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October 27, 2020
James MacDonald - When a Wolf Tries to Come Back Into the Sheepfold
By Anthony Wade
James MacDonald is back, unrepentant and ready to devour the sheep once again...
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?"- Galatians 2:11-14 (ESV)
Because we have been raised in a cult of personality purpose driven church system, we idolize our pastors. We do not usually realize this and it becomes wholly visible when people react poorly to pastoral criticism or when one falls from grace. Ted Haggard used to rule the evangelical world railing from the pulpit against homosexuality while having a decades long affair with a male prostitute, while using crystal meth. Haggard lost his 12,000 per week church (2006) but simply reopened another in the same state where he currently still is a pastor. Tullian Tchividjian? He is a pastor again because he doesn't think there is anything wrong with having an affair with a congregant as long as she consents. Mark Driscoll? Seriously? This man steals $250,000 in tithe money to promote his new book by gaming the NY Times best seller list and then just slinks away to avoid discipline and start a new church in Arizona, leaving behind 15,000 bloodied sheep in Seattle. That brings us to James MacDonald. I like James MacDonald. I used to receive his email devotionals. So it was not easy to first report on this two years ago:
"It details decades of financial malfeasance committed by James McDonald to the tune of having his church once fall 70 million in debt while he was receiving a 40% pay increase to $350,000. Tales of a Mark Driscoll-esque power grab where McDonald expanded his board from 12 to 30 so they would have less individual power. Publicly admitted gambling problems from McDonald after railing against gambling from the pulpit. Accusing three such elders of being "satanic to the core" publicly because they had the temerity to ask for a line item budget of expenses. I know this much beloved, when there is this much smoke there is usually a house on fire." -- Anthony Wade (November 2018)
This turned out to be very prescient as MacDonald was caught on tape with a local shock jock saying he wanted to plant child pornography on the computer of a reporter from Christianity Today who had dared to expose his abuses. Harvest Bible Chapel summarily fired him and declared he was no longer biblically qualified for ministry. Here was the official statement from Harvest Church and their elders, who worked directly with MacDonald:
'In a statement released Sunday (Nov. 3), the church elders found MacDonald was prone to anger, "had a pattern of improperly exercising positional and spiritual authority over others to his own advantage" and sought to profit from the church's ministry. "Because of these findings, James was biblically disqualified from the position of Elder, meaning he did not meet the spiritual standards to which a Harvest Bible Chapel Elder is held," the statement read. "The Bible does not teach that disqualification from ministry is permanent; however, with the scope of the damage caused by his behavior, James will not be able to serve again as an Elder or Pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel."'(November 2019)
This quote comes from a devotional I did a year ago when it was apparent that MacDonald was laying the groundwork for a return to ministry. Today I received an update email from MacDonald who seems poised to now return, just two years after his fall went public, with the abuses dating as far back as 2013. This email continues the trend of MacDonald trying to walk the tightrope of victim while admitting to very little. Here is just one section of the email:
"Please pray for the needed transparency, and for HBC to publicly:
Abandon the false narrative in financial matters - HBC's most grievous sin against us.
Hold accountable the particular leaders who led the hostile takeover and what followed.
Be transparent about forcing out 10 other significant staff leaders and shunning our family.
Be transparent about HBC's wrongful seizure of millions in Walk in the Word (WITW) assets.
Be transparent about HBC's destruction of WITW and other efforts to end our ministry permanently.
Be transparent regarding the cost of arbitration - entirely avoidable - and HBC's vicious but unsuccessful strategy.
Be transparent regarding refusing to meet with me in 2019 and the unseen actions so few know about.
I apologize if that is more than you wanted to know, but it gives you a feel for where we have been living and what we have endured, as my intellectual property and fully-vested pension were withheld in an effort to force our acceptance of WITW's destruction."- James MacDonald
He is not sorry beloved. He wanted you to get the message that not only has he not repented but he is in fact the victim of the vicious Harvest Bible Chapel. Was it HBC that expanded the board to water it down? Was it HBC that had a gambling addiction? Was it HBC that openly admitted to wanting to plant child pornography on someone's computer? No James, it was you. In addressing where he failed, MacDonald wrote:
"Yes - Harvest Bible Chapel was blessed with what could be seen as success over many years, but since early 2017, I struggled increasingly under the weight of it all. I stepped away from the ministry multiple times with Elder support to regain my health and capacity to lead. In the end, I just burnt out, and had to "pull over" for extended time away from ministry. I had carried too much for too long, and I am grieved by the impact that had on several good leaders working most closely with me. Three times in 2019, I confessed my role in those relational failings to the board in writing, and multiple times publicly. Most difficult in all of this has been the loss of long term friends who apparently believed HBC leaders' narrative and cut us off completely, refusing our efforts to communicate with them regarding the truth. We covet your prayers toward softening hearts for all, protection against bitterness, and healing - especially where rejection by those who might have known better has, at times, been too much to bear." - James MacDonald
Wow. So let me get this right. Your sin was working too hard and too long until you burned out? Your destroyed relationships with close friends had nothing to do with your abuse and instead was because they believed the false narrative of HBC? You claim this only started in 2017 when it is documented as far back as 2013? Where is the admission of wanting to plant child pornography? Sorry but this does not come close to cutting it. MacDonald is trying to dismiss decades worth of abuse and personal failings by blaming people he hurt throughout the years. He also seems overly hurt by the loss of money by claiming what is his alleged property. Very unseemly and non-responsive to the serious allegations that he boils down to simply being overloaded and burned out. Sorry, that dog don't hunt. MacDonald now tries to make this an issue of his calling:
"Through it all the Lord has confirmed that no group of critics, most we've never met, can declare my calling completed or "disqualified." Paul faced this with the Corinthian church declaring emphatically: "By ourselves we are not qualified to claim that anything comes from us. Rather, our credentials come from God, who has also qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). The shamings from our former church (11 public statements in 2019, with the final pronounced 10 months after we were gone) have surely given me pause and a ton of reflection. But we are not deterred, finding comfort in this promise: "The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29)." - James MacDonald
Yeah, no. The Lord confirmed no such thing and you are disqualified from ministry James. Your utter lack of humility and acceptance of fault reveal that most assuredly. Paul declaring that what he has comes from the spirit is NOTHING like what you are experiencing James. Paul did not have a public gambling problem. Paul did not get his church into millions of dollars in debt while collecting an obscene salary. Paul did not respond to his critics be threatening to break the law to seek unjust revenge against them. As far as God is concerned, His gifts and calling are irrevocable but that does not mean you cannot disqualify yourself from them. Take a look at the key verses. Paul confronts Peter because he stood condemned! The difference is Peter repented! You can have a calling on your life all week long and twice on Sunday and it becomes irrelevant if you say you want to plant child pornography on the computer of a rival James. C'mon, you know this to be true.
MacDonald then reiterates his plan to return to ministry, focus on preaching, stating he wishes to be a mentor, and reestablish his empire, previously known as "Walk in the Word." Interestingly he says that he vowed to not ask for financial help until the financial allegations were resolved but apparently the MacDonalds are plowing through their retirement funds:
"All of this has been faith stretching for us. We reach out now to invite your renewed partnership, as our ability to fund the ministry by ourselves has reached its limit. Will you help us? A few have written asking how they can support this rebuilding, and our tax-exempt, board-governed, 501c3 is now ready to receive their gifts, and your partnership too, as the Lord prompts your response." - James MacDonald
Uh-huh. When we click on the "partnering" button we find that for only $30 per month we receive access to never aired before teachings and access to their Facebook community. For $100 per month, we get signed copies of books by MacDonald and reserved seating at preaching events! But wait! There's more! For $5000 per year you get special invitations to their Israel trip! Forgive me James if I am underwhelmed.
Beloved, writing this give me no joy. Paul teaches Timothy to guard only his doctrine and his life. Sometimes in discernment we focus so much on the doctrine side we rarely address the life of the preacher side. When Peter behaved like a hypocrite, Paul called him out and he repented. Paul also called out others who refused to repent and they were marked and avoided. It has only been two years since the allegations against MacDonald went public and he was summarily dismissed from Harvest Bible Chapel. It appears he spent the first year scheming how to get back into ministry, which made him a very rich man. He spent the second-year building infrastructure and now he is ready to enter the sheep pen again. His plan is to blame those he hurt, ignore the fact that he was caught on tape desiring to plant child pornography on his rival's computer, and send out pleas for five grand to "partner" once more. The sad thing is people will pay. The currently pay money to people like Ted Haggard and Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald was far more popular than they were. There is no repentance. There is no contrition. There is just a wolf trying gain access to the sheep once again. I pray shepherds everywhere show him the working end of the rod and move on.
Reverend Anthony Wade - October 27, 2020