Spiritual Abuse: Harvest Bible Chapel – Should Church Members Stay or Leave?

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One big dilemma in spiritually abusive churches is deciding if and when to leave the church. Does God want people to leave a spiritually abusive church?  Can God work through people left in an abusive church?  Is there a Biblical precedent for this kind of situation?   What does God’s Word say?  

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Humpty Dumpty and Alice. From Through the Look...

Humpty Dumpty and Alice. From Through the Looking-Glass. Illustration by John Tenniel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Should Church Members Leave Their Spiritually Abusive Church?

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I left a comment at The Elephant’s Debt blog article, David Corning, former 20-year Chairman of the HBC Elder Board speaks publicly for the first time, and got a response that I have seen before in these circumstances.  I’d like to discuss it.   My comment specifically challenged the idea of staying at a church in which the pastor is abusive.  You can read the quote I was referring to at the beginning of my comment below in bolded font:

Julie Anne says:

September 19, 2013 at 7:38 pm

“If you attend Big Harvest and are thinking about leaving, consider staying. See what God might do with this flawed man (or see what it’s like to be part of a recovery if he steps away).”

I know a lot of wives who stayed in abusive marriages waiting for their husband to change. You must ask yourself: does James MacDonald even admit he has done wrong? If he hasn’t, then what is going to magically happen to make him admit it? He is proud and arrogant and if he were going to change, you would have seen evidence of it by now. He’s had plenty of opportunity with other elders calling him out. But take a look at the video that was posted recently. I have the transcript posted here:  http://goo.gl/AApBrv. It appears that he initiated this video process and appointed 4 elders to speak on his behalf. That sure doesn’t sound like someone who thinks he has done anything wrong. He’s using his elders to defend him. This is a concerted effort to make him look good and others bad. Is that how a humble and godly shepherd behaves?

So not only do you have to wait for your pastor to get a reality check of the sin he is avoiding in his own life, but now you have a group of elders who for some reason aren’t seeing the same things that the previous elders and you are seeing. Why is that? Could they be as blinded as the Chief Wolf?

What would God want you to do? Support a man who is not humble and is leading people astray and harming the church or vote with your feet saying that you will not support such hypocrisy in the House of the Lord?

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Here is the response to my comment which, as I wrote earlier, sounded familiar to me:

a thought says:

September 19, 2013 at 8:25 pm

Only God can answer the question, “What would God want you to do.” I feel like you are leaving His sovereign power out of the equation with your next sentence, ” Support a man who is not humble…”. We need to seek the Lord and do what He tells us to do. If God happens to say “wait,” we need to trust Him. He is more powerful than this mess and when He is ready, He will act. He may want us at Harvest for what is to come, but then again, He may want us to “vote with our feet.” All I’m saying, is that those still at Harvest need to seek God on this and obey Him.

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I understand this comment because there is a lot at stake for leaving a church.  There are many personal ties with long-standing relationships.  Some people might want to stay to help others see the light.  Another idea is that they may influence the pastor or church leaders to change.  But what does the Bible say?  Does God want us to stay in an abusive church?

Let’s take a look at God’s Word.  Here are some verses to consider as we question if we should stay or leave the spiritually abusive church:

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

In this verse, Jesus is speaking and seems to be implying that our souls are more important than our physical bodies.  So, it makes sense that we should make sure our souls are being taken care of properly, doesn’t it?

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine” (1Timothy 5:17 NKJV)

This verse shows us the importance of an elder who shares the word and sound doctrine – that elders are held to a higher standard.  Should we stay with someone who is defrauding the role of elder and is putting a stain in the Body of Christ by their public and private behavior?

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment” (James 3:1)

Again, we see a high standard given for teachers.  Would God want us to be supporting what He does not support?   Scripture is clear that pastors who do their jobs poorly will have to face eternal consequences.  That shows how serious God views the position.   Should we not put the same amount of emphasis on integrity and right doctrine in what we allow our ears to hear?

I can assure you there are many people struggling with this situation right now, whether it be at Harvest Bible Chapel or another church.  Can we brainstorm some more?    Do you believe God would want you to stay in an abusive church or leave?  Is there any Biblical precedent to remain in an abusive church?  What about those who say they want to stay to be a positive influence to others?  I’ve heard of another case where someone is staying in an abusive church to help pick up the pieces once Humpty Dumpty has his great fall.   Is this wise?   What are your thoughts?

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40 comments on “Spiritual Abuse: Harvest Bible Chapel – Should Church Members Stay or Leave?

  1. Julie Anne,
    I actually think this situation is the true meaning of Romans 16:17-18 (which is ironically used by spiritual abusers to justify their control tactics):

    “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” (KJV)

    “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.” (NIV)

  2. Those who stay are enabling him by giving him an audience. It doesn’t do him or anyone else any good to stay, IMO.

  3. First of all, there is no where in scripture that states we MUST stay in a church under these circumstances. In fact, no where does it say we can’t leave for whatever reason or we are in sin. This a lie. This is a common misconception that if we leave a church or our pastor we are committing a grave sin or are in error. We have been indoctrinated by the American church that the church is the source of our salvation and the keeping of our salvation. This is a lie. Many churches had to keep this lie going because of fear of retribution from God and the lost of income/revenue to keep that church running. A pastor must ask himself- would I be able to walk away from being a pastor and lose this income? If he answers yes- he is probably a keeper. If he answers no- well….there you go. A shepherd of God is a overseer, not the boss. He is one who is an example, not the example maker or creator. It is none of his business. One thing that makes me livid is the audacity of these guys to take on the role of the Holy Spirit. They have no business in taking on Gods rightful place in each and every person. The elders and leaders role is to provide support and exhortation, not control and exploitation.

    I agree that we must ask God to guide us to what decision we need to make, but usually I find that most people who are in these situations end up leaving.
    There is no reason to stay in false teaching- and here we find false teaching in the form of fraudulent tithing, divisive behavior, slander, and etc..

    1 Peter 4:2 states “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, SERVING as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, NOT for DISHONEST GAIN but eagerly; NOR as being LORDS over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock”

    These are pretty scathing words-
    2 Peter 2:18-22
    18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

    19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

    20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

    21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

    22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

  4. I understand this comment because there is a lot at stake for leaving a church. There are many personal ties with long-standing relationships.

    Especially if (as often happens in control-freak abusive churches) you have NO personal ties or relationships outside of Church, period. All your friends are from Church. All your personal ties are at Church. All your activities are Church-related. And outside of Church is only the World, the Flesh, and the Devil.

  5. When I bailed on a controlling shepherding group in 1976, I had contacts and friends outside of “church”. I had a D&D group and SF litfan friends I had recently made. When I bailed, I wasn’t cutting myself off from everyone I knew.

    If you’re going to bail, HAVE A LIFE OUTSIDE OF CHURCH. ANY LIFE — EVEN A SMALL AMOUNT OF OUTSIDE CONTACTS AND INTERESTS COULD BE ENOUGH.

  6. Headless @ 4:47pm: So true–the power of an “outside” friend who accepts and supports is inestimable, and empowering when it comes to leaving the abusive church. My friends were fellow employees (Christian and non-Christian) who gathered around me, forgave me for my hyper-religiousness while in the abusive church, and communicated love and respect for me.

    My take on leaving? 2 Tim 3:1ff speaks of a fallen church, led by fallen leaders who have a “form of godliness, but have denied its power.” Paul tells Timothy to “avoid such men as these (v5), and then goes on to some further description of the false leaders’ destructive effect on marriages (and therefore, families).

    I think we would do well to follow Paul’s instruction to Timothy (who was no slouch, spiritually!), and head for the hills when we see abuse in church leaders. Take your money, your time, your family, etc., out of their influence, and leave them nothing but an empty pew.

    Don’t stick around to complain or lodge your view–if they’re really abusers they will not care, and will find a way to use your discontent and departure as a means to frighten others away from leaving. And God will care for you, in whatever way you need.

    How long would you keep eating at a restaurant after you learned its food was contaminated with ecoli? Once you realized your kids’ schoolbus driver was drinking on the job, would you put the kids on the bus? Stuff like that.

  7. “Does anybody know what the 13 accusations against MacDonald are?” Apparently it isn’t known publicly. This all gets a little tedious, but we read this from theelephantsdebt.com (http://tinyurl.com/kkwgpsb):

    “At the same time that Phelps and Slabaugh sent their original letter to us [elephantsdebt.com], another letter was was sent to Harvest. This letter, which Phelps claims is written by eight former elders, was a private letter addressed solely to the Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Board. This letter did in fact contain thirteen specific concerns pertaining to MacDonald and his ministry. This letter has never been sent to The Elephant’s Debt; and it is only because Harvest has now publicly acknowledged it that the congregation is aware that eight former elders are speaking with a unified voice. If, at some point, these elders wish to make this letter known to the whole church, we will publish it for your consideration.”

    JMack and his puppet-elders (gang of four?) made the existence of the 13 point indictment so they could conveniently, and disingenuously, dismiss it without disclosing its contents. Our betters have spoken. Nothing to see here. Nope. Move along. Move along.

    Although we cannot know the timing, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2, ESV). Very sobering. To all of us, I dare say.

  8. Ken said:

    Don’t stick around to complain or lodge your view–if they’re really abusers they will not care, and will find a way to use your discontent and departure as a means to frighten others away from leaving.

    This is so, so true, Ken. The 2nd part is so important to understand. Pastors will be RUTHLESS in their treatment of those who leave. You see, those who leave KNOW THE TRUTH. Read this again from Dave Corning. Imagine living like this for 3 years:

    Over the past nearly three years, the full force of James’ wrath has been manifested against me, and Betsy in nearly every possible way (though often cleverly disguised as the decision or action of another and usually executed through a long-time friend or acquaintance who must betray us to prove allegiance to James). He has worked behind the scenes to destroy our reputations, our ministries, even our livelihoods. One of the most perverse and shocking (though lightly veiled) accusations came in a public sermon by James on June 5, 2011, which also aired on Walk in the Word a year later. The Saturday night message was harsher; the Sunday message was edited. We were portrayed as “blaspheming the church and taking advantage”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Our goal was to leave quietly and not cause any division. We fully, but wrongly believed that our friendships and even ministry relationships would continue. People even wrote to us saying as much, until James decided otherwise. There was no issue of sin being called out in us. To the contrary, Rick Donald wrote me and said, he would “never allow anyone to say anything bad about me”. There was no difficulty between us, or any person, except James. That of course, would change rapidly as James mounted charges against us.

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

    We sought counsel and were advised not to answer to the slander or engage in dialog with any of these people. We followed this counsel and yet there is a pandemic of strife encircling the globe and dividing even families and close friends – the ultimate result of one man’s actions. Long-time friendships have been utterly decimated.

    We did not spread strife or discord. On the contrary, we were painstakingly careful not to. Time and again James used his power and influence to deliberately harm us. The slander continued unabated for over two years. Then suddenly and unannounced, James showed up at my office to “reconcile”. I was not there and am not interested in being maneuvered into “reconciling” with someone so that he can use me in his sermon illustration. James has never repented of nor even acknowledged his sinful actions. This absolution continues to be his stance and that of his elders, made clear by last weekend’s Harvest video. We have forgiven James and the many people he has manipulated against us for his gain and our loss. We are not bitter, just very much aware of the tactics and strategies of James MacDonald.

  9. From my experience: People periodically email me and ask my advice regarding their difficult church situation. One question is if they should leave their church or not. After a read through of what they have felt concerned about, it becomes clear that their church is not healthy and that there is not much that they can do about it.

    My response to them is that they already have a gut feeling that things are not right and that they should leave. They, and possibly others, are being harmed for sometimes ridiculous reasons. I affirm that it is very difficult either to leave or to stay. Generally I encourage them to pay attention to their own gut feelings that they already sense that they should leave. I affirm that many others have had to make the same shocking realization that their home church is unhealthy and unsafe for them spiritually.

    I affirm that there is not much that one person, a couple, or a small group of concerned people can do in a toxic church culture. A few people may stay for complex reasons like other family members being there and choose to tough it out. Even when people say that they feel that they need to stay for awhile, for whatever reason, it is usually not too long afterward that I get an email saying that they are NOW SURE that they MUST LEAVE and that they just letting me know about their decision.

    Even though there is much confusion and grief through the process, once they have made this difficult decision then there seems to be a sense of peace and release. They have weighed everything up and have made the best decision in light of the circumstances. They have faced the fact that there was nothing left that they could do to change very much of anything. There is much processing that still continues for them–but once people are away from harmful and frustrating situations then they realize that though painful, there is now a chance for them to heal and recover from this devastating church experience.

  10. One more thing that I tell people, as has been described, is that people need to know that they may face the wrath of the church leadership if they choose to leave. I caution them about this fact and ask if they feel that they would be able to cope with any harsh action, character assassination, and/or shunning.

    Usually people are now prepared for the brunt of this since staying in a toxic atmosphere would be even more harmful. Some leaders are just glad that the ‘perceived troublemakers’ have left while other leaders create havoc and use the ‘leavers’ as examples of all kinds of sinful characteristics.

  11. Barb said: “One more thing that I tell people, as has been described, is that people need to know that they may face the wrath of the church leadership if they choose to leave. I caution them about this fact and ask if they feel that they would be able to cope with any harsh action, character assassination, and/or shunning.”

    Yes, that lines up with what Ken was saying and it’s important to know this possibility to prepare yourself. I think Ken was wise to say to leave quietly, although sometimes that doesn’t always work.

  12. The church is made up of people to whom God has given gifts. Those gifts were given to build up the church, and each gift is important. James MacDonald is clearly on the wrong path, as many godly former-elders have said.

    If the church leadership is going the wrong way, might it be a good idea to invest your gifts at another church? There are dozens of great churches in the Chicagoland area.

  13. “JMack and his puppet-elders (gang of four?) made the existence of the 13 point indictment so they could conveniently, and disingenuously, dismiss it without disclosing its contents. Our betters have spoken. Nothing to see here. Nope. Move along. Move along.”

    Never ceases to amaze me how often this actually works. What folks fail to see is that by not being transparent, they actually promote speculation and then charge people with gossip because they are speculating on things that are hidden from them on purpose. It becomes the normal.

  14. One thing I always tell folks to consider if they decide to stay (besides killing your soul and enabling evil) is to think how it affects their children if you stay. At a certain stage, they have figured out something is amiss. When I speak of how it affect them I am talking about what they are being taught by modeling. Church is not like a job where you get a paycheck for dealing with some nefarious situations. It is totally voluntary. So staying sends a strong message to your kids. Is it the message you want them to learn?

    And children are usually the one big reason why people stay. As their children are usually involved in some youth groups and that is the hardest part. I think being totally upfront with them (if they are of a certain age) with your concerns is the right thing to do. You can really teach them the proper way to question and recognize bad authority systems. And that is a good thing.

    The amazing thing is that kids usually see things more black and white than adults do and will recognize the injustice of a situation sooner if they know. However, if they have been taught we never question the elder, you had best get them out of there fast. You are preparing them to be good little followers and not thinking for themselves.

  15. My mom and I were reminiscing last night about life in our hometown. She reminded me of something I had forgotten – my brother and I asked my parents to find us a new church. We were in elementary school so I’m guessing we were maybe 8 and 10 years old at most. When my mom asked us why, we just said that we didn’t feel comfortable there anymore and didn’t trust the adults. I don’t remember what made me feel uncomfortable enough to speak up but my parents took us seriously and we moved on. If you are uncertain about whether or not to stay at a church, talk to your children. Ask about their observations and opinions – they may surprise you with their insight. Children almost always know more about difficult situations than they let on. At another church, we had a pastor with a problem of wandering hands and eyes. Surprise surprise it was the teens and children who noticed it first and brought it up. If you are having any doubts whatsoever about your time at a church, please leave.

  16. I left a spiritually abusive church once. My family had been involved in this church for 7 years. The first 5 years were good healthy growing years. Then the pastor started changing his theology and his management. He cancelled the home groups and started a midweek study. He wasn’t interested in any personal ministry people were doing. He only wanted people to focus on his pet projects. He was subtle in his change of doctrine. He started by having a guest preacher while he was away. His name was Royal Conquist. When I questioned the pastor about Royal’s message he wasn’t too interested in discussing it. Then he started slipping in subtle references to Royal’s theology in his sermons. I asked friends if they noticed anything different and some did. One friend talked to the pastor and subsequently decided to leave the church. When I saw that the pastor was resolved to stay on his course I decided that my family might have to take our loss and go. We had invested 5 years in this fellowship. When the pastor’s wife overheard me complaining to a friend about the change in direction she said if I didn’t like the pastor or the church I should leave. I decided to take her words seriously and we left. The day we left I told the pastor why we were leaving. I also told him what his wife said. She was evesdropping again and popped out from behind a car to say she never said that. We left with heavy hearts but by the end of the day I was satisfied we had done the right thing. We prayed for guidance and a few months later we came to where we’ve been serving since then. That was in 1985. We came home.
    A year after we left that church it disbanded. The pastor moved away and became a used car salesman. He eventually got another church. 5 years after the church disbanded they had a reunion. I wasn’t surprised that the pastor wasn’t there. The talk was mostly about how the pastor had become controlling and how church had gone downhill.

  17. Gary – CJ Mahaney did a doctrinal shift with Sovereign Grace Ministries many years ago. People didn’t know what was happening. I’ve read that is the primary reason the co-founder Larry Tomczak left. That’s pretty creepy, if you ask me. Good for you for leaving immediately. The pastor’s wife sounds like a case. Wow.

  18. Gary – CJ Mahaney did a doctrinal shift with Sovereign Grace Ministries many years ago. People didn’t know what was happening. I’ve read that is the primary reason the co-founder Larry Tomczak left.

    This is called “a Coup from Within.”
    (HUMBLY, of course. Chuckle chuckle.)

  19. Julie Anne,

    “Should Members leave or stay?” I find this a challenging question.

    If the Direction, Doctrine, Delivery of the Preacher is in line with the Elder’s and the majority of the church and is contrary of yours especially if you are unable to identify being in a church of unconditional Love, then I say leave the church.

    Not all churches that profess the Gospel embrace the same Doctrine or the same Methodology. I myself will choose to avoid Geneva Style Churches as much as I can but others might embrace it.

    My lack of understanding the Bible and different doctrines that exist within the SBC made me vulnerable to abuse from Preachers that choose to keep their differing doctrine a mystery . It was the abuse however that inspired me to dig into scriptures and go on-line to discover that spiritual abuse is not an isolated problem.

    If the Pastor is deceiving the congregation or practicing sin and the leadership is unaware of it, report it to the elder’s. If the membership choose not to reprimand, leave because you will suffer retaliation.

  20. After ten years of attending and serving at a mega church that was getting increasingly more abusive and controlling, I finally wised up and asked myself, “Why am I paying this guy to beat me with a stick?” (And providing labor)

    While I still have faith in God, I no longer have faith in men that use God as an excuse to beat me with a stick.

  21. Mark said:

    It was the abuse however that inspired me to dig into scriptures and go on-line to discover that spiritual abuse is not an isolated problem.

    Good for you!

    I cannot get past this statement from James MacDonald at the beginning of the video he broadcast for the church body. This is complete and utter heresy: We believe that the Bible that the authority of the church is vested in the elders. And that when the elders speak collectively in agreement, they speak for God to our church.

    This is saying that they act as mediator. That is complete nonsense. This man is using his position of authority to control. Notice that this statement was said at the beginning of the video to imply: whatever these men say, you better believe because it came from God and if you don’t believe it or do what they say, you are not following the voice of God.

    People must understand the implications of that kind of statement. If they remain at that church, that is the stance that the pastor and elders hold: that they are privy to the words of God.

    My panties are in a wad over this. I am REALLY upset that this man has the audacity to speak to such a large congregation like this and who is holding this loose cannon in check? This is spiritually bullying. He is holding his church captive by his self-assumed “authoritative” words. Dang, I need to let off some Twitter steam again.

  22. My wife endured far more mental abuse from the Pastor’s wife and the 2 or 3 women, his wife befriended who embraced our former abusive interpretation of scripture than what I endured. It was harder for me to watch her endure the abuse and not knowing the stealth Doctrine of our Pastor.

    (outside of the Pastor’s wife those women didn’t know his Doctrine either)

    Now on the other hand I knew a former Pastor who also kept his doctrine a mystery and embraced an aggressive Methodology who went through divorce. I have wondered if these guys are verbally abusing their congregations lacking love how are they treating their wives, (I’m sure some of these women like it and some don’t)

    Oddly, not even a into my former Pastor’s tenure when things started afresh my wife touched base with his wife about the Christmas Program and she “snapped” backed and said there won’t be any Christmas Program, not giving a reason. (this wife embraced her husband’s Methodology)

  23. Now on the other hand I knew a former Pastor who also kept his doctrine a mystery and embraced an aggressive Methodology who went through divorce. I have wondered if these guys are verbally abusing their congregations lacking love how are they treating their wives, (I’m sure some of these women like it and some don’t)

    Mark, You are definitely on to something here that has not been explored much that I have seen. I’ve covered how spiritual abuse can destroy a marriage before here, but not in this light. I think you are touching on something that is probably a very well-kept secret in the church.

  24. “Notice that this statement was said at the beginning of the video to imply: whatever these men say, you better believe because it came from God and if you don’t believe it or do what they say, you are not following the voice of God.

    People must understand the implications of that kind of statement. If they remain at that church, that is the stance that the pastor and elders hold: that they are privy to the words of God. ”

    Is MacDonald’s use of these words for the purpose of controlling and manipulating for an intended end? It is my opinion that it is. Is he emotionally abusing them with fear–if you do not obey these men, you are disobeying God? (Goodness….what an old Word of Faith/money grubbing televangelist trick….then again he does like TD Jake’s theology….). I believe he is being emotionally abusive and he is shutting down further conversation because God has spoken through these men and that is all you need, apparently. When would one get to be a Berean (that thing Paul commended) at a church like his?

    Wolf alert.

  25. Is MacDonald’s use of these words for the purpose of controlling and manipulating for an intended end? It is my opinion that it is. Is he emotionally abusing them with fear–if you do not obey these men, you are disobeying God?

    The use of those particular words at the beginning of the video was absolutely strategic. Line them up with the ways in which he controlled people/events in Dave Corning’s letter. It is a pattern of control to manipulate instill fear, to make you look to THEM FIRST before God. It is dangerous and it is wrong.

    Now, here is the confusing part – – you can listen to MacDonald and his sermons and you might here some very good preaching. What we need to look at is his behavior – how he treats those with whom he has close connections.

    Here is a new letter that just was published today on The Elephant’s Debt blog. It discusses exactly what I’m talking about. Spiritual Abusers don’t always abuse from the pulpit as in having twisted doctrine. It can manifest itself like this very well-written letter by former staff, Matt Till.

    September 19, 2013

    For those that need another voice, another testimony, or a trusted friend in ministry to speak out, allow me to be the next.

    I do not wish to appeal to the leadership of Harvest Bible Chapel, but to those who previously or currently serve on staff. For those that have spent days and nights questioning your work ethic, value, gifting, calling or perhaps even faith while working for Harvest Bible Chapel – you are not alone. For those that serve on staff under the impression you are giving yourself to a calling, but repeatedly find it shrouded by constant feelings of doubt, anxiety, confusion, rejection or a false sense of acceptance – you are not alone!

    I implore you, many who I know personally, do not suppress those feelings of guilt or fear. What you are sensing, feeling and have been questioning is real. Like you, I was once drawn to a seemingly Godly tree that was growing, flourishing and beautiful to the sight. The unfortunate reality about this tree is that you would never know that the fruit is bad and poisonous to the soul from just the looks of it. The only sure test is to eat and discover its true character.

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

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

    Brothers and sisters in Christ, rest in the promise that it’s the Holy Spirit that is “at work in you, both to will and work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Take my word, there is abundant life after Harvest Bible Chapel.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Matt Till

  26. I think there is a problem in the way this situation is being viewed: “See what God might do with this flawed man.” There is a huge difference between someone who is “flawed” and someone who is abusive.

    The first implies someone of goodwill who is, none-the-less, imperfect. It suggests an equal playing field, a disagreement between equals.

    The latter is a no-win situation where one person uses an unequal power structure to subjugate, denigrate and invalidate another.

  27. Ruth, your ‘later’ assessment of a ‘no-win situation’ would be the unfortunate, but typical, way that these scenarios play out. Those of common faith would hope for a decidedly better outcome for their particular church community, but as in the huge majority of similar cases that have been observed over time, it will turn out to be horribly disappointing in the end for the vast majority of people.

  28. As you say, Barb, we do hope for a better outcome. But it just doesn’t seem to be the way it goes in cases of abuse :(

  29. This is what happens when you have a hodge-podge of theologies under one “banner”. I attend a Harvest plant and the pastor is most certainly not reformed/new calvinist. I know others as well. Don’t ask me how this ridiculous state of affairs happened but the deal is- apparently there is no “requirement” to be in the reformed camp to be a Harvest pastor. Which actually, if I really think about it, shouldn’t surprise me too much because I believe it is more important for James MacDonald to have “his” concept of what a church should look like be emulated. The theology is secondary to his massive ego. I encourage you to get “Vertical Church” and read the book. It’s chilling. It reads like a manifesto. It is no more than JMac’s redefinition of church. It’s really a cult manifesto. Yet I see folks every Sunday who “ooo” and “ahhh” over it. The ignorance of the flock on the whole matter is so heartbreaking, and real information is so hard to get because leaders KNOW the flock is ignorant and for the most part is content to remain so and therefore the status quo is never shaken up. My heart bleeds for the innocents taken in by this man’s massive sham operation. It is truly unbelievable, unreal, unimaginable that we could be so STUPID. Pastors and church elders and members included, because I truly believe he has fooled even the wisest of men, HE IS THAT GOOD. He is truly the con man of con men and a forerunner of the lawless one who is yet to come. Our Lord Himself even said that even the elect would be fooled by the lie of antichrist, IF SUCH A THING WERE POSSIBLE. Please, people of Harvest, or those in a megachurch with a rock star pastor, anyone who reads this, understand and recognize how this all goes down. The lawlessness of the end times is upon us, the spirit of antichrist is here, THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE. PLEASE I implore all who read this is the name of Jesus to wake up from your slumber before it is too late. By their fruits you shall know them!

    “Oh what God is doing through HARVEST. Look at the baptisms we have had at HARVEST. Look at the children’s ministry AT HARVEST. Look at the HARVEST homeless ministry. HAVEST is GROWING. YOU ARE LOVED AT HARVEST.” Sound familiar? HARVEST HARVEST HARVEST HARVEST, GROW GROW GROW GROW. Why? Why the massive explosion of church plants over the world in the past 20 years- and not just Harvest? James Macdonald and Mark Driscoll and their ilk jet into a third world country, plant a church and move on in a blaze of glory! It’s worldwide! Our Lord said he had come not to bring peace on earth but a sword, to turn a son against his father. He said ALL MEN will hate you because of me. He promised an apostate church that looks and acts like the real deal but is A LIE to fool all but the elect. Now we have rock star pastors the adoring throngs follow because THEY DON’T WANT TO FOLLOW CHRIST, the kind of life and sacrifice He calls us to is NOT what the world wants or is looking for.

    I truly never realized in my own arrogance that the wolves would be this good. But, as the apostle said, they are truly savage and will ensnare even the brightest and alert of minds. They spare NO ONE.

    The only reason true christians aren’t hanging from steeples in this country is we still have an open society that will not yet allow such acts. But such a time is rapidly approaching.

    ” And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. 7 In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’ 8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.”

    Amen, come Lord Jesus.

  30. “I truly never realized in my own arrogance that the wolves would be this good. ”

    Yes, they are that good at it, You have to get completely away from it to see it. And even that takes time. It is that powerful. Thought reform. Mega church attendees are especially susceptible . The crowd feeds on each other and affirm it. How could that many people be wrong or fooled? Well, history is replete with examples.

  31. “Oh what God is doing through HARVEST. Look at the baptisms we have had at HARVEST. Look at the children’s ministry AT HARVEST. Look at the HARVEST homeless ministry. HAVEST is GROWING. YOU ARE LOVED AT HARVEST.”

    Mighty Works of GOD(TM) and Look at All The Souls Being SAVED(TM).

    Mike Warnke’s fanboys said the exact same things in their defense of that Mighty Man Of Gawd when Cornerstone exposed him as a complete fraud.

  32. HUG, it is awesome you always remind me of the false teachers of the 1970’s. I can’t help but think of charismatic Pentecostal preachers with huge collars and wide lapels that could poke someone’s eye out. Marjoe Gortner comes to mind, though at least he was honest and outed himself.

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