Harvest Bible Chapel letting Niles campus go independent, at a cost

Harvest Bible Chapel letting Niles campus go, but at a cost

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct that the Niles campus needs $1.1 million for a down payment to acquire the building and its contents at 7333 N. Caldwell Ave.

Harvest Bible Chapel is letting go of one of its seven campuses.

News that the Niles campus can become independent elicited applause and cheers Thursday night from a crowd of several hundred people in that site's sanctuary.

But independence comes at a cost, in the words of Pastor Greg Bradshaw, who leads the Crystal Lake campus and also oversees teaching for the whole organization.

The Niles campus - part of Harvest Bible Chapel since 2004 - will have to pay $5.1 million for the building and contents at 7333 N. Caldwell Ave., church leaders announced to the Niles' worshippers Thursday night.

Campus pastor Mohan Zachariah, who has been stationed at Niles since 2006, will remain its pastor.

Lou Pasetes was a member of the Niles congregation back when it was Crossway Baptist and had not joined Harvest. He said Thursday night he is confident the congregation can raise the money.

"Brace yourself, church. We are in a very good season," he told the crowd at the end of the meeting.

Zachariah also told the crowd, "It's really important we get back to giving." The congregation will be seeking a loan from a bank to buy the property, and he said it will be important to show any banks the congregation has stable income.

Bradshaw said no money is currently allocated for the down payment.

Bradshaw said discussion of the idea began in February. The credit union to which Harvest owes about $39 million approves of the plan, he said.

The money from the sale of the Niles campus will likely be used to pay down that debt and may allow the church to refinance it to save money, he said.

There was no mention of Harvest's former senior pastor, James MacDonald, or direct reference to the controversies swirling around the church recently. The church in February fired MacDonald after "highly inappropriate recorded comments made by Pastor MacDonald were given to media and reported."

The clips purportedly are of MacDonald talking of a plan to put child pornography on the computer of Christianity Today magazine's chief executive officer and alleging an affair between two staff members.

MacDonald has requested binding arbitration to settle some financial matters with the church, mostly about ownership of the radio/TV "Walk In the Word" ministry.

Pasetes spoke only of "a very, very turbulent, tempestuous time in our Harvest church. But God in his goodness will really lift us up out of that storm."

Harvest's six other campuses will remain, Bradshaw said.

Brian Laird, chairman of the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel, said the Harvest staff and elders have started talking about whether it should change its name.

And the Niles congregation, once it is independent, is of course free to call itself something different if it wants, he said.

MacDonald founded Harvest in 1988 in Rolling Meadows. Niles was its first off-site facility. Zachariah said it was always intended for Niles to become an independent congregation.

The building was built by Belden Avenue Regular Baptist Church in the early 1970s, when it moved out of Chicago. At some point, it changed its name to Crossway Baptist.

Membership dwindled to a low of less than 80 from more than 300, and a member who had also worshipped at Harvest suggested it join the larger organization.

  People clap as church leaders announce the intention of the Niles campus to become an independent congregation as Harvest Bible Chapel's Niles campus hosted a "family meeting" Thursday. Patrick Kunzer/
  From left, Harvest Bible Chapel elder Brian Laird, campus pastor Mohan Zachariah, lead ministry pastor Greg Bradshaw, and elder Al Miranda announce the intention of the Niles campus to become an independent congregation during a "family meeting" Thursday in Niles. Patrick Kunzer/
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