My head has been spinning over the last two years at the shocking decisions made by so many people I respect. Who would have ever thought that John Piper would invite Rick Warren to Desiring God, or that The Gospel Coalition would say almost nothing publicly about their member Mark Driscoll's inexcusable behavior, or that James MacDonald would put his stamp of approval on the ministry of TD Jakes. Am I in the matrix? Has modern evagelicalism built a portal into an alternate reality? Have the real James MacDonald and John Piper been abducted by aliens and are currently being impersonated by shape shifting imposters? My friends still laugh at these theories but not too much anymore.
What is going on? I don't know the answer to that, but in the midst of all of this mayhem I have become greatly encouraged by the number of godly men in this country who have been galvanized to action and enlisted in the truth war. Perhaps Rob Bell fully removing his sheep suit was the catalyst for all this combativeness and I finally have something to thank him for. Whatever it is, the growing clamor of zeal by men who desire to earnestly contend for the "Once for all delivered faith", and oppose all other "gospels" is probably the most exciting development in the last twelve months.
One great example of this is Pastor Arvid Svendsen (sounds very Scandinavian) who has withdrawn his mega-church from James MacDonald's Harvest network and given a lengthy public statement as to why. Thank God for men like Arvid, may God bless his congregation for the stand he has taken, may godly men rally around him, and may his stand be an integral part of the much needed correction needed to good preachers who start to go maverick. Read on and be greatly encouraged . . .
March 7, 2012
An Important Message from the Elder Board of Harvest Bible Chapel New Lenox:
Our church began on January 1, 2003 as "Cornerstone Church" with the purpose to glorify God by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our community. On October 2, 2005, we joined with Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF) and became Harvest Bible Chapel New Lenox (HBCNL). We were excited to be HBF's first "transition church".
By God's grace, we have enjoyed many good times of fellowship and growth since our partnership with HBF. God has worked in our midst as we have determined to preach the Word of God, to call men and women to faith and repentance by the enablement of the Holy Spirit, and to trust God to do His work of drawing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by His grace and for His glory.
Decision to Disassociate with Harvest Bible Chapel Fellowship
As the Elder Board of HBCNL, we now come to a significant moment of change in regards to our affiliation with HBF. Over the past year and a half the elders of HBCNL have sensed an increasing shift away from the convictions and philosophy of ministry that were in place when we joined HBF in October, 2005. In light of these concerns, we are disassociating from Harvest Bible Fellowship, effective March 31, 2012. We will then assume our previous name (held from January 1, 2003 to October 2, 2005), "Cornerstone Church", and continue to serve the Lord together as an independent church.
Harvest Bible Chapel Ministry new distinctives that we oppose:
In order to be clear, greater detail concerning our differences with Harvest Bible Fellowship is necessary. Though we are not accusing Harvest Bible Fellowship or Pastor James MacDonald of abandoning the faith, we are convinced that they have drifted into error in a number of key ministry areas. That drift can be evidenced by at least three major changes in their convictions and philosophy of ministry:
1. A Growing Personality/Celebrity Pastor Centered Ministry
The Elder Board of HBCNL is troubled by HBF's commitment to the establishment of "multi-sites", also called "video campuses", in Chicagoland with Pastor MacDonald projected weekly on the video screen as the lead preacher. Multi-sites minimize the gifting of the Holy Spirit for vocational pastor/teachers to exercise "live" teaching and preaching, personally shepherding the flock, and directly practicing spiritual oversight. The multi-site model is foreign to the biblical model of ministry in the New Testament, as pastors and elders are told by Peter to "…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight…" (I Peter 5:2a). Our observations of HBF indicate that a corporate mentality is in place that seeks to promote Pastor MacDonald in a way we cannot support.
2. Pastor MacDonald's associations with "pastors" who hold to errant theologies
We do not oppose pastors having friendships with those who are not genuinely regenerate, as long as the goal is be a strong voice of the Gospel to the unregenerate minister. However, we are deeply concerned that HBF has been disrupted by associations and influences of men who hold to errant theologies and ministry distinctives.
A number of those associations include "pastors" given over to a hybrid prosperity/empowerment/love-over-doctrinal-precision posture. The resultant troubling actions, decisions, and statements from Pastor MacDonald demonstrate the negative impact of those associations. For example, Pastor MacDonald allowing prosperity teacher Steven Furtick to preach at HBC Rolling Meadows in August of 2011 is something that would not have happened five years ago at Harvest. Another example of influence was Pastor MacDonald's statement, "I am also excited to hear him (T.D. Jakes) state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring reformed world". T. D. Jakes is an empowerment/prosperity gospel preacher. Associations like these have brought about harmful influence. Further, despite Pastor MacDonald's claims to the contrary, the large majority of the public's perception of associations with errant pastors is that there is endorsement in belief and mission.
3. Lack of Discernment in the Elephant Room Discussions
It was learned in the Fall of 2011 that the January 25, 2012, "Elephant Room 2" (ER2) conference would host T.D. Jakes as one of the seven pastors invited to form a discussion panel. The conference was intended to address difficult ministry topics with the seven pastor panel. The announcement of T.D. Jakes' appearance at ER2 was publicly criticized by a number of godly pastors and evangelical leaders. The elder board of HBCNL was also unanimous in our strong disagreement with the Jakes ER2 invitation. As referenced above, Jakes is clearly associated with many TV stations and ministries that are steeped in the false teaching of the Prosperity Gospel/Word Faith Movement. That reality in itself made the ER2 invitation alarming.
Equally alarming is the fact that Jakes is ordained in the Oneness Pentecostal Church, which denies the Trinity. Rather than believing in the biblically correct view of God as one God eternally existing as three "persons", the Oneness Pentecostal church holds to the errant view that God is one God existing as three "manifestations". The Oneness Pentecostal view denies the biblical view of the Trinity, denies the co-eternality, co-existence, and co-equality of the Son and the Holy Spirit with God the Father, and instead claims that one God shows up in history in three different "manifestations".
When given the opportunity, the orthodox pastor must confront unbiblical teachings and doctrines:
"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
A large segment of the "evangelical church" has drifted away from strong adherence to biblical doctrines, sadly denigrating the precise and clear explanation of those doctrines. The current thinking among many preachers is that doctrinal precision should be laid aside, and love should be the priority in the church of Jesus Christ so that unity would be attained. The opposite is true. A high regard for biblical truth and the guarding of doctrinal precision is the basis of unity, as the Lord Jesus Christ prayed, "…sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth…" (John 17:17). The truth of the Scriptures clearly defined is the highest expression of love for the listener. Strict adherence to Biblical truth and doctrine, not doctrinal leniency, brings about the unity for which the Lord prayed.
Both Pastor Driscoll and Pastor MacDonald failed to address Jakes' prosperity gospel teaching at ER2. In fact, Jakes' prosperity gospel teaching was not publicly questioned or addressed at all. The reason for ignoring that entire area of false teaching at the ER2 is unknown, since we were told that we would be hearing about Jakes' views on the subject.
During the ER2 session with Pastor MacDonald and Pastor Driscoll, Jakes stated that he was not comfortable with the orthodox term "persons" or the modalistic term "manifestations". Specifically, Jakes stated, "My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word… 'manifest' instead of 'persons', which you describe as 'modalist', but I describe it as 'Pauline'."
Jakes then proceeded to make a case for the validity of the term "manifestations" to describe the Godhead based on I Timothy 3:16. However, the phrase Jakes referred to, "He was manifested in the flesh" found in I Timothy 3:16 is not referring to the essence of the Triune Godhead, but rather explains the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was deeply troubling that none of the other six pastors on the ER2 panel challenged Jakes' incorrect interpretation of I Timothy 3:16.
Jakes' view on the Trinity, is not only deficient, it is outside the realm of orthodoxy, and can only be labeled as heresy. Jakes urged that we not be too caught in those issues which were surrounded in mystery. Yet we read in Scripture that we must "…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints..." (Jude 3).
Though we are called to speak to the lost, the church is warned to never welcome the false teacher into any gathering so that his words are given any type of legitimacy:
"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." (2 John 10,11)
The Bible is clear about the stance one should take towards false teachers. T.D. Jakes' stated position on the Godhead is not an orthodox view of the Trinity. Jakes attempted to defend his position of the Trinity using language that is unique to the modalist who denies the Trinity. Unlike T.D. Jakes, no Trinitarian is uncomfortable with the word "persons" to describe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the one God of the Bible.
Ultimately, Jakes' position on the Trinity is not the issue. Rather, the problem is HBF and Pastor MacDonald's not correcting or rebuking the false teaching presented in ER2. Pastor MacDonald's doctrinal tolerance and leniency before, during, and after the ER2 is at the heart of our departure from HBF. Pastor MacDonald's subsequent defenses of the ER2 on his website and on Moody Radio lead us to conclude that this change in direction established is part of the future ministry of HBF. Grievously, doctrinal leniency and disregard for proper theological examination from the pastors present marked the event.
We have addressed our concerns with the leadership of HBF
We addressed our concerns with Kent Shaw and Bill Molinari on two separate occasions, and also had additional conversations. We expressed to them our deep disappointment with ER2. We repeatedly expressed the clear violation of Scripture that was taking place by giving T.D. Jakes a platform to espouse his errant theology concerning the Trinity and the false gospel and prosperity and empowerment that marks his ministry. During all meetings, both Kent Shaw and Bill Molinari were gracious and brotherly. Although the desire to work out our difficulties with HBF was present, it became clear that we could not continue to partner with HBF as directed by Pastor MacDonald.
What is our future direction?
In light of the decision to withdraw from Harvest Bible Fellowship, what is our direction for the future?
1. Independent Church
Our conviction is that we remain independent, with no denominational affiliation at this point. That decision does not mean that we will never form any association with a fellowship of churches in the future, but at this time, we will remain an independent church.
2. A "new" name
Our new name will be "Cornerstone Church", our original name when we began the ministry in 2003. The belief and mission of Cornerstone Church will be given over to the authority of the inspired Word of God, the grace of our Lord, and the n We are deeply committed to declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. we will through the ministry of the word, prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we will inform the community that we have changed our name, and will continue to meet in the same place, continuing to seek to obediently minister the word and reach out to the lost for the sake of the glory of Christ.
A new constitution
Legally, we must craft a new constitution, and make necessary legal requirements for the name change. Most of that work has been accomplished, our goal is to have all our necessary obligations completed by March 31, 2012. However, we are not dissolving as a church, we are simply dropping our affiliation. Transition to Cornerstone Church will take place during March 2012.
Please pray for our church as we continue to minister, and that God will be glorified in all that we do and say. Pray also for Pastor James MacDonald and HBF, that they would be attentive to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Sincerely in Christ,
Pastor Arvid Svendsen
Elder Board: Carl Pignotti, Don Howley, Steve Long, Dean Porter, Jim Schwab, Rex Stouffer
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