17. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    I’d be interested in your take on that elder “submission”. With things like “collective governance”, “wonderfully harmonious”, and the one-by-one unanimous rejection of the viewpoint of 3 dissenters, I’m surprised they’re not singing the praises of Comrade Dear Leader.

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  18. Pingback: Bloggers make Jesus lonely | Civil Commotion

  19. As Nick above said, Dee, you deserve 2 Christmases, and you will have them – as you know, Old Calendar folks will be celebrating it while you’re in Israel/Jordan 🙂

    Have a lovely Nativity Feast with your family. Blessings on your journey, and thanks in advance for the photos and travelogue.

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  20. I pity you (whoever is behind the Wartburg Watch). On that great day when our savior returns, what are you going to say to him? ‘Look, Lord, we spread bad reports about anybody and everybody in your church to advance your Kingdom!’ I know very little about James MacDonald but I know what you are doing is not helping the church in any way whatsoever and instead is damaging not only those you report on but those who write your reports. “You are the man!” said Nathan. Think about it and invest your lives in very different ways than this.

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  21. Christianity has so many flavours, why would anyone chow down on a stinkweed sandwich like James McDonald?

    Oh wait…Mark Driscoll has followers in Arizona….

    never mind

    I now return you to your comments section already in progress…

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  22. David: Who writes these HBC Elder Executive Committee letters?

    The same PR spinmeisters as Beloved Leader Comrade Kim Jong-Un, of course.
    With Newspeak just as stilted.
    “Just like North Korea, Except CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

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  23. Jen: Who writes the Elder updates?
    __________
    Someone said in Twitter world that it was Luke MacDonald…..

    If that’s the case, it makes them all the more self-serving, since his whole career is tied up in the success of the family business.

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  24. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating:

    This whole sordid affair is not going to end well for MacDonald and HBC.

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  25. dainca,

    Thank you. Today I shall attempt homemade farmers cheese which I shall put in the pierogis I make tomorrow. This is a new one for me but I’m getting tired of trying to find the real stuff.

    Merry Christmas!

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  26. Mr. Jesperson,

    Preaching it and practicing things are frequently not in-sync because of hypocrisy. There is such a thick cloud of deception over so many who think that they are Christians but do not actually know and do not practice what Christianity is supposed to be all about.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    often it’s simply because people don’t use their noggin.

    so weird.

    people will read instruction manuals for their new gadgets and technological wonders they get at christmas. they’ll for sure read the warranties. and make sure they understand them.

    people will do their best with the fine print on their credit card and banking documentation, and on their health insurance statements. they anaylize (to some degree) their receipts.

    when things don’t add up, they say “hey!”.

    but something as big as God? nah, people can’t be bothered.

    they simply allow themselves to be ushered where the wind blows. (where the christian madison avenue[s] have predetermined they should go)

    including pastors who have been to seminary. remarkably impressionable.

    what is it? are people too tired? or too afraid? have too much to lose to get out of the stream of the party line?

    so INCREDIBLY disappointed.

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  27. Root 66: The real key however, is found in their statement of “…negative impact on Plaintiffs’ ability to…raise the funds necessary to operate…”. THAT, good people is truly the entire essence of this law suit!

    MacDonald is concerned he may not be able to maintain the McMansion or sports cars.

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  28. MacDonald’s “Walk in the Word” television show is aired weekly on Christian network TBN.

    I’m not sure if it’s carried on Day Star or not.

    Once you find out how oily or abusive some of these pastors are, it’s difficult to sit through their television programs. You wonder how sincere they are.

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  29. I think it takes a lot of arrogance for a preacher to state that a blog post or article is responsible for his church not being able to make conversions.

    As though God can work only through MacDonald or that one particular church.

    I was on an IFB (Independent Fundamentalist Baptist) site years ago that was begging site visitors for donations, so that they could reach un-churched, “pagan,” unsaved areas of Europe with The Gospel.

    The IFB guys had a map one could click on to check out the area they were talking about.

    I clicked to look at the map, and come to find out, there were already plenty of Christian churches in the area already.

    I don’t remember the specific denominations, but there were churches already in the targeted area, such as Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and etc.
    The area was only lacking IFB churches.

    Their (the IFB-ers) reasoning:
    Methodists, Lutherans, etc, are all pagan and cannot and will not share the true, real, correct Gospel with those Europeans.

    It has to be the IFB version of the Gospel, you see,
    which teaches men really super important stuff, such as but not limited to, such as, they are total hippies and in sin if their hair is past their shirt collar, or teaches women they are in sin if they wear pants. LOL.

    I guess, similarly, MacDonald thinks everyone in his community is going to Hell unless they hear the Gospel specifically from his church by attending his church in person on Sunday mornings.

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  30. Daisy: it’s difficult to sit through their television programs.

    And every multi-campus church is a TV show, because the idea of having a living pastor in every location is so last Testament. It fairly smacks of taking only one coat and walking from town to town in sandals.

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  31. elastigirl:

    what is it?are people too tired?or too afraid?have too much to lose to get out of the stream of the party line?

    so INCREDIBLY disappointed.

    There’s a TWW post from a few years back that discussed how the staff suffer much more than the pew-sitters in churches that have abusive leadership. From the perspective of the people who are present only at the “for-public-consumption” meetings, everything can seem to be wholesome. Provided that the abusive leader is winsome in public presentation and not-too-far-outside-the-bounds-of-orthodoxy in teaching, it can look from the pews like there are no problems at all.

    I think that people naturally want to believe the best of a group (and of the group leaders) they have elected to affiliate with, and biblical commands to patience and forbearance reinforce that.

    ———–

    You are right that the routine precautions one would take in any ordinary decision should be followed in deciding whether to affiliate with a church, or in deciding whether to continue in a group in which there have been significant governance changes from what was in place when one originally affiliated. Very few people would be willing to risk investment funds in a for-profit enterprise with opaque finances and unaccountable governance. We should have even higher standards for non-for-profit enterprises that claim to serve God.

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  32. Samuel Conner: the routine precautions one would take in any ordinary decision should be followed in deciding whether to affiliate with a church

    Please-please-PLEASE let this be in Acts somewhere, or the Sermon on the Mount. How did church membership get so divorced from both common sense and Scripture? Which (to be clear) are compatible.

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  33. “inability to convert new people to the faith”

    Wait a minute! James MacDonald is a New Calvinist. In that world, folks are elected not converted – you’ve either been predestined or not. They might convert more people to the pews, or convert pew-sitter money from their pockets to the church bank account, or convert folks to reformed theology … but their preaching can’t convert anyone to accept Christ – that’s just not how it works with their theology.

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  34. Samuel Conner,

    “I think that people naturally want to believe the best of a group (and of the group leaders) they have elected to affiliate with, and biblical commands to patience and forbearance reinforce that”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    biblical commands to patience and forbearance…

    potentially good and honorable for interpersonal relationships

    for groups? with reservation. and the scrutiny lever in the ‘on’ position.

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  35. “…Randy has not been available to us by text or phone. Based upon what is known about his love for our church and Pastor James, we believe he must have read what Julie Roys published and felt devastated.”

    LOL…I can think of another reason Randy has made himself scarce. Man, I hope he goes public with everything he knows at some point. Even if he was forced to sign an NDA upon becoming an elder.

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  36. elastigirl: what is it? are people too tired? or too afraid? have too much to lose to get out of the stream of the party line?

    I think most people lead busy lives and don’t have time to undertake the equivalent of a seminary education, so they rely on holy men (usually) to tell them what to believe about the creator of the universe. No point rocking the boat unless it’s visibly going down, although HBC may be just about there.

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  37. Friend: Please-please-PLEASE let this be in Acts somewhere, or the Sermon on the Mount. How did church membership get so divorced from both common sense and Scripture? Which (to be clear) are compatible.

    A text that might be suitable is Proverbs 22:3

    In NIV it is rendered:

    “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

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  38. NJ:
    “…Randy has not been available to us by text or phone. Based upon what is known about his love for our church and Pastor James, we believe he must have read what Julie Roys published and felt devastated.”

    LOL…I can think of another reason Randy has made himself scarce.Man, I hope he goes public with everything he knows at some point.Even if he was forced to sign an NDA upon becoming an elder.

    Pray for HBC elders who have not yet publicly “bent the knee” and who may be reluctant to do so. They might be under a great deal of pressure and be facing difficult choices.

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  39. Samuel Conner,

    Thank you. I decided to have another look at the Sermon on the Mount, and there is a nice clue right at the beginning:

    When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them…

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  40. Bill: I pity you (whoever is behind the Wartburg Watch). On that great day when our savior returns, what are you going to say to him? ‘Look, Lord, we spread bad reports about anybody and everybody in your church to advance your Kingdom!

    First of all, tell the truth. you don’t pity me, you are angry with me. Telling the truth begins with saying what you mean. I know what I will say. Lord, I found abuse going on your church and I exposed that abuse and brought some comfort to the abused as well as helping others avoid abusive behavior.

    Then I would quote Jerome. You do know who he is, don’t you being such an astute observer of sin in your midst. ” A clergyman who engages in business, and who rises from poverty to wealth, and from obscurity to a high position, avoid as you would the plague. ” http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001052.htm

    I would point to all of these men who have taken the tithes of hardworking sacrificial people and used them to build mansions and travel first class, etc.

    Bill: I know what you are doing is not helping the church in any way whatsoever and instead is damaging not only those you report on but those who write your reports.

    Then, I would point to the men we have exposed who have sexually abused children and high school students and brought them to justice. I would point out all the pastors who used their pulpit to coerce people for sexual favors.

    And then, I would look around to see where Bill was when this stuff was going on. I might imagine I would find him cowering in a corner because standing up for truth is a difficult thing because one must put up with bullies hiding behind anonymous accounts like yourself. At least you know my name.

    As for your Nathan comment, let me direct you to Todd Wilhelm’s blog “Thou Art the Man. ” Todd is spending his days and retirement making sure that pastors who are child abusers are brought to justice. That is why he is the TWW hero and you are merely a scaredy cat who cannot even identify himself. Todd is the man, you are not. https://thouarttheman.org

    I suggest you spend some time in prayer, asking God to show you the pain and suffering that people experience at the hands of abusive churches. He will, if you are man enough to ask.

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  41. any chance MacDonald and his clan will pack up the rodeo and move to Florida? I am sure the seniors would like a entertaining show to see on the weekends. maybe he could pray about it…

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  42. Bill,

    Whoops- almost forgot to mention that I started a ministry to provide medical and dental service to human trafficking victims. Does that count in Bill’s Book of Correct Behavior? I’m sure you have me beat, being so godly and all. Maybe we could start number conversions like MacDonald seems to be into…

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  43. Bill,

    I’m pretty good at tracking down things, Bill, and it appears you may be a pastor of a Sovereign Grace Church. So here’s the deal. Assuming this is true, you know exactly who I am and you are the one who should be ashamed for being part of a network of churches which holds the record for the evangelical scandal of the decade.

    https://www.washingtonian.com/2016/02/14/the-sex-abuse-scandal-that-devastated-a-suburbanmegachurch-sovereign-grace-ministries/

    It appears the YELP review sums it up quite nicely. Now, I’ll do you a favor and not post who you are even though you were gutless in leaving a comment here.

    And, if I’m correct, you know exactly who James MacDonald is. But, then again, truth telling has never been one of the hallmarks of some churches. What did you guys used to call them…*observations?*

    Banging my head on the kitchen table…

    BTW, Todd Wilhelm is a former member of an SGM church. He will find this rather amusing.

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  44. NJ,

    “I think most people lead busy lives and don’t have time to undertake the equivalent of a seminary education, so they rely on holy men…”
    ++++++++++++++

    yes, i’m sure this is correct. scrutiny, though — in the same way they scrutinize other important things in their lives.

    or perhaps a spiritual pursuit just not that important for that much effort.

    perhaps it’s just doing something God might smile on,…to help tip the scales in the favorable direction for them and their families.

    people ARE tired. this could be all they have room for. i understand.

    what is harder for me to understand is professional christians who have gotten some kind of education/training. Not all are the spawn of indoctrination centers (some seminaries).

    i have observed some pastors who hail from reputable seminaries/schools of divinity who fall for doctrine inventions peddled by big names. ideologies which directly contradict the position papers of their denomination.

    which contradict logic, and more importantly philadelphia. and of course that common sense endowed by God.

    who fall for the latest church-running strategy du jour, oblivious to the half truths they embrace, the manipulation, how people are exploited by it. not to mention the stupidity of it.

    are these professionals also too tired for critical thinking? too worried about money and significance that they just let someone else tell them what to do?

    …such a very sad state of affairs.

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  45. Max: “inability to convert new people to the faith”

    Wait a minute! James MacDonald is a New Calvinist. In that world, folks are elected not converted – you’ve either been predestined or not. They might convert more people to the pews, or convert pew-sitter money from their pockets to the church bank account, or convert folks to reformed theology … but their preaching can’t convert anyone to accept Christ – that’s just not how it works with their theology.

    Oh come now, you don’t think they really believe what they teach? 😉

    BTW, it is virtually impossible to actually live out Calvinistic theology. The fatalism that is its cornerstone would make life unbearably meaningless and hopeless. So people are forced to disconnect what they ‘believe’ from how they think and live. And most will never admit the disconnect.

    Others, simply do not know the inescapable unpalatable truths that cannot be ignored, as New Calvinism has papered over them. Most Reformed pastors today prefer to leave people thinking they can still believe that God loves all men, Jesus died for all people, and anyone can become a child of God. Except that Reformed Theology, when honestly examined, will not permit such assertions.

    Once my own eyes were opened, and I heard my Calvinist pastor making those kind of absurd, contradictory statements, no one wanted to hear it, so the problem was obviously me. How can a Calvinist mourn over the lost, whom God did not ‘choose’ and for whom Jesus (under their theology) did not die? Or act like anything they do will bring more people to Christ, when the number is settled and unchangeable, no matter what they do or don’t do?

    Just try to point out the logical contradictions, and see how quickly you will be told ‘You just don’t understand Calvinism.’ And it doesn’t matter if you are a former pastor, theologian or seminary professor, as many former Calvinists who try to elucidate the logical discrepancies are. People do not want to have their comfort zone threatened.

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  46. Daisy
    I guess, similarly, MacDonald thinks everyone in his community is going to Hell unless they hear the Gospel specifically from his church by attending his church in person on Sunday mornings.

    This is simply not true. I attended harvest for many years. Left a few years back. And although I’ve had my own issues with that church this is not true. I know people who left Harvest and went on to attend other churches who were in good standing with everyone there including the leaders. I know someone whose husband went to one church and she went to another and she was actually urged by the campus pastor to attend the same church as her husband even if that meant leaving Harvest and attending his church. She actually did end up doing just that and stayed in touch with some leaders and never had any issues.

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  47. Daisy:
    MacDonald’s “Walk in the Word” television show is aired weekly on Christian network TBN.

    I’m not sure if it’s carried on Day Star or not.

    Once you find out how oily or abusive some of these pastors are, it’s difficult to sit through their television programs. You wonder how sincere they are.

    I think he’s sincere in the sense that he absolutely believes his own lies. I’m starting to think that he is a space cadet floating in his own distant fantasy orbit.

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  48. dee: First of all, tell the truth. you don’t pity me, you are angry with me. Telling the truth begins with saying what you mean. I know what I will say. Lord, I found abuse going on your church and I exposed that abuse and brought some comfort to the abused as well as helping others avoid abusive behavior.

    Then I would quote Jerome. You do know who he is, don’t you being such an astute observer of sin in your midst. ”A clergyman who engages in business, and who rises from poverty to wealth, and from obscurity to a high position, avoid as you would the plague. ” http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3001052.htm

    I would point to all of these men who have taken the tithes of hardworking sacrificial people and used them to build mansions and travel first class, etc.

    Then, I would point to the men we have exposed who have sexually abused children and high school studentsand brought them to justice. I would point out all the pastors who used their pulpit to coerce people for sexual favors.

    And then, I would look around to see where Bill was when this stuff was going on. I might imagine I would find him cowering in a corner because standing up for truth is a difficult thing because one must put up with bullies hiding behind anonymous accounts like yourself. At least you know my name.

    As for your Nathan comment, let me direct you to Todd Wilhelm’s blog “Thou Art the Man. ” Todd is spending his days and retirement making sure that pastors who are child abusers are brought to justice. That is why he is the TWW hero and you are merely a scaredy cat who cannot even identify himself. Todd is the man, you are not. https://thouarttheman.org

    I suggest you spend some time in prayer, asking God to show you the pain and suffering that people experience at the hands of abusive churches. He will, if you are man enough to ask.

    Aaaaaaand… BOOM! Mic drop.

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  49. This “unconditional support” piece in the Elder Statement… they really didn’t think that verbiage through, did they? They didn’t think of how badly that would come across.

    But the truth is, unconditional support for James is exactly what the elder board has given, and exactly why it became a puppet board. Whether by fear or loyalty, they supported him in spite of bad behavior and character. Everyone whose support wasn’t “unconditional” eventually was kicked out.

    This is how we got here in the first place. Full support, no matter the condition of James or the church.

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  50. Katie: This is simply not true. I attended harvest for many years. Left a few years back.

    That is the implication of his remarks, that due to negative coverage of his church and him, that conversions were supposedly lost.

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  51. Joe: I think he’s sincere in the sense that he absolutely believes his own lies. I’m starting to think that he is a space cadet floating in his own distant fantasy orbit.

    I’ve seen his TV show on several occasions and don’t recall him ever raising his voice, screaming, or stabbing photos of people with knives.

    So, he apparently has the sense to keep his angry, tyrant side hidden from the viewing public.

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  52. “How does a court, presumably made up of people of religious and non-religious persuasions, rule on the claim that some people didn’t become Christians because other people said mean things about JM/HBC?”

    Perhaps JM and his attorneys should have a look at Acts 18:12-17 —

    “While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews coordinated an attack on Paul and brought him before the judgment seat. “This man is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the Law,” they said. But just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio told the Jews, “If this matter involved a wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to hear your complaint. But since it is a dispute about words and names and your own law, settle it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of such things.” And he drove them away from the judgment seat. At this, the crowd seized Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the judgment seat. But none of this was of any concern to Gallio.”

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  53. “How would JM/HBC prove that people didn’t become *converted* because of a blog post or two?”

    Lotsa optics, lotsa spin to look aggrieved, one might surmise.

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  54. elastigirl: are these professionals also too tired for critical thinking? too worried about money and significance that they just let someone else tell them what to do?

    I suspect the lure of money and significance discourages critical thinking. I can’t remember now who said it, but I’ve seen a quote to the effect that it’s very difficult to get a man to understand something, when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it.

    I just read TS00’s lengthy comment about the nature of Calvinistic theology, and what happens when one tries to point out the problems with it. I think he’s onto something that people just do not want their comfort zone threatened, and that would be true of everyone, clergy and laity alike. Whether adhering to a comprehensive theological system, or being carried about by every wind of doctrine, every church is going to have some folks who are there for reasons other than critical thinking. When something bad is brought to light, then you have to decide whether to fight the good fight and try to open some eyes, or shake the dust from your sandals and leave.

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  55. ”Is he saying that if someone says bad things about him, people will stop being converted?’

    This brought to mind comments made on another MacDonald article:

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/11/07/james-macdonalds-pastoral-reflections-and-a-harvest-bible-chapel-youth-pastor-charged-with-sexual-exploitation/#comments

    JM: “Less is more does not reach more people, it doesn’t make better disciples. Only more [substance] makes better disciples. And it’s really hard work. Jesus was more gifted than any person on Earth and He spent three-and-a-half full years on 12 people and didn’t get all of them to the finish line.”

    Is this a ‘needs improvement’ read of a fruit inspection on the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ regarding the Twelve? REALLY?!?

    (If only there had been a B & H scrollstand with a MacDonald tome on Biblical manhood located next to the money changing tables in those ‘three-and-a-half full years’…)

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  56. elastigirl: what is it?
    are people too tired? or too afraid? have too much to lose to get out of the stream of the party line?
    so INCREDIBLY disappointed.

    Yes, yes, yes.

    And yes.

    Too many faith walks on cruise control, for many reasons. Having reasons things happen doesn’t mean you won’t fall in the ditch. I’m thankful to be much more aware than before, and now try to encourage others to engage and not merely be a passenger.

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  57. Bill:
    I pity you (whoever is behind the Wartburg Watch). On that great day when our savior returns, what are you going to say to him? ‘Look, Lord, we spread bad reports about anybody and everybody in your church to advance your Kingdom!’ I know very little about James MacDonald but I know what you are doing is not helping the church in any way whatsoever and instead is damaging not only those you report on but those who write your reports. “You are the man!” said Nathan. Think about it and invest your lives in very different ways than this.

    You “know” no help to the church is occurring? Please read Galatians 2:11-14.

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  58. NJ,

    “I suspect the lure of money and significance discourages critical thinking.”
    +++++++++++++++

    yeah, that sure sounds like Jesus.
    —————

    “I can’t remember now who said it, but I’ve seen a quote to the effect that it’s very difficult to get a man to understand something, when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    a turning point for the better will be a church that removes revenue from the equation. no salaries. lay ministers and volunteers. for whatever minimal overhead, a collection taken, bills paid right then, zero balance at the end of the day.

    i have to think this would catch on. the simplicity of it.

    there are organizations out there that are run on volunteers who believe in their cause. they are run fairly well, and they achieve what they set out to do.

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  59. TS00: Others, simply do not know the inescapable unpalatable truths that cannot be ignored, as New Calvinism has papered over them. Most Reformed pastors today prefer to leave people thinking they can still believe that God loves all men, Jesus died for all people, and anyone can become a child of God. Except that Reformed Theology, when honestly examined, will not permit such assertions.

    Our former YRR Neo-Cal pastor only lasted at our church for a year and a half until he realized the church wasn’t going to ‘get on board’ with reformed theology. During that time, however, I cannot recall a single time during his sermons in which he told the congregation that Jesus loved us and died for us. Their theology simply cannot allow them to say such a thing!
    After he left, a preacher doing pulpit supply told us that Jesus loved each one of us and died for us during his sermon. I sat in my seat and wept because I realized I hadn’t heard that in such a long time! Sometimes, it’s not so much what these ‘reformers’ say as much as it is what they DON’T say!
    The Apostle Paul commended the church at Berea when they examined his words against the scriptures. Today, even more so, we have the responsibility to do the same. We must become diligent students of the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us truth from error.

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  60. Maybe JMac is just delusional. Ya know…his name is awfully close to a major fast food chain that can be found nearly every 5mi with spot ads played over air waves and TV hourly. Could be he’s constantly reminded that he “deserves a break today” because, after all – “We do it all for you.” Maybe he believes HE is the “special sauce.” And any time is “a good time for the great taste of MacDonald” ’cause…”I’m lovin’ it.” Besides, he thinks to himself: it’s “My MacDonalds” and …”it’s what I do” and “What I’m made of.”

    Just had to throw that out there. https://www.foodandwine.com/fwx/food/5-best-and-worst-slogans-mcdonald-s-history

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  61. Joe:
    This “unconditional support” piece in the Elder Statement… they really didn’t think that verbiage through, did they? They didn’t think of how badly that would come across.

    But the truth is, unconditional support for James is exactly what the elder board has given, and exactly why it became a puppet board. Whether by fear or loyalty, they supported him in spite of bad behavior and character. Everyone whose support wasn’t “unconditional” eventually was kicked out.

    This is how we got here in the first place. Full support, no matter the condition of James or the church.

    It does seem like a hasty job — perhaps it was drafted in haste in view of the emerging “discoveries” in the law suit.

    I suspect that what the author may have meant (perhaps not, but this would have had better “optics”) is “unreserved” — no mental reservations.

    It sure looks to me like “damage control”, but not very well done.

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  62. I guess what surprises me is that HBC’s lawyer would go in and essentially ask for “prior restraint”! That’s a really, really high bar and I’m pretty sure HBC’s issues don’t involve national security.

    Also, in addition to truth being an absolute defense to libel, I have no idea how HBC is going to prove that the bloggers stopped people from being saved at HBC. That is just so ridiculous.

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  63. JDV:
    ”Is he saying that if someone says bad things about him, people will stop being converted?’

    IMO, if someone is ministering after the example of Jesus, and ministering in the power of the Spirit, public opposition will increase the long-term success of the person’s ministry.

    Jesus was opposed by people who had more this-worldly power — Pharisees who controlled the religious narrative in Israel, Sadducees and priests who controlled the Temple. The highest religious council in the country, the Sanhedrin, voted to convict Him of a capital offense.

    It didn’t stop His mission.

    —————-

    JDV:

    JM: “Less is more does not reach more people, it doesn’t make better disciples. Only more [substance] makes better disciples. And it’s really hard work. Jesus was more gifted than any person on Earth and He spent three-and-a-half full years on 12 people and didn’t get all of them to the finish line.”

    Is this a ‘needs improvement’ read of a fruit inspection on the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ regarding the Twelve? REALLY?!?

    The irony is worse than that, IMO. JM seems to be implying here that the apostles who didn’t defect like Judas were basically “OK” by the end of the 3 years. But the weren’t. They were still following Jesus out of desire for high office, power (and probably wealth). Jesus was grieved by this and repeatedly corrected them. But it didn’t sink in; on the very night of His betrayal and trial, they were still disputing which of them was greatest (and thus worthy to be Jesus’ 2nd in command when He became visible king of Israel). Unbelievably, they were still inquiring about the installation of Jesus’ kingdom administration in Israel AFTER the Cross (Acts 1).

    IOW, it looks to me like the motives of the Apostles that were so grievous to Jesus — and that seem to have repelled the Spirit (Jesus pointedly noted that the Spirit would not come to them while He remained among them; it’s a worthy study to inquire why this was so) — desire for pre-eminence, power, possessions, resemble what we see among too many of the “great public men” of the churches in our day.

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  64. Root 66: Our former YRR Neo-Cal pastor … I cannot recall a single time during his sermons in which he told the congregation that Jesus loved us and died for us. Their theology simply cannot allow them to say such a thing!

    To be honest to the tenets of reformed theology, New Calvinists cannot look at everyone in the world and say “Jesus loves YOU. Jesus died for YOU.” Evangelism and missions are different in the reformed world … it is another gospel, which is not the gospel at all. Ministry to them is to harvest the “elect” rather than reach the lost. If you show up at one of their churches and listen to their theological mumbo-jumbo, you ‘must’ be one of the elect!

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  65. Max,

    I am surprised that you assert that Max, because that would suggest that preachers of the Gospel know who is and who is not saved and that is as absurd as it is offensive to God, who alone knows the hearts of men.

    After spending some time refuting the arguments of Calvinist gainsayers (who could be contributors to this blog) in Institutes Book 3, ch23 (particularly paragraphs 11-14) he concludes by quoting Augustine
    “But we ought not to omit what he adds immediately thereafter: “For as we know not who belongs to the number of the predestined or who does not belong, we ought to be so minded as to wish that all men be saved.” So shall it come about that we try to make everyone we meet a sharer in our peace. But our peace will rest upon the sons of peace [Luke 10:6; cf. Matt. 10:13]. ”

    I’m sure we could have many an enjoyable discussion sitting on a verandah somewhere Max. I wish you and yours a joyous, peaceful Christmas and a blessed New Year.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nj44ICE_AAg

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  66. Max: To be honest to the tenets of reformed theology, New Calvinists cannot look at everyone in the world and say “Jesus loves YOU. Jesus died for YOU.” Evangelism and missions are different in the reformed world … it is another gospel, which is not the gospel at all. Ministry to them is to harvest the “elect” rather than reach the lost.

    Not to hijack the thread, but it is a vital point, as JMac claimed to represent this theology. My beef with Reformed Theology, and preachers like JMac, is the lack of transparency, the lack of clear, upfront declaration of what their Predeterminism genuinely means. If they were open and honest about the necessary assertions of their system, I could simply reject them as holding to a false gospel, and shake my head.

    But the fact is that many (most?) modern Calvinist teachers are not open and honest about the very distinctives that separate them from other believers. They hide the ‘scary stuff’, as Sproul liked to call it, in the closet, and preach ‘Jesus loves you’ as if it means what their listeners learned in Sunday School years ago. They do not admit that the sort of ‘love’ they posit is a far different cucumber than that of John 3:16. It is a controlling, deterministic power that creates individuals deliberately for destruction with no chance of redemption, ever, rather than the self-sacrificing love that gives up everything for the sake of the beloved, even knowing that many will reject it.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but it is this lack of honesty that has beguiled so many that I know and love, who have been falsely assured, “Oh, we don’t say that; that’s just ‘Hyper-Calvinism'”, when in reality, this strange and cruel ‘love’ is integral to Reformed Theology, despite Barth and others’ attempts to redefine it away.

    On one hand, one might just be content to know that most self-claimed ‘Reformed’ do not know or believe the tenets of their system; but, to bring it back to JMac, it is this disconnect between reality and what is publicly said that leads non-critical-thinking, submissive followers into dangerous territory. Whatever leads a teacher to withhold, or soft-peddle, the most essential distinctives of his theological system would also allow him to misrepresent other unpalatable ‘truths’, like, for instance, where the money goes. The ‘simple folk’ don’t need to worry their little heads about such things, but should just trust and submit unconditionally to their authorities. Lack of honesty and transparency are big parts of the problem.

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  67. dee: As for the underwear, I think we will learn that he is too big for his britches!

    Awesome line, Dee! 😀 And awesome work on this article, as usual.

    I hope you’ll have a wonderful trip abroad. Sure wish I could try those pierogis of yours — that’s a food I miss an awful lot, and especially at Christmas.

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  68. Poco: Let’s remember that God’s vengeance is His, not ours.

    Did you preach this preemptively? Or have you evidence of people already getting MacDonald back for what he’s done to them.

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  69. Lowlandseer,

    I must try to remember next year to preface my comments with “New” Calvinism, rather than the classic reformed theology you have put your faith in … and to stay on the primary thread.

    Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas & Happy New Year, as well! May the church experience a genuine revival and the world a spiritual awakening in 2019.

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  70. I don’t want to give that SGM pastor any more publicity here by posting his comments in mine, Dee, but I for one very much thank you for answering him as you did. I am also glad for you that you did not hold the buttons in that he pushed, but rather expressed what is behind them.

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  71. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Also, in addition to truth being an absolute defense to libel, I have no idea how HBC is going to prove that the bloggers stopped people from being saved at HBC. That is just so ridiculous.

    I think McDonald has a much different goal. The lawsuit is preposterous in my opinion. But, in the meantime, he can exact revenge by trying to bankrupt his “perceived” enemies. A very biblical adventure for a pastor whose own worst enemy is actually himself.

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  72. In case the translation in the video are difficult to read, here is a translation by Tom Morrison. There are 29(?) verses in the original poem.
    https://lyricstranslate.com/en/t%C3%A0ladh-chriosda-t%C3%A0ladh-sl%C3%A0nuighear-christs-lullaby-out-saviours-lullaby.html

    Christ’s Lullaby (Our Saviour’s Lullaby)

    You are my love, my love and my darling,
    you are my treasure and my joy,
    you are my beautiful graceful little son.
    I am not worthy to be near you.

    Allelulia (X4)

    My love the eye that gazes kindly,
    my love the heart that is filled with love,
    althouh you are a baby with nothing at all
    there are many strengths growing in you.

    Allelulia (X4)

    Although you are a helpless baby
    you are certainly the King of kings.
    You are the true, rightful heir
    to the Kingdom of Gracious God.

    Allelulia (X4)

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  73. Max,

    Thanks Max but to quote Stuart Townend’s hymn

    “In Christ alone my hope is found,
    He is my light, my strength, my song
    This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
    Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
    What heights of love, what depths of peace
    When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
    My Comforter, my All in All
    Here in the love of Christ I stand.

    In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
    Fullness of God in helpless babe.
    This gift of love and righteousness,
    Scorned by the ones He came to save
    Till on that cross as Jesus died,
    The wrath of God was satisfied
    For every sin on Him was laid
    Here in the death of Christ I live.

    There in the ground His body lay,
    Light of the world by darkness slain:
    Then bursting forth in glorious day
    Up from the grave He rose again
    And as He stands in victory
    Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
    For I am His and He is mine
    Bought with the precious blood of Christ

    No guilt in life, no fear in death,
    This is the power of Christ in me
    From life’s first cry to final breath,
    Jesus commands my destiny
    No power of hell, no scheme of man,
    Can ever pluck me from His hand
    Till He returns or calls me home
    Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.”

    (And yes, this dour old Scottish Calvinist can never sing it without tears running down his cheeks )

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  74. dee: It appears the YELP review sums it up quite nicely. Now, I’ll do you a favor and not post who you are even though you were gutless in leaving a comment here.

    There ain’t nuthin’ worse for these guys than gettin’ their clock cleaned by a woman.

    Hell, I even heard a Bible story once about a fella who ordered another fella to run him through with a sword so’s it wouldn’t get out that a gal was the one cracked open his skull with a mill stone.

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  75. Suing the messengers of alarming 501c3 debilitating and escalating impropriety- killing the truth in the process? Profound behavior indeed…

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  76. the Case of Declining Conversions

    District burned over until there’s nothing left?
    No more sheep to rustle?
    Predator churches killed off all the prey?

    Predator churches…
    Imagine London from Mortal Engines as a megachurch, rolling through the wasteland gobbling up/dismantling/digesting smaller churches and their peoples…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVpphv6dsAw

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  77. Lowlandseer,

    Yes, if only we could all realize it’s never been about religious this or that, but a relationship with Christ … not about knowing theology but knowing Him. If we cut away all the teachings and traditions of mere men, we may find we are closer to each other than we think as long as we keep the Main thing the main thing.

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  78. dee: I’m pretty good at tracking down things, Bill, and it appears you may be a pastor of a Sovereign Grace Church.

    Kind and honerable of you not to take advantage of Bill’s naivety.

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  79. JDV: ‘Look, Lord, we spread bad reports about anybody and everybody in your church to advance your Kingdom!’

    Which is worse… to report on bad things that are happening in the church (spiritual, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse by pastors and church workers) or to be the person who commits those bad things that are being reported???

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  80. elastigirl: which contradict logic, and more importantly philadelphia.

    Forgive me, my poor head went straight to Gritty, the new mascot for the Flyers.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NOFhYje3EU

    More seriously, somehow my teenage experiences taught me to drop all of my defenses around Christians. And by Christians I mean the “true” kind who arrogate the term to themselves, expecting a small heaven. I learned this habit from the missionary who worked the halls of my school, and of course from youth group, and later the college fellowship.

    How freeing it all was to trust everyone! At youth group, everybody spilled the family secrets in front of a hundred other kids—what a great idea! Dad isn’t saved, no matter how much you beg and plead? Tell everybody, get it off your chest! You used to have s e x until you found Jesus? You saw the light, let’s celebrate!

    Not much logic or philadelphia there, but we all fell for it, except for the kids who felt uncomfortable and didn’t come back. They were going to hell, so sad.

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  81. dee: Banging my head on the kitchen table…

    But at least you are still in your right mind. Supporters of Mahaney, MacDonald et al. are so open-minded that their brains have fallen out.

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  82. Friend,

    what’s the current state of your level of trust / defenses with christian people in your faith community?

    i don’t reveal much — my, how information spreads. more accurately, assumptions made based on bits of information. often with good intentions.

    i’m surprised at how a christian community presumes to be ‘family’. Knowing very personal things about people, many of whom would be angry to know how public their lives have become.

    one family is complicated enough. i certainly don’t need another one.

    just rambling now…

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  83. elastigirl,

    a good ramble, and not that much off-topic.

    IMO, the attribute “worthy of trust” is one that is “earned”, not “ascribed” (that seems to me to be a lesson of the NT “qualifications for elder/deacon” in the pastoral epistles, but it’s also common sense).

    Ascribing trustworthiness to people solely on their self-assertion of fidelity to Christ (or, for that matter, to demonstrated doctrinal orthodoxy or skill in preaching/teaching) opens one up to the kinds of things that are documented at TWW. Character is deeper than words and is discovered only over time.

    It’s bit disheartening to think that even in church (and perhaps especially in church) one is wise to adopt a “hermeneutic of suspicion” towards people one does not know well. But that appears to me to be the reality.

    Jn 2:24 comes to mind.

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  84. Good comments and a good post!

    Minor suggestion: some might want to google the differences between reformed, old Calvinist, neoCalvinist, and new Calvinist as they are not all the same and do not all teach the same thing. Also there are some excellent sites that show the considerable differences between mild Calvinism, moderate Calvinism, Calvinism, and hyperCalvinism. It gets admittedly confusing.

    Also might want to pop over to the web site The Reformed Arminian.

    Reformed can be plain reformed, Calvinist, Lutheran, or yes, classic Reformed Arminian, which is different from Wesleyan Arminian.

    Today’s new Calvinist will argue they are the only Reformed, but they are not. One can hold all five solas (be Reformed) and think the TULIP is but a stinkweed by another name.

    Now if I haven’t got your eyes rolling back in your head enough, every blamed one of them comes in two other flavors: Lordship Salvation or nonLordship Salvation.

    Some of the sweetest happiest evangelizingest folks I have known were mild Calvinist, Reformed, nonLordship Salvation. Some were Lutheran. Some were Reformed Arminian.

    But the real stinkers were the Lordship Salvation crowd and the hyper (all 5 petals of the TULIP) crowd, and put those together and all I can say is “where is the door outta here?!”

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  85. Bill: I pity you (whoever is behind the Wartburg Watch). On that great day when our savior returns, what are you going to say to him? ‘Look, Lord, we spread bad reports about anybody and everybody in your church to advance your Kingdom!’

    Nice little passive-aggressive threat of Eternal Hellfire there, Bill.

    But you know what?

    You can only take God pressing his Hell-gun to the back of your head with one up the spout, safety off, and trigger half-pulled for so long until you kill yourself, go crazy, or run like hell. And some 40 years ago, I ran. And so did a lot of the regulars here.

    And God’s Anointed came after us with God’s Hell-guns, mouthing the same Christianese as you, making the same spiritual veiled threats as you, crying the same crocodile tears as you with the same Sociopath’s Concern and Compassion(TM).

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  86. Today’s new Calvinist will argue they are the only Reformed, but they are not. One can hold all five solas (be Reformed) and think the TULIP is but a stinkweed by another name.

    “WE BELEIVE IN THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE.”
    — spat out by one of Westboro Baptist’s Phelps-spawn in an interview

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  87. linda: reformed, old Calvinist, neoCalvinist, and new Calvinist … not all the same and do not all teach the same thing

    Agreed. As a non-Calvinist for 70 years, I have never had a real problem with classical (“Old”) Calvinists. I have worshiped alongside them and found them to be civil in their discourse and respectful of other expressions of Christian faith … even though I didn’t agree with the essential tenets of their belief system. As for these “New” Calvinists, they are totally different beasts. They are arrogant, tribal, militant, and aggressive … believing they alone are the sole keepers of truth and have come into the world for such a time as this to restore the gospel that the rest of the church has lost … Gospel = Calvinism to them. From their ranks have come the likes of Driscoll, Piper, Mahaney, MacDonald, Mohler, Dever and a host of other new reformers who stand in opposition to 90+% of Christendom which does not hold to their theology.

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  88. Max: They are arrogant, tribal, militant, and aggressive … believing they alone are the sole keepers of truth and have come into the world for such a time as this

    A couple generations ago, they would have been on fire for The TRVTH! of Communism instead of Calvinism.

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  89. elastigirl: what’s the current state of your level of trust / defenses with christian people in your faith community?

    Since returning after burnout several years back, I proceed with caution. I try to be kind toward everyone, but take a lot of time making friends. If I don’t know/care for someone, I focus on whatever our shared task is. My attitude these days is that church has to put up with me. To my surprise, this works.

    Our family recently had a hardship, and the church gently peppered us with offers of help. We ended up with five clergy home visits (including three Communion visits), four home-cooked dinners, and dozens of emails and text messages. It was revealing and humbling to receive help from the church, a glimpse of the Beatitudes.

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  90. Samuel Conner,

    “It’s bit disheartening to think that even in church (and perhaps especially in church) one is wise to adopt a “hermeneutic of suspicion” towards people one does not know well. But that appears to me to be the reality.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    no need for religious and spiritual words like ‘hermeneutic’ — it’s simply healthy social norms, that you and i already operate by.

    it is highly abnormal to automatically go to “7” or “8” on the intimacy scale with peripheral people.

    normal and healthy individuals (hopefully that means me and you!) reserve self-disclosure for a relative few, after having gone through relationship-building (for lack of a better word at the moment).

    church is simply a group of human beings, like any other group. nothing mystical. The fact that God, Jesus, Holy Spirit may be part of the group (one would hope), it’s still a human group subject to what is normal and healthy, like any other group.

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  91. Samuel Conner: It’s bit disheartening to think that even in church (and perhaps especially in church) one is wise to adopt a “hermeneutic of suspicion” towards people one does not know well. But that appears to me to be the reality.

    I think that boundless expectation can make people vulnerable, leading to disappointment and possibly worse. The Bible says to visit the sick and imprisoned—not visit the sick and imprisoned and come away feeling euphoric and pumped up, like we just did the best! thing! ever! for! Jesus! It’s not about us.

    Churches are run by flawed humans worshiping and serving God. In my view, calmer churches tend to be healthier, if only because people don’t have to learn a whole new language of behavior.

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  92. Friend,

    i’m very sorry for the hardship. it sounds your church was very respectful in it’s compassion. kudos to them.

    compassion-bombing isn’t about compassion. it’s not about helping someone. it’s all about the bombers, and what it does for them.

    being the target of a compassion-bomb is enough to retreat to the showers with a metal scrubbing brush.

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  93. Interesting that “Bill” may be the pastor of a sovereign grace Church. I wondered if maybe he was someone from JMs current inner circle!

    Anyone who begins their response with “I pity you” is revealing contempt, not concern. Someone really concerned for Dee would write a private letter to her, not post a scalding comment in a chat.

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  94. fisher: Anyone who begins their response with “I pity you” is revealing contempt, not concern. Someone really concerned for Dee would write a private letter to her, not post a scalding comment in a chat.

    The Book of Proverbs alludes to them as fools with no discretion.

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  95. Hey BILL,about two years ago I invited two close friends of mine to come to church with me, they seemed interested in joining my wife and I ,then they asked me “where do you go to church?” I replied “Harvest Bible chapel”. My friend then said “isn’t James McDonald the pastor there”? I said yes he is ,then my friend said “I would never attend that church”. When I asked him why.he told me that his Daughter worked at a car dealership where Jmac purchased his Ford Raptor,and when the vehicle wasn’t ready when Jmac thought it should be he came UNGLUED and balled this poor 19 yr old girl out….Jmac also dressed down my flock leader when he failed to perform a task to Jmacs liking…Jmac also opened up his pulpit to Wolf in sheeps clothing scripture twisting heretic Steven Furtic…Jmac also Gave his stamp of approval to word of faith heretic and motalist T.D Jakes……maybe BILL you should learn to ACT LIKE A MAN,and content for the faith….this isn’t about Dee or her opinions or mine for that matter,its about protecting the sheep from people who would abuse them and “make merchandise out of them”…even as I write this Jmac is asking people to give “sacrificially” to harvests Closer campaign. While He’s Literally living like a KING..the Elder board Flat out lied to the congregation about Jmac “Downsizing his life style in the Feb 2014 Elder report…read it for yourself…sure he sold his 1.9 million dollars mansion and moved into a smaller home in S.Elgin….but the Elder board failed to inform the congregation that it was only until Jmacs Bigger New mansion was completed. I personally asked Elder steve Huston about this and his words were and I quote “havent you ever changed your mind….Hey BILL SHOULD I CONTINUE?????

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  96. ___

    Enriched & Enlightened Religious Media Reporting: “Taking The High Ground, Perhaps?”

    Dear Ms. JulieR,

    “When you do dance, I wish you a wave o’ the sea, that you might ever do nothing but that…”
    *
    Happy Holidays!
    *
    ATB

    Sòpy

    Intermission:
    https://youtu.be/KNY8v2LsMz8

    ;~)

    – –

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  97. Friend: I think that boundless expectation can make people vulnerable, leading to disappointment and possibly worse. The Bible says to visit the sick and imprisoned—not visit the sick and imprisoned and come away feeling euphoric and pumped up, like we just did the best! thing! ever! for! Jesus! It’s not about us.

    Agreed. People should not be regarded as “ministry substrates” (a theme that occasionally crops up in TWW comments is the passivity that is often expected of the non-office-holding laity, as if their function is to be acted on by the leadership); people are ends in themselves.

    I’d like to think that kindnesses shown to fellow image-bearers (whether believers or not) are rooted in a large-heartedness that regards others’ sorrows and joys as in a sense one’s own (“weep with those who weep; rejoice with those who rejoice”; other texts that may be relevant are those that speak of “the body” needing all its “limbs”, or of Jesus-followers being “members one of another”).

    Which leads to a possible strategy for dealing with one’s own sorrows — weep over them, but also invest oneself into easing others’ sorrows, and rejoice with them as they rejoice in kindness received.

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  98. Dan keller,

    Thanks for your mention of “little episodes” that can be revealing of a man’s character. I have come across others as I have read through some of the first person accounts at TED.

    There are famous quotes down through history about how people treat their “social inferiors”; a quick Google search came up with this one:

    “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

    This is just good common sense, though some may discount it as coming from the mouth of a female, and a fictional female at that.

    So here’s more authoritative assessment:

    You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.

    —-

    Again, DK, thank you for a helpful glimpse of the man.

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  99. Samuel Conner: Which leads to a possible strategy for dealing with one’s own sorrows — weep over them, but also invest oneself into easing others’ sorrows, and rejoice with them as they rejoice in kindness received.

    We make a point of talking to workers. Young adults, as well as restaurant workers of any age, tend to keep their heads down and do the job as efficiently as possible. Customers have been more or less trained to refrain from conversation. Asking “How are you doing today?” can make a difference in someone’s life, when they realize you mean it. So can a more than perfunctory thank-you. We tell great workers how great they are, and pass good reports to their managers. Over time, the gal at the gym and the guy behind the sandwich counter have figured out that we care about them, and we feel less anonymous too. All of us are God’s children. We can be more than parts of a transaction machine.

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  100. Friend,

    Yes and Amen. I have noticed how simple, trivial, garden-variety kindness and courtesy in day-to-day interaction with people, even strangers, can visibly encourage people. What a world it would be if this were “second nature” to everyone, and informed the decisions of the powerful as well as the daily interactions of the powerless.

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  101. Samuel Conner,

    “(a theme that occasionally crops up in TWW comments is the passivity that is often expected of the non-office-holding laity, as if their function is to be acted on by the leadership)”
    ++++++++++++++++

    i appreciate your well-thought out and worded comments.

    ‘as if their function is to be acted on by leadership’

    this is how it seems to me. in the church where my kids used to go (to be part of their youth group), it was like a mini church service. 3 songs, then a leader preaching to the group.

    my kids hated it. they spend 7 hours concentrating and having to pay attention at school. their attention-paying brains are utterly exhausted. those resources are depleted by day’s end, by week’s end.

    this is a very silly approach to a youth group. counter-productive.

    i have long thought that the whole purpose is to enable the staff opportunities to ‘function in the (so-called) gifts of the spirit’.

    the kids and what their lives are like are not the priority. the leaders are the priority.

    in addition, i have thought for years that my purpose at church is to give the leaders something to do. to justify their paycheck. to add interest to their job.

    so incredibly screwed up. i’m so done, for these reasons and so many more.

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  102. elastigirl:

    so incredibly screwed up.i’m so done, for these reasons and so many more.

    I have come to have such low expectations of what I am likely to find in institutional church settings that “exile in wilderness” seems preferable. This doesn’t mean that that I think “the Church”, in the sense of “Christ’s body” — the visible manifestation on earth of Jesus’ presence, no longer exists, but it might be the case that the self-described visible churches are not healthy expressions of Jesus. The “laity are just a substrate for the leaders’ ministries” attitude leads to a “body” that is almost all “head”, with only withered and largely inert “limbs,” surely not what Paul envisioned in 1 Corinthians.

    I hope that you are not “done” with Jesus Himself, and that you find encouragement along your way from others who may themselves be homeless pilgrims. Perhaps the fact that there are so many of us, and more year by year, is something of a “prophetic word” to the institutions that self-describe as representing Christ on earth.

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  103. Samuel Conner,

    “I hope that you are not “done” with Jesus Himself, and that you find encouragement along your way from others who may themselves be homeless pilgrims.”
    +++++++++++++++

    thank you for your words of kindness.

    no, not done. i believe Jesus exists, based on evidence that matters to me. I can’t not believe.

    however, i can’t help but be discouraged and disillusioned.

    Church culture has made very unrealistic promises and expectations of Jesus, and very unrealistic expectations of me.

    i don’t love Jesus, i never have. I simply can’t love something invisible. I respect Jesus, and feel things that are positive.

    but, oh, the pressure in church culture…. you have to feel this way, and think way, and behave this way in order to be legitimate.

    how many times have i heard little trite-isms like “when God closes a door he opens a window”. “the joy of the lord is your strength”. promises that God will take care of one’s finances when you tithe, and tithe generously. God’s going to work out everything. So many more.

    “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

    i was young and am still relatively young, and h-e-double-chopSTIX i’ve seen all kinds of people begging for bread — including people who by any standards would qualify as righteous.

    i’ve lived and observed enough of life to see that none of it is true — not to the degree it is marketed in church culture.

    it’s as reliable as…. as…. the water pressure in a Wal-Mart bathroom.

    i’ve been forsaken and deserted by God for years (as have many people). no, joy could not be found. and when i consulted with church culture on how to get through the reality that rendered their promises empty, they had nothing but yet more trite-isms & empty promises.

    it was my own courage, determination and moxie that got me out. not God. although God did provide the air for me to breath, so God gets the credit for that.

    i’m not angry at God. i have a realistic understanding of God.

    but i’m angry at the how church exploits people. the fact of the matter is that church culture has to market and promote this genie Jesus and this supposedly charmed life one does with Jesus — they need something that sells well to draw and keep the ‘giving units’ to pay their salaries.

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  104. elastigirl:

    but i’m angry at the how church exploits people.the fact of the matter is that church culture has to market and promote this genie Jesus and this supposedly charmed life one does with Jesus — they need something that sells well to draw and keep the ‘giving units’ to pay their salaries.

    I’m sure that you are not alone in these experiences of “church ‘under the sun’ ”

    I have come to suspect that a significant amount of what is currently indoctrinated to believers is for all practical purposes “magical thinking.” For example, A lot of prayer practice looks to me to be essentially a kind “out-sourcing to God” of what we ought to be doing ourselves.

    A word to believers who (unlike me) have not yet thrown up hands in despair over the churches:

    If you want people to believe that “God is good”, it may be necessary for you (in the context of your local congregation, if you are still there, but individual action can also be fruitful) to “be the goodness of God” to them. Feed the hungry, defend the fatherless, comfort widows and orphans in their affliction.

    I wonder whether our public meetings might actually be distressing to the Searcher of hearts.

    He has shown us what is good — to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with YHWH our God.

    When did we get away from that?

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  105. Samuel Conner,

    “He has shown us what is good — to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with YHWH our God.

    When did we get away from that?”
    +++++++++++++++

    i’m pretty sure it has something to do with money, church as a business, church as profit center.

    money changes everything.

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  106. …and power.

    protecting money and power compromises everything.

    part of the problem is people born privileged (in a demographic that has power) take their power for granted.

    when the applecart of their power is upset, it’s jarring. it’s frightening. the way things looked and felt is suddenly all different. the world and their place in it has all gone crazy, it seems.

    they panic. something must be done. they consolidate their power, build bulwarks of ideology to protect it.

    they seem unaware of the following (or at least seem not to understand it):

    “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”, Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Equality for all human beings is simply where things are headed (well, they’ve been there for a while, now).

    it’s awfully hard to even understand what it means to do justice and love mercy when one is protecting their domain from underprivileged persons for whom the power differential is equalizing.

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  107. Samuel Conner,

    ” “be the goodness of God” to them. Feed the hungry, defend the fatherless, comfort widows and orphans in their affliction.”
    ++++++++++++

    i truly don’t see what sitting in a well-lit auditoreum painted taupe with a really good sound system and and a good band, people with stage presence, followed by a sermon have anything remotely to do with what you just proposed.

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  108. I would like someone who can really get the facts on some stuff at harvest. Like… how many people actually attended the harvest bible fellowship seminary training while it existed. How many churches were specifically birthed out of the HBF seniniary church planting training? I know they say there 150 Chris plants but did all of these come out of the seminary training? Did people pay to attend the seminiary church planting training or were they supported by Harvest to attend? Once they graduated the seminary church planting seminary where they given money to start a church or did they have to start it from scratch on their own? Once a church was in HBF did they have to pay money to Harvest and if so how much? Then it would be nice is someone who understand budgets could do an explanation on harveat 2017 fiscal budget report. https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/2017-Audited-Financial-Statement.pdf

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  109. elastigirl,

    elastigirl:
    Samuel Conner,

    i truly don’t see what sitting in a well-lit auditoreum painted taupe with a really good sound system and and a good band, people with stage presence, followed by a sermon have anything remotely to do with what you just proposed.

    You can’t have both? It amazes me that people who have never stepped foot at HBC are so quick to judge it in entirety. Are there problems with this church? Absolutely. I left due to many of the problems that have been brought to light. However, I cannot deny how much I grew. Everyone has this perception that all that attend/ed Harvest are “me me me” people who just like to be entertained. That is so far from the truth. Some of the most giving God loving people with the biggest serving hearts I met were from Harvest. So yes although the auditorium is well lit, the band is pretty good, and there is stage presence, that does not mean that’s what all the church was about. In the many years I attended I served weekly in the church’s food and that provided breakfast and free groceries to those in need. There is a homeless ministry that gives out clothes and food. There is a ministry that spends weekends with other people fixing things around single parent households. One of my good friends benefited from that and had multiple things fixed around her house for absolutely free. A large group of us donated our time and money and spent nearly a month remodeling someone’s house who had recently become disabled to make their home more easily accessible to them. That’s just the little bit of serving we did. There are others that have done so much more for those in need. HBC has always stressed that there’s more to church than just sitting in chairs and listening to good sermons and music.

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  110. elastigirl:
    Samuel Conner,

    ” “be the goodness of God” to them. Feed the hungry, defend the fatherless, comfort widows and orphans in their affliction.”
    ++++++++++++

    i truly don’t see what sitting in a well-lit auditoreum painted taupe with a really good sound system and and a good band, people with stage presence, followed by a sermon have anything remotely to do with what you just proposed.

    Or with “what is good and what YHWH requires” of us.

    I think that there is a NT connection that gets lost in a lot of present-day practice: Hebrews 10, where people are called to “not forsake group assemblies”, but to assemble and “encourage one another to love and good deeds”.

    IMO, too often, “encouragement/exhortation to love and good deeds” is de-emphasized or entirely absent, eclipsed or replaced with “exhortation to get behind the pastor’s ministry expansion vision, which is the will of God for you”, which may not look very much at all like “love and good deeds” in the NT sense of the terms, or like “the will of God” as one can discern it in the precepts of Scripture.

    What was so important to Jesus and to Paul: “love one another” and the many “one another” implications of that within “body life” of the churches. As has been noted in comments in the next post, the popular “9Marks” movement does not explicitly include “love” as one of the marks of a healthy church, in spite of that fact that Jesus predicted that this would be the thing that would be the distinguishing mark of His followers (and that, historically, actually was).

    (Maybe the markists they have a point, though: “love” is the mark of people who follow Jesus; the “church” in practice is a different beast altogether. That might be a lesson of our time. I could go along with their definitions if they changed “healthy” to “effective, for some definitions of ‘effective’ “.)

    I do think that there numerous individual believers in these assemblies and outside of them who exhibit beautiful spiritual fruit in the Galatians 5:22-3 sense; but the institutions themselves and too many of their officers IMO are working at cross purposes with the Spirit.

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  111. Dear Elastigirl,

    Hello,

    I am very sorry for your current presence of mind and overwhelmingly trying circumstances. Many members of spiritual healthy churches present the faithful promises of the word of God manafest in their lives as the real reason for the faith hope and love attributing to the successes in their lives. God does not aways give them what they want. He does like the birds of the air, however, provide for their needs. Please give Him another opportunity. Churches are filled with folks that are not always perfect, Getting your eyes off their mist-deeds and placing them onto where the streangth lies, might help. Trusting in Him to provide may also. He helps all those who give Him half a chance. He is kind to all those who put their trust in Him. I sincerely hope you will. Thank you for sharing…In my prayers… Happy Holidays. ATB. Sòpy https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=S6Y4GUL2dW8

    ;~)

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  112. Very wise Samuel Conner….according 1st Corinthians:12 true believers are all one body with many parts,each part is given gifts by God himself to serve the rest of the body. 1 Cor:12 also says we should desire the higher gifts….Then at the end of 1 Cor:12 we’re told…I’m paraphrasing here..but I will show you a more excellent way…..what is the more excellent way??? Its explained in 1 Cor:13…in a nut shell..you could have all of these wonderful gifts that we are told about in 1 Cor:12,but without Love they are nothing ….in the end we have Faith Hope and Love but the greatest of these is Love ,not that the others aren’t Great but Love is the greatest….when To Much Money gets involved we (and I Mean all people,me included) can very easily get blinded,and lose track of love, that’s why the early Church met in people’s houses…no overhead, no budget, no staff salaries,no maintenance fees. Just one body with all its members working and serving one another and searching the scriptures in Love…that’s why I no longer attend Harvest or any thing that resembles the Evangelical Industrial Complex…but I meet with 10 to 16 people in my home and in others homes… been doing it for awhile now, it been scary and Awesome all at the same time….I also agree with Samuel Conner that there are many good loving believers in these assemblies who exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit talked about in Gal:5.

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  113. Samuel Conner,

    “IMO, too often, “encouragement/exhortation to love and good deeds” is de-emphasized or entirely absent, eclipsed or replaced with “exhortation to get behind the pastor’s ministry expansion vision, …”
    ++++++++++++

    in church culture, size does matter. due to christian cultural norms every pastor i’ve ever been associated with has been a man, and every one of them was focussed on size. one even admitted to me that a small church is embarrassing. i think symbolic virility vs. impotence factor in at some deep level (i’m sure there’s a freudian connection to some degree).

    these were good, decent men (most of them). excellent human beings. but somehow blind to how they turned people into pawns for building their stature.

    i’m not trying to make a case for women versus men pastors (although i’m all for gender-free qualifications). these are simply my observations, and trying to make sense of them.
    —————-

    “What was so important to Jesus and to Paul: “love one another”…. Jesus predicted that this would be the thing that would be the distinguishing mark of His followers (and that, historically, actually was).”
    +++++++++++++

    i observe 2 things:

    1) ‘love one another’ is a very simple statement. anyone on the street of any city in the world understands what this means.

    it’s so simple there just isn’t enough there for sermons. there isn’t enough there for those who put their name to books to fill their quota for their publishing contracts.

    but pastors have to come up with 20 to 60(!) minutes of material. ‘writers’ have to come up with things to write about.

    so the very basic premise is analyzed and re-analyzed into meatier systems of ideas. convoluted systems, that make them sound so enlightened and guru-like.

    it’s like taking a toothpick and re-engineering it (with other toothpicks and glue, wire, rubber bands, string…) into something so fancy and complex that surely is worth a good deal more than just one boring toothpick.

    the fancy contraption is simply not necessary. it is much less effective, and causes a new set of problems.

    the one boring toothpick is much easier and does a much better job.

    2) in christian culture “love” has been redefined and twisted into all sorts of grotesque things.

    in analyzing what i’ve experienced and what i’ve observed many times over, these grotesque things pretty much always foster power in one person over another.

    how convenient. 😐

    [….i’m sure 1) and 2) are related.]

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  114. elastigirl: i truly don’t see what sitting in a well-lit auditoreum painted taupe with a really good sound system and and a good band, people with stage presence, followed by a sermon have anything remotely to do with what you just proposed.

    Ha, my thinking exactly. I mean, I love going to a cool coffee house, but I don’t tell myself it is ‘worshipping’ or doing anything other than enjoying a pleasant ambience and a good latte. I’m thinking this is not what God had in mind . . .

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  115. elastigirl:
    Samuel Conner,

    ” “be the goodness of God” to them. Feed the hungry, defend the fatherless, comfort widows and orphans in their affliction.”
    ++++++++++++

    i truly don’t see what sitting in a well-lit auditoreum painted taupe with a really good sound system and and a good band, people with stage presence, followed by a sermon have anything remotely to do with what you just proposed.

    I don’t either, which is why I don’t do it any more. I simply can’t.

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  116. Sue,

    I believe many of the fellowship churches (at least the ones I know of in the U.S.) were not actual new church plants but existing churches that took on the Harvest name. The pastors could then attend a several week long training seminar at the “mother ship”. Worship leaders could also attend a training “band camp”. Suffice it to say and sadly, many of the fellowship churches have learned the ins and outs of doing church the Harvest way. Churches in the fellowship were then to give 5% of their annual budget (broken out into 12 monthly payments) to Harvest Bible Fellowship.
    The fellowship churches were sent a monthly invoice and subsequently notified of missing/past due payments.

    I know this because I was a bookkeeper at a Harvest fellowship church. We left almost 2 years ago due to seeing similar toxic patterns in the leadership (senior pastor driven) including surrounding themselves with yes men, an unhealthy focus on “filling the seats” (more people = more money), lack of transparency and poor decisions in finances (including debt), snubbing and looking down on other local nearby churches and last and most grievously, signs of spiritual abuse as numerous people have left (including several long standing members).

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  117. Sue:
    … Then it would be nice is someone who understand budgets could do an explanation on harveat 2017 fiscal budget report. https://www.harvestbiblechapel.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/2017-Audited-Financial-Statement.pdf

    Sue,
    This is an annual financial report, not a budget report. A budget report would compare plan (budget) to actual. This shows only actual. That said, here are the pieces:
    Page 1: Cover sheet – no comments needed
    Page 2: Table of content – no comments needed
    Page 3: Auditor’s report – boilerplate, nothing worth note here
    Page 4: Balance sheet (assets and liabilities, or in other words “owned and owed”)
    Page 5: Income statement (income and expense)
    Page 6: Cash flow statement (how cash was affected)
    Pages 7 and following: Notes that explain pages 4-6 in more detail.

    On multiple pages, restrictions are from donations that had a purpose restriction when given. They can only be used for that purpose, and once so used are first released from restriction and then expended as they type of expense they are. There are no permanent endowment funds with permanent restrictions shown.

    Page 4, the Balance Sheet. Cash is down a bit over $3 Million (M). Broadcast time receivable is a weird line item discussed in a note. Long-term debt is mortgages and the like. These are down almost $2.5M, suggesting net payment of debt.

    Page 5, Income statement. You asked about tuition, there is a line item here – $4.5M in 2017, down about 2% from 2016.

    Compensation (employee payroll) of $16.9M is up $2.3M from prior year, almost 15%. Interest expense of $2.55M is basically flat from $2.63M prior year.

    The issue here is $46.1M in income against $50.1M in expense. That is a deficit of $4M. I used to work in Financial Planning & Analysis for my employer, and the issue appears to be on the expense side, not the income side, as income is up $3.4M but expense is up $7.5M. Most of the income growth is a transfer of $2.3M from an affiliate, while only $0.7M of the expense growth is transfer to another organization. Taking those out income is up $1.1M while expense is up $6.8M, and the real deficit appears to be $5.6 Million.

    But in any large organization, there are items like depreciation that are real but don’t affect cash. (Depreciation is the wearing out of property, leading to repairs/replacement later.) So next we get page 6, a cash flow statement. Routine operations actually yielded $954K in cash. But $1.6M was used to invest in more land, buildings, and equipment. And $2.4M was used to pay down the principal on long term debt. So across all activities $3.1M of cash was used up.

    -review of notes to follow in other posts-

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  118. Continuing my review of notes.

    On page 7 we start a list of three affiliates whose finances affected the organization. There are two property owning LLCs. I’ve seen a commentator say more about one of these in an earlier post than this note reveals. They could probably dig more out of this document. The third is a church plant that became independent on 1 September 2017. The $0.7M of 2017 expense transfer to another organization is to that newly independent church.

    On page 8 that list continues with a discussion of Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF). As of July 1, 2017 HBF ceased being funded by multiple churches so it from that date becomes part of HBC’s financial statements. This is the $2.3M received from an affiliate in the income statement, which is primarily the training center in Michigan. This note reveals that an internal fund transfer of $1M went from Walk in the Word to HBF in the second half of 2017 after the consolidation.

    On page 9 we get the first explanation of broadcast time receivable. Note 8 later adds more. Basically HBC sold property to TBN Networks and is getting paid in broadcast time on those networks, with an ending date of June 2022. So this is a non-cash income and expense until that date, then HBC will have to pay cash to stay on the air.

    On page 11 we start a review of the long term debt, with five individual mortgages stated. There is a big balloon debt maturity in 2022 from the first, then a smaller balloon in 2023 from the second biggest. Those will almost certainly have to be refinanced given the rest of the financial reports. These two both started at 4.75% and can vary between that and 8.25% depending on market interest rates. They reset on 1 August 2018 and therefore are probably at 6.27% or 6.28% now.

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  119. Sitting back as someone with Financial Planning & Analysis experience (though it is not my current role), the organization is in trouble but not in a crisis. A more meaningful 2017 deficit (free of affiliate changes) of $5.6M, expenses growing faster than income, and net cash consumption of $3.1M are all negative indicators. With their size and $5.6M of cash and equivalents at year end, there is time to address this.

    Absent significant improvements between then and now, 2022 looks to be the possible year of serious hurt. They will both have to start paying cash for the TV broadcasts on TBN and also deal with refinancing the biggest mortgage. The mortgage they should be able to handle, but the financial statement gives no present indication of where they could come up with the cash flow to pay for the broadcast time they are currently receiving as payment for a prior property sale.

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  120. elastigirl: i think symbolic virility vs. impotence factor in at some deep level (i’m sure there’s a freudian connection to some degree).

    “MINE’S BIGGER THAN YOURS!”
    (Like LBJ used to do with “Jumbo”…)

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  121. elastigirl: compassion-bombing isn’t about compassion. it’s not about helping someone. it’s all about the bombers, and what it does for them.

    The early South Park episode “Conjoined Fetus Lady” (S2E5) is all about that subject.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conjoined_Fetus_Lady

    being the target of a compassion-bomb is enough to retreat to the showers with a metal scrubbing brush.

    Like the school nurse with a disfiguring birth defect (a form of incomplete twinning) in the above South Park episode.

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  122. Root 66: After he left, a preacher doing pulpit supply told us that Jesus loved each one of us and died for us during his sermon. I sat in my seat and wept because I realized I hadn’t heard that in such a long time! Sometimes, it’s not so much what these ‘reformers’ say as much as it is what they DON’T say!

    Maybe it’s hard for them to say “Jesus loves you” when they don’t love you? Hmm just a thought.

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  123. elastigirl,

    I can really relate to all you wrote, it’s very similar to my experience. I don’t say too much to believers I know because I don’t want to discourage anyone but I think there are so many myths rolled up into the Christian life that don’t stand up to any scrutiny. Faith has to be based on something beyond all that. I appreciated hearing your experience, makes me feel less alone.

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  124. it gives me a good feeling to know i’m not alone, too.

    since there’s so much variance in christendom, seems to me the only reasonable and rational thing to do is go back to the few tenets that are… ‘constants’, i guess.

    i just re-read the nicene creed. don’t think i have any issues with it.

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  125. Pingback: Wednesday Connect | Thinking Out Loud

  126. Katie,

    No one is saying HBC doesn’t have good ministries and good Christ loving people in its membership. I know because I was a member for 6 1/2 years and worked in various ministries and gave specifically. But I left because how the elders were treated in 2013. As I look back on the time at HBC, I feel like I was used and a fool for not realizing how MacDonald is. I regret ever joining HBC.

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  127. Sòpy,

    Thank you so much, Sopy.

    “He is kind to all those who put their trust in Him”.

    i have to radically redefine kindness in highly partial & grotesque terms for this to be true.

    i pray weekly with friends. it is a spiritually nourishing experience.

    i pray and have faith in my own way, that doesn’t match theirs. i would be pretending if i did otherwise. but i keep my perspectives to myself. only my closest confidants are privy.

    actually, you all here know more than my prayer group friends do.

    (there’s amazing freedom in anonymity for transparent self-disclosure and helpful feedback)

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  128. Katie,

    “You can’t have both?……Everyone has this perception that all that attend/ed Harvest are “me me me” people who just like to be entertained. That is so far from the truth. Some of the most giving God loving people with the biggest serving hearts I met were from Harvest.”
    +++++++++++++++

    my comments are not about Harvest church(es). I’m sure there are outstanding people there, as you describe.

    my experience is that a church service (& the many other church functions that demand time and energy) have nothing to do with ‘being the goodness of God, feeding the hungry, defending the fatherless, comforting the widows and orphans in their affliction’.

    …but have everything to do with feeding the hungry machine of the organization to keep it going for its own sake.

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  129. Amen elastigirl I couldn’t agree more…. “The machine”is always looking for ways to get the sheep to feed it,instead of looking for ways to feed the sheep… hence the G-5 campaign ,the closer campaign ect…The beast must be fed….Jesus asked Peter do you love me? then feed my sheep…NOT do you love me then get the sheep to feed The Evangelical Industrial Complex and make millionaire Celebritie Pastors.

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  130. A.Stacy,

    I agree it is all about the almighty dollar to him and his empire. Sadly I had hoped over the years none of these things were true about him and Harvest. As a person who had attended for years, I have only seen arrogance from him way too often. This past year he said in a sermon how he was confronted by a stewardess on a plane to comply when taking off and he argued with her about her request. So told him she has the power to stop the plane and get him off of there if he did not comply. He threatened back to go ahead and make them turn the plane around, so they did. Why would he preach this story? He obviously has some connections to do all of these things he wants. Apparently he fears nobody. Including the Lord for his double standard of on and off the camera. This is a pastor we are talking about, right?

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  131. Dan keller: “The machine” is always looking for ways to get the sheep to feed it, instead of looking for ways to feed the sheep … The beast must be fed …

    Hmmmm … puts a whole new spin on “mark of the beast.”

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  132. Katie,

    Money is the master,

    The sad part of t.f his story is the plane turned around and the other people were delayed because of his ego. There are so many stories of MacDonald’s unChristlike behavior. I left HBC because of his behavior. He doesn’t practice what he preaches. He has gotten worse. I dont know why any one listens to him.

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  133. Dan keller,

    We attended HBC for a few months when we first moved to Elgin. We left, not liking the “leadership culture” of the church.

    A few months later, my husband came home laughing – he was near the entrance to HBC when a Ford Raptor passed him on a double lane – just blew right by him illegally. And he thought to himself, “Is that an entitled 19 year old kid in his dad’s Raptor, or is that James MacDonald?”

    Spoiler alert: James MacDonald.

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