Recent discussions among our Elders have revealed how our lack of regular disclosure to the congregation has led to confusion and even criticism. With this document we initiate our intent to communicate frequently the policies and principles by which the Elders govern our church and hold our senior staff accountable.
1: Elders and Accountability The Elders of our church maintain accountability through frequent interaction with our deacons and senior staff, which ensures the biblical fidelity and fiscal integrity of people and ministries associated with Harvest Bible Chapel. Undergirding that serious responsibility is the collective awareness of our direct accountability to Jesus Christ.
2: Elder Structure In the summer of 2009, to ensure that the trials of 2006-2008* would result in a stronger church going forward, the Elders established a task force to study like-minded churches of our size and return with recommendations. Their 21-page report, presented in September 2009, detailed an extensive expansion of both the number and skill diversity of biblically-qualified men. Much of the report was adopted by the board and has facilitated a greater effectiveness in the Elder role as stated above. *Many sermons and family chats during those years detailed for our church family the latest news on the construction problems and its financial implications. Details are also included in these excerpts from the books When Life is Hard, 2010, and Vertical Church, published in 2012 and distributed to Harvest families August 4-5, 2012.
3: Financial Policy Since 2006 we have developed and implemented an extensive revision of our financial systems and controls. Our accounting department employs several CPAs, which, at the Elders’ direction, established an audit committee, a finance committee, and a compensation committee, each entirely overseen by lay leaders with expertise in these areas. Our auditor, CapinCrouse, has repeatedly affirmed that Harvest Bible Chapel’s financial statements are prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and meet or exceed standards for financial integrity and accountability. 2011 Audit
4: Debt Since 2009 our Elders have mandated “no new debt,” and we are currently on track to be debt free by 2020, by paying back our loans at a faster pace than even our lenders require. Adhering to long-taught financial principles, at no time have we spent more than 30% of our income on interest and principal payments, including all the additional principal payments that have been made. By year-end 2012, our debt will be $59.5MM; by 2015, $43.3MM; by 2018, $19.4MM. Click here to see how our historic trends, continuing as the Lord allows, make our goal of debt-free by 2020 reasonable. At current rates of debt reduction, if the church stays at its current size, we would be debt-free by 2023. Either timeline exceeds lender expectations.
5: Financial Strength Our finance team feels blessed to report that the church’s existing assets are approximately $150MM, with $90MM of equity. For seven consecutive years, giving has exceeded and expenditures have been below the elder-approved budget. The generosity of the Lord’s people is a trust that the church’s financial team takes very seriously. Auditor’s Letter
6: 5G The purpose of the 5G campaign is to increase the impact of Harvest Bible Chapel upon a world greatly in need of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We have challenged ourselves to live as glorifying, growing, gracious, generous, and grateful disciples. The current pledges total $30MM, of which $25MM is designated for ministry development, facility needs across our campuses, and church planting around the world. The additional $5MM is available for debt reduction but is not part of the 2020 debt-free plan presented above. Campaign projects progress only as gifts are received.
7: Elephant Room 2 Before Elephant Room 2 even took place, January 25, 2012, Pastor James informed the Elders that ER2 could become a source of confusion to our members and friends. A potential unintended consequence might be to cast doubt on our church leadership’s long-established conviction against prosperity teaching. Hoping that ER2 would actually clarify our stand on this and other important doctrinal matters, we decided together to proceed with the conference. In the February 2012 Elder meeting, we agreed that never again could we allow a breadth of association to bring confusion to our own church, or to any of our pastors or churches within Harvest Bible Fellowship. The possibility of a third Elephant Room remains in doubt, and any plan to proceed would again need advance approval by our Elders and additionally, in the future, Fellowship pastors. Important lessons were learned about the priority of our primary relationships.
8: Compensation The compensation of our senior pastor and all senior staff at Harvest Bible Chapel is governed by a formal Compensation Committee, made up of our Elder Board Chairman, our church Treasurer, and our Audit Committee Chairman, with representation from our auditor, CapinCrouse. Salary review begins with a consideration of responsibility, training, and experience, as well as objective review criteria. Salary ranges are based on salary survey information from like-minded church ministries of similar size and function, and from the experience of our auditing firm that serves over 300 churches. All salaries set by the Compensation Committee are toward the middle of the ranges supplied by the auditor and the survey. Auditor’s Compensation Letter
9: Growing in Christ For more than 24 years our pastor has weekly laid before us the entirety of his life, strengths and weaknesses together, with transparency and humility. He is tireless in his pursuit of truth and, at times, though much less in recent years, can be impatient and abrasive. The Elders are encouraged to see that, in line with his teaching, James is growing in the balance of grace and truth that Christ exemplified (John 1:14). The Elders are also encouraged that, in matters of lifestyle and personal liberty, James has committed to clear parameters established by the Elder Board.
10: Multi-site We are a seven-campus church. Each of the six campuses that have followed the Rolling Meadows location is a miracle story—not a plan, not a strategic design, not sought, but wonderfully provided. The financial investment in these campuses is more than compensated for by the spiritual impact in the lives of people. Watch the story of this couple who attend one of our Chicago campuses.
The Elders commit that in the coming weeks and months, we will do much to communicate to our church family the systems and policies we operate under to strengthen your confidence in our ministry. These 10 statements are not an attempt to conclude our work, only to summarize and document our current status and practices.
Our plans for the immediate future:
• Produce a video series on the financial integrity, accountability, and transparency of Harvest Bible Chapel.
• Implement a whistle blower policy that allows staff to anonymously, without consequence, report variances from scripture or our staff handbook.
• Conduct an Elder retreat to review, update, and document the governance policies of our church.
• Conduct a thorough (1 Timothy 5:19) review of our church’s history since 2004 in search of any failure or offense in need of repentance and reconciliation, with special emphasis given to former church leaders no longer worshiping with us. Our Elders, Pastor James, along with the remaining elders from 2006-2009, are actively preparing to seek a God-honoring resolution in every way possible from that difficult season in our church’s history.
In the months ahead:
• Preach a series on money in the life of a Christian according to God’s Word.
• Establish a system for regular communication from the Elders to the congregation.
• Host a session during a weekend service in which the Elders disclose what the Lord is teaching us during this season.
The Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel