Steve Huston served as an elder at Harvest Bible Chapel for years. Plus he also led the Elder Executive Committee. This post looks at Steve in a biographical sense. Plus it also examines the controversies he was involved in, from a questionable church discipline situation in 2013 to his efforts to allegedly cover up the financial scandal at Harvest Bible Chapel until his resignation on March 9, 2019. This blog would like to know what will happen next to Steve Huston?
“Church matters are not be tried in the court of public opinion. Publicizing viewpoints that are rejected by the elder majority for any reason is Satanic to the core and must be dealt with very directly. Those who have no standing in the local church but continue to assault it from the outside with factious messages must be rejected according to the word of God. We warn the people of Harvest Bible Chapel to separate themselves from these false messengers. Don’t stand in the middle, don’t seek to mediate, please avoid these former Harvest elders at all cost, lest you incur great detriment to your own soul.”
“As I go, I just want to say I love this church. It’s the only the church that my family, my kids know. I truly, truly believe it’s beginning to take the steps in the right direction for a more healthy culture, more transparency, better financial oversight–fixing all these cultural problems that we’ve lived with, so that we can be the forgiving, loving, and nurturing church that I know we can be. That God calls us to be. I have hope that God will continue to do His work in this place.”
Steve Huston on March 9, 2019’s resignation speech.
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
Proverbs 19:1 ESV
Steve Huston resigning at Harvest Bible Chapel Rolling Meadows on March 9, 2019
This is a post that I have been working on for sometime. This blog has wanted to do a deep dive into Steve Huston and look at his role in Harvest Bible Chapel. He was a controversial individual and many questions remain about him. Before we get into the scandal let’s consider more about Steve and his background.
Who is Steve Huston?
It appears as if Steve Huston might be from Arizona. I discovered on social media that he does consider Arizona to be his home. He was a pre-med student at the University of Arizona in Tucson from 1989 until 1992. He also studied Russian. Afterward Steve attended Moody Bible Institute from 1992 until 1996 where he studied church management, pastoral studies and communication. Steve would make a living in the IT world. But his first job as an analyst occurred at an investment bank called Wasserstein Perella in 1995. He then became a web application manager at Grubb & Ellis Company, where he stayed for eleven years. Steve then had a brief stint as a Director of Application Development at VHT. For the next three years until 2011 he was the interactive director at Studio North. He then jumped over to Havi Global Solutions in Downers Grove where he rose to the position as a director. Currently he works at Ivuala. It should also be noted that Huston went to Northwestern University from 2002 until 2002 obtaining an M.B.A in IT Management.
Steve Huston and his wife Sally got involved in Harvest Bible Chapel in 1997. Harvest has really been the only church he has known. As he had no other experiences in other churches Steve can’t relate to any idea of a the concept of a healthy church. In his career at Harvest Bible he has worked in the Foundation Ministry, Men’s Ministry and more. He has also been a small group leader, flock leader and worked in the children’s ministry. Steve Huston became a part of the Harvest Bible Chapel Board of Elders in 2008. Then he became the leader of the Elder Executive Committee in the 2012 time frame. Steve Huston has three children. As he became a part of the inner circle his family became a part of the incestuous culture that exists at Harvest. This is one of the reasons why Harvest Bible Chapel is cult like. As he has been in the inner bubble for years one of his children is dating one of the children of one of the many recently departed leadership at Harvest Bible Chapel. To keep the organization pure you breed among yourselves for doctrinal purity.
Why Did James MacDonald Select Steve Huston?
The question must be asked, why did James MacDonald want Steve Huston to lead the Elder Executive Committee at Harvest Bible Chapel? I have been thinking about that question for some time and even had discussions with sources at Harvest about how Steve Huston got into power. People who interacted with Steve Huston describe him as a nice guy. He’ll smile at you, quote a Bible verse, and appears to be solid. But when you interact with Steve Huston long term another picture emerges. You see someone that lacks principle and can be easily manipulated. Steve, one can say, has the backbone of a piece of cooked linguine. He folds easily and as such can be manipulated. James MacDonald who preys on people and knows how to manipulate individuals saw this and realized that Huston would be perfect to help him run Harvest Bible Chapel without any accountability. Steve Huston would be James MacDonald’s errand boy. As a result Steve enabled James MacDonald in some of the most controversial acts at Harvest.
Steve Huston and a Controversial Church Discipline Situation in Calling Someone “Satanic to the Core”
In late June of 2013 Dan Marquardt, Scott Phelps and Barry Slabaugh resigned from the elder board. They had tried to address the issues of the spending at Harvest Bible Chapel. A request was put in to see a line item budget and they questioned James MacDonald’s authority. The Elephant’s Debt’s released Dan Marquardt’s email to his friends, the Harvest Bible Chapel Elder Board, Harvest’s response and his in return You can read that August of 2013 post in, “Recently resigned HBC Elder, Dan Marquart, cites MacDonald’s behavior, secrecy regarding salary and HBC authority structure as the reasons for his departure.” Scott Phelps and Barry Slabough supported what Dan Marquardt had stated. Scott Phelps sent a text to Robert Jones who was the Chairman of the Harvest Elder Board at the time. This was the text Scott sent. “Robert, as a courtesy, I want you to know that Barry and I have made a public statement indicating our full support and agreement with Dan. We have attempted to speak with grace and truth. I expect that our statement will be posted shortly. – Scott” The following day in an emergency elder meeting the Board decided to place Scott Phelps and Barry Slabough under church discipline. A letter was given to Scott and Barry informing them they were under church discipline. Then a video was recorded and shown to all Harvest Bible Chapel campuses on the weekend of September 14th and 15th,2013. James MacDonald informed people beforehand that as the Elders they spoke for God, so this was to be interpreted that God was speaking. This is what James MacDonald said exactly. “I just want to remind you that God has entrusted spiritual authority to the local church. And every local church has an authority under God. We believe that the Bible teaches that the authority is invested in the elders. And when the elders speak collectively, in agreement, the elders speak for God to our church.” The video featured Paul Inserra, Steve Huston, Randy Williams and Jamie Harrison. They explained why two former elders were under church discipline. But what really stood out is what Steve Huston said in the video. Steve, which you can watch above, said the following. “Church matters are not be tried in the court of public opinion. Publicizing viewpoints that are rejected by the elder majority for any reason is Satanic to the core and must be dealt with very directly. Those who have no standing in the local church but continue to assault it from the outside with factious messages must be rejected according to the word of God. We warn the people of Harvest Bible Chapel to separate themselves from these false messengers. Don’t stand in the middle, don’t seek to mediate, please avoid these former Harvest elders at all cost, lest you incur great detriment to your own soul.” In this case church discipline was abused because of questions that were raised about finances, and support given to former elders. The church discipline video was deeply controversial and led to a number of people leaving Harvest Bible. This blog has interacted with one former member who knew one of the people affected in this situation. It angered them immensely. Later on James MacDonald said the church discipline was an error. But if my research is correct Steve Huston never apologized or reached out to Scott Phelps, Barry Slabough or Dan Marquardt.
The Wondering Eagle Witnesses the Resignation of Steve Huston at Rolling Meadows on March of 2019
As the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal unfolded in late 2018 and early 2019 a number of letters were written which were intended to address issues with James MacDonald and his character. MacDonald wanted them suppressed to the elder board. Steve Huston as well as Rick Donald agreed and worked to cover up the financial scandal. The next part of the scandal played out when I was in Chicago, and when I attended Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows. Early on Saturday March 9, 2019 Julie Roys reported another article about James MacDonald’s lavish spending. In her blog post Julie reported on the extravagant living of James MacDonald on Harvest money. That high life included safaris in Africa that went from $5,000 to $20,000. Staying at a nice resort in the Dominican Republic and flying out the wives of bodyguard Jacob Ross, and Jeff Donaldson to be with them. Other expenditures included $150,000 for James MacDonald’s personal office renovation and spending $40,000 for a fence on a deer herd at Camp Harvest in Michigan.
This information broke on Saturday morning March 9, 2019. That evening I was at Harvest Bible Chapel Rolling Meadows to attend the service. Why? I was in Chicago for other reasons but wanted to observe Harvest and take in a service and see things for myself. I wrote about it in, “The Wondering Eagle Visits Harvest Bible Chapel Rolling Meadows.” So I was sitting in the back with the intent to just observe. I was aware of Julie’s article having read that earlier and wondered how that would affect the ongoing scandal. After worship in almost a frantic pace Steve Huston walked out on the stage to make an announcement. As he started to speak I realized what was going to happen. In my mind it popped up like this, “Oh #### he’s going to resign.” I started to take frantic notes of what Steve Huston was saying. The notes I took corresponded with later posted video like the one above. It was an orderly resignation until Steve got emotional toward the end. Then people stated clapping. You can see this above in the video. However, the video also cuts off when people started to scream “We believe you Steve” and “We love you Steve.” Some of the people around me were a little emotional which baffled me to be honest. I took a picture of Steve Huston resigning which leads this post. You can read more about Huston’s resignation here and here.
Transcript of Steve Huston’s Resignation
Good evening. My name is Steve Huston. I’ve had the pleasure of serving as an Elder here for a number of years. The Interim Elder Board has asked me to just kind of share some things from our heart. I don’t have a prepared statement and just kind of have some notes so that I don’t forget to say some of the things that we wanted to say. But if you’ll just give me a moment to share what’s on our heart, in reflection about the season that we’re going through.
I would just say first and foremost that you need to know that we as Elders believe that if we had a chance to do it all over again, we would just do it way different. We want to just kind of share some things that we’ve learned, things where we feel that we have let you down, where we have failed in our leadership. Just know that when we say these things, we are speaking from heavy, grieving, broken, repentant hearts.
A few areas where we feel like where we have failed the church. First one would be really a failed system. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Elder-governed, staff-led”. And really what that basically means is that rather than the Elders sitting at a table and making daily decisions and operational decisions and who [sic] gets spent where, who gets hired, things like that. he church is too big. It’s not reasonable for people who are volunteers who work other jobs to show up and make those decisions in the right kinds of context. So what we do is we created a policy. Says, you know, staff has boundaries. They can do whatever they want, as long as they stay within the boundaries.
Unfortunately, it’s a failed system in the sense that the boundaries were too broad. Too much latitude, too much trust given. And I think we’re feeling the consequences of decisions that were made without enough oversight. Also allowed–sorry, just trying to get everything out. The other part of our failed system was an expanded Board. On paper it looked good. Thirty men. Greater accountability, but the reality was just the opposite. It had too many people. It was too hard to get decisions done. And as a result, we resulted with a Board inside of a Board and broken trust and [unclear].
Another area that we have learned that we failed in would be the area of accountability. That was our job. Especially the Executive Committee, but also as Elders, was to hold the Senior Staff accountable, the Senior Pastor accountable. And what we did is we operated under a model of accountability defined as giving an account after the fact. I’ll report back to you what we’ve done, but without relying on too much. It was on a pretense that people would do the right thing. That kind accountability is really just partial accountability. It’s not full accountability. Full accountability is saying “I want to share with you, this is where we going, this is what we’re going to do. Here’s the plan. Speak into those kind of things. Help us make some course directions. But when it’s always in arrears, it’s often too late. And that builds itself up until finally we had what we went through. And everything got held of until the very end, where we did bring full accountability, first under the EC, then by the Elder Board, terminating Pastor James MacDonald.
The other area where we have really failed–I just want to look you in the eye and to say as Elders, we have really failed strongly in this area. And that’s in the area of communication. It’s a phrase that I’ve heard many times in the past six weeks. In the absence of communication, you burn trust as fuel. I just couldn’t think of anything that’s more truthful than that. We spoke up too little. We were often too late. And very much too vague. And that left you wondering what we were thinking, where things were going. And one of the lessons I’ve learned from seasons past is that you should tell your story or someone else will. And I would say that that’s what we have suffered from. And so I sincerely apologize on behalf of the full Elders for that. It’s a daunting task, but we didn’t–we failed to prioritize it for the importance that it was. We just ask for your forgiveness for that.
Another area of failure was [pause and deep breath] following the leading of the Holy Spirit. Too many times we had to make hard decisions. Fast decisions. Decisions that, frankly, were preloaded, I think, for some specific outcomes. I know sometimes as a member of the EC we would talk about some things and I would say, “We did that.” We felt we had weighed out all the options and said, “You know, here’s what we should probably put in front of the Elders.” And so, as a member of the EC, I just want to confess that to you. We weren’t really trying to coerce folks or outcomes. We thought we were being efficient, but we realize now we really limited the ability of those extra men to provide their insight and their knowledge and their expertise.
In addition to that–just again, having limited options–hurry and make a decision. You gotta do it this way or I’ll quit, or the staff the quit. And some of our most desperate most actions, these were the conditions that we operated on. That’s a failure of leadership. So I confess that to you, on behalf of our Elder Board. In this we actually sinned. Because, in reflection about what we’ve been through, each and every one of us can say: “You know what? We think we felt something in our heart about the decision that we made.” But we were afraid. We put the fear of the outcome over the fear of the Lord. And that’s sin. And so we repent that in front of you.
So for these reasons, and others I’m sure, you all know that we have, as an Elder Board, resigned. A few of us are lingering around, just to make sure that we can begin the process of transitioning new men onto the board, assisting with Harvest 2020, with whatever tasks that they decide that they need from us. And pretty soon Harvest 2020 will have a more clear update exactly about how we are in the process of doing that. But basically our goal is to have every man who is on the Interim Elder Board to be rotated off by May 31st, if not sooner.
So that’s the part that the Elders have asked me to share on their collective behalf.
But now I want to speak for me. [Long pause] And I do this with the permission of the Elders. I am in full agreement with our Elders and the fact that we’ve been hearing and seeing very clearly– And by the way, I’m just going to read this because otherwise I won’t have it right. Hearing and seeing very clearly that change is needed–not just in word but also in deed. As I just said, the process for replacing the Elders is well underway. However, I am convinced that more visible change is necessary. And I’m pleased to say that I can see that we’ve got staff stepping up into leadership roles that have been vacated. There’s a process in place. There’s accountability starting to form. A change in culture. I see it. Because I can, I feel like it’s the right thing to say that, as of my moment walking off the platform, I’m no longer on the Board. I will have no further involvement in the leadership [voice breaking a little with emotion] or governance of this church. Because it’s the right thing to do. And I will just be available to answer questions that the leadership may have.
In addition to the comments that I shared with you before, I just want to add that I apologize for my part in defending actions and people that I now know weren’t the complete picture, or even correct. In my ignorance, or in my misplaced trust, I perpetuated misinformation and extended the problem. And I just repent before this church. Just please forgive me.
I’ve had some friends that have tried to console me, saying that, “You weren’t alone,” “You did your best,” or “You just didn’t know.” But like other former or present leaders who have shared their own expressions of regret and repentance, I just want to say on my part and the leadership failures of the church. I have sinned and I ask for forgiveness from the Lord and from you.
As I go, I just want to say I love this church. It’s the only the church that my family, my kids know. I truly, truly believe it’s beginning to take the steps in the right direction for a more healthy culture, more transparency, better financial oversight–fixing all these cultural problems that we’ve lived with, so that we can be the forgiving, loving, and nurturing church that I know we can be. That God calls us to be. I have hope that God will continue to do His work in this place.
So I just want to leave you with God’s Word, taken from Lamentations. Chapter 3:21 through 24. And this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.”
Some Final Thoughts About Steve Huston
In wrapping up this post let me share some thoughts on Steve Huston. I don’t think the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal could have happened without him. A significant part of the scandal deals with financial issues. And Steve Huston by his position allowed for that to happen. He regularly covered up for James MacDonald’s behavior. I call him James’ errand boy because he acted like one until the very end. The tragedy is that Steve was sorry about being caught, he was not sorry for his role in the scandal.His apology which I heard was one of the worst ones I have witnessed. Steve to date has not reached out to the individuals he called satanic to the core in 2013. They are still waiting for him to do the right thing. It is this blogs belief that won’t happen. This blog really has no respect for Steve Huston. Not only was he MacDonald’s enabler but he lacked the character and integrity to be a leader at Harvest. He was a Kool Aid drinker who greedily reached for more Kool Aid in order to do his job. Now that he is out this blog would like to know, what is next? Is he going to migrate down to Florida and play a part in Naples? Is he going to attach himself to James MacDonald when he tries to re-launch himself? At this point after all that has transpired I am sure that Steve Huston knows that his gift to people like MacDonald is that he can be easily manipulated and used. He is a dedicated errand boy who follows the leader at all costs. And he followed him to the end.