Pastor McDonald and a majority of the elder board publicly disciplined the three elders. In speaking to the church about these men in September 2013, the elders and Pastor James McDonald were very expressive and deliberate in describing these three men to the congregation at Harvest Bible Chapel. They used phrases like:
*"What the men are saying is Satanic to the core and must be dealt with very directly."
*“We warn the people of Harvest Bible Chapel to separate themselves from these false messengers."
*Please avoid these former Harvest elders at all costs lest you incur great detriment to your own soul.”Unless you have been on the receiving end of intentional character assassination from leaders of an institution who are fearful that you may disrupt their plans, it is difficult to imagine the pain inflicted on these three 'disciplined' elders and their families, as well as the damage done to their reputations. Harvest Bible Chapel members should be grateful that their pastor apologized for the above character assassination statements, and should forgive him based upon his repentance.
Unfortunately, the real problem at Harvest Bible Chapel has yet to be addressed. The people of HBC should be asking the question: "Why were we our elders ever in the position of making such statements about these three men to us in the first place?"
The answer to that question is seen in the foolish theology regarding 'spiritual authority' held by the pastor and elders of Harvest Bible Chapel. Their views can be clearly seen in the prefacing words Pastor James McDonald used when the majority of elders publicly disciplined the three minority elders in September 2013 (you may watch the actual video if you desire):
"I just want to remind you that God has entrusted spiritual authority to the local church."
"We believe that (this) authority of the church is invested in the elders."
"When the elders speak collectively in agreement, they speak for God to our church."
"That's about as serious as serious gets."
"These elders are now going to speak on behalf of God to our entire church."The elders then proceeded to explain why the minority caucus of elders in their midst were 'Satanic to the core,' were 'false messengers,' and everyone was to avoid them lest "you incur great detriment to your own soul."
Truth be known, Harvest Bible Chapel members, the problem at your church is not that three men were publicly disciplined because they were asking for greater transparency and financial accountability. The problem is that you have leaders who tell you that when they speak they are speaking on behalf of God. That's yet to be addressed.
Spiritual authority, according to Jesus, is never invested in titles, positions of power (think elders), or other offices within an institutional church. Jesus was clear about this.
"Jesus called all the followers together. Jesus said, "You know that the rulers of the non-Jewish people love to show their power over the people. And their important leaders love to use all their authority over the people. But it should not be that way with you. If one of you wants to become great, then he must serve you like a servant" (Matt. 20:25-26).The apology that still needs to occur to the people and congregation of Harvest Bible Chapel would sound like this:
(1). We apologize for saying that we always speak for God, when the truth is, we are all susceptible to our own personal agendas, our own selfish desires, and other inner conflicts that sometimes prevent us from ever hearing from, much less speaking for, our God.
(2). We apologize for teaching you that spiritual authority is invested in titles and positions within the local church, rather the New Testament truth that spiritual authority is always invested in the giftings, service, and love of Christ's people, regardless of title or position.
(3). We apologize for setting up ourselves as vicars of God on your behalf. Though we told you in September 2013 that it we were speaking for God, it should be obvious to you that (a). God never makes mistakes, and (b). God never has to apologize. We repent of thinking more about our positions and titles than what God thinks of them.
Now that would be a refreshing New Testament apology. However, Pastor McDonald and the elders don't yet see that the real problem is their view of 'spiritual authority.' In my opinion, the greatest problem within the evangelical Christian church is this foolishness regarding spiritual authority.
I'm not sure you can forgive foolishness until it is at least uncovered and called what it is. For help with the New Testament teaching of spiritual authority in the local church download this free PDF.