Since our November Elder meeting:
The Elder board and the smaller team (Elder Leadership Team) within our board have continued to meet monthly, working on several areas of ministry development and church oversight. Following is an update on activities, church accomplishments, and important lessons learned during 2013.
- We reviewed and approved the church’s operating budget for 2014. We praise God that 2013 finished ‘in the black,’ with giving slightly ahead of expenditures.
- We praise God for the report of our newest Harvest Bible Fellowship church plant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and for a very fruitful Senior Pastors’ Retreat for our Fellowship pastors and their wives.
- 5G LEAN FORWARD is well underway. Here are just a few of the many amazing things the Lord has done at Harvest so far in 2014: 120 baptisms were witnessed; 307 individuals committed to join a small group; 230 signed up to Work for Christ; and 252 individuals participated in a Party with the Pastors event.
- More than 50 junior high students have made a first-time profession of faith at Camp Harvest winter retreats.
- Our staff published and taught the newest Harvest curriculum, called Uncommon Leadership 101. Over 1300 church leaders have already participated in this training.
- The Elder board heard an extensive presentation and committed to 30 days of prayer about an exciting new ministry opportunity to expand the outreach of our church and potentially extend our church planting and disciple-making efforts around the world. More to come on this.☺
Pastor James has challenged us as a church to review and remember the lessons of 2013. The Elder Leadership Team has reflected upon important lessons from 2013 and wants to express some of the main lessons in this update.
Lesson #1 is about transparency with the congregation in the organizational matters of the church.
We have heard the congregation’s desire for increased transparency and have taken the following steps to address this need:
- As in previous years, our 2013 audit, when complete, will be available online along with a user-friendly summary of church income and spending.
- Regular member meetings with extended open forum times for questions will continue to rotate through our various campuses until May 2014. Meetings of this kind, which have been very positively received, will be scheduled based upon congregational interest and any seasonal need to communicate key information to our church family.
- Online Elder Updates are being published regularly as needed to keep the congregation current on Elder activities in providing oversight to our church and its ministries.
Lesson #2 is about third-party accreditation of Harvest Bible Chapel’s financial and governmental integrity.
As a large, non-denominational church we are vulnerable to public criticism because any defense of the Elders by the Elders can appear to be biased. We have learned the need for external, independent, third-party accreditation of our governance and financial oversight beyond what our external audit provides. Last year the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability was invited to review all ministry financial dealings and our model of church governance according to their established standards.
ECFA found that Harvest Bible Chapel (including Walk in the Word, Harvest Christian Academy, Vertical Church Music, and more recently Harvest Bible Fellowship) met or exceeded all ECFA standards as far back as they studied (2010). They further confirmed that systems for setting compensation and the specific amounts of senior staff compensation were well within the range of like-minded churches our size.
In September 2013, Harvest Bible Chapel was unanimously approved for full accreditation by the board of ECFA. Members and friends of Harvest Bible Chapel can be confident that we will continue to maintain our financial systems and model of governance upon full conformity to all ECFA standards for integrity.
Lesson #3 is about the importance of accountability between our senior staff and Elder board.
With the help of Dr. Gene Getz, one of the foremost evangelical authorities on biblical church governance, we have continued to examine and further refine the board structure of our church. The larger board established in 2009 increased the acumen in the many complex decisions a church like ours has to make. A smaller team within that board of Elders, called the Elder Leadership Team (ELT) was recommended by Dr. Getz to further strengthen governance oversight of the church. The ELT is now operating in partnership with the full board and is considering various approaches to achieve the optimal way of working in tandem. The current governance structure improvements are ‘in process,’ but already show immense benefit as senior staff conforms to Elders’ established policy and the Elder board strategizes about how best to support our staff.
Lesson #4 is about personal lifestyle choices and seeking to be free from offense according to Scripture.
In recent months, Pastor James has, of his own accord, made several personal lifestyle adjustments. With ELT support, he has made these decisions to put to rest any remaining concern about his priorities. Personal sacrifices, which the MacDonalds deem small for the sake of Christ, include downsizing to a smaller home in Elgin, initiating a significant salary reduction (although unnecessary according to ECFA standards), and considering congregational norms in lifestyle decisions, such as the car they drive and how they vacation. The Elders appreciate these public confirmations of where we have always believed their heart to be. The ELT is praying that the MacDonalds’ willingness to subordinate their liberty in Christ for the sake of the gospel will become a hallmark of this church and for each of us.
Lesson #5 is about our own leadership in the face of public criticism and the priority of seeking reconciliation in relationships with former church leaders.
The Elders want the congregation to know that since the fall of 2012, we have been reflecting for an extended season while we sought the Lord’s will for us as church leaders. We do not want that time of reflection to be misconstrued as a lack of confidence in our Pastor. Rather, we have come to realize that we, as Elders, have also needed to grow in sharing the inevitable criticism that comes from ministry leadership. We desire to grow in our response to difficult situations and communicate with the flock more effectively. We ask for your grace as we seek all that the Lord would continue to teach us.
We are deeply grateful for the steadfast enduring commitment of Pastor James and his family to this ministry, despite the cost to them personally. Our confidence in Pastor James’ qualification to lead the church under the Elders is strong. We ask that the congregation continue to view them as we do: generous, selfless, tireless servants who are committed to the cause of Christ and this church.
Efforts at reconciliation with former church leaders remain a priority for us and are ongoing. Personal letters and attempts to meet individually also took place with key former leaders.In certain instances there were meetings that included heartfelt expressions of forgiveness and prayerful reconciliation. In regard to others, we continue to pray and wait upon the Lord for His timing, having done all we currently know to do in order to “be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18). There is extensive attention being given to assure we are living in the process of forgiveness that we preach from the pulpit, and living in the balance of grace and truth that the Lord has emphasized to us in recent years.
5G: Leaning Forward in 2014
There is much more we have gleaned from the Lord during this difficult season. God has honored our efforts to look upward and inward during the past 18 months. He has graciously protected our church, and we are excited about going forward into the blessing He has for us in the strength of what He has taught us.
The Elders are resolute in our unity and commitment to oneness in the Spirit. We covet your prayers as we pursue continued improvement in our structure and function as a board in 2014. Please join with us as we pray for continued gospel impact in and through our church. We are excited about the month of February with its marriage emphasis and our newest teaching series, Unstuck: Fresh Traction for Common Struggles. Our prayer emphasis, Harvest Prays 2014, will be weekly prayer meetings on Monday nights streamed to your homes online.
As we seek the Lord together as a church family in prayer, in our worship, and in His Word, we trust He will continue to work in and among us at Harvest Bible Chapel, for our good and for His glory.