An Open Letter to James MacDonald (From a Former Harvest Bible Chapel Member on Being Property and Response to the Lawsuit)

This is an open letter from a former member of Harvest Bible Chapel to James MacDonald. In this open letter a former member reacts to the lawsuit against The Elephant’s Debt and James regarding people as property. It also reminds James that they left because of what they witnessed in person at Harvest Bible Chapel. 

“The business of the church isn’t the business of the church!”  

James MacDonald 

“Corruption is authority plus monopoly minus transparency.


No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

Matthew 5:15 NLT 

The Lincoln Memorial at night. 

There is an old adage that you hear from time to time. The question is asked, how do you eat an elephant? The answer is one bite at a time. As I start to write regularly on Harvest Bible Chapel I am going to eat the elephant one bite at a time. That is the only way one can deal with such a machine. As I learn more about James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel it appears as if Harvest Bible is the “Mars Hill” of Chicago. The other day on Twitter I saw an open letter that a former member of Harvest Bible wrote to James MacDonald and I asked them if I can republish it, and was given permission. For those from Harvest Bible Chapel  that want to publish articles or write open letters like this, I will be happy to give you the platform to do so. The letter below is eye opening for me. In the land of Lincoln James MacDonald views people as property. In case James didn’t know this country actually had a war over the topic of people being property and it was settled by the 13th Amendment in 1865.  Perhaps James MacDonald should study some history. With that I will turn this over to  a former Harvest Bible Chapel member who gives her reaction to the lawsuit. 

Dear Pastor James-

I heard that you (my former pastor) and the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel (my former church) filed a defamation lawsuit against Ryan Mahoney, Scott Bryant, Ryan’s and Scott’s wives, and Julie Roys. 

I read the 66 page complaint and am left with a sobering reality: That you and the church think of me and the 2,499 other ex-members as property, as assets that belonged to you before they were dragged away by two bloggers who now must payback what is “rightfully” yours. 

You are wrong. 

First, neither you nor Harvest Bible Chapel ever owned us. Our tithe was to God, which we gave you to steward. 

Second, we did not leave because of what The Elephant’s Debt published. We left because of what we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears. For example. 

We heard you make excuses and displace blame for the massive debt. 

We were there when you publicly – and wrongly – slandered and excommunicated two Elders and censured a third Elder. (You issued an apology a year later, and we still wonder why it took that long.)

We searched for and found public documents that showed that you took out a very large mortgage to build a very large home, after publicly committing to more modest lifestyle choices “for the sake of Christ.” (Quoting February 2014 Elder update) 

We heard you, Elders and pastors evade questions and obscure the truth about the breakup of Harvest Bible Fellowship. We read the church financial statements that showed HBF gave money to Mark Driscoll’s church (which was shocking given the purported purpose of HBF and the history of Mr. Driscoll).

We heard you yell in anger, time after time, “The business of the church isn’t the business of the church!”  

We heard you attack from the pulpit anyone who had frustrated and upset you, especially if they no longer attended Harvest. Similarly, we witnessed you misuse the pulpit to defend yourself and your actions. 

We heard your sermons becoming progressively less rooted in Scripture and more rooted on your personal feelings and experiences. 

You – not Ryan Mahoney, or Scott Bryant or the internet at large — are the reason why we left HBC after many years of attending. serving and tithing.

Praying for you, still.

An Ex-Member   

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to James MacDonald (From a Former Harvest Bible Chapel Member on Being Property and Response to the Lawsuit)

  1. I will add a few that had nothing to do with TED. My family wasn’t involved in the Chicago campuses, but we were members in one of the plants. There is no doubt that the empires is in control of them all, some a large extent. A few reasons we are not there anymore:
    1. Controlling environment.
    2. Confusion on loyalty to HBC verses loyalty to Jesus.
    3. The HBC way is the best way and all others are probably not even Christian.
    4. Concealing important information from the flock. Secrecy.
    5. High expectations of service and guilt/shame/faith questioning if you don’t/can’t serve the organization.
    6. HBC Group think.
    7. Bait & Switch tactics.
    8. Once you get in, it’s almost impossible to get out. Something is very wrong when you feel you can’t get out.
    9. Your whole life should revolve around HBC. Friends outside should be slowly weaned away.
    10. It’s an organization. A company. A machine. Not a church.

    These are just a few that are broad and don’t involve specific situations. I could say so much more.

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