Until recently, James MacDonald was the head of Harvest Bible Chapel, a multi-site megachurch with campuses around Chicago (and one in Florida).
MacDonald has been under fire over the past several months after a couple of bloggers began reporting on the church’s financial problems and how MacDonald was directly responsible for much of the concern. He responded by suing the bloggers… and their wives (?!?)… and a reporter who was working on a lengthy story about him.
That lawsuit was dropped last week after it became evident that MacDonald would have to produce documents that would be part of the public record. He clearly didn’t want that to happen.
Mancow Muller is a Chicago-based radio shock jock who also happens to be a devout Christian, and he was a longtime member of MacDonald’s congregation. He was even baptized by MacDonald during a trip to Israel. They weren’t just members of the same church. They were friends.
In a piece published yesterday in the Daily Herald, Muller effectively torched their friendship. He highlighted how he had been deceived by MacDonald and how the cult-like atmosphere in the church continues to have a stranglehold over many members of the congregation.
Check out this anecdote in which Muller recalls being asked to make large donations to the church.
Pastor James and a fundraising campaign called Closer asked me to donate $3 million recently. This seemed rather tone-deaf to me because I was unemployed at the time. The number kept shrinking until I was asked if I could at least sell all of my memories (in the form of my memorabilia) and give that money to Harvest. My weakness was sickening. I wish I had said something more aggressive about how awful it was. Instead, I just sat there with a stupid smile on my face.
“Why don’t you sell your Harley?” I joked with Pastor James, trying to lighten the mood. “No,” he responded, “I like my motorcycle … but if you don’t give, see who is more blessed — me or you.”
Pastor James and others suggested that I buy a house in Naples, Florida, where Harvest has a church and where he sits in exile, and then leave it to the church when I die.
“What about my family?” I asked. “Wouldn’t I leave my house to my own daughters?”
Even though MacDonald is currently on an “indefinite sabbatical,” there are plenty of people who still attend this church and willingly throw their money at it. The concern, says Muller, is that there’s a good chance they won’t listen to any of the criticism against MacDonald — including his own piece — because they’ve been manipulated into only listening to news within their bubble. Muller wrote that “It was cultlike when Pastor James and elders instructed us to not listen to ‘outside noise’ (meaning no news or blogs criticizing Pastor).”
There are a lot of unanswered questions about the leadership of that church, how it handles money, and what they’re trying to cover up through nondisclosure agreements. Unfortunately, the people who most strongly want those questions answered are the ones outside the church.
(via Warren Throckmorton)