James MacDonald Removes Walk in the Word From TV & Radio Amid Controversy

Popular radio preacher and megachurch pastor, James MacDonald, has announced he is pulling his Bible teaching program, Walk in the Word, from all radio and TV platforms over the next couple months. The announcement comes about a month after my investigative report in WORLD Magazine, and subsequent blog posts, revealed allegations of spiritual and financial abuse by MacDonald and his Chicago-area megachurch, Harvest Bible Chapel.

In a surprise announcement to staff on Wednesday, MacDonald said he had decided to remove Walk in the Word from all “traditional” broadcast mediums and exclusively focus on digital delivery, like podcasts. MacDonald said the reason for the change was primarily pragmatic.

“Traditional broadcast is a dying thing,” MacDonald said in a live announcement to staff that was recorded by Harvest and sent to me by an anonymous source. “What that means is that the cost of it continues to rise while the demographic of it continues to age and the response to it continues to diminish.”

However, MacDonald also admitted that the current controversy is straining relationships with Christian broadcast ministries. Walk in the Word currently is broadcast on more than 2,000 outlets, including stations on the Moody Radio Network, Salem Radio Network and Trinity Broadcast Network.

“When our church goes through difficult times like of late, that becomes even more of a strain and a burden to carry in a way that none of you would ever even know what goes on behind the scenes.”

“There’s all the upkeep that’s going on with all the relationships,” MacDonald said. “When our church goes through difficult times like of late, that becomes even more of a strain and a burden to carry in a way that none of you would ever even know what goes on behind the scenes.”

Over the past several weeks, numerous radio listeners have told me that they contacted Moody Radio to complain about the network carrying Walk in the Word.

In an email to Greg Thornton, Moody senior vice president of media, listeners Tim and Jessica Hockett of Evanston, IL, wrote: “We trust that you are familiar with the recent controversies involving James Macdonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, including the (mis)use of donations from Walk in the Word . . . We ask that you would carefully consider the weight of all allegations and supporting evidence against James MacDonald and the Elders of HBC—including their decision to file a defamation lawsuit against 5 believers—and remove Walk in the Word from Moody Radio programming.”

Thornton responded, “While we’re not at liberty to discuss programming selections, we prayerfully and closely monitor the impact of all Moody Radio programs to our constituents, and we invite you to join us in continued prayer for a Godly resolution to the internal conflict at Harvest Bible Chapel.”

Even so, MacDonald maintained that his decision was something that he had considered for years, but especially in the month of December. He complained that Christian radio networks like Salem continue to give their prime-time slots to veteran broadcasters like John MacArthur, Chuck Swindoll, and even deceased preachers like J. Vernon McGee. This, MacDonald claimed, forced programs like Walk in the Word to pay two-thirds to three-quarters as much money for time slots that delivered less than half the audience.

He said Christian radio is “increasingly trapped in an old generation,” and claimed that the future is in digital delivery. “We want to grow . . . and reach more people than we ever have before,” he said, “but less of the, you know, 75-year-old lady in Kansas City who’s listening to her third sermon today, and more of the young adults, or even college student, who’s consuming their media on their mobile device.”

According to MacDonald, 70-percent of Walk in the Word’s audience already is engaged digitally. He added that sales of Walk in the Word products—like CDs, curriculum, and books—have dropped by as much as 700-percent in the last five years.

MacDonald said Walk in the Word staff would be reduced but didn’t specify by how much. He only said that more than one-third of the staff would remain. According to Harvest’s website, Walk in the Word will no longer employ veteran radio host Wayne Shepherd.

Below is audio of the announcement MacDonald made to the staff:

 

After this post published, I saw the following Facebook post by Rich McClary, general manager of Minnesota Christian Broadcasters Inc. Several radio executives told me the same off-the-record, but McClary was the first I heard say it publicly:

 

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29 thoughts on “James MacDonald Removes Walk in the Word From TV & Radio Amid Controversy

  1. FREEATLAST

    Dear Julie,

    God is with you!!!

    1 + God = majority!!!
    God always wins!!!!!!!

    EPHESIANS 3:20

  2. RD

    Wow. I just emailed our local Christian radio station yesterday and asked them to consider stopping Walk in the Word until this travesty is ended. The Lord is working.

  3. Hmm

    Just another glimpse of James manipulating the situation before his time ends. How convenient that he “pulls” his show from TV and radio right after Julie’s article. It’s also convenient that this has more to do with a “dying” industry than the fact that he might have had his program kicked off the radio.

    After listening to the audio file: After doing ministry with people for 20+ years, why would you ever give this news to people who have supported you over what sounds like a phone call. It comes across cowardly and truly unappreciative.

    James is nothing but a manipulative coward who will do anything to save face.

  4. Sandrs

    This is how he starts off, “I’ve come to a decision to remove WITW….”
    Where are the elders in this decision?
    Again, it’s very evident who truly runs the show at HBC.

  5. In the audio he says his reason for stepping away from Walk in The Word was his popularity was so great that it was causing too many people to flock to the seats of Harvest Bible Chapel. By stepping away from walking the word this would free up the stress is on the local pastors..YET… People leaving Harvest Bible Chapel in droves was the reason he brought the lawsuit against TED…hmmmm?

  6. Kimberly

    We agree with commenters above.

    Haven’t listened to WTW for several years because we could sense JM going off the rails spiritually. Been praying for him (and the others involved) to hit rock-bottom and come back to serving Jesus authentically.

    Can’t thank you enough, Julie, for choosing to persevere, being so courageous, and researching so effectively to make the facts known about JM and Harvest!! God bless you and your family mightily because of the sacrifices and bravery from all of you.

  7. I wish radio and TV stations that decide to drop Walk in the Word would have the guts to do it publicly. What we see over and over is the kind of thing that the Catholics are famous for: church leaders decide to fire someone, but they do it with nice words to him and don’t tell anyone outside the church office, and he goes on to do the same thing somewhere else.

  8. David

    And ALL of this had to be done so quickly and by phone? While far enough away that he doesn’t have to face the people that will be impacted by HIS decision? Yet all the elders are on board. I love the way he blames his decision on others, I won’t get the airtime I want so I’m leaving. Hmm, nothing to do with possibly being cancelled? I am completely saddened and angry at his lack of honesty.

  9. MarcAnon

    Radio and TV time is expensive. It sounds as if the years of scandal have caused donations to decline to the point where they need to self-distribute Walk In The Word in order to continue operating.

  10. RD

    We have many dear friends who are agnostic or atheistic. To them, MacDonald is just another Osteen, just another Jakes, just another Baker, just another Haggard, just another (though they don’t know her) Aimee Semple McPherson.

    If he does love the Lord, he should apologize and step down.

  11. RD

    If you’ve never read Issendai, you should. She (I think she’s a she) writes primarily about narcissistic families and grandparents, but golly, her sick systems description deserves an award.

    http://www.issendai.com/psychology/sick-systems.html

  12. RD

    And, disclaimer – I like the Issendai description of sick systems, but she (or he) links to many things I do not support or believe.

  13. Todd McCauley

    As Ive stayed before, the Titanic called HBC ia sinking. James has been judged by the court of public opinion and found guilty. If his bags arent packed, they should be. The “fat lady” is on her last chorus (you get my point).

  14. Charles Despeville

    What is dying is not Christian Radio but a little fiefdom of MacDonald built on pride, narcissism, arrogance, ignorance, thievery, abuse, manipulation, lying, slandering and all other kinds of nefarious wickedness. When a serial liar lies it is always a projection and the exact opposite of what he spins. Wonder if the staff reductions at “Walk in the Word” will include MacDonald’s wife with her six digit salary.

    • Sotam

      Charles. Does Kathy makes six figures at WITW? is that factual? I just want to know.

  15. I used to work in Christian Radio as well, and our station(s) ran WITW for years. A few things:

    – Yes, Christian “talk” radio (usually meaning preachers, but also conservative talk shows and general topic call-in shows) is an older demographic — occasionally MUCH older. At one point I remember hearing our stations average age was 65+. For comparison the K-LOVE/Air1 formats run about 20-25 years younger.

    – This ties in to the fact that James was actually one of the younger preachers on the air! Preachers who have radio ministries are drying up everywhere, and Chuck Swindoll (one of the most enduring and popular in radio) is in his 80s. The quality dips very quickly once you get out of the top tier of preaching shows, which is why WITW’s well-produced (with intro music by David Crowder) show is/was well regarded.

    – WITW was one of the more popular shows where I worked a decade or so ago.

    – Shows like this almost always cost the ministries money, but they usually shore that up with donations from listeners. (This is why the low-powered AM stations often have sketchy teachers and bad production: They’re the only ones who will pay).

    – FM Radio is not dying as fast as people think (or as James claims), but AM radio is seriously hurting. Much of the Christian Talk format is still on AM.

    – Yes, Christian Talk radio leans conservative/fundamentalist. That said, so does James so he’s throwing bricks in glass houses here. We (occasionally) got complaints that all he did was yell on the air :)

    – All of this is to say: James is probably right about the financial aspects of this decision. The Podcast/YouTube format is infinitely cheaper for ministries and with less risk. I’ll even guess they WERE thinking about this for years, but a good relationship with Salem, Moody, et al kept them going. That changed when they started lawsuits against journalists and critics, and I’m sure stations started feeling the heat. (TBN? They’ve carried Benny Hinn for years and lost a TV license over lying to the FCC. They don’t care about James’s lawsuit.)

    – That said, This is still a cold, cynical move by James. If radio was just becoming less influential they’d find ways to stay in long-standing relationships and honor listeners. The backlash is likely more than he’s letting on and with the debt the church has taken on it’s clear that a half hour daily infomercial just isn’t cutting it anymore. Better jumped than be pushed.

    • Jessica

      Thanks for your insights, David. Whatever the rationale James gives, we all know that Moody was going to push Walk in the Word off, so James pulled first. Regarding the older demographic, my guess is that older folks also tend to be the ones who give. I can’t speak to the revenue that evangelical preachers can or have made off YouTube ads or subscription-based streaming, but it’s unreasonable for James to point to these untested revenue streams as tempting enough for him to abandon millions of listeners a week. Is there evidence that Milennials are likely to become Change Partners is his digital model?

  16. SB

    It is true, that airtime is pricey. Non – Commercial Stations, as well as churches can only spend what dollar amount of money, which listeners, church member send in, give each year. That dollar amount has to last throughout the year & has to cover things such as salaries, insurance, utility bills which is pricey.

    Also, younger people download and listen to their music, television programs to their phones and other devices and through satellite radio.

    Radio is mostly listened to by older people in the home and while driving. Most kids more than likely have never even seen a radio (like 8 – Track Tapes/Plaers, Vinyl Record Sizes, Cassette Tapes/Players, Walkmans, Boom Boxes). They still know what a CD/DVD looks like.

    I am a listener. Only God (knows what is in each of our hearts), the people who are closest to the situation know what has and is going on.

  17. james

    Less people lied to. Less people fleeced. Less people hurt.

    More money to alternative ministries. A public example so that others may stand in fear. A step closer to revival.

    However it happened, God is in control! Praise He who can do much more than kill in this world!

  18. Russell

    Is our witness self destructing, in relevance to the world? Harvest, Willow, even Moody? Lord help us.

  19. Trevor

    My concern is that podcasts are not regulated by the FCC. So he can say whatever he wants through a free, automatic platform directly to the consumer.

    Second thought, what advertisers will he attract? What kind of self promotion and HBC promotion will there be? The podcast has to make money somehow. Monthly subscriptions?

    I feel this is more a lateral move than it is a sign of defeat.

  20. David

    MacDonald quit cause he knew he was going to get fired. Just damage control. The guy was on 2000 outlets but says it wasn’t worth it and would rather go all digital. This doesn’t make any sense since now he will not have access to an audience for fundraising thus cutting off his income stream. Terrestrial radio is not dead – MacDonald’s logic is pure poppycock.

  21. Pete

    Isn’t it interesting that JMac threw the elders under the bus for wanting to file the lawsuit? There was way too much information yet to come out that JMac couldn’t stand to be anymore exposed.

    Hopefully, Julie will continue to bring light unto the darkness of the deeds of JMac and the ones that supported his conduct.

  22. Christiana Emmert

    I am indeed surprised that there have been no comments here from Ms. Roys or her supporters about the lawsuit being dropped by HBC. However, given the atmosphere of negativity in her articles and the obvious absence of forgiveness and love from Ms. Roys towards HBC in the articles, it is easy to ‘be of the world’ and think that Ms. Roys needs time to concoct yet another damaging and insulting article against my Church and its Pastor while they prayerfully seek GOD’s guidance to correct their problems.

    HOWEVER, as a Christian, I pray with hope, faith, and love that any further reports from Ms. Roys about HBC would focus on the honesty of HBC in its statements, the plans to submit to correction on identified problems, and HBC’s standing invitation to meet with Ms. Roys for a Biblical face-to-face resolution of issues.

    I pray that Ms. Roys reads the recent statements on the HBC website, ‘Is Harvest Deaf? Executive Committee Response’ from December 21, 2018 and today’s statement, ‘Court Case Dropped’, January 7, 2019.

    In light of the ongoing Ephesians 6:12** spiritual attacks on MBI, Willow Creek and HBC, it would indeed be refreshing and headline news in this dark world to know that the Word of GOD is Truth and that Christians obey the Word of GOD.
    Matthew 5:23-25 says,
    “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.”

    And Matthew 18:15-17 says,
    “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

    **Ephesians 6:12 “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

    Amen.

  23. Martha Brown

    Why is Walk in the Word still being played by Moody on radio if James announced it was being taken off radio and tv?

    • Pam Chism

      I would like to know the answer to that question too.

  24. SG

    The speakers who are in their 80s or who are now with the Lord have one thing in common: They were humble men whose lives have proved their humility and spiritual depth. Is is not good to learn from a person whose life proves their preaching, rather than a man who is immersed in controversy? These teachers are walking out what they preach in the Word!

  25. Fred Agase

    When my family was attending Harvest, my youngest daughter, who at the time was may be 17 or 18, she would tell me “Dad, Harvest looks like a cult, and that there will come a day when Harvest and pastor James were going to fall upon hard times, and even ‘go down to their knees'”!. I wish I had half of her discernment, yet I still went on and accepted an eldership role at Elgin and refused to open my eyes, hence I became just one of the many ‘rubber stampers’ of the the so-called elder board. I finally took my family and left Harvest on Easter Sunday in 2013, due to the arrogance from the pulpit, and never looked back. My only regret is that I wish I had engaged my daughter more into why she felt the way she did instead of totally dismissing it. In some ways, she was spot on! and I was the one who duped, to my shame!

    Fred Agase

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