Guest Post: One Year Later—A Look Behind the Mask of James MacDonald

By Dan George
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This post is written by Dan George, a former elder at Harvest Bible Chapel, who resigned last February and offered a public confession for what he had done. He has since become a man I am honored to call friend. And this post, which gives an incredible behind-the-scenes view to what really happened with James MacDonald, is republished from his blog with permission.

Recently, James MacDonald started a 40-day “devotional” video series leading up to a re-launch into “ministry.” He started this series exactly one year to the day that the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel fired him for cause. If you know James MacDonald, you know starting his “devotional” on February 12, 2020 was intentional. If you don’t know James MacDonald, you need to know starting on that date was intentional. 

Dan George

The verse MacDonald used in his February 9 Facebook page teaser post caught my attention:

“… for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” (1 Corinthians 16:9 ESV)

By using this verse and including the second half of the verse, MacDonald hopes to position anyone opposing his return to “ministry” as adversaries. MacDonald regularly portrays himself as under attack or as the victim. He is doing his best to weaponize Scripture here. If you know MacDonald, you may share my skepticism. You may share my concern as you see him relaunching into “ministry.” I knew a year ago that James MacDonald was disqualified from the ministry. Nothing in the past year has changed that. 

If you do not know James MacDonald, you may think I am overreacting, am misguided, or worse. If that is you, I understand. Please give me 15 minutes. Let me take you back a year to my last meeting with MacDonald. 

Disqualified, Harvest Bible Chapel employment over

To set the context, on Tuesday, February 5, 2019, the elders of Harvest Bible Chapel — including me — reached consensus on two key points regarding James MacDonald:

  • James MacDonald did not meet the biblical qualifications of an elder. MacDonald was disqualified from ministry.
  • James MacDonald’s employment at Harvest Bible Chapel was over.

The elders’ decisions came after reviewing numerous charges brought against MacDonald by six witnesses, per 1 Timothy 5:19-20, via letters submitted to the elder board.1 Every elder who had read the letters came to the same conclusion — James MacDonald was disqualified from serving as an elder or pastor.2 Every elder who had read the letters at that point, myself included, had the same experience of feeling physically sick while reading the letters. I am convinced that nauseous feeling was a physical reaction to spiritual reality. This was sinful, evil, dark behavior.3  

A small group of men were tasked with telling MacDonald of the elders’ decisions the next day, Wednesday, February 6. I suspect he knew the elders’ decisions not long after the meeting ended in the early minutes of Wednesday morning, i.e., well before he was informed in a Wednesday meeting.4

MacDonald’s Reaction

The next elder board meeting was scheduled for Saturday morning. That left MacDonald with Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to do what he does. He set out to systematically pick off elders to sway the elder board to allow him to resign instead of being fired, a scenario that included giving the Executive Committee authority to negotiate with MacDonald for Walk in the Word, the value of the remaining air-time that would go on to be sold back to TBN for millions of dollars, and more. In short, if allowed to resign, MacDonald could not only save face but would have walked away with millions of dollars, in effect a self-designed golden parachute while leaving Harvest nearly $40M in debt. MacDonald talked often about paying off the debt. That didn’t matter to him now. 

MacDonald came after me Thursday. My importance to his cause was likely three-fold. First, my wife and I had been at Harvest and on the Rolling Meadows campus for 23+ years. We knew and were known by many people. If others saw that we were OK, they could read that they could be OK. Second, I had tenure on the elder board having just rejoined after a three-year break but having served for a six-year stint before then. Third, I had been vocal about righting the wrongs that were coming to light and how the elders needed to seriously consider these charges brought against MacDonald. I had given more than one impassioned speech in the previous two weeks. 

Late Thursday afternoon, I received a text message from Sam Booras, a Harvest elder who had been added to the Executive Committee the week before.5 . When I called Booras, he said MacDonald was back in town (i.e., back from Florida) meeting with people and was asking that I come out to the Harvest Elgin campus to meet with him and a group of elders and pastors at 7 pm that evening. MacDonald also requested fellow elders, Mark Hopwood6 and Mike Dunwoody7 join that meeting. Hopwood was able to make the meeting. Dunwoody could not join the meeting due to work commitments. I checked the Metra train schedule and hurried to catch the next train out to the northwest suburbs. My wife picked me up at my regular stop. I dropped her off at home and headed out to Elgin. 

Preparing in Prayer

I knew this meeting was going to be unlike any other meeting I had ever been in. No one told me the purpose. They didn’t need to tell me the purpose. I reached out to multiple people for counsel and prayer on my commute including my wife, a pastor from another city that had become a confidant and biblical friend as the Harvest mess came to light, and my older son, who was calling to wish me a happy birthday. Yes, it was my birthday. It was at least memorable. My son prayed for me as I sat in the car outside the parking garage on the Elgin campus. I asked that he and my daughter-in-law pray throughout the meeting. I now had several people praying for me. 

As I drove into the parking garage and walked into the building, I prayed. I asked the Holy Spirit to make my role in the meeting evident to me. I prayed, “Show me what I am here to accomplish.” Throughout the meeting, I prayed to seek the Holy Spirit’s help. I prayed as I listened carefully, as I watched and noted reactions, as I talked, as I asked questions, as I commented. (I know we cannot multitask, but the Holy Spirit has no such constraints.) It did not take long for me to have the answer. It was evident I was not going to win any points in the room that night. The numbers were stacked against me. I was not there to win any arguments. I was to observe, remember, challenge as appropriate and do so while not allowing emotion to take over. I was to be as calm as I could be. I asked the Spirit to let me see what was really going on, to see with spiritual eyes. 

The Meeting

Shortly after 7 pm, Hopwood and I joined a group that had been meeting earlier — MacDonald, elder Brian Musso8 , assistant senior pastor Rick Donald, Booras, and longtime Executive Committee chairman Steve Huston — around an oval conference table in what had been the executive pastor’s office. The start of the meeting set the tone for the night. MacDonald, looking mostly at Hopwood and me, said, “I know what you are going to do. The church is going to implode. And it is going to be on you.” I just looked at him. I did not respond. I wanted to see others’ responses. MacDonald was able to say that with no one attempting to temper it, I had a good read on how the meeting might go that night. 

I have told those I trust that those four hours were dark. To be exact, I have told them I saw the darkest darkness I have ever seen starting that night. I saw it in what was supposed to be a church. I saw it from the man entrusted with shepherding thousands. There was deception, manipulation, self-preservation, threats, gas-lighting, belittling speech, bullying. It was all driven by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition. James MacDonald was about to be terminated for cause. Harvest, whatever it was at this point, was not going to be his anymore. What James MacDonald and his son, Luke MacDonald, called “the family business” was slipping through his hands. The passage that came to mind was the end of what we call chapter three of James’ epistle:

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For wherever jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:14-16) 

That is what I saw that night — bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, earthly ways, disorder, vile practices. 

The Letters

I had the six letters to the elders with charges against MacDonald printed out in a folder in front of me on the table. I left the folder there for the whole meeting. MacDonald knew we had the letters with us. His first play was to say the elders should not have the letters. Instead, the letters should instead go to a reconciliation team. Rick Donald said that if the elders had the letters, read the letters and determined whether MacDonald was qualified or disqualified for ministry, that would make the elders the judge. I resisted responding with “And do our jobs!” I stayed quiet on purpose. No one in the room challenged MacDonald and Donald as they argued against Scripture. Their argument was completely counter to 1 Timothy 5:19-21 and false to the truth (ref James 3:14). 

MacDonald then invited Booras and me to tell him some of the charges against him. His plan now was to jump in quickly and say whatever we had just read from a letter was not true, to deflect or to discredit the person bringing the charges.

MacDonald’s defense against a charge that his behavior got him and Jeff Donaldson removed from a flight on the “Risen for the Nations” trip was to tell the story of the one time he would acknowledge that he got removed from a plane for refusing to end a phone call. He dared the flight attendant to turn the plane around and have him removed. She did. He invited disorder. He considered disorder (ref James 3:16) funny. He gleefully told that story to deflect from the charge. No one commented.

When I started to recount his reprehensible behavior the Sunday he and the Risen for the Nations travel team were in Jacmel, Haiti, he cut me off and summarily said, “That’s not true.” MacDonald would not let me recount the charge against him. He just dismissed it and gave a different story of how someone from the church wanted to bless him by flying one of their planes down to Haiti to bring him back. 

His final play on the letters was worse. He set out to discredit two people who had each served faithfully at Harvest for over a decade. I won’t recount what MacDonald said out of respect for those people. In the end, MacDonald looked at us — mostly Booras and me, because we were the only ones who even recounted some of the charges — and said. “You stuck your head in the cesspool of the church. Look what you found. Shame on you.” No one said anything. MacDonald’s accusation about some of the best people at Harvest was vile (ref James 3:16). It was also meant to shame us and cast us as the bad guys. That wording rang in my ears. Not because he said it about me, but because I had heard MacDonald use very similar language years before to discredit others who had attempted to raise concerns. Repeating an old favorite was one of his big stumbles that night. I wanted to object, to scream, to call it out. I stayed quiet and observed. Remember the indwelling Holy Spirit had made it clear how I was to approach this meeting. 

Hatred for the elders goes unchallenged

One story from the letters went unchallenged. An executive-level pastor — think about that, is this a church or a business? — returning from a meeting with an elder about the small group ministry walked into an Executive Leadership Team meeting and said: “I hate the elders. They do nothing but make my life miserable.” No one reacted. No one disagreed. No one cited Hebrews 13:17. When I read that story from one of the letters, MacDonald and Donald, who both were part of the Executive Leadership Team and likely in that meeting, did not respond. There was no attempt to refute this story. There was no assurance that the Harvest pastors of course respect the elders. Not a word. That was the one story they let stand. Disorder (ref James 3:16) was welcomed.  

Behind the mask

Over those four hours, the Holy Spirit let me see as I had never seen before. I saw the attempts to manipulate and deceive. I quickly recognized and noted the flattery aimed at me, MacDonald’s attempts to ingratiate himself with me. I saw clearly MacDonald attempting to gaslight me as he claimed not to remember a time I had staunchly defended him in front of the entire elder board at a critical point years before. The problem with that story was Rick Donald was in the room too, three seats to my right. Donald came to me shortly after that meeting years before and told me how much my statement and actions meant to MacDonald. I have no doubt MacDonald sent him to deliver that message. Now MacDonald wanted me to believe he did not remember my defense of him in a critical meeting years before. 

I saw MacDonald stumble and show himself without the mask on more than one occasion that night. One instance was particularly illuminating. Early in the meeting, several of the men were making a case that allowing MacDonald to resign would be better for Harvest. Huston, sitting directly to my right, referring to two potential options — i.e., employment termination for cause along with a public rebuke per 1 Timothy 5:19-21 versus resignation — said, “The outcome would be the same.” I turned briefly to glance at Huston then looked across the table at MacDonald as I replied in a normal tone, “No. The outcome would not be the same.” MacDonald pushed away from the table, hurriedly grabbed his sweater and jacket that were hanging over the back of his chair, crumpled the papers in front of him into his hand, and stood up in a huff. Glaring straight at me, MacDonald leveled a threat similar to his meeting opener, saying, “Well then the church will blow up and it will be on you.” MacDonald started to storm out of the room. His immediate, angry, loud, threatening response was telling. The mask was off. Others in the room urged MacDonald not to leave the meeting. I just watched. After a while, MacDonald sat back down. But I had seen the man behind the mask and seen him clearly.

The meeting finally ended a bit after 11 pm. I walked to my car on the fourth floor of the parking garage knowing that James MacDonald was unrepentant and unchanged. That is the last time I talked with him. But we did have one more direct exchange.

Friday Morning

The next morning, I got a call from Steve Stewart, another elder, telling me MacDonald had come to him talking about a plan where he would resign, get Walk in the Word, etc. MacDonald told Stewart that I was supportive of the plan. Stewart was skeptical. He waited until MacDonald left and called me. I assured Stewart I was not supportive of MacDonald resigning then briefly recapped the Thursday night meeting.

(By the way, no one ever asked me directly the previous night whether I would support the resignation plan. I still wonder why not. I suspect MacDonald had grown used to getting his way by getting his narrative out first, bullying those trying to hold him to account and outlasting them.)

A bit later, MacDonald texted me from yet another new phone number saying, “Dan, it’s James. Do you have time for a call?” I did not answer his text. Minutes later MacDonald called from that same number. I swiped to ignore his call. I knew there would be no voicemail. I waited a while before texting MacDonald. I started with, “James, I didn’t buy anything you said last night.” He immediately backtracked, trying to get me to slow down and “think of the church.” I replied saying Harvest was a laughingstock and this all needed to stop. He replied saying it was OK that I loved the church (huh?) but asked that we slow down. He said Harvest had always been about love. MacDonald again said the letters should go to the reconciliation team. I replied stating that the reconciliation team did not take the place of the elders and of 1 Timothy 5, referring to this passage:

Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all so the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. (1 Timothy 5:19-21)

There was no reply. MacDonald knew he did not have me. I have yet to hear directly from him since. A reference to God’s word cut off communication with a man who still calls himself a pastor, a man whose teaching was supposed to be dedicated to the proclamation of the truth.

A year ago, in February 2019, the Harvest elders declared James MacDonald unfit for biblical ministry. In November 2019, the current Harvest elders declared him disqualified from ministry at Harvest. Over the course of a four-hour meeting on February 7, 2019 I saw display after display of why James MacDonald was not qualified for biblical ministry. There has been no repentance. There have been no attempts to right the wrongs. Remember it was God’s word that upset MacDonald in my last interaction with him. Apparently it has not moved him to acting on God’s word, what he once claimed was the hallmark of his teaching ministry. James MacDonald remains disqualified from ministry.

Footnotes

1 All six letters have been posted online —
http://thewartburgwatch.com/tww2/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Dallas-Jenkins-1.pdf;
http://thewartburgwatch.com/2019/04/05/another-letter-from-an-employees-at-harvest-bible-chapel-and-a-question-were-ed-stetzer-and-other-pastors-given-cars-paid-for-by-hbc/;
http://thewartburgwatch.com/tww2/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Jacob-Ross.pdf;
https://wonderingeagle.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/dbutters-hbc-story.pdf;
http://thewartburgwatch.com/tww2/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Dan-Sumter.pdf;
http://thewartburgwatch.com/tww2/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/HigbeeHBC.pdf 

2 These decisions are documented in the February 5 Harvest Elder Board meeting minutes as confirmed in the February 9 Harvest Bible Chapel elder board meeting.

3 Five or six men weighed in after reading the letters, every one of them with almost the same description and reaction although they had not spoken to each other. One by one, they described reading the letters, having to stop while reading, feeling physically sick while reading the letters and concluding with “disqualified.” I was one of those men, the last of the six to speak. I had not spoken to any of the other five about their reaction. It was eerie to hear what the other men said knowing what I was going to say — almost exactly what they had said, using similar wording including feeling physically sick reading the letters. 

4 Even while on “indefinite sabbatical” — an idea MacDonald and his sons came up with in mid-January then forcibly rubber-stamped by the elder board the next night — MacDonald knew the details of elder meetings let alone decisions made. I have my thoughts about how that happened, but I do not have proof. But the elders knew it was happening. One of the elders called it out in a meeting. No one challenged him. The fact that there were people reporting elder meeting details to MacDonald, who was supposed to be sidelined at the time with no involvement in the leadership of Harvest, tells you a lot about the culture in the board and the control MacDonald exerted over many.

5 In the Harvest system, the Executive Committee was a smaller board within the larger board that had the only thing close to real control the elders had. Executive Committee members were church officers with fiduciary responsibility and the responsibility of holding MacDonald accountable. It was a siloed and broken system.

6 Hopwood was one of the first converts at Harvest Bible Chapel, is a long-time Harvest member, and was then a long-tenured elder who attended the Elgin campus.

7 Dunwoody was a 20-year Harvest member and a sixth-year elder from the Rolling Meadows campus. He and his wife left Harvest in March 2019. He remains a close friend.

8 Musso was an elder and also a close friend of MacDonald who took on a larger crisis management role on the board once the James MacDonald mess came to light.

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24 thoughts on “Guest Post: One Year Later—A Look Behind the Mask of James MacDonald”

  1. James MacDonald had cancer – do you think it may have hit his brain…His actions are not of a true Christians…..and frankly are VERY not normal..of a person whose brain is not working properly….So very sad….

    1. Shirley,

      That is gracious of you to offer that option, but sadly this is a heart issue and not a brain issue.

      The only real surprise here is that it was allowed to continue for so long. 20 years ago these type of allegations including allegations of sexual misconduct were put into written form and presented by a then elder to the rest of the elder board. Jmacs response at the time was “so what. Even if all of this is true, so what.” And that elder and his family and those who were aware of the situation were shunned from the church.
      The behavior was evident to even a casual observer back then and only preceded to get worse long before his bout with cancer.

      I appreciate Dan and his willingness to share these details in light of Jmacs recent maneuvers to reposition himself. It is never to late to repent and attempt to make amends and in spite of you 9 years of leadership failure this is a semi courageous move. Albeit a much safer one now that the die has been cast.

      However, It does not excuse the embarrassment that this blog is overall. The idea of soliciting donations for so called courageous, tell it like it is reporting makes me resonate with Dans recollection of feeling physically ill.

      I would draw attention to Dans quotation of Scripture and ask that the discerning reader consider whether in spite of the gross sin of other if these verses don’t also reflect the tone and tenor of the majority of this blog.

      Consider carefully the first words.

      “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For wherever jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:14-16)”

      1. I also struggle with this blog–NOT because of its existence–but because of how some of the information is collected. It’s not personal to Julie; I’ve ALWAYS struggled with people who leak emails, texts, notes from closed-door meetings, etc to the press. (It goes back to when I was in grad school, and someone leaked an email circulated by and for the students on concerns around growing alcoholism to the local paper. To this day I’m bothered by whoever would leak that email, and whoever would publish an article on it.)
        Likewise I struggle with actual members of the press attending church meetings – or even worship services – with the focus on gathering intel for their next article or blog. I view that like someone coming into my home to a family meeting, taking notes on the details of our personal matters, and publishing them for the world to see. As someone who is attending a larger church at this point in my walk, I admit that knowing people are poised to leak and publish whatever they see and hear, I am VERY careful.
        But that does not mean I’m opposed to truth and knowing how I can help and pray for others, especially in the body of Christ.
        As for the responses and comments, I know a lot of the negative ones come from a place of frustration, shock, or downright disgust at what is being done in the name of our Savior. It’s not an excuse, and I do pray that after the initial shock wears off, that the posters are equally prayerful about their own hearts as they should be about the hearts of those being exposed.

    2. James’ cancer did not affect his cognition. He was having anger issues for many years before the diagnosis. He also did not receive chemotherapy (from what he stated to the congregation). Some people suffer with memory and thinking problems from chemo treatments, referred to as chemo brain. These issues with MacDonald date back well before then.

  2. Dan,
    Thanks for sharing the backroom information on JMac’s last days at HBC. I appreciate your courage as you warn the world of his continue deceit and behavior in starting this new online business venture; not ministry. He is truly a false prophet, wearing sheep’s clothes, but inwardly a ferocious wolf. (Matt. 7:15) What happen to JMac’s original plan to be on staff with New Life Covenant Church in Chicago?

  3. Julie,
    I have searched extensively and cannot find Dan George’s blog. Please advise. Thank you for the work you continue to do painstakingly in the efforts of seeking truth!
    Regards,
    Travis

  4. Thank you Dan for taking the time to share what you witnessed at Harvest. As a prior member, I am so sad to have been part of a church not only who’s
    leader was corrupt and depraved, but also many of the leaders he had in place to support his evil deeds. Do you think much has changed since he left? It seems many of his yes people are all over the campuses.
    What I find frightening is how he knows the bible so well, but clearly is not a saved man. He is known by the fruit he bears as well as others.
    What I also find sad is how many members who remain treat those who speak out or have left. I could leave a job in the secular world and go to another and be treated in a more loving way. They wonder why many say it is a cult. If you are not inside, then you are outside and many act as if they never knew you. That doesn’t seem like Godly behavior to me.
    I appreciate your story Dan because it confirms in my heart what is right. May God bless you for speaking out and heal all of us who have been wounded by Harvest. This is a sign of the last days, we must pray more than ever.
    Thank you!

  5. Dan, I’m truly sorry that you experienced these kinds of situations as you sought to serve the church of Jesus Christ. This is a good reminder of the wisdom found in 1 Timothy 5:19-20 that those who continue in sin are to be rebuked in the presence of all, so that the “rest also will be fearful of sinning.” It provides a good heart check before the Lord so that the rest of us don’t slide into this type of behavior. I know there have been individuals who have called for closing Harvest. However, from what you have shared, it seems that we ought to pray for the healing and revitalization of Harvest so that there is evidence that this local church belongs to Christ (and not any person or family). The closing of Harvest would seem to give credence to MacDonald’s delusion that without him, the church will fail. That is, that the church was built on him. Obviously we know that The Church is built on Jesus Christ who is the foundation and this applies also to local churches. And so through this tragic event, it appears that Christ is purging and purifying His church.

  6. Has anyone said it? I think MacDonald may be demonized. Fifty years ago, or more, Dr. Kurt Koch (a German Christian psychologist) wrote an extensive book about demonization. One of the characteristics of a demonized person is uncontrollable rage. One of the entry points for a person to be demonized is when he is in a state of rage.

  7. To any thoughts that James’ behavior/attitudes stemmed from cancer going to the brain or from power and fame going to his head, and to any thoughts that these were issues only at or near the end of his time at Harvest, I can only say that, when I left Harvest in 1993, when the church was 500 people meeting in a high school, I had seen similar things in him. A couple of times, I tried to talk to him about my concerns, only to have him turn the tables on me and make me feel like the bad guy for having brought any of it up. This is not about lapses or the fact that we all blow it sometimes; it is about character as Dan has described it, character that has been on display for at least three decades. It wasn’t often visible from the “pews,” but behind the scenes, it has been there from the beginning.

  8. All of this is so sad but yes a true sign of the last days. As the body of Christ we need to pray for all the Christian churches to stand strong in Jesus not just Harvest, Willow Creek & Wheaton College. Praise God for His cleansing blood.

  9. https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/psychopath/psychopath-vs-sociopath-what-s-the-difference

    Dan: I’m so glad you pray for guidance and to see; thank you for doing all this and giving facts=truth. Continuing to pray that that the deep dark and hidden secret things be revealed; God would continue to lift up their skirts according to his WORD. Also, that God would remove the false shepherds and replace with TRUE. It’s a Business to them and means to make $ off the people building their false empire and abusing sheep in process. “Legalism unveiled” by Derek Prince of “it’s my ministry, I built it”; that would be man, carnal, flesh=Galatians 3:all.

    Seven women persevered to get my VERY EVIL pastorate removed; yet he still controls from outside by grooming young men and they’re a puppet for the puppetmaster. So, what did James MacDonald truly build as all churches what are our leaders building except kingdom’s and dynasty’s to self? Julie, thank you for posting. “Church will rise out of the ashes” People are the church, NOT BUILDINGS. Circumstances like this, causes us to seek for truth, real, genuine; apply scripture and pray. https://bthenetwork.com/2020/01/20/i-am-your-portion/#more-4627 etc.,
    Part of a definition of a cult: “complete and utter disdain for correction” also Proverbs 6:16-19. Build God’s model.

  10. Dan, Harvest leaders and members have been thru much and I am happy to see many of the elders/leadership repent. From what I have read, most of the leadership knew of the miss leadings McDonald was doing.

    We have all forgiven you and the leadership for not speaking out yrs ago. Just really sad how leadership let the madness go on for yrs.

  11. Speaking of words, straight out of the mouth of Jesus Himself, that really irritate people, how about looking at all of the following as directed at us, instead of only a sect that is now long dead?

    Matt. 23: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
    “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
    “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
    “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
    “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
    “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

    How will we escape being condemned to hell? We sure will not if our damned by God pride keeps us from even considering that Jesus is talking about us in this chapter. I have seen that place and it scared the hell out of me for it remains the most real experience I have ever had. It was a room designed for a goat that thought he was saved but did not actually know Jesus in the sense that Jesus meant in the parable of the sheep and the goats…

  12. Don’t get me wrong but great that Dan is telling is story. Putting down a warning against MacDonald. Me I only attended Harvest for a few years in 2004. I was swindled out maybe $10,000. Probably peanuts compared to others. My question is where the Elders for some 30 odd years when they knew full well of MacDonald’s behavior and never told a peep to the congregation? Just all happy faces and “you are Loved” my ass. And that enabler Fred Adam’s who didn’t do crap to stop the misuse of tithes and offerings.

  13. Bingo. Thanks for sharing, Mark. I concur with everything you said. What a travesty so many can not or will not or do not see this for themselves.

  14. His daughter and new husband and grandkids live in Chicago and post Instagram pics all the time. I can’t see that happening, at least yet. Last I read, his daughter was still in HR at HB Elgin. Has this changed?

  15. He son Landon lives in Arizona, and Luke lives on LA. Makes sense to be near all those grandkids. Good riddance! Let him swindle some west coast money.

  16. This was posted on his website. As a former HBC member and someone who has been hurt by the culture he created, reading this made my heart sink for a second. I don’t understand how anyone could allow this man to preach again. His actions are not that of someone who is repentant. Why can’t people take their blinders off?!

    [updated – February 21, 2020]

    As the Lord has recently opened a door for Pastor James to return to pulpit ministry, the Home Church Network will continue a pilot season through spring, then re-evaluate regarding future training events and plans for fall.

  17. I recently found out about this after it was brought to my attention and found out that he will be teaching Sunday night service at Calvary Chapel Southbay. Absolutely shocking to me because I never imagined our pastor would allow this. I will no longer be attending that church as long as he is there. A friend of mine has reached out to the pastor and he’s refused to speak with them, answer questions or address the issue or his congregation. Makes me so ill to imagine that our church would allow this person to come in and spoil the flock.

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