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Big Problems with Our Church Leadership??

July 21, 2011

Amazing how quickly a problem in the church can draw conversation and criticism from church members. I thought that headline would attract some readers, but isn’t that kinda sad? How about taking time to read about a pastor who is thrilled with and blessed by the Elders and Pastors of his church and how much joy he finds in serving with them?

Kathy and I had an incredible night this week with the Elders and Campus Pastors of our church (about 70 people). It was an amazing time of laughter and worship and food and prayer and throwing people in the pool and thinking together how blessed we are to be in ministry partnership. Honestly, I’ve had a ‘spiritual high’ since that night, and I have been asking myself “why?”

1) Gifted and committed. I think it was Lyn Donald (our assistant Senior Pastor’s wife) who observed how blessed she felt to be in the company of such a large number of incredibly dedicated servants of Christ. Sometimes we see people with commitment but little capacity or gifting. Other times we observe Christians with incredible kingdom potential, but they are doing so little for the Lord. Harvest is blessed to have leaders who are totally passionate about and deeply gifted for ministry leadership.

2) Serious and FUN :) The bbq had times of incredible ‘bend at the waist’ laughter as we teased friends and tossed swimmers, but we also shared a wonderful time of prayer and worship. Kathy and I were so blessed to have the leaders gather around us and pray for our refreshment during the coming weeks of study and vacation away from weekly message preparation. I have been in a lot of serious meetings and I have enjoyed many people who know how to play, but again the power is in the combo! I love that our leaders live like they are in a life and death battle for the souls of men, but play like they know their Father in heaven is “rejoicing over them with singing”  (Zephaniah 3:17).

3) Authentic Love for Jesus. As the evening began to wind down I stopped circulating and settled in by the fire with a random group of both men and women leaders. You can learn much about an Elder from what they talk about.  No one mentioned our record-breaking offerings in July, or how the church attendance is up 1600 people over this time last summer, or the nearly 300 baptized last Sunday. With no prompting or direction the conversation turned quickly to to Jesus Christ. Personal testimony over the individual lives Christ is impacting including their own, excitement over opportunities to shepherd particular hurting ones, remembrance of God’s faithful guidance through past leadership trials, delight in specific ways to give Christ glory through effective ministry. None of this was forced or contrived.  The conversation about serving Jesus Christ at our church and the joy we find in doing it together was as natural as breathing, each delighting in the report another gave. Wow wow wow. I needed that, Lord. Forgive me for allowing my focus to be on the demanding and disgruntled just because they make the most noise. Thanks for turning my eyes to some of the ‘Navy Seals,’ and for the reminder of the joy we find in serving You on the same team. I could mention some of their names but they would not want that. It’s not about, ‘Am I known?’ or ‘Do people give me the attention I think I deserve?’ It’s about serving Jesus Christ on a team, persevering through difficulty, not being derailed by preference and preserving the “unity of the Spirit” together (Ephesians 4:2).

Kathy and I LOVE LOVE LOVE the team of leaders who serve Christ by serving the people at Harvest Bible Chapel.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when the brothers (and sisters) dwell together in UNITY!” (Psalm 133:1)

Praise GOD!

(My guess is that some of them will comment here expressing their perspective.) :)


Read comments:

  • bill (cycleguy)Jul.21.2011

    Love reading stories like this. Thanks for sharing it Pastor James. You are truly blessed!

  • Brett LutchmanJul.21.2011

    No, it’s not sad that people would be attracted to this title.
    Upon laying eyes on this title, the first and immediate thoughts that went through my mind was “My goodness, the most absolute one man and ministry I respect the most is having problems with leadership, what will happen to all the people I sent to this site? What do I tell them?

    Upon landing on this page and reading further, I was both relieved and insulted at the same time.

    Relieved that the misleading title is actually false, and insulted that this wave of emotions suddenly over-took me as I immediately thought of others I sent to this site and not of my own juicy gossiping needs that needed to be fulfilled.

    This title is deceptive and has the appearance of a cunningly devised fable.

    It’s almost like using the word “Sex” to sell a car.

    James MacDonald Reply:

    You need more time with us, if you did you would understand our humor. No intention to offend.
    Grace to you,

    Brett Reply:

    I believe you and now know that there is a missing piece that I am not aware of.
    However, in context to the public World Wide Web where everything is open for ridicule and misunderstandings, I believe this may have been a result of the same.
    If this was a sermon title in your church, the context would immediately be accepted as opposed to the contrast of public interpretation.

    Far be it from me with malice intentions to rebuke an elder from a self-righteous soapbox, while hiding anonymously behind a computer.

    My love for you and your ministry is far greater then you’ll ever know, and you may never be aware of this until we make Heaven our home.

    Your voice has caused more acts or repentance in my own life in the last 20 years for only the few 3 years I’ve been listening to you.

    I follow you on Twitter also. At one point, I followed about 12 Christian leaders and unfollowed 11. Guess who I’m still following? I guess you could say I got tired of the fluff.

    Why do I follow you? Simple, I follow you because you follow Christ.
    I also follow you because you get me angry and at times have turned off your broadcasts because of the conviction that was coming through the speakers.

    I follow you because you most resemble Christ to me on the Earth and other then the Word of God, your voice challengers me the most.

    Grace be to you. Thank you for your response and God speed.

    Stella Reply:

    Perhaps you meant “convicted” instead of “insulted.” :)

    Brett Reply:

    No, I know what I meant and was very precise. I meant insulted.

  • LauraJul.21.2011

    I have the blessing of working with many of these leaders on a daily basis…they truly “adorn the doctrine of God!”(Titus 2:10) not trying to outshine, but simply to draw attention to HIM! I pray that the Lord will protect our leaders, constantly sharpening and shaping them, preserving their families, strengthening their faith… that our church might be set apart, to HIS Glory!
    Thanks for the reminder and encouragement about all that God is doing in and through our leaders!

  • wlfldyJul.21.2011

    To be fair, the headline did catch my eye, but I feel compelled to tell you why. I am sad to say there isn’t a Harvest Church near me. I am a part of your fellowship because I listen to your radio broadcast and i visit your website and read your blog. Recently, I left the church I’ve been attending and am searching for another church. In the meantime, I rely heavily on your site and radio for my spiritual walk. I think the Lord put you in my path for a safety net for a while and I’m so thankful for that. So, since I have no visual insight of Harvest, the headline caught my eye because I am very careful that what I seek for spiritual reference is safe and not suffering. I think I realized at the same time that you wouldn’t air dirty laundry like that either, so I had to see where this message was going. And shame on you, (I’m teasing of course) that you immediately assume we’re gossip mongers!

  • Craig SteinerJul.21.2011

    It was a joy to be together as leaders and spouses across our campuses. What a sweet time together in the LORD. Thank you, Pastor James and Kathy, for your generous hospitality. Camille and I grateful to be a part of the team and glad you are my senior pastor.

  • LaurieJul.21.2011

    I think our pastor/church would feel the same. Wonderful group of godly men so desiring only what the Lord would have us do and be.

  • Karen HelmerJul.21.2011

    Same story here at Harvest Indy West! We are so blessed to be serving with godly men and women who want nothing more than to exalt the name of Jesus. It doesn’t get any better than this! :)

  • BrianJul.21.2011

    In the summer of 2001, I started getting involved at Harvest. As I met the staff, one of the most attractive observations was the combination between serious and fun. You could be talking about a critical eternal issue and then be participating in a prank or game in the same hour! Now, being on staff for over seven years, this balance helps us persevere during the extreme ups and downs of ministry. We are serious because the Great Commission is our mission with an eternal impact, but our reception of the Gospel gives us a joy and levity about life that people need to see and we need in our lives. I have met lots of church staff people who are serious about the Gospel, but very few who understand and live the combination between serious and fun. James models this (you can probably guess who started throwing people in the pool first!)in many ways and I am thankful for his leadership in these things.

  • Marvin BaltodanoJul.21.2011

    Pastor James. I. Needed. This. Thank you.

  • JRowJul.21.2011

    I was able to avoid getting tossed in the pool, I could not avoid the sense of awe at how God had brought so many gifted and humble leaders together in one place to serve so humbly.
    I know I’ll be the first target next pool party, but for now I can live in the moment of victory!

  • claraJul.21.2011

    so thankful that you can experience the joy of true worship with your leaders. i am currently in a church with leaders that are so disunified and have some very personal sin and character issues that i feel like i am drowning….
    i long for a church in our area like yours.

  • Matt SJul.21.2011

    At Harvest there is def. an uncommon group of passionate disciples who are serious about Jesus but don’t take themselves too seriously. Rare. Refreshing. Contagious.

    FYI- I clicked to read the post bc i thought a form of congregationalism had been found at one of the campuses. :-)

  • Jared CoxJul.21.2011

    The Holy Spirit present, fruit obvious, its the way ministry should be. Praise God for His grace!

  • DGJul.21.2011

    As I texted to James the next day, the night of fellowship and fun with the HBC leaders was encouraging, refreshing to my soul, energizing to me in general and exactly what I needed in a busy week. I trust that it was pleasing to our Lord. What a blessing to serve alongside these passionate shepherds of the flock as we continue to be amazed by God at work!

  • Jan WalkerJul.21.2011

    I love our church and all the committed servants that work and worship here. This was a FUN read! Thanks Pastor James!

  • StellaJul.21.2011

    LIVE like you’re in a life and death battle for the souls of men, but PLAY like you know your Father in heaven is “rejoicing over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). :) Excellent MO.

  • AndyJul.22.2011

    Sounds like a great evening. The way my alledged mind works though I was wondering if your readership was down. Lol.

    Amazing email from your mother in your message today by the way. Would be rather applicable to your blog post I think. After a rather ( re:extremely! ) rebellious youth I worked in a nursing home for seven years with total care patients. The lessons in dignity, grace, humor, and blessedness, are things I’ll carry with me through my life. Thanks be to God.

  • Michael SustJul.22.2011

    What a joy to read your blog. As a Harvest pastor, I knew immediately that the answer to your title (question) is, “Not at Harvest.” I would say the same thing to Brett as you did in your first response: “Come on in, brother! Spend some time with us, get on board to experience that which is so often lacking in church leadership elsewhere.” We also have this brotherhood among the Harvest leaders in St. Louis and I bet that most, if not all Harvest pastors would share the same exact testimony about their leaders…
    Having experienced the other side in all the churches I served at previously as an associate, I wonder if the secret begins with the fact that none of our leaders were voted in by men, but rather appointed based on the qualities that you described in your blog.
    God’s blessings to you! I am grateful for you and the Fellowship! You all help shape me every day to be a little closer to Jesus imitating those your blog describes. Many of your leaders trained our leaders – and I can tell you, there is definitely a contagious element!
    Your Friend in St. Louis.

  • BarryJul.23.2011

    I figured you’d throw somebody in the pool, but I didn’t expect it to be before dinner. :-)
    Appreciated the balance of worship, prayer, food, fun, and, of course, FIRE (something primal about that). Atmosphere was more “family” than “team”. Great to play together.

  • AnnJul.26.2011

    I so wish for that Pastor James! I accepted Christ as my Savior 6 years ago and I am heading towards my 50s. I have tried to get connected with a believer’s church here in London, Ont. but find it impossible to break into the Christian community. I am also divorced with 3 kids still at home which makes it a challenge for many Christians. I have been to 3 churches and couldn’t even get into a small group. I long to do life with other believers my age. Why is it so difficult?

    Jerry Reply:

    Ann, did you know that there is a Harvest Bible Chapel in London Ontario? Although my family and I live in the GTA and are a part of Harvest in Markham, we’ve been to London before and LOVE Pastor Norm and the team there. Definitely worth checking out!

    Ann Reply:

    Thank-you and yes I have been attending Harvest and I have been waiting to get into a small group there for about 7 months. They will be building a new church in the very near future to the far Southwest end of the city. Unfortunately I live in the Northeast. For me to continue to travel that far I need to be connected. It has been discouraging for us.

    Michelle Reply:


    For three weeks your message has been in my mind, so I’ve been praying that the Lord would lead you to where fellowship awaits.

    Rest assured, the blessings Pastor James talked about are available for those of us gifted for followership just as much those gifted for leadership.

    I had similar difficulties finding a group. I was widowed in my thirties, left with two small children. My desire was to group together with other parents who were raising children, but they were all married and reaching that first decade mark and more interested in protecting their marriages, so they politely directed me to a group of singles. That group, however, was mostly twenty-somethings more interested in dating and a slightly older woman with children didn’t seem to fit. The women’s group met during the day, but I had to work to provide for my family.

    The happy ending is that eventually the Lord led me to a great group of people of all ages who meet together with the common goal of bringing glory to God – no matter what our age, status, or circumstance, and the fellowship flows from this.

    I’ll be praying for you.

    Ann Reply:

    Thank-you Michelle for your encouragement.
    I guess I feel as if I am taking 3 steps forward and 2 steps back and sometimes I feel as if I am going nowhere. I had hoped people in God’s church would be more welcoming. At my age it is difficult to meet Christians and as a single mom I live on a strict budget. I think the attitude in Canada is somewhat different. I was placed in a group at Harvest here in London but all the people in the group were 20 years my senior except for the group leaders who were a few years older than my oldest kids. It was not a good fit for me. You cannot do life with people with such a vast age difference. They are at a totally different stage of life. I am going in to see the pastor so I am hoping to get some ideas from him.
    I may also try some other churches again as I find the music incredibly loud where I have been going. It makes it almost impossible for me (and for my daughter) to worship God.
    I want to move forward and continue to grow in my faith so I will just have to find other ways to do so.
    Thank-you for your kindness to a complete stranger and for your prayers.

  • LoriJul.27.2011

    I was not offended at all by the title. I was intrigued by it. I know that whatever pastor James has to say is something worth listening to. His character and integrity and love and passion for Jesus Christ allow me to trust that whatever he has to share is something we need to hear. Thanks Pastor James. It is such a joy to know of the joy and energy and devotion to Jesus you and your other leaders have. God bless.

  • RachaelAug.01.2011

    Psalm 119:165,NASB, “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.”

    KJV, “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”

    Iron sharpening iron is different than getting offended. In our world of social media, of which I’m a fan, I find it interesting that we can get our drawers in a wad over the smallest issue. Aren’t there WAY more things to get upset over than a title to a blog? It was a good, encouraging blog. So what if the title piqued my interest enough for me to read it? I don’t know, maybe it’s because I have been in the church long enough to have witnessed many petty disagreements that have no Kingdom purpose . . . but the neighb in which I live needs my humbleness and God’s message, not my opinions . . . just my opinion. LOL;)

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