Mancow Muller: James MacDonald is Out at Harvest Bible Chapel (UPDATED)

Updates at the end of the post…

For several days, sources have told me that an announcement would be made today or tomorrow from Harvest Bible Chapel that James MacDonald was leaving Harvest Bible Chapel. I have been unable to confirm them but yesterday radio personality and former (?) friend of MacDonald broadcast his contention that MacDonald was out. The transcript of the announcement is at The Elephant’s Debt and was the subject of tweets from Muller. Here is a portion:

And this weekend, they will announce: James MacDonald is no longer a part of Harvest Bible Chapel.  That is what my sources are telling me.  There are many locations including the brilliant, beautiful cathedral in Chicago.  And this will be the biggest story in religious news on earth today and you’re hearing it here first.  I take no joy in this, but I really found him to be just a conman.  Would have been a great car salesman.  Would have been a great radio salesman.  I would’ve liked to offer him a job selling the Mancow show here.  My sources tell me he was fired, his assistant Rick will soon be gone and also the boys who I like a great deal, Luke and especially Landon.  Again, I take no joy in this, but they also will be gone shortly.  Again, I take no joy in this.

If this claim turns out to be accurate, it will mark the end of a stormy chapter in HBC’s history. Since 2013, HBC has been in and out of the center of public controversy. Most recently, the focus of attention has been on a defamation lawsuit brought by MacDonald and the church against two bloggers, their wives and journalist Julie Roys. The suit was abruptly dropped by the church when a judge refused to stay public revelation of information gained during the discovery process. Ultimately Roys’ investigative reporting and the lawsuit ignited withering public scrutiny.

I will provide updates here as I get them including a response to my email to HBC.

In hindsight, the most recent elder update (2/2/19) may have been signaling changes to come.

UPDATE | Shared in weekend services by Campus Pastors February 2-3, 2019

As shared with you two weekends ago, the Elders and staff are continuing to get low before the Lord. We have been working diligently to position our church in strength and health during this difficult season. To that end, the Elder Board has commissioned a team that has already begun to help us during this time.

The purpose of this team is to study and address critical areas of relationships and church functions that we know need to be addressed. It will consist of current Elders, staff, church members, and multiple outside professionals. As the plan continues to take shape, here are a few first priorities:

  1. Repentance – As the elders and leaders identify areas of sin, the first priority is repentance.
  2. Recovery – Ensure that the ministries of Harvest Bible Chapel are operating effectively in light of recent leadership transitions. Assign responsibility to existing Executive Leadership Team/staff and engage interim outside professional leadership where needed. Communicate effectively regarding our plan moving forward to increase confidence within our congregation.
  3. Review – Conduct a full review of our operating history to identify areas where we need to own our mistakes and areas that require change for a stronger way forward.
  4. Reconciliation – Initiate the peacemaking process under the direction of a third party, to pursue healing and reconciliation in all damaged relationships. The team will also seek to learn from all parties involved in an effort to help the ongoing efforts.
  5. Renewal – Recommend a leadership and operating structure that will position the church for future success in meeting the needs of the body.

Currently, our Elders are meeting multiple times per month. We will share more specifics on the work of this team as it unfolds in the weeks ahead, as well as other important areas the Elders and staff are working on.

Please continue to lift up the MacDonald family in prayer and also our pastors and Elders. We covet your prayers for wisdom and discernment as we seek the Lord together during this important time in our church.

UPDATE:

Mancow Muller may have a different source of information today. He now suggests MacDonald may be soliciting donations for HBC.

UPDATE 2:

An informed source tells me that elders at HBC are meeting today. Currently, there is uncertainty about the direction of HBC with some elders advocating for MacDonald’s removal and others wanting to keep him in place.

Best Christian Workplace Institute Includes Harvest Bible Chapel on Best Places to Work List

I have a new entry for “best actual headline that could be a Babylon Bee headline.” My last post on Mark Driscoll and this one are in hot competition for winner in that category.

Yes, something called the Best Christian Workplace Institute has certified Harvest Bible Chapel as the newest best Christian place to work.

Was it the on again-off again lawsuit? Was it the regular turnover of staff? The tell-all articles in the newspapers by former volunteers and members? Was it the peacemaking process which began with the abrupt firing of a ministry “partner?” Was it the need for a peacemaking process at all?

Generally, BCW Institute doesn’t get responses to tweets — except this one. So far, 32 responses have been left for BCW asking how a church with such public difficulties can be rated as a great place to work. I sent BCW president Al Lopus an email and a couple of tweets asking questions about how churches can earn the rating. No answers as yet.

These ratings are often used by organizations to prop up their image. Gateway Church was rated highly the year they laid off 30% of their staff. Insiders tell me that the staff have to fill out the forms and are monitored. In other words, it would be quite possible for an organization to cook the books. Perhaps, Mr. Lopus can enlighten us.

Oh, maybe this is the reason why HBC is such a great place to work — free therapy.

Seriously, don’t do this. This isn’t how exposure therapy works. It may have been staged, I don’t know but if not, this isn’t a safe way to work.

A commenter pointed out that the church has already added the seal of approval.

Friend of James MacDonald Calls for Close of Cult of Personality

Et tu Mancow?

James MacDonald somewhere might be saying something like that after Mancow Muller’s open letter to him was published this morning in the Chicago Daily Herald. Muller attends Harvest Bible Chapel and is a radio personality in the Chicago area. He says he loves MacDonald but also calls him to change his ways. He ends his letter with this:

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.

Muller’s letter is a summary of the public allegations hurled at MacDonald and HBC over the past several years. We learn in it that Muller suggested an attorney for the now dropped defamation suit against a journalist, two bloggers and the bloggers’ wives. In it, Muller claimed that MacDonald asked Muller for a $3-million donation to HBC. According to Muller, MacDonald asked Muller to sell his memorabilia and give the proceeds to the church. In response, Muller asked MacDonald to sell his motorcycle. MacDonald refused.

Muller claims the church has not been honest in messages delivered to the public and that MacDonald has not been truthful about his home.  He also said the Naples sabbatical has been planned as a vacation and is not being described adequately to the public. He says the church is cultlike in trying to keep members from reading about the church from online sources.

Muller doesn’t hold back when describing Harvest elders. He refers to them as a “caldron of yes men” and a “marionette quartet” who have “lost their way.”

Muller’s advice to HBC is drastic:

Pastor James should come home and face his church family and stop this game of charades. The so-called “elders” must all be fired. An outside truly independent group, not picked by the MacDonald clan, must be brought in.

If this is true…

Those interested in HBC should read the entire letter.  I maintain that many people who attend a Harvest church are so far removed that they might not realize any of this is happening. However, if what Muller (and many critics) says is true, donors are enabling a dysfunctional organization. If history (e.g. Mars Hill Church) is a guide, many will quietly do exactly what Muller recommends.

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

Harvest Bible Chapel Won’t Reply to Media Questions During Peacemaking Process

Last week I wrote Harvest Bible Chapel’s spokeswoman Sherri Smith a couple of emails with questions about the firing of former Harvest Bible Chapel-Naples pastor John Secrest. Since I did not get a response, I wrote to ask if HBC planned to respond. In response, Ms. Smith answered this afternoon with the following explanation:

While the peacemaking process is underway, Harvest Bible Chapel does not presently intend to respond to further media inquiries. Our focus remains on seeking the Lord and ministering to our church family.

While I understand the impulse to go quiet, the time to do that is after all action has been taken. HBC told the world James MacDonald was going to take a sabbatical and the leaders planned to engage in peacemaking. Then just a couple of days later, those same leaders fired John Secrest as pastor of the same church James MacDonald was advertised as a speaker.

I asked Ms. Smith if MacDonald was still planning to speak there but didn’t get a response to that question. Julie Roys reported on her blog that the elders of HBC in Elgin, IL confessed to “shortcomings” in their handling of the situation at Naples. According to a source cited by Roys, no mention of Secrest’s firing was made at the Naples’ service.

I don’t see how peacemaking is served by swiftly firing a pastor who expressed dissent as a reflection of care for his congregation. By their own admission, HBC elders and Rev. MacDonald have made numerous mistakes and they are still in place with MacDonald being given a sabbatical. Why didn’t Rev. Secrest get a sabbatical?

Organizations don’t need to comment in order to communicate to the public. HBC is sending messages via their actions and silence about them and they are not about peace. If HBC really wants to make peace, start at the end and work backwards. Start with Rev. Secrest and a public apology and private conference to come to a mutual agreement about the situation there.

Harvest Bible Chapel Fires Pastor of HBC – Naples (UPDATED)

John Secrest today informed Julie Roys that he has been fired from his position as pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Naples, FL. Secrest planted the church there as a ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship. HBF was once affiliated with HBC. Those organizations parted ways last summer.

According to Roys, Secrest partnered with the HBC through the winter. Secrest did so without being aware of Roys’ investigation and pending article. In a letter to his congregation, Secrest said:

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.

Read Roys’ article here. Secrest regretted his decision to enter the partnership and wanted to regain leadership of the church.

Secrest also wrote HBC yesterday and asked to reverse the agreement:

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.

Today, Secrest said he was fired. It is not clear if he was fired in response to his requests about the church or because he provided this information to Julie Roys. HBC did not return a request for comment.

I have a hard time putting this action together with the contrite statement by the HBC elders dated 1/16/19. In it, HBC leaders said they wanted peace and to listen.

UPDATE

This email was sent to HBC members:

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

Unless there is a different email, the email sent by Secrest and posted by Roys expressed disagreement but certainly didn’t seem insubordinate.

 

James MacDonald to Take Sabbatical to Focus on Peacemaking

Last night, several sources told me that James MacDonald had resigned. I asked church spokeswoman Sherri Smith about those reports and she responded that MacDonald had not resigned.

However, MacDonald was about to make a change.

This morning Harvest Bible Chapel posted the following Elder Update:

Dear Harvest Family,

We have tried a variety of different strategies to address external criticisms over the past several years. It has become apparent that these efforts have failed to fully identify and address our personal failures, sins, and errors in leadership, thus perpetuating a continuation of the criticism. In prayerful reflection upon all that has happened and how we got here, a private meeting of the Executive Committee of the Elders on Monday, January 14, led to the decision to be part of a peacemaking process that seeks both reconciliation and change where needed, which was reviewed by the entire Elder Board last night.

We are reminded of these biblical imperatives:
“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.’” Matthew 7:3-5

In an effort to invite others to join us, we are working with two highly respected ministries (modeled after “The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict,” though not directly aligned with the organization of that name) that specialize in helping churches resolve issues in God-honoring ways. The peacemaking process will include:

    • The selection of a team of experienced and highly respected conciliators and organizational consultants who will guide us through an objective and comprehensive review process.
    • Reaching out to individuals who have left our fellowship or have complaints against us, listening carefully to their insights and correction, and asking God to enable us to confess our sins and make needed changes in our leadership.
    • Thoroughly examining our church’s organizational, financial, management, and leadership policies and practices, and making whatever changes are necessary to ensure that every area is being managed according to professional best practices and in a way that honors God.

While we had hoped that successful audits and re-examined/confirmed ECFA compliance would help heal some relational wounds, it simply hasn’t happened. As part of the peacemaking process, Pastor James is taking an indefinite sabbatical from all preaching and leadership at our church in Chicago. He has recused himself fully from any direction of this peacemaking process, other than to participate when and how requested. He may continue preaching at Harvest Naples through some of the winter months and will be on sabbatical, pending the completion of the reconciliation process and a full report to the congregation. Please be in prayer for Pastor James and Kathy through this season.

We are asking the Lord to lead us as we engage in this peacemaking process. The Lead/Campus Pastors will continue to lead the day-to-day ministry of the church, and we ask for your support as they do so. Campus Pastors will be present and available during normal Wednesday ministry tonight on all campuses.

– The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel

___

From Pastor James:
For a long time I have felt unequal to all but the preaching task at Harvest. I have battled cycles of injustice, hurt anger, and fear which have wounded others without cause.

I have carried great shame about this pattern in certain relationships that can only be called sin. I am grieved that people I love have been hurt by me in ways they felt they could not express to me directly and have not been able to resolve. I blame only myself for this and want to devote my entire energy to understanding and addressing these recurring patterns.

I have long known and taught it is not about the messenger, it is about the message and I am grateful for a time of extended sabbatical, during which Harvest will be in capable hands. I may continue preaching at the Naples Campus through some of the winter season and have postponed all writing and leadership to begin in earnest now. I will continue this focus as long as it takes and participate wholeheartedly as requested in the process shared above. 

Please pray that this welcomed time of sabbatical rest will lead to needed changes in me and a fresh opportunity to reconcile with others in God’s time.

Christ is all He promised to be and more… “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me by still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3). Please pray for me and Kathy as we step away from the work, so God can do all He wants to do in the worker.

HBC and MacDonald recently dropped a defamation suit against two bloggers, their wives and journalist Julie Roys. The church and founding pastor have been under pressure amid allegations of financial mismanagement, lack of transparency, and authoritarian leadership style.

MacDonald’s move is reminiscent of Mark Driscoll’s sabbatical before he resigned as pastor at Mars Hill Church in 2014. As noted in a previous post, the path of HBC and MacDonald seems similar to Mars Hill and Driscoll’s. Throughout 2014, Mars Hill tried many things to address criticism without success. Focusing on Driscoll, the ex-members and ex-elders became increasingly vocal and public. The same thing is happening now with HBC.

One hopes that HBC can review the Mars Hill timeline and demise with an eye toward learning something of value. If history repeats itself, the multi-site HBC may splinter into local churches as did Mars Hill. Sources have told me that such an outcome has been discussed by HBC leaders.

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

Some Thoughts in Response to Harvest Bible Chapel’s Defamation Lawsuit

On Monday night, I reported that Harvest Bible Chapel dropped their defamation suit against The Elephant’s Debt bloggers, their wives, and Julie Roys. As a part of discovery in the suit, Roys filed an extensive request for documents. As those documents were supplied to Roys, she published some of the internal communications on her blog. In turn, that action led HBC to ask the court to prevent Roys from making the material public. On Monday, the court declined to issue a stay on such information. Later that night the church signaled an intent to drop the suit.

According to a statement released by HBC, the church wanted to spare the privacy of people who might be named in emails and texts subpoenaed by Roys. I am sure that is true. In addition, I suspect there are aspects of the church’s functioning and information about various church leaders that the church wanted to keep private. I say that because the church now keeps some such information secret. For instance, information about executive compensation and housing and other financial transactions are guarded secrets. There also appears to be an attempt to manage the reputation of leadership.

Even though I support the journalists (I consider bloggers citizen journalists) in this case, I must add that I only do so because I don’t see any indication of bad faith. Some of what was written may indeed turn out to be off or incomplete, but it appears to me that those involved have tried to get the story right. I do not support people who speculate or make false allegations and claim freedom of speech as a protection from scrutiny.

I have written things that turned out to be incorrect but not because I intended to. When reporting about organizations which deliberately spread disinformation or attempt to mislead, it is hard to separate truth from a lie. At times, I have gone with incomplete information because a source didn’t have all the information. In those times, the remedy is to correct as quickly as possible and apologize.

In the suit brought by Harvest, a sign of what appeared to be an intent to harass was the inclusion of the bloggers’ wives as defendants. Harvest never addressed this. I specifically asked the church why they did this and the church spokesperson simply referred me to James MacDonald’s prior statements. Nothing in those statements dealt with a reason to sue the wives of the bloggers.

Given the fragile legal and theological foundations of the suit and the heavy handed means of pursuing it, I think HBC’s leaders have a responsibility to correct themselves. I believe they should pay the legal expenses of the defendants and issue a public apology. The very public retreat from what HBC leaders told the public God was leading them to do is a rebuke to their leadership. First, they said God was directing them to sue. Now they say God is directing them to drop the suit. A reasonable question for members is: Do these leaders have the ability to know what God is directing the church to do?

Recently, when Willow Creek Church found itself in a leadership crisis over the mishandling of Bill Hybels, the entire leadership team resigned. While the church isn’t out of the woods yet, this action helped to reassure wavering members that the church might be able to survive. It was a brave, selfless, and bold move. Harvest Bible Chapel finds itself in a similar crisis of leadership. What will the leaders of the church do?

A factor which might separate the two Chicago area churches is member sentiment. At Willow Creek, there was and is a significant number of members who demanded change. I am not aware of a significant number of current members who want change. If indeed most current members are happy with the situation, then probably nothing will happen. Indeed, it is a personal matter for members to decide.

In the current Harvest governance, there really isn’t a way for members to have an impact on leadership. They don’t vote for elders and they can’t recall a pastor or staff member. They can stop giving or leave the church. By HBC’s admission, over 2000 members have left over the past several years. The leaders blamed that on the bloggers. Will the public retreat on the lawsuit change the focus? Will they now look inward?

Since there is no systematic means for members to have an influence on leadership at HBC, I suspect that those who are dissatisfied will continue to trickle away. Although a bold leadership move could probably prevent that, it is probably as it should be. No doubt there are many small struggling churches which could use some new members.

Ultimately, it would be wonderful if the HBC board and senior pastor repent of their actions in this lawsuit, make restitution to the defendants, and at least consider a sabbatical from leadership to determine why they thought they should pursue such an extreme public action. Trust in Christian leaders is at a low right now and it would nice to get some good news for a change.

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

Harvest Bible Chapel Drops Defamation Suit

I just heard via Twitter that Harvest Bible Chapel dropped their defamation lawsuit against The Elephant’s Debt bloggers and their wives, and Julie Roys. This came after a judge did not grant a restraint against the publication of material obtained via discovery. Here is HBC’s announcement from the church website.

In October of 2018, we filed a lawsuit asking a civil court to restrict the actions of those attempting to interfere in the life of our church by publicizing false and distorted information about our church, primarily related to the years 2007-2012.

On advice of counsel, we still believe their actions to be illegal. However today the court ruled, contrary to expectation and legal precedent, that it would not stay further discovery while the case is under defendants’ motions to dismiss, nor would it restrict the publicizing of that discovery during the trial process.

Recent events have made it clear that any further private content subpoenaed from third and fourth parties will likely be publicized online. Case law contains many legal precedents related to restricting these actions, yet the court ruled against our motions in both instances.* The result is that even if we filed a motion to reconsider, even if we amended the complaint to exclude private matters sensitive to some third parties, the court appears unwilling to protect our many friends, including those with whom we seek to reconcile. In good conscience we cannot knowingly subject innocent people, in many instances against their will, to a full subpoena process.

Surely the Lord could have caused the court to rule in our favor, as “the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33), and “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:9). We receive these outcomes as God’s direction and have instructed our legal counsel to drop the suit entirely. With this decision, we can again focus our energies on continued growth in personal and organizational faults we have owned, enduring what is false, and striving to mitigate the damage such attacks bring to our church family and friends.

We remain willing to meet with the defendants for a face-to-face resolution of grievances, and we covet your prayers. 

– The Executive Committee of Elders, Harvest Bible Chapel

*At our request, a court reporter transcribed today’s proceeding, which will be available soon.

A common sense view of this situation is that the bloggers and journalist have free speech rights and the courts are keen on maintaining them. It always seemed odd to me that a church would use the courts to attempt to establish a fact pattern. If the church wants to be transparent, then simply open the books and the minutes and take questions from the press without a defensive posture.

 

Image: By Esther 5000 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48825134

Harvest Bible Chapel Acknowledges Failures, Still Claims Only Three Defendants

Promising a change of tone, Harvest Bible Chapel posted tonight on the church’s website what is described as an acknowledgment of failures and deficits. In an admission that they have been marginalizing critics, the church promised to stop:

The Executive Committee of the Elders has declared a moratorium on all efforts to minimize or marginalize our critics, except a carefully considered and conscious decision to pursue a legal remedy regarding attacks against the church that upon advice of counsel we believe are illegal.

Time will tell if church leaders will honor that promise. In my opinion, they should drop the suit. As I pointed out this morning, the existence of the suit heightens the tension and animosity. I doubt that a nicer tone in public remarks will change that.

In what seems like a violation of the spirit of that pledge, the church continues to refer to “three named defendants.” There are five.  I cannot understand why the church continues to speak as if the wives of The Elephant’s Debt bloggers haven’t been sued as well.

The lawsuit against our three named defendants, moves slowly forward and again we state that we would gladly accept no financial settlement, no resolution of damage done or redaction of existing slander. All we ask is that they agree to stop attacking our church permanently and entrust the ongoing reforms to the Elders of our church.

I asked the church about this and did not get an answer about why the wives are being sued.

You can read the rest of the response from the elders here.

Harvest Bible Chapel: Mars Hill Church 2.0?

James MacDonald (left), Mark Driscoll (right)

From where I sit in small town PA (usually at a fast food place with good WiFi), it appears that there are some similarities between the last couple of years at Mars Hill Church and the current situation at Harvest Bible Chapel.

Elders and Leadership Style

At MHC, trouble had been brewing for several years over treatment of elders and perceptions from departed members and elders that Mark Driscoll was domineering and unnecessarily harsh. The same perceptions and polarization have occurred at HBC involving their founding pastor James MacDonald.

This morning I became aware of something called the Statement of Record on the HBC website where former and current elders are pledging loyalty to MacDonald. Up to the very end of Mars Hill Church, a core group of elders and members remained committed to Driscoll and expressed animosity toward the elders who brought formal charges against Driscoll.

Also this morning, the Elephant’s Debt blog posted a resignation letter from a former elder and staff member. In the letter, questions are raised about the leadership of MacDonald and financial management of the church. This letter along with the texts and emails posted earlier by Julie Roys remind me of various leaked letters and formal charges written by current and former MHC elders concerning the leadership of Mark Driscoll.

Many of the concerns seem similar. Driscoll’s charges included allegations of harsh treatment of subordinates, domineering leadership style, and using the church structure to enrich himself. Similar allegations have surfaced regarding HBC and MacDonald.

Driscoll and MacDonald

It should also be noted that Driscoll and MacDonald have a relationship which dates back to the Mars Hill era. MacDonald was on MHC’s Board of Advisors and Accountability. He resigned near the end of the church’s life in 2014. Recently, Julie Roys reported that HBC gave $50,000 to Driscoll’s new church in Phoenix. And who can forget the little trip by MacDonald (on the left) and Driscoll (right) to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire conference.

We They

Another similarity I see is the adversarial relationship between critics and defenders in both situations. There were sharp differences and strong feelings in the MHC camps. The same dynamic is at work here. When MHC responded to public or media questions, they were cagey and defensive. In private, the sides were fierce in opposition. In the HBC case, a lawsuit is in play. This really ratchets up the polarization.

I can’t see it getting any better as long as HBC maintains the defamation suit. Putting aside biblical arguments for or against the action, I think it is a terrible precedent to set as a matter of public perception of how Christians do things. The tension and animosity will only escalate with each new revelation.  In MHC’s case, the church was always the PR loser when differences emerged into the light of day.

Those supporting MHC’s establishment felt their situation would get better if they could just make their case in the court of public opinion. During the church’s demise, MHC had the blessing of the ECFA, touted numerical results, and portrayed a measured and positive front. However, each new disclosure had a cumulative downward impact. In HBC’s case, the existence of the lawsuit has great potential to multiply this effect.

I suspect there are more parallels but I think this is sufficient to make a point that MHC could be a learning experience for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Fair or not, a prolonged public war will erode the church’s effectiveness and probably do more to harm the bottom line than anything the bloggers have done up to now.