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November 3, 2018

James McDonald - Making False Biblical Excuses to Sue Brethren

By Anthony Wade

Disturbing allegations against James McDonald have led him to eviscerate the bible to defend suing former members in court...


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When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud--even your own brothers! - 1Corinthians 6: 1-8 (ESV)

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Beloved there are some who think maters of discernment ministries bring the ministers joy and nothing can be further from the truth. Despite the grief felt for sheep led astray it is also never fun to have to learn how yet another pastor that seemed respectable has apparently allowed the carnality of this world to infect his ministry and thus his message. I have seen James McDonald over the years and always found him to be a credible pastor. So I was concerned when I came across the first link above from Christianity today which appears to be James explaining why his decision to sue fellow Christians is somehow biblical, which it most certainly is not. Then in order to write this I needed to understand why he would be suing someone to begin with and that research led to the second link, which is the summary of events from the folks being sued. Now obviously this is their version of events but it seems pretty well sourced and backed up. It details decades of financial malfeasance committed by James McDonald to the tune of having his church once fall 70 million in debt while he was receiving a 40% pay increase to $350,000. Tales of a Mark Driscoll-esque power grab where McDonald expanded his board from 12 to 30 so they would have less individual power. Publicly admitted gambling problems from McDonald after railing against gambling from thre pulpit. Accusing three such elders of being "satanic to the core" publicly because they had the temerity to ask for a line item budget of expenses. I know this much beloved, when there is this much smoke there is usually a house on fire. So let us reason together through James McDonald now trying to explain why he is suing the former church members who have been exposing his actions now for several years.

"Harvest Bible Chapel has not strayed from its 30-year commitment to the unapologetic preaching of God's Word, nor have we forgotten the explicit teaching of 1 Corinthians 6:1-9. We'd like to share our biblical rationale for reluctantly deciding to take our critics to court." - James McDonald

Let me first state the obvious. Harvest Bible Chapel did not write this article. James McDonald did. The church does not stand accused of anything. James McDonald does. This opening appears designed to try and not make this about him. I am glad he referenced the key verses today because they will be applied correctly in this devotional.

'A Deeper Understanding of Scripture. Throughout church history, cultural happenings have forced a more carefully nuanced consideration of biblical application. In the first centuries, major areas of Christology were refined to combat error. In recent decades, the charismatic movement brought a more nuanced study of the scriptural teaching on spiritual gifts and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.Many of us remember the near unanimous evangelical stance on divorce prior to the 1970s, when most churches held strictly to "no divorce, no remarriage." Then with the rise in divorce rates and a few high visibility Christian leaders getting divorced, all were pushed back into the Scripture for a view that considered all biblical teaching on the subject. In just a few years, the prevailing view changed to include "exception language" from the teaching of Jesus (Matt. 19:9) and Paul (1 Cor. 7:15). The Scriptures had not changed, but cultural trends had again caused a more careful study of all biblical passages on divorce, versus the more simplistic "the Lord God " hates divorce"' (Mal. 2:16). - James McDonald

Not off to a good start James. This is not a deeper understanding of Scripture but rather a far more shallow one where our prejudices and desire to disobey change what God is actually saying. When something is nuanced it becomes shaded. What was black and white now has gradations. That is how the carnal world operates not the church. The bible is black and white and truth is absolute not nuanced. We should never allow culture to change what God said, period. The examples he gave are quite telling. The charismatic nuances of spirit baptism are routinely challenged as being unscriptural. It has led to many in charismatic circles as being marginalized. If you have not spoken tongues some claim you're not even saved. Absolute hogwash. Look what he admits in his divorce argument! That when divorce rates rose, they nuanced scripture to allow divorce in some cases. That is expressly why you do not allow culture to sway doctrine!

"The perfection of God's holy Word is best seen in the way all relevant passages work together to form a consistent unity. Reductionism is the logical fallacy of "making the main thing the only thing." As Christians we can make this error by forcing one passage to speak with finality on a more broadly covered biblical subject." - James McDonald

I agree that we should never look at scripture in isolation but take into account all relevant passages but that is not what he has been arguing. He has been arguing "nuancing" scripture to excuse behavior. Sometimes James, the main thing is the only thing. This line of thinking is what christo-feminists engage in when excusing women pastors. This despite there being two directive and clear passages saying it is not allowed. Instead they nuance any story where a female is mentioned and nuance the text until she is on a pastoral level. Why? So they can dismiss out of hand the main thing - the two directive scriptures they had. Now James is going to try and do this with the key verses:

"In a culture that is far too litigious, Christ followers should be loath to go into civil court for any reason. 1 Corinthians 6:1-9 pleads for caution: "Can we not judge ourselves?" "This before unbelievers," "Law suits among you means that you have been completely defeated," "Why not rather be wronged?" and "This is shame to you." It's such a clear teaching--but not the totality of biblical teaching that some try to make it. What if allowing "yourself to be wronged" is a greater wrong because of the many others that would be wronged? What if that matter is not a "trivial case," as in 1 Corinthians 6? What if the brothers are from different churches, one of which refuses to bring significant detrimental behavior into line? What if the matter is demonstrably illegal and would bring immense suffering to your family?1 Corinthians 6 deals with two brothers in a single church dealing with a trivial matter that should just be "let go." That size teaching does not fit all situations, and it is somewhat reductionistic to try to make it so." - James McDonald

This is so sad to watch. McDonald knows and admits that the key verses are such a clear teaching but then goes right ahead to play his "what if" games. As if God never considered the what ifs when He wrote the clear instructive passages. You can come up with all of the imagined what ifs you like - God does not change! Stop looking for reasons to disobey Him! If He says do not sue brethren then do not sue brethren. God does not stutter nor change His mind. Regardless of what the disputes were about in Corinth it is not our job to assume that means different rules apply if the matter is more serious. If that were the case, God would have told us! The arrogance is staggering. God says do not sue brethren but James McDonald adds to scripture to say that only applies in small claims court. Unreal.

'"When The Elephant's Debt began posting their criticism, we dug deeply into personal and organizational reflection. We have repeatedly tried to meet with them, and if the bloggers let their "reasonableness be known to all men" (Phil. 4:5) and simply sat down with us, they would learn of the positive changes that initially came from their critical approach. Ongoing appeals have yielded no fruit, though we remain open to meeting in person and ending the legal case. In the meantime, by assuming the right to influence our church while refusing to listen to the authority of our church leaders, they forfeit the protection given to brothers in 1 Corinthians 6. According to Matthew 18:17 their refusing to "hear the church" requires that they be related to as non-believers, as "gentiles and tax collectors."' - James McDonald

Wow, that is painfully bad use of scripture. Do you remember the three elders referenced before that were deemed satanic to the core? I forgot to mention James ex-communicated them from the fellowship. That's the power trip he appears on and these statements only support that. The key verses are instructions from God regarding the simple fact that brethren should never sue brethren. This is an instruction for the entire church, not just Harvest Bible Chapel. What James McDonald has done here is remove a promise from God based upon a perceived slight upon him. The former members of his church that are now speaking out do not have to listen to the authority of the church they left in order to speak about it. That is absurd but what is more absurd is that God would somehow remove His command to not sue them because of it. Further compounding this is a complete abusing of Matthew 18. This has to do with a brother sinning against you not when your pastor goes rogue. Is McDonald actually suggesting that these former members become no better than the unsaved because they refused to have the church they are criticizing judge that criticism? By church I mean James McDonald of course.

"Protecting the Church. Still some ask, "Wasn't Jesus lied about and spat upon? Aren't we called to the same?" Yes, on a personal level we are to turn the other cheek when offended, and Christ in his passion, "when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate" (1 Pet. 2:23). A conversation with Wayne Grudem, the widely respected theologian and my seminary professor, helped me understand that we should model our response to criticism after Christ's ministry (John 8:49) not his road to the cross, when his total silence was a unique fulfillment of prophecy." - James McDonald

Yeah, McDonald is protecting himself and his brand but not the church. Wayne Grudem is not a respected theologian. He is an NAR advocate who idolizes this country before the God he claims to serve. You can tell by the carnal answer he gave. John 8:49 is Jesus speaking to the Pharisees! Are you seriously suggesting that our response to criticism as Christian ought to be modeled after how Christ dealt with the Pharisees? Please.

'I accept criticism as part of my calling; some of it is deserved, most of it well intentioned, and all of it used by the Lord to sanctify myself and our church's leaders. However, a real turning point for our church leadership was the realization that our first responsibility was to protect the church when that criticism went on to impact them. In the wake of what was being published online, innocent people didn't just leave our church, but too often left the church. We saw the effects not just in Chicago, but worldwide, wherever our broadcasts and church plants had spread. Friends lost their sons to the faith. New believers who struggled to trust Christ and any authority too often jumped to "fears confirmed" and retreated into unbelief. People who were saved through our ministry and feeling first time joy in Christ were devastated to read the vitriol. Treasured staff who supported us fully, resigned saying, "We love you, we believe in this ministry, but we must find a place of peace."' - James McDonald

I think it is painfully obvious by now that James McDonald does not accept criticism at all. You must understand that the critical factor here is the truth. What is true and what is not. When I review the accusations versus the parts already admitted to it seems the truth is on the side of the former members. McDonald admitted to his frequent gambling in 2014. The three elders who were ex communicated and publicly rebuked as satanic? McDonald issued a public apology to them all for unbiblical discipline. The story where McDonald explains that he is lengthening his board to dilute their power? Multiple witnesses. So spare us your faux indignation James. Your people are leaving because of what you did not because someone has now told then what you did.

"So much damage to so many innocent people -- that is what, after six years, prompted us to study the Scriptures afresh regarding established authority, ordained by God to punish wrongdoers (Rom. 13:1-6). In America, free speech is not universal. You can't yell, "Fire!" in a crowded theater because negligently causing a dangerous stampede of people is not protected speech, but a breach of the law with serious consequences. We have called on authorities, in this case, the court in Cook County, to look carefully at the actions of these bloggers and rule on whether their publications against our church for six years have broken multiple civil laws. We are not trying to do God's job; we are asking the authorities God's established to do theirs. We are not seeking vengeance or retribution. We have not filed this suit because we fear something big will be uncovered or to gain any damages. (The cost of our lawsuit is covered by two of our elders, not from church family offerings.) We love the body of Christ, and stand ready to give grace and forgive, for in many ways God used the bloggers in the beginning but there is no righteous role remaining for them. We want them to move on and leave the governance of our church to our biblical eldership and congregation. We pray for the bloggers' peace and for a new season of freedom from outside interference for the people of Harvest Bible Chapel. Over and over we have asked God to protect our church--and we now believe he has, through the government authorities he ordained (Rom. 13:1-6)." - James McDonald

Romans 13 has nothing to do with suing the brethren and does not negate 1Corinthians 6. Former church members exposing a pastor's misdeeds is not akin to yelling fire in a crowded theater. You can say this is not revenge but it sure smells like it. This appears to be an attempt to shut up people who are revealing dirty little secrets and costing James McDonald his business.He has no authority to decide who has righteous use left or not. If you truly loved the body of Christ you would obey scripture and stop twisting it. You would not sue your brethren. To finish off this ridiculously carnal defense, he dares to claim that God is protecting Harvest Bible Chapel by allowing McDonald to tear down the church as a whole and abuse the word of God in the process. James McDonald should spend more time understanding God's commands rather than how to get around them through nuance. The key verses are clear as he admits. These matters should not have been lain before people who have no standing in the church. He does so only to his great shame.

Reverend Anthony Wade - November 2, 2018

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.