The Tragic Story Involving John Secrest and the Coup that Occurred in Harvest Naples

There were no tanks on the street, no mass executions, and no violent demonstrations. But a coup took place in Naples, Florida that was brutal, swift and deeply disturbing. What happened was an act of naked aggression. John Secrest stood up to Chicago and fought for his congregation. After being fired in a phone call, Rick Donald took over for Harvest Bible Chapel Naples. This blog is asking for people to leave Naples and support John Secrest. After all, when you consider what Secrest did and the courage he exhibited, why would you trade that for James MacDonald’s main enabler and yes man?  

“Before the military coup in Chile, we had the idea that military coups happen in Banana Republics, somewhere in Central America. It would never happen in Chile. Chile was such a solid democracy. And when it happened, it had brutal characteristics.”

Isabel Allende

“Most of wars or military coups or invasions are done in the name of democracy against democracy.”

Eduardo Galeano

Count it all joy, my brothers,[a] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.

James 1:2-3 ESV

Soviet military power on display.

The Harvest Bible Chapel scandal continues to unfold. This is a fast moving story with many new developments. The email about James MacDonald’s sabbatical was sent out on January 16, 2019 at 10:42 in the morning. You can read about the situation in, “James MacDonald is Taking a Sabbatical. Translation – He is Getting Ready to Engage in Long Term Spiritual Abuse in Naples, Florida, and John Secrest will be his First Target.” As it turned out that sabbatical would be short lived as it only lasted a couple of days.

 

Previous Coverage About Harvest Naples at The Wondering Eagle

This blog has written a number of articles about James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel and Harvest Naples. These are the articles that have been researched, and written over the past couple of months.

  1. What Role Will Naples, Florida Play in the Harvest Bible Chapel Scandal?” was written on December 10, 2018. This post looks over Naples, does a biography of John Secrest asks the question what role will Naples play in the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal?
  2. An Open Letter to Harvest Naples Senior Pastor John Secrest (Its Time to go Back to the EFCA)” Inside Harvest Bible Chapel some people were worried that James MacDonald would rage against John Secrest. When MacDonald did those that did communicated the information to me and asked that John Secrest be warned. This blog has heard good things about John Secrest from multiple independent sources. The first open letter was a concern that I expressed to John on December 11, 2018 about him hammered by the Harvest machine. I encouraged John to go back to the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) , as that has long been his history and heritage. After all the EFCA is growing in Florida.
  3. A Second Open Letter to John Secrest of Harvest Bible Chapel Naples” is the second open letter that was written to John Secrest. Composed on January 5, 2019, this post asked John to stand up and challenge James MacDonald on the injustice of the lawsuit against Julie Roys and The Elephant’s Debt. This post asked John to do the right thing.
  4. The last article I linked above but for the sake of this section it will be reposted here. This deals with how John Secrest was going to be abused by the Harvest machine. You can read this in, “James MacDonald is Taking a Sabbatical. Translation – He is Getting Ready to Engage in Long Term Spiritual Abuse in Naples, Florida, and John Secrest will be his First Target.”

 

John Secrest and his family.

Naples Partnering with Harvest Bible Chapel

Julie Roys released some new information that came out about John Secrest and Harvest Bible Chapel Naples. In this post I draw from Julie Roys blog and some information learned. John Secrest attended a four month residency at Harvest Bible Fellowship in preparation of planting Harvest Naples in 2016. His family had relocated to Florida for the upcoming church plant.  After planting in late 2016 the congregation had grown to 100 members and met in a local YMCA. In February or 2018 Harvest Bible Chapel became fully autonomous. A few months later John Secrest made a decision to relinquish control back to Harvest. As to what led to that decision this blog does not know. In giving up autonomy Harvest Bible Chapel Naples became the eighth campus of James MacDonald’s network.  Please correct me if I am wrong but this blog also believes that the size of the congregation stayed at about 100 over those two years. If this this is true perhaps John believed that James MacDonald would support and ask for assistance from Harvest. Perhaps this was part of the reason why  James MacDonald agreed to preach for three months in Naples?

 

John Secrest Takes a Stand Against a Corrupt James MacDonald and is Fired

John Secrest believed the best of James MacDonald but the situation changed. Two things that bothered the Naples pastor is the lawsuit that James MacDonald filed against Julie Roys and The Elephant’s Debt. John Secrest had no idea that was going to be taken. The second factor is The World magazine article done by Julie Roys. Again, Secrest had no idea that would soon be published. After those two situations developed the Naples pastor began to grow concerned about Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. When James MacDonald said he was taking a sabbatical but that the door was open to continue to preach John Secrest decided that was not going to happen at Naples.

On the same day that James MacDonald said that he was taking a sabbatical John Secrest communicated to Harvest that he wanted his church back. Harvest denied giving him his congregation back. John Secrest then sent the congregation an email updating them on the situation. Please note how he also asks for their forgiveness. Shortly after the below email was sent out John Secrest lost his email privileges and he was locked out of church social media.  

Dear Harvest Naples Friends,

I want you to know that I have asked the elders to reverse their decision to allow Pastor James to preach in Naples while on his sabbatical as outlined in the elder update sent to you on Wednesday 1/16/2019.  This request was denied. The good intentions of our ministry partnership with Harvest Chicago have been overshadowed by these developments.  Furthermore, when we entered into this agreement there was not a disclosure of the investigative reporting which led to a lawsuit and the resulting fallout.  

I am grieved over my own failure of leadership to not stand firm in objections I raised during the process of making this agreement.  I allowed my fear of man and my own insecurities to compromise my responsibility to protect our church.  Please forgive me.

These, among other factors, lead me to the conclusion that this agreement is not in the best interest of our local church in Naples. Therefore, I have asked for our agreement to be revoked and for our local autonomy and self-governance to be restored to Harvest Naples.

I will continue to serve you as long as God allows.  My heart for you and our vision for God’s church in Naples has not changed.  I am praying for you and trust God to guide you in your decisions.  Please feel free to reach out to me as needed.
My request to the Harvest elders is included below.

You are loved!

John
John Secrest
Lead Pastor
Harvest Bible Chapel Naples

Then after that the following day it appears as if John Secrest emailed Harvest Bible Chapel and stated that he wanted to cancel the agreement that existed. He deeply disagreed with James preaching on his sabbatical. Secrest referenced the January 2018 Elder update. Despite the issues he had with being locked out of social media John Secrest stood firm. This is what was sent. 

Dear Steve and the Harvest Elders,

I am writing to express my disagreement with the decision to have Pastor James preach in Naples during this season of sabbatical.  Based on our conversations and other factors over the past 8 months I believe it would be best to revoke our ministry partnership and return Harvest Naples to self-governed autonomy.

This has been a challenging time for all of us and I am writing you at the recommendation of Pastor Trei and Pastor Rick, with whom I have had very difficult conversations over the past couple days.

The decision to have Pastor James continue to preach in Naples does not align with the overarching goals outlined in the January 2019 Elder Update. I was not consulted in this decision, I do not support it, and the elders from Harvest Naples did not represent me in that meeting.

This decision among other factors leads me to the conclusion that our intended ministry partnership is not working in a way that benefits Harvest Naples.  I am asking that the agreement be revoked and autonomy and self-governance be returned to Harvest Naples.

Thank you for your consideration.

John Secrest
Lead Pastor
Harvest Bible Chapel Naples

Minutes after sending that email John Secrest was fired from his position. The firing official was an elder at Harvest Naples and Rick Donald. According to the Daily Herald Rick Donald fired John Secrest from the porch of his home. The firing of John Secrest was covered in the Daily Herald which has been reporting on the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal.

 

The Email Harvest Bible Chapel Naples and Rick Donald Takes the Helm

After John Secrest was fired Harvest Bible Chapel sent an email to the members of Harvest Naples. You can read that email below. In that note they mentioned that Rick Donald would be the pastor responsible for Harvest Bible Naples. Rick Donald came down from Canada in 1989 and served at Harvest from almost the beginning. Today his role is the Senior Assistant Pastor overseeing the care of the staff. He leads the training center and helps plan and train elders for future church plants. This blog has heard that Rick Donald is the confidante for James MacDonald. In the process he is the person at Harvest closest to James and who works with him. James MacDonald allegedly doesn’t trust the other staff to the same degree.  

 

Dear Harvest Naples Family,

It is with great sadness and regret that we write to inform you that John Secrest is no longer an employee of Harvest Bible Chapel. 

Despite great efforts and reasoning, John has chosen not to yield to the consensus of our local leadership team or the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel. Conversations with John over the last few months, culminating this week, have made it clear that he no longer desires to work for Harvest Bible Chapel.  

Because of his continued unwillingness to yield to the direction of the elders and the insubordinate email he recently sent counter to the elder direction, it became clear that he should not continue in his role.

Our hearts are grieved as John’s contributions to the Naples Campus cannot be understated. We wish him, Jessica, and his family well.

Harvest Naples will continue as a campus of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago with Pastor Rick Donald serving as interim Campus Pastor and Associate Travis Doucette as Pastor of Worship and Leadership Development. Pastor James MacDonald will not be preaching this weekend. Services will continue this Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00 am.

We recognize that situations like these often yield more questions than can be answered in one email. The local elders of Harvest Naples, Scott Stonebreaker and Fred Ananias, are available to field any additional questions.

We ask for your prayers as our church grieves this loss.

We are believing for good things as we lean into God and His Word.

Standing together,

The Harvest Naples Leadership Team and Elders

 

 

Analysis of the Coup in Naples, Florida

In many parts of the world its quite common, and its bloody, swift and leaves countries and regions unstable. Its the act of a military coup. Some of the more famous ones include the removal and “forced suicide” of Salvador Allende in Chile on September 11, 1973. In that coup thousands were killed. Another example is known as the Saur Revolution which took place in April of 1978. The execution of the Afghanistan president and most of his family gave birth to instability that still continues to this day. Then in 1971 you had the coup in Uganda that led to the rise of Idi Amin. Known as the “Last King of Scotland” he unleashed a reign of brutality that led to 300,000 people being killed. Then you have James MacDonald, who puts things into motion and then works to overthrow someone in leadership and consolidate his power. There were no tanks in the coup at Naples. No mass executions or graves. No one took a leader in the back of the building and then executed him. But what happened to John Secrest is just as brutal in this blog’s opinion. The only thing that would temporarily satisfy James MacDonald’s quest for power is if he could rule a nation-state in either Africa, Central or South America.

Its this blog’s belief that what happened to John Secrest was planned early. It was the reason why Harvest Bible Chapel wanted Naples. For James it was going to be his escape. It was his way to get out of Chicago and away from the issues he created at Harvest Bible Chapel.   He had eyes on Naples for the longest of time. This was planned the only aspect that this blog believes is that this situation was moved up. When John Secrest pushed back then the coup had to take place. In this this story you see the best and worst of Harvest Bible Chapel. The worst is represented by Rick Donald. Rick has shown how corrupt, vile and sinister he can be. In serving James MacDonald it must be asked, does Rick slither across the room? In contrast John Secrest stood out. The people at Harvest Naples have a pastor and its John Secrest. His reputation which this blog has heard good things about has been verified. Yes, he made a mistake in giving up autonomy. But he knows and he owned it and apologized for his error. He went out and risked his position for the people in his church. This blog has the deepest respect for John Secrest. What needs to happen is that the congregation needs to leave Naples and support John Secrest. Stop tithing, and giving money and help the Secrest family. They need help, and in a time where everything was put on the line Secrest needs to be assisted. If you attend Naples why would you allow yourself to be led by someone who gets down on his knees and kisses James MacDonald’s ass? Someone who has done enabling of MacDonald? Why follow that when  can support someone who challenged Chicago, pushed back hard and had difficult conversations? John Secrest deserves to be supported until he can get on his feet, and its my hope that the former Harvest community can start a GoFundMe for him. We must also remember that he has a physical family to provide for as well.

It will be interesting to see what happens with James MacDonald after this experience. There was an announcement at Rolling Meadows which was covered at The Elephant’s Debt however let’s see what happens in the course of time. Talk is cheap and we should be watching for action in this mess. What happened in Florida was one of the most disgusting and naked abuse of power seen at this blog. John Secrest is the hero in this story. He should be supported and helped. It took a lot of courage to go against the Harvest machine and he did it. This blog is hoping that people will rally around John Secrest after what took place.

11 thoughts on “The Tragic Story Involving John Secrest and the Coup that Occurred in Harvest Naples

  1. It’s just unbelievable reading this! James Macdonald Rick Donald the Naples elder who fired John Secrest can you name which one it was? Anyway back to my thoughts, it’s makes me feel sick reading it!! I seriously don’t think James is a Christian and the top people at Harvest are not either! The sheep have become their playground to shear and slaughter them for their own personal pleasures! I think it should be looked into what kind of backroom conversations took place between James Macdonald and the Naples elders! Anyone have any information on that??? I hope Secrest gives all the details to protect other churches in the future from envious fleece slaughtering pastors like Macdonald. Knowledge is power and for him to tell where his weaknesses led to being fleeced himself and how it all happened the body of Christ needs to hear to learn how to protect itself!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Secrest outlived his usefulness; it’s that simple.
    JMac needed an escape route in case he had to bug out of Chicago, and a secure base to stage his comeback.
    And Secrest was the sucker holding it open for him.
    Until he wasn’t needed any more.

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  3. The only thing that would temporarily satisfy James MacDonald’s quest for power is if he could rule a nation-state in either Africa, Central or South America.

    “Today Naples, Florida — TOMORROW THE WORLD!”

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks for this article. I have long thought that Donald has somehow been given a pass in this.

    Many years ago, I researched the address of Donald, and found out his home was valued at close to half a million dollars.

    That’s just about all I needed to know about him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What is the median price for a 1200 sq ft, 3BR 2BA house in the immediate area?
      Or could you describe the house in size, number of bedrooms/baths, lot size, and/or amenities?

      A simple price does not say that much, as prices can vary considerably from area to area. Where I live (behind the Orange Curtain in SoCal), “half a million” will get you a three-bedroom condo of about 1200 sq ft. In the Bay Area, it’ll get you a one-room studio apartment; in Manhattan, a timeshare on a walk-in closet.

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      • Thanks for that question. You are correct. Prices vary GREATLY depending on location. I don’t have the specific information, other than price, available to me right at this moment, other than the house has 3300 square feet. So, I’ll respond with a generalization.

        $200,000 will get you a nice 1600 square foot home in a nice neighborhood in his area.

        Again, great question!

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      • 3300 sq ft is over twice the area of a typical house where I grew up (Los Angeles suburbs, built up around the 1950s), there the median for a modest home was 1200-1500.

        3300 strikes me as large even by today’s standards. And usually that size comes with other amenities which increase the price/value.

        As an aside, I’ve found that 1000-1200 is the size one person can keep clean and maintained; 3300 sounds like it would require at least two (housekeeping service?) to clean and maintain. (In a lot of crooked churches, pew sitters get pressured into/drafted as Pastor’s unpaid servants.)

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  5. Pingback: A Third Open Letter to John Secrest (On Fighting for Your Congregation and the Courage Your Displayed) | Wondering Eagle

  6. I do not understand if MacDonald was taking time away from his Rolling Meadows church due to all that happened and is happening, how the elders at Rolling Meadows could allow him or even want him preaching at another Harvest location.

    My other question is why hasn’t Moody Radio taken his program off the air? Walk in the Word is on Moody Radio. Do they care that money given by donors to support the on air ministry was not “allegedly” used to support the on air ministry? This leads to many, many more questions.

    John Secrest is a man of integrity and it does not surprise me to know he stood up to the great machine of Harvest Bible Chapel. Unfortunately, it seems many of the men serving on the elder board at Harvest do not have the same integrity.

    Proverbs 28:6 “Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than he who is crooked though he be rich.”

    Thank you for writing this article and for caring about John Secrest and his family. They are pretty special to a lot of people and have impacted a lot of lives.

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    • Thanks for the kind words. The injustice inside Harvest is disturbing. What happened to John is awful and uncalled for. It deserves to be written about and John Secrest should be supported.

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  7. Pingback: John Secrest Launches Compass Bible Church in Naples, Florida. And a Unique Case of Evangelical Transparency | Wondering Eagle

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