It’s one of those things that many people wish I just wouldn’t do.
“Bill, just leave well enough alone.”
“Don’t stir the pot.”
“What gives you the right to ask questions?” — they question.
Yesterday, in my definitely imitable style, I questioned James MacDonald and his “Congregational Government is From Satan” hyperbolic blog post. And I got some answers I wasn’t expecting. From that post’s comments:
Joe — “You need to know that James wrote that whole rant as a response to recently not getting something he wanted.”
Me — “Hmmm. Intriguing. Do tell”
Joe — “Simply he wanted a certain church. They voted TWICE against it and now he is mad. Thus the comments on how voting is unbiblical and congregational government”
And then later that evening,
Luke MacDonald — ”…Harvest was approached by 5 elders from a church in decline and asked for help. The elders wanted to merge and form an extension campus (whatever anyones thoughts may be on this).
The elders and 72% of the church voted to merge falling shy of the 75% required for such a move. The elders then decided to take another few months and try to vote again. This time I believe the vote was 73%.
that is the basics of the story…”
I wasn’t expecting any of this. I’m not a particular fan of Brother James' church leadership style, though I don’t have any particular axe to grind with him. I found his “Satan post” to be typical of his rather bombastic style and it prompted my response.
However, the comments thread suggests that the Satan Congregation post may well have been a petulant response on Brother James’ part to not gaining control of another church for his Harvest Bible denomination. (Does Harvest have an M&A Department I wonder?)
After Joe’s 2nd comment, I decided to do a little Google wandering. The church whose eldership appears to want to join the Harvest Bible Chapel denomination at this time is Winnetka Bible Church. See this post please.
WBC has a FAQ up about the HBC/WBC “merger”. I find the FAQ both revealing and disturbing.
16. Who will preach at the Winnetka location?
The six current campuses of HBC, worshiping across fifteen identical services, function as one church, with one Elder Board, one overall budget and one Senior Pastor. Most weekends (40+ weekends every year), Pastor James MacDonald preaches live on the two largest campuses (Rolling Meadows and Elgin) with large screen video of that message (either streaming live or recorded on the same weekend) providing the sermon for all other campuses. Occasionally when Pastor James is on a break for study, rest, or outside ministry, HBC uses a combination of live or recorded messages by other HBC Pastors. Frequently, your own Campus Pastor will fill the pulpit in Pastor James’ absence.
23. Will Pastor James MacDonald be preaching in person at WBC?
As we explore the possibility of a merger, Pastor James MacDonald has been invited to preach live at WBC at our invitation, at least once and possibly twice in the next 4-5 weeks. In addition, Pastor Rick Donald will be a guest preacher on Sunday, February 27. Pastor Rick as been the Assistant Senior Pastor at Harvest for 22 years and the current plans have him becoming the Campus Pastor through the transition should this merger be successful.
I never realized that when the HBCD acquires a Chicago-area church, Brother James becomes the disembodied preacher.
And on the issue of how they would discern God's will for WBC
25. What are the Elders of WBC expecting of our membership in this process?
As in all matters of life and ministry, we expect the members of WBC to walk humbly with their God (James 4:6), as we together seek the Lord’s direction in this decision. Multiple opportunities for more information and discussion are coming in the next weeks – please participate in gathering information for an informed decision. In addition, each of the Elders is available to share their heart with you and answer questions you may have. In all of this, we will be a church family that honors the Lord. God’s Word warns against hasty and fleshly plans (Proverbs 21:31), so we need to seek Him in fervent prayer. God’s Word warns us of a real enemy who is a divisive liar (1 Peter 5:8-9; John 8:44). The Elders are determined that unity (Ephesians 4:1) and graciousness of speech (Ephesians 4:29) will characterize our public and private interaction during this process. Any speech which impugns someone’s character or calls their motives into question may result in the restriction of membership privileges in accordance with our bylaws. We are trusting God for a Christ-honoring process and a unified outcome and are excited to go forward together into whatever the Lord directs. [emphasis added]
Thus, A Couple of Questions:
First, assuming all of the above is accurate, as James MacDonald is a Calvinist, and God is sovereign – why would James be upset about a congregational vote not going his way? Twice? I thought James' affirmed that God is sovereign – from a Calvinist perspective, that is. (I'm Arminian in my theology, so my view of God's sovereignity is a little different.) If God wanted James et al to acquire WBC, wouldn't He have made it happen. Or do I still not understand Calvinists' view of God's Sovereignty? And isn't it remotely possible that God has other plans for WBC? Including simply shutting it down?
And secondly, if "biblical" is our criteria for assessment, just exactly how "biblical" is it to build a ministry around one man's preaching and have that one man appear via twinkling pixels before an enthralled (hopefully) audience on a Sunday morning.
To me this is simply another example of what might be called the Celebrity-Driven Church.
Over the course of the next few posts, I'd like to attempt to unpack this "satanic" aberration of church leadership. (And yes, "satanic" is hyperbole.)
Oh, and if the title concerns you, read this for its meaning.
UPDATE: Please read WTH's post on this James MacDonald story.