The James MacDonald Cult of Personality and Why Harvest Bible Chapel Can Not be Reformed and Needs to Close

Mancow Muller in the Daily Herald referred to James MacDonald as being a personality cult. This is an article that looks at what a personality cult is. It also explains why Harvest Bible Chapel is the personality cult of James MacDonald and as such Harvest Bible Chapel can not be reformed or corrected. It is the belief of The Wondering Eagle that Harvest Bible Chapel needs to close. Let James MacDonald’s empire join the Soviet Union in the dust bin of history. 

“The cult of personality acquired such monstrous dimensions mainly because Stalin himself, using all conceivable methods, supported the glorification of his own person.… One of the most characteristic examples of Stalin’s self-glorification and of his lack of even elementary modesty is the edition of his Short Biography, which was published in 1948. This book is an expression of the most unrestrained flattery, an example of making a man into a god, of transforming him into an infallible sage, “the greatest leader,” “sublime strategist of all times and nations.” Ultimately, no more words could be found with which to praise Stalin up to the heavens. We need not give here examples of the loathsome adulation filling this book. All we need to add is that they all were approved and edited by Stalin personally and some of them were added in his own handwriting to the draft text of the book. (Khrushchev 1989)”

What Nikita Khrushchev said as he rebuked the Joseph Stalin personality cult before the 20th party Congress in 1956. 

“The cult of personality phenomenon refers to the idealized, even god-like, public image of an individual consciously shaped and molded through constant propaganda and media exposure. As a result, one is able to manipulate others based entirely on the influence of public personality…the cult of personality perspective focuses on the often shallow, external images that many public figures cultivate to create an idealized and heroic image.” 

Thomas A Wright on the personality cult. 

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1 -3 NLT 

 

The Dear Leader of North Korea James MacDonald, I mean Kim Jung Un 

This post is going to look at one thing that come up recently in the Daily Herald that I want to focus on. This is a post that I have been meaning to do for a couple of weeks. 

 

Mancow Muller on the James MacDonald Cult of Personality

In the Daily Herald on January 25, 2019 Mancow Muller wrote an open letter to James MacDonald. Mancow was once very close but it appears as if he had a change of heart on James MacDonald. This blog encourages Mancow to speak out and is glad that he turned the corner. There is one item in the open letter in the Herald that stuck with me and its the following.

For a great many, it’s time for the cult of personality of James MacDonald at Harvest chapter to close and the actual Bible to be opened again.

And with that Mancow identified something that this blog and others have been writing about. The cult of personality that James MacDonald promotes. 

 

What is a Cult of Personality? 

The cult of personality is a movement that rallies around a person in power. It can happen in all kinds of societies but tends to happen with authoritarian governments and totalitarian states. A personality cult shares the following characteristics. A cult of personality is a situation where power is concentrated in a single charismatic leader in a totalitarian state. The individual is near deified in material or propaganda from the organization. Totalitarian regimes use the controlled media to defend, up-hold and cultivate a larger than life individual. In some ways this person can also be sold as the”father figure.” Usually the personality cult is male and manhood or being a man is strongly affirmed. Leaders in this context of the personality cult are believed to hold extraordinary knowledge, are special, very courageous, or any other superhuman quality. The cult of personality is used to keep the person in power. And the cult of personality is designed to discourage questioning, opposition, and justify any behavior by the leader no matter how outrageous or wrong it can be. This is how re-education camps are supported in North Korea. Its the reason why Joseph Stalin was able to send 10 million Soviets to the Gulag between 1933 and 1947. The personality cult is very different from hero worship. Personality cult you find in totalitarian regimes. 

Examples of people who led personality cults include Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Kim Il Sung,  Kim Jung Un, Fidel Castro, Francisco Franco, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein. A female leader of a personality cult can be Eva Peron from Argentina. 

 

Why Harvest Bible Chapel Can’t be Fixed and Needs to be Dismantled 

This is not the first time I have addressed the personality cult inside evangelicalism. I wrote about the John Piper personality cult in, “The Little Red Book…of John Piper?” Here is the deal and its the blunt assessment of Harvest Bible Chapel. Harvest can not be reformed or changed. It needs to be entirely dismantled and scraped. It very much can be the mini version of North Korea with the head of state front and center. When James MacDonald built Harvest Bible Chapel he built it around himself. All glory, honor and praise would be bestowed upon James. He would have all the attention, focus, and the platform. James drove off anyone who challenged or was perceived to be a threat. James will destroy anyone, any reputation and do what it takes to “win.” James is the kind of narcissist who will drag down an entire organization if he can’t have it. 

Harvest Bible Chapel is the personality cult of James MacDonald. The evidence and damage over the years is the proof. People have walked away and fled because its James’ show and he will not submit to authority. How many here remember that Sylvester Stallone movie called Judge Dredd? There is a scene in that where Stallone says, “I am the law!” James MacDonald like any personality cult believes that he is above the law and the rules do not apply to him. If James MacDonald could kill a million people like Joseph Stalin or Mao Zedong and bury the bodies in mass graves at Rolling Meadows or Elgin he would. Then you have the efforts to control what people read, and how they think. Trying to control the masses through the state propaganda. That is what those Elder updates are about. Propaganda and spin. 

Harvest Bible Chapel can not be reformed because it is a personality cult of James MacDonald. When James will leave it will result in Harvest experiencing a slow implosion. I don’t think it will be immediately like Mars Hill in Seattle but I believe Harvest Bible Chapel in the course of time will share a similar fate. Even if you took out James MacDonald, the elder board who enabled him for years, and the mid level management the culture of James MacDonald will still exist. Why? Because it is the DNA of the organization. The celebrity pastor model is a fatal flaw in evangelicalism. From Harvest Bible Chapel to nearby Willowcreek . Then you consider other examples like C.J. Mahaney at Sovereign Grace, or Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill in Seattle now at Trinity Grace Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The Wondering Eagle is calling for Harvest Bible Chapel to be permanently closed. That is the only way this problem will be resolved. The mega church model is a failure and to be rejected. The choice is up to those in the Chicago area. I can only write and point out the issues. You need to take the information and act on it. You have been informed and I have done my job in writing post like this one. But Harvest Bible Chapel is a personality cult of James MacDonald. As such it needs to close. 

 

9 thoughts on “The James MacDonald Cult of Personality and Why Harvest Bible Chapel Can Not be Reformed and Needs to Close

  1. I posted this on Julie Roys’ blog a few days ago and think that is relevant to this blog.

    “I compare the Harvest collapse to the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York. Everyone saw the planes fly through the two towers, which left a gapping and glaring hole. If you recall, the towers did not immediately fall after the initial hit. The hit did so much damage, slowly burning and weakening the foundations of the building. Then merely hours later, once the towers fell, they fell immediately in a cloud of dust and debris that could be seen from miles away. You may also recall that there were also smaller surrounding buildings that also collapsed as a result of the attack. Even though they were not “directly” hit by the planes, they were victim of collateral and irreparable damage.
    So, where are the parallels with the Twin Towers terrorist attack and the Harvest Bible Chapel debacle? The initial “hit” to Harvest Bible Chapel that has left a gapping and glaring hole has been the exposure of hypocrisy, fraud, bullying, lack of transparency, authoritarian leadership and fiscal mismanagement of James MacDonald, elders, pastors and leadership. Much of this “hit” has been a result of the ongoing reporting by the Elephant’s Debt and more recently by Julie Roys. Just as the twin towers instantly fell down in a matter of seconds after burning and weakening the foundations for a number of hours, so will the organization called Harvest Bible Chapel. Harvest will fall and collapse under its’ own weight of lies, deceit, fraud and debt. In some ways James MacDonald and co-conspiritor elder board and leadership are worse than terrorists. We knew that Usama Bin Laden hated the US and wanted to hurt and kill us. James and his terrorist elders and leadership are hurting and killing the church with their lies, deception, intimidation, fraud and theft.

    If it is true as it has been reported that James MacDonald will be resigning or fired after this weekend, the remaining elders and leadership have an almost insurmountable task facing them if any vestige of Harvest Bible Chapel is to remain. Here are some thoughts for the elders and leaders at Harvest to consider:
    1. Complete and unadulterated transparency. No more spin. No more euphemistic language. NO MORE LIES. The Harvest Bible Chapel Board of Elders need to completely and wholly be transparent about the events and actions that led to this debacle. It is neither loving or protective of the congregation to withhold all details of sin, lies, deceit, fraud and mismanagement. If the elders are sincere in being transparent, then share all the good, bad and ugly (warts and all) of this situation. Anything less than full transparency by the elders will only solidify what many believe to be true, which is their own complicity and duplicity in these matters.
    2. Removal of key pastors, elders and leaders that have been and continue to be complicit in this scandal. Specifically, all pastors and elders that pledged unequivocal loyalty and allegiance to James MacDonald should either make the right decision and “Resign” or be “Removed”. They have either sinned by “commission” or “omission” or both. Either way, there is no path for them to remain in any type of leadership position at Harvest.
    3. New Elder Board and Leadership. Let’s wipe the slate clean in an orderly fashion. All current elders, in a systematic and orderly fashion begin to roll off the elder board. We can no longer have elders that have been complicit in action or silence remain on the board. New elders need to be in place and will have voting power. Existing elders that will be rolling off can serve only to provide any history or information for the new elder board. They would have no authority in future decision-making. All existing campus pastors and key leaders need to be re-vetted and re-programmed if they are found worthy to remain in a pastoral or leadership position. Any pastor or leader found to be actively complicit in the deceit, fraud and financial mismanagement of the current demise of Harvest Bible Chapel should be immediately dismissed with no severance compensation.
    4. Discontinue the role and function of the Executive Committee and XLT. Equal voice and vote for all members of the Elder Board and not by a few hand picked ‘yes men”. The Senior Pastor (or his sons) do not hold any type of “veto” power over the elder board.
    5. Complete transparency of the budget. No more “Black Budgets” and “Pie Charts” that lack transparency or accountability. The budget, which includes all salaries, benefits, expense accounts etc. are posted and available for the congregation to see. I would add that the elders should go back and share all the financial information and dealings of the church since its’ inception back to 1988.
    6. Launch and cooperate with a full investigation. A full and complete investigation of any potential fraud or fiscal mismanagement should be initiated and reported to local, state or federal authorities. If it is determined that a fraud has been committed, the elders should pursue full restitution by those that have defrauded the church. There should be no concern of pursuing a lawsuit, as we have precedence to do so. (I recently read an article on why it’s ok and justifiable to sue other Christians.)
    7. Comprehensive Forensic Fiscal Audit. Someone other than Capin Crouse or ECFA. Need I say more?
    8. Stop building/adding on and planting more churches. The church is carrying at least $42 million in debt, with a rapidly declining church attendance, which translates to a decline in giving. Harvest will not be able afford and maintain their current facilities under the current conditions, so building and adding new church plants will only accelerate the almost inevitable closing of Harvest Bible Chapel.
    9. Consolidate campuses and streamline personnel. The greatest expenses in an organization are in places and people. It’s time to close some of the 8 campuses and consolidate down to 1 or the most 2. Sell off or liquidate unused and costly facilities and put that towards existing debt. Harvest has endorsed Dave Ramsey and his “Peace University” and I am sure that Dave Ramsey would support this type of action. In closing church plants, you will not have the need for all the extra personnel. Harvest will literally save millions of dollars in salaries, insurance and fringe benefits. In consolidating campuses, you will also save millions of dollars in maintenance and upkeep costs.
    10. Sell off and eliminate all non-essentials ministries and take proceeds and apply to the debt. As difficult as it may be to stomach the idea for some, but Harvest Christian Academy(HCA) must close at the end of this school year. It is not self-sustaining ministry that can be funded through tuition alone. HCA is being subsidized in part through the tithes and offerings of the congregation. The savings from the closing HCA could also reach millions of dollars, which should be applied to existing debt. In addition, HCA takes up half of the office building in Elgin. Once you close HCA, find a company or companies to rent out the office space. Funds generated through the renting should be applied to existing debt. Harvest Bible Chapel should close and sell off Camp Harvest in Newaygo, Michigan. Needless to say, there is no need to be building new training centers or maintain Freedom House or for White Tail Deer Herds for crying out loud. All proceeds of sale of property should be applied to existing debt. Harvest Bible Chapel can still provide a camp experience to children by sending them to other Christian Camps in Michigan or Wisconsin. It is not a crazy idea, as many if not most churches do this.
    11. Close Vertical Worship Band. This must be disbanded (excuse the pun) immediately. No more tours and recording fees etc. In the past, Harvest Bible Chapel produced CD’s, which were live recordings of worship. Yes, it would maybe not to the level that we have now with Vertical Worship, but under the circumstances a needed action. Take all funds saved and apply to existing debt.
    12. Close Vertical Church planting/Mission Harvest. Besides the obvious cost savings associated with maintaining this ministry, should Harvest Bible Chapel on any spiritual or moral ground continue trying to replicate the deception, corruption, fraud and mismanagement to other churches? Needless to say, all funds saved in closing Vertical Church planting/Mission Harvest should be applied to existing debt.
    In my opinion, even if these 12 recommendations were enacted, I am still not sure that Harvest Bible Chapel will survive. I have no desire to see the fall of Harvest. I fully understand the seriousness and implications of making these recommendations. At the same time, I also understand the seriousness and implications if we continue along the path that we are currently on. Yes, we might lose some good people. Yes, we may have to temporarily or permanently discontinue some current ministries. This would be sad in some cases, but in some cases it may be a blessing. If Harvest Bible Chapel is to survive, drastic and courageous decisions need to be made. Harvest needs to be rebuilt on the True Foundation, which is Christ and not the house of cards that is collapsing under the weight of sin, deceit, fraud and debt.
    I end this post with the following verses:
    “Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8-9 (ESV)

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    • there should be a limit for comment length. If you have to scroll then it is too long. Ok the blog post has been said before but I don’t think you get it. This is a spiritual issue not political. JMac provides a fun show. The congregation thinks God speaks through JMac. Ain’t nothing gonna remove JMac unless it is a sexual sin. Many preachers enriching themselves off the tithes. It’s not illegal. The sheep don’t mind.

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      • The sheep just Tithe and Tithe and Tithe and get their dopamine surge.
        Mutton on the hoof.

        “I go chop you dolla,
        I make your money disappear;
        Four-One-Nine just a game —
        You be the Mugu,
        I BE THE MASTA!”
        — Nigerian pop song about a con man

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    • “I compare the Harvest collapse to the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York.

      Does that include the 9/12 official response to such a Pearl Harbor moment?
      i.e. “Shut Up and Go Shopping”?

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  2. Pssst, James was hired by a group of people that started the church, he didn’t start it by himself in order to grow a cult of personality.

    Thanks for putting a number to the mass graves hyperbole this time around, last time I was left to imagine how many graves make up “mass” graves.

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      • He certainly does now, yes. But Harvest was started by people with good intentions – most if not all are gone now. It wasn’t James and his megalomania that started it, it was humble folks with good goals. It’s been bastardized by James now, no need to give him founding creds too.

        Gotta be able to laugh now and then, my friend! Just shoot the bat-light up in the form of North Korea posts and I’ll be here in all my dear leader glory!

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  3. Pingback: What are the Take Aways From the Newest Scandal at Matt Chandler’s The Village Church Involving the Allegation of Matt Tonne’s Sexual Abuse of a Minor? | Wondering Eagle

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