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Head elders to step down at Harvest

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 2/18/19, 11:09 am

Members of the executive committee of elders at Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago announced Saturday they will resign in the coming months as the church attempts to recover from a leadership crisis that culminated with the firing of Senior Pastor James MacDonald last week. At weekend services, church elder Bill Sperling read a statement acknowledging “failures in direction, discipline, and response time.” The statement said MacDonald exhibited “a sinful pattern of inappropriate language, anger, and domineering behavior” that the elders should have addressed sooner and with greater public accountability.

The church fired MacDonald after a recording of him making vulgar and inflammatory remarks aired Tuesday on WLS in Chicago on a program hosted by Mancow Muller, who attends Harvest and was a close friend of MacDonald’s. In December, an investigative report in WORLD Magazine detailed financial mismanagement and a culture of deception and intimidation at the church. The elders announced in January that MacDonald was taking an indefinite sabbatical.

In the wake of MacDonald’s firing, the five-member executive committee of elders will step down as soon as a replacement committee can be put in place, according to the statement Sperling read. The executive committee, according to church bylaws, has sole responsibility for approving the annual budget and salaries for senior staff. The elders also announced this weekend the formation of a team of congregants, staff, outside professionals, and elders called Harvest 2020 that will review the church’s leadership structure in the coming months. Harvest member Rick Korte, CEO of a Chicago-area industrial corporation, will lead the team on a volunteer basis.

Additionally, Harvest plans to return its campus in Naples, Fla., to local control and to halt the establishment of a new campus in Hinsdale, Ill. Before his termination was announced last week, MacDonald had planned to preach at the Naples campus during his sabbatical—a decision local Pastor John Secrest objected to before being fired. And, according to the statement, Harvest plans to announce changes soon to the composition of its elder board: “We recognize now that the large size of our elder board of over 30 men has made it difficult to make decisions during times of adversity.”

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • OldMike
    Posted: Mon, 02/18/2019 02:34 pm

    This situation is very sad for many reasons. It also gives ammunition to the anti-Christians who say we are all fake, hypocrites, and have nothing that makes us different from non-Christians. 

    I’ve known several Pastors who believed they should have ultimate authority in their churches, but they didn’t veer into the kind of bad behavior McDonald exhibited. Those churches seemed to have unusual numbers of people coming in and out all the time. People who left often said something like “Pastor So-and-So is just such a control freak.”  

    I always wondered, “If the Pastors are faithfully teaching the Word [I believe most of them did], then are people leaving just because  of pride issues?”

    Which tells me, if I start feeling like I want to change churches, before I do, I must spend a great deal of prayer and time trying to determine what my real motivations are. 

    (But I must clarify, I am in a very loving and serving church, and not having any thoughts of moving)

  •  notalemming's picture
    Posted: Mon, 02/18/2019 11:23 pm

    It must please Satan to no end to see his ultimate goal being accomplished, which is, after all, to seperate us from Christ.  And what greater way to do that than through hubristic pride and vanity?  I think we all have to fight these traits.  But to allow this to have gone on as long as it did....nothing New Testament about that.  The "Executive Board of Elders" say they will step down, and rightly so, but what of the "30" Elders?  Where's their culpability?  This is typical of the 501(c)(3) organization calling themselves the church, layers upon layers upon layers of bureaucracy in the name of oversight.  No wonder the world sees us as nothing special, in some instances as hypocrites, because we look just like the world.  Power used comes from power given.      

  •  phillipW's picture
    Posted: Tue, 02/19/2019 09:58 am

    The "church" in America is dead in it's sin of greed and pride.  Too many chiefs and not enough indians running a ship that is reminiscent of the Church of Laodicea.  Show up on Sunday morning and get entertained by a show of "worship" and preaching that ultimately becomes one giant stewardship campaign.

    I've spent many years in many different churches, and my tales of woe with various bible studies that accomplish nothing and bear no fruit are representative of why my frustration and anger with the "church" in America continues, and has even grown worse.  You show up for a 12-week Bible study or whatever, and everyone is excited and pumped on week 1.  By week 3 half the people that originally showed up have stopped coming, and the other half don't even bother to spend any time during the week doing the homework or investing any time or attention to the study.  So you show up that next week hoping to discuss a lesson, and all of the hard work I put into the study was a waste, because no one else did the work.

    Ask a congregation of over 1,400 "members" to show up for an after hours or off hours prayer meeting, and you'll get maybe 6 people to show up.  If there is any fruit in any church that I have ever set foot in, it all takes a back seat to anything else going on in the lives of the people in that church.  I've just grown far to apathetic and jaded by leadership that can convince a wealthy community of "believers" to spend millions on a new building, but when in fact, you can't even get an enthusiastic or legitimate group in the old building to actually commit to anything resembling meaningful Christianity.

    I honestly don't know how much longer I'll continue to try and fellowship with the "church" when all I want to do is "spit it out of my mouth."

  • not silent
    Posted: Tue, 02/19/2019 01:56 pm

    Hi Philip, I have had many experiences that were similar to the ones you have described in addition to other difficult experiences which are far too numerous to go into here.  I don't know all of what you've been through, but I think I understand some of where you are coming from.  (I once used "Laodicea" as a screen name because I felt so strongly that the church in America was like that church!)    

    No human group is perfect, and not everyone in a church building is part of the body of Christ.  Even those who are part of the Body often struggle.  We should aspire to be more like Christ, but that only comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit.  I don't think slick programs and such are bad in and of themselves.  I think they become a problem when a church relies on them and neglects prayer and the work of the Holy Spirit.   

    After Elijah called down fire from heaven in front of the Israelites, he fled for his life and begged God to kill him.  As he was hiding in a cave, God came to him.  There was a strong wind, then an earthquake, then a fire; but the LORD came with a whisper:  "...And behold, there came a voice to him and said, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'  He said, 'I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts.  For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and i, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away."  (ESV) God told him to go back, that he was going to carry out judgment on those who were doing evil.  Then he said, "Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.'" It can seem like we are the only one, but God always has a remnant; and he will bring justice.  Our job is to take the next right step.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Wed, 02/20/2019 01:24 am

    I agree, Not Silent.  There is always a remnant.  Rather than give up, we need to seek to be vital functioning parts of that remnant.  And pray for those who aren't there yet, and be careful not to start considering ourselves as something better than the rest.  Some who did that in the past were called Pharisees.