The Niles, Illinois, location of Harvest Bible Church is becoming a fully independent congregation, transitioning away from the multi-campus megachurch in the Chicago area following a unanimous elders vote.
In a video posted to the Harvest Bible Chapel Channel Thursday, Greg Bradshaw, lead ministry pastor at HBC, announced that they were sending out the Niles campus to become its own entity. Discussions of this sort have been underway since February, he noted.
"The intent was always that the Niles campus would become an independent church," said Mohan Zachariah, campus pastor for the Niles church, explained.
"This is not a church split in any sense of the word. It's a multiplication of ministry.
"Much like we have seen happen with the hundreds of churches that have been birthed from this one, we're still a family and anyone in our congregation will always be welcome at any of our other campuses."
Brian Laird, chairman of the HBC elders, noted that they reached the decision for several reasons, including HBC's passion for church planting.
The Niles location has a long history dating back to 1871, including denominational and leadership transitions, which ultimately led to partnership with HBC in the early 2000s as it agreed to operate as an extension campus.
"We believe this is going to be a financial provision for Harvest Bible Chapel," Bradshaw explained.
"The goal of this new independent church is going to be for them to purchase the property and the building from our church, from Harvest. And this will include the new church raising funds for a down payment and then acquiring a mortgage from a lender."
Once the new Niles church closes on the building and the property, HBC will be able to reamortize their loans and lower their mortgage payments, he said.
The elders pledged their support for Zachariah in his new role as pastor of the independent congregation. A transition process has been set in motion and a new name for the church will be chosen at a future time. Until it becomes fully independent, the Niles church will be purchasing various services from HBC and will be partnering with the megachurch to create ministry teams for the new church. An entirely new elder board will be formed.
Zachariah urged viewers to continue to tithe faithfully as they move toward purchasing the building. In order to obtain a mortgage from the bank, the new church will have to demonstrate a stable pattern of giving.
Bradshaw concluded by saying that he believed the Niles church becoming an independent congregation was a "unique calling." At present, none of the other HBC campuses intend to do likewise.
The news comes following months of controversy surrounding HBC founding pastor James MacDonald — who was ousted earlier this year after lewd comments he made on a hot mic were aired on a local radio station and over alleged misuse of finances and abusive practices within the church, as reported by investigative journalist Julie Roys.
Harvest Bible Church was founded over 30 years ago by MacDonald and presently has six other campuses in the Chicago area.