Tithes, offerings dip 40 percent, membership down by 3,500 after scandal at Harvest Bible Chapel

harvest bible chapel
Pastor James MacDonald preaches at Harvest Bible Chapel. |

Officials at the multicampus Harvest Bible Chapel in greater Chicago urged faithful supporters to give to the ministry after reporting a drop in membership of 3,500 as well as a 40 percent dip in tithes and offering a month after the firing of founding Pastor James MacDonald.

“If you call Harvest your church home, if this is where God is calling you to be, yet you have stopped giving your tithes, we are asking you to seek the Lord about restarting your giving,” the Harvest 2020 team urged in a report to church members earlier this month.

MacDonald’s Feb. 12 ouster from Harvest Bible Chapel  was triggered by "highly inappropriate recorded comments" he made on a radio program as well as "other conduct."

He was recorded talking about planting child pornography on Christianity Today CEO's Harold Smith's computer, and making crude remarks about independent journalist Julie Roys — including joking that she had an affair with CT Editor-in-Chief Mark Galli — and a vulgar reference to Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

He also exited the megachurch under a cloud of allegations of financial abuse.

In their message to members on March 10, church officials reviewing finances at the church admitted that there was a “lack of financial control” over MacDonald’s office.

“As our Harvest 2020 team is charged with reviewing all finances within the church, we have found that there was a lack of financial control and oversight as well as questionable spending practices made by the senior pastor’s office.

"In addition, we have identified there was a separate budget for the senior pastor’s office over which there was not sufficient controls and oversight,” officials said.

Former HBC members like Scott and Marsha Thompson, who gave some $72,000 faithfully to the church over several years,  are so livid about the revelations they have demanded their money back.

“All this is coming out that millions of dollars potentially has been mishandled,” Scott told CBS.

He explained that he began questioning MacDonald’s spending in 2006, when he saw his home in Inverness featured in “Chicago” magazine.

“We find out that the pastor is living in a $2 million house,” said Scott, who walked away from HBC in 2013.  

“You drive over there, and sure enough there’s the house that’s in the picture from the magazine article. Yep, that’s the house on a private lake,” he said.

McDonald no longer owns the house and hasn’t lived there in five years, CBS noted.

Church officials said they are doing a comprehensive review of HBC’s finances and taking steps to ensure better financial accountability.

They noted that they would “Begin the process of opening a new bank account to ensure every dollar of your tithes go toward existing ministry expenses, banking obligations, and staff salaries. All tithes will be isolated and treated solely for these purposes. Tithes will not be used toward anything related to the Senior Pastor’s office or his past budgets.”

They also unveiled a plan to “reduce weekly operating expenses (not including mortgages) from $409,000 to $308,000.”

“If necessary, we will reduce our costs further to live within our means,” officials said.

“We know trust is earned over time, and we are working diligently to take actions and to communicate in ways that begin restoring trust. We hope all that we have shared above shows a step in that direction. We also face the reality of our expenses and declined giving. Above all else though, we are trusting the Lord in all things,” the officials said.

“This rebuilding of trust, unity, and health as a Christ-honoring church is hard. We cannot do it alone. We need your prayers and your willingness to embrace this new journey together,” they added.

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