I believe there is a good chance that Harvest Bible Chapel will suffer bankruptcy and closure unless drastic actions are taken. The current situation within the church is not sustainable. ECFA has not only removed their seal of financial approval but said that they will never reinstate the church given what they have learned. Attendance and giving is in a steep dive. The elders (former and current) have yet to be completely candid. 

The books have not been opened and the information of financial malfeasance is devastating. The movement of funds and excessive pay of James MacDonald cannot be justified. The use of funds for non ministry purposes has been verified - and we may only know the tip of the iceberg. True information as to what is happening internally is not being shared apart from leaks that occur daily. Individuals who have been a part of what looks like a corrupt organization are still employed by the church. Deals are still being made with James according to those in the know. Lawsuits have been initiated to request donations be returned. 

In spite of the above, the church is in the process of looking for a new senior leader. What leader of good character would even consider such a situation where there is a clear lack of transparency and where there have been grievous violations of trust that have not been owned up to and staff who were a part of that system who are still on staff?

Ironically, the webpage for the church states this: "Every weekend we're opening the Bible together and learning from its pages in ways that speak right into our lives. In our services, our ministries, our music - in everything we do at Harvest, our passion and focus are to bring glory through His Son Jesus Christ." Call me cynical but this statement does not square with the above descriptors. 

It is unlikely that the above scenario can exist much longer with a viable church. I am not sure that anything can rescue the church at this point but I believe that it only has a chance if it takes the following action. 

1. The appointment of an outside board of elders for a period of time. Too many people inside the power structure of the church still have a vested interest in secrecy and guarding their turf. Only a board made up of respected Christian leaders from outside the church can bring objectivity and transparency to what seems to be a corrupt ministry. Outsiders who have no agenda other than the good of the church have nothing to guard, nothing to hide and nothing to be afraid of. Until this happens there will be no healing or health.

2. This outside board is the only group who can choose new elders for HBC to choose men who are not part of the current system or have a vested interest in what has transpired. All new elders, if chosen by the current board or their representatives will live under the suspicion of covering up the past - which may well be true. Even if not true they will live under a cloud of suspicion. In addition, no elder who served under the watch of James MacDonald should ever serve as an elder in the church again. If for no other reason than they cannot lead well having been a part of a sick system.

3. All staff who were in senior positions either on the ministerial side or the administrative side must be relieved of their duties. They may or may not have been a part of the problem but the perception will always be there that they were. In addition, many staff knew of the sickness within but remained in their role which lacks integrity on their part. There are key financial people who remain in place who had to know of financial irregularities and yet are there today. 

4. The books need to be opened - completely. Without complete transparency at this point the leadership have no credibility. Only an outside board will be able to do this as there are too many inside the power structure that don't want the books opened as it will reveal their poor leadership. Open the books and let the chips fall where they will.

5. Someone - and I believe that only an outside board can do this - needs to name any illegal, unethical or questionable actions involving James, the leadership and the elders. Repentance comes with an acknowledgement of wrongs committed and only with that acknowledgement can the congregation have a chance of healing.

My prediction? None of these five steps will be taken because there is too much to hide, too much pride and too much need to be in power. It will sadly end in a failed church and even worse mayhem than currently exists. As long as you hide the truth it will likely repeat itself. Bring it to light and it will likely not. Unfortunately the history to this point is to hide and try to control what cannot be controlled and is no longer a secret. 

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com

Creating cultures of organizational excellence
  • Apr 22, 2019
  • Category: News
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