James MacDonald Asks Forgiveness for Unbiblical Discipline of Harvest Bible Chapel Elders

“For many months, we have labored under the awareness that our church discipline of a year ago was a failure in many respects, not the least of which was the complete lack of biblically required restorative component, which wronged the brothers that we were attempting to help” CT

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Wayne Wilson's picture

Mark Driscoll's friend. 

Interesting, too, that for this apology to happen, exposure had to be made public through a website devoted to what happened to these elders and what goes on behind the scenes at Harvest...just like what happened at Mars Hill and Sovereign Grace.  Significant numbers had to leave and giving had to slow first...then the apology.

Lead with love, men. Lead with love.

Ron Bean's picture

Wayne Wilson wrote:

Mark Driscoll's friend. 

Interesting, too, that for this apology to happen, exposure had to be made public through a website devoted to what happened to these elders and what goes on behind the scenes at Harvest...just like what happened at Mars Hill and Sovereign Grace.  Significant numbers had to leave and giving had to slow first...then the apology.

Lead with love, men. Lead with love.

This kind of repentance, whether from people inside or outside of fundamentalism, that comes only after being caught and enduring negative consequences has always troubled me. I know that God uses consequences to bring his people to repentance but one would think that the knowledge of personal sin would prompt the attitude expressed by Paul in Romans 7.

 

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

 

Wayne Wilson wrote:

 

Mark Driscoll's friend. 

Interesting, too, that for this apology to happen, exposure had to be made public through a website devoted to what happened to these elders and what goes on behind the scenes at Harvest...just like what happened at Mars Hill and Sovereign Grace.  Significant numbers had to leave and giving had to slow first...then the apology.

Lead with love, men. Lead with love.

 

 

This kind of repentance, whether from people inside or outside of fundamentalism, that comes only after being caught and enduring negative consequences has always troubled me. I know that God uses consequences to bring his people to repentance but one would think that the knowledge of personal sin would prompt the attitude expressed by Paul in Romans 7.

 

As sad as it is, if the man after God's own heart had to be confronted before repenting, I don't think it should surprise us when we (or those around us) fall into the same rebellion.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

dmicah's picture

don't get caught up in this expression of "repentance". This is a circus. The clowns got out of control and attendees left with their wallets. They needed the crowd to return, so some of the clowns had to be reigned in. twenty plus years in "ministry" and you only realize after the fact that your behavior was wrong?? Please. This is a PR move. And if it was a legitimate mistake, they only proved their lack of qualification to be elders.

Wayne Wilson's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

 

This kind of repentance, whether from people inside or outside of fundamentalism, that comes only after being caught and enduring negative consequences has always troubled me. I know that God uses consequences to bring his people to repentance but one would think that the knowledge of personal sin would prompt the attitude expressed by Paul in Romans 7.

 

 

As sad as it is, if the man after God's own heart had to be confronted before repenting, I don't think it should surprise us when we (or those around us) fall into the same rebellion.

This is so often true. But the full story reveals that confrontation happened many,many times before this apology was offered over a year later.  I agree this is about PR. People are waking up to abusive church leadership, massive hidden salaries, etc.  I think it's a healthy cleansing going on...but it has a long way to go. 

Bert Perry's picture

I am no fan of MacDonald's, but I do agree with Chip that if David had to be confronted, we can cut MacDonald some slack in this.

That said, it's not clear whether Harvest has "gotten religion" on the central issue, which was whether the elders ought to see the real, line by line budget before approving it.  Since no sane corporate board would approve a budget without taking a look at things like executive compensation and the like (this is what put Dennis Kozlowski in jail after all), that's an issue that may still be hanging out there.

Moreover, I am aware of a bunch of other issues hanging out there regarding Harvest that, if the reports in places like Christianity Today and World are accurate, really need to be dealt with, as well as the treatment of about two dozen former staff who have also presented evidence (see "The Elephant's Debt") that the personnel issues at Harvest are sadly not limited to a few former elders.    So while I must agree with Chip that we ought to "hold our fire" as God did with David, I've got to wonder if there is a little bit of "massaging the message" going on here.  I hope I am wrong.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Steve Newman's picture

It is important for McDonald to try and get things right and he is getting some help to try and get it right.

Though McDonald is not part of TGC, he is a part of the BCC, which is patterned after the TGC. In fact, McDonald's name is front and center on their cooperative project, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling. I will be reviewing the book for SI in the near future. If he is not a fitting counselor or counselee, it would be major damage for the BCC. 

Bert Perry's picture

Are you talking about these guys?

http://www.biblicalcounselingcenter.org/blog/page/2/

To hop on a soapbox that I've worn well, I have to admit some unease at a megachurch pastor being front & center in terms of counseling.  Counseling requires intimacy, which requires time, which a megachurch pastor is going to have trouble giving to all of those sheep.  Again, love to be wrong on this, but apart from blessed exceptions, I really don't see how it gets done.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Paul J's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Are you talking about these guys?

http://www.biblicalcounselingcenter.org/blog/page/2/

To hop on a soapbox that I've worn well, I have to admit some unease at a megachurch pastor being front & center in terms of counseling.  Counseling requires intimacy, which requires time, which a megachurch pastor is going to have trouble giving to all of those sheep.  Again, love to be wrong on this, but apart from blessed exceptions, I really don't see how it gets done.  

I find it interesting that this ministry is staffed and I believe led by one of the exiting elders and some of his family.

Bert Perry's picture

Paul, I'm not seeing that--Elephant's Debt names these men as departed elders from HBC;

Scott Phelps, Dan Marquart, Barry Slabaugh, Russ Barney, Fred Agase.  

Am I missing something?  Not seeing any of those guys anywhere near the link I provided.  (maybe give me a link?)

Update: I did find that a gentleman named Allchin is associated with BCC, and he used to be an elder at HBC.  I still don't see evidence of HBC or MacDonald in the current site, though.

Agreed 100% with Jay about there being numerous other examples of why one ought to be careful around Harvest.  One interesting thing I saw in Tim Challies' review of "Vertical Church" was that MacDonald affirmed what I thought had generally been a cheap shot about modern church music--that it is theologically shallow.  At least in Harvest's world, that's a feature, not a bug.  I'm having trouble reconciling that with the Psalms, to put it mildly.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jay's picture

This is the same guy that wanted to bring Jakes, Driscoll, and others together in the Elephant Room 2 thing from a couple years ago.  

I hope the guy is genuinely sorry and made the situation right, because that kind of behavior would be pleasing to God.  I'd be more worried, though, about his personal associations and the doctrine that he teaches before I'd be concerned about whether or not he was 'repentant enough'.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Paul J's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Paul, I'm not seeing that--Elephant's Debt names these men as departed elders from HBC;

Scott Phelps, Dan Marquart, Barry Slabaugh, Russ Barney, Fred Agase.  

Am I missing something?  Not seeing any of those guys anywhere near the link I provided.  (maybe give me a link?)

Update: I did find that a gentleman named Allchin is associated with BCC, and he used to be an elder at HBC.  I still don't see evidence of HBC or MacDonald in the current site, though.

Agreed 100% with Jay about there being numerous other examples of why one ought to be careful around Harvest.  One interesting thing I saw in Tim Challies' review of "Vertical Church" was that MacDonald affirmed what I thought had generally been a cheap shot about modern church music--that it is theologically shallow.  At least in Harvest's world, that's a feature, not a bug.  I'm having trouble reconciling that with the Psalms, to put it mildly.

Correct Bert, no overlap with either HBC or MacDonald.  As you can see Ron Allchin is associated with both the broader group Biblical Counseling Coalition and his own practice Biblical Counseling Center.  Just knew Allchin had been part of of HBC for more many years.

Julie Anne's picture

It's important to note the timing of this:

MacDonald recently resigned from the advisory board of Mars Hill Church, shortly before nine pastors asked Mark Driscoll to step aside and submit to elder authority.  Christianity Today

MacDonald was very aware of the goings on at Mars Hill/Driscoll.  Mars Hill attendance is down from 12K to 8K.  They had to lay off 30-40% of their staff and close some churches.  Both men behaved like bullies in outing “divisive” elders. Maybe Mark Driscoll’s saga was hitting a little too close to home and he was realizing what has been happening to Driscoll would befall him and his HBC empire if he did not take drastic measures.  Time will tell how genuine this repentance is.  I pray that MacDonald will walk in integrity and transparency, but the one common ground that really concerns me is both men built $$ empires. 

 

 

 

Wayne Wilson's picture

Julie Anne wrote:

It's important to note the timing of this:

MacDonald recently resigned from the advisory board of Mars Hill Church, shortly before nine pastors asked Mark Driscoll to step aside and submit to elder authority.  Christianity Today

MacDonald was very aware of the goings on at Mars Hill/Driscoll.  Mars Hill attendance is down from 12K to 8K.  They had to lay off 30-40% of their staff and close some churches.  Both men behaved like bullies in outing “divisive” elders. Maybe Mark Driscoll’s saga was hitting a little too close to home and he was realizing what has been happening to Driscoll would befall him and his HBC empire if he did not take drastic measures.  Time will tell how genuine this repentance is.  I pray that MacDonald will walk in integrity and transparency, but the one common ground that really concerns me is both men built $$ empires. 

Yes, I think Julie Anne is on to something. The timing and the connections are all there. I agree completely with her prayer and her concern. The leadership styles of Driscoll and MacDonald are very similar, as is the secrecy, centralized power, and big money. 

Bert Perry's picture

Steve Newman wrote:

http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/

McDonald is listed as the "general editor" of their book:

http://biblicalcounselingcoalition.org/books/review/christ-centered-bibl...

It is, I think, aimed at being a college textbook on the subject of Christian counseling..

Thanks, Steve.  Regarding your thoughts about this being a big problem for the group, agreed.  But that said, I would suggest that a far bigger problem for the group is to have someone as distant as MacDonald writing the book--it's like me writing a book about the nuances of African tribal culture when my only knowledge of it comes from National Geographic and a few friends.

Plus, having taken a look at his "Authentic" book, suffice it to say that I'm not quite sure he's got the exegetical and hermeneutical "chops" to write a good tome on Biblical counseling.  Some examples of his exegesis--or "eisegesis" as might be more accurate:

1.  He uses the story of Elijah and the prophets of Ba'al to argue that the prophets of Ba'al's central problem was "they were praying the wrong way", ignoring the fact that they were praying to someone who couldn't answer them.

2.  He uses the analogy in Luke 17:7-10 to argue that we ought to see ourselves like the servants of a petty landowner worked late into the night--that we "must serve first."  He then ignores the obvious implications of the opposite while discussing Christ washing the disciples' feet at the Last Supper.  (not to mention the lead that Christ and the Holy Spirit take in both justification and sanctification)

3.  He uses Isaiah 58 as an argument for ritual fasting, and makes the claim (while easily 50 lbs overweight and living in a two million dollar house) that his ritual fasting has tamed his slavery to food and other carnal pleasures.  Um, James, have you looked in the mirror lately?

The list is longer, but hopefully this gives a taste as to how the guy thinks.   One would infer that the end result of a counseling project led by MacDonald might well resemble Dr. Leo Marvin from "What About Bob".

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dmicah's picture

If you look very closely at the last 3 - 4 years of MacDonald's preaching, you'll find that he has adeptly morphed into Evangelicalism's subtle version of prosperity gospel (same for Furtick, Noble, etc.). You can see it in his/their tweets as well. It's nowhere near as blatant as Jakes or Osteen, which makes it more dangerous. It's basically this: Jesus is there to meet you where you are. Do well, work hard, serve more and be blessed. It's a man centric, almost works oriented gospel. You'll have to listen to some messages to spot the patterns, but it allows you to customize Jesus to your needs while not actually modifying your personal behavior in any way. The preaching is also lined with copious self-adulation for the church. "Our church is great. Get involved. Look at everything God is doing through our church. Give more. Best weekend ever. Best sermon ever. So excited for the next series." Energy Energy Rah Rah Rah. Pastor as quarterback, staff as cheerleaders, attendees as fans. It becomes very cultlike. Very insular. No place for differing opinion, questions or negative energy. Those types of people just "can't catch the vision" or "can't handle a growing church."

This version of the gospel's sum total is personal fulfillment by being involved in the church. The hidden message is when you miss out on "church" you miss out on spiritual blessing. The people become quite dependent on the pastor's word and the "excitement" of being involved. I've been in a church with multiple ex-Harvest guys, and this was how they viewed ministry. It's high on Jesus talk and gospel talk, but very shallow on holiness, transformation, fruit of the Spirit, repentance, etc.

Because the "gospel message" is more consumer product than a means of supernatural spiritual transformation, these wrongdoing statements are more PR than actual repentance, i.e. sorrow, noticeable change of mind, heart and future behavior. Actions count, not the words from a stage.

 

Wayne Wilson's picture

dmicah wrote:

If you look very closely at the last 3 - 4 years of MacDonald's preaching, you'll find that he has adeptly morphed into Evangelicalism's subtle version of prosperity gospel (same for Furtick, Noble, etc.). You can see it in his/their tweets as well. It's nowhere near as blatant as Jakes or Osteen, which makes it more dangerous. It's basically this: Jesus is there to meet you where you are. Do well, work hard, serve more and be blessed. It's a man centric, almost works oriented gospel. You'll have to listen to some messages to spot the patterns, but it allows you to customize Jesus to your needs while not actually modifying your personal behavior in any way. The preaching is also lined with copious self-adulation for the church. "Our church is great. Get involved. Look at everything God is doing through our church. Give more. Best weekend ever. Best sermon ever. So excited for the next series." Energy Energy Rah Rah Rah. Pastor as quarterback, staff as cheerleaders, attendees as fans. It becomes very cultlike. Very insular. No place for differing opinion, questions or negative energy. Those types of people just "can't catch the vision" or "can't handle a growing church."

This version of the gospel's sum total is personal fulfillment by being involved in the church. The hidden message is when you miss out on "church" you miss out on spiritual blessing. The people become quite dependent on the pastor's word and the "excitement" of being involved. I've been in a church with multiple ex-Harvest guys, and this was how they viewed ministry. It's high on Jesus talk and gospel talk, but very shallow on holiness, transformation, fruit of the Spirit, repentance, etc.

Because the "gospel message" is more consumer product than a means of supernatural spiritual transformation, these wrongdoing statements are more PR than actual repentance, i.e. sorrow, noticeable change of mind, heart and future behavior. Actions count, not the words from a stage.

Very insightful comment, brother. Well said.