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Harvest Discloses Multi-Million Dollar Settlement with James MacDonald

By Julie Roys
James MacDonald Harvest Bible Chapel
Disgraced former Harvest Bible Chapel pastor, James MacDonald.

Harvest Bible Chapel today disclosed that it gave all digital and physical assets of Walk in the Word—including $1.2 million and a parcel of land—to its disgraced former pastor, James MacDonald, in a recent settlement.

The church said it also gave MacDonald deferred compensation, previously reported at $1.2 million, as well as $250,000 cash reimbursement connected to the sale of MacDonald’s prior home.

According to Harvest, its settlement with MacDonald to end arbitration in mid-August included an agreement by both parties to refrain from making any comment “outside the bounds of the confidentiality of the ICC” for an “agreed-upon” time period. During that time, both parties were supposed to try and “reach a joint statement and start the process of relational reconciliation.”

“However, during that period of silence, information about the agreement was made public,” Harvest stated. “In light of that development, and with both parties realizing we could not agree on a joint statement, we wanted to let you know the outcome.”

Yesterday, MacDonald sent a newsletter to former supporters of Walk in the Word (MacDonald’s former broadcast ministry), accusing Harvest Bible Chapel of “grievous sin” for its “false narrative in financial matters.”

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In November 2019, Harvest had published the results of an independent audit of church spending, revealing that MacDonald had misused millions in church funds for personal use. At the time, Harvest said it would amend MacDonald’s W-2s to include some of MacDonald’s additional income, which according to today’s statement, the church has done.

In his newsletter, MacDonald also accused leaders at Harvest of leading a “hostile takeover” of the church, forcing out 10 other staff leaders, “shunning our family,” and wrongfully seizing millions in Walk in the Word assets.

MacDonald added that the “shamings” from Harvest “have surely given us pause . . . (b)ut we are not deterred.”

Harvest last year formally disqualified MacDonald from public ministry, stating that his behavior did not meet the qualifications for an elder. Some behaviors cited included “belittling and verbally bullying others,” being “combative” and “domineering,” and “profit(ting) himself beyond what was honorable.”

However, MacDonald said in his newsletter that his failure in ministry was simply that he had “struggled increasingly under the weight” of the success of the church, which led to some “relational failings.”

MacDonald said he hoped to be “just days away” from a joint statement in which Harvest would “own what they have done” and “clear” his name. In anticipation of that announcement, MacDonald said he was reaching out to former donors to “invite (their) renewed partnership.”

“With that vindication soon public, and having just received your contact information in August,” MacDonald wrote, “we were excited to reconnect immediately (prior to those disclosures), to give those who don’t need it a chance to jump back in first.”

MacDonald added that he is eager to “rebuild Walk in the Word.” He also announced his intention to continue his Home Church Network (HcN), which he suspended last month.

James MacDonald
James MacDonald working in the warehouse he’s rented.

MacDonald also announced his intention to base his “future ministry” in the Chicago area. Earlier this month, a bank dismissed its foreclosure proceedings against MacDonald and reinstated the mortgage on MacDonald’s Elgin, IL, home.

MacDonald said he and his wife are currently living on their retirement income and receiving no money from Walk in the Word/James MacDonald Ministries. MacDonald said he also has used “personal funds” to hire a small ministry staff, rent a warehouse/office space, build a new website, and regather his preaching library.

At the end of his newsletter, he invites readers to become “Change Partners” giving $30/month, “Change Partners Plus” giving $100/month, or “Challenge Partner” giving $5,000 annually.

UPDATE: This article has been edited from the original version, which said there had been a breach in confidentiality agreement that was part of the settlement. Whether or not there was a breach is unclear.



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37 Responses

  1. Like I said previously; The Harvest elder Board are all people brought in by JMac, trained by JMac and in JMac’s pocket. Accountability and Church discipline is just a word to them. Hope this awakes the sleeping sheep to their senses so they leave, But they probably won’t.

  2. No words for either Pastor James or you Julie. I find it funny that you get information before the
    congregation. As far as I am concern there is no difference.

  3. Great way for a church to spend its tithes..or not. So shameful. How can anyone attend Harvest after this gross mismanagement of money? With all of its existing debt, it will collapse under its own weight over time. God will not honor a church that is (or was) shepherded by such a wolf in sheep‘s clothing.

  4. Sarcasm and all jokes aside…MacDonald does not seem to want to own any of his failures or trespasses. He just goes on. Harvest also does not seem to see the need to own their mistakes either. For someone who is so gifted at preaching the Word of God to be so devious and deceiving is beyond sad. In the last days we are told to beware of false prophets and teachers…and Julie seems to be able to uncover many of them. I am thankful for someone with the courage and grace to stand up and share the truth. There is a huge shortage of that in today’s world. Thank you, Julie and your staff, for opening eyes to truth, and shedding light on darkness!

    1. There is a shortage of “Truth-tellers” out there precisely because evil men with POWER and MONEY ( lots of it — James Macdonald ) have No hesitation in Suing you and bring a Truth teller to court!!

      If your name is not James Macdonald, how can you afford expensive legal bills?

  5. I have no words to say anymore about the HBC/MacDonald debacle. You should’ve been in jail years ago and that church should’ve been torn down. All leader ship should be in jail as well, and the poor members and attenders of HBC should be ministered to by local Bible believing church is like where I am now. Five years of HBC was one day too much for me! I’m glad I made a Bible believing church now for the past five years. Thank the Lord that He is now glorified at my church, whereas JMAC was the one who was glorified at his “church“. Guess we’re all just gonna have to wait till the judgment seat. If the authorities have no power to do anything about him then we might as well just give up on justice on this planet and allow God to be our ultimate judge for ourselves as well as him. Besides, if the Harris/Biden ticket wins, socialists don’t care about anything except their own power. They will probably love having him to be a part of their own crew. God help us all! Thank you so much Julie for your faithfulness to exposing all the sin in the lives of leaders and ordinary Christ followers. May the Holy Spirit guide all of us into the truth of God’s Word!

  6. It’s so nauseating and such a terrible testimony to the world when so-called “servants” of the Lord enrich themselves to levels even most of America never know. If I had any respect left for Harvest, it’s out the window, letting this tyrant get away with so much of the Lord’s money. That they ever agreed to such an outrageous salary and other exorbitant benefits speaks very poorly of every one of the “sheepership” he put round himself to enable his absolute greed. Time to shut down that empire and spin off individual congregations who desperately need true shepherds instead of a Big Bad wolf.

    1. Is it any wonder two HBC pastors resigned earlier this month?!? Do you think these men knew a deal was in the works to appease James MacDonald by giving away $$$$ that doesn’t belong to him?

      Now that Greg Bradshaw has come to the realization it’s time to resign from ministry, I will rejoice when his fan club and friends wise up and walk away from Harvest. To those who choose to stay, I ask you, “Is God not glorified when a ‘church’ that’s operated like a den of thieves, closes its doors, once and for all? Does God not desire to open doors for followers of Christ to find fellowship elsewhere?” Last I checked, Harvest isn’t the only church in town. I for one, sincerely hope to soon welcome in any brother or sister in Christ who makes their way out of Harvest and into a healthy church.

  7. I have the impression that the church gave in much too easily. Were they actually afraid they might lose and lose even more money?

    1. Hard to say. I think what complicated matters is that much of MacDonald’s misuse of church funds was sanctioned by the former executive elders. IMHO, the church should have gone after MacDonald and the executive elders for either theft or neglect of their fiduciary responsibility. I try to refrain from speaking to motive. But submitting to arbitration was a huge mistake if the goal was to hold these men accountable and recover funds that were intended for the Kingdom, but were instead spent on safaris, designer sunglasses, and cigars.

        1. There’s a reason why so many non-profit ministries have reorganized as churches over the last decade or more — churches can pretty much arrange their finances anyway they please (within the law) free from IRS oversight and public accountability. Julie said recently she’s looking into this phenomenon.

          There would have to be evidence or fraud or tax evasion before the authorities got involved.

      1. I know I may seem to only comment when I disagree with you, Julie, so I want to go on the record saying I think you are SPOT ON. The first thing I thought when reading this is that the church seemed to cave so easily, as if they just showed up and said, “What do you want?” What’s the point of arbitration then?
        I don’t see ANYTHING from this settlement that benefitted Harvest.

        1. I wouldn’t be surprised if MacDonald was able to lean on prior contractual agreements made with the church during his long tenure there. He was the founder, after all. For sure, if the elders hoped to avoid further attacks from MacDonald by giving in to his demands, they were sorely mistaken.

    1. Jyn Erso walks from the mist… What’s MacDonald got up his sleeve in that small warehouse? I was so hoping that he was staying on the West Coast!!!

  8. This is grievous to me. Seeking AGAIN to build a platform, a a place, a “kingdom”, when, like Saul, it was torn away from him. And in Chicago!!!
    Well, if they keep that house, maybe several house churches can meet in it…..still, sorrowful to hear this

  9. as a former WITW change partner…WHY would anyone who knows Jmac’s past give again to this man?? I get it…God used his teaching mightily in my life…thank you JESUS! hopefully God will not allow this man to flourish collecting $$ from unsuspecting donors AGAIN

  10. I’m surprised Julie you did not include Harvest’s full statement, which I might add included the following:

    “The Scriptures are clear in their instruction to us to “live at peace with all men, as far is it depends on you” (Romans 12:18). We certainly have not done so perfectly. Sometimes we have spoken hastily, and at times our tone was unloving. We apologize to you, our church family, to the broader church, and to James MacDonald for not always acting in a loving manner in our communications about him.”

    Think about it folks. Do you really think an insurance company would pony up $1.2 as a “cost of defense” settlement. Straight truth is the likely the church was badly losing the arbitration due to the fact that their financial allegations were largely unproven, especially given they dismissed most of them theirselves before the arbitration, and James’ allegations/defense was truthful. My understanding is that after two days of testimony and evidence being entered, the arbitrators were supposedly none to pleased or inclined to believe nor support the church’s actions and allegations against him.

    Note also that his IP and related IP and other property were returned to James not because he forced them to turn it over to him as part of a settlement give and take, but due to the fact the church, its elders and James had a long-standing written agreement pre-termination re same which agreement spoke for itself and was allegedly breached by the church by not giving such IP to James upon his written notice at the time he was terminated.

    In addition, his retirement, which allegedly was already vested, (e.g. lawfully belonging to James) was returned to him since it appears it was wrongfully taken in the first instance.

    It is my belief the above matters were why the church’s statement expressly states of its action, that they/it “spoke hastily. “ Which seems another way of saying that all the facts and truth were not known nor determined before a lot of the allegations and statements were made about James in the first place.

    James clearly is not perfect or without blame. But don’t you think it is just, fair and right to look at the elder’s actions with the same lens? If most, if not every claim and allegation made by the church about James was true, there would have been no settlement, or at best, a nominal one. One has to fairly ask why this wasn’t the case.

    1. Jeff,

      There’s no doubt a lot of people at Harvest have had a long history of playing in the mud. Why do you think so many elder board members and those who were complicit in MacDonald’s dealings have cut bait, made deals, and abandoned ship?


      1. Mike. I can’t speak to the history of elders and their role in that church, which is not to disagree with your point.

        Nonetheless the arbitration seemed to focus on the timeframe when James was terminated and therefore your comment maybe should also include the behavior of the elders who held that office In that church When James was terminated and seemingly put out statements and perhaps engaged people in social media to advance their narrative. Which narrative, I might add, was likely inconsistent with the facts and truth of the matters at issue in the arbitration.

    2. Jeff,
      You are wrong to cast doubt on Julie Roys’ exclusion of HBC statement. One must be like the Berean Christians (Acts 17:11) and search the entire story for themselves rather than be spoon fed. After reading her report, I went both to HBC’s website and the link to JMac’s newsletter to find their comments on this topic.

      Yet you are correct that the elders ( I would add both former and current Pastoral staff) be looked into with the same lens and fine tooth comb. I am sure that they all knew and were complicit in JMac’s sinful activities. I would like to see a line by line expenditure on that 20% secret funds and comments from Fred Adams (CFO), Scott Milholland (COO) and Sharon Kostal (JMac’s Exec. Asst.)

    3. I’d have to agree with you, at least in part. I don’t know exactly what HBC’s allegations were, but I suspect JMac was contractually entitled to his deferred compensation & retirement. Can’t say about WITW. But it has little to no value to HBC, only JMac. I had hopes that arbitration might have allowed some credit for JMac’s alleged generous expense account and extravagant spending. But this is a sad & expensive example of a pastor gone amok and an elder board unable or unwilling to rein him in.

      1. Coffee Guy. There was a settlement during, I heard, the end of the second or third day of hearings by the arbitrators. Therefore there was no final judgment or determination by that panel. The insurance company bought out of the risk of being in line for a higher award made by the arbitrators. There was no “cost of defense” settlement. After all, the attorneys already had done their work, discovery completed and the hearings underway. Simply put, from any lawyer’s perspective, the insurers induced settlement as they Likely perceived, from being on hand or from reports from the church’s team of counsel, That the likelihood of MacDonald proving greater damages To him was likely In the outcome based upon the credibility, or lack thereof, of church and MacDonald’s witness testimony and admissible evidence which was under their consideration.

  11. Dude takes his church almost $40M into debt… commits gross fiduciary negligence and fraud, and then expects a payout? Then has the hubris to ask people to give MORE money to his “ministry?” “So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.” 2 Cor. 11:15

  12. I know some businessmen
    Men with some business plans
    And I think this must be said
    They’re making millions
    Selling Jesus
    They take but they never give
    And all of their possessions
    Will all go down in flames
    When they stand before a God
    Who never knew their names

  13. The most curious thing is “as well as $250,000 cash reimbursement connected to the sale of MacDonald’s prior home.” Just looks like Harvest church took on risk or payment when a big show was put on by JMac of moving to a smaller house… . Just looks like MacDonald was insulated from any downside while gaining in a ‘show’ of humility. Now the piper must be paid. It seems Harvest leadership entered into many legally binding arrangements with JMac in years past- that haunt them still. Hopefully the leaders who allowed these awful commitments are long gone and repenting, and never near church leadership again.

    1. In regard to that move to a smaller house…he moved from his $1,900,000 house to a $600,000 house.

      But that $600,000 dump was only temporary. :)

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