Today Harvest Bible Chapel is a family of Christ-adoring worshipers on multiple campuses throughout Chicagoland.We started as a group of 18 people, who gathered from five different churches across the northwest suburbs and desired to form a new church.
Together, they developed a vision for this church, which grew into the Four Pillars—Unapologetic Preaching, Unashamed Adoration, Unceasing Prayer, and Unafraid Witness. Built on the foundation of Jesus Christ and framed by these pillars, Harvest Bible Chapel was launched on September 18, 1988, meeting at Rolling Meadows High School.
First Church Home – Rolling Meadows
Harvest Bible Chapel began meeting the Rolling Meadows High School building. After seven years, the growing congregation of 500 raised funds in six weeks to secure a former warehouse at 800 S Rohlwing Road in Rolling Meadows. The first service in this new house of God was held on September 10, 1995.
First Church Plant – Harvest Bible Fellowship
In March of 2000, Harvest Bible Chapel adopted the mission to establish Gospel-believing, Bible-teaching churches. The church’s vision was to plant “10 churches in 10 years.” By 2002, our church-planting ministry Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF) was formed, and ten churches were planted—in just four years! We celebrated God’s blessing of 100 church plants in just 14 years in 2014.
HBF disbanded in 2017. And after a brief pause in this mission, Harvest is returning to planting more and better churches by raising up more and better Christian leaders across Chicagoland, America, and around the world.
Campuses Across Chicagoland
As the Lord continued to increase our congregation in depth and number, we outgrew the Rolling Meadows Campus. After a long season of fasting and prayer, in 2003 we were given the Elgin Campus. Though valued at $53 million, through the generosity of the Green family, the founders of Hobby Lobby, we received the entire property for one dollar. The Elgin Campus held their first service in September 2004 with over 800 in attendance and has become the church home to more than 1000 worshipers every week, as well as the home of our Christian school.
As our leaders prayed and sought to plant churches in the city of Chicago, a small congregation with a struggling church in Niles was looking for new life. At their final congregational meeting, they became a Harvest Bible Chapel—gifting their building to us. The Niles Campus became our third location in 2004. As of 2020, they now gather as City Line Church.
In 2001, the Crystal Lake Campus began as the second Harvest church plant then transitioned to a campus, officially launching on September 1, 2007. We dedicated a new building as the new home for the Crystal Lake Campus in 2008. This campus is a close-knit family of Christ-followers who are deeply committed to living out the gospel and seeing God use their church to impact their community.
Our inaugural ministry in the heart of Chicago began on September 20, 2009, with a mobile campus that met for worship on Sunday nights at a school in Wicker Park. In September of 2012, we experienced another provision of God, in the form of the Scottish Rite Cathedral—a historical landmark we reclaimed for the gospel in the heart of Chicago’s Gold Coast—which became the Chicago Cathedral Campus.
As another new, unforeseen door opened to bring Harvest to the Aurora area, 200 people from the Elgin Campus were sent south, opening as the Aurora Campus on January 23, 2011. They began by gathering in an unused TV studio. In April 2016, Harvest acquired a permanent church facility in Aurora to allow the Aurora Campus to continue to grow, both in number and effectiveness in reaching people for Christ.
Another campus grew out of the prayers and intercession of a core group in Chicago’s North Shore. A group began meeting and praying together in 2011. On April 8, 2012, their desire became reality as the North Shore Campus launched its first service at the Winnetka Community House. Over time, the North Shore church family found they needed a place for weekday ministries. Through prayer and provision, a permanent location for our North Shore Campus was found in Highland Park, in September of 2015.
One church on six campuses serving together in this purpose: to glorify God and fulfill the Great Commission! We have seen God continue to change lives through the people and ministries of our church.
2002 Camp Harvest
Having experienced the unique life-changing work that God does when we interrupt our typical routines, our leaders began searching the Midwest for land suitable toward building a camp, or property with an existing camp. After two years of searching without success, a generous supporter offered Harvest her property—650 beautiful, wooded acres on a lake in Newaygo, Michigan—and Camp Harvest was launched on July 28, 2002. There have been countless decisions made for Christ at Camp Harvest, along with the immeasurable life-transforming impact on countless students, men, women, and families. In 2021, Camp Harvest was sold to a ministry to continue the maintenance and ongoing work of ministry to young people, youth ministry, and camp events.
2004 Harvest Christian Academy
The size of the Elgin Campus allowed us to fulfill a dream: A preschool through grade 12 Christian school, to help us implant the truths of God’s Word into the hearts of young people five days a week in addition to the weekend.
Harvest Christian Academy currently has more than 500 students, more than 60 staff members, and continues to move forward with a high leadership focus. They are increasing in excellence in academics and athletics, and all that God has in store for the next chapter.
Vertical Church Band and Vertical Worship
In 2012, after several decades of developing the worship culture at Harvest, the Vertical Church Band was born. Since then, the output of Christ-adoring songs from various worship team members has continued to accelerate. Our musicians have taken to heart the mission, core, and purpose of Vertical Church music: To write songs of ascription for the church to use in worshiping Christ around the world.
Vertical Church Band released four albums through Essential Records: Live Worship from Vertical Church in 2012, The Rock Won’t Move in 2013, Church Songs in 2015, and Frontiers in 2016—with the last two albums peaking at #1 on the Christian Billboard chart. VCB became Vertical Worship and currently has more than 20 songs in the CCLI’s Top 500 Songs Sung in US Churches, including “Open Up the Heavens” and “Yes, I Will.”
Continued Growth and Expanded Ministry
God has shown great favor and grace to Harvest Bible Chapel, allowing us to plant churches, host in thriving men’s, women’s events, and student gatherings, and creating ministries centering around outreach in our communities.
Since beginning it’s training center, Harvest Bible Chapel has helped established over 193 church plants across the country and around the world.
Celebrating More Than 30 Years of Ministry!
In preparation for the milestone anniversary of 30 years, it seemed fitting to host all our campuses together for Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the Sears Centre Arena. Thousands came and all seven campuses hosted these spectacular services all at one location! We praise God as many heard the Good News that weekend.
In celebration, we hosted Summer Revival at our Elgin campus. All our campuses gathered together for three consecutive Saturdays of the summer – Ravinia style. The official anniversary date was September 18, 2018. We rejoice in God’s faithfulness to us the first 30 years!
Change in Leadership
After much review, prayer, and discussion before the Lord, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel released Pastor James MacDonald from his position as Senior Pastor and Elder of the church in February 2019. This moved the church into a season of transitional leadership for the next 27 months.
2020 Church Online – Covid-19 Response
Covid…from the start of the pandemic and lockdowns, the Worship and Creative Teams busied themselves with recordings, writing coronavirus updates, and developing worship environments that would be both accessible and God-honoring in the height of the pandemic.
Having the equipment available to produce, record, and stream the services completely online, Harvest was able to continue to preach God’s Word unapologetically and worship unashamedly.
Gathering during this time was unique. The congregation of Harvest Bible Chapel is not a church with small groups, but a church of small groups. Small group leaders, children’s staff and volunteers, and many others were committed to creating ways to safely and faithfully “meet” together.
After six months exclusively online, we returned to in person services in September 2020.
2020 – Hope Center Begins
As shortages in food and hygiene items started to grow in the Chicago community as well as widespread layoffs, Harvest’s Compassion ministry expanded. Both the Rolling Meadows and Elgin Campuses started food drives for the community to gather and distribute resources during the pandemic. Now, four of Harvest Bible Chapel’s campuses have Hope Centers to provide food and other resources to families in across Chicagoland to provide help and hope found only in Jesus.
Learn more at harvesthopecenter.org.
2021 – New Lead Teaching Pastor, Dr. Jeff Bucknam
In April of 2021, following an extensive search and urgent prayer, the Elders of Harvest Bible Chapel announced the new Lead Teaching Pastor to be Dr. Jeff Bucknam. The Elders and the search team felt unified in their decision and confident in God’s hand in providing the Bucknam’s to our church family. Watch Video.
Harvest Bible Chapel looks forward to the future as we continue training up ministry leaders, pastors and church plants that seek to fulfill the Great Commission in Matthew 8:28. We have partnered with Grace Theological Seminary and Chicago Partnership to move onward in equipping leaders to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Whatever we do as a church family, this is God’s work among us – this is His church and His mission, to the glory of Jesus Christ. You are loved!”