Former Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel Speaks Out

In the most recent discussion spurred on by the post entitled Harvest Bible Chapel: Establishing the Authority of King James, several questions were raised regarding the validity of anonymous sources.  At different times, the discussion even turned to the question of gossip and whether we, as Christians, have the right to ask questions about significant leaders and/or elders who are no longer present at HBC.  Today, in the interest of continuing the discussion about James MacDonald and the internal workings of Harvest Bible Chapel, I would like to draw your attention to comments made by former pastor Rod Van Solkema, on the 25th of July.

For those of you who may not remember Pastor Van Solkema, he was one of four members of the Stowell family employed by HBC during the 2000s.  He served as the Pastor of Young Adult Ministries at Harvest Bible Chapel – Rolling Meadows, and although Van Solkema did not serve as an elder, himself, two of his family members did.  Pastor Van Solkema was the first of the four Stowell family members to leave the church in relatively short succession.    This is what he had to say:

There once was a rabbi who was making a hike in the desert up a high mountain.

A scorpion confidently asked him, “Rabbi, would you please place me on your shoulder and take me up the mountain?”

The rabbi responded,”Why would I do such a thing? You will sting me and I will die.”

But the scorpion promised, “I promise to be your friend and never sting you. Please let me ride on your shoulder.”

So the rabbi took the scorpion and placed him on his shoulder and began the long trek up the mountain.

All went well as the rabbi and the scorpion conversed the whole way.

But when they made it to the top, the scorpion took his stinger and sent it deep into the rabbi’s jugular. His poison shot through the rabbi’s bloodstream.

As the rabbi lay dying, he said to the scorpion, “You promised to NOT sting me. Why did you do it?”

The scorpion responded, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”

Rod Van Solkema
Former pastor at HBC

This comment can be found in its full and proper context by following this link to Harvest Bible Chapel: Is Dissent the Same as Rebellion?

* * * * * * * * *

Additional Resources on this subject can be found at:

The Descent: James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel and the Blurry Road to a Prosperity Gospel

How Steep the Decline: James MacDonald, Bryan Loritts, and Sycophantic Uncle Toms

James MacDonald, the Elephant Room and the “Spinning” of the Truth

Does James MacDonald Possess Too Much Power?

Fourth Church “Departs” Harvest Bible Fellowship

Harvest Bible Chapel: These are Not the Droids You’re Looking For

Harvest Bible Chapel: Is Dissent the Same as Rebellion?

Harvest Bible Chapel: Where Have the Elders Gone?

Harvest Bible Chapel: Establishing the Authority of King James …?

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64 Responses to Former Pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel Speaks Out

  1. Josh says:

    so… is this where we are?

    everyone who left Harvest Staff ever for any reason is virtuous and wise and anyone who stayed is a naive fool and/or liar?

    seems a little overly simplistic.

    Is it possible that some people see strong leadership and want it and some people prefer something different?

    • Counter-question: Why would one dismissively doubt the virtue of this pastor? Seems to me that the words of a man who is willing to publicly put his name on the line ought to at least be considered. Would you not agree?

      Second counter-question: Why would “strong leadership” ever make someone desire something else? A strong leader is not someone who pushes others away. A strong leader is one who puts forth a compelling vision and then empowers his/her staff to achieve commonly held goals.

      • Mike Sagan says:

        Agreed, Scott. MacDonald fancies himself a strong leader, but he is no leader at all. He has surrounded himself with “yes men” and bullies or catapults anyone who dares to stand up to him. Dave Corning was a leader in every sense of the word and many of us regret the day he left Harvest. Dave, if you are reading this, know that we love and respect you.

    • Ryan M. Mahoney says:

      Your previous issue was . . . “Now, a public person is completely open to critique on what they do or say publicly, but to build conclusions based on a story that the person who told it is unwilling to attach their name is out of scriptural bounds.”

      I disagree with your assertion; nevertheless, you now have a name. Why argue against a straw man? You are countering an argument no one has asserted. Can you address the substance of the matter?

    • Zig says:

      There is a difference between strong leadership and abusive leadership. I assure you Josh, through my personal experience, that James and some of his current pastors are the latter.

  2. Josh says:

    Rod can have whatever opinion he wants… that is just it. I don’t judge his motive, he apparently had a negative experience, although not so negative that his father-in-law came on staff after he had already left to plant a church.This whole discussion has the whiff of the tolerance police. Whatever you say negatively of James is for sure true and great, but any defense of him is foolish and naive.

    strong leaders leave a wake. postive and negative. Luther. Calvin. MacArthur. Edwards. Spurgeon. the assertion that simply because some people feel negatively there MUST be a problem falls flat to me.

    Harvest has 400 staff. How many negative opinions can be chalked up as the reality of life?

    • rainbowmn says:

      This is a stunning statement.
      Its why this has gone on so long.

    • Gary says:

      But Josh, aren’t you doing the same thing, only in reverse? Any negative comments about King James are just the result of jealous haters, blah, blah, blah. All sensible people know what a swell guy King James really is.

  3. Deb says:

    In my opinion, James has most likely hurt 400 staff members in one way or the other – add church members and visitors to that list too. Again, remember James has multiple outlets to defend himself – most of all a pulpit to speak from, but the people he has harmed, is harming, and will harm in the future, have had no method to tell their stories – most have just disappeared – like the elders, leaders and fellowship churches that have exited. To defend or ignore abuse is just plain sinful. Pastor Rod you were deeply loved by many, and when you left we continued to love your friend Pastor Dave DeHaan. In honor of you and so many others, we did stand up to James for multiple abuses. Surely the rest of your family will speak-up soon. Still praying too.

  4. I knew Rod. He was my Young Adult pastor, and when my husband and I married, we asked him to lead us in premarital counseling and officiate our ceremony. I have a lot of respect for him. His character stands in stark contrast to that of MacDonald. He left the church before my husband and I did, but not long after we left, I heard that his in-laws (some of whom I also know from serving alongside them during my time at HBC) left in quick succession. Those of the Stowell clan that I knew, I can also say had character that stands in contrast to that of MacDonald. While I had noticed some red flags during my time at HBC, mainly to do with MacDonald, the fact that the clan left so quickly was the biggest red flag to me that something behind the curtain was amiss.

    Rod’s comment on the previous blog post leads me to believe my intuition was correct. As I am in a position to be able to compare and contrast the characters of Rod and James, I gotta say, Rod’s comment carries a lot of weight. The comment was well said, in a gracious but informing way.

    Yes, strong leaders leave a wake. Jim Jones, Marshall Applewhite, L. Ron Hubbard. I’m not saying MacDonald is a cult leader. I’m just sayin’: Keep your eyes wide open.

  5. CM says:

    Thank you for this posting. I have the utmost respect for Rod and the entire Stowell family. While our daughter attended school in Holland, MI she attended his church and we were blessed to have been able to visit. I pray that one day the rest will speak up.

  6. Jennifer Grabsky says:

    I was also in the Young Adult Ministry when Rod was the pastor. I agree with Jennifer. Rod is one of my favorite pastors, ever. He was a godly man who never quite fit the Harvest mold. His word also carry a lot of weight for me, and they affirm other things I have learned.

  7. Tom says:

    Just so we’re clear, it’s pretty obvious that we should be calling Josh by his real name. James. Can I get a witness?

  8. Jon says:

    I don’t find these comments helpful at all … this is only weakens what this blog is trying to accomplish. As has been stated before it makes it seem as though all those who have had a negative experience with Harvest are taken at face value and anyone with a differing opinion is obviously ignorant or a J-Mac Fanboy. Funny how those so concerned with a “bully” so easily use bullying tactics.

    If you create a blog about any church and ask for those who had a negative experience you will be guaranteed a well visited blog with lots of people eager to comment. Anyone who grew up in a congregationally lead church will have “great” memories of business meetings … and it seems as though this blog is giving the same sort of outlet. I’m not saying people didn’t have a bad experience but to so easily dismiss any others of a differing opinion is troubling.

    • Big *Sigh* says:

      Psalm 37:37

      Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
      for there is a future for the man of peace.


      I totally agree with your thoughts about the comments made on this blog. We (as well as myself) need to be held blameless in our walk with the Lord, even with our words.

    • XPat58 says:

      Yes, but Jon where are they? Where are the blogs with the “eager” people to comment? Is there a blog about Bill Hybels where people are voicing their negative experiences? Or Joel Olsteen, or Tim Keller, or, or, or? The point is if you don’t create a culture of deception you have nothing to talk about. If James wants to drive a Jag, great! Drive a Jag, just don’t make an excuse about it. If James want $100,000 personal budget line at the church, great! Just don’t hide it. If people want to know how much their pastors make, why be afraid to say it? Yes it’s uncomfortable but if your above reproach what’s the big?

      • Ryan M. Mahoney says:

        XPat58; it’s been a while. Greetings.

      • Jon says:

        The attack blogs are full of the names you listed. I’ll add some more: C.J. Mahaney, Driscoll, Warren, Piper,etc.

        As far as pay is concerned, what is your salary? If you are above reproach you could share your name and salary.

        I am not saying James hasn’t hurt some people … or done things wrong. I’m just saying that when a dozen people out of a church of 10,000 are upset it’s a bit disingenuous to label everyone who loves or respects the pastor as ignorant or deceived. Why not engage with those who disagree and discuss your different perspectives. And maybe that’s what Scott is trying to do …

        • Jon,
          Your logic is full of holes. You know that a pastor’s salary (which come from the tithes and gifts of his congregants, should in the least, be available for congregants to see for accountability issues). Why bother asking Pat for her salary? Really?

          And a dozen out of 10,000? Really?

          If you’re going to argue, please at least be intellectually honest.

          • Jon says:

            Hi Jennifer,

            Appreciate your push back. I honestly have no desire to know what my pastor financially makes – I hope and trust that the elders and deacons pay him well. Has anyone on this blog actually personally gone up to him and asked? I’m not saying that it’s right but from what I understand by reading this blog is that James MacDonald is not outside of the typical salary (and salary streams) for mega pastors in good Bible preaching churches. John MacArthur is well compensated for his role with Grace to You, his role with Master’s Seminary (both of those being more money than I’ll ever see) as well as his pastor’s salary. Do I begrudge John MacArthur for how much he makes. Nope – the man works harder than most (as I am sure James MacDonald does) in a role that is extremely difficult and Scripture says to pay a teaching elder well.

            As far as “a dozen out of 10,000” – it was meant as a poor attempt at hyperbole … what I am wondering is if this is a tempest in a teapot on the large scale of things … willing to be shown otherwise – please don’t see this as a personal attack or as me diminishing your obvious personal hurt and need for healing and restoration.

            Lastly, I think what people here are inferring is that godly men and women who have stuck with James and Harvest for years are either naive, not “in-the-know”, ignorant or they are just as bad as James. What do you do with a guy like Rick Donald? Who doesn’t love Rick? Is he ignorant or in on it with James?

        • Gary says:

          A dozen huh? That’s all? I wish I could live in your world.

        • John,
          The typical salary you mention below: I’m going to side with XPat on this one: if James wants to drive a jag…etc…etc…I’m not harping on how big his salary is as much as I am concerned about his transparency about it all. Futhermore, since you’ve been reading the blog as you mentioned you are, then you’re aware that there are concerns about how much control he wields over the church, it’s leadership, it’s finances, etc. In his words, it’s 50% with the rest of the elders having negligible pieces of the “power pie”. All that to say, “Pay your elders well” yes. “Allow them to pay themselves well without accountability”, not so much.

          All I am saying is, see the signs and be aware.

          Sorry to give you the impression that I have “obvious signs of hurt” and am in need of personal healing and restoration. Not sure which of my comments would have let you to that conclusion? I am not hurting from any of James’ actions, although I personally know people that have been. I saw the warning signs before I left, so that is where I fall on this side of the debate about HBC.

  9. Big *Sigh* says:

    In all fairness, I want to understand things clearly and truthfully.

    Scott, did you have permission from Pastor Rod to identify him and his association with HBC? I understand this is ‘public knowledge’ as he chose to post from your previous article(s). Personally, I would not have made the connection unless it was brought to my attention as it did in this article. This might be a basic question, but it would be nice to make it clear to the readers of this blog.

    Second, did the ‘parable’ of the rabbi and the scorpion deal in the direct context of Pastor Rod’s experience with HBC, specifically JMac? Even if Pastor Rod can answer these himself…I would be grateful.

    To some readers, this might all be assumed as common knowledge. As for me, clarity would suffice. Thank you.

    • Big Sigh …

      Pastor Van Solkema identified himself as a former pastor at HBC when he made the original comment. As for parable, it is what it is. Perhaps it falls into the category of “let him who has ears hear.”

  10. Chris Trees says:

    Josh & Jon,

    I wouldn’t say that it was a necessity for people to have personally had negative experiences at HBC, for them to have valid reasons for leaving. Many of the former elders, James’ subordinate pastors and staff members have ministered selflessly and tirelessly to countless members and attendees, and have been respected and loved by those whom they served. Because of their faithful labors, I sincerely believe that the vast majority of those of us who have departed were generally well treated and cared for.

    However, if the man at the top of the pyramid loses the respect of those he is supposed to be loving and serving because of chronic and repeated lapses of character, credibility, judgment and behavior and is perceived to be serving himself instead of Christ and his saints and appears to be engaged in an never ending pursuit of “more”, “bigger”, “better” and “shinier”, it’s painfully difficult to belong to, or attend a church where the worship services are lead by such a man despite the best efforts of the rest of the staff and/or elders.

    Also, just because everyone who has been disallusioned or damaged at HBC hasn’t publically shared their experiences, doesn’t mean that disallusionment or damage didn’t occur. An argument for satisfaction based upon silence isn’t anymore effective than an argument for dissatisfaction, but as a rule of thumb, well cared for sheep and “satisfied” people ordinarily don’t vote with their feet.

    • J Crane says:

      Chris Trees, very well put. Your comments captured most of what our family is thinking, but we are still very upset and feeling betrayed about the ‘doctrinal’ issues that have led us to this point.

      I think it is important for Josh and Jon to remember that many of us are serving and tithing at HBC. We have for many years. Why would we want bad to happen to our pastor and fellow believers? We have been placed in this situation by our pastor, and the history of stories just shows how deep the doctrinal and leadership (not personal) issues issues are.

      As for being “satisfied” and not voting with our feet, there is another category… there’s a bunch of us who are not “satisfied” but silent, because we have kids in the programs at HBC. The kids and programs seem to be unaffected by all of this. It is hard to move a family and change worship style and relationships and programs.

      Pastor James will leave the staff and current elders to clean up his mess. We will be watching a video of how pumped up he was on tour with VC. A spotlight of a changed life will be told and numbers cited about how many have come thru the front door, but we will be sheltered from knowing the plants and many other families that were ignored as they left thru the back door. I think we each and all know that it is just a matter of time until we do leave because I don’t foresee things getting better… things will just go on…and so will we.

      • Big *Sigh* says:

        J Crane,

        “The kids and programs seem to be unaffected by all of this.”

        When leadership is affected, ALL get affected in different ways.

        Our family is also in the same exact position yours is in. We recently had a family very close to us recently leave Harvest this past summer. Hard to see friends go. We may follow suit soon.

  11. rainbowmn says:

    Know you and the boys are reading every word of this stuff.
    Its pretty serious out here, buddy.
    Better figure out what you are going to do.
    This one is not going away.

    • Treading out the grain says:

      Sadly, we all know this will go away eventually…or at very least not much real change will come as a result. HBC is a a senior-pastor led movement and nothing is going to change that, short of a mass exodus or a stern rebuke from someone whose voice matters to JM. The elders at HBC understand this, and know what they’ve signed on for. Sure, there will be more fallout along the way. Members that question and leaders that aren’t fully committed will continue to be left in the wake. Just like corporations that are in highly litigated industries have legal reserves allocated for future adverse judgments, HBC will always “reserve” a portion of leaders’ time and spiritual energy for putting out fires and defending the model from those that biblically disagree. Many will continue to come in and eventually leave when they see how HBC is ran. Many others will continue to be unaware, but will enjoy the worship and be attracted to James’ dynamic preaching. Everyone who’s been personally involved in one way or another can choose for themselves whether to go public with their name, rank and experience, but as you know, most haven’t. At this point I’m not sure it would matter. I wonder if there’s a code of silence –don’t mess with my ministry and I won’t mess with yours…I just want to be left alone and move on. It’s also apparent that HBC is intent on continuing down the attractional/seeker road. It will be interesting to see if so goes the preaching as well over time. At some point, the meat-eaters will be mostly gone, and preaching the meat will just result in confusion for many. If James ever fails majorly and publicly it would be disastrous for many, as he is held in such high high regard. Sad reality…I pray that won’t happen. Such an unhealthy model to put the entire weight of a church on one ox without legitimate checks/balances and accountability. Wrought for unintended consequences at best, failure at worst. I don’t much care for the goofy rings, harley’s and tattoos, but I do care and hurt for those that are genuinely seeking the Lord in spirit and truth.

      As for me, I’m just a nobody who is trying to follow Jesus, like the rest of us are, with a couple observations. I’ve said my peace, and now it’s time to dust off my sandals off and move on.

  12. Jon says:

    Ok so then let’s assume that all those in leadership who haven’t left are all weak, deceived, just as bad or ignorant (Rick Donald, Andi Rozier, Kent Shaw, etc). If this is the case now you are needing to figure out the best way to deal with it. Is a public blog the best way?

    Many have claimed they do so out of love for their friends still there – why not just talk to your friends?

    • XPat58 says:


      I’m not sure I understand your question. I get the references to weak, deceived, just as bad, ignorant, irresponsible, foolish, hypocritical and cowardly. I get all that. But what exactly are you asking? If I have to read into your comment I would say you are trying to encourage people to talk with their friends instead of writing in the blogs, is that what you are trying to say?

  13. No Ax, Just Truth says:

    There may be many reasons old friends of James find it difficult to leave. Why speculate? Surely not EVERY person who sees what is happening finds themselves in a position to leave.

    • intheknow says:

      EVERY person who is at Harvest and sees what is happening has a choice to make. It is not an easy one. There are many aspects to consider…does the good outweigh the bad? Can God use me here? Does God want me to stay and be used? Is God calling me out of here or is He calling me to stay and pick up the pieces behind the scenes? These are not new questions. Many have traveled this road and had to come up with answers that will allow them to rest at night. Ultimately, the questions is: Is God using Harvest in spite of the character of James and can I reconcile this dissonance well enough in my soul to be able to continue as a part of this ministry?

  14. In wrath remember mercy says:

    A question for all of us to ask ourselves:

    Time spent reading and/or commenting on this blog and/or talking with others about these issues


    Time spent in genuine, repentant, extended intercession with fasting for James, the elders, and the people of HBC

    I am grateful for those here who have not forgotten that James MacDonald is our BROTHER.

    And more importantly, that he—and we—bear the Name of Jesus Christ.

    Count on this: Our God is zealous to work mightily on behalf of that Name.

    He does not need the analysis or campaigning of any of us to solve this situation.

    He alone is in the position to accurately assess the condition of Harvest Bible Chapel and the heart of James MacDonald—and all of our hearts.

    Does He not know how to discipline His own?

    Does He not know how to humble the proud?

    Is He not able to lay bear His holy arm and work mightily for the sake of HIS Name?

    May God in His righteous wrath against us all of us remember mercy, and deal with each one of us as HE sees we need to be dealt with.

    Brothers and sisters: It’s high time we all get off of our computers and onto our faces.

    • Eric Rowe says:

      In Wrath,

      First of all, know that I still attend HBC Crystal Lake.

      I agree with you that we should be praying and lifting up James and the leadership. However, I take issue with your assumption that those us concerned are not doing so. I think it is very presumptuous to assume that those concerned about the direction and actions of the leadership of HBC are only about criticism and not about compassion and ultimately for Christs glory.

      My second issue is your argument for passivity making the claim that God does not need us to work on behalf of the name of Christ. You are correct, God does not need us. But you are incorrect to take that knowledge and do nothing. God does not need us to reach the lost, but we are commanded to do something by going into the world. God has promised to take care of all of our needs. But that does not mean we sit idly by waiting for those needs to be met. God knows how to discipline my children, but I as a father of a 3 year old and 1 year old have been entrusted to steward the lives of these children. That means disciplining when necessary. I think you get the point that we have a responsibility to do something other than sit by and watch. How that gets done, that is a struggle to know.

      For me. I have raised my concerns about certain issues to one of the elders. The more that I learn, the more concerns I have and the more questions I would like to ask and I would like to ask James directly. But I know that many who have come before me have raised concerns over the years. I know for many it has been of little or no good. Nothing has changed. So what do you do. I will probably take the next step to speak to leadership again. For many, though, they have already gone to elders and James, and the next step is to take it to the church. That is what this blog is doing.

      So for all those reading this blog who support James, take a look at the issues being raised and ask the appropriate questions of your leadership.

      • Eric Rowe says:

        A small adjustment. What I meant to say in the last paragraph is those of you who defend James should at least take the time to ask the questions of leadership.

      • In wrath remember mercy says:

        Eric, thank you for your words. My sincere apologies if the content or tone of my post came across accusatory or judgmental.

        I intended my words as a call to prayer, as a reminder or prompt for us all (myself included) to personally examine ourselves before the Lord. I believe we as visitors to this blog would do well to ask ourselves the following:

        * Are we trusting in our ability to “fix” this thing through the multiplying of words on the internet for the rallying of others to a certain point of view… or are we truly desperate for God to do what ONLY He can do?

        * Are we giving more than perfunctory, 30-second prayers to this? Are we willing to do the hard work of extended prayer with fasting?

        * Do we love James, the elders, the congregation of HBC, and most of all the name of Christ to sacrifice in this way?

        * And do we need the extended time in intercession for our own sakes as well, to genuinely examine and empty our own hearts of all bitterness and pride?

        Also: I understand how my post led to this misunderstanding, but I did not mean to imply that desperate dependence on God through intercession means that no other action ought to be taken.

        But as others have pointed out, the proper channels of church discipline happen through the elders of the local church. None of us knows the private conversations that are taking place, and how the elders and other people of influence in James’ life may already be addressing the kinds of concerns expressed on this blog.

        If James rebuffs that confrontation—or if the elders are in fact unwilling to properly confront—then God himself will remove His lampstand from HBC and bring James down through severe affliction. He knows how to humble the proud. He does not need us to make this happen. He is zealous for the purity of His church and the glory of His name that we bear.

        I believe that our job is to intercede and fast, and if we are a member of HBC, to bring our concerns to the elders… not to the blogosphere. And then to leave to God what He himself is plenty motivated to do.

    • rainbowmn says:

      In wrath,
      You are kidding, right?
      Step back and let God?

      That is the same argument about running into the street in front of a speeding car.
      Go ahead – if God wants you alive He will stop the car.

      Doesn’t work that way.
      Take responsibility.

      • In wrath remember mercy says:


        Please see the comments I left above, in response to Eric’s post. They apply to your remarks to me as well. Grace and peace of Christ to you.

  15. XPat58 says:


    That is a good exercise. It’s wise, mature, and responsible. There are a lot of ramifications to making a big decision like this. But you can’t simply ask the questions. It is not simply about what and how it affects me and others around me. This is also about what my decision communicates to leadership. Many (if not all) in leadership won’t listen anymore. They can’t.

    They have pre-loaded all of their answers with very little desire (simply ask those who have tried) to look deep within and admit they are wrong. If they do admit their wrongdoings, the house of cards begins to crumble. BUT, that could be a good thing. It will also require a fair amount of change and the acceptance of consequences of hurting people, denial and excuse making. Contrary to Jon’s comments (and I’m not blasting Jon, I just simply disagree) this is WAY bigger than a few hurt or “disgruntled” people. When you consider the landscape of the WHO, this is not a small group of dissidents. They were godly, hardworking, discerning men and women who gave everything they had every single day.

    • intheknow says:

      As long as James has 50% of the power and the rest is dispersed among a puppet elder board, there will be no change. I agree. “The ends justifies the means” is the mode of operation and will continue to be at Harvest as long as James is in control.

      If you are a part of Harvest and if you are fine with that then stay. If you are not fine with that, as it is 100% contrary to what God expects of His under-shepherds and his people (according to His word), then leave and make some noise as you go out.

      However, keep in mind that you will not be the first to do this. Keep in mind that not much has changed in the course of the history of Harvest in spite of Godly, discerning, hard-working people that have tried. Finally, keep in mind that you are not responsible for Harvest or James, God is.

      You will ultimately only give an account of what YOU have done, what YOU have stood for, and what YOU have given your resources to…let that be your mindset as you wade through life at Harvest.

      • James Conway says:

        Greetings intheknow. Well said. It is important not to fall into the trap of “Christian Consumer”… if “brand A” doesn’t satisfy, then switch to “brand B”.

        Every believer must search the motives of their own heart, what they themselves have witnessed, and whether they are growing as disciples of Jesus Christ because of the leadership, ministries, and fellowship of their church, or in spite of it. (The Lord may be using such a disconnect as an indicator to move on to a new season)

        It is (or at least SHOULD be) a weighty matter to leave a church. What that looks like when leaving a megachurch will be different than leaving a smaller one, but it needs to be done Biblically, honorably, and in good order.

        Because such action should be more about the growth of the individual believer than about affecting change in the church.

        Misplaced “concern for friends” results in sowing discord. Every believer is commanded to be discerning and seek the Lord for direction. “Helpful friends” who share information that the receiver wouldn’t otherwise receive, simply short circuits the work of the Spirit.

        God is faithful. His love for His children is perfect. If someone needs to know a piece of information, He will reveal it in a way that doesn’t contradict His Word. (in other words, He won’t use the channel of gossip to transmit that info) If someone must rely on obtaining information from the internet rather than directly from the leaders of their church, that is the clue phone ringing that something isn’t right.

        What often happens with discernment blogs is that they “take one step too far”. They report information, and explain what it means. That can be good and helpful. But then they sometimes delve into speculation and implication. That is when they go off into the weeds and damage their credibility.

  16. Jon says:

    Eric Rowe,

    Here is where I have a problem with this blog and the comments that follow – it is in your statement that when leadership doesn’t listen you “take it to the church.” While this is a biblical approach when dealing with sin I would argue that this blog is not “the church”. The biblical idea of “take it to the church” is referring to the local church as in taking it to Harvest Bible Chapel not the universal church. Also by taking it to this blog you are including the world … so in effect you are taking it to way more than just your church and it is here that I believe this type of blog comes dangerously close to gossip. Maybe Scott or Ryan can give me some direction that can show me biblically where this type of blogging and commenting is more than just gossip.

    • Jon,
      The horse is dead. Why continue to beat it? Blogs like this aren’t going to go away. They are a medium for people to learn, share, etc…Church isn’t a building. WE are the church. I think you want to continue down the “this blog and others like it are just gossip road” because you like JM so much. Fine, like him. But while harp on your “gossip” angle, but you never really address the arguments brought up on the blog.

      On a side note, the word, “biblical” is so overused.

      • Jon says:

        Hey Jennifer,

        I guess this is where we hit a bit of a stalemate in our discussion. Personally I would rather use Scripture to influence my activity than “everyone does this”. If you tire of things “biblical” then I don’t know where to go.

        Now to your question of MacDonald (I actually laughed at the “you just like him” argument … it’s been awhile since I’ve heard that used … grade school maybe?). I am not trying to argue if he’s wrong or not … I never claimed he was innocent. I just think that by approaching it this way no matter what side “wins”, sin wins. Like a spouse who uses the silent treatment. But again I will move on if you all feel that this is the best way.

        As far as “WE are the church” and “not the building.”. We agree there. I just make a point to differentiate between the church universal and the local church. And I think this is better handled by those within that church.

        • Yes, we’re done. You don’t adequately address my arguments and you add insults where they aren’t needed (“obvious hurt and need for healing, restoration”, etc.. and “grade school maybe”?).

          God bless the hell out of you! 😉

          • Jon says:


            I honestly meant no insult in thinking that you personally had been hurt by this. In fact my heart breaks for those impacted by bad pastors. I came to Christ very late in life and stayed away mainly due to seeing how Christians devour each other … I guess that’s why I see this from both sides and would love to see healing and restoration for all concerned.

            And I honestly thought you were kidding when you said I only am questioning because I like James MacDonald. Sorry.

            And now I have only added to what I so dislike about the church by engaging in fruitless debate about prople’s hearts. Sorry all.


    • Eric Rowe says:


      Could you help me understand where in scripture there is a distinction between “local” church and the church universal? I do not think there is one in this instance. Second, even if there was, I do not think it would matter. Pastor James has influence over the church here in Chicagoland, via Walk in Word through the US and Canada and via the HBC fellowship around the world. This is the church that this blog is intending to reach.

      Finally, several definitions of gossip are along the lines of the following found in the Oxford dictionaries:

      Gossip – Noun: Casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

      This type of blogging is not casual but deliberate and planned with a purpose. This type of blogging is constrained and reserved as there is so much more that could be shared. This type of blogging is about other people involving details that are confirmed by multiple sources as being true or about public knowledge.

      • Jon says:

        Hi Eric,

        I would have to strongly disagree with your ecclesiology. Scripture is very clear about the difference between local an universal church. Otherwise you’d have to submit to the elders of my church … cause we’re all one church.

        I guess my definition of gossip includes talking tithe wrong people … even if it’s truth. If I knew something true about a struggle with your relationship with your spouse and rather than speaking with you about it I talked to all your neighbors is that gossip?

        • XPat58 says:


          Although I am somewhat entertained by your exchange with Jen & Eric, I think your comments lack some context. I’d like to ask a question and re-introduce some “biblical” text already offered in some of these threads.

          1Timothy 1:19-20
          2 Timothy 1:15; 4:14-15

          Now, unlike Bob I am a biblical lightweight (love ya Bobby) so I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. Based on your biblical grid Paul is a gossip. These are clear warnings to the “church” and Paul names names. I don’t think we are out of line by offering conversation that voices concern and admonishment others with “buyer beware.” Your thoughts?

  17. rainbowmn says:

    Of course, James has already been grooming his sheep against discussions like these. The following quote off James’ blogsite VERTICAL CHURCH

    “Cyber-bullies hide behind proxy servers and false names. Victims slowly learn that fighting back only encourages them. And there is no vice principal patrolling the hallways and breaking things up.

    “Then there are the cowards. They create the page views, and some even input their own comments, usually anonymously, yelling, “Fight, fight,” while they sit three rows back. They create the audience that is the real raison d’être of the controversy to begin with.

    “Internet controversy gives us the liberty to play theological video games. That is, it is vicarious, faux drama, exciting enough to keep us tapping away at our keyboards but not so exciting that we lose sleep. We read an attack site (discernment blog, as they like to call themselves), and find that the kingdom is crumbling because Joel Osteen’s book is being carried in some LifeWay store somewhere, or because a guy in our camp invited a guy in their camp to speak at a conference.

    “We head over to our favorite guru’s blog to get the straight skinny on just what the respectable ones are saying about this issue or that.

    “In all this reading, all this key-stroking, what we are really stroking is our egos. We think that by keeping up with the controversy we are really fighting the battle. And because of all the Internet play it is getting, we know it is the battle for the ages. We think we are fighting off Suleiman’s Muslim assault on Vienna, preserving Western Christianity, when all we are really doing is playing with toy soldiers. Like those who fought in the Saint Crispin’s Day battle, we can then go to our beds thinking ourselves fine fellows for having been in the fight…there is someone wrong on the Internet.

    “It’s probably you.”

    James MacDonald
    Vertical Church

    Sorry Scott. Guess you are doing this to stroke your ego.

    • James needs a better PR team. It strikes me that his response is exactly what he rails against. The best way to minimize this sort of “crisis” would be to ignore it. Several commenters have said their concerns have gone unaddressed when they’ve taken them to leadership, but the minute their concerns hit the Internet, HBC leadership has reason to defend itself and go on the attack by declaring a fatwa on “discernment blogs”. If concerns weren’t important enough to address one-on-one with questioning congregants, why are they important enough to attempt to discredit online? Smells like ego to me.

    • In wrath remember mercy says:

      It should be pointed out for clarity and accuracy’s sake that the words quoted above from James’ blog are not in fact his own words, but a blog entry posted elsewhere by Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr., Teaching Fellow at Ligonier Ministries.

      • XPat58 says:

        Well….if you can’t have David Jones write your stuff I guess R.C. Sproul Jr. will have to do (sigh…).

        • Mike Sagan says:

          Right. This is right off R C Sproul Jr’s Blog. Also notice how MacDonald never speaks to the issues. He simply responds by berating those who dare to challenge him. Typical bully tactics.

      • Mark Notestine says:

        And I was about to be impressed by the use of the historical analogy. I now remember reading that post from Ligonier (one of my favorite ministries).

      • J Crane says:

        “In wrath remember mercy”, did you also notice that Pastor James is no longer mentioned as a contributor to the Wasn’t he there a few weeks/months ago?

        • Mike Sagan says:

          I don’t recall MacDonald ever being a contributor to Ligonier. I have read their publications and listened to their broadcasts for many years. His seeker/attractional style approach to ministry would not even seem to sync with that organization. If he has been a contributor, I would appreciate seeing the material if anyone could point me in the direction of where to find it.

  18. No Ax, Just Truth says:

    I know I’m not alone in this: I HAVE lost sleepover these issues. We all have problems or challenges in our lives. Financial struggles, family/interpersonal, health…but the worst of all is struggling with these when your church is busy going “sideways”….It is up-ending like no other problem. The reason we are here is that we hate to give up on our church…on our pastor…

  19. In wrath remember mercy says:

    Saw this today and thought it worth sharing here: Some important principles for anyone considering leaving a church—as well as for those who have already left.

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