A Few Sincere Questions

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

At last month's Harvest University conference, James MacDonald gave a message containing some practical admonitions to 2,000 Harvest Bible Fellowship pastors and ministry leaders. Portions of the message were good and helpful, but one rather disturbing portion revealed MacDonald's thinking on how he handles disagreement. Please note that these comments were not said accidentally or in obscurity. These statements have not been twisted or pulled out of context. On the contrary, MacDonald chose to highlight this portion of his message on his blog. Note carefully the section beginning at 14:43.

I sincerely urge ministry leaders, particularly in the Harvest Bible Fellowship, to carefully consider the following questions:

- Out of all the verses in Scripture, why would MacDonald want those two verses to be his elders' favorites? Would you really have these two verses be your elders' favorite? Should two verses about rejecting factious men be elevated over the many verses about the importance of sound doctrine? Or the many verses about gentleness and love?

- Do these verses really describe someone who simply disagrees with the pastor (as MacDonald implies)? Or do these verses actually describe a false teacher dividing the church with false doctrine? Do you think it's mere coincidence that this message was preached just days after Mike Bryant and HBC Grayslake were removed from HBF simply for disagreeing with James MacDonald?

- Should we really be so pessimistic about the Lord's ability to change someone? Should a man be a pastor of God's flock if he is resigned to people "being as they have been"?

- How do you feel about MacDonald "releasing you" to build a catapult in your church's parking lot and load it regularly? Does this strike you as a healthy pastoral admonition? Are these the words of a shepherd or of a CEO?

- Does James MacDonald have the right to "release you" to do anything? Do you consider him a fellow pastor, or is he above you - with the authority to tell you what to do as you lead your local assembly?

- If you are to take seriously MacDonald's admonition to catapult factious men into other churches, what implications does this have for the body of Christ as a whole? If a man is truly factious (as Scripture defines it), should we not warn other churches rather than catapulting factious men into them?

- Did MacDonald have the right to call for loyalty to himself by using the words of Jesus in John 6? What is more important, loyalty to a man or loyalty to the Lord? Do you have the courage to do the right thing when the two conflict?

Lastly, perhaps you would consider making this passage your elders' favorite:
Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
(1 Timothy 6:9-12)

8 comments:

The Blondeback Blog May 23, 2012 at 10:59 AM  

Good questions--good food for thought.

Glenn Harris May 23, 2012 at 11:43 AM  

Here's my $0.02

Admittedly, I am outside this ongoing conflict with James MacDonald. But having personally experienced the horrific fallout from a factious man at our congregation who was not dealt with decisively, I completely agree with Paul's (not MacDonald's) instructions in Titus 3:10. My impression: J.M. is way too flippant about this, but methinks also you protesteth too much.

Yours,
RG

Dan McGhee May 23, 2012 at 12:29 PM  

Glenn,

Thanks for stopping by to comment, brother. Just a thought for you to consider regarding your comment "methinks also you protesteth too much"... Sincere questions are not a protest. They are just what they are - questions that deserve reflection, especially considering this fact, there were over 2000 ministry leaders who were given this instruction. Think of the implication of this, my friend. Think of the churches and the lives that can be affected by ministry leaders who might now feel empowered to adopt this type of hostile, caustic, flippant attitude. Personally, one of the most troubling aspects of this clip to me is this fact - 2000 people sat there and laughed at this.

Glenn Harris May 23, 2012 at 12:59 PM  

Those 2,000 people are not cultists. The reason they laughed is that they understood the catapult reference as hyperbole. But one of Mike's questions treats MacDonald's statement as if literal. That's why I felt perhaps there was too much 'protest'.

But as I explained in my caveat, I have the luxury of distance from this ongoing conflict.

Glenn Harris May 23, 2012 at 1:02 PM  

Of course, now that I think about it... I might be behaving in a factious manner. 8-)

And this kind of flippancy is a cause for sober reflection. Keep up the good work!

Dan McGhee May 23, 2012 at 1:15 PM  

You are being a factious man, Glenn... And if you don't stop it right now, I'm going to load you on the new catapult we've constructed for our blog:)

Mike Moses May 23, 2012 at 1:24 PM  

Thank you for your comments, Rabbi Glenn!

I want to clarify that I certainly understood MacDonald's catapult comment to be metaphorical and hyperbolic. (To use the language of hermeneutics, I was not taking the statement "literally" but "normally" :-) But even if a statement is hyperbolic, it can still reveal a vicious heart. As you pointed out, it's the flippancy that's troubling. Even in situations when Titus 3:10 must be practiced, it's no laughing matter. MacDonald's manner is miles away from Paul's tears in Phil. 3:18.

Also, having attended two Harvest University conferences in the past, I can assure you that the 2,000 people were laughing at MacDonald's statement because he has a strong, compelling, charismatic personality. All the more reason for these men and women to step away from the hype and carefully consider a few sincere questions.

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