This post at The Wondering Eagle looks at how James MacDonald tests his followers loyalty. It can either be through the Vertical tattoo or the coin Harvest Bible Chapel pastors are expected to carry. In addition this blog learned that at the final pastors and wives retreat before the fracture of the Fellowship, James MacDonald allegedly put many of his pastors in a difficult position and pressured them to get the Vertical Church tattoo.
“Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice.”
“You cannot buy loyalty; you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, and souls. You have to earn these things.”
“The only people I owe my loyalty to are those who never made me question theirs.”
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
John 4:24 NIV
James MacDonald sermon clip.
There is some more information about James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel that this blog has acquired. Part of this is already known, but the incident in Phoenix this blog is going to reveal I don’t believe has been shared before. This post is hard to do because there are a lot of gaps. Therefore what I am going to do is do a separate subheading and list some of the questions that exist. If people can fill in the gaps this blog will be grateful. Let’s start this post with a look at the Vertical tattoo.
The Vertical Tattoo
One of the weirdest aspects to Harvest Bible Chapel is the Vertical tattoo. It appears that James MacDonald got the tattoo during the Vertical Church Tour in 2012. During that tour James MacDonald visited 40 cities on a two month bus tour and he decided to get a tattoo for the event. The tattoo was shown off by James MacDonald in the video in which he is interviewed by Mark Driscoll. You can read about it here. It appears from my research that the video has been taken down. I wonder if The Elephant’s Debt has it achieved or if someone out there does have a copy in their possession. James MacDonald was not the only one to get the Vertical tattoo during the Vertical Church Tour. In the following Facebook post a number of people discussed how they got one in Dallas, Texas. The tattoo is really just the Harvest Bible Chapel logo that is done on James right arm. From what my sources tell me James is fiercely proud of his tattoo and he boasts of it. What this blog has learned is that some of the former members of Harvest Bible Chapel refer to James MacDonald’s tattoo as the “Mark of the Beast.” James MacDonald uses the tattoo to support Harvest branding, marketing and to do something “shocking.” This will provide a transition into a disturbing situation that happened with James MacDonald and a number of Harvest Bible Chapel pastors in Phoenix, Arizona in 2017.
An Incident in Phoenix, Arizona that Illustrates How Harvest is a Cult
This information came from one source who shared it with me. I took the information and was able to independently confirm this with another source. The second source is also solid. So this information is solid. This took place at the regular senior pastor and wives retreat at Phoenix, Arizona. This was he final retreat before James MacDonald blew up Harvest Bible Fellowship on an impulsive rage. At the retreat James MacDonald paid for a tattoo article for Harvest Bible Chapel pastors to get a Vertical Church tattoo. The Vertical tattoo was free and James MacDonald allegedly wanted his pastors to get the tattoo. This created a stir and many pushed back and MacDonald relented. But James MacDonald got the message across. So a number of Harvest Bible Chapel pastors lined up one by one to get the Vertical tattoo. James MacDonald had wanted them and many blindly went along and got a tattoo. This blog would like to find out which pastors got a Vertical church tattoo. If you know please comment below and I can create a separate post that keeps track of who got this tattoo. It will be able to allow me and those who read about James MacDonald to see what kind of influence he had among Harvest Bible Fellowship pastors and more. For me this information further confirms that Harvest Bible Chapel is a cult.
Questions That Need to be Asked
- Does the XLT have tattoos?
- To join the XLT do you have to get the Vertical tattoo?
- What led James MacDonald to embrace the tattoo?
- How many Harvest Bible Chapel pastors have the Vertical tattoo?
- Why a tattoo? Why not jewelry? Or clothing? Or some other item?
- Is the Vertical Church tattoo been pushed among the congregation?
- How many members or attenders have gotten the Vertical Church tattoo?
- Have there been people from Harvest who had the tattoo and have it removed?
How Harvest Bible Chapel Uses Coins
There is another issue that also exists. Others from my understanding have already looked at this topic. Harvest Bible Chapel gives out coins to their pastors. I asked around for a picture of one and was told by different sources that when a person leaves Harvest they have to turn it back in. Now to give you perspective there is nothing wrong with Harvest having a coin. Coins can be found in law enforcement, military and government and other settings. Coins can be called challenge coins or when someone retires or leaves they can be given a coin. Let me give you some examples to make my point. Here is an example a coin for law enforcement. For example it looks like the Los Angeles Police Department has challenge coins. The Chicago Police Department also has challenge coins. In the United States military challenge coins are a part of the culture. Here are some examples for the United States Marine Corps. Now what can happen is that different bases or units can have their own coin. Another example of coins is among the federal government. For example here is a coin from the National Reconnaissance Office for sale on EBAY. So the point of all this is that I don’t want you to think that there is a problem in having a coin. Many professional organizations have a coin.
What is different about Harvest Bible Chapel is how they use the coins. From what I have heard from my sources Harvest Bible Chapel pastors allegedly have to carry one at all times. Harvest leadership will stop, demand for the pastor to produce the coin. Many pastors live in fear of James MacDonald and the last thing you want is to not have a coin. If you are asked to produce a coin and you don’t have it you will be yelled at and ridiculed. It appears that there might be some stories inside Harvest Bible Chapel regarding coins and individual situations. If you are in the know and would like to share here at The Wondering Eagle you are free to do so. According to one former Harvest pastor I interacted with I was told that when you leave Harvest you have to turn in the coin. You are not allowed to keep it.
The Issue of Loyalty
In cults many cult leaders will take some kind of action or try and create an environment that will reward loyalty to their leader. They can use loyalty as a means to test the flock and weed out the “week” and consolidate their base. They will test, push the limits and see what they can get away with. I want to be careful with the analogy I am about to share but let me share one example that came to mind. Before the mass murder and suicide in Jonestown in 1978, Jim Jones used to test the members who followed him. For example Jones would test his members and rehearsed the planned suicide. People lined up and took the flavor aid in mass. Afterward Jim Jones stated that they passed the test.
Now please understand I am not saying that James MacDonald is Jim Jones. That is not why I am saying this. I am using that incident in Jonestown as an example of how loyalty would be tested. All cults have means to test their members or followers. Many cults create personality cults as well. One of the things I have heard is that in Harvest Bible Chapel there are some pastors who have tried to emulate James MacDonald. This is not unique as this also happened in Sovereign Grace Ministries. In Sovereign Grace there were pastors who imitated C.J. Mahaney. There were people in the Sovereign Grace movement who shaved their head and tried to make themselves look like Mahaney. A couple of years back I wrote about the personality cult of the celebrity pastor using John Piper as an example. You can read that in, “The Little Red Book…of John Piper?“
What you see in this post is about loyalty tests that James MacDonald has implemented. James wants to control people and as a narcissist he wants to the center of attention. The loyalty tests come in different forms. From requiring Harvest Bible Chapel pastors to produce a coin to pressuring pastors at a retreat to get a Vertical Church tattoo. In the end James MacDonald is testing his followers just like Jim Jones and every other cult leader has tested their followers. The goal of these tests is not only to test loyalty but to see what you can get away with. How far can I push the envelope with questionable behavior? How far will people continue to support me? Healthy belief systems don’t function in this context. People are allowed to chose how they want to act. In other situations people are allowed to walk away in freedom. A healthy system does not require such loyalty tests. I can’t emphasize this enough. People need to leave Harvest Bible Chapel. They need to stop supporting the machine with their tithes or their presence. The information presented here should give you pause. Red flags should be going off in your mind. If you have loved ones at any Harvest Bible Chapel you should be concerned about their health and concerned for them. But now is the time to leave Harvest Bible Chapel.