Targeting Other Churches
I have been reading up on the controversies going on at Harvest Bible Chapel and its affiliates on https://theelephantsdebt.com/author/theelephantsdebt/ and I am not surprised at what I see. I attended the Naperville branch when it was meeting at Glenbard South High School. I can still vividly remember the pastor making the point that HBC was a church for people dissatisfied with their own church. I have since learned about their reputation for cannibalizing other churches in order to build their own congregations.
I also remember the pastor making an issue of the fact that the congregation has no input into decision making. Right away I began to wonder about leadership accountability. Then I learned that the founder of the organization has a half million dollar salary in addition to hundreds of thousands in other funds that he has come by questionably. The congregation was young, self-absorbed, and affluent. In fact, one Sunday morning I watched as a member pulled up in his pickup towing what must have been a thirty-five foot yacht. He undoubtedly was headed for an afternoon outing on Lake Michigan after the service. It reminded me of Isaiah 58: 13-14: “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth.“
I got the sense that Harvest Bible Chapel was all about kingdom building. Not building the kingdom of Christ, but the kingdom of the pastor and his leadership team and that meant accommodating its members’ pleasures.
Getting Theology Right
Since that time I have discovered reformed theology through the preaching of men like R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Allistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Steve Lawson, Sinclair Ferguson and other godly men. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!! I learned the doctrines of grace including total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the preservation of the saints. I learned about the sovereignty of God in salvation, that from beginning to end it is entirely His work.
I have found that the preachers who belong to this tradition all have certain things in common. They are keenly aware of their own sins and shortcomings. They are not self-promoters. They preach a gospel of repentance unto faith. And they are all tender, kind-hearted, compassionate shepherds rather than powerful corporate executive types. They honor the sabbath to keep it holy and encourage their members to do the same thing.
The Joy of Christ-Centered Worship
And the greatest blessing of all occurred just over a year and a half ago when my wife and I found Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Pastor Craig Troxel, just a few short miles up Naperville Boulevard from Highpoint Church where that former Harvest Bible pastor now has his own mega church. Every Sunday is a banquet of feasting on the Word of God and lifting up Christ in worship. There are no big egos on staff. Worship is simple and unadorned by fancy media presentations or strutting pastors. The word of God takes precedence through preaching, music, prayer and the sacraments. Every element of the service is directed upward, not outward.
I would encourage you to listen to one of our pastor’s sermons. You will find your heart stirred by a greater appreciation of your own sinfulness and a deeper understanding of the grace of God towards us in Jesus Christ. You won’t hear a single “how to” sermon on dealing with life’s issues, but you will find a deeper devotion for Christ that will cause all other things to fall into place naturally as subservient to salvation (1)
Please give a listen to this message and you will understand what I am talking about. https://youtu.be/2-CZCjGxdI4
(1) Heidelberg Question 1:
Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?
Answer. That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live.